On Friday, instead of going straight to his apartment, he went to Karine’s. He rang the doorbell. This time she answered. She seemed startled to see him. “Hello, Jason,” she said.
“Hello, Karine,” he replied. “We need to talk.” She was wearing the same top she was wearing the last time they spoke. His heart was racing as usual but he was tensed up. Seeing her and straightening things out between them had been on his mind all week.
“Come in,” she said, opening the door wider so that he could walk past her and into the foyer. After he removed his shoes, he followed her into the living-room. “Would you like something to drink?”
“You-you look upset.”
“I am. The last time we saw each other you questioned me about Michelle and made insinuations about us but you didn’t give me a chance to say anything.”
“I’m sorry. I-I was upset.”
“Upset? Upset about what?”
“Upset that you and she were seeing so much of each other outside of the office.”
“When I accepted Mr. Chang’s invitation to have dinner with him and his wife, I had no idea that Michelle had been invited too. And her giving me a ride to work that morning was his idea, not mine. I would have found an alternative way to get to the office. Michelle and I had lunch on one occasion. It was on my first day at the company. I accepted because it was the polite thing to do. I didn’t do it because I was interested in her. And when we went out for a group dinner I thought it would be a good way to get to know my co-workers better in a more relaxed atmosphere.”
“So, there’s nothing between you and her?”
“No. I’ve told you that there isn’t. Don’t you believe me?”
“I did but when I saw her, I wasn’t sure anymore. She’s Asian like you and pretty.”
“Yes, she’s Asian like me and yes, she’s pretty but I’m not attracted to her, Karine. I’m attracted to you.”
“I know that you’re attracted to me. I saw the way you were looking at me that night when we went out for dinner.”
“I couldn’t take my eyes off you then and I can’t take my eyes off you now. You’re a very beautiful and desirable woman.”
“There’s no denying that we are attracted to each other but, Michelle–“
“This evening when I was in my office, I was about to call you when she walked in. She asked me to have dinner with her on Saturday. I turned her down.”
“Yes, and I made it very clear to her that I don’t want to be more than friends and co-workers with her. She asked if it was because of you. I said that even if you weren’t in the picture, it wouldn’t change anything. I still wouldn’t be interested in dating her. Do you believe me?”
“Yes. Are you still upset with me?”
“Have you eaten dinner as yet?”
“No. I haven’t been home as yet. I came straight here from work.”
“Will you have dinner with me?”
Jason nodded. “Yes.”
She smiled. “Thank you.”
“I’ll just go home, shower and change and come back in about twenty minutes.”
“All right. I’ll see you in twenty minutes.” She preceded him to the door. Before she opened it, she hugged him and he hugged her back, closing his eyes at the feel of her body against his. It felt so soft. Heat burned in his loins. He wondered if she could feel his arousal.
When they drew apart, they stared at each other for several, heart-palpitating minutes before she opened the door and he left. He was really looking forward to having dinner with her. As soon as he let himself into his apartment, he stripped and took a quick hot shower before changing into a white shirt and jeans. He noticed that there was a message on his answering machine. He pressed the button to listen.
It was his mother saying something about Particle board planters and subterranean snails. She was thinking about using particle boards in the garden but worried if it would be okay and not toxic for the plants. Then, she worried about snails hiding in her garden, lying in wait like a network of criminals, just itching to chew up her precious plants. She barely managed to say, “Don’t forget to call on Sunday. I will be extremely upset if you don’t,” before the machine cut her off.
He deleted the message. “Don’t worry, Ma, I won’t forget to call.” He knew that he would never hear the end of it if he did. Smiling, he grabbed a bottle of Chardonnay and his keys and left the apartment, his heart skipping a beat at the prospect of spending the evening with Karine.