THE KEYS ARE IN LOUISIANA

by Rhonda L. Nolan


Peg sat and stared.

There was no doubt about it, she was nervous. Nervous wasn't the only emotion she was experiencing at this particular moment. It seemed as though her entire being was filled with feelings of anticipation, excitement, joy and complete exhilaration. It was so overwhelming she could have described it as a "near" sexual experience. She chuckled to herself at the thought of having a sexual experience seated in the New Orleans airport.

His plane was scheduled to arrive in ten minutes. She had already been to the restroom three times to check her hair, her lipstick and her sanity. For the first time in a long time, Peg was actually early to arrive at a destination. Perhaps if more things in life were this important to her, she would lead a more punctual existence.

Peg questioned whether or not she had selected the right outfit to wear to meet him. It seemed ridiculous for her to show up at the airport in her best dress, so she simply wore a pair of faded jeans. She had on a loose, sheer silk blouse, which was a deep red in color. The color complimented Peg's olive complexion and dark hair. It matched the color of her sexy, full lips perfectly. She wore a black leather jacket and high, chunky black loafers. She never wore much jewelry. Her standard look included gold hoop earrings and a smoky topaz ring the color of her brown eyes. If she wore anything around her neck at all, it always had a personal meaning behind it. Today, she selected a delicate cross made of colorful venetian glass on a black rope she had bought in Italy last year.

Peg wondered if she was going to be pretty enough for him. After all, she had never met Andy in person, although he had seen many photographs of her. Peg was photogenic and didn't look much different in person than in her pictures. She was still concerned that perhaps his expectations of her appearance wouldn't match up in reality.

The truth of the matter was that Peg was strikingly beautiful. She had large, liquid, almost black eyes accented by long, dark lashes. Her eyes sparkled. There was never a day in Peg's life that her eyes didn't sparkle. Her heart shaped face was encased in flawless skin and adorned with an exceptionally pretty smile and perfect white teeth. If anything stood out about Peg, it was her smile.

Peg's shiny dark hair was long, loose and untamed. It gave Peg the appearance of an exotic, mysterious woman of unknown ethnic origin. Her looks were stunning but intimidating at the same time. She often felt as though sometimes people kept their distance because of her unusual, unordinary appearance.

Her figure was shapely and voluptuous. Although Peg wasn't the contemporary ideal of a model waif-like figure, she carried herself with such confidence and raw sensuality it didn't matter. As a former lover once told her, "Peg, you are ALL woman."

She checked her watch again. Andy would be arriving in approximately five minutes. She closed her eyes and tried to envision him walking off the plane. Would he have a magical aura about him as though he were a figment of her imagination? Would he look like his photographs? Would he be smiling? Would he be real?

* * *

It all began six months ago. Peg was scheduled to spend four days at a publishing convention in Los Angeles. She had called her girlfriend, Moira, who lived in L.A. to show her the town during her stay. Unfortunately, Moira was scheduled to be on location for a film she was working on and would be out of the country. Peg had met Moira ten years ago in graduate school. After graduation, Moira made the move and had become a successful documentary film director, while Peg remained behind and worked as an editor of a local Louisiana magazine. Peg had never been to L.A. and hadn't seen Moira in two years.

Moira did give Peg the phone number of a friend of hers who might be available that weekend. His name was Andy and he was an aspiring actor and film director. She had met Andy through her work and although she didn't know him well, he seemed to be very down to earth. Peg accepted the number and called Andy two weeks before the trip.

Andy was quite friendly on the phone and had a warm, sweet voice that almost made Peg want to reach out and hug him. He said he would be more than happy to show Peg around. Besides, he loved southern accents. Peg laughed and promised to call him when she arrived at her hotel. The conversation surprisingly lasted over an hour. Andy began to tell her about the city and his work. His personality was uniquely interesting and his manner was inviting. She immediately felt comfortable about meeting him.

The next week Peg received the news. Her uncle had died. The trip was canceled.

When Peg called Andy to tell him the news, she sensed the disappointment in his voice. To her own amazement, she found herself disappointed. She was actually looking forward to meeting him. She wasn't sure exactly why - he was a complete stranger she had a one hour phone conversation with by pure chance.

A month went by, and one day Peg was cleaning out her purse. She came across a slip of paper with Andy's phone number on it. She impulsively picked up the phone and called him. He seemed a little shocked, but happy to hear her voice. She told him that she simply called to ask how he was doing.

Little did they know that day, something wonderful and exciting was born.

