Chapter 2: A Christmas Date

Christmas time in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill is a living collection of Christmas Lights, Luminarias and Nativity Sets among varieties of stucco, pueblo and Victorian-era houses, in a climate that is bitter cold at night and warm during the day anywhere illuminated by the sun. Being located in a high-desert climate, any light dusting of snow that falls during the night or afternoon is immediately gone by 10 a.m. the next morning. The feeling of Christmas time in Nob Hill is non-existent during the day, until around 5:30 each evening, when the sun goes down casting long and deep shadows of dark brown, contrasted with the orange hue of the sunlight. These shadows give a distinctly ancestral feeling to pueblo-inspired houses due to the blocky geometry of these homes and the contrast between light and dark, with the homes resembling stairways coordinated in 3 or 4 orientations. During the transition between day and evening, the temperature drastically shifts from a warm 50-60 degrees to hovering or below freezing in a matter of minutes. An added affect of this transition is to immediately immerse this area with the feeling of Christmas time: with the illumination of Christmas lights and Luminarias, and families getting off-work, originating in a stretch of Central Avenue between Wellesley and Washington, for gift shopping among boutiques and drinking hot cocoa to fend off the bitter cold which immediately descended from a warm, temperate day. This pattern is repeated every day from Thanksgiving until the night before Christmas, which is then repeated year after year, when a certain feeling is shared among all of Albuquerque’s residents: a calm, serene, state of mind when staying indoors near a fire, shielded from the cold only heightens the anticipation for the next morning’s opening of presents.

It was during this time of year when Benjamin and Jennifer would resume their decades-long dance of love.


It had been almost 2 weeks since their chance encounter in Humble coffeeshop, when, as if on cue, Benjamin’s phone rang. Looking at the caller ID of an unknown number, somehow instinctively Benjamin knew it was Jennifer.

“Benjamin, Hi, It’s me, I mean it’s Jennifer.”

“Hi Jennifer, how are you today?” After years of constant wonder and pining over Jennifer, something was different inside Benjamin, and it was surprising even to him. He no longer felt the need or desire to be the constant source of motion and energy for their relationship. Benjamin reflected on his new found change of heart, was he maturing, or was this something else entirely?

“I’m great. Listen, Benjamin, I have a Christmas office party to go to, you know how the president and vice president of my company love to bring back the 1950’s. I can’t bring my girlfriend, Julia, they would flip. How about being a sport and being my date? It’s Friday at the old Albuquerque Rail Yards. Black-Tie event, free drinks–”

“You know I don’t drink.” Benjamin interrupted.

“Well you can drink egg-nog.” She continued with her enthusiastic selling of the idea: “Please Benjamin it’s just one night, and you look so good in a black-tie tuxedo.”

Jennifer continued, but Benjamin wondered how she was able to jump back in with such a friendly demeanor after such a long break of contact.

“I can’t, Jennifer. Abigail and I have plans.” Benjamin lied, but under these circumstances felt no obligation of niceties to Jennifer.

“Ah yes, I’ve heard about Abigail. Your wife?” Jennifer asked, her tone and quickness changing noticeably.  Jennifer, always the scientist, was now probing and testing to see Benjamin’s current love interest, much as she treated many of her experiments, in order to reveal their deeper truths. Inside herself Jennifer felt a tinge of jealousy and the beginnings of a slight panic. She had always been able to rely on Benjamin, had always assured herself that he would always be there for her, whenever she wanted.

“No, we’ve only been dating a few weeks. Besides, who told you about Abigail?” Benjamin asked, being sure to emphasize ‘Abigail’ vs. Jennifer’s pronunciation of ‘Abby’.

“I heard it through the grapevine. Besides, this isn’t a date, it’s just you accompanying me to an office Christmas Party. You can think of it more as a a bodyguard, if you’d like.” Jennifer knew that Benjamin, despite his exterior and calm demeanor, always loved to be her protector.

After a short moment of silence, Jennifer could tell that Benjamin was not quite convinced–yet. “Bring Abigail.” Jennifer threw out, which caught both of them off-guard. For Jennifer’s part, at least Benjamin would be attending her party. Benjamin thought this was a fair agreement and stated that he agreed. Jennifer continued: “And I’ll bring Julia, it will be a big group of us.”

Benjamin reached for his cup of coffee and took a sip. Lately Benjamin had been adding cream & sugar to his regularly black coffee: he enjoyed the way that the sharp, bitterness of the coffee was mellowed by the cream, with a bit of sugar added for taste. “Sounds good, see you at 8. I’ll talk to you later, I’m writing a book and I’ve got to finish this chapter.” Benjamin said in a rushed manner.

