“So, yeah. That was Maria.”
“What about this mysterious Elsie?”
“Elsie was different. She was—”
“Here’s your water, sir.”
“Thanks.” He took a sip. “That is not hot water.”
“I want it to be hot. Not warm. Hot. Do you understand the difference?”
“Yes, but we’re not allowed to serve overly hot drinks to our customers.”
“Too bad. I want hot water.”
“No buts. Hot. Water.”
The waiter sighed in defeat. “Fine. I’ll get you HOT water.”
The waiter carried the cup back to the kitchen.
Ambrose stood and shouted, “And don’t you DARE put any lemons in it!” He sat down. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. So.” She propped her elbows on the table. “Tell me about Elsie.”
How much do I want to tell her about Elsie and me? I could probably sum it all up in several small sentences. Or I could tell her all.
The waiter returned with the glass of water. “I hope this is to your liking, sir.”
Ambrose took a sip. “Mm. Could be hotter.”
The waiter looked aghast. “Hotter, sir?”
“Yes, hotter. But…” He took another sip. “It’s close enough.’
The waiter took Barbara’s order and walked away, muttering.
“Elsie was special. She saved me.” And he told her everything.
“I crawled through the wreckage until I couldn’t go further.”
Barbara wiped away her tears. “Did you find her?”
He curled his hands around the hot water glass. “No. But her scent was everywhere. I…I’m convinced she was hiding in the basement before…” He cleared his throat.
“But maybe she escaped. Maybe her scent was everywhere because it was her house.”
“I considered that possibility.” He closed his eyes and took a sip of his water. The heat going down felt good and comforting. He opened his eyes. “I considered it until I tried to call her. That stupid pre-recorded message told me that it was no longer a working number.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
He shrugged, but it looked more like a spasm. “And that is that.” He took another sip of water. “So, what about you? What torrid romances have you ventured on?”
Barbara giggled. “I just had the one with Kevin. And that was anything but torrid. It barely even counted as a romance. On his normal Kevin weeks, he preferred to slouch at home in his pajamas and watch I Love Lucy reruns. Then, that one week a month would come around. He’d wolf out and disappear into the woods. Either way, he didn’t have time to just be with me.”
She spread her hands out on the table. “I wasn’t expecting candlelit dinners on the French Riviera or any other wild and crazy romantic gestures. I just…wanted him to want me.”
He stroked her hand.
She looked at him and smiled.