Five months of letters, phone calls and endless computer e-mails on the Internet followed. Andy and Peg communicated in one form or another almost every day. Through their correspondence, a deep, intense relationship grew that bonded them together in ways neither one of them could fully understand.

Some things were obvious. They shared many common interests such as acting, film, comedy and writing. They both enjoyed fine food and wine, dancing, travel and the outdoors. Although they were from opposite ends of the country (Andy was originally from the north), there did not seem to be any glaring differences other than the sound of their native dialects.

The most important things that existed between them were trust and communication. Peg felt as though she could be free, open and truly herself with Andy. He told her he felt the same way about her. They could laughed together, both seeing the world through the same set of lenses. As Andy once said, "We are on the same page at the same time."

Peg couldn't quite remember exactly when things changed. Somewhere along the way, their relationship had taken on a new twist.

Neither one of them expected a romantic side to their friendship to emerge - yet both of them had suspected it from the start. It took Peg by surprise because she certainly wasn't looking for it at that particular time in her life. She had recently ended a tumultuous relationship with a young attorney that left her emotionally drained and indifferent. The physical distance between her and Andy was almost a welcome relief in the beginning.

But Andy proved to be irresistible. His charm, his warmth and his sensitivity were endearing. Although it confused her, she felt a strong attachment toward him. And although it frightened her, Peg began to feel vulnerable. Over time, she knew that oddly enough, the potential to be hurt was there.

The day Andy's photograph came in the mail was a day that Peg would never forget. When she saw the envelope with the strange, abstract handwriting and the Los Angeles postmark – she knew. Peg sat on her couch and stared at the envelope for a long, long time before she opened it. Andy had described himself to her many times, but she could never quite picture his face in her mind. His looks really didn't matter to her at this point because she had already grown fond of Andy for who he was – his spirit and his mind. This was quite unusual for Peg who generally judged men first by their appearance.

Although it essentially wasn't of high importance what he looked like, Peg knew it would ultimately have an impact on the way things were going. She felt all along, down in her heart, she would like his looks. She slowly opened the envelope. The photograph fell into her lap. Her instincts were right.

Andy was beautiful.

The first thing that jumped out at her was his smile. He had a smile that touched her soul in ways she could not describe. His brown eyes twinkled. His face glowed. He had golden hair with shimmering hints of red – like early rays of sun coming through the window on a Sunday morning. Andy had a slender build and stood as though he had not a care in the world. His posture was relaxed and confidant. He looked like he enjoyed life and was quite capable of having fun.

She cursed his beauty because with it came more frustration.

Peg and Andy continued to write long, passionate letters and Internet e-mails to each other laced with emotion, eroticism and a sense of oneness. It was intoxicating, obsessive and addictive. It scared them both, but ultimately sucked them in to the point where they were hooked. As their reservations slowly waned over time, their "lovemaking" became more and more intense.

"I am afraid," Andy whispered to her one night on the phone.

"It will be okay," Peg replied. "Andy, I just know it. Call it intuition or call it insanity, but I know it."

"You are so far away," he said. "It frightens me. Don't you think this is a bit strange?"

"Stranger things have happened, Andy. Perhaps this is fates' way of bringing us together. Do you believe in fate?" she asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Do you believe things happen for a reason?"

"Yes."

"Well, we may not know the ultimate reason right now, but I believe there is one. Can I ask you something?"

"Go ahead."

"Do you want me?"

"Yes, sweetie," he replied. "Very much. I think about you a lot. Too much. I go home every night and make love to you in my mind. It's becoming a necessity. You are making me need. Damn you, Peg. You are making me NEED, woman. Why do you have to be so damn great?"

"I want you too," she softly answered. "So bad that it hurts. I don't care anymore what anybody thinks. All I know is that I want you. I made love to you in my head before I ever saw you face. Now that I've seen it, it haunts me."

As time passed, words became their means by which to touch. Their words were the joining together of their minds and bodies. Their words were their world.

On those evenings in which they spoke over the phone until late in the night, the sound of his voice would seduce her. She felt like one big tangled mess of animalistic sex, heat, tenderness and love all rolled into one. He could hear her soft moans and whimpers from across the miles.

"God, you sound so sexy," he said.

"Come to me, Andy," she whispered. "Come to me."

He did. Peg burst into tears.

"Why are you crying?" Andy asked. "Was it that bad?"

"No, silly. I cry whenever I have a really moving sexual experience. It's an emotional release. Take it as a compliment."

"I am complimented and very pleased that I made you cry," he laughed.

" I have feelings for you."

"I know, sweetie. I know. It's hard."

