Originally written February 20, 2006
She could still feel his lips on hers when Celeste arrived at the restaurant for their lunch date the next day.
“Emilie,” her voice fell like a curtain. “Where are you? I’ve been waving at you since the door.”
“Here,” Emilie said, and rearranged the cutlery and water glass to prove it. Celeste sat down, and said something polite to the waiter who smiled as if he’d never received such kindness, and asked if she and her friend would like a drink, to start.
“Two light cranberry martinis, right Emilie?” Celeste was always in charge of these things, and Emilie waved her hand to say sure. She wondered briefly what Celeste would have said if she’d ordered a beer instead.
Celeste talked about work. The boss was giving her more responsibilities including a documentary to produce, and it would take weeks to do it right, but she was so excited. It was a foot in the door. The door to what, Emilie wondered. Celeste was always talking like this, and then at their next lunch date, the boss would be, suddenly, inexplicably demanding and Celeste would be telling Emilie about her appointment with the counsellor to see if she couldn’t get a sick note and time off work.
Emilie thought about Daniel. How he’d been waiting for her in bed when she came out of the hot tub, how she’d thought it was quite early to go to bed, it being just seven, and how he was half-lying in bed, reading, with his glasses on, and she said, oh I guess we’re going to bed.
As she’d crawled in beside him, she’d felt his legs come closer to hers. She always had a thing about feet, not a good thing. She didn’t like to feel other people toenails against her skin. But when Daniel’s toenails braised her shin, she knew what he had in mind, and immediately her heart skipped twelve beats, only to resume at such intensity that she was sure Daniel could hear it or feel it.
She’d lain down, not having a book to read and besides, it seeming highly inappropriate, now, to think of reading, after Daniel had removed his glasses and laid his book on the night table.
There really was only an instant before his arm was over her, and she turned to him, opening her lips to his. Most of the rest, she thought now, was funny, because it seemed as if she would worry about something right, and instantaneously, Daniel would be the one to do it, wrong, which put them on a level playing field, in a way.
“So I have to go to Brazil next week,” Celeste was saying, “and I want you to come too.”
“Brazil. The documentary. I have to go there, of course, because I have to interview the evangelists and people, and the Catholics too, and I just can’t do that from here. I need to go there to find them.”
Emilie nodded. “Yes you do need to go there,” she said. “But I don’t know about going with you. I’ve got so much happening just now.”
“O God, I haven’t even asked you about your trip! How was your trip?” (Celeste making up in vocal intonation for her self-centredness.)
Emilie wondered where she should start, but before she could start, Celeste, again:
“What about him? What was he like? What was his name again? Stephen? No!” (This all on her own steam!) “Daniel.” And a look of self-worth for having remembered this important fact. “What about Daniel? Did you two, like, get along?”
“Yes, we got along.” But by this point Emilie could hardly contain the feelings that had welled up behind her face and in her throat. “We really got along, Cel. Really.”
“Oh,” she jested. “So you’re getting married now. Don’t you dare, Emilie Louise Keats. Don’t you dare.” She was only half joking. Emilie and Celeste had a running joke-that-wasn’t-really-a-joke that relations with men would be reserved for holidays and business trips. Nothing permanent, nothing lasting.
It was then that Emilie realized Celeste was glad Emilie’s trip was over. Celeste hadn’t really wanted to hear about Daniel, or about the amazing two weeks they’d spent together. She specially hadn’t wanted to hear about the love they’d consummated on the final night and not before, like children who save the maraschino cherry til last because it’s the best part of the fruit salad and it leaves a sweeter taste in your mouth than a slice of grapefruit or a mushy banana. Emilie started to feel a little fence going up around her trip not unlike the kind of barrier that city planners put around a special monument to keep intruders from stepping on it.
“Daniel is amazing,” Emilie simply said. “I would like you to meet him.”
“Well, fine, but not until after we get back from Brazil. Come on, Emilie.” Celeste pleaded. “You can work from there.”
The thought of going further away from Daniel, when she’d already flown across the country form him this morning, was next to unbearable.
“You can. What do you mean you can’t?”
“I have Jasper to worry about. I’ve just left her for two weeks. Cats need company.”
“Which I gave her lots of while you were gone, by the way.”
“I know you did. Thank you. I just can’t go away again right now. My passport’s not up-to-date, and I really have things to take care of.”
Celeste gave up the fight. She took a long sip of her martini, made figure eights with the swizzle stick, and took another sip. Then she looked up at Celeste.
“You fell in love.”
There was no need to answer.