He was surprised to find a parking place in front of the restaurant. It was rarely busy at lunch, but still this was lucky. Out of the car, he saw the reason for his luck—it was closed for renovation.
He texted her—“I’m here its closed”
“Do u know another?”
“Yes. Can u pick me up?”
The hiccup in their plan had allowed the trepidation back in, the anxiety at this meeting, this date. But he didn’t have time to dwell on that because he saw across the street a woman waving behind her windshield. He waved back and crossed to her, confirming with every step she was the woman in the photo, the woman who’d responded to his ad. He opened the passenger door and they locked in an inquiring gaze. Sitting in the passenger seat and still in the gaze, he felt a warmth and an ease, and yes, he’d liked the photograph, but she was lovelier in person.
She took in enough of him, and asked, “So where’m I going?”
“A few blocks. Turn right at the next street.”
His trepidation had not disappeared, causing him to botch the rest of the directions, but they found the place. Getting out of the car, their locked gaze returned. He stood on the sidewalk, admiring as she came around towards him. Her style showed confidence in her own taste – mauve pants, a brown shirt, and a black leather jacket.
All he could muster to say, though, was, “You are tall.”
“Didn’t believe me?”
“Trust but verify.”
“Wasn’t that the awful Reagan.”
They laughed and walked to the restaurant. She alternated on the short walk between a shy look down, and assessing him with a smile and direct eyes. He hadn’t noticed the shyness at first, but it accentuated her appeal, and he hoped her interest in him had grown from first sight.
They shared pad Thai and ginger fish, talking easily back and forth about places they knew—Paris, Genoa, Lisbon—their children, and the latest Trump disgrace. He watched her take in his words with a rapt expression, and he could only tell more, and more of himself, and what he desired. His anxiety now gone, he realized it hadn’t been due to her, but to his inexperience and uncertainty. He’d been settled for decades, and any infidelity had been rare, unplanned, and short-lived.
“Want to walk by the lake?” she asked.
“Wouldn’t that be too public?”
“We’d just be walking.”
As they crossed the street in front of the lake, he noticed her left arm dangling out slightly from her body. He took her hand in his, sensing her soft palm and fingers, and an enervating charge coursed through him. They took the path closest to the water, walking with their shoulders brushing and enjoying the cool breeze that made her jacket and his sweater over a wool plaid shirt the right choices.
“I love being by the water.”
He almost said—Well, we all came from it—but he caught himself, catching his dumb joke in time, and as he did, realized he hadn’t edited anything he’d said to her. He’d spoken freely and that had been part of the naturalness of being with her. He promised himself not to edit anything anymore, for he loved that feeling of ease.
“Yes, me too. Port cities, beaches, lakes, rivers.”
They came to a set of steps that led down to the lake with small concrete benches just big enough for two. They stood watching the geese and ducks until she moved to one of the benches and sat squarely in the middle.
Indecisive for a fraction, he walked towards her and she scooted over, allowing him room to sit, shoulder, thighs, and legs touching.
She turned slightly towards him, and said, “I’ve always had this bad streak…?”
“Just call it French.”
She nodded with a grin, and he felt comfortable to ask, “Could I put my arm..?”
Her eyes said yes, and he spread his right arm along her shoulders, long fingers lightly gripping her upper left arm.
Her lips opened slightly in an unmistakable signal, and they kissed. A little peck at first, lips meeting just slightly, one above the other with a little pressure. Next, more pressure. Then to the side of the mouth, squeezing a little more.
They broke away, gazed again, eyes intent and lips ready, but he spoke, “I can only do this if either of us can stop anytime.” She put a hand on his thigh in agreement. “And only if the joy we create helps us have a smoother life at home.”
She leaned towards him without kissing and said, “Discretion, too.”
She nodded and found his mouth with hers. He lowered his hand to her left cheek cupping it, and caressing. It was so easy, almost too easy.
He remembered she had to be somewhere at 2:30, and they had little time now. “I have to leave next Wednesday and won’t be back until the following Monday.”
“Let’s meet when you get back.”
His heart took a tumble for that seemed long away, but he had to let her set the pace. As they walked back to her car, the traffic signal turned against them, and cars and trucks streamed across their path. They had the same notion and embraced, standing, lips exploring, tongues playful. His height was just right to reach her behind, and he caressed, marveling at how his senses seemed to be operating at full reception.
When they broke, she stepped a foot apart, and he said, “I think we missed a light change.”
“Yes.” She took another step back. “Had to give the photographers time. The lawyers want lots of photos.”