Chapter One – "Want to share a ride?"
Her hair was like golden spun sunshine, her smile quite and intimate as she looked at me from across the room. I was with some colleagues gabbing about a new surgical technique when I saw her looking my way. I didn't know which of them she was looking at. Roger is handsome and so is Michael. I was at a doctor's convention in San Francisco on break. I excused myself figuring I was blocking some move she was planning for one of them.
I took my glass of wine and went out to the patio. I looked out at the city feeling like something was missing in my life. Here I was a successful surgeon, two homes one on each coast and alone. I have a couple man friends but nothing serious. They don't want to be tied down and neither do I. At least I don't think I do. I looked at my watch. One more boring session I thought. I finished off my wine and headed back.
I was standing in the crowd filing in with everyone else when I saw her again four people over. She was smiling and talking with a couple of woman. I recognized one of them, Sarah, but I didn't know who the other one was. She caught me looking her way. We were starring at each other eye to eye. She smiled and mouthed hello. I smiled and nodded. Do I know her I thought to myself as I scanned my memory? No one came to mind. I found my table and settled in for another hour long session.
I looked at my watch, five minutes to go, thank god. I thumbed through my emails during the last five minutes to see what was going on with my patients and if there were any emergencies that would save me from these last few minutes. The sound of the crowd clapping broke my focus as I logged off and put it away. I gathered up my portfolio and purse and walked out to the hallway and down to the main entrance to catch a cab back to my hotel. It was raining softly just enough to dot my glasses.
"Taxi Miss?" asked the valet
"Yes, the Ritz Carlton please" I said looking in my purse for a five to tip him.
"I'm going to the Ritz, I have a private car if you'd like a ride" a soft female voice whispered over my shoulder
"Oh, I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention. A private car, ah, yeah that'll be great, you sure you don't mind. I can take a cab" I said not believing my eyes.
"I won't hear of it. Do you really want to ride in a smelly cab?" she said looking at me with her deep blue eyes.
"Not really. Thank you so much"
I tipped the valet and watched her walk over to the waiting black town car and driver holding the door open. She slipped in and began touching up her lips looking into a small compact. I looked around expecting more people to be following us but there weren't. I walked over to the car and peeked in.
"It's just us girls" she said smiling pouring herself a glass of wine. "Want some?"
"That would be nice. This has been one of the most boring sessions I've been to in a while."
"Tell me about it. I was at one before this in New York last week"
"Are you a doctor?" I asked. I just couldn't resist it any more. I figured she was either a doctor or one of the doctor's wives.
"I am sorry; I am Marsha Masterson, Dr. Marsha Masterson, heart specialist" she said pausing to sip her wine.
"I am Dr. Sharon Watson, oncologist, glad to meet you"
We toasted our glasses and gabbed all the way back to the hotel. She was divorced, no kids, a surgeon for twelve years in New York. She was engaging with a warm personality. Her voice was soft spoken but clears as piano notes. We pulled up to the Ritz Carrolton.
"Good evening ladies" said the doorman as he opened the car door.
"Good evening" we said in unison laughing at each other.
We walked half way into the lobby when she asked me if I wanted to go out for dinner and drinks. I looked at my watch. I had no plans other than to order rooms service and watch a movie.
"Sure. Say we meet back down here at the bar in an hour?" I asked.
"You got it, in an hour" she smiled
Chapter 2 – Dinner at Toulouse
I was back down stairs within the hour having a Cosmo at the bar. It was nice to have a girl’s night out instead hanging out with the boys from the conference. It would have been more shop talk and bragging about new techniques and “did you read my blog about…” blah, blah, blah. Boring! I was about to order another Cosmo when I saw Marsha come in smiling. She looked good for thirty eight in her DNKY jeans, purple and white sleeves tee with a sheer over shirt.
“Make that two” I said to the bartender
“Hello again” she said sitting next to me at the bar
“Hello to you. I am glad you dressed casual. I wasn’t sure where we were going for dinner”
“Me too. Hell we’ve been in dress suits all day it’s time for jeans and drinks”
“You are such a character. I ordered both of us Cosmos.”
“Works for me, excellent way to get the party started. Hope you’re in the mood for good casual French food. I made reservations for us at Toulouse. It’s a fun unique casual bistro and bar. The music is awesome and the atmosphere is electric.”
