It was my first vacation in six years. I had just turned twenty-four, and was determined to make the most of every free day. I flew into Sea-Tac and rented a car, then drove throughout Washington state. I was in Washington to visit the places I'd lived as a child. First I went to the Yakima Valley, viewing the spring explosion of daffodils. Three square miles of yellow, breathtaking. Then I stopped at Fort Lewis, showing my Texas driver's license and my long-expired Military ID for a visitor's pass, explaining I only wanted to see our old house and my elementary school. We had lived there when an earthquake measuring 8.6 on the Richter-scale occurred. I never forgot the deafening roar, unable to hear my Mother's screams for me coming from the kitchen. I recall looking out the window and watching our Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight sedan rocking from driver's to passenger's side, both left wheels then right wheels leaving the ground at the same time, "bucking". From next door came the Colonel's wife, so "rattled" emotionally that my mother broke out the cooking sherry to calm their nerves. I was so scared as an eight-year-old that I slept on a cot in my parents' room for the next three days, terrified of the rapid succession of aftershocks.

I drove on to Seattle and visited the Space Needle. It was odd we'd lived in Washington for three years and never visited Seattle's premier landmark. I went up to the observation deck to see how much the Seattle skyline had changed. Then I ate dinner in the Needle's revolving restaurant: grilled salmon, baby spinach salad, a glass of Cabernet, and their famous chocolate dessert. It was expensive, but worth every bite.

I stayed overnight at Days Inn, then headed for Vancouver, British Columbia, the next morning. I had never been there before.

I checked into my downtown hotel on Barclay Street in Vancouver. I felt like playing my guitar, the first time I'd been so inclined on this trip. I unlocked the case and pulled out the beautiful Adamas six-string acoustic-electric. I started to make sure it was tuned, when to my horror I discovered the tuning peg for the "A" string wouldn't turn. I was very, very upset. This three thousand dollar guitar was my baby. I called downstairs to the hotel concierge and asked if he knew of a guitar store nearby, or a guitar builder. I skipped using the formal word, luthier, for guitar builder; only guitarists know what a luthier is.

The concierge was helpful and polite. He told me about a guitar store just a few blocks away. I thanked him for his kindness, and headed out of my room, my guitar case in hand.

Carlisle's Guitars was just four blocks north of my hotel. I entered the door and tinkly bells sounded. A boyishly handsome man with movie star good looks and a wavy shock of blonde hair stepped out from the storage area of the store. The doorway was covered with hanging beads straight out of a sixties hippie movie. He smiled and said, "Welcome to my shop."

"Are you a luthier?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes, I am. What is the problem with your guitar, young lady?"

"The "A" peg will not turn. I can't tune that string. I wonder if the baggage handlers were rough with it," I stated with irritation.

"Let me see. What kind of guitar?" he asked.

"An Adamas. It's my baby. I saved for a year to buy it..." I said deflatedly.

He pulled my guitar from its black hardshelled case, and inspected the malfunctioning peg. "No problem. The threads are stripped. I can fix it easily.

Come back at 5 p.m. We close at six."

"How much will it cost to fix?" I asked.

"Thirty dollars Canadian" he replied.

"Thank you, sir. I 'll be back before closing."

I left the shop, stepping out into the crisp March air. It was about 42 degrees outside, cloudy, a typical late winter day in the Pacific Northwest. I chuckled, remembered I was in Canada, this was actually their Pacific Southwest. I went window shopping for several hours, not having much extra money for souvenirs.

I did go in a funky jewelry store, the front window a maze of handmade items, and saw a striking woven bracelet. I asked the saleswoman if I could look at it. It was intricately woven of dark red, blonde and black fibers. I asked, "How was the horsehair obtained?" She smiled, replied, "The artist owns palomino, bay, and chestnut horses. She collects the tail hairs as they are shed." The bracelet was a perfect fit and

had a lobster claw clasp, sterling silver. "How much?" I asked.

"Twelve dollars" she replied.

"I'll take it. I'd like to wear it." I answered, paying her.

