The elevator descended, and I thought no woman would have given my apartment the once-over Emma did unless it mattered to her how a few decorative touches would enliven it.
I never thought I’d find a decent job again. I was forty-four. I lost my previous one because my head was no longer there. You don’t go to office every morning looking like you’ve cried all night. The divorce hit me hard. When I found an envelope awaiting my return from lunch break, I knew what it was. A thank you for my service, wishes for the future, kind words.
What was left of my life came crashing down that day but, after ten slow weeks, luck smiled on me the first time in a long time. I landed a job with Day Logistics that paid less. But it was still a turn of luck. Sarah and I had worked for the same company when she left home and moved in with a client whose account she managed, one of our largest. The final cut with the past cleared my head.
The move was a boon and the girls’ chatter, and the bustle at the office, anaesthetised the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. On my new job, I felt closest to Emma. We shared the same client and Emma was friendly and approachable. But I never opened up with her. Our friendship was not intimate enough. And a thick black curtain of loneliness still descended when I returned home.
Fridays were the precursor to a weekend of solitude. I loved Mondays.
“How I love hitting the Level 0 button on a Friday!”
“Any plans for the weekend, Emma?” Emma cast me a quick shot of the eye. “No, not really, but…”
“How ‘bout dinner at my place?”
I put that one in very fast, fearing I’d lose any chance I stood if I gave Emma the time to finish her but.
She flashed her sweet smile. She hesitated a few seconds.
“No, I don’t think I’d mind. Where d’you live?”
Saturday evening. The doorbell rang. I counted to ten before lifting the hall phone. I didn’t want to appear to Emma I’d been standing right behind the door awaiting her arrival.
“Hi.” It was a hesitant Hi.
A few long moments later the escalator started its ascent to my apartment.
Dinner passed uneventfully. Not awkward, but not intimate. We sat in the sofa and talked. Short heavy silences descended, killed by a glance into each other’s eyes that rekindled the conversation. It looked like good night, see ya Monday was imminent. But discussion fortuitously turned to the travails of love and life.
“The Gods of Love never smiled down on me, Glen. Maybe I was fated this way, never to marry.”
“Maybe it’s your choice.”
“Never marrying. You’ve said it yourself you’ve lost count of the men you’ve been through.”
Emma coughed out a loud laugh.
“Oh fuck, did I say that? Pour me another glass.”
I did. She was laughing so hard she spilt some on her knees.
“It’s not often plain girls get asked out for some fun. You only beat that by being easy.”
“Which sort of gathers a momentum, and picking up men becomes no harder than asking a stranger for a light.”
“But you’re not plain. You’re lovely inside and out.”
Emma smiled back. Her eyes shone. She saw I meant it. But I was scared. I didn’t need a horde of girls hooting in merriment if Emma said some other time and let everybody at the office know first thing Monday morning. But she lowered her hand gently into my crotch, like saying go ahead, I’d love to. She knew I was finding it hard making the first move.
We made love the first time that night. It had been a few months’ wait for me, but it didn’t go badly. Emma sounded impressed. She slept over, and late the next morning she showered and gave my apartment a quick look-over before walking to the door.
“See ya, hon. And thanks for having me.” She planted a kiss on my lips.