“February has never been a good month for me.”
The fingers she wrapped around the fluted glass weren’t long but they were beautiful; the nails smooth and clean with naturally white tips. He found himself staring at their pink beds, following her pulse up the tiny blue lines of her heart.
“I was married in February. And divorced in February.”
Her voice was low, flat, devoid of self-pity or recrimination. He imagined this was how she had sounded this morning reading less than stellar sales figures to her staff.
“Makes it easier to remember the dates when the bad things happen in the same month,” she laughed. A throaty laugh that was only an echo of the one he remembered.
He looked up.
“So…” she said, smiling. “Your turn.”
He wanted to take her hand, to reach across the table, across the years and tell her that it was alright, that everything would be alright. But he knew that was a lie, and he knew she would know that it was, so he sat back in the booth, recrossing his legs, away from her.
“Well, there’s not much to tell really. I mean, not much that you don’t already know.”
“No, not much at all,” she said, re-filling their glasses. “Just most of your life.”
Now it was his turn to laugh, which he did, louder than he’d expected. She winked at him.
“You are still so beautiful, Cass, ” he said without meaning to. This caught her off guard and she blushed — something she evidently still hated, reaching up quickly to rub her cheek as though she could erase the rising blood.
“And you are still impossible.” She gave him a half-smile and one dimple. “And you are not getting out of this. Spill it.”
He had never been able to deny her anything and this was no exception. For the next hour, he spoke almost non-stop, pausing only for an occasional sip of Meritage to wet his mouth enough to go on speaking.
He told her of his life in the city that he loved and she hated, of making his way up the slippery slope to District Attorney, of the cases that made him proud and those that didn’t, of women he had thought he loved, but only liked, and of the nieces and nephews whose love made liveable the decision to remain single. Through it all, she sat still, her black eyes silent guardians, keeping their glasses full, otherwise moving only to tuck her legs in the old familiar way that somehow made him feel safe. Only when he told her of his mother’s death did she speak.
“Oh, James…” Tears filled her eyes so quickly that he thought he imagined them. “Were you with her?”
Not, “I’m sorry,” or “That’s too bad,” nor any of the thousand and one cliches hurriedly uttered by the well-meaning who have nothing to say, yet cannot live with silence. No, not his Cass. She knew just what to say.
“Were you able to be with her?”
He was suddenly tired, exhausted, spent. All the words had left him. He was barely able to shake his head.
She said nothing, but reached across the table to lace her fingers in his, her hand a warm, smooth lifeline he wanted never to let go. He squeezed tight and she allowed him to.
“She loved you so much,” she finally said.
He nodded, looking down at their entwined fingers, the tips of hers purpling a little from the strength of his grasp. He loosened it. “And she loved you too.”
“Yes,” she said, gently pulling her hand away. “I know.”
The window outside their booth had darkened, streetlights bounced against the glass. On the corner stood a man in a rain coat, clutching a large bouquet of flowers.
“Valentine’s Day,” he said, watching the man hail a cab. “Who plans an out of town sales meeting on Valentine’s Day?”
“I do,” she said simply.
He looked at her. “Of course,” he said. “I forgot — it’s your company.”
She smiled at him; the full smile now, the one that had not changed in all these years. He returned it. Why hadn’t he thought to bring her flowers?
“It’s ok,” she said, reading his mind. “It’s just another day.”
© s rogers 14 February 2009