The weeks went on, sweet and wonderful, in both Narvel and Reba's mind.
Reba's worries persisted, but she did her best to forget about them. It was an easy and difficult task all at the same time. Easy because Narvel made her feel amazing. Like she was the most important thing to him all the time. Difficult, because the more Reba spent time with him, the more deeply she fell in love with him. Falling in love is a wonderful feeling, but when you're not sure if the subject of your love feels the same way, it can be torturous.
"Is there something wrong, Reba?" Narvel asked her, startling her from her thoughts.
"No," she answered, confused. "Why do you ask?"
"You keep staring at me." Narvel said with a half smile.
Reba thought furiously, trying to cover up her embarrassment. She hadn't realized she'd be so open about her scrutiny. "Well, I-I, wouldn't say staring, more like looking into space, just thinking."
"The space that is around my general vicinity, right?" Narvel smiled at her wryly.
"Yes." Reba answered decidedly, knowing he was teasing her.
Narvel looked at the clock. "Well, we don't have much else to do, and it's basically time to leave, so I say we can go home now."
Reba chuckled again. "I like your logic."
The two finished up what they were doing and within 10 minutes, were already heading out the door. In the parking lot, Reba leaned against the door of her car, waiting for Narvel to tell her what his plans were for the next day. This quickly became one of their habits, standing outside of their work and deciding what the next date would be.
"What do you think about going on a picnic? On the lake?" Narvel suggested.
Reba raised her eyebrow and teased. "That sounds very romantic! Even for you!"
"Well, I have been brushing up on my "What Makes A Woman Melt" techniques." he answered slyly. "Is it working?"
"You never needed help with that and you know it." Reba leaned forward and kissed him sweetly.
Narvel smiled into their kiss and brought her closer to him.
"So, yes?" Narvel kept his arms around her waist even after they pulled apart.
"Yes." Reba smiled up at him. "Do you want me to pack the lunch?"
"Only if you'd like to."
"Of course! What do you think we should have? How about some big ol roast beef sandwiches?" Reba proposed.
"Sounds delicious." Narvel grinned. "I'll bring fruit and drinks, and you bring the sandwiches and chips. Deal?"
"Deal." Reba agreed.
"You gotta seal it with a kiss before it's official." Narvel said, closing his eyes expectantly.
Reba chuckled a bit, but obliged him. Raising herself on her tip-toes and wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed his waiting lips with a passion. Narvel's hands moved up and down her back, making Reba's whole body feel tingly.
Narvel broke the kiss off and pressed his cheek to hers. "Man, am I glad you're my partner." he breathed out.
Reba laughed quietly in his ear. "I'm glad you are too." Reba pulled away and looked into his eyes. The little voice in the back of her head started speaking, in it's annoying, persuasive voice, "You better stop it before you tell him how much you love him. He's not ready to hear it. You don't want to scare him off, do you?"
Reba blinked and looked down, certain that if she gazed at him any longer, he'd see her pain and conflict in her eyes.
"Alrighty, so what time do I need to be ready by?" Reba stepped away from him and tried to make her voice as normal as possible, despite her constricted throat.
Narvel was a little surprised with her behavior, but decided to let it go, for now.
"I think 11 would be good. It takes a good 20 minutes to get there."
"11 sounds great. I'll be ready." Reba smiled gently at him.
"Right. That means I'll be waiting at least 15 minutes." Narvel teased.
Reba rolled her eyes playfully and opened her car door. "I do not keep you waiting!"
"Whatever you say, Red." Narvel smirked and watched her get in her car.
"You're ridiculous." Reba told him, as she started the car.
"But you like it." Narvel winked and got out of her way.
Reba just stuck her tongue out at him and rolled her window up as she pulled out of the parking lot. She waved to him again and sighed quietly to herself, "If only you knew just how much I like you."
Reba came home to an empty house. She sighed and put up her purse. She rested her elbows on the kitchen counter and listened to the silence. It was so rarely quiet that she sometimes forgot what silence sounded like.
The back door suddenly flew open as a large blonde barged in.
"And that's about as long as any quiet time lasts." Reba thought grimly to herself.
