Tuesday, October 15, 2013

First Dates

She could kick herself for not asking Mitch where they were headed today.  She looked at her cell phone and debated on calling Sandra to see if she remembered what he’d said to her and Ian when Diana’s thoughts had drifted.  But she’d already made him wait while having her torrid dream, she didn’t have time.  So a quick look at the wardrobe and she picked the first thing she saw.  

Downstairs Mitch talked with the hostess finding out her name was Amy and her husband was John.  As Amy busied herself with making tea Mitch talked with John about the workings of the B&B.  John was in the middle of discussing how they advertised their business when Diana said hello from the landing.  “Sorry I kept you waiting.  I don’t usually sleep this late so I didn’t think to set an alarm.”  She gave him a tentative smile; worried he’d be upset for waiting but was instead greeted with a smile from all three waiting downstairs.  

She quickly looked down to make sure that in her mad rush she’d put her dress on the correct way.  Her shoes matched, and her dress seemed to be fine, everything was in order, but still they all smiled at her with knowing looks.  “Did I keep you waiting long?”  She asked while taking the last few steps to stand next to him.

“Not at all; Amy and John have kept me company.  I’m quite fascinated now by the idea of a Bed and Breakfast.  Your home can make you money.  It’s really a brilliant idea.”  Amy and John, she’d been there nearly a week and never stopped to ask their names.  She was embarrassed at that realization.  “It is a wonderful idea.  And this place is so beautiful.  I have enjoyed my stay here.  They even managed to make my bout of homesickness tolerable.”  

She added that last bit as a way of apologizing.  She really should let them know how much she appreciated them.  As she smiled at the couple Mitch took both her hands in his and told her how lovely she looked.  “Thanks, I didn’t spend the time I would have liked on my hair but in the last few days I’ve realized it’s futile with the rain and humidity.  If I moved here I’d probably just chop the mess off and get a pixie.”  

The way he continued to look at her she became nervous and continued to ramble.  “Not that I could pull off a pixie, maybe just a constant ponytail.”  Shut up Diana!  Still all three smiled knowingly; and then it dawned on her, Amy must have mentioned the state she’d found Diana in; thrashing on the bed, moaning about some half naked man in the lake.  She flushed; “I’m ready when you are.”  The best thing was to leave so she had two less people making her feel uncomfortable.    

Mitch said his goodbyes to the host and hostess and presented Diana with his arm.  She smiled at his chivalry and placed her hand in the bend as they walked to the porch.  “Lovely might not have been the proper term.  Stunning is more like it.”  She nearly turned to look at her reflection in the front door glass but stopped herself and simply said thank you.  “Where do you want to go first?  It’s too early for the show.  Have you had anything to eat today?”  

Diana hesitated for a second; she hadn’t recognized till that moment how hungry she was.  “No I haven’t.  I came home last night and followed up on some emails and didn’t go to sleep till late.  Then I managed to sleep 12-hours.  This is the first time all week I’ve been able to sleep more than a few.  I feel good actually, but I am famished.”  She smiled at him and bounced on the balls of her feet.  “Sleep suits you.” He grinned and continued; “I’m curious if your dream had something to do with it.”  

Her face flamed and she looked down at her shoes.  “What did Amy tell you?”  He tugged her arm and led her down the steps, towards the main road in town.  “She just said you were ‘caught in a pleasant dream and not willing to wake without assistance’.  Not sure what that meant but I have my theories.” 

Feeling she needed to explain she replied; “I don’t remember much” first lie, “but there was a lake and I had the most beautiful dress one.  Beyond that I don’t remember.”  She looked away for fear he’d see she wasn’t telling the whole truth.  “Amy said something about you moaning and tossing?”  “Oh yes, I was tangled in my dress is all.”  She walked a little faster; “So where are we going?”  Mitch smiled knowing she was trying to change the subject.  “There’s a local brewery that offers a decent meal.  Afterwards we can take the tour.  Or if there are sites you want to see I can take you.  I was going to leave it up to you.  But if you need suggestions I’d be happy to help.”  

“I like the idea of lunch and then playing it by ear.  There’s so much still I’d like to see but I don’t even know where to start.”  They walked the rest of the way in silence.  Diana looking into the shop windows and taking mental notes of places she’d like to visit later.  Every once in a while she’d catch Mitch looking at her.  She half expected him to turn his head when she caught him, but he’d maintain eye contact until she turned to watch her step or shy away.   

