It was Chelsey’s 19th birthday and she was meeting her mother for lunch. It was a nice little family restaurant which she used to go with her father. The last time she was there was a couple of years ago with a few friends. It hadn’t changed much. Last night her mother had made the reservations.
Although it was nice that she and her mother were going to have lunch together for the first time in a long time, she was more looking forward to that night when she would celebrate her birthday with Gideon and her friends. They were going to go to Old Street Records where they would enjoy pizza, cocktails and live music.
Her mother was sitting outside. Her eyes traveled disapprovingly over her as she approached the table. “Chelsey, couldn’t you have found something better than that top to wear?” she chided.
“What’s wrong with it?” Chelsey asked as she removed her handbag and sat down.
“It’s too short. Your midriff and navel are exposed.”
“Mom, I’m not a child.”
“I know. You’re a young woman but–“
“Let’s not quarrel about my top.”
“I hope you don’t plan on wearing something like that tonight when you go out with Gideon.”
“I don’t think he would mind.”
“Trust me, he isn’t going to approve of any outfit which exposes areas that should be covered up anymore than your father would have.”
“Could we please talk about something else?”
“I like the way your hair looks. It gives you that classic Hollywood look.”
“How was your spa treatment this morning?”
“It was fantastic. So relaxing. I can’t believe I’ve never done it before.”
“Good. I’m happy you enjoyed.”
“It’s too bad you couldn’t come.”
“I had things to do. Anyway, we’re having lunch at your favorite restaurant. Shall we order now?”
“So, where are you, Gideon and your friends going this evening?”
“We’re going to Old Street Records where they have great pizza, cocktails and live music.”
“Don’t drink too much.”
“I can’t believe that Gideon is tagging along.”
“He isn’t tagging along. I invited him. My friends like him.”
“He does seem to have a way with young people.”
“Yes, he does.”
“Well, I hope he enjoys himself.”
“I’ll make sure that he does.”
When the waiter came, they gave him their orders. His eyes lingered on Chelsey. “I think he likes you,” Ruth told her as soon as he was gone.
“He’s not my type.”
“Why not? He seems very nice and he’s very good-looking.”
“He’s too young.”
Ruth rolled her eyes. “Oh, yes. I forgot. You’re into men old enough to be your father.”
“I can’t help that I’m attracted to older men. There are lots of women your age who are attracted to younger men. If you weren’t married, you won’t have a problem hooking up with one because you still look great for your age.”
“It’s a compliment, Mom. I hope I look like you when I’m your age.”
Ruth didn’t answer. She wondered what Chelsey would say if she knew that she had hooked up with a younger man. Dushan was 43 and she was 54. Dushan. How she wished they were still seeing each other. While Chelsey and Gideon were out celebrating tonight at Old Street Records, she could have gone over to his flat. They could have had dinner delivered and sat on the sofa, watching TV while they ate. Afterwards, they could have gone to his bedroom and…
The waiter returned with their orders. Again his gaze lingered on Chelsey but she ignored him. “I think you were a bit standoffish with him,” Ruth reproached her.
“I don’t want him to get any ideas.”
“You could still be nice to him and if he asks you for a date, just let him down gently.”
“Where were you a moment ago?” she asked, abruptly changing the subject.
Ruth blinked. “What do you mean?”
“It looked like you were miles away a moment ago. Where did you go?”
Ruth glanced down at her plate to avoid her daughter’s quizzical stare. “I was thinking about something, that’s all.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“It had to do with work.”
“Oh. Well, now’s not the time to be thinking about work.”
“You’re right. We’re here to celebrate your birthday.” She picked up her glass. “Happy birthday, Chelsey. Here’s to many, many more.”
Chelsey smiled and picked up her glass. “Thanks, Mom. Cheers.”
They talked about different things while they ate. For dessert, Chelsey had a Creamy Lemon Tart while Ruth had Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream. “Any travel plans for the summer?” Chelsey asked her.
“No. I don’t feel like going anywhere this year.”
“I just don’t feel up to it. Staycations are just as good and less expensive.”
“I would really love to visit Besançon and Toulon.”
“Those places sound familiar.”
“I mentioned them to you and you told me that instead of planning trips to France, I should be thinking of getting a summer job.”
“Oh. If going means that much to you, go. I can give you the money for the airfare and you can use your credit card because you have regular income now working for Gideon.”
“And I’ve earned reward points and have frequent flyer miles.”
“You can use that to pay for your airfare and hotel accommodation.”
“Gideon can pay for those.”
“Yes, I’m not going to France alone.”
“Have you and he discussed this?”
“Yes. We both thought that it would be a great idea to go.”
“Yes, if you don’t mind.”
“It’s up to Gideon.”
“I’ll ask him.”
“And if he can’t go, what are you going to do?”
“I’ll just wait until he can go.”
“I would ask you to go with us but I know that you wouldn’t be interested in visiting the birthplace of Victor Hugo or the prison he wrote about in Les Misérables.”
“You’re right about that. I would be bored out of my mind.” She hoped that Gideon would be free to go to France with Chelsey. It would be nice to be alone for a while.
She finished her Hot Chocolate and dabbed her mouth. While her daughter and husband were traipsing about a city with a name she couldn’t pronounce and a notorious prison, she was going to try to win back the man she loved. It would serve that wretched Laval woman right for stealing Dushan away from her.