To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Here is more from Elaine:
I stared at my naked reflection in the full-length mirror —first sideways, then face forward. Did James really think I was fat? Granted, I had baited him with my remark about feeling fat after last night’s dinner, but he didn’t deny it. My eyes burned and I pushed my fists against them to stop the tears. I was being paranoid. I read something into every little thing James said or did. After shaking my head to clear it, I looked at myself again. Yeah, I could stand to lose a few pounds and brunch wasn’t going to help. Although, I was so nervous about meeting with Oliver, I didn’t think I’d have much of an appetite.
All night long I had wrestled with the idea of calling it off. My better angels were screaming in my ear that this was a huge mistake. Then I would rationalize —Ollie and I were friends, why shouldn’t we have brunch together? Because he told you he needed to talk to you today. Right, but that could be about anything. It didn’t have to be about what was going on between us. And just what exactly was going on between us? Nothing. Yet…. And so it went.
Despite the warm day and the humidity from last night’s storm, my self consciousness led me to dress in dark colors so as to flatter my figure. A black knit top with a deep scoop neck paired with slim fitting capris, black ballet flats and with my hair piled in a messy bun, silver hoop earrings to finish the ensemble.
Traffic was light on the way downtown and The Park Hotel had its own garage so I arrived with a little time to spare. Even so, Ollie was waiting for me in the lobby as I exited the elevator. He was standing near the entrance with his back to me. I hesitated, studying him for a minute. He wasn’t as tall as James or as handsome but Ollie had his own appeal —boyish good looks, unruly hair and a crooked smile. No wonder he was a successful salesman. Who could resist that charm?
My heart was racing and my hands were clammy as I slowly approached. I cleared my throat and said, “Hey.” He turned and smiled widely, his eyes lighting up the way they always did when he looked at me. He made a move to close the distance between us, his arms open for a hug.
This was wrong. So wrong. But how could I back out of this now? Without thinking, I did just that —I took a step back.
Header Image: Photograph by Francesca Woodman