TITLE: The Brevity Of Roses
Meredith sat at her usual corner table in Coelho’s finest French restaurant making a fool of herself. Over a man, of all things. Minutes earlier, she had glanced up from her scallops Provençal to see the three younger women at a table across the room all staring wide-eyed toward the dining room entrance. She followed their gaze. They watched a man—a handsome, almost exotic man—as the host led him to a table. The shock of recognition nearly choked her.
Although his face angled away, he had to be Ravi. As he took his seat at a nearby table, she dropped her gaze and laid down her fork. She grabbed her wine glass and drained it to give her heart time to find its normal rhythm. A mixture of joy and fear and memory, jumbled her thinking. Should she speak to him? No, let him make the first move. Should she try to leave now before he noticed her? Useless; he knew where she lived. She was the only reason he would be in town. But why would he turn up here after all these years?
What would he see, when he looked at her now? She tucked a lock of hair behind one ear and straightened her neckline. If only she were wearing something in salmon, Ravi had loved her dressed in that color. He said it brought out the blue in her eyes, but it had been years since she owned anything in—
All these years.
She looked at him again. His eyes were downcast, his face partly hidden behind a menu, but she could see his hairline, his smooth brow, his hands. Her spirits plunged. He wasn’t Ravi. Of course, he wasn’t. This man was too young.
My lord, what if she had called out Ravi’s name? She ducked her head. Her face flamed and her hand shook as she poked her fork around the remains of her lunch. She breathed in little sips and puffs until her common sense self took over and forced her to slow down, breathe deeply, find her center. A minute later, she dared a quick study while the man gave his order. Then, she signaled for a refill.
She kept up the pretense of reading. From time to time, she sipped her third glass of wine and looked up as if to glance casually around the room, but her eyes always darted toward him for another look. He read now. This preoccupation is ridiculous. She forced her attention back to her article and read the same paragraph three times without comprehension. This behavior verges on obsession.
She looked up again, but this time, out the window, away from him. The rain-laden clouds had offered only a false promise. If she left now, she would have plenty of time to garden before sunset. Or maybe she should stop by the salon; see if Teri could work her in for a style change. Speaking of which, Judith had been after her to “knock fifteen years off” her wardrobe for quite awhile, so maybe her time would be better spent shopping. Anyway, it must be nearly three o’clock. She should leave. What excuse did she have for lingering here?
Meredith finished her wine and sighed. She had fought—and lost—the struggle. Turning away from the window, she picked up her magazine. She couldn’t leave now; he hadn’t even been served yet.
Unlike her friends, Meredith seldom encouraged desiring looks from men, but she knew she attracted her share of them. She just never imagined herself on the giving end. She simply did not stare at strange men. But, how could she ignore this one? This man with his beautiful skin—like fine tea-colored silk—reminding her of Ravi’s. His hair, as black as any she had ever seen, curled down to his shoulders, and if he chanced to look up from the book he now read, she knew his eyes would seem as deep and dark as temple pools on a moonless night. And his mouth—
“Would you like me to bring you another glass of the pinot grigio?” asked the server.
Startled, she said, “What?” and then, “Oh! Yes, please.”
Soon, she would order coffee, and if she ordered dessert, that could prolong her stay even more. Now, what had she been thinking before the server interrupted her? Oh, yes, his mouth. She smiled at her silliness. You would think she spent her days reading romance novels rather than anthropology journals. All right then. Be serious. She would look at him that way; what could his ancestry be—was it Indian, Greek possibly, or Middle Eastern … ahhh … a Persian Prince?
Oh, my. Meredith took a deep breath and tried to clear her head.
She focused on his book, which she recognized and didn’t think much of, but at least he seemed too absorbed to notice her scrutiny. What concerned her were those three women at the table just beyond his—fringe members of her social circle—who had, by now, noticed her fascination. She caught their glances, their quiet laughter, and knew they judged her pathetic. Even though Meredith’s friends joked about the water supply to her house being piped directly from the fountain of youth, clearly, she was too old for this man.
Yet, there she sat.
Now on her fourth glass of wine, she wondered if he might be a lonely traveler who would welcome her as a tour guide—an interpreter even—though she had grown rusty in most of the languages she knew, and if he spoke Farsi, well to be honest, she was never fluent in that to begin—
Good lord. What was she thinking? It was time to order that coffee. Strong coffee. A double espresso.
She found herself looking straight into his eyes.
Frozen in mid-stare, Meredith watched him speak briefly with the server, then push his chair back, pick up his book, drop it in his leather messenger bag and—Oh, my lord!—walk directly toward her table.