"Barbara Jean," Reba asked in a tired voice. "What do you want?"
"Why do you always assume that I want something? I just came over to talk to my best friend!" Barbara Jean grinned and lightly punched Reba's shoulder.
Reba glared at her until she backed away.
"Um, where are all the kids?" Barbara Jean asked, figuring it would be a safe subject.
"Jake is at a friend's house, Van and Cheyenne took Elizabeth to the park, and Kyra is at the library. What's it to you?"
The blonde looked a little hurt. "What's gotten into you today?" Barbara Jean studied Reba, concerned. "Oh no. Did you and Narvel fight?"
Reba turned away from her. "I don't want to talk about my day."
"Oh no." Barbara Jean sat down with a knowing look. "What did he do?"
"He didn't DO anything, Barbara Jean." Reba snapped. Once again, Barbara Jean got that sad puppy dog look on her face, and Reba knew she needed to apologize.
"Look," she started. "I'm sorry. I'm just...feeling conflicted."
"About what?" Barbara Jean's face transformed immediately. Instantly becoming happy and paying close attention to Reba's words. "Was he looking at another woman? Did he insult you? Was he trying to go too far with you?!" Barbara Jean's voice got higher and more irritating by the second.
"No!" Reba stopped her. "It's not him, it's me." she took a deep breath. Maybe she just needed to talk to someone, and as annoying as Barbara Jean could be, she was always willing to listen. "I think-no, no, I *know* that I'm, well, I'm," Reba gulped. "I'm in love with him." she finished quickly.
Barbara Jean squealed and ran around the counter to give Reba a hug.
"Ah!" Reba exclaimed in surprise. "Barbara Jean," she said in a strangled voice.
"Oh right, right. You can't breathe." Barbara Jean let go, barely containing her excitment. "Oh Reba, this is exactly what I was hoping for! Somehow I knew, from the very first time I saw you together, that you were meant to be! I knew it! But," she asked. "why are you acting as if this were a bad thing?"
"Because!" Reba threw her hands up and paced around. "I don't know if he loves me back! And I can't say anything, because what if he doesn't feel the same way? He only recently got out of a divorce, what if he's not ready to fully move on yet? What if I freak him out with how quickly I've fallen for him? If I said anything to him about loving him, and he didn't feel the same way, it would scare him off! There are plenty of women, younger women, who would love to have a man like him. What if he decides he doesn't want me anymore? I just can't," her voice softened to a painful whisper. "I wouldn't be able to bear it if he left me too."
"Aw, Reba." Barbara Jean hugged her again, but this time Reba didn't move away.
"I don't know what to do. It's strange. With Brock it took years as good friends before we were ever anything serious. But this happened so quickly. Like one of those crazy "love at first sight" deals. And I don't know what to think about it." Reba finally shook off Barbara Jean's arms gently and sat down.
"Well let me tell you something, peaches." Barbara Jean pointed at Reba sternly. "If that man doesn't love you to the moon and back already, he's crazier than me! Times 5!"
Reba cracked a smile.
"Now, if you ask me, I'd say Narvel really is in love with you."
Reba looked up at her with hope. "You really think so?"
"Absolutely! He has stars in his eyes every time he looks at you."
Reba blushed. "I don't know about that..."
"Well I do." Barbara Jean said firmly. "And I think you should tell him."
"Tell him I've been madly in love with him almost as soon as we started working together? Tell him that I've never felt the way I do about him with anyone else? After just 2, almost 3 months of being with him? Are you kidding? I'll sound like an over-attached crazy person!"
"No. You'll be telling him what you feel. He needs to hear that!" Barbara Jean insisted.
"I don't think so, Barbara Jean."
The blonde shrugged. "Alright. Have it your way. But if you keep holding this stuff in, it could come between you." she warned.
Reba kept silent and turned away from Barbara Jean. She was afraid Barbara Jean was right. Reba was sure Narvel noticed her distance. He wasn't stupid. But Reba was even more afraid that telling him she loved him too soon could push him away as well. Reba shook her head in an attempt to clear her thoughts.
"So how are you and Brock doing?" Reba asked Barbara Jean, changing the subject.
