“This wine is delicious, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, yes…it’s…delicious.” He forced a smile as he took another sip from the glass. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with her exactly. He’d only agreed to do this to get his sister off his back and now he was sitting across the table from a perfectly lovely lawyer with dark brown eyes and hair to match…..and he couldn’t remember her name. Damn it.
“So Billy, Ashley tells me you’re involved in running a cosmetics company. That must be exciting.” Her eyes were bright and eager as she looked at him. The hope and life that spilled from her almost mocking his own morose mood.
“Not as exciting as you might think,” he muttered, taking another, much larger drink from the wine glass. “I don’t run the company alone. There are three of us–four if you count my mother.”
“Your mother? I’m sure that’s interesting…”
“That’s one way of putting it.” He raised his hand, motioning the waiter over to the table. “Can I get a scotch, please?” He shifted his eyes to her. “You want anything?”
“No,” she said softly, “I’m good with the wine.”
The expression on her face dimmed for only a moment before she recovered, the chipper smile and bright eyes returning in force. “So what about outside the office? What do you like to do there?”
He smiled, allowing a puff of air to escape. The scotch arrived at the perfect time and he paused to take a sip before responding. “Well, I love to gamble, but then I got addicted, so I had to quit that.”
There it was again–a momentary blip, but an amazing recovery.
“I see,” Her voice was hesitant and accompanied by slightly nervous laughter, but she continued. She was persistent. He had to give her that. “Well, since you don’t gamble anymore, what do you do?”
“I have a bike–that I’ve wrecked…could’ve killed myself…and my brother’s wife.”
She stopped, the wine glass in mid air. “Wait a minute…you mean that’s true? I thought that was just tabloid trash? You really slept with your brother’s wife?”
Billy smiled, “Guilty as charged.” He watched as the look of hope and excitement changed to condemnation and judgment. “And you know what the best part is? I’m not sorry…not even a little bit.”
“I…I don’t even know what to say to that. I really hoped this could be something good for us. I’m a lawyer for God’s sakes. I have a lot to offer.”
“Go offer it to somebody else,” Billy mumbled, staring down into the scotch glass.
She huffed, offended and stood, whirling around to take one last jab at him before making her grand exit. “You know–you have no idea what you’re missing.”
He sat there, letting her leave without a response from him. She could have the last word if it helped her. Maybe it gave her some dignity, but it didn’t make her words right. He knew exactly what he was missing.
He missed her.
Phyllis tied the tie tight around her waist, her eyes still struggling to adjust to the light. She squinted at the digits that reflected from the oven. It was nearly 3 am. Who on earth would be at her apartment at this hour? The pounding on the door only got more insistent as she descended the stairs.
“Hold on,” she hissed, tiptoeing to see through the peephole. She slid down the door, her hand resting on the handle for a moment. A wave of conflicting emotions washed over her as she realized he was here.
Phyllis slowly opened the door, “Billy?”
“I know it’s late…I know…and I know…I know I’m not in a good…I know Ive had too much to drink.”
Phyllis stepped outside the door, glancing down the hallway. “How did you get here?” she asked, the idea of him operating any type of vehicle in this condition was disturbing.
“The bartender called me a car…well a cab…you know they really will tell you you have to go just like in the song. That’s what he said…I didn’t have to go home but I couldn’t stay there.” He pitched forward slightly, feeling her arms on her, her slight frame supporting his almost dead weight.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I think I might have had too much to drink.” He leaned in closer to her as he said this, as if he didn’t want to chance others learning this embarrassing fact.
“You think?” She smiled. “Let’s get you inside.”
Billy didn’t argue, walking along side her into the apartment and easing onto the couch while she closed the door behind him. He turned his head to look at her, smiling as she sat next to him.
“You want to tell me what happened to make you try to outdrunk the greater GC area tonight?”
“Ashley,” he muttered, shaking his head at the thought of her, “and her ideas.”
