Tues. through Sat. of this week I’m participating in a blog carnival, “What About Love,” that’s headquartered over at The Other Mother’s blog. Each of the days has a post assignment, and I’m weaving those together into a 5-part story. This is the third installment:
Part III: Something Borrowed
“Your fingers smell like olives.”
Self-conscious, Jamie started to pull her hand away.
“Wait. I didn’t say it was a bad smell,” the woman said.
Their glasses of wine were two-thirds finished, and still Jamie continued to run her finger aroud the suede heart on the woman’s sleeve, outlining it over and over. They leaned into each other like old lovers.
Jamie hadn’t see this coming. She felt a little disoriented, like she was looking at another version of herself through a wall of water. One minute she was a single woman, caught in the retail spin cycle of Valentine’s Day, the next she was cuddled up in a wine bar with a lovely woman who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. A woman, Jamie realized, whose name she didn’t know.
“What’s your name?” Jamie asked softly, a little dreamily even.
The bartender stopped in front of them. “Would you like more wine, or can I bring your check?”
“The check, please,” the woman said. She turned to Jamie. “I’m sorry, Jamie. What were you saying?”
“It wasn’t important,” she said. How did this woman know her name? Had they exchanged names and she had been so tilted off center that she didn’t remember it? How long had they been sitting here anyway?
“I’m hoping you’ll have dinner with me,” the woman said.
“I’d like that,” Jamie responded. “When?”
“Now, of course.”
The woman took her by the arm and steered her out of the Wine Club. Again, Jamie had that light-headed, surreal feeling. Was this how Alice felt through the looking glass, she wondered?
“That’s the effect of living backwards… it always makes one a little giddy at first.”
They were standing on the sidewalk outside the bar. The fog had rolled in. The woman looked at her with a quizzical expression. Jamie suddenly realized that she had spoken out loud.
“Are you living backwards?” the woman asked, not unkindly.
“I don’t know,” Jamie said. “Maybe.”
“Are you giddy?” the woman asked.
“I think so,” Jamie said. “Definitely.”
“So that’s why you’re quoting Lewis Carroll?”
“I suppose it is.”
Sometime during this conversation they had begun walking and Jamie shivered in the night air. The lights at the bookstore were still open, and she could see Thing One helping a customer at the register while Thing Two reshelved books from the day’s flurry.
“How about that little bistro up the block?” the woman asked.
Jamie mumbled something in assent.
When she crossed her arms against the cold, the woman slipped out of her jacket and swung it over Jamie’s shoulders. It was warm and heavy. Jamie found the weight of it surprising. It fell from her shoulders like a cloak, or chain mail. The was a magical quality to it, something unexpected…
“Hey, we’re here.” The woman grabbed Jamie’s arm, as in her reverie, she walked right past the restaurant. “Unless you’re planning to leave now.”
“I couldn’t possibly.”
They took a seat in the back of the tiny restaurant and waited for menus.
“This is turning out to be a lovely Valentine’s Day,” the woman said.
Jamie nodded in agreement. “It is.”
“I hope I’m not being too forward. It’s just that I’ve wanted to meet you ever since the second or third time we ran into each other. It was at the No On 8 fundraiser. The one where they showed the movie about the two women who were the first to marry in San Francisco’s City Hall.”
“I bawled all the way through it,” Jamie said.
“I know you did. I was sitting right behind you.”
Jamie put her face in her hands. “Oh,that’s so embarrassing. I’m just sentimental. I cry at card tricks.”
“At least you cried softly. I gave you my handkerchief.”
“That was you? I mean, the handkerchief is yours?” Jamie said in surprise. “I couldn’t remember where it came from. One moment it was just there. Like you were this morning, with my coffee. How did you know I like it with cream and two sugars?”
“It was a lucky guess,” the woman said. Then she rolled her eyes a little. “Well, okay. I asked the girl who works there.”
“And, how come you keep calling me ‘Jamie’?” Jamie asked, her nerve rising.
The woman blushed deeply. “Oh, god. That’s not your name and I’ve been calling you that all night? I could die.”
“No. No, it’s my name, but I never introduced myself to you, did I?”
“You didn’t. But it’s embroidered on your jacket.”
Sheepishly, Jamie looked down at the red warm-up jacket she had worn every day for a decade.
“I guess it is,” she said.
“I’m glad it’s really your name.”
“And yours is…”
“So now you’re not a mystery.”
“I guess I’m not.”
Their conversation dissolved into an exchange of questions – the stuff of first dates. Jamie began to feel her feet land back on the ground and oxygen once again filled the atmosphere.
They shared a piece of chocolate lava cake and then Margot walked her the nine remaining blocks to her building. As Jamie turned to unlock the door, she moved to shed the leather jacket that was still wrapped around her.
Margo stilled her by placing her hands on her shoulders. “No. Hang on to it,”
“But you wear it everywhere,” Jamie said.
“The change will be good for me.” Margot kissed her lightly on the lips. “I like to think of you, wearing my heart on your sleeve for a change. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Jamie said. “I think this one was the best ever.”
“No, yet,” Margot said. “This one was the best yet.”