(C)Copyright 1996 by Ronald Rand

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"Lie there just like that," Richard told her.

"Baby, you're so beautiful," he said.

She smiled.

She liked it when he told her she was beautiful. To him, she was the greatest thing in the world. To her, he was the same. She laid on her chest on the bed facing him, her hands clasped under her chin. Her bare feet lolled back and forth behind her.

"Go on, take the picture," she compelled him.

She'd spent forty minutes in the middle of the evening preparing for this photo session. They both wanted pictures of each other to keep for their long stays away from each other. They lived an hour apart, and both had school at night and worked during the day, so they could only see each other on the weekends.

"Oh, won't it be great when we're married?" Richard asked.

"Yeah," Samantha replied, and smiled. "Then I can wake up in your arms every morning, and whenever I have nightmares, you'll be there to comfort me."

"Baby," Richard said, "when you sleep in my arms, you won't be having any nightmares."

Samantha smiled even brighter.

"Come on, take the picture," she said. She was getting impatient, and her smile was about to change to a look of boredom.

"Wait," Richard said. "I've got it. Tell me what I'm going to do to you tonight," he said.

Samantha blushed.

"Well," she started, "first you're going to kiss me. And you'll kiss me from head to toe." Her eyes moved back and forth slowly as she gazed out across the room. Richard moved around trying to get the perfect angle.

"Then, you'll rub your hands all over my body, rubbing me so lightly that your fingertips tickle me," Samantha continued.

A hint of a smile appeared on her lips, and her expression appeared almost innocent.

"Okay," Richard said, "and what are you going to do to me?"

The corners of her lips curled upward ever so slightly, showing a hint of mischief.

"I'm going to start by lightly nibbling the back of your neck," she went on.

Richard was already starting to get a little hot.

"And I'm going to grab on to you with my nails and hold you really close to me, like I'll never let go."

She shook her head when she said this. A look of honesty and fantasy loomed in her eyes.

"And then, I'm going to kiss down your chest..."

She paused, thinking for a moment.

"And down your thighs..."

The flashbulb snapped, and a Polaroid reeled out. They watched it fade into view together and then kissed each other deeply. They pulled down the covers and both climbed into bed together.

Richard pulled the Polaroid snapshot down from his visor and gave it a kiss. He wiped the tears off of it with his shirt and put it on the passenger's seat.

"Samantha," he just kept repeating to himself.

"Honey, please be okay, I'll do anything..."

His sobs were becoming more calmed as he got closer and closer to her house and saw no sign of Samantha. He felt a small ray of hope. He began to think about how happy he'd be when he found her, and of the lecture he'd give her on the importance of being on time. There was only one more place she could have run into trouble, but it was unthinkable. He wouldn't even consider it. He'd go to her mother's home, and Samantha would be there, and he'd take her back to their new house by the water, he kept telling himself.

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