Phyllis nodded. “Ah, and what did Ashley suggest this time?”
“It was a who…she set me up with this woman.” Billy rubbed his face furiously, still frustrated that he was unable to recall her name.
“A date?” It was as if someone had reached in with a vice grip on her heart. She didn’t have the right to feel this way, to be jealous, and yet the mere idea of him with someone else made her want to scream. She fought for composure, valuing her dignity above all, “Did you like her?”
“What do you think?” He’d lost count of the number of drinks he’d had, so he had an excuse for his dulled mental acuity, but her….she should be on point.
“I don’t know,” she said quietly, “that’s why I asked.”
“I’m here aren’t I? I’m not with her.” He looked at her, still remembering Deana, Donna, Dana…Damn it… her word’s as she’d walked out. He missed everything about her. It was the way her hair fell into her face, the way her eyelids hovered at half mast when she was tired, the way she said his name, the way she tilted her head ever so slightly when she was trying to understand, the scent of her, the way she moved, the way she could seem completely in charge one second and completely vulnerable in the next. It was everything and more.
“What was wrong with her? I mean your sister wouldn’t have set you up with someone she didn’t think you’d like.”
“I’m not sure that my sister knows what I like,” he said quietly, reaching out and gently brushing a rebellious lock of hair off her forehead. “She was nice…very poised, very classic, well-bred, you know the type.”
“Pretty, successful, good sense of humor, assertive, has her own law practice…” Billy continued.
Phyllis could feel her muscles beginning to tense. She knew she had no right to feel this way. She had no claim on him. She walked away… “It sounds like the two of you learned a lot about each other.” She moved to stand, feeling her eyes begin to burn, determined he would not see her cry.
His hand reached for her. “I learned all I needed to know,” he said quietly, his mind suddenly more clear.
She turned, looking at him intently, her mouth saying nothing. Her eyes begging, pleading with him….
“She isn’t you.”
Phyllis felt her legs weaken beneath her and she sat back down beside him, turning her body towards him. She still remained silent, not yet trusting her voice to speak.
“You,” he stopped, smiling at her, the thought of her–the mere mention of her name, made him almost giddy. “You make me feel alive. When I’m with you I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m inspired.”
Phyllis shook her head, no longer able to control the tears that streamed down her face. “But I hurt you..,that’s what I do. I hurt people.”
“You’re complicated, you’re passion,”he whispered, gently wiping away the tears, “and you’re challenging and you’re stubborn, but there’s nobody…”
She looked down, shaking her head again.
He touched her face, pulling it back up. “Look at me,” he whispered, his lips brushing against hers. “There’s nobody that makes me feel the things that you do. There’s nobody that makes me want to wake up every day as much as you do. There’s nobody that I’m more excited by…”
“How can you say that?” Her voice shook as she stared at him. His eyes were so full of sincerity and love and while she wanted to fall in with him, she couldn’t help but feel horrible for what she’d put him through. “I said such horrible things to you. I said that I didn’t…That it wasn’t about you.” She stopped, the thoughts of her own words too painful to even recall. She couldn’t imagine how it must have felt to have been on the receiving end. “Billy, the things I said…”
“Did you mean them?”
“No,” she breathed, her heart in her throat, the sorrow in her voice now reflected in her eyes and emanating from her whole body. “No, I didn’t mean them. I don’t mean them. I love you.”
He smiled, taking her hands and locking eyes with her. “Then forget them.”
She let him wrap his arms around her, closing her eyes as he whispered how much he loved her. As he broke the embrace and stared into her eyes, she spoke again.
“I am sorry, Billy…not only for the things I said..”
“That we’re forgetting,” he smiled.
“Right,” she agreed, “but for the lost time, for the days and weeks and months we missed..the times we could have spent together.”
Billy sighed, bringing her hand to his lips, and pulling her up to stand beside him. “You know what’s most important? That we not miss any more time.”
She smiled as he softly kissed her lips and led her up the stairs.