Sweet Thyme Baby – 30

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

30

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 29 first)

 

She opened the gate, and there he was, smiling at her in the moonlight, holding something in his hand.

 

“I was just figuring whether I should walk right in or yell or what. You ought to have a bell.” He held out a paper cup. “I brought you an espresso from Dante’s and I’ve got a biscotti in my pocket.”

 

“Coffee keeps me awake.”

 

“It’s decaf.”

 

Dee wondered if Sam Green ever got rejected.

 

She stepped back and let him pass through the gate. “What kind of biscotti?”

 

“Plain. I’m a purist.”

 

“No nuts?”

 

“Just a little lint.”

 

He followed her across the driveway to the house and sat beside her on the moonlit front steps. Sissypuss insinuated himself between them and rubbed against Dee’s side.

 

Why am I doing this, Dee wondered, combing her fingers through the cat’s thick coat, still warm from the day’s sunlight. He’s Lance’s brother-in-law. He’s probably in on whatever Lance is planning.

 

She pushed Sissypuss away and lifted the top off her coffee and inhaled the aroma. It made her think, suddenly, of Europe. Not that she’d ever been there but she’d seen enough movies to make the connection. There had once been talk of an Italian movie, of a palazzo in Rome. She blew on the coffee.

 

Maybe Sam would be honest and tell her right out he’d come to take up Lance’s argument. “What can I do for you, Sam?”

 

“I have a problem,” he said. “This afternoon I helped Sharon out at Greens and I made a deal with her.”

 

Dee had wanted to live awhile in Rome. She had thought that if she could get up in the morning and do something trivial among the citizens of Rome — run for a bus or drop off dry cleaning on the way to work, something ordinary that would have meaning only because she was doing it in Rome among Romans – she would feel like someone else for a while. But Victor and the producer had a falling out, the deal fell through for reasons she never knew. By that time, she was accustomed to deals not working out and she knew better than to ask many questions.

 

“What do you think?”

 

She looked at Sam, at his smile. “I’m sorry?”

 

“I went through my whole spiel and you weren’t even listening.”

 

“Sam, it’s the end of the day.” Maybe he wasn’t there to speak for Lance but it had still been a mistake to let him in the gate. Like all men, he was after something.

 

He said, “Okay, here goes. Full attention?”

 

He was good-natured, Dee would give him that. But why shouldn’t he be? It did not take much effort to be pleasant for a few minutes or an hour when it suited his purposes. Men were never kind or good unless there was something in it for them. Except men like Pinkus and George. And Con Ryan. They were special and different. Maybe they would take over the world and everyone would be better off.

 

“You’re not listening.”

 

“It’s late, Sam. Semi-full attention is the best you get.”

 

His eyes were crinkled slits full of moonlight.

 

“I made this deal with Sharon,” he said. “I told her I wanted to invite you to dinner and she said you’d never agree. So we made a bet.” He stopped. “You’re not offended are you? That we did that?”

 

“Go on.”

 

“I never thought until now, saying it, you might be insulted.”

 

“I’m still listening, aren’t I?”

 

“I told my sister, I’d paint inside the parish house if I lost the bet.” Sam groaned. “I’m here to plead with you, Delight.”

 

“I asked you not to call me that.”

 

“I hate to paint, Dee.”

 

“Do you bet a lot?” Are you a gambler like Victor? Do you spend your money before it’s earned and disappear for days and come back minus your Mercedes? Do you lie? Do you lie as easily as you breathe?

 

“Dee, I confess. I’m not a very good American. I’ve never even been to Las Vegas. This bet is definitely out of character.”

 

“Well.” The dense complex flavor of the espresso painted her tongue. “I don’t go out, Sam.”

 

“I know you don’t.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“Sharon said I didn’t have a chance.”

 

What did Sharon Whitby know about her? When had they exchanged more than polite, strained smiles and comments about weather and her little boy?

 

“I’m asking you to make an exception this time.”

 

“So you won’t have to paint the parish house?”

 

“If that works for you, yes. Have dinner with me for that reason.”

 

How long was it since she ate dinner in a restaurant? If she tried to remember, she might recall the exact restaurant, the precise meal. It probably wasn’t an important occasion but Serena would have been there. The arithmetic of memory always added up to Serena.

 

Dee handed Sam her half-drunk coffee and stood. “Thank you for the espresso. It was good. But I can’t go to dinner with you. I’m afraid you’re stuck with the paint job.”

 

He stood beside her, and Dee had to look up to see his face. Pinkus and George were both under five feet ten, Maggie was short, built like a biscuit.

 

She asked, “How tall are you?”

 

“Six-five.”

 

It was pleasant not to be the tallest thing around.

 

“Dee, I’ve got to say something.” He was serious, almost somber. “If you say no to me, I won’t ask again. I’ll go back to where I came from and that’ll be that. No hard feelings.” He put their coffees down on the step and held out his hands, very near to hers. “May I?”

 

She watched her hands disappear within his.

 

“I’m not a stalker. I’m not a jerk or a pest. At least I try not to be. But I like you and I want to know you. I want to find out about you and this garden and your life and what makes you –.”

 

“I don’t want you to know about me.”

 

“Then just let me talk your ear off for two hours and then I’ll walk you home and if you don’t want to see me again –.”

 

She pulled away.

 

“One dinner date and you think I’ll want to see you again.”

 

“That’s what I hope.”

 

Was he so clever he knew when being honest would touch her heart?

 

She said, “I don’t get it.”

 

“Haven’t you ever just liked someone and wanted to be friends?”

 

“That’s what this is about? Friendship?”

 

“Sure.”

 

The only men who wanted to be friends with Dee were gay or very old like Con Ryan.

 

He took her hands again. “I’m not blind. I know you’re a beautiful woman. When I saw you that first time, I could hardly believe my eyes.”

 

She wanted to hear something more than the predictable flattery she’d heard all her life from liars and cheats, from young men who made their living with their dicks and from an old man stinking of chickens.

 

He sat on the stairs and brought her down beside him, still holding her hands. “Honest-to-God, Dee, beautiful women scare me. Under normal circumstances, I’d be chicken to ask you out. But I just feel like –.” He looked up as if the sky was a blackboard and the stars and moon a wild calligraphy. “I believe that if I don’t take this chance to know you, I’m going to regret it the rest of my life.”

 

She laughed. “That’s about the worst line I ever heard.”

 

He covered his face with his hands, mocking misery.

 

“So this dinner you’re talking about, you’re paying?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“Where? I never leave Cabrillo Point.”

 

“What’s that little place next to Lovey’s?”

 

“You’re taking me to Enzio’s? And you’re unemployed?”

 

“I’ll eat bread and watch you eat.”

 

“That’s it? Just one dinner?”

 

He raised his hand and said solemnly, “You’ll never see me again without an invitation.”

 

In the yellow porch light he seemed as solid as a boulder that had rolled through the gate and come to rest against the front steps where she could not ignore it. Dee Larue, certified expert in lies and cheats, didn’t know what to do with Sam Green. She didn’t want him hanging around. She didn’t exactly trust him; but he seemed like a nice guy and she wasn’t sure how honest he was. More than anything else, she was sick of the several debates going on in her head. She wanted to settle something.

 

“All right,” she said. “Now go home. I have to lock up.”

 

“Eight o’clock,” Sam said. “Tomorrow.”

 

“Barring disaster.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 31 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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