“Father Time is undefeated.” Jennifer reminded Benjamin.

With that, Jennifer heard the click of the phone hanging up and Benjamin began to type on his laptop with a new fervor.

Jennifer noticed a small change in Benjamin and began wondering what exactly it was. Their conversation was much different than usual, she was usually in control of the pace and content of their conversations. An intrigue began to develop that Jennifer felt the need to solve. Who was Abby? What was different about Benjamin? She asked herself. Benjamin would never place another person above her, she reassured herself. Benjamin, her rock, who she always unknowingly relied upon the idea of whether they were close or apart. Through failed jobs and failed relationships, Jennifer always comforted herself that somewhere, Benjamin would always be waiting for her.


On Friday night, Benjamin stopped his Black Porsche 911 in Jennifer’s driveway and opened the passenger side door for Abigail, and together they walked to Jennifer’s 5,000 square foot mansion located in the foothill’s of Northeast Albuquerque. Benjamin was wearing a crisp black-tie tuxedo with a red lapel, matching Abigail’s red skin-tight dress, accentuating her muscular yet feminine physique, the physique built from years as a high-school and college track athlete. As they climbed the three steps leading from Jennifer’s driveway to the entrance of her home, two giant double-doors dwarfed the couple, and before they could ring the doorbell Jennifer had opened the door to welcome Abigail and Benjamin into her home, with Julia standing at attention in a black sequin dress, eager to greet the couple.

“Benjamin! Abigail! So glad you both could make it. Please, come in. Abigail, Benjamin, this is the love of my life, Julia.”

After taking a few steps into Jennifer’s large entryway, Benjamin’s attention was drawn to a large chandelier, centered in the large entrance between two large flowing staircases leading to the second floor of Jennifer’s home. White marble flooring and Venetian plaster lent the home a classic and refined ambiance, and the entire home was spotlessly clean with art and furniture perfectly placed in order to maximize the hospitality and comfort of the home. Benjamin realized how this home fit Jennifer perfectly: clean, pragmatic, yet still impeccably beautiful and maintained.

“Abigail, can I offer you something to drink?” Jennifer asked, with the hospitality and professionalism of Vanna White.

“Sure, I’ll take a water.” Abigail responded, as Jennifer appraised her muscular shoulders, arms, legs and calves. Jennifer realized that Abigail had the same sleek, sharp curves of Benjamin’s Porsche, both formed by years of hard work and engineering, both for beauty and utility.

“Sure thing, sweet heart.” Jennifer replied, and with that Julia disappeared into the kitchen to retrieve a glass of water, returning after a few moments and handed Abigail a tall, crisp glass of water.

After a few moments of small talk, Benjamin calmly collected the attention of the entire group with one simple question, “Shall we?”, and all 4 in the group walked through Jennifer’s front door, climbed into Benjamin’s Porsche and together they whisked off to the holiday party as the sun continued to set, illuminating the sky with orange, pink and red bladed-clouds.


All eyes were on Benjamin as he walked into the holiday party with 3 of the most beautiful women in New Mexico, resembling a large, ancient Greek statue of chiseled features and exquisite physical features. Benjamin was at the peak of his physical conditioning, only a few months out from active military duty, his muscles had been refreshed and filled by his new schedule of rest and proper nutrition, which were all on show underneath his black tuxedo, and accentuated by his flank of 3 beautiful women in the flower of youthfulness. The crowd of 300 stopped all conversation to admire the 4 newest members of the party, whose superior physical beauty lent a new sense of urgency to the festivities of the holiday party. Located at the top of a stairway above the crowd, Benjamin took the hand of both Abigail and Jennifer and led them, step by step down the staircase until they reached the same level of the large group enjoying egg nog and champagne, a renewed vigor and spirit filled the room as each person began to discuss the new participants of the party.

“Jennifer! So glad you could make it!” A tall, older gentleman grabbed the attention of Jennifer, Benjamin, Abigail and Julia as he hugged Jennifer with a familiar, patriarchal spirit. He continued: “And tell me, who is your friend?” Speaking of Benjamin, he reached his hand out for a firm handshake.

 

 

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Dear Benjamin, Love Jennifer

When Jennifer received a letter in her mailbox whose return address stated “Sgt. Benjamin Arbor, USMC” she felt a simultaneous jolt of relief and anxiety surge through her body.

Jennifer had not heard from Benjamin for the previous 3 1/2 years. The last time Jennifer heard from Benjamin was 2 months after his deployment to Afghanistan, as he was adjusting to the new terrain. After his letter, news reports began covering his kidnapping by enemy forces.

