John looked over at Barbara as she talked and laughed with Elsie.
“I feel like we missed something.” said Clarice.
John turned his attention back to her.
“Elsie jumped from slut-shaming your girl to being best friends for life with her.”
He laughed. “Best friends for life might be a stretch.”
“But it would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
He felt a rush of panic. “How…What do you mean?”
“It would heal them both. And.” She smiled. “Not just them.” She laid her hand on top of his hand.
His panic increased. “Clarice, I don’t know. I.”
“I understand.” She patted his hand before moving her hand away. “I’m so out of practice with this sort of thing. It’s actually embarrassing.”
She took a sip of her strawberry daiquiri. “Mm! Soo good. Mmm. I want to date you.”
“Date.” For a moment, that word failed to make any sense. He saw the four letters in his head in dangerously thick black letters.
“Unless you don’t want to. Then, we can shake hands and say ‘Nice talking to you. Bye forever’.”
He looked at her.
She has frosted blonde hair, but the kind of face that is hard to pin an age on. She might be fifty or she could be seventy-nine.
She’s almost as trim as her daughter.
She has a pleasant voice.
It is a pleasure to talk with her.
“Your daughter. Would she be mad about you moving on?”
Clarice looked over at Elsie for several long moments. “I don’t know. I’d like to think she’d give me a high five and tell me to rock on.”
“Elsie is the kind of girl who just doesn’t know how to let go of the ones she loves. Not without a major fist fight. She’s a tough little thing, my Elsie.”
She patted his hands again. “Don’t you worry about it. I’ll have a good long talk to her. See what she thinks. What she wants.”
“I imagine she’d want you to be happy.”
Clarice gave him a look that left him feeling hopelessly flummoxed.
What am I saying?
Am I leading her on?
Am I giving her the wrong ideas?
But what are the right ideas?
Do I hold on?
Or do I let go?
Speak to me. Let me know I’m doing the right thing.
But it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong.
“I’m sorry. I need to think this over. I need to talk to Barbara.”
“I’m okay with that. In fact, I was prepared for such a possibility.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a small business card.
She handed it to him.
He took it and read it. “Mrs. Clarice Vansing. Hot, awesome, and packed to her cheekbones with a whole lot of hot, crazy lovin’. If you want to talk all night long, call my number on the back of this card.”
He felt baffled. “What is this? What?”
She laughed. “I have a naughty sense of humor. A couple of years after my husband died I got the itch to jump back into the dating pool. I had a box of those cards printed just to see how guys reacted to it. If they got all hoooo-waaah! about it, I’d know that they weren’t worth the pursuing. But. If they stopped and asked ‘What the fluff and foldin’ heck?’, it would mean that they were a good one to chase. Or they were gay. Not sure which.”
“How did it work out?”
She sighed. “I chickened out. I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. After being married to the same guy for so many years, it felt adulterous to go chatting up guys in bars.”
“But here you are.”
“And here I am. Chatting up a nice looker in a restaurant. Although…This place is called a café and bar. So, maybe I’m just going with a nicer than average bar.” She laughed. “I feel like I’m babbling. Might be the daiquiri doing all the talking.”
“Maybe.” He started to reach for her hand, but hesitated.
She looked disappointed as he pulled his hand back. “So?”
“Let me think about it. I’ll give you a call either way, but just. Let me think about it.”