Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued
Fiction Saturday – Continued
“Good. How about your salad, Dear?”
“It’s a salad,” said Blanche. “It’s okay, but I’ve had better. But you know, we really come here for the floor show.”
Two baby-boomers, married for almost twenty-five years, were out for a night on the town, visiting their favorite restaurant in The Marina.
“Yes, don’t you just love it? A nice little neighborhood restaurant,” said the husband, gesturing with his fork, “that has such great entertainment.”
“The people, the customers, are the show,” agreed his wife, waving her hand in a sweeping arc. “This is the best place to people watch. You get a real cross section of humanity eating here.
Anybody look promising to you tonight, entertainment-wise?” Blanche asked.
Jim scanned the room, looking over the tables and booths filled with diners.
“Yes, those two over there, in the booth near the window.” He pointed with a breadstick. A small piece broke off and fell onto the candle glowing in the center of their table.
“The blonde with the short hair and the cute guy?” she asked. “What’s your take on them?”
“Let’s see.” He adjusted his glasses, trying for just right tilt of his head to see that far clearly. “Judging from the body language, I’d say that it’s not a first date, but they’re not married.”
“Nope. Looks like they’re hot for each though, big time,” Blanche agreed, spearing a cherry tomato as it rolled off her salad plate.
“Yep. They’ve gotten past the initial ‘grab and grope’ stage. They’re getting to know each other now. A real relationship is building here. Pass the oleo, please,” he requested of his wife.
“I think you’re right,” she agreed. “Can you reach the crackers for me, please?”
“But look at their mouths and eyes, Blanche. Oh—there’s some different stories there.”
“Oh my, yes. His mouth is all ‘happy, happy, joy, joy,’ but his eyes are what…reluctant maybe, cautious?” Blanche sipped at her sugar-free ginger ale before continuing. “And her mouth is happy too, but nervous.”
“Her eyes are kind of sad, afraid even. What gives with these two?” he wondered aloud.
“Are they breaking up?” She reached out and squeezed her husband’s hand. “Oh, Honey, I hope not.”
“No…I think they’re going the other direction. These two may be falling in love before our very eyes.” Looking around the room Jim wondered out loud, “Where is our waitress? I want more breadsticks.”
“Well, they don’t look all that excited about it,” Blanche added.
“Yeah, I wonder why? Oh, well, here comes our food. Don’t let me forget to ask her for extra cocktail sauce.” Jim spread his napkin on his lap in preparation for the feast.
The older couple continued to enjoy the floor show as they steamrollered through buttery platters of crab legs and deep-fried shrimp. People-watching was a life-long hobby for them and they were artists at reading the body language of strangers in crowded restaurants.
“Oh, look!” Blanche kept one eye on her plate and one eye on the couple across the room. “She just picked something off his sleeve.”
“They haven’t really said much in the last few minutes,” she noted. “A lot of looking though, but not a lot of talking, or eating. That fish is going to get cold, girl. Eat up!”
“I’d say that they are both thinking up a storm,” he said, sneaking a peek at the younger couple on the other side of the restaurant. “I’d love to tap into that.”
“He’s wondering what she’ll look like in forty years,” Blanche snickered. A small piece of crab shell bounced off her bib. “She’s thinking, ‘Is he finally the one? No more frog kissing?’”
“I see that,” he said, “but there’s something else. I get a hint of something dark in her whole manner.” He wiped his chin and then belched. “I need to go to the head.”
“These two have both been burned before, of course,” she said, ignoring her husband. He took another look across the room, verifying her observation.
“Her worse than him. She’s got some real scars inside.” Jim paused, then belched again. “Sorry about that. I’ve changed my mind. I’ll hit the head later.”
“You’re right about that,” agreed Blanche. “Maybe that’s why there’s that fear in her eyes.”
“She almost looks more afraid for him than for herself. Like ‘this poor guy doesn’t know what he’s getting into’. What is going on over there with those two?”
“Wow, she must be something. Something spooky about her,” said his wife as she dipped a chunk of lobster into the butter. “But he’s no babe in the woods. He knows that there’s some story there. God, these two are dragging some heavy baggage.”