Barbara Jean eyed her friend for a moment, but decided to let it go. "Things are getting better. We're actually doing pretty good. The other day in therapy..."
Reba listened to Barbara Jean as she prepared herself some dinner. Better to be thinking about someone else's troubles than her own.
Reba groaned and cracked open one eye to glance at her alarm clock. 8:30. She would have to get up to start getting ready for her date. Thinking about Narvel and his sweet plan for the day helped her to wake up. She opened both eyes and stretched before hopping out of bed and into the shower.
Later, she stood in front of the two outfits she had picked. One was a light colored sun dress that went to her knees, the other was a pair of white shorts and a bright blue top with delicate flowing short sleeves. Reba chewed her lip. She really liked the sundress, but it was just so normal. She never wore shorts. She just never felt comfortable in them. But maybe she could wear them today. Just as a special occasion. It was supposed to be hot today as well.
"Oh just forget it. I'm gonna do it." Reba grabbed the shorts and top and changed into them quickly before she could change her mind. Reba then put on matching blue earrings and white flip flops to finish up.
Reba checked herself in the mirror, looking critically at all angles. She was finally satisfied enough and emerged from her room to go make the sandwiches.
As Reba was getting the sandwich meats and cheese from the fridge, she heard a whistle coming from behind her. Straightening, she saw a surprised looking Cheyenne.
"Wow, mom. I didn't even have to try to convince you to wear shorts, you just did?"
"Yes, Cheyenne. I can make decisions, you know." Reba said dryly.
"I know, but wow! You need to wear those more often. You've actually got a nice pair of legs under those jeans you wear all the time!"
"Thank you. Now can we stop talking about my legs?" Reba pretended to be focused on the sandwiches so she didn't look so embarrassed.
"Sure, I guess. What are you and Narvel doing today?"
"We're going to go have a picnic on the lake." Reba answered, starting to layer the sandwiches with cheese.
"Aw, how romantic!" Cheyenne squealed.
"I know." Reba smiled briefly.
"And you lookin' all cute and stuff." Cheyenne said in a suggestive tone.
Reba just looked at her daughter. "Don't even go there."
Cheyenne shrugged. "Well, good outfit choice. Van and I are going to take Elizabeth to the zoo again with Jake, Dad, Barbara Jean, and Henry. The kids just can't get enough of it! And by kids I mean including Van."
Reba and Cheyenne shared a laugh. "Alright, bye honey." Reba hugged her and Cheyenne left the kitchen. "Don't forget sunscreen!" Reba called after her.
As Reba was finishing up, Jake came into the kitchen with a pouty face.
"Why do I have to go to the zoo?" he asked, sitting on one of the chairs.
"Because Jake, I'm going to be gone and I wanted to make sure you weren't alone. It was either the zoo or have Kyra watch you."
Jake's eyes widened. "You know, I kind of like the zoo."
"Are you going out with Narvel?" Jake asked.
"Yep." Reba smiled at him.
Jake nodded and watched her as she wrapped up the sandwiches. "Tell him I said hi! And that he needs to bring the video games he keeps telling me about next time he comes over."
"I will." Reba's smile grew. "You really like him, don't you?"
Jake nodded seriously. "I give you permission to like him." and then he ran out of the kitchen.
Reba's mouth fell open and she laughed. He was something else.
The house became quiet after everybody said goodbye to Reba and left. Then the door bell rang at exactly 11:00, and Reba opened the door, smiling.
Narvel stood there, looking devilishly handsome in jeans and a nice t-shirt.
"Good morning." Reba said to him.
"Good morning." he repeated, in somewhat of a daze, looking at her legs.
"Hello?" Reba got in his line of vision, laughing at him.
"Oh," Narvel blinked and looked up. "I'm sorry. I've just never seen you in shorts before."
"That's understandable." Reba smirked and pulled Narvel into the house. Mission accomplished. "Are you going to help me bring the food out so we can leave?"
"You mean you're ready?" Narvel asked incredulously, following her to the kitchen.
"That's right. See? I do not make you wait." Reba said smugly.
"You just did it on purpose because you can't stand being challenged." Narvel teased.