Jennifer began to tear open the envelope, her mind exploring 1000 scenarios and wondering what he had to say, and what she had to tell him.

“Dear Jennifer,

It is me, Benjamin. They told me that this letter would reach you. I am headed back to the U.S. Do you still live in Albuquerque? Send me a letter with your contact information:

Sgt. Benjamin Arbor
PO BOX 713
West Palm Beach, FL

-Forever Yours,

Benjamin

In one moment, the entire 15 year history between Benjamin and Jennifer flooded Jennifer’s mind: Elementary school when they were both too shy to talk to each other, Becoming best friends in 8th grade, and their entire relationship between 8th grade and when Benjamin left for Basic Training. Jennifer had not thought about him or their relationship after the first, painful year when media stories kept circulating and the uncertainty of Benjamin’s condition began to slowly unravel Jennifer from the inside-out.

Jennifer was married now, to Sebastian Cumberbatch, a local politician in the Republican-dominated New Mexico State Legislature. Jennifer was 3 months pregnant with her first child with Sebastian, and within a few weeks would begin to show. Jennifer gripped her stomach as she sat down in her front drive-way and began to weep.

Benjamin and Jennifer Date Night (Part I)

Benjamin drove his father’s 1987 Honda Accord speedily through the stop-lights and stop-signs of Murphysborough, Georgia. Benjamin was leaving for Marine Corps boot camp in less than 2 days, and this would be the last time he would see Jennifer, because she had a volleyball tournament in Atlanta, Georgia the next day.

Benjamin hastily came to a stop in front of Jennifer’s house, triple-checked his appearance in the rearview mirror, collected himself, and opened his car door to head up to Jennifer’s door, where he knew her dad would be waiting for him.

“I want her home by 10:45 and not one minute later.”

“Yes sir. Of course. When have I ever brought her late?” Benjamin replied in the most professional demeanor he could muster.

After a few more minutes exchange between Benjamin and Jennifer’s father, a prominent business attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, Jennifer appeared flowingly from the second floor of her 5-bedroom, 6 bathroom mansion. Benjamin’s attention suddenly focused drastically and intensively on Jennifer as she walked down the 14 steps to appear on the same level as Benjamin and her father.

Jennifer was wearing a flowingly white silken dress which emphasized her small waist leading to large, developed and muscular hips, legs and thighs.

Benjamin only became aware that he was standing next to his fiance’s dad when Benjamin was bumped on the arm and brought back to reality.

“Now Jennifer, you be good. Big Volleyball tournament tomorrow.”

“Yes, Daddy.” Jennifer dutifully responded.

As the door closed behind Jennifer and Benjamin as they headed to the car, Benjamin breathed a sigh of relief.

Jennifer looked at him and smiled, and without a word the beautiful young couple walked hand and hand until Benjamin opened the side door of the car for Jennifer, and after she was in the car, Benjamin closed the door, entered the driver’s side and sped off towards the direction of the mountains.

The Benjamin Has No Clothes

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Clothes (May) Make the (Wo)man.”

When Jennifer walked in, she immediately noticed Benjamin standing holding the hand-rail of the 135th floor balcony, overlooking a great number of office buildings. Jennifer’s attention was immediately drawn to Benjamin’s clothing.

Wearing a 3-piece, black suit with a black tie, Benjamin looked more like a 1950’s movie star than her boyfriend for the previous 6 years.

Jennifer immediately noticed a shimmer of white hair on Benjamin’s temple, giving him a distinctly more mature and rugged appearance.

Jennifer suddenly realized she had stopped walked and was simply staring at him, when Benjamin must have noticed the same thing because they looked directly into each other’s eyes from across Benjamin’s large, open and finely-furnished apartment.

As Jennifer began to walk towards Benjamin’s warm embrace, he surveyed what she was wearing.

Benjamin’s first impression of Jennifer’s dress was that the dress accentuated and emphasized the right areas of Jennifer’s athletic, slightly muscular, 6’1″ tall body. The dress consisted of a black flowing cotton garment draped around Jennifer’s lovely hips, highlighting the muscular shape gained from 13 years of women’s soccer.

Above a bare midriff, the dress separated and continued on a gold scarf wrapped around Jennifer’s petite A-cup breasts, firmly grasping, revealing that Jennifer wore no bra.

Benjamin began to notice that Jennifer resembled a flower, blooming before his eyes when immediately she closed the distance between her and him and Jennifer’s soft, caressing dress fell on top of Benjamin’s sleek, modern suit and Jennifer pulled Benjamin in for a kiss, having not seen him for over 3 months.

