Something Old, Something New Ch. 03byvelvetpie©
Since the next day was Sunday, I made a huge dinner and left invitations on each of my neighbor's doorsteps, in the hopes that I could become better friends with all of them. Unfortunately, Nigel was going to be out of town on a flight so I promised him that I'd make him a plate. Henrietta was the first to arrive and she was a delicious package of Asian good looks and Occidental charm. She brushed past me on the way into the house, setting two bottles of wine on my dining room table.
"It's about time that you did something for the rest of us."
"It's about time?"
"Yeah! Everyone's been waiting to see if you could throw a good party."
I laughed. She turned out to be very lively and kept me company while I finished the gravy and reheated the vegetables. She ran a very lucrative real estate company and was saving her money to move to Europe and buy a huge house there.
"Somewhere in South America." She poured us more wine. "You can live like a king on American dollars down there."
The doorbell rang and Tom and Bob came in, bringing more wine and a huge chocolate chip cheesecake. Henrie welcomed them in on my behalf and soon they were sitting on the bar stools around my kitchen island, snacking on scallop rumaki that I'd just taken out of the oven. I was chewing and laughing at a joke that Bob had told when another knock sounded. Toting my glass of wine, I excused myself and strode over, throwing the door wide open. Mariana stood there, her demeanor shy as she held a grocery sack in her arms.
"Am I still invited?"
"Of course! Why wouldn't you think so?"
She shrugged and I moved aside, letting her in. Tom leaped off his stool and took the bag from her while Bob seated her on his stool, pouring a fresh glass of ice-cold wine for her. She had brought more wine, some sharp Vermont cheese and some rosemary-basil crackers and Tom put the cheese and crackers out for us.
We ate and talked and the whole time, I couldn't help but stare at her. She was so beautiful. She wasn't Christie Brinkley beautiful; she was Milla Jovovich beautiful and more than a few times I found myself squeezing my thighs together, naughty thoughts running through my head. I served dinner and we all went out onto the balcony, where I'd taken my three-piece cherry dining room table and chairs and afternoon flowed into evening.
I took a couple of plates into the kitchen and was scraping them when I heard her soft voice behind me. "Alexa?"
"Yes?" I turned and gave her a warm smile, seeing her sipping from a nearly-empty glass. "Here, let me fix you up." I poured her some more wine and took Tom and Bob's cheesecake out of the refrigerator for slicing. "If I forget to tell you later, thank you for coming."
"You're not mad at me?"
"Jessica, I hardly know you!"
"But two days ago … in the club … "
"You didn't know me." I said softly, moving closer. She kept her eyes focused on the swirling golden liquid in her glass. "Jessica." She looked up at me and I advanced on her, the edge of the island between us. "Why did you run away?"
She shrugged nervously, pretending to be interested in the photos on my refrigerator. "I don't know."
"Was I that scary"?
"No." She laughed, a beautiful carefree sound that made her eyes light up. "I was just … I don't know. I didn't know you and I was kind of afraid."
"Well, you know me now and there's no reason to fear me." I turned back to the dessert and selected a knife from the rack. "I just wanted to buy you a drink. I'm sorry if I frightened you."
Jessica offered me a shy smile and continued her perusal. "Your children?"
"Yes." I moved beside her, giving explanations of the various locations that the photos showed. "I've been divorced for five years now."
"I see." She paused, taking a sip of wine. "So you're single?"
A flare of heat seared my face as I realized what she was asking. I took another look at her, turned toward her and taking in the quivering pink bottom lip and the tiny teeth that held it tightly. "Yes."
"Do you like me?"
Her voice was very quiet as she spoke the words and I stepped closer to her, my movement drawing her attention. "Jessica … "
"Call me Jess."
"Jess, you're very beautiful … "
"But I don't know you well enough yet." She set her glass down and headed off toward the door, obviously upset with me. "Wait! Where are you going?" She stopped, her head down as her body quaked with sobs. "I didn't say anything mean to you. Why are you crying?"
"I don't know." Her whisper reached my ears over the lively conversation in the next room. "I'll see you later."
Before I could say another word, the door slammed shut behind her and I was alone in my kitchen. I just stood there for a long moment until Bob came up behind me and put his arms around me.
"Whatever you're thinking, she's worth the effort."
"How do I know that, Bob? I may never have the chance to get close." I touched his hands. "What happened to her?"
Bob's silence told me that whatever had happened had been serious. "She's a lesbian for a reason, Alexa."
I leaned into him, still staring at the door and hoped that there would be another time to talk to her. For now, I satisfied myself with enjoying the companionship of my neighbors and promised my sodden brain to work on the problem of Jess tomorrow.