Chapter 4

Sandra and Jesse had secured a coveted Sunday brunch spot at Windmills Cafe and sent me a text message to meet them. I collapsed into the booth when I joined them.

“Where’s Josh?” I expected Josh to be here since Sandra and he have to leave after to make it back to Toronto before dark and freezing.

“He stayed back with Trevor. I’ll pick him up after.”

“He’s such a sweetheart.” I glanced at Sandra whose expression clearly told me she did not want to discuss the subject. I had no energy to argue with her or to make her talk about Josh.

They’ll figure it out eventually.

I crossed my arms on the table in front of me and lowered my head into them. “I need a drink. It’s noon somewhere, right?”

“Yeah, too bad liquor control board uses Eastern Standard Time to set the minimum serving hour and last time I checked, it was 11:00 am.” Jessie’s voice sounded muffled as my ears were covered by my arms.

I glanced at my phone. It was 10:37 am. “Twenty-three minutes and I can have a martini.”

“Marla forget the drinking and tell us what happened.”

“It’s noon in Uppsala. If I were in Uppsala now, I could have a drink.” I still kept my head down.

“Well, you’re not in Uppsala. Stop the nonsense and tell us how was the meeting? We’re dying here to know the details.”

The waitress, Margot, was far too chipper and snapped me out of my dream state. We ordered eggs Benedict all around.

“What is there to say really; he’s a pompous asshole.”

“I didn’t think he was that bad.” Sandra said. “He seemed perfectly fine last night.”

“Oh, it creeps out in small doses when you least expect it and pushes the line a little bit further, you know. Leaving you enough room to breathe, but keeping you firmly in the same spot.” I rambled on. “Oh, and I am pretty sure he’s sleeping with his publicist. The woman was skinning me alive with her glares this morning.”

“So what happened?”

“He wants to hire me to choreograph and dance for his music video. To be the dance director. Can’t actually talk a whole lot about it. They made me sign a hush agreement before they even told me, but I am going to Toronto in a couple of weeks to sign a contract. I’m also going to New York in March to do the first part and then the second part is not until Rio. I’ll have to use up all my vacation time for this.”

“Are you going to do this?” Jessie got way too excited.

“You wanna stay with me in Toronto?” Sandra was all business.

“They went on about something staying at The Four Seasons, but I know that it’s only Monday night. We could go for dinner on Tuesday and I can stay over that night. I’ll have to see. And yes, I am doing it. God help me, but I am gonna do it.”

“You could have dinner with Adam on that Tuesday.” Sandra said.

I met Adam this past holiday season when I went to visit Sandra in Toronto.

Sandra and I were planning to go to Jessie’s house for the traditional holiday festivities. Jessie, however, had decided to go forgo the holiday shenanigans and took off to Cancun for two weeks. She talked about being sick and tired of the baking and the shopping and that she needed a year off from the ‘holiday craziness’, but I knew that it was because Jessie’s new boyfriend was a workaholic and she was aware that she was not going to convince him to go on a two week trip to the tropics unless she combined statutory holidays with a Christmas lull in the business world.

“Come spend Christmas and New Year’s here!” Sandra said about mid-December during one of our phone call marathons that usually lasted two to three hours. “We’ll make dinner and watch cheesy Christmas movies. When all the family bullshit is over, we’ll hooch up and find some ridiculous downtown party with complimentary cheap champagne in plastic glasses and drunken, sleazy single men tripping over themselves to kiss someone at midnight.”

Why pretend that we will go to some glamourous place when chances are far greater that we will put on some overpriced clothes to go to some so-called trendy restaurant with terrible food, cheesy music, overpriced drinks and bad waitresses, talk only to each other all night, drink our free champagne and be home by 1:00.

But, Sandra’s realism was often refreshing and it gave me hope.

As it was unlikely things would turn out worse than she described them, I cheerfully accepted her offer.

The week with Sandra was great. We cooked up a storm for Christmas and her young and incredibly hot colleague Adam recommended a party that was far better than Sandra’s cynical predictions. Adam said he’d come with us, so Sandra also invited Josh, a guy she refuses to acknowledge any romantic feelings toward, but will marry one day when her cynicism subsides and she mellows out.

Adam was about eight years younger than us, but tall, dark and sizzle hot, so I was quite content with the New Years Eve foursome. Josh and Sandra’s ability to communicate without words had left Adam paying more attention to me and I didn’t mind one bit.

“Adam likes you.” She said in the bathroom after we finished dinner. “You should go for it.”

“Go for what?” I scrunched up my face, pretending very poorly that I was not flattered. “He’s almost half my age.”

“Yeah, right, if you were fifty. Besides, are you gonna tell me you don’t want to jump his bones right now.”

“Sandra, he’s a kid.” I thought I sounded convincing, but Sandra knew me better than that.

“Yeah, a hot, ready, willing and able, single… kid, with a working dick.” Sometimes, she took her bluntness too far.

“Whatever.” I just rolled my eyes and ignored her. It would never fly. She knew I wasn’t bothered by the fact that he was twenty five. Or almost twenty five. It was just an excuse so I would not have to deal with my issue. I would have to come to terms that he was not Alan and would never be. I would have to accept that Alan was never coming back and that I would eventually have to move on.

Sandra has been trying to get me to move on for almost four years now. At first she was gentle and understanding, but as time went on, she became less patient with me and nowadays, it’s all akin to comments about men with working dicks in public bathrooms.