"What?! That's ridicu..." she tried to defend herself, but Narvel knew her too well. She gave up and laughed sheepishly. "Ok. You got me."
Narvel took her hand and pulled her close to him. Putting his arm around her shoulders he said, "Yes I do." and he kissed her sweetly.
Reba pulled away and looked into his eyes happily. "We can have more of that later. We should at least leave first!"
"I'm holding you to that." Narvel said before letting her go.
A while later they arrived. It was a very pretty little lake, but hardly anyone knew about it, making it the perfect spot for a lunch date.
Reba looked around and saw a small boat tied to the main dock.
"There it is!" Reba said excitedly.
Narvel grinned and picked up the cooler that he brought. "I took the car to the other side of the lake yesterday and found a really nice spot for us." Narvel squinted up at the cloudless sky. "Luckily it's in the shade. Texas is really bringing the heat today."
The couple walked to the boat, hand in hand. Narvel set the cooler and the basket Reba packed in the center of the boat and motioned for Reba to hop in.
Reba hesitantly stepped in and settled down. Narvel went in after her and they shoved off.
"Are you sure you'll be ok rowing by yourself?" Reba asked, concerned. "You should have brought me a paddle!"
"I'll be fine, Red. Don't worry. And I couldn't make you paddle. What kind of man would I be?" Narvel paddled slowly, gaining momentum.
"A smart one." Reba said decidedly. "I know how to paddle."
"I have no doubt that you could, honey." Narvel answered her, and he left it at that.
Soon after, Reba took advantage of the fact that she didn't have to do any work, and not wanting to bother Narvel, just admired the beautiful view. The lake reflected the sky's gorgeous bright blue color, making the water sparkle and shine. But before long, the heat began to be oppressive. It really felt like it must have been 100 degrees, and Reba was ready to have something cool to drink. She looked up at Narvel and saw the poor man had sweat running down his face and he was breathing hard, but still he rowed.
Reba couldn't control herself. She started chuckling quietly, but when she saw Narvel look up questioningly and immediately start blinking because his sweat started falling into his eyes, her chuckles grew into loud peals of laughter.
"Wh-" Narvel tried to speak, but had to set down his paddle and breathe in.
Reba laughed all the more. "Are you-" More laughter. "Are you ok, Narvel?" she finally got out.
Narvel glared at her. "What is so funny?"
Reba suppressed her giggles in order to answer. "Here we are, trying to be all romantic, and what do we get for it? Heatstroke!" She cracked up once again, shaking the boat.
Narvel started chuckling too, unable to stay serious while listening to her giggles.
"Oh my goodness." Reba wiped the wetness from her eyes. "You know," she said, suddenly serious. "I only laugh this hard when I'm with you."
Narvel smiled. "I do know, actually. And if we weren't so far away from each other, I'd kiss you right now."
Reba let out another giggle. "Well you better start rowing again then."
Narvel groaned, but obeyed.
Thankfully, they were already almost to the other side, and it was less than 5 minutes when they reached the other dock.
Narvel got out first and quickly tied up the boat, then Reba handed him their basket and cooler.
"Your turn." Narvel smiled at Reba and held his hand out to her.
Reba took his hand and gasped in surprise when he pulled her toward him with force. Narvel kissed her passionately, cupping her face with his hand. Reba quickly got over her shock and kissed him back lovingly.
"There." Narvel said, after they broke apart. "Now I'm satisfied." he grinned.
Reba laughed and shook her head. "Just show me the way to our shade, Mr. Sweaty."
Reba followed Narvel off the dock and into the cool relief of the trees.
"Here it is!" Narvel announced. He set down the cooler and looked around.
"Oh Narvel. It is so beautiful here." Reba said happily. The trees provided the much needed coolness, but they didn't block the pretty view of the blue water.
"I'm glad you like it. And not to rush things, but I'm starving." Narvel looked hopefully at the basket in Reba's hands.
"A couple of roast beef sandwiches, coming up!" Reba laid down the blanket right in front of one of the larger trees, sat down, and started digging through the basket.
"Here you go," Reba handed Narvel his sandwich as he sat down next to her. "They should be nice and toasty after that boat ride." she giggled.
