Authors: Kenny Wright
Sarah drove herself to Bistro Claude’s, alone in the car with just her heartbeat singing in her ears. All those reassurances that this was “just dinner” helped a little, but her palms still got sweaty, and that hollow pit in her stomach got deeper each time she thought of David.
David and her.
Just thinking their names together set her scalp on fire. She’d been attracted to David from the first time she’d met him, although that wasn’t a surprise. He was fit with wavy brown hair that curled over his ears and came just short of his shoulders. Physically, there was nothing not to like. But it was his easy-going confidence that really got to her. David was like a younger version of Jack, complete with all that scintillating newness.
They’d always kept their relationship a professional one. Other than in pure fantasy, Sarah had never considered cheating on Jack. Jack was the love of her life. She didn’t need anyone else.
Hiding in the deepest recesses of her mind, though, where the thoughts that crouched there made her stomach clutch and her heart skip, was a curiosity. Jack had coaxed it out of hiding with his fantasies, and in the last month of David’s employment, it had begun to come easier to the forefront. In fact, she’d refused to go to his final happy hour for fear of what might happen. The look of hurt in David’s eyes had haunted her since.
So here she was, driving to meet him. Alone. Even with Jack’s set-up, she could have found an excuse not to go. She could have chosen to wear jeans and a sweater instead of her dress and boots. Even her car had been a decision she’d made with a trembling heart: bring the minivan or her little Prius? The minivan would send a message, as well as reminder her who she was. The Prius kept her options open. She’d chosen the Prius.
The plan was for Jack to go ahead of her. He’d stopped by the bistro earlier that day, after a distracted round of golf, to make sure his booth had the perfect view of theirs. Now here he was, driving back to it with blood rushing in his ears. This was the culmination. The anticipation was like every Christmas morning compounded into a single moment. By the time he walked up to the hostess, he was shaking with it.
“Reservation for Jack Carter? Right this way.”
Jack was so caught up in that holy-fuck-this-is-happening haze that he barely heard the hostess mumble something about a server being along shortly. The location was perfect. He wouldn’t be able to hear anything, but he’d be able to watch them without being obvious.
David arrived just a couple minutes later and Jack pretended to review the menu as he studied. The younger man ordered a beer and thumbed at his phone as he waited. Texting Sarah, perhaps? Jack shifted.
David had dressed in a pressed pair of brown trousers and a dark blue striped shirt. No tie, although he also didn’t have an embarrassing number of buttons undone. He was prepared for the night to go either way.
Sarah finally arrived, looking radiant. She’d freshened up and fixed her hair, which was loose in front and pinned in back. She’d added a pair of teardrop emerald earrings that swayed with her long, confident strides. Only Jack noticed the white knuckled grip she had on her clutch bag, the only betrayal of her nearly crippling nerves. The green wrap dress was clingy enough to hint at her athletic body and short enough to show off her legs to anyone looking—and there were many looking.
Watching them meet, shy and smiley, Jack thought of his own first date with Sarah. She’d dressed more provocatively then than she did now, but had that same flirty openness. They’d torn each other’s clothes off at the end of the night. That was the Sarah he was seeing now. Not the wife who did the laundry or the mother who taxied their children to and from soccer practice. He saw the woman who had confessed she loved doggy-style after they’d fucked the first time, then had sucked him back to life so he could take her like that.
The cocktail of emotions were strong enough that he didn’t need a drink, but he ordered one anyway. Anything to calm his frayed nerves. He ordered a 25 year old Scotch without looking at the price tag. This was the culmination of his darkest, craziest fantasy. What better cause to celebrate?
Sarah felt all the eyes on her. Was the whole restaurant watching her? Judging her? Did they know who she was meeting and what she was thinking? She nearly fled. Instead, she leaned on the nervous energy for strength.
David looked good. It was always a little strange seeing him when he wasn’t dressed for work—less like a coworker, more like a man. He stood as she approached. They held their hug a beat longer than what was appropriate, neither wanting to let go. Was this the last time they’d see one another? They were convenient acquaintances who enjoyed one another’s company, but not close enough to keep in touch. It happened all the time.