“I haven’t been there before, but I am up for a good time. ”
“Good, I am sure you’re going to love it”
“Here you go ladies” said the bartender
“To Toulouse” Marsha said raising her glass
“To Toulouse” I chanted back.
We drank our Cosmos and headed off for Toulouse. Marsha was vibrant and full of life. How could she not have someone just as terrific as her in her life? What went wrong in her marriage? She seems to have it all. But then who am I to talk, I was just reflecting over the same things in my life back at the convention. Well, I’m out with a new friend and enough about the past.
We pulled up to this fabulous building with a grand entrance. The sign is lit in neon pink and blue letters that glowed with then name Toulouse. She was right it looked exciting, vibrant and alive. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in for a fun night.
“Bon jour Ladies” said the valet as she opened the door and unhooked the velvet rope.
“Wow Marsha, this is wild” I said gasping at the entrance and music flowing out over me
“You just wait until you get inside it will blow your mind. You’re in for a treat!” she said smiling holding my hand leading me in through the double glass doors.
It was unbelievable. It has three levels of bars that circled the center dance floor. You could see straight up at the flashing strobe and telescope lights peering down and dancing all round us. The DJ was on the third floor working the crowd from above. Velvet French couch booths lined the back walls with black and gold marble tables, tulips and lit candles. It was like being in a fantasy dream land.
“Follow me ladies your booth is over here” said our waitress in a black and white French maids costume
“This is so cool Marsha” I said as we flopped down onto the ultra soft couch
“It’s my favorite place when I come out here.”
We ordered Martinis and a tri level tray of appetizers. I never felt so free and alive. A curious thing I began to notice was that most of the people in the club were women. I looked on the dance floor and there were women dancing with women. At the bar women were draped together like soft silk blowing in the wind. Some were lopped arm in arm, some leaning into hold arms of each other.
“I hope Toulouse isn’t making you uncomfortable Sharon, we can leave if you want” said Marsha watching my gaze and observations.
“No, I want to stay. In this day in age you have to open your eyes and your mind. My last patient would have loved this place. She passed away after a long battle with cancer. Her girl friend was by her side every day for the last three months of her life. I never knew how deep love for someone was until I saw the way she looked at her and stayed by her side until the end. So this night is for her and new beginnings.” I threw back my entire Martini and wiped the small tears from my eyes.
“I’m so sorry Sharon. No more sadness now, lets order another and celebrate her life”
“Here, here” I said popping a shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce into my mouth. Our fresh Martinis arrived.
“To Lucy” we both said toasting our drinks in the air “To Lucy!”
We ordered table side dinner and more cocktails. The music was beginning to flow over me from above drizzling down and tingling my skin. Marsha took a sip of her drink and excused herself then went over to the bar and began to talk to a tall brunette. Was she her friend? I watched as they both talked and then went out to the dance floor. A MaMarsha song (“Music”) began to play. Marsha reached for her hand and her friend reached out to hers and pulled her close.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Marsha moved up to her and began to sway with her rhythm as they touched noses and look into each others gaze. Her friend pulled back Marsha’s hair from her face, leaned in and kissed her soft and slow all the while dancing to the music. This is new to me I thought to myself. A bold new world and a new transition beyond my small protective world that I lived in began to unfold before me as I watched her.
I slowly began to understand Lucy’s world. Love is what you want and feel, not what you think others want you to be for them. All this time I focused on the worlds perception, what it expected me to be. This was a reflection that I had not every expected to see. But in this moment I saw that love could be whatever I felt not what it others expected it to be for them.
“Earth to Marsha hello, are you in there?” said the sound of Marsha’s voice wakening me from my thoughts.
“O’ hey you” I said coming out of my daze of deep thought.
“That’s my friend Debbie. She just wanted a dance. She saw you with me and figured you wouldn’t mine. Are you okay?” asked Marsha
“O’ yeah. I’m fine. I saw myself for the first time.” I replied sipping my drink
“You saw yourself?” asked Marsha.
“Yeah, I had a reflection about Lucy and then about myself.”
“I hope you didn’t mind me leaving you alone to go for a dance?”
“No, O’ no, I didn’t mind. It was life changing to see you so graceful and comfortable with another woman. I had no idea what it would look like or how I would feel.”