"Looks delicious." Narvel said. "Thank you, honey."
"Mhmm." Reba smiled at him and took out her own sandwich.
The two of them leaned against the tree and sat there in silence, staring at the lake and chewing their lunch happily.
"I've always wanted to live near a lake." Reba said.
Narvel nodded. "Me too. There's something so peaceful about it."
Reba smiled at him. "Exactly."
The two lapsed into silence again. Reba watched Narvel out of the corner of her eye and thought about what Barbara Jean had said last night. Did he actually love her? Should she tell him how she felt?
"Reba?" Narvel said.
"Hmm?" Reba turned to him.
"You should wear shorts more often."
Reba laughed. "You think so?"
"I know so." Narvel answered.
Reba laughed again and pulled out the chips. "Want some?"
Narvel nodded, but before Reba could hand him the bag, Narvel sat up and turned his body so that he could rest his head on Reba's lap.
"Ready." he said, opening his mouth.
"I'm supposed to feed you now?!" Reba asked playfully.
Narvel nodded with his mouth still open.
"You're so silly." Reba told him with a smile, but she fed him nonetheless.
"You're a prettier view to stare at anyway." Narvel said after chewing, making Reba turn a rosy color that was not entirely the sun's fault.
They stayed like that for a while, even after they stopped eating. They talked, they laughed, they kissed, everything was perfect. But even in the midst of the perfection, Reba still felt the pangs of doubt.
Finally, after they were about to leave, Reba said that she wanted to paddle at least part of the way back.
"No way." Narvel said immediately.
"Why not?" Reba protested.
"I don't want you paddling us, especially in this heat!" Narvel sat up. "I could barely do it."
"Because you're such an old man, right?" Reba teased him.
"Nah. I'm more concerned about protecting you in your delicate age."
Reba gasped and withdrew her hand from his and smacked him. "You butt!"
Narvel laughed and grabbed her hand before she could hit him again. "Reba, Reba. I was just kidding."
"You're mean." Reba pouted.
"You look like you're in your 30s, Reba. How could I ever be serious about that?" He kissed her cheek.
"But I'm not in my 30s." Reba said quietly.
Narvel studied her quickly. She was actually upset by his words. He scooted closer to her and wrapped his arm around her. "Honey, this is the honest truth. Listen close. You are ridiculously beautiful." Reba turned pink. "But really, I wouldn't even care if you were ugly and 60 years old. You would still have that amazing, caring, sweet, kind, fiery spirit that I lo-"
Reba looked up at him quickly. She felt like her heart had stopped beating. "That you what?" she whispered, barely breathing.
Narvel couldn't lie. Not to those big baby blues staring up at him. "That," he took a deep breath. "that I love."
Reba's eye were as big as saucers, she couldn't believe her ears. Was this real life?!
Narvel mistook her silence for a negative reaction and immediately started apologizing. "I'm sorry, Reba. I didn't mean to tell you so soon. I know you can't possibly feel the same way as I do, but that's ok." Narvel grasped her hand and looked earnestly into her eyes. "I don't mind. I don't mind it if I have to wait my whole life for you to fall in love with me. But please, please tell me that I haven't lost you."
All Reba could do was stare at him, speechless. After all that worrying, all that lack of sleep, all the moments she could have enjoyed more with him, it was all for nothing. Nothing! He loved her. Reba's heart soared with love for this man who's face was becoming more anxious by the second.
"Reba, please say something." Narvel begged.
Reba shook her head and smiled the biggest smile she could. "I love you too." she said softly.
Narvel seemed taken aback. "What?"
"I. Love. You." She repeated. "I've loved you for longer than you could probably guess."
Narvel let out a cross between a sigh and a whoop and pulled Reba to her feet.
"Say it again."
Reba giggled, feeling as if she was light enough to soar to the moon. "I love you, Narvel."
With that, Narvel kissed her in a way he never had before. He kissed her with all the love and passion he had kept bottled up inside of him, picking her up off her feet in joy. And Reba kissed him back with just as much love, wrapping her arms around him tightly and sinking into his embrace.
Not wanting to let go, Narvel gently sat her down on the ground without breaking their kiss, and buried his hands in her hair. Narvel felt like he could kiss Reba forever.
