Evelyn clicked the cap back on the marker. She rummaged through her junk drawer to find the scotch tape and pulled off four long strips to secure the two pieces of paper to the wall in front of her bed – perfect viewing for when she woke up in the morning. Hastily drawn in block letters were the words “Give It Time.”
She stood back from her handiwork and began to slowly and sadly peel away the night. First came her eyelashes, silky black and damp with tears. She sniffed and pulled off her dress, unhooked her bra, kicked off her pumps. After a rubbing her hands across her splotchy face, she wrapped herself in a chenille robe and curled in bed.
Funny, she’d always had a feeling about Charlie. Even though they’d been together for seven years, she’d had regularly fantasies about him cheating. About her walking in on him with another woman, and she would walk off in her self-righteous glory, and he would come begging, and she’d tell him, “It’s over!” And then she could return to a life of singledom and glorious girls’ nights without having to worry about him.
It didn’t happen exactly as she’d thought.
They’d gone out to dinner. He’d held her hand across the table. She’d gazed at him over the candle, taking in the way the flame highlighted the crinkles around his eyes, his full lips, the crease where the bridge of his nose met his forehead. He was so cute.
They ate, they talked, they kissed. He wanted to go home, she wanted to go out. They separated, he left.
Evelyn had met up with Cassie at a nearby bar for dry martinis and girl talk. She mentioned Charlie going home early (“I don’t know, he just said he didn’t feel like going out, I guess. He’s tired. He’s got a lot going on at work. You know how it is. It’s fine with me that he stays home. Better that he gets his rest so we can go to your dinner party next weekend. It’s fine, really. It’s fine.”), and Cassie pursed her lips.
“Honey, you know I love you. If you knew John were doing something that would upset me, you’d tell me, right?”
“Right,” Evelyn responded.
“Well, I’d do the same for you.”
“What are you talking about?” The martini sloshed uncomfortably in Evelyn’s stomach.
“I’ve just heard rumors, that’s all.”
“What have you heard?”
“John just mentioned that Charlie had gotten close to someone.”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t say.”
Evelyn set down the martini, her appetite for olives and gin gone. She stood up shakily and picked the coat off her stool.
“Be careful, honey. I love you. Call me, please.”
Evelyn nodded, reached to give her best friend a hug.
“I love you, too.”
She went outside, welcoming the cool air after the sudden stifling heat in the bar. She called a cab. And she wrapped her coat tightly around her.
“Evelyn!” Cassie shouted through the locked door. She pounded her fist again. “Evelyn, will you please open this door?”
Evelyn groaned. Break-up hangover. Her head pounded, her stomach was unsteady, her eyes were gritty with shallow sleep.
“I’m not going anywhere. You get your ass up, and open this door right now!”
Evelyn rolled out of bed, landing on her knees. “Damnit,” she muttered before pulling herself up. She adjusted her twisted pajamas and made her way to the door, her bare feet slapping against the floor.
“What?” She asked, pulling open the door.
“Oh, dear God,” Cassie said. “Get back inside.”
Evelyn stepped aside, while Cassie walked in. She laid two grocery bags of cookies, chocolate and potato chips on the counter and turned to look at her friend.
“Where’s your hairbrush?”
“The bathroom,” Evelyn replied. She walked to the couch and threw herself on it, pulling down the blanket laid across the back. She flipped on the television, settled on “The Real Housewives of New York City.”
“It’s time for damage control,” Cassie said, returning to the room with a hairbrush, deodorant and mouth spray in hand.
Evelyn dragged the blanket over her head.
“I know you guys just broke up like a week ago, but I have someone I want you to meet.”
“Cassie, I’m not ready.”
“Honey, I know you’re not ready, but you’ll never be ready. Just give yourself a chance.”
“I’m giving it time.”
“Yeah, I know. I saw the sign.”
“I saw a sign. A sign with long legs, perfect hair and lingerie from La Perla.”
“Please. You and I both know his taste isn’t that good.”
Evelyn lowered the blanket and eyed Cassie.
“That’s not how I meant it. You were too good for him. Way better than he deserved. Now is your chance to finally realize what you’re worth. Sit up.”
Evelyn sat up, let Cassie run the brush through her tangled hair. Maybe Cassie was right. She’d been making excuses for a long time. And, the truth was, she’d always had reservations about Charlie. Whenever they were together – without the distraction of T.V., movies, friends – she’d worried about not having anything to talk about. It was exhausting coming up with things to say. Shouldn’t that have been easy?
“Who’s the guy?”
“Yes!” Cassie punched the hairbrush in the air. “You’ll really like him. He’s sweet, friendly, charming. His name is Levi.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a writer. For a men’s magazine.”
“I don’t know, who cares! He’s good-looking, and he’s available.”
Evelyn looked down at her lap, at her fingers. She flexed them, examined her nails.
Cassie slapped the brush down on the table.
“Let’s go pick out something for you to wear. It’ll be good, trust me.”
“I trust you.”
They walked to Evelyn’s closet, passing through the bedroom and the sign.
Evelyn glanced briefly at it then let herself be tugged along.
“You look great in red,” Cassie said.
Evelyn and Levi walked down the hallway, fingers entwined, eyes locked. Evelyn smiled, suddenly shy and embarrassed, and looked away. Levi, delighted, unlaced his fingers to wