It was a Thursday. She was sitting at a table fairly close to me, absorbed in whatever she was typing. I was trying to focus on my book or think about something else, and trying to ignore the tingling above my right ear. It felt like we were each inside an energy field, and they were sizzling softly where they met halfway between us, fighting for space. I was going to try going for a walk as soon as I finished my coffee. My sunglasses were clipped to my shirt collar.
Suddenly, for the first time since we met, Francesca said my name. “Aaron.”
I turned toward her, surprised. She wanted to talk to me, I saw … why now? I got up and went to her table. She had her address book out.
“Hi, Francesca,” I said, trying to sound polite.
“What is your last name?”
Cautiously, I said, “Verlaine.” She flipped pages in the address book. It was on top of a paper with typed names and addresses.
“Give me your address, please.”
“Sure … are you sending me something?”
“No, no. I’ve been thinking things over. I thought you were having me on, but apparently you’re not.”
I told her where I lived. As she wrote it in the book, I asked, “What about becoming a lesbian?”
“It didn’t work out. Life is short. What the hell.” She winked at me, took a sip of espresso, and turned back to her computer.
“Ooh-kay,” I said. I was hoping she’d say something else, but she looked like she’d already forgotten I was there.
Abandoning my plan for a walk, I went straight home. Somewhere inside my cloud of restlessness and frustration, I was excited that she’d spoken to me again. I’d probably be thinking about it for days.
I kept myself busy by doing the dishes. I took the glasses and magazines off the table in the living room, stashed the laundry hamper in the closet, and scraped the gunk off the drain in the bathroom sink with my thumbnail. I was on the phone, trying to call my friend Colt, when someone knocked on the door.
Francesca was on the porch, without her glasses. I didn’t see any unfamiliar car on the street that might be hers. She said, “Hello again,” and I invited her in.
When she was inside, she stepped close to me and said, “You weren’t bluffing.”
She put her hand on my shoulder and pulled me into a hot kiss. I thought about stopping her, but a mellow wonderfulness was rising from my bones to my skin all over. Fifteen minutes later, we were tangled together on the couch, mostly naked.
We were both at the coffeehouse that Friday. Instead of getting coffee when she came in, Francesca sat down across from me. “Good morning,” she said. She sounded like she was there for a meeting.
“Hey,” I said, beaming. “That was real nice yesterday.”
“Really nice,” she said. “Your apartment is charming.”
“Thanks.” I wanted to hold her hand, but she was too far away.
“How much do you pay for rent, if I may ask?”
“We pay eight-fifty, but that’s with utilities. I mean, they’re included.”
“You said ‘we.’ Do you live with the young woman in the photographs?”
“Uh-huh.” I said it casually, but I knew where she was headed.
“Is she your girlfriend?”
“Yeah … Natalie.”
“I see. You didn’t mention her.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t ask.”
“True,” she admitted, but I wasn’t off the hook. “She seems like … somebody you wouldn’t want to disappoint. What about her?”
“I’m not going to tell her.” I felt like asking why this had to be her problem.
“She has a day job, I take it.”
“Yeah. She works for a printing company downtown.”
“I may sound as though I’m being accusatory, but I don’t mean to. It takes two, after all. I just hope I haven’t caused a disruption.”
“No,” I protested. “There’s no disruption. I’m glad it happened. She isn’t going to know.” I leaned forward and brought my hands together on the table.
“”I’m going to have to think about this,” she said, standing up. The look in her eyes as she left said, “Maybe.”