“Well, how do you feel?”
“Nothing like I expected”
“What were you expecting?”
“I thought this wasn’t for me and that this is a different world when the reality is love is the place and time that you are in, in the moment.”
“Wow, I’ve never heard put that way before”
“No really, you know how it is in “our world” where you have to put on airs to move up. Now I see that free love is everywhere, everywhere when you least expect it to show up. I mean look at us, we both make serious money and the difference between you and me is…” I paused.
“What?” Marsha said leaning in with deep curiosity
“Nothing, absolutely nothing Marsha. Love is love, people are people no matter what they feel between each other. That’s what Lucy was trying to explain to me before she passed away. She laughed at me the first time she saw the expression on my face when her girlfriend kissed her. I was stunned, absolutely stunned for the rest of my shift. But after seeing how much her girlfriend loved her and wept over her day after day, I began to find understanding.
“Wow, it happened to you too ‘eh?”
“What do you mean?”
“Sharon, I had a Lucy patient too. Her name was Paula. She was a sweet girl whose life got cut too short too soon.”
“Well, my small world just got bigger” I said to Marsha wiping the tears from my eyes.
“It’s never been small Sharon, you just never knew until now how big your heart is and what it’s capable of. Your feelings are what you want them to be, not what you think they need to be for the world to accept you.”
“Tell you what, we are both here through the weekend and I have a small cottage in Napa Valley where we can go and just get away from the worlds expectations. There’s plenty of wine and my neighbors aren’t judgmental. Want to go?”
“I’d like that Marsha” I said touching up my eyes.
“Good lets dance and put this behind us” said Marsha reaching for me hand. I reach for hers and let the moment take me into its arms.
Chapter 3 - Napa Valley Dreams
The phone rang as I turned in my bed.
“Hey you” said the familiar voice. It was Marsha
“Hey. You’re up early. I had a blast night.” I said suppressing my yawn looking at the clock
“Well it’s a beautiful morning and Napa Valley is calling our names, or did you change your mind?”
“No mind change here. I’ll get up, get showered, dressed and meet you down stairs in an hour. How does that sound?”
“Excellent! I am so excited. You’re going to have the time of your life”
“Okay, see you down stairs shortly” We hung up.
I laid in bed looking up at the ceiling thinking about last night and all of its meaning. My world was so small and so narrow. How could I have let what other people think, shape my views and feelings regardless of what they are? I did “what I was suppose to do” according to a judge and jury of peers that I never knew and that controlled my life.
Not any more. It’s time to unfurl my wings and fly in whatever direction the wind takes my heart. I packed my things, called the bell hop and pulled the door hearing its lock knowing that I was closing it to the world that I would leave behind forever and would be opening a new one in Napa Valley. Whatever that door was is what it will be when I step through it.
“Hey girl!” shouted Marsha
“Well look at you, I’d say somebody is ready for the wine country”
“Well, I closed a door last night Marsha”
“Good on you, whatever our weekend brings it will bring. Let the journey begin”
Marsha’s cherry red Mercedes CLK convertible was the bomb. I’ve always wanted to get myself one and here I was slipping into its fine soft leather arms feeling them wrap around me. We let our hair down, put on our shades and powered down the top. The breeze caressed our faces as we slowly pulled out and merged into the weekend traffic. Marsha put in a CD.
I looked at her as she draped her delicate hand over the center of the steering wheel peering out at the traffic. She hummed along to the music smiling, feeling the breeze and smelling the fresh ocean air pour over us.
“What” she asked noticing me watching her
“Come on. Really, nothing?
“Well, to be honest this is so refreshing. This whole idea of getting out and going to Napa Valley.”
“You’re going to love it. The drive alone is worth its journey. I bought my place up here one year after my divorce. I wanted something new that was mine alone. I spent a weekend looking at different places. Then up on the mountain side I saw it. I knew it was the perfect place as we got closer to it. The gate had a sign on it “Wisteria Winery ~ All are welcomed”. I knew from the moment I walked in and step foot on the wooden floors that I was home. It was my heaven on earth”.
“Wow, just like that?”
“Yep, just like that. I just knew it. It felt like me. I told the realtor to make an offer immediately I don’t want it to slip away. Three days later I was signing papers.”
