It was a beautiful autumn day and he was taking Briony out for lunch at Kitty Fishers. He hoped that Velma wouldn’t turn up there too. It still unnerved him that on the two occasions when they had ended up eating at the same place, both times, she was with a man.
This morning, when he went into the office, he had been tempted to go to her and ask her about Akello and Karl but common sense prevailed. It really wasn’t any of his business and he should be focusing on his relationship with Briony.
Still, he couldn’t get what William said out of his mind. It had plagued him all day yesterday after they parted company and even now. What he said was preposterous. I’m not attracted to Velma Moore. I can’t even stand the woman. How could I possibly be attracted to her?
He glanced at his watch. Briony should be there shortly. She was truly a classy woman and he really liked her. She was beautiful, charming and refreshing and yet…where was the spark? Where was the sexual chemistry? What was wrong with him? What was wrong with her? Nothing was wrong with her. Briony was his dream woman but why didn’t she excite him? There were times when she touched his arm while she was talking and he felt nothing–not even a flicker.
Again, he thought of what William had said. That night at the restaurant, when he saw Velma in that dress, it stirred something inside him and yet nothing happened when he saw Briony who looked lovely in her outfit. What would happen if Velma were to touch his arm? He didn’t want to think about it. Nor did he want to remember what happened yesterday when she had leaned over him to look at something on his computer screen. He could smell her subtle perfume. She was wearing a red top and a black skirt. Her arms were exposed. They looked smooth. Being that close to her unnerved him and he was relieved when she moved away to stand in front of his desk.
She stood looking down at him. “The banner looks great but I think you should see what other fonts would work better for the logo.”
“I’ll do that.”
“Good. Send me the samples when you’re done.”
“I will.” His face felt hot and his trousers felt uncomfortably tight across his hips. Why didn’t she just leave instead of standing there looking down at him as if reminding him that he was her subordinate?
“How is your friend, William?”
“Oh. Well, the next time you talk to him, congratulate him for me.” And with that, she turned and walked away, leaving him sitting there wondering why he had reacted like that when she asked about William.
Instead of telling her that he was fine, he had informed her rather forcefully that he was engaged. Why? Perhaps he thought that her interest in his friend was more than casual but why should it matter to him if it was?
He wondered what William say if he told him. Would he tell him that he acted the way he did because he was jealous? That was as preposterous as him suggesting that he was attracted to Velma. To be jealous would mean that he had feelings for her which he most certainly did not.
He didn’t want to admit that the spark he should have been feeling with Briony he was feeling with Velma. He didn’t want to admit that William might be right. No, he wasn’t attracted to Velma. Whatever he felt, it had nothing whatsoever to do with attraction or sexual desire. No, in time, he would come to feel what he ought to with Briony.
There she was, coming up the path. Smiling, he went outside to greet her. They hugged. “Hello, Briony. You look lovely as usual.”
She blushed. “Thank you, Tadeas. And you look handsome as usual.”
“Thank you. Did you have trouble finding parking?”
“No, not at all.”
“I hope you don’t mind walking to the restaurant. It’s just about ten minutes away.”
“No, I don’t mind at all. It’s a lovely day and I can do with the exercise.”
“Let’s go then.”
“My parents are back on the farm. I mentioned that I had invited you there and they encouraged me to bring you again so that you could meet them.”
“I told one of my co-workers and my boss that I visited the farm. They were both surprised. They don’t expect someone like me to be on a farm.”
“What do you mean someone like you?”
“I have blue blood running through my veins.”
She laughed. “They think you’re a snob.”
“Yes, I guess they do. I told my boss that I grew up in the countryside but she said that it’s not the same thing as growing up on a farm.”
“That’s true. But anyone can appreciate life on a farm, even blue blooded people too. Most rich people came from humble beginnings.”
“Yes. My great-grandfather did. His life was the classic rags to riches story. He even wrote his autobiography. I’m sorry I never got to know him. He died before my father was even born.”
“I’d love to read your great-grandfather’s autobiography.”
“I have a copy. I could lend it to you.”
“That would be great. Thanks.”
They reached the restaurant and were shown to their table. After they ordered, he said to her, “My parents are throwing their annual charitable ball at the family mansion on Saturday. I was thinking that if you weren’t busy that you would like to go with me.”
“I’m not busy and I’d love to go.”
“Which charity is it for?”
“It’s World Child which provides health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more for children. It’s my mother’s favorite charity. She has several.”
“I like the sound of World Child. It sounds similar to other charities which are helping children in developed countries.”
“Unlike most of the other gala charitable events, the tickets to this one begin at $100.”
“Considering the work the charity is doing, $100 isn’t a lot.”
“People are encouraged to pay whatever they want but it can’t be under $100.”
“I think it’s great that we can choose how much we’d like to pay. It’s our personal way of contributing to a very worthy cause.”
“Yes. It’s always a blessing to help those in need. Too often we take things like health care, immunizations, clean and safe water, sanitation, education and nutrition for granted. Growing up, my father always taught me to appreciate what I had because there were so many who less fortunate.”
“My parents taught Emily and me the same thing and Emily taught her kids whom I’m sure will teach their kids.”
“Appreciating and being thankful for what we have is something that everyone should learn at some point in their lives.”
“I absolutely agree.”
“I have very important question to ask you.”
“Do we have dessert or do we skip it?”
She laughed and touched him lightly on his arm. “I think we should have it.”
“I agree.” He glanced down at the menu. “I’ll have the Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream. The last time I had it, I was ten.”
“That’s a long time to go without having Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream. I’ll have that too although the Blackberry Sorbet sounds good.”
As they enjoyed their generous helping of the ice cream, she asked him questions about his childhood, laughing heartily at some of his misadventures. She told him more about her life on the farm. An half-hour later, they were standing beside her parked car which was at the end of the block from where he worked. “Well, thanks for lunch,” she said.
“I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Yes. I’ll pick you up at six.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’ll see you then. Goodbye, Briony.”
He watched her get into the car and drive away before he headed back to the office. Lunch with Briony was pleasant. He thought about the numerous times she touched him on his hand or arm. She touched him frequently and more than once he caught her staring at him when he glanced up from the menu or from his plate. She had a habit of tilting her head to the side or leaning forward when he was talking. And she blushed a lot.
Her flirtatious behavior had been very becoming and flattering but it was painfully obvious to him that she was more into him than he was into her. When she touched him, he felt nothing. There was no spark. You can’t force or fake chemistry. It’s either there or it’s not. What on earth was he going to do?