"Andy, let's meet. I've got to know."

"I want to meet you, Peg. But I am enjoying this so much the way it is – at least, for now. I don't want to spoil it. You are my fantasy. You are my perfect woman," he said.

I am not perfect," she answered.

"I know that. That's why I like you. You're perfect because you're not perfect. I live in a perfect world - where everyone is judged, accepted and rejected by their perfection or perceived lack of it. You, Peg, you want me forme - not what I can do for you or what I can give you. That's so important. You are a breath of fresh air in an often stale and shallow world. You are so giving and I know it is genuine and sincere."

"Andy," she pleaded, "this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am not saying it will work out, but we must at least find out. I need to at least know we gave it a shot. It may be a long shot, it may be a shot in the dark, but it's a shot."

"I have been reluctant to get involved….because of where you live. It is so tempting, though. It's like having a beautiful car parked in my driveway, but the keys are in Louisiana."

"Andy, we already are involved. If it was meant to be, things will work themselves out," she said gently.

"Okay." Andy took a deep breath. "Okay. You are right. You are the strong one, Peg, I hope you know that. Be strong for me, sweetie. Be strong for us."

"I know how I feel and I know that no matter what happens, we will be friends and we will have fun together. After all we have experienced, I suspect we are going to be lifelong friends. If we have no other expectations, but we can agree on that, it will work out just fine," she answered.

"We're gonna be great together," he said. "I know it too. I just won't admit it to myself. Maybe that's what I am afraid of -- the greatness."

"I am here for you, sweetie," she said. "I will be the strong one."

She paused. "Please don't run off and fall in love with someone else. Not at least until after we meet. That is my biggest fear."

After five long, frustrating, joyfully painful months, they had made arrangements to meet. Andy was due a vacation in late April and the date was set. It was decided upon that he would come to New Orleans. Peg had made reservations at an old, quaint hotel in the French Quarter. Although she requested two double beds, she reserved only one room.

New Orleans possessed the romantic atmosphere that seemed so ideal for their first meeting. Peg described the city to Andy and together they envisioned intimate dinners in elegant restaurants, strolls along the French Market, dancing in the dark corners of nameless dives and jazz clubs. They would anonymously play amongst the drunken revelry of Bourbon Street until the wee hours of the morning and never live to regret it.

* * *

The time had come. The plane had landed. The questions were soon to be answered. Doors would be opened or closed. Their lives had already changed because of their relationship and there was no turning back. This was the beginning or the end.

Most importantly of all, two friends were about to finally look at each other face to face.

Peg stood as the passengers began to walk off the plane and into the terminal. She felt as though she were dreaming, caught in a time warp, on the brink of heaven or hell. She tried hard not to let expectations cloud her vision. Peg had no idea how she would react.

She stood still. She stood strong.

As Andy walked out of the door, Peg recognized him immediately. He eyes caught hers and she knew that he recognized her immediately too.

He walked off the plane also wearing faded jeans with a duffel bag slung over one shoulder. He was more beautiful than his photographs. He was smiling. It was the same smile that touched her soul the day she first saw his picture. And he was real.

Peg found herself paralyzed with emotion. She felt as though she was caught in a trance and could not move.

Andy came up to her and looked straight into her deep, dark eyes. What seemed liked hours went by. They did not speak. Finally, Andy broke the silence.

"Hi, sweetie." He said. "How are ya?"

"Fine. And you?" She replied.

"Good. I'm good."

"Nice flight?" she asked.

"Yup. Flight was great. A little long, but great."

"I'm glad," she said.

Peg was vaguely aware that she was in a crowded airport. Suddenly, she was overcome with an overwhelming sense of relief. All the months of waiting and wondering were over. It was over and he was here. Andy was here. Andy.

"It's so good to see you," she said.

"You too," he said. "God, you too. You HAVE NO IDEA."

"Yes, I do, Andy, I do. Oh, God, I can't believe this."

"Sweetie, you are so beautiful. More beautiful than your pictures. AND you are real."

He lightly touched her face. Tears were streaming from her eyes.

"Peg, why are you crying?" he asked. "Sweetie, it's okay. Don't cry."

"Andy, I'm having a sexual experience. Remember?" She was laughing through her tears.

He began to laugh too.

Then Andy took her in his arms and held her tight. He could feel her warmth penetrating through his body. At last, he was holding Peg. Peg.

Neither one of them had any idea what was ahead of them. All they knew was that they were no longer afraid. Everything would be just fine.

Andy had found his set of keys.


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The Keys Are in Louisiana, 26 March 1998