“No lie girl. I know what I want and I’ve got the money to get it. Hell, I an’t shy. This is my time, my moment and I an’t lettin’ nothin’ stand in its way”.
She put so simply. All the words that I’ve ever wanted to say for years she put them out there in simple, plain terms. “This is my time, my moment and I an’t lettin’ nothin’ stand in its way”. Wow.
About thirty minutes later we were pulling into Napa Valley. It was beautiful. The colors, the smells, the miles and miles of vineyards that lined the road draped heavy with grapes.
“It’s harvest weekend darlin’” Marsha said pointing at the fields of plump grapes and workers hunched over cutting and filing baskets.
“O’ my Marsha, I getting goose bumps!”
“Good. You’re feeling the aurora of the valley”
People were everywhere. They waved at us as we drove slowly down the middle of town. I waved and blew kisses to complete strangers. I hugged and kissed Marsha on the cheek.
“I hope there’s more where that came from” she said turning into the driveway of a bakery and cheese store
“Maybe, maybe” I blushed not believing the spontaneous moment I had just felt come over me.
Chapter 4 – Moon over Wisteria Winery
V. Sattui (vsattui.com) winery and cheese shop has a picnic lawn that is so romantic and intimate for locals and tourist that came from around the world to take visit the valley. It was perfect, nothing like I had ever seen or imagined,
“It’s my little piece of Italy” said Marsha parking and hoping out of the car.
“It truly is Marsha”
“Well, get ready to let you senses run will in the Shoppe”
“I am let’s go!”
It was, it truly was almost beyond words. Cheeses, meats, bread, and wine from around the winery and around the world was thick with shoppers trying to make up their minds over what to choose. Marsha was a veteran. She filled our shopping cart while we sipped samples of wines. The start of my day couldn’t have been better. People were so friendly here. Everyone knew Marsha, but who could resist her charm and personality.
“That should do it don’t you think?” asked Marsha
“One more thing” I said holding out a bunch of fresh cut flowers I found three isle over from her while she was pondering over cheeses and pate.
“They are so perfect” she said with a smile setting on the checkout counter.
I couldn’t believe how calm and perfect my weekend had started. A new place, my old world behind me and a new one open for me to explore without pressure. I was one with myself with a freedom that I had never felt until last night.
“You ready for the weekend of your life?” Marsha asked handing me one of the two bags.
“Totally and more than you will ever know”
“Then let the journey began” she said as we walked to the car, loading our weekend goodies in the backseat. We drove off towards Wisteria Winery with the wind in our hair and the sun caressing our faces.
Chapter 5 –The perfect moment in time
We drove up the small winding unpaved road towards her cottage. The sun peeked in and out through the vine thick trees and looming Wisteria as I playfully guided my hand up and down as I reached out to feel the wind. The smell of lavender was hovering above me. Butterflies flew near the car as busy worker bees tended to the wild flowers along side the road. I could see the up coming sign Wisteria Winery ~ All are welcomed. I broke into a smile as I looked around like a kid going to visit grandma and grandpa up in the country. We pulled up to her porch and parked.
"Well, this is it, Wisteria Winery" said Marsha looking radiant, proud and calm.
"This is so beautiful Marsha" I said opening my door looking around the grounds.
"Still glad you came?"
"There is no doubt in my heart"
"Good, here's the key, go let yourself in"
The feeling of the keys in my hands felt as if I had been giving the keys to my dreams, my freedom, and my imagination. I walked towards the three simple steps to her porch. Flower pots were filled with wild flowers. A large wooden table was coated with multicolored melted wax from candles lit over time. A swing is to my right with big fluffy pillows. I was Alice in wonder land. I put the key in the door and slowly opened it. Out slinked a black and white tabby cat purring softly.
"O' that's Gracie" said Marsha bringing up a couple of the bags
"Well hello Gracie" I said cupping her soft face feeling her tail curl around my ankle
"She's a sweet heart" said Marsh setting the bags on the porch looking proudly at her.
"She certainly is"
I picked up the bags she dropped off and went inside. It was a warm and charming home. Filled with things the meant the world to her. Big wicker couches and arm chairs sat in the middle of the main living room. There's a large stone fireplace that went all the way up to the ceiling with huge logs piled on both sides of the hearth. A thick heavy woven shag colored rug laid in the center with a big oak tree stump table and a smoky glass top. The smell of lavender and vanilla was in the air that came from home made candles that were everywhere.
