Phoenix walked the couple of blocks back to the condo she was renting. She figured she had a couple of hours to spend writing before she headed to her – her – she hesitated. What would she call this? Not a date. A – social event! Yes, that’s what it was. A social event.
Phoenix settled in to write on her balcony. The sounds of the ocean, the sight of waves crashing on the shore, lulled her into a world outside of time. The writing was going well, and she was surprised when her alarm went off at 7:00.
She showered quickly, put on mascara and lip gloss, and chose a simple, sleeveless dress with an uneven hem. She had only brought clothes that were fun to wear, so the material felt good and the skirt was a bit swishy. Strappy sandals, of course. Her hair was pulled up in a loose arrangement that left soft strands curling around her face. She grabbed a light wrap for when it got chilly and headed out the door.
It was a short walk to the Overlook, a large hotel with a rooftop garden where they often had music. They served drinks and tapas, a delicious variety of small plates. She was a bit hungry and looking forward to seeing the evening specials.
Emerging from the elevator, Phoenix spotted Simon almost immediately, seated at a small table that would give them a nice view of the beach. Not too close to the band, she noticed.
He rose as she entered, greeting her with one hand outstretched. She didn’t hesitate to place her hand in his. As he led her to the table, the phrase “in his hands” flashed through her mind. She shook her head, chiding herself for being ridiculous.
“Thank you for joining me,” Simon said, as they settled at the table, “This makes it seem like I am on vacation.”
Phoenix smiled, “I’m glad to be here. Are you not on vacation?”
Simon shrugged. “It’s a combination of work and business. I have some meetings here this week, but I live pretty close to here, less than an hour away. I just decided it would be a nice break to stay here. What about you? What brings you here?”
“I ran away from home,” Phoenix said, laughing. Simon raised his eyebrows, smiling, and she went on, “I live close to here too. I share a house with my daughter and grandchildren – I mean, I live in one part of the house, they’re in a different part. But the grand kids are in and out all the time, and often my daughter too. Sometimes, it’s a lot. So I’ve run away for the weekend.”
As they chatted, the waiter approached. Phoenix started to order her usual, a glass of Chardonnay, but Simon interrupted to ask her if she’d like to share a bottle of wine. She agreed, and was surprised when he ordered an excellent French Chardonnay. She started to comment on his choice, but he was asking the waiter for the specials and she listened intently.
He ordered a meat and cheese plate to start, and she choose an assortment of seafood. Once the ritual of ordering was complete, they turned their attention back to each other. The band was playing an assortment of what Phoenix called “Jimmy Buffet sounding music,” pleasant to listen to but not overpowering.
As they talked, Phoenix became aware that Simon was skillfully leading the conversation, drawing her out to talk about her grandchildren, her work as a life coach, and even parts of the journey that had led her to this part of the world. It was easy to follow his lead. He disclosed just enough of his own history to make her feel comfortable. She knew she was talking more than she usually did, but he was a good listener and seemed to appreciate her sense of humor.
The wine and the food, the music, and his steady attention allowed her to relax. Let her guard down. They even danced a few times, the music of their youth drawing them up to join other couples. Brown-Eyed Girl, Life is Just a Tire Swing… Simon was a good dancer, and Phoenix enjoyed it immensely.
And the evening might have ended that way, a pleasant time for two people. But as they were headed back to their table, Phoenix glanced at the table they were passing and saw her friends, Lucas and Sofia. Without thinking, she cried, “Sofia!” and the other woman looked up, smiled, and jumped to her feet, about to throw her arms around her friend
Sofia stopped short, “Stupid virus!” she said. “I want to hug you!”
“Me too,” said Phonix, and they carefully fist bumped at arms length instead, half laughing. Lucas had stood up as well and Phoenix turned to greet him, but to her surprise, he and Simon were standing together, watching her and Sofia, as if they already knew each other.
“Lucas!” said Phoenix, glad to see him. He greeted her, adding, “Pretend I just hugged you.”
Phoenix laughed, “Air kisses for both of you! But -” she gestured between Simon and Lucus – “You already know each other?” They grinned at each other before Simon spoke up, moving back toward her.
“Yes,” he said, “We’re – we have a business project in common and – some other interests as well.”
Phoenix tilted her head, “Oh?” There was an awkward pause as the two men looked at each other, Lucas started to say something and stopped. Phoenix looked to Sofia, who was smiling.
“Don’t you know?” asked Sofia, bemused.
“Know?” Phoenix looked back at the two men, then at Sofia again. Surely she wasn’t saying, surely not…
“Oh,” said Sofia, “Oh, no, I mean, I just meant…oh,” she looked at Lucas, who shook his head, a hint of a smile in his eyes.
Phoenix looked to Simon, who seemed as surprised and maybe as uncomfortable as she was. “Do you know what they’re talking about?” And then she regretted asking, because there wasn’t a good answer to that question.
“I’m not – I think I might, but – I’m not sure,” it was the first time she’d seen him flustered, and it made her feel a bit better. Maybe this was a silly misunderstanding and she was being ridiculous. Then Simon seemed to pull himself together.
“Lucas and I both belong to a club, it’s a private club, but not a big deal. I think Sofia might be a member too. It’s not like a men’s club or anything. Maybe that’s what she means. I’ll be glad to tell you more about it later. But let’s leave these two to enjoy the music, I think there’s half a glass of wine for us to finish up.”
His words helped Phoenix find her balance again and she turned to Sofia. “It’s sooooo good to see you, and Lucas too. You and I have to have cyber coffee soon.” There may have been more intensity to those words than usual, and Sofia’s response was also a touch vehement, although all she said was “Absolutely. Soon.”
Back at the table, Simon shared the last of the wine between them. “Well, that was a nice surprise,” he said. “Sofia and Lucas are good people.”
“They are,” agreed Phoenix. And then she deftly changed the subject. She didn’t want him to ask her how she knew the other couple and wasn’t sure what she’d say if he did ask. “I met them at the local dungeon,” would certainly be a conversation stopper, regardless of whether that was where he knew them from too. No. She absolutely wasn’t going there.