“Whoa!” Jim said with a start. “Sudden smile on the lady. I don’t know what he said, but for just a second there that fear was gone.”
“This gal is falling into one deep love,” Blanche said. “It’s so sweet.”
“They both are,” Jim agreed, “but I don’t think they are fully comfortable with it yet. I wonder if they have key lime pie here tonight?”
“True. They will be in time, but not yet. Aren’t they cute?” She leaned over and cooed to her husband.
“Awww, he’s taking her hand.” He squeezed his wife’s butter-smeared hand. “Good sign, she’s letting him.”
“Reminds me of us, my dear. All this give and take.” Blanche smiled lovingly at her husband. “The reluctance, the Dance of Love, the gun-shy feelings,” she added, then kissed his hand.
“Just think, our friends knew we were in love before we did, Blanche. Would you like a shrimp, my dear?” He held up his fork with a large, pink, shrimp dangling from it. She bit, leaving the tail behind.
“Uh-oh, looks like they’re leaving,” said Jim. Blanche turned to look, still chewing.
“He’s helping her with her coat. Nice.” Jim nodded his approval.
“She’s letting him. Oh, look—she touched his face. There they go,” she said, her eyes tearing.
“Nice couple,” said Jim. “Bye, folks, have a nice life.” He offered a small salute in their direction.
“Don’t forget to invite us to the wedding, kids.” Blanche always hoped they would.
“They never do, do they? Pass the drawn butter, Blanche.”
Sitting amid the rubble of their feast, the diners watched Laura and Davis cross the room. When the younger couple reached the door, Laura motioned that she was going to go to the Ladies Room. Davis’s gestures indicated that he would wait outside.
On Friday nights in the Marina District of San Francisco, the streets are crowded and flirting is a major-league sport. Davis was standing by himself on the sidewalk, obviously waiting for something or someone. He noticed all the people walking by and some of them noticed him, noticing them. He was flattered, but it didn’t set his juices flowing. He smiled back at the parade of smiling young women.
Two of the bolder women stopped and pretening to be lost, asked Davis for directions to a nearby watering hole.
“Well, ladies, you walked right past it. It’s about a block or so back down the way you just came.”
He pointed down the street as both women scanned him for a wedding ring. Seeing none, they kicked their flirtations into high gear, but still didn’t get the reaction they had hoped for. When it became obvious that Davis wasn’t coming under their spell, they cut bait and started to move on. As they walked away, the girls wondered aloud what went wrong – why their charms had failed them.
“He must be gay.”
“Or in love.”
“Yeah. Or both.”
He was laughing to himself as Laura came out of the restaurant and saw the two flirters walking away.
“Checking out the competition?” she chided him.
Davis smiled back at her. There was something new in his eyes.
“Laura, there is no competition.”
After the first explosion of passion and lust, Laura pulled back a bit from Davis. She wanted him, but she was afraid—not of him, but for him and for herself. She was still a married woman. Leaving her wedding ring in the safe when she left Dominic didn’t free her in the eyes of New York State or, more importantly to her, in God’s eyes. Not that she was all that religious, but she was a believer, and eight years under the influence of the nuns at St. Rocco’s School didn’t wear away easily.
She was on the run and here she was all moon-eyed over this guy—an outsider if ever there was one. This was foolish. This was dangerous. This was suicidal.
Davis noticed her new reticence. He didn’t know the reason. He put it down to “it was too hot not to cool down,” or maybe a “once bitten twice shy” reluctance to get too deeply involved so quickly.
Over an alfresco lunch across the bay in picturesque Sausalito, he had tried to convince Laura that their relationship could work, that no obstacles in their pasts were too big to overcome.
Neither of them were teenagers and they both had pasts. Life brings broken hearts and lost loves that are never forgotten. They didn’t really know each other well enough yet to talk about the lovers who had come before and left their marks. For now, it was life in the moment. The past and the future were both dangerous and unknown places. The time to explore those lands had not yet arrived