"You like?" Marsha said leaving the door open and heading towards the kitchen.
"I am almost lost for words. I do love it. Thank you so much for the invite"
"You're welcomed up any time you want. I glad you came"
"So am I"
"Wine" she said pulling out the bottles we had just bought
I walked over to a large window that overlooked the winery rolling hills. I took in a deep breath, let it out and smiled at the moment I found myself in.
"Here you go" said Marsha handing me a glass of wine
"Thank you" I said taking a small sip
"So, tell me" Marsha started while standing and looking out the window with me "What's going through your mind?"
"All of this is you. You have so much control and comfort in your life. Last night I looked into a mirror I knew existed but was afraid to look at. I feared my reflection of my feelings. But now I am at peace knowing that whatever I want to feel I can. Whatever I want to touch I can. All the simple things that Lucy would talk about when I would sit with her so she wouldn't be alone are true . It doesn't matter how you love but how you let others love you."
"Wow!" said Marsha taking a long sip of her wine gasping at what I said. "That is the most beautiful reflection I have ever heard in a while."
"Its true Marsha. I haven't had peace in my heart for some time. I am always saving lives every day and at the end of the day I would wonder on the drive home when will someone save me? I not alone, I am just lonely. There is a difference you know. I guess I put myself so deep into my work so that I can avoid the emptiness I feel off and on. But here, right now, I feel found and blessed."
"Well, sweetheart, you take all the time you need to figure out all the things you're feeling because we have the entire weekend to ourselves. O' and by the way there's a wine harvest festival two wineries over tonight if you want to go. I'll leave you to your thoughts and go finish preparing lunch. Meet me on the porch in a half an hour. Feel free to go for a walk. It will do you good" said Marsha in her usual calm and thoughtful voice.
After standing at the window a few minutes more I walked over to the French double doors that lead to the back patio. The vastness was as far as my eyes could see. A flat stone trail lead to the edge of the yard and into the garden. I filled my glass with wine and went out for a walk. I let down my hair so I could let the gentle breeze caress me. In the center of the garden is a small two seat wooden swing, a table and a bird bath with two birds fluttering their wings splashing themselves. Butterflies were flittering everywhere. I sat on the swing a rocked myself as I starred up at the clean blue sky. I was at peace with myself at last.
"I thought I'd find you out here. This is my meditation garden. You like it?" said Marsha holding a tray of tea sandwiches, cheese and crackers and another bottle of wine.
"I like everything about your place" I said continuing to rock myself sipping my wine
"Can I join you?"
"Of course" I said looking into her eyes. "I want to share all of this with my new best friend" I said reaching for her hand after she placed the tray on the table. She reached out for my hand and stepped slowly towards the swing and stood in front me. The sun lit her face as a slow breeze pushed back her hair from her soft face. I smiled as I starred back up at her. She sat beside me and together we began swinging. It was like I had found myself in a moment in time that was waiting for me. We talked, ate our tea sandwiches, cheeses and crackers. Gracie soon joined us chasing butterflies.
Chapter 6 – The Wine Festival
It was nearly time to head over to the wine harvest festival that Marsha mentioned earlier. I try to pick out the perfect outfit to wear. No jeans tonight I thought to myself looking at the clothes in my opened suit case. This one, this one will be perfect I said holding up a blue and white lace cotton Chico summer dress. The smell of a lavender and vanilla candle filled the room with the music of Nora Jones Come Away With me playing in the background as I stood in the mirror swaying to the sweet melody. I heard a knock on the door…
“Are you almost ready?” asked Marsha
“Yep, here I come” I said opening the door
“Look at you, very nice, very Napa” she said holding a glass of wine in one hand and two halo flower rings in the other.
“You always have the perfect words Marsha”
“Well, here’s something from the garden to top off your look” she said putting one of the flower halos on my head.
“Here, let me put yours on” I said like a little girl playing dress up at a sleep over.
I looked deeply at her as she closed her eyes and lowered her head. I softly placed the halo of flowers on her head penning it with two bobby pins then kissed her on both cheeks, then her forehead.