I left feeling happy and carefree about my purchase, but I was now low on Canadian funds and I needed to find a bank or ATM. I walked a few more blocks and spotted an ATM cattycorner across the street. I crossed the two streets without jaywalking --- I did try to obey the law. As I walked up to the kiosk-style ATM, suddenly a young man in a black hoodie, black jeans and sunglasses approached from the opposite direction. He had several days' worth of a scruffy reddish beard and he walked hunched, even though he appeared to be at least six feet tall. I arrived at the ATM keyboard about five seconds before him and slid my card into the slot, punching in my code.

The young man sighed loudly and paced around the back of the kiosk. I kept a glancing, wary eye on him as I transferred two hundred dollars from savings to checking. Was this young man going to rob me?

I was telling the ATM I wanted Canadian funds, as the young man's body language became impatient. He stood with arms crossed against his chest about three feet away and at 10 o' clock position. His right foot, in a black athletic shoe, was tapping rapidly and agitatedly. The more that right foot tapped, the longer my business took with the ATM, because of the distraction. Finally I glared at his foot. His head tilted down at me , but I could not read his eyes because of those damn sunglasses. I had the strangest impulse to either stomp on that tap-tap-tapping foot or yank off those sunglasses, either impulse inappropriate in this public place.

I pulled my $200 Canadian and pocketed it quickly along with my card. Then I gave into impulse, and hands freed from banking, I looked at the young man, "You! You are a jerk and I wanted to break your foot!"

I grabbed the sides of his hoodie, leaned forward on the balls of my feet and kissed him, hard, thinking, "that'll teach him a lesson". I broke the firm, chaste kiss and started to walk away. A hand reached out and grabbed my wrist, "You're not leaving," he said flatly, and I thought I heard the hint of an English accent. He held on to my wrist and he pulled several hundred dollars quickly from the ATM, and wadded it into his jean pocket.

My heart was beating wildly. I knew I was blushing from what----fear, excitement? I wasn't sure. His other hand took my other wrist. He was smiling ever so slightly. He slowly walked forward, forcing me to back up. Twelve steps, and my back felt the brick wall of the building next to the kiosk. He stepped toward me until he was about four inches away, leaned forward and let go of my wrists. He cupped my face with his hands. He leaned down and gave me the slowest, lingering kiss. His tongue flicked slowly along my lower lip and he pulled my lower lip into his mouth sucking it gently. I moaned softly. His knee firmly parted my legs and he leaned into me. I felt his erection pressing into my abdomen through his jeans. I inhaled sharply through my nose and then moaned again into the kiss involuntarily, in shock. I felt a bit like I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket. I was kissing a stranger I had just called a jerk, and he was aroused, kissing me as a lover would. THIS was wrong, it must stop! I turned my head to the left, forcing the kiss to break. I stammered, "Muh, my guitar! I ha-have to get my guitar!" and I walked across the street. "Wait! Wait for me!" he called following, "I don't even know your name."

He caught up with me as I waited for the walk symbol. "I'm Dana," sticking out my hand awkwardly. He smiled broadly, shook my hand, "And I am Thomas". We crossed the street, bumping against one another purposefully. "Do you go around kissing strange men often?" He threw his head back and laughed, not waiting for my answer. I just smiled, shaking my head at his craziness. We headed towards Carlisle's Guitars. And I was now absolutely positive that he was from England.

When we entered Carlisle's it was five minutes after five. Thomas removed neither the sunglasses nor the hoodie. There was a young male clerk and I asked for the owner. Carlisle came from the back of the store with my guitar case in hand, smiling. "I overestimated how much labor I'd expend. It was a simple repair. Fifteen dollars, that's enough."

I sat down on a stool and tried the "A" peg. It was fine, it turned easily. I strummed scales; Carlisle had tuned the guitar. I got my Kyser capo out of my case and set it below the third fret. Then I fingerpicked about thirty measures of one of my favorite songs. Thomas clucked his tongue and then said, "How do you know how to fingerpick a 1970 Elton John song that was only published for piano and strings?!" I stopped playing and looked up. "Well, Thomas, it IS my favorite Bernie Taupin lyric, and well, I played the song about two thousand times over the course of about three months" I said defiantly, "and each time I played it, I got a few more notes for guitar." Carlisle started laughing, "Well isn't SHE the definition of persistence!"

