And then his hand was on her face, and instantly she knew that they had passed a point of no return.
Everyone has a trigger which suppresses their self control, and shuts down all inhibitions, allowing them to press past the boundary between lust and love. That one touch is all it takes to let go of the rope she had been holding in the most difficult game of tug-of-war she had ever played; with one side being what she wanted and the opponent being what she knew was right. With that one touch, four fingers brushing on her cheek and a thumb resting on her chin, she knew she would not be able to hold back 6 weeks of memories from rushing forward and making her mind fuzzy. There was no other choice. She was going to let him kiss her.
Victoria had met Luke at a party. She had been invited by a childhood friend to celebrate the upcoming end of the semester, and a successful season for their local chapter of the circus performance club. Despite the distant drive across the state, she was excited to catch up and see what the club had been up to.
Helena had been passed down the sparkly juggling pin of presidency as a freshman, and worked diligently throughout her years at XXX college to build the club to its greatest potential. In addition to jugglers of all sorts, the member roster contained various circus acts, like hula hoops, ribbon spinners, baton twirlers, fan dancers, and double dutch rope jumpers.
Back in grade school, Helena's parents had gotten divorced. Her father moved to Hawaii, taking her with him and away from Victoria. Her mother had used her bee freedom to join the Peace Corps and move to western Africa. Helena, rather than be torn by the split, became culturally diverse and a world traveller. Thankfully, although potentially a coincidence, Helena had been accepted to a prestigious private college two hours from her hometown, and Victoria was able to visit the campus on weekends and they girls were able to catch up throughout the semester.
Helena knew that Victoria could dance. They used to attend the same dance academy as young children, and although Victoria had never felt a passion, the talent was there. Helena was nervous about hosting the circus club's spring semester showcase, and had recruited Victoria to be a guest host and performer. Despite having not danced in almost 10 years, they had worked out a routine, through webcam, while incorporated ribbon twirling and baron spinning, to help spotlight some of the different skills practiced by the club. Helena was nervous because there had been much talk about the showcase. She feared if it was not a success, and the audience went home less than fully satisfied, the club would lose its reputation.
For the benefit of everyone, the showcase had been a success. Victoria had warmed up the crowd with her last minute, rusty routine and introduced Helena to the stage, where she furthered their attention with an exciting hula hoop dance. The two then took turns introducing Megan and Sarah and Alan and Nick and Milton as they showed their talents. The last performance of the evening was a group performance: double Dutch. Victoria had only seen this done on the chalk drawn sidewalks outside of grade school. As she watched from the wing, she was pleasantly surprised to see half a dozen guys performing radical stunts between the alternating twirls of two red jump ropes. She had been mesmerized, and almost missed her queue to return to the stage to announce the final welcome.
"You're coming to the after party, right?" Helena asked as the crowd began to dissipate. Victoria had never been much of a partier. In fact, she couldn't recall a time she had been drunk. With the exception of a few beers or a glass of wine, she had not been much of a drinker. Helena seemed to read her mind, as any good friend would. "The pizza and soda is being paid for with club funds, so if anyone brings alcohol they have to leave it upstairs. "
Victoria flashed a Miss America smile and nodded. Helena was then pulled away by an outgoing spectator, and Victoria turned her attention to the group of members standing along the perimeter. At the rehearsal, Helena had given her all of their names. But suddenly they were a mumble of faces and jumble of names.
She recognized Sarah, Helena's roommate, flirting with one of the double dutch guys. She made her way across the room, and then pulled one of Sarah's curls. It bounced back into place.
"I like your hair," she teased. Sarah had never used a straightener to curl her hair before, and Victoria had given a brief lesson.
"I love it," Sarah flipped it over her shoulder then pulled it front again, soothing the few flyaways that had escaped.
"It was easy," she joked. "You have perfect hair. " Victoria had inherited very fine hair that always looks stringy or would frizz out when she tried to do anything with it. If it weren’t for the invention of a pony tail holder she would probably have shaved her head by now.
Victoria spotted one of the double dutch guys looking at her, and she smiled. "You were really good." He called across the way, then walked over to them.
"Thank you." He gave a half smile, where only the one side of his mouth curled up. "You were actually a pleasant surprise. We weren't expecting someone who was actually good. "
"Hey!" Sarah joked, punching him lightly in the stomach the wrapping his arms around his shoulders. Victoria noticed that Sarah would literally hug anyone who came into her grasps. The guy didn’t seem to mind, but then again who would mind a hug from an attractive young lady?
"You know what I mean,” he justified what he was saying. “ elena bribed the rest of us to do this. She was doing it because she loves it."
Victoria shook her head. They had no idea.
"But we'll catch up at the party, right?” He locked eye contact with Victoria, who just nodded “I’ve gotta go see who's riding in my car."
Sarah let go and he pat her on the shoulder before he headed towards a group of nameless guys. He looked back at them and smiled, but Victoria looked away quickly.
