She sat down, needlessly hugging her purse to her body.
He took a deep drink of scotch and sighed. “I’m not one for hemming and hawing.”
“I don’t do small talk. Not in the conventional sense, at least.”
“Oh. Right.” She put her purse on the table. It was so big it partially blocked his view. She was a startlingly beautiful woman – her photos had not done her justice. His recent divorce had not only drained his bank account, but he had grown bitter with disappointment, a fact that only made him angrier. The anger hung on him like the stale smell of mildew underneath his cologne, and most wise women went running for the hills regardless of what his peers called his ‘rugged good looks.’
So, he tried internet dating.
“You’re 33, right? That’s what it said on the profile.”
“Um…yes. 33.” She looked down at her hands.
“Ever been married?”
She swallowed hard. “No, not really. Engaged, but that didn’t work out.”
She gave him a guarded look.
“I’m recently divorced, so naturally I crave a small sacrifice of blood,” he mumbled into his tragically empty glass. Ice clicked on his teeth as he drained the last smoky drops of Scotch.
“I’m not judging you. I was just curious as to why the engagement didn’t work out.”
She fidgeted nervously in her seat. Her skin glowed underneath the sheer wash of cloth over her shoulders. Her dress was just the slightest bit too formal for the restaurant, and she’d noticed. Men gave her sidelong glances, women openly hostile stares. His eyes were illegible.
“Just, um, we were too young. Didn’t know anything about real life, real responsibilities. It just fell apart as soon as the screws tightened, so to speak.”
“I married young,” he said.
He jiggled his glass at a passing waitress. He addressed her without looking at her. “Tell the bartender it’s for Ted. He’ll know what to give you.” She nearly succeeded in suppressing an eye roll before walking to the bar.
He turned back to her and shrugged.
“I’ve been here a lot lately.”
“It’s a nice place,” she said. “You said you married young. How young?”
“We were high school sweethearts. I married Tammy halfway through college, when she got pregnant with our only child. I was twenty-one.”
She eyed the grey at his temples. “Your child must be…”
“A married woman now. She started young as well. No kids yet. She wants to finish school.”
Her water was a sweating scrying glass in front of her.
“Twenty six years, and she got bored.”
“My ex-wife.” His ‘f’ was exaggerated. The soft lighting made her high cheekbones shimmer, and his thumbs twitched to feel the delicate bones underneath her flesh. The feeling surprised him with its tenderness. She felt him warming up to her and her body language changed. The purse went underneath the table and as it did, her breasts pressed against the front of her dress. Blood rushed between his legs regardless of the liquor.
He was expecting the common responses to such a confession…the “that’s too bads” or the “it’s her loss”s, or even that “I see”s. He braced himself.
“It happens,” she said softly before taking a drink of water.
Her response took him by surprise. He hadn’t even gotten it from the friends who’d subtly been warning him for years that his marriage was falling apart. Such unvarnished truth-telling was an alien thing. His mouth filled with the bitterness that had been poisoning him for the last decade. His face screwed up with it.
“You okay?” she said, lightly touching his hand. The corner of her mouth twitched and her hand moved up to his wrist and squeezed. The strength of her touch was shocking to him. He stood up quickly.
“If you’ll excuse me-” He was already lurching to the bathroom before she had time to respond.
He threw up food he didn’t even remember eating. The acid made his mouth and nose burn viciously, and saliva dripped to the toilet along with the bile. His wrist still tingled with that touch. It had been so strong and warm, a complete surprise. She seemed like a woman scared of her own shadow, but that touch… it was something else; the essence of who she was.
He’d fucked his wife for years. He’d fucked a couple of women after the divorce. He’d liked it well enough, even loved it in some cases, but as time wore on and the heat dissipated, there had always been this irritatingly insistent little voice rising from his subconscious asking him ‘is this it? Is this all you want, or truly believe you need?’
He’d ignored it all as any man worthy of the name would. Pussy was pussy, right? It was enough. It had to be enough. What else was there, anyway?
That bitterness had settled on him long before Tammy had handed him those divorce papers, but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly when…until now.
That warmth, and his response to it. One caress had made him purge the years of poison he’d been storing up for the next disappointment, hinted at the promise of renewal.
That is what had been missing.
He walked slowly to the sink and looked at himself in the mirror. He had chosen not to run the shaver over his chin before the date, so he had a five o’ clock shadow. The image of running his bristly chin over the glowing skin he could not see made his mouth water. There were white circles underneath his febrile eyes. He looked like he hadn’t in years, put out in the right way. He was nervous, maybe even scared. But ready.
He washed his mouth out with water and ran out without drying, hoping she hadn’t taken his actions as a rejection. If she was smart, she would-
She sat there, dazzling a waiter as she ordered something from the ridiculously big menu. She didn’t look surprised in the least. He tightened his tie for the first time that night and sat down.
“I hope you don’t mind my ordering for you. New York Strip, medium rare. You look like you could use some good meat.” Her half-grin galvanized him right down to his cock.
“Sounds delicious,” he said, sitting down.