But of course, they eventually had to pull apart for oxygen. Reba stared into Narvel's eyes and could barely believe what was happening.
"You have no idea how long I've been so worried about this. I worried that if I said anything about my feelings that I would scare you off." Reba allowed herself to finally come clean. Feeling her burdens disappear. "And I knew that you could have any girl you wanted. And if I said one wrong thing, you wouldn't have any trouble finding someone else."
"Oh honey." Narvel stroked her face and kissed her again. "Never. Why would you think that?"
"Well, I guess when you've been burned once, it's just harder to trust." Reba said, looking down.
Narvel raised her chin up and looked at the redhead with compassion. "I would have to be the stupidest, most idiotic person in the world to look for, or look at anyone else. It will never happen."
To Reba's dismay, she found tears prickling her eyes. "I love you." She couldn't help but repeat.
They kissed again, more sweetly than passionately, but still it was a kiss filled with love, and a kiss that sent both their bodies tingling.
"I actually thought you were getting tired of me." Narvel admitted after. "I tried to take a step back so I wouldn't be all over you."
"That was you NOT being all over me?" Reba teased.
"Mhmm. You ain't seen nothin' yet." Narvel winked and kissed her again. Reba held onto him tightly, and hugged him close after they disconnected their lips.
"This has got to be the most perfect date in the history of forever." Reba murmured contentedly.
"I agree." Narvel said, resting his head on top of hers. They stood like that for a few moments before Reba asked,
"What time is it?"
Narvel checked his watch. "It's nearing 4:00."
"Oh my goodness." Reba looked up at Narvel in shock. "How did it get so late? It feels like we just got here an hour ago!"
"Well you know what they say about time flying when you're having fun." Narvel answered her, grinning.
Reba laughed and rested her head on his chest again. "Well I wish time would pass more slowly so we wouldn't have to leave so soon."
"Well, we could go get some ice cream. Does that make you want to leave?"
"Hmm," Reba answered, mocking thoughtfulness. "That does give me some motivation."
Narvel chuckled. "Well, come on then. Rocky Road is calling our name."
They packed up their things and Narvel rowed them back to the other side. When Reba got out of the boat she turned toward the water once again, trying to burn the memory of the lake and the entire day into her brain.
"We can come back, you know." Narvel said, wrapping an arm around her waist. "Anytime you want."
"I'd like that. A lot." Reba turned and smiled at Narvel. She gave him a gentle peck on the lips and then they laced their fingers together and walked to the SUV.
They went through the drive-thru at one of the nearby ice cream shops and sat in the car, eating their sweet treats.
"Jake said to tell you hi, and that he wants you to bring those video games you've been telling him about." Reba grinned at Narvel and then took another bite of her ice cream.
"Oh yes, I've been meaning to." Narvel nodded and spooned another mouthful of ice cream.
"Would you like to come home with us after church tomorrow?" Reba asked hopefully.
"I'd love to." Narvel answered with a smile.
"So I've been thinking," Narvel started, a bit nervously. "I'd really like it if you would accompany me to visit my family sometime soon."
"Your family?" Reba echoed. "Well I'd love to! But," she bit her lip. "Would they like me?"
"Absolutely! There's nothing not to like about you." Narvel said sweetly.
Reba laughed. "There's that charm again."
"It's always on." Narvel winked. "So? How about it? I've been telling them everything about you."
"Awe," Reba smiled cutely at him. "Well I'd love to. Just name the date."
Narvel leaned across the seat. "Thank you, sweetheart." and he kissed her on the lips lovingly.
Reba put her hand on his shoulder and deepened their kiss.
"I love you." Narvel said again.
"And I'll never get tired of hearing it." Reba smiled slyly.
They kissed again, but then decided it was time to leave.
In Reba's driveway, they sat in the car, neither wanting to part from each other.
"I'd better go. It's already 5." Reba said sadly.
Narvel squeezed her hand. "I'll see you in the morning."
Reba nodded. "Text me?" she asked with a smile.
"Absolutely." he responded.
Reba placed her hand on his cheek and kissed him tenderly.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Red."