Thomas asked me to start playing the melody over again. I did and he began to softly sing:

"In the quiet silent seconds, I turned off the light switch and I

Came down to meet you in the half-light the moon left,

While a cluster of night-jars sang some songs out of tune.

A mantle of bright light shone down from a room.

Come down in time, I still hear her say,

So clear in my ear, like it was today.

Come down in time was the message she gave,

Come down in time, and I'll meet you half way.

Well, I don't know if I should have heard her as yet,

But a true love like hers is a hard love to get.

And I've walked most all the way,

And I ain't heard her call.

And I'm gettin' to thinking,

If she's coming at all.

Come down in time, I still hear her say.

So clear in my ear, like it was today.

Come down in time was the message she gave

Come down in time and I'll meet you half way.

There are women, women, and some hold you tight,

While some leave you counting the stars in the night."

I was stunned by his vocal and perfect recall of the lyrics. I sat on the stool, my guitar held loosely, "I take it, it's one of your favorites, also?"

He sighed, "Yeah, it's a beautiful lyric about unrequited love. I guess I understand it."

"I like it for that same reason. If a man loved me like that, he would never be left counting stars in the night." I felt his gaze and held it. I wished I could see his eyes, but those sunglasses hid them too well.

Carlisle broke the spell, "It's five minutes to six. Closing time."

Thomas insisted on paying for the guitar repair, and we left. As I followed him onto the sidewalk, he smiled and said, "Come on, little she-rapist, let's go up to my room and order some food!" I laughed at the ridiculous name "she-rapist", but I did attack him first....

I thought about begging off, but this young Englishman was funny and charming, and he seemed, well, lonely. I WAS hungry. His hotel was across the street and a block over from mine. He put the keycard in the slot of room 852 and we entered the room. I had just set the guitar case down on the suitcase shelf when the lights went out. I heard some rustling. I started to move back toward the door but Thomas stopped me. I felt his hands on my waist, my hips, and suddenly I was pressed up against the wall. I could feel his warm breath in my hair. He leaned over and kissed me, rougher than he had kissed me against the building. "Please, Thomas, I'm.."

"Shhh," he responded, and I felt his hands on my hips as he guided me to the left. I soon felt the edge of the bed, and sat down. Thomas pulled off my shoes and moved silently in the dark room. I heard him pulling clothes off himself. He pulled my T shirt off slowly and he sighed. I felt his lips on the space above my collarbone, and I gasped. It felt beyond wonderful! I reached up to his face: no glasses, no hoodie, no shirt. I felt his shoulders with both hands. His hands popped the button on my jeans and pulled the zipper down. He tried to pull them off, and I just finished the deed, kicking them off. I reached forward blindly and touched his hip, slid down the side of his hip and felt no fabric. Thomas was naked in the dark and he was kissing my neck. He leaned forward and I laid down on the bed, and as I felt his hand at the top of my panties, I froze. He then rolled me toward him slightly and I felt his hands behind me at my bra clasps. I felt my bra loosen, then being slid off my arms. His lips quickly were on the space between my breasts, while his fingers worked under my panties, which were now damp. He eased them low on my hips then said, "Raise up, baby." He pulled them off, and I heard him take a very deep breath. I then heard the crinkle of plastic, and he said, "Dana, you're a virgin, aren't you?'

"Yes, I am," I paused. "But I ..want this... I want you."

"You're sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Just, please...take it slow...for me."

