Fate. What would my life be like if I’d never met him? If I had never boarded that plane to Barcelona? So much had changed in the last year, since that morning I had set out for Spain. I was changed.

 I grabbed my overnight bag and paused, capturing the image of his bedroom in my mind. The bed we’d shared was still warm. I breathed in the scent of him and the rush almost halted my steps at the door. Wild, passionate scenes of our lovemaking played through my mind. Last night’s celebration of his birthday was filled with surprises, I had made sure of that. But this morning’s ‘surprise’ had me reeling.

 “Elena,” he called to me from the top of the stairs as I exited through the iron gate of his Victorian flat. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”

I turned and saw those beautiful brown eyes that looked into my soul. He knew. He could always tell when I was filling with emotion.

I nodded and raised my hand in a silent gesture of goodbye. I tore myself from his gaze, but the image of him didn’t leave me. Damn, why does he have to look so irresistibly gorgeous. Even in his sweatpants and t-shirt his tall, dark and muscular body tortured me. He was my kryptonite.

The morning was shrouded with the San Francisco fog that lay like a wet blanket over everything. It hung over Coit Tower, usually so prominent from my view as I trudged down the hill to find my car.

Thankfully, the traffic across the eastbound Bay Bridge was light on Sunday. I pulled into the driveway of my Oakland house with my mind set on a long hot bath. Suburbia didn’t exactly hold the same excitement as San Francisco but there was comfort in the refuge of my home.

 Alone, again, I sighed. It was always so difficult to leave him, but this time I welcomed the solitude. Stripping off my clothes, I slipped into the bath, my pale knees bobbing above the lavender scented bubbles.

 The hot water soothed by my ragged nerves as I lay soaking in the silence with only the tick of the small clock on the shelf to remind me of time passing.  My stare was fixed on the sun’s rays radiating through the skylight, and I lingered, reflecting on our night together. I could still feel his silky, dark skin against mine, his powerful body on top of me as he brought me to a screaming orgasm. At once, I inhaled sharply with the rush of sensory memories. My back arched, and my belly tightened. He was ingrained in my cells. Just the thought of him could ignite intense desire.

I couldn’t imagine what my life would have been like if I’d never met him. My life had taken so many turns, it never was a straight trajectory. But in the middle of the journey came this most delicious twist. I had never expected to see him again. I definitely couldn’t have anticipated that he would be anything more than another fleeting fling Against all odds, I had found the greatest passion I’ve ever known.

I desperately wished I could stop time. The clock seemed to be ticking faster since I had  passed the dreaded fifty mark. It had been several years since then, but I’d stopped counting. Since, I’d taken a crowbar to beat back the hands of time. I had become my mother. She also looked much younger than her age. No one knew her real age or her natural hair color. Even she’d lost track, having changed both so many times. But unlike my mother, who gave up dating around my age, I was in the most active time of my life.

I had come to understand that every moment must be lived to the fullest. Time was finite, and I was sliding down the other side of the slope. At thirty-six, he had all the time in the world to find his path and was only beginning to take life seriously. I knew I had to make my own decision at this crossroad. A crossroad that was more complicated than the love affair, though my heart was positioned squarely in the center. The course of my life, my career – everything – hung precariously on the direction I was about to choose.

I sank my head back into the water. My long brown hair floated to the surface as I submerged. Sounds muffled, my voice was eerily distant as I spoke out loud the words that kept ringing in my head.

Why the hell did the universe throw us together? I didn’t know if it had been a blessing or a curse. But two divorces and living through the endless maze of midlife dating had taught me one thing. That heady, euphoric combination of great passion and love -– it doesn’t show up more than a couple of times in your life, if you’re lucky.

 My mind ran in circles, desperately seeking direction in the chaos. The time had come to face the dilemmas that had been haunting me.

As I drew myself from the water, I tried to draw on the reserves of my strength. My body felt far heavier than 120 pounds, the weight of so many decisions hanging from every limb like anchors. But then, the thought of returning to Barcelona poured through me with a rush, tingling the synapses in my brain . It had become my happy place and there was no telling what new adventures might be in store.

 Fate had changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. It led me to my journey, and the beginning of a love affair. Barcelona had begun a new chapter, and nothing would ever be the same. It was a little over a year ago since it all began.