As the tension built she found herself smiling.  This is what she liked about new relationships.  The getting to know each other and finding out if you really do like the other person or if it’s just physical.  Of course it also meant reveling things about yourself that you might not be ready for.  As she looked up at him she knew the questions he’d ask when they started talking.  She wasn’t certain if she was ready to tell her story.  Would he pity her?  Question her actions or would he even care?  Maybe getting to know someone new wasn’t as exciting as she initially thought.   

Mitch squeezed her hand before he let her go to open the brewery doors.  Then placed his other hand on the small of her back, she shivered at the touch; enjoying the closeness and familiarity of it.  He gently guided her to a table in the back, passing by the bar with elaborately sculpted handles.  “I’d like to try one of each.” She teased.  He stopped by a few empty stools; “Would you like to do the tour now?”  She laughed; “That could spell disaster with no food on my stomach; eat first, then one of each.”  He continued to the table in the back pulling her chair out and waved to the waitress then sat down across from her. 

The waitress came over with menus and took their drink orders.  They sat in silence for a while so Diana could look over the menu.  When done she looked around the brewery.  “In the states we have to age a place.  Here it’s built in.”  Mitch looked at her curiously.  “What I mean is we make our establishments look old to give it that cozy feel.  But here it’s actually old.”  She laughed at her explanation.  “It just means I like it.”   

They sat in silence a little longer.  Diana was about to speak when Mitch started; “I don’t know much about you other than your love of large books and great legs.  Care to tell me more?”  The waitress dropped their drinks off and took their orders.  When she walked off Mitch looked over at her expectantly.  “Yes, I do love books.  I once owned a store myself.”  Mitch looked surprised; “Really?”  “Yes, for close to 12-years.”  She paused to see if he wanted to respond but he encouraged her to go on.  

“I was fresh out of college with a business degree, a love of books and no plans.  I came across a little shop with loads of bookshelves and a little kitchen in the back.  It hadn’t been occupied in years but the real-estate agent said at one time it had been a family owned drug store.  All I saw was a place for books, a coffee bar and the perfect corner for overstuffed chairs for reading.   

I bought the shop the same week, cleaned it up, painted, placed an order for way too many books and brought in some of my favorite chairs from home; my home at the time being my parent’s place.  But they were in need of updating their furniture so I just helped them out.”  She loved this part of the story.  Every time she thought of that period in her life she got excited.  As if she was transported back to that time and place.  “It was the best time of my life.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved it.  Within the first month I had booked a local author, my best friend was running the coffee bar and I had the attention of a local writer who had been wishing for a place like mine so he wrote it up in the paper.

After his write up I was pushing people out of the store at closing time.  It was so exhilarating.  I pulled a profit that first year.  So many told me I wouldn’t be able to.  But I never took the place for granted and certainly not my customers.  I listened to their suggestions and made improvements whenever I could.  By the second year I bought the shop next door and added a small stage for local bands.  I expanded the books to include college texts and had a little play area so young parents could study or get away for a few hours and relax while their children were close by.  

Did I mention it was the best time of my life?”  She looked at Mitch with a dreamy smile and laughed.  “I could go on for hours about my little shop.”  “So who’s watching it for you now?”  Then reality crashed back.  “I sold it a few months ago.”  And now time for the questions she dreaded.  “If you loved it so much and pulled a profit, why sell it?”  

She lowered her head, fingering the silverware she sighed; “I sort of lost hope.  I still loved the store and my customers, but I could barely get myself out of bed.  The idea of being around people all day was too much.  So when an offer came in to buy the store, I said yes.  I remember my real-estate agent was stunned.  She had passed offers to me on several occasions, but I was never interested.  I could see myself as an old woman working it till I physically couldn’t.  Instead I sold it when I mentally couldn’t.”

She squared her shoulders, took a deep breath and waited for Mitch to ask the next question.  “Can I ask why?  I don’t want to push you and you’re welcome to stop.  But I can’t understand why you’d sell if you loved it so much.”  “It’s a valid question, but the answer is long and I’m not sure you’d want to hear it all.”  He didn’t hesitate.  “Of course I want to know.”

And here it was, the first time she’d tell a vertical stranger about the year that nearly killed her.  Where does a person begin? 

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