A Short History of Benjamin Arbor and Jennifer Glass

Even before either Benjamin Arbor or Jennifer Glass ever set foot on this earth, their relationship was already forming. Jennifer’s Dad, Bruce Glass, and Benjamin’s mother, Anita Arbor, had been classmates at Georgia Tech, when on the first day of English 101, Bruce sat next to Anita, and in a startled moment, knocked his cup of coffee over, covering Anita’s entire bookbag.

“I-I-I-I’m sorry ma’am! Let me help you with that.” Bruce Exclaimed as the class went silent and the teacher investigated the commotion.

“No need for worry, I keep a handkerchief for such an occasion.” Anita Replied, as the teacher continued to lecture and the students returning to their slumped-over positions.

And so began the initial contact which would result in a tumultuous relationship between Benjamin and Jennifer, which would unfold over the three next decades.

Jennifer and Benjamin were born 6 months apart, and when they were 3 years old, they attended the same day care and would be in the same classes from day care until Jennifer left to college at the University of Kentucky with a volleyball scholarship.

Benjamin’s first words to Jennifer were:

“Hi Jennifer! How’s your Dad’s…” as he slipped and fell in the hallway at their middle school between first and second period, nearly breaking his arm as he fell and Jennifer helped him up.

“Are you okay?” Jennifer asked when Benjamin regained his footing.

“Y-Y-Yes.” Benjamin stuttered before collecting his books and walking away feeling completely embarrassed, with his hand still hurting from the fall.

This experience was the first and the last time Benjamin and Jennifer were to speak, until they both were seniors in high school.

After Benjamin and Jennifer had been dating for almost 11 months, high school graduation would take each of them on very different paths: Jennifer was to attend the University of Kentucky on a full athletic scholarship after being heavily recruited during her high school volleyball career, and Benjamin had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

After returning from 4 years active duty, Benjamin returned to the United States to find Jennifer engaged to a lawyer in Lexington, Kentucky.

Benjamin continued to work various jobs in San Francisco, Seattle and New York City.

Benjamin would not cross paths with Jennifer for another 7 years, until one fateful day would bring both of them together.

Benjamin Speaks to Jennifer for the First Time

Benjamin slams the door shut as he leaps over his front steps and runs out to the school-bus which promptly departs for the next child.

“Today is the day.” Benjamin said to himself. Completely lost in thought as he clutched a brown paper bag containing his lunch. Benjamin found the first available seat on the bus and plopped himself down.

As Benjamin thought about the grandiose, beautiful words he would first speak to Jennifer, his mind took him on a journey, through the positives and the negatives, the probable and the impossible outcome of their first conversation.

Benjamin knew that he would see Jennifer in his 2nd period class, starting at 9:45 A.M. Jennifer always sat in the front row, two desks from the left, and Benjamin always sat in the last row, 2 seats from the right. But not today! Today Benjamin was determined to sit right next to Jennifer, and he would leave his first class immediately as the bell rang and sprint to his next class.

While Benjamin was lost in thought, the school-bus arrived at his school, Jefferson Middle School, named after Benjamin’s favorite founding father, Thomas Jefferson.

When the bus stopped, all of the other kids quickly walked off the bus, leaving Benjamin alone, filled with his plans for the day, and already enjoying the happiness success would bring.

Jennifer Glass and Benjamin Arbor

Benjamin Arbor, a scrawny, light-complected boy with glasses and black hair, had watched Jennifer Glass, whom all her friends and teachers called “Jenn”, grow up since Kindergarten, 1st through 5th grade, and 6th through 8th, all without speaking one word to her. Benjamin wasn’t even sure if Jennifer had noticed him at during any of their years at school together.

“Today is the Day!” Benjamin exclaimed to his mother, who was quickly packing lunch for Benjamin in their small, one room apartment in Murphysborough, Georgia.

“Your math test?” Benjamin’s Mother, Anita asked, reminded of Benjamin’s poor grade in math the previous year.

“No, Mom! Today is the day I am going to talk to Jennifer!”

“Oh Dear! How’s Jennifer’s Dad, is he still running for Governor?”

Benjamin looked down at his shoes as he thought of Jennifer’s Dad, Walter Glass, who was a prominent  defense attorney turned politician, now seeking to become Governor of Georgia.

“Yes, that will give us something to talk about!”

Beep-Beep!!

“Benjamin, here’s your lunch. You’re going to be late, Good Luck!”

“Thanks Mom!”