Phillip had bowed to pressure from John after the dinner party and called her to invite her out. Sitting here now at a table in one of the local breweries, waiting for her, Phillip’s thoughts drifted back to the evening they met. Tamie had been pleasant and good natured, but was also what you might call, and he was struggling to think of just the right word, ‘bouncy’. She was nice looking in a raw boned, wholesome, county girl kind of way with brown hair streaked gold from the sun, a terrific smile and brown eyes that expressed both pain and hope at the same time. She never sat still or stopped talking but somehow kept track of everything everyone said during the evening even while she talked over their conversations. Well, he guessed that she would have to be pretty sharp to teach high school biology to a bunch of hormonal, spastic teenagers.
“Hi. Oh gosh, I am sorry I’m late. Just one of those things; I hope you weren’t worried I wouldn’t show. I would never. So nice to see you again.” Tamie had appeared suddenly, jolting him back to the present and out of the daydream.
She had a sort of whirling dervish quality about her as she settled herself at the table, removed her jacket, flopped her purse on the chair between them, smoothed her hair and said, “It was great of you to call after last week’s dinner at John and Pam’s. I was hoping you would. But you never know about these things. How are you? Gosh, you look so nice. I wasn’t sure what to wear. I hope this is OK.”
Good grief, the woman loved color. The long straight dress contained every shade of blue and green possible. A leather belt dyed lavender showed her waist, accentuating her womanly curves and he noticed how the outfit complemented her lightly tanned skin and the gold flecks in her eyes.
She finally took a breath. “I think I might be talking too much.”
“That’s OK.” He smiled wryly. “Drink a lot of coffee do you?”
“Probably too much,” she nodded, not catching his meaning. “I love the way it looks and tastes, especially in the morning when the cream swirls through it. But it has to be really strong you know. Honestly, I just can’t understand the fascination with tea. It is so bland and without body or character or anything…”
He figured he’d interrupt to try to save her from imminent embarrassment, if indeed she ever felt embarrassed. “All I drink is tea. Well, that is I drink tea instead of coffee because tea is so soothing.”
“Oh gosh, I really can talk too much, everybody says so but it is always so much worse when I’m nervous,” she said as if his comments had finally worked their way through to her consciousness. “And I can see the allure of tea, really I can,” she added graciously.
“Well, I’m not sure I could recommend either the coffee or tea here but the good news is that they do have beer. Or wine, maybe you’d prefer wine.”
“Wine,” she said. “Yes, good idea. White wine would be great.”
The wine came and then the dinner. The conversation bounced between friendly and comfortable to hesitant and awkward.
He sounded boring, even to his own ears, when she asked him to describe his job with the County Planning Department. Trying little harder, he added, “The County made me take vacation last year because I had so much time saved up. I couldn’t think of anything to do so I just stayed home. I did help John out at the liquor store though. He needed an inventory done. I’ve done it before. It’s kind of fun really, except working in the walk-in can be cold.”
He knew he sounded hopelessly dull as he confessed, “I guess my only hobby is playing ‘pedro’ which is a Portuguese card game. We play every Saturday night; me and some friends. Actually, I used to go all the time with my grandmother. She’s the one who raised me.” He paused and glancing at her face, wondered if he’d confided to quickly. “That’s when I learned how to play, just by watching them. The older generation is gone now and our group is down to five. But it’s a tradition, you know.”
“Gosh, I think it’s great that you have so much stability in your life. Not just your career and work stuff but that you’ve had the same friends forever and that your family is so important to you too, Phil.”
He shifted a little in his chair and said, “Actually, I go by Phillip. Phil just sounds like something you have to do when the gas tank is empty.”
Tamie smiled, sat back and took another sip of wine. The divorce had left her so unsure of herself. She often wondered how she could have been so wrong about Mark. Yet she must have known something was amiss. She’d never been restless but in the ten years they were married, they had relocated four times. The moves had all been her idea. She mistakenly thought that a new start would change things for them. But in the end the affair just made it clear to them both. She wondered now about that certain something Phillip seemed to have. He was definitely younger than she was, probably sixty pounds overweight with a fair-haired boyish handsomeness that made one think of Sweden. Judging from the two times she had seen him, she doubted he had anything in his closet that wasn’t beige. Maybe there was something; something like quiet strength and kindness and perhaps, honesty.
“Wow,” he said trying to digest what she had just told him. “You just packed up and went. You actually took the whole month of July and just drove through Glacier National Park by yourself, on a moment’s notice, without making reservations of any kind, no game plan or anything.”
“Well, I get summers off work, you know,” she said and laughed at the sight of his baffled face. “It’s pretty easy for me to just take off. And, I knew I was going to end up at my niece’s place in Montana at some point during the trip but that was really it. Oh, there was this one night; I was on my way home by then. It was pretty late and I was running low on gas. You know, they don’t have gas stations anywhere in the park so you kind of have to plan, which I don’t do very well. Anyway, I did see a sign for lodging, so I turned off the main road. I was really hoping they had a room. I thought that in case I did run out of gas, it would be better if it was at least daylight and not in the middle of the night. It was so late that I woke the guy up. Luckily he had one room left. Actually it was this huge suite that could sleep six people or so. But the suite was really expensive so I asked him if he would cut the rate since it was just me and it was so late and everything. Well, he did and I ended up paying less than a quarter of the $900 per night price. I woke up early the next morning in this beautiful space with this incredible view, all trees and blue sky and steam rising off this stream in the early morning sun. It was incredible.”
The date ended when he walked her to her car. She leaned in, quickly brushing her lips against his. “There,” she said. “The first kiss is a killer and now we won’t have to think about it again. Good night, Phillip.”
As he got in his car, his lips still tingling a little from the kiss, he pulled out his cell phone.
John flipped his phone off and turned to his wife, Pam. “That was Phillip.”
“Oh oh, no go?” She asked.
“Nope. He said Tamie was too vivacious, too full of life. He said she’d be bored with him in a week but it sounds to me like he’s just afraid of getting hurt or something.”
“Oh darn.” Pam said shaking her head, “They’d have been so good for each other.”