"That's Luke," Sarah told her. "He's a huge flirt, so be careful."
But it was too late. There was buzzing in her ears and stars in her eyes and she couldn’t hear what she had said. An Ed Sheeran song was playing in her head, and she simply could not shake the line, "I'm falling for your eyes, but they don't know me yet."
"It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable," she told him. "Im human. I know this stuff happens."
Luke rubbed the flesh between her thumb and forefinger with his thumb. "I just try to resist my hormones so I can focus on me. I’ve already broken all my rules by even talking to you,” she explained.
Victoria pulled her hand away, and covered the smile that had spread across her face.
"Hey, hey," he pulled her hand back and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Why do you make these rules for yourself?"
Victoria was silent, taking in the infinite beauty within the moment. Luke was perfectly calm and remarkably reassuring in everything she said. Not one word escaped from his lips without a very specific purpose sent from his brain. "You can't truly be happy with someone until you learn to be happy by yourself."
Luke tugged at her hands, and pulled her forward. She rested her head on his chest and he wrapped his arms around her. She took a deep breath and listened as he did the same.
"You seem so solitary," he said quietly. "Im surprised you still worry about it."
"I just worry about mattering," She whispered.
Victoria reached over to her bed side table and pulled her phone free from the charger dock. She hesitated a minute, then found herself calling Luke.
"Hi," he said after the second ring. She smiled.
"Am I keeping you awake?" She asked suddenly, realizing that it was now after 1am.
Luke laughed, then told her, "First off, you can keep me up anytime you want. Secondly, you don't understand how late I stay up anyway."
"Oh," she said quietly.
"Cheer up, buttercup," he joked.
Background (Where has the time been)
Victoria sat at her desk, like every other day, punching away at her keyboard. “Are you going down to Sunset Avenue tonight?” she heard someone ask from out in the hall. She looked up. Two of her coworkers were leaving for the day, but Victoria continued to punch away at the keys. She was working on a case file for a new packaging company that makes custom biodegradable packaging for other companies that wanted to lower their carbon footprint. She was not required to make the presentation until later in the week, but she was determined to get it down tonight.
Since making the jump and moving out of state to take the offer at xxx Management Company in Wisconsin, Victoria had been completely dedicated to her work. She felt as though she had made a huge risk by moving here and the company had taken an even larger risk by hiring her with only an interview over Skype. And while her work had never failed to be of the quality they expected, she was constantly hoping to improve.
She tapped away at her keys. Sunset Avenue was downtown where many of her employees spent their weekends unwinding after a busy week in the office. She had heard them talking about it in the break room or on the phone between clients, but she had still never made it down there to explore and see what it was all about. She had driven through the area on the way to the airport last Christmas and had noted a few restaurants she would have liked to visit at some point. But after the New Year’s ball dropped and she found herself back in her apartment, Victoria realised that she hadn’t made any friends since moving out there. She had never put herself out into society, and instead put herself completely into her work.
An hour later, after the halls had been emptied and the lights had been dimmed, Victoria felt as though she had finished enough of her case to go home. She saved the current final, printed a copy and dropped it in her bag to look over at home, and slipped her heels into her bag, replacing them with a pair of fuzzy moccasins.
She made her way through the familiar hallways. She had only worked here a short time but was already very comfortable with the job. she made phone calls to prospective clients, worked out each client’s brand mission and developed a vision plan. She then was able to develop marketing plans, financial goals, and build sales forecasts. AShe had been unable to do any of this before she started.
Victoria was also lucky enough to be taken under the wing of the event planning manager. Although she had not been hired to work in the event management department, it was secretly one of her side project goals to plan weddings. She had helped a wedding planner while in college and it sparked her interest right away. She had secretly been planning her own since she was a teenager, but at this rate she doubted she’d ever find someone who fit her expectation. Her expectations had been set high by, don’t say it. Luke. .
“So my job,” Victoria hesitated before finishing her sentence. She had considered inviting the guys to a dinner function put on by xxx Management Company but she was still uncertain. She would be dominating their last night with a stuffy cocktail party and banquet with a keynote speaker about sustainability. But she had already made the arrangements with the event planner and had them on the list. She had been mentally planning this since she had first realized that Reese’s friend Luke was actually the Luke she had met three years ago.
“There’s going to be this banquet tomorrow night, with alcohol and steak, and I’d really like it if you came,” she asked him. “All of you.” Pete looked up from his laptop when he heard the word alcohol.
“That’s not really our thing,” he told her, Pete nodding in agreement. “But thank you.”
Victoria shrugged. She figured that would be the answer but she would kick herself if she didn’t ask. She was bummed that she wouldn’t be able to spend their last night with them.
“When is Luke supposed to get done with this interview, anyway?” She asked them. Pete was tapping away at the keys once again and Reese had resumed playing his video game.