“You look great,” he said, and when his eyes flickered over her dress, she
“Thanks. So do you.” She liked the way his shirt tugged at his shoulders. He’d rolled the sleeves up to his elbows and Sarah found herself wanting to touch the exposed stretch of his forearms. She shook the thought away. “Why don’t we sit?”
“Right. Of course.”
Sarah wasn’t used to things being awkward with David. Even when they were flirting, it was never strained and silences didn’t need to be filled with inane chatter. Tonight, Sarah felt the urge to talk about the weather, or ask him things that she already knew about his new job.
David helped her out. “I’m so glad you texted. I was a little disappointed when you didn’t come out last Friday. We didn’t get a proper goodbye.”
“A proper one, huh? You sure that’s what you want?” Just like that, the awkwardness was gone. It was always like that with David: so easy to be bad. Like eating candy.
“Well, now that you mention it, there’s nothing proper about what I had in mind.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow. He usually wasn’t this forward. She liked it, although she had the feeling that he was teasing.
“But those plans were for Friday,” he continued, “when I’d finally worked up my nerve. Now, you just get a nice dinner.”
“So you had to work up your nerve for me?” She knew it was all a joke, but she liked that idea.
David hesitated. He ran his fingers across the condensation on his glass of water, studying how the droplets pulled free and ran down to the tabletop. “Why did you text me?”
His eyes swept up to hers after the question left his lips. They softened the bluntness of his words, but she still felt a little battered.
, she almost said. Was David giving her one last way out? Like every other opportunity, she didn’t take it. “I had a free night?”
She’d meant to say evening. God, why hadn’t she said evening
“So just because?”
She considered putting it all out there.
Because my husband has this crazy idea. Because I’ve always had this fantasy about you. Because I want to fuck you.
Her eyelids fluttered. Her mouth went dry. “Yeah, I guess just because.” Putting it out there wasn’t really her style, but she had to give him something. “I’m going to miss you, David. And what we had.”
She wanted to reach out and touch his hands, so busy wiping down his glass. If he were Jack… But he wasn’t.
David and Sarah spent their first bottle of wine talking about safe things—the inane chatter that Sarah had been dreading. The weather. His new job. His move. Thing was, it didn’t feel inane or empty. It felt fun, like everything they had together.
“Have you checked out the profiles of the older women at the new company for replacements?”
“So that’s the role you’ve assigned yourself? Cougar? Sarah, you’re only 34. I don’t think they’d let you into their club.”
“So you’re an expert on cougars, are you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say expert, but I’ve done a little research on the subject.”
“Really?” Now she was intrigued. “Anyone I know?”
“Well...” He squirmed a little in his seat and Sarah grew even more interested. “I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore. You know Jaime in Events?”
“Really?“ Sarah clapped her hand over her mouth. Jaime would definitely be considered a cougar. Mid-40s. Divorcee. Great body. Very pretty. Bright red hair that could not possibly be natural. “How long has that been going on?”
“It’s not really like that. We hooked up a couple times, but that’s all.”
Sarah felt a little prickly. This was a side of David she didn’t know. She knew he had lovers, of course, but he never talked about them. And now, to find out that while she was getting all excited off their office flirtation, thinking she was doing something illicit, he was busy fucking the events manager in the broom closet? She felt naive, and she hated feeling naive. “You hook up Friday? I seem to recall Jaime being one of the rally girls for happy hour, now that I think about it.”
“Sarah, are you jealous?” Why was he looking at her like she’d grown a second set of eyes?
“No, of course not.” The lie wouldn’t convince her 5-year-old daughter.
“We didn’t hook up Friday. No. I went home alone. Cried myself to sleep. That better?”
Sarah cracked a smile. “A little.”
“You know, that’s not really fair of you. You made it pretty clear that we couldn’t go there, so you don’t really have the right to be jealous.”