I felt his hands just above my chest, under my arms. He slid me onto what felt like the center of the large bed. I felt his lips kissing me behind my right ear, and I moaned softly. His hands were cupping my breasts and suddenly he was rolling my nipples between his thumbs and forefingers. I had never lain naked and had a man touch me like this. I felt like I was on fire. Then his lips were sucking my nipples, first the left, then right. His right hand was at my heat, one finger then two slid slowly in, and I felt my back arch on its own, pushing my pelvis against his fingers. . Then his thumb was on my clit, rubbing slowly. I had never felt anything like this when I had tried to pleasure myself. Thomas murmured, "Dana, you're very responsive to my touch. Bend your knees for me, baby."

I bent my knees and spread them wide, placing the soles of my feet flat on the bed. I heard his breaths and sensed him hovering over me. He kissed the spot behind my left ear, and I reached around, running my hands through his soft hair and scratching his scalp gently with my short nails. I pulled him closer to me and he kissed my lips and I felt him ask permission with his tongue. I opened my mouth with consent. The kiss was deep and I was swept away by it. I felt what must be the tip of his cock near my entrance. I pulled my knees toward me and wrapped my legs around his lower back. He entered me slowly, thank God--- he was huge and he was stretching me. He paused when he reached my barrier. "Do it quickly," I murmured and he replied with a quick thrust. There was a flash of pain for me and then it passed fairly rapidly. He pushed in further, "Dana, you're so warm and tight, you feel so good." he said with a groan. I sighed, "You feel damn good inside me. You can move more if you like.." He pressed further into me and I felt wonderfully stretched. He pulled almost all the way out and I gasped at the loss, but then he pushed back in quickly and I inhaled softly, filled again. He was increasingly this tempo gradually. He raised himself up a little, dramatically changing his angle of penetration, and I felt a new sensation, unlike anything I had ever felt before.

"Oh God, Thomas!" I exclaimed as if I couldn't control my own speech. He maintained the angle and sped up. Drops of sweat fell from his forehead onto my chest and neck. The room was still pitch black but I could hear his groans and I felt what must be his sack slapping softly against me. All these sensations combined and all of a sudden my lower gut tightened and I felt some muscles constricting in a very odd place. I felt my toes curling down and cramping. I closed my eyes and I saw little pinpoints of light in my eyelids.

He was panting very hard with his thrusts, and when I felt myself "clamp down", I was afraid I might hurt him. Instead, he groaned with two more quick thrusts, "Oh, FUCK!" and his legs became very shaky and then stilled, as he was gasping for air. I was breathing quickly too. He laid down very close to me on my right side. I heard a sort of "popping" noise --- the condom? He placed his right hand against my neck, and kissed my right earlobe, sucking it softly. "You were perfect, baby, perfect," he gasped out.

"And you were my perfect first time." I took a deep breath, "I guess I was the woman to 'hold you tight', not the one to leave you 'counting the stars in the night', do you think?"

I heard a soft snort, "Dana, when your fingers picked the melody of Elton's 'Come Down in Time', I knew I was going to make love to you. That's a man's lament, but you felt it, too." He inhaled, his breathing almost back to normal, "Have you ever played before an audience?"

"Just a college recital once or twice, with others," I replied.

"Would you consider playing that while I sing? It's only a pub here in Vancouver. Me and a couple of friends, maybe fifty in the audience. No pressure. What do you say? It's tomorrow night."

"As long as... I can play facing you, I'll be okay," I hesitantly answered.

"Great! I can watch you play for timing cues. Will you stay here with me? We can go get your stuff later. "

"Sure, I can stay. My hotel's not far."

My stomach rumbled. He laughed and sat up on the edge of the bed, "Room service, coming up! What do you want?"

I reached up and placed my hands on his shoulders then playfully stroked his hair, "Grilled salmon, or a steak. But, what I really want, Thomas, is to NOT keep calling you by your middle name." The room was still totally dark.

He reached over and flicked on the bedside lamp, and laughed, "I guess I fail at disguises. I had to open my big mouth and sing, didn't I?"

"I knew who you were when you laughed, when we were crossing the street. Your singing voice just confirmed it," and I sat up and kissed the nape of his neck.

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Elton John, music. Bernie Taupin, lyrics. "Come Down in Time" is from the 1970 LP Tumbleweed Connection.