Part 41: "I should have known there was a man in your life—look at your cute little green dress." (serialized fiction)
No one has made me an honest dinner since, I don't know, my first year with Viggy, she mused. In my last romantic obsession, it was me constantly monitoring his happiness—and what an unrewarding anxiety that was—not him wondering about my happiness.
The difference was so striking that Alexia wondered if she'd ever been with a man who was actually solicitous of her in the manner of R.T. , and her analytic side coolly sorted through her memories and drew this conclusion: no one had been as solicitous as R.T. , even this early in a romance. The men she'd been drawn to all seemed to detect her fear of not measuring up, and each had effortlessly exploited her insecurities—not in malice but as if nature had deemed it so. It was shameful to admit, but she'd sensed Viggy's affair before he'd confessed it, and yet she'd demanded nothing of him.
To say Alexia was wary of placing too many expectations on such a tentative romance would be an understatement, for she quickly established a practical litmus test in her mind: if I would miss having R.T. around, then I'll keep him around. I am not in love with him, or even mildly touched with the fever I felt for Mr. Doom, a.k.a. He Who Dumped Me. R.T. is amusing, and kind, and a pleasant interlude from loneliness, that's all.
A sharply dressed young fop waiting for the 41 Union bus eyed her appreciatively as she passed, and Alexia caught herself wondering why she'd picked the tight-fitting green dress to wear that morning. It had hung untouched in her closet for many months, and Alexia confessed the reason for her decision to set aside her first choice, a demur blue skirt and long-sleeved blouse: the hope that R.T. would respond like the young man awaiting the bus.
Her determination not to allow any romantic hope to flicker to life lasted two blocks, at which point she entered "Well Heeled Etc." After waiting for Katy to ring up a customer's purchase, Alexia unloaded her tale of Ruby's death and unexpected intimacy with her uninvited guest on her friend with the alacrity of a warehouseman emptying his last forklift Friday afternoon at 3:59 p.m.
"There's a man living in my house," she announced, and Katy's large gamine eyes expanded into brown saucers as Alexia elaborated that he'd clairvoyantly made her dinner, listened to her most sympathetically on one of the worst days of her life, and then brought her coffee the next morning.
"Sweet Loretta, slow down," Katy exclaimed, and then lowered her voice. "I should have known there was a man in your life—look at your cute little green dress."
"It isn't true love,” Alexia disclaimed. “My last little episode inoculated me against that disease. It's just interesting how this happened."
"Just coffee in bed, and you running in here in a tight little dress to breathlessly tell me all about it."
"I am not breathless."
"No, but you do have a certain rosy glow about you." Katy's clouded expression cleared and she exclaimed, "Oh, I get it. This guy is nobody you want to show off, but he's nice."
"You're right, he is nothing to look at," Alexia retorted coldly. "Not like your Prince Charming. And he isn't an investment guru, either. He is just a mere mortal who was burned out of his home and who made me dinner. Does your wonderful husband make you dinner?"
"No," Katy replied, "We usually go out, but he does make ranchos huevos for me on Sunday morning."
"And I'm sure they're perfect," Alexia remarked acidly, and Katy issued a huge sigh. "This isn't a competition," she said, but to Alexia that sounded like denying rain was wet.
"I thought you'd be happy for me," Alexia said accusingly. "It's just a little romance." Katy grasped the depth of the wound she'd so cavalierly sliced in her taller, exquisitely vulnerable friend and she blurted, "I am, I am."
"It's just a little romance," Alexia repeated. "Not a cruise ship heading for Wedding Island."
Katy brightened and then whispered, "You never know. You may get blown off course and end up there."
"Not with this guy," Alexia reassured her, and then both turned as the door bell tinkled merrily and two leggy young women in stylish Panama hats entered the boutique in a faint cloud of expensive perfume.
As she two women began browsing her rows of footwear, Alexia mustered an entrepreneur's welcoming grin and thought, I've already been to Wedding Island on the Shotgun Marriage Tour, and once was enough.
Even as Alexia's thoughts expressed a cynical resolve born of disappointment, changes unfolding inside her were offering a deeply ironic betrayal of her world-weary pronouncement.
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.