“Then it’s a good thing I’m not. Tell me, because I’ve always wondered. Are her tits real?” Sarah shocked herself with her language. She’d suspected that she was getting drunk—they were on their second bottle now—but now she knew. ‘Tits’ was more Jack’s lexicon, not hers.
David hesitated, seemed to consider addressing her petulance, then decided to ignore it. “No, but they’re pretty reasonable, don’t you think?”
“So that’s what she’s got on me?” The wine was making her pouty. It felt liberating, actually. Like she’d been handed a permission slip that said she didn’t have to follow the rules anymore.
“She had availability on you, that’s worth a hell of a lot more than a pair of tits.” Now David was getting prickly. “Besides, from what I’ve seen, you can more than compete.” He said it while glancing into the V cut of her dress.
“They’re not as big.”
“And I don’t really like them big. Yours are definitely more my speed.” Their eyes met before she demurred away.
“Let’s talk about something else.”
“Sure. Like what?” David was looking proud of himself.
“That thing you said about building up the nerve to say goodbye to me... were you for real?”
“As honest as I can get without crossing a line.”
“And if I’d come out Friday, what would have happened?”
God, the way he was looking at her. She felt like melting into a puddle on her chair. “I don’t think I would have cried myself to sleep.”
Sarah covered her mouth as she laughed. David made her feel so young and silly. “Well, you probably would have if you’d tried something.”
He raised an eyebrow, a challenge prepared on his tongue, but let it go. He clearly respected the line they’d set, and while he really did seem to have been ready to cross it last week, he also seemed sincere in thinking the moment had passed for good. That let Sarah breathe easier. There were no expectations after all, and when the check arrived, they could split it and go their separate ways.
“So, the weather in California will be a big change from here...”
Around and around they went, avoiding the question that would come at the end of the night. Jack watched it like a
set to a pop song. It was as exciting to watch as it was inevitable.
The little things hit him hardest: the way Sarah touched her neck when listening to David; how she’d reach between them to link hands when making a point. In profile, Jack could see the way she nervously fidgeted with her dress, pulling it down her thighs like it was too short, crossing her legs over and over. David was just as infatuated, although he did a better job hiding it. He stared at her just a moment too long, studying her as she put in her order with the waitress or when she glanced about the restaurant.
Jack didn’t think she even knew he was there. At the beginning of the evening, she’d glanced around when David wasn’t looking, but by the end, she stopped trying.
Things began to tail off. He watched as Sarah stood, excusing herself to the ladies room. Jack traced her across the room, then stood to follow. He was there when she emerged, waiting in the hall at the back of the restaurant.
“Having a good time?” he asked.
He was caught off guard when she flung herself into his arms. Her kiss tasted of Beaujolais and something savory.
“Take me home, Jack.” She pressed her soft curves against him. Her arms shook where they clung to his neck and she buried her face in his shoulder. She wore her spicier perfume—the one she saved for Friday Night Date Nights. He looked behind her, at the door to the bathroom, and considered dragging her in there.
“I will if that’s what you really want, but remember what today is. I don’t want you to have any regrets.”
Sarah looked up at him, feeling tiny in his arms. “This isn’t just about me.” She reached between them and found him hard. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
Could it be that simple? Was Sarah’s fantasy less about doing things with David and more about submitting to Jack? No, she clearly wanted her younger coworker. But like the Sarah he’d grown to love, she needed permission to act badly. “Are you attracted to David?”
“Have you thought about kissing him?”
Her voice was barely a whisper. “Yes.”
“I want you to do all those things. I want you to let go. Tonight, you’re not Sarah Carter. You’re just Sarah, a woman who can do whatever she wants, and have none of it count tomorrow.”
“Jack, I don’t think I can.” It went against every instinct she had, no matter how seductive the thought was.
“You can. You just need a little push. So here’s what I want you to do. First, fix your lipstick. Then I want you to go out there and...”
Sarah wound her way back to David’s table. A small part of her hoped he would have gotten tired of waiting and had left. The rest of her worried that he had done just that. When she got back, he was still there in all his fresh, square-jawed beauty.