After moving away from Pensacola to get a "clean" start someplace else, I took the summer to get my head together and to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. One day while my children and I were at a secluded spot on St. Joe Beach, I spotted a man walking towards us in the shallow surf. He had long dark hair and dark, piercing eyes. Tanned and shirtless, he effortlessly navigated his way through the shallow surf. As he approached, I saw he was dragging something behind him on a line. My kids got excited when they saw all the fish he had caught. He stopped so they could investigate his catch. As they frolicked in the water playing with his fish, he sat on the beach making smalltalk with me. As he eyed my lean, well-oiled body, I kept expecting him to make his move, but that never happened. When he left I watched him walk away until he was no longer in sight. It wasn't until that moment, I realized we hadn't even exchanged names.
It was just a random meeting that meant nothing, but it remained stuck in my head for some reason. Who was that mystery man? Each day, we went back to the same spot, but I never saw him again. It really was just a brief meaningless encounter. By the end of summer, the trips to that secluded spot on the beach came to an end with the start of school. I also had taken a job at a local motel on Mexico Beach and worked my way very quickly from maid into the general manager's position. The owner, who was more than burnt out seemed eager to relinquish her duties to someone capable and willing to be manager so she could do other more important things like shop until she dropped and visit her daughter in Tallahassee a few hours away. As my life settled into the sterile reality of life without drugs, I seemed to work more and more until my life was filled with little else.
One morning Robin (one of the maids) raced into the office to clock in before going to work. Before leaving, she turned and quickly told me I had a secret admirer almost as an afterthought. As she stood there waiting for me to respond, I noticed she had one of those "oh girl, you're gonna get it" smiles on her face. I looked up from the desk and coyly told her that I accept roses from all my secret admirers. What else could I say? The idea of having a secret admirer seemed ludicrous, but the very next day, a dozen long stem red roses were delivered to the motel with a card saying "I accept candlelit dinners!" I immediately looked around to see who was watching me. Was I on Candid Camera? I even wondered if one of the guests might have sent them.
At first it felt creepy, but as I looked at the roses throughout the day I felt flattered and wondered what the man was like who had sent them to me. Curiosity got the better of me and by the end of the day being manager was at the bottom of my list of priorities. I had a new mission. I needed to meet my secret admirer. When Carol and Robin (mother and daughter) came to work the next day, I cornered them for details, but all they would tell me was that my secret admirer was a house guest of theirs from New York. He was family friend who was visiting and who had made some very typically male comments about me when he saw me a few times when he had dropped them off at work. I saw my interrogation wasn't going to net me any real information, so I was going to have to keep my eye out for this man, so I could discreetly check him out for myself. When I got home that evening, there was another dozen roses waiting for me with a card saying "Well?".
I hardly slept that night wondering what thoughts were going through this man's head and what he wanted from me. I figured I knew what he wanted, but I guess what I really wondered was where all of this was heading. I had never played cat and mouse quite like this before and wondered if this was how it's done in New York. If so, maybe Florida wasn't where I needed to be! The next morning as I got ready for work, my thoughts were still on him...whoever he was. Should I meet him? If so, how should I meet him? Where should I meet him? When I went outside to leave, my car wouldn't start. Carol and Robin only lived a few blocks from me, so I called and asked if I could hitch a ride to work with them. Robin told me she'd be there in a few minutes to pick me up. A few minutes later, a car I had never seen before pulled into my driveway and sat idling by my backdoor, but no one got out!
All of a sudden it hit me who was sitting in the car. My secret admirer had come to give me a ride to work! As calmly as I possible could, I walked towards the car and then hesitated before opening the door. As soon as I opened the door and slid into the front seat, this mystery man, my secret admirer wearing a huge smile on his face, asked me where I wanted to go. To my utter dismay, it was the fisherman I had met on the beach four months earlier.
I asked him to drive me to the store before going to work if he didn't mind. He howled like a wolf in response. I laughed and thought I must be even crazier then he was to be in his car with him, a complete stranger. I made it to work in one piece and without me asking, he was there to give me a ride home. He asked if he could look at my car, so I felt obligated to cook him dinner...no candles, but a meal that definitely started the ball rolling. For the next few days while my car was being repaired, he told me to use his car. Each day when I returned home, I fixed dinner and we seemed to fall into an easy way of doing things that felt right. He howled a lot and I laughed at him for doing it. And in those first few days, we had some of the most mind numbing sex I have ever had in my life. If nothing else, for me that definitely sealed the deal. Over and over again I asked myself, "Who is this mystery man?" And what did he really want from me? A few years later when the truth finally surfaced like it usually does if you wait long enough, I found out he had removed my distributor cap in the middle of the night to disable my car from starting. Our meeting from start to finish was just another one of his elaborate manipulations.
When he let me borrow his car while he worked on mine, I discovered that he had a duffel bag full of laundry in his car that had somehow gotten wet. I asked him if he wanted me to wash and dry it before it mildewed and got ruined. He thanked me and said yes. When I had finished washing, drying and folding all his laundry, I asked him where he wanted me to put it. At that point, it seemed like a logical thing to ask since he hadn't left my house since the day I met him. He told me to put his stuff wherever I wanted to put it. I hesitated for only a second or two before walking into my bedroom and putting all his freshly laundered clothes away in the extra dresser I had in my bedroom. That decision started a 5 year relationship in which I learned that Italians and Irishmen are a fiery combination and one that would have been better suited by putting his clothes back in his duffel bag and sending him on his way. And as many times as I should have done exactly that, I rode it out for 5 years until I was just a broken shell of a person and all I had left was my very bruised survival instinct. That bruised instinct was what finally saved me from my nemesis and secret admirer, the Anti-Christ.