Neither of us said anything more on the subject, but she did notice my discomfort when Adam put his arm on the back of my chair. Josh and Sandra decided to get into a ridiculous discussion about which accounting firm they would entrust their tax returns this year, so Adam took the advantage and came through on his earlier confession.

“I’d ask you to dance, but I am afraid I would embarrass myself.” Adam said softly as he leaned in closer to me. “Sandra said you were a professional.”

Something innocent in his eyes gave me courage. I don’t know whether it was my trying to show up Sandra that I have indeed let go and moved on, or I was deathly afraid that he would actually kiss me, but I leaned in even closer to him and whispered “I’m off duty right now.”

When the ball dropped in Time Square, Adam did not hesitate a second. I turned to wish him a happy new year, but `hap’ was all I managed to get out before he pulled me closer and we were kissing. Granted, a little cliché, but it was as if I disembodied and was observing myself.

I loved his attention. He was safe. Nothing could ever come out of it, so there was nothing to worry about. He could not hurt me. He could not leave me.

I didn’t go home with Adam. I chickened out at the last minute and called Sandra to come back and get me. Taxi’s are really hard to catch on New Year’s Eve in any city, and Toronto was probably the worst.

“I can’t believe you, Marla!” she said as I got into the cab, teeth chattering, body temperature nearing hypothermia. “Seriously?” she looked at me, defeated.

“S-Sorry, okay. He was j-just so… young! I don’t know. I am having lunch with him t-tomorrow, I just can’t do the bar thing.”

“Whatever!” said Sandra and I knew that she thought it was only an excuse.

And perhaps it was. Perhaps it gave me time to sabotage the lunch, as it was a glorious disaster. Not quite sure what I expected on January 1st, hung over, having lunch with someone I spent half of last night sucking faces, but in the light of day, with sober thoughts, he was not as sophisticated as he seemed.

He was far too excited retelling the stories about how he and his friends drink themselves into oblivion, trying to impress me.

He was still delectable though, so I did not let on that I was disappointed. I let him kiss me and I instantly forgot his shortcomings, his age and melted in his embrace, playing tonsil hockey on a subway platform.

I felt bad for leading him on and Sandra certainly made a comment that it was out of character for me as of late, but there was just something about him that made me want to come back for more. Despite it all.

“So, Marla, Zack was asking about you.” Jessie chimed in and snapped me out of my reverie.

“Who?” I automatically asked, not recognizing the name immediately.

“Zack. Trevor’s new co-worker.”

“Oh, yes. Right. What about him?”

“Jessie thought you two can hit it off, but then, you brought George with you.”

“I had no choice about that. Besides, I don’t want a relationship right now. I think I have enough excitement in my life at the moment. I need to get ready for the competition and God knows when George will decide that he needs me to be at his beck and call again.”

“Marla, you’ve been saying that for the past four years. What’s the last time you were on a date, other than the lunch massacre with Adam.”

“Apparently, last night! Besides, why’s that important, anyway?”

“Because you decide someone is not worth it before you even give them a chance. What’s wrong with Zack?”

“What’s wrong with Adam?” Sandra added in a low and calm voice.

“Nothing is wrong with him! Them! Either of them!” I became defensive. “I just am not in a mood for a relationship that’s all. Besides, George said that he does not go over well with boyfriends.” I looked at them for one second. They looked at each other. “I have too much on my plate right now.”

“What was the last time you had sex?” Sandra asked.

“None of your business.” I snapped. “Besides, isn’t this a bit of pot calling the kettle black? It’s not like you’re doing any better.”

“I got divorced less than a year ago. I think it’s different.”

She said, stabbing a piece of Canadian bacon on a piece of English muffin with her fork and swirling it in the soft yolk on her plate.

Not counting Adam and New Year’s Eve make out sessions, it’s been over six months since my last date and more than a year since I had sex. I didn’t really think about it much, but lately, I have noticed that people are starting to pry more and more. And, if I am honest, I am starting to… you know, wish that I was having sex. Maybe calling Adam would not be such a bad idea.

“Why do you care anyways?” I decided to perhaps keep the little decision to myself for now.

“OK, enough!” Jesse chimed into the conversation. “We’re just worried about you, that’s all. It’s not normal to act the way you do. World’s biggest Casa Nova spends a weekend with you and you can’t stop complaining about it. Most women would be over the moon and you can’t seem to find one nice thing to say about him. It’s not everyone else, Marla. It’s you. You have to stop seeing Alan in every man that gets close to you.”

“What makes you think that he wanted to sleep with me. We are about to work together and-”

“Oh please, Marla, even you aren’t that naive.” Sandra dismissed my objection. “Besides, he is undressing you with his eyes and if you didn’t notice that, I rest my case.”

Oh, I noticed it. And ignored it.

“I can’t get involved with him. There’s too much at stake.”

“Then what about Zack? Go out with him? What have you got to lose?” Jessie said, raising her eyebrows as she took a sip of her coffee.

I could see in my peripheral vision Sandra rolling her eyes, but she decided to put her head down and busy herself with her breakfast rather than comment further.

“Adam is a no strings attached fling you can have!” Sandra finally said, rooting for her own guy, and may I add, winning by a landslide. I was not about to get involved with some business type in late thirties. That seemed like a lot of work for now.

“Fine!” I conceded. “I’ll call Adam.”

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