“Thank you for making this the best weekend ever in my life” I said hugging her
“Thank you for being part of everything that I am” she said slowly reaching for my hand leading me out into the living room.
The fireplace was crackling with stacks of logs glowing. The room lit up and flickered from the flames dancing. Our shadows danced across the walls as we started to slow danced to Nora Jones music. The feeling of holding her in my arms was like embracing a mellow dream that I didn’t want to awaken from. We tucked our heads into each others shoulders and just let the moment fold into itself. Our evening has started so perfectly. The music slowly came to an end as we slowly pulled apart.
“Don’t talk” said Marsha looking into my eyes.
“Just listen. Take your time and don’t worry about hurting me if at any point this is not you or for you. I remember how I felt the first time and how I just let whatever I was feeling find it’s on away. So no matter what happens or whatever you want to say, know that I am okay with us just being friends”.
She picked the perfect time to say the perfect words. I wasn’t sure about any of my feelings. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to just follow them and see how far they would take me. For now I am okay with pace of what I was feeling.
“Thank you for being so understanding. I’m okay, really I am. I’m glad that you are following my lead and letting me move at my own pace. I want to let whatever happens, happen and judge each moment as they come to us.” I said filling both of our wine glasses half way.
“Then let’s head over to Wendy & Marla’s place and join in the fun” she said toasting my glass.
Wendy & Marla’s place was just a short drive away. The night air was perfect as we drove over to the festival. I could see twinkling lights just ahead as we turned off the main road and up towards the festival. The festival was in full gear. There are dozens of people dancing and standing around a big barn fire drinking wine as we drove up and parked.
“Hello Marsha” said one of the guests.
“Wendy!” shouted back Marsha reaching out to her. “This is my friend Sharon from New York City”
“Hello Sharon, welcome to the festival. Please, come join us. I’ll introduce you to everyone” said Wendy with a warm smile. She is a cute, short strawberry blonde with a bubbly personality.
“Marsha!” Came another voice from the crowd as we got closer to the large round wooden table filled with wine and food.
“Hey Marla!” Marsha shouted back.
“Marla this is my friend Sharon”
“Hello Sharon, glad to meet you. We’re glad you are here. We have all flavors of wine so don’t be shy honey”. Said Marla kissing me on both cheeks.
“I’m glad to be here. Your place is very beautiful” I said pouring a glass of wine for me and Marsha.
“Thank you. So how long are in going to be in the valley?”
“Do stay longer if you can” she said waving at other arriving guests.
“We’ll see” I said sipping my wine looking at Marsha
“Good. I’ll be milling around so don’t be shy” said Marla walking backwards then turning into the crowd.
“They have lots of energy” I said to Marsha
“Yep, they’ll make sure everyone has a good time before the night is over”
We stayed for a few hours mingling and sampling the large varieties of wine from the harvest. I never knew this much about wine or how it was made until this weekend. It was new and exciting. This was a whole other world that I have yet to explore. Marsha took the long way home so I could see the valley at night and it was breathe taking. The stars were so bright and clear. It was like I was on a magic carpet ride.
We pulled up to Marsha’s place. The glow from the fireplace softly lit the windows. Gracie was in the window sleeping as we walked up to the porch. We went inside and kicked off our shoes. Marsha put some more logs in the fireplace as I sat on the couch. It came alive again with deep red flames.
“So did you enjoy yourself” asked Marsha plopping down in one of the large wicker chairs across from me.
“I sure did. I never learned so much about wine in my life, and the food was fabulous!” I said crossing my legs on the ottoman between us.
“Well that’s one thing you’ll take away from here if nothing else” she said touching my feet with hers on the ottoman we were now sharing. I looked at her as the fireplace glow outlined her face, shoulders and legs. I stood up and walked over to her slowly and reached out my hands.
“What?” Marsha whispered with a small smile.
“Shhhhhh… no words. I said looking down at her.
“Come with me” I said feeling her hands holding onto mine as I pulled her up from the chair.
I smiled, turned and pulled her hands signaling for her to follow me. She did. I touched the button on the CD player to start Nora Jones from the beginning as we walked passed. I lead her to her bedroom door, opened it slowly, lead her in and slowly closed it behind us.
“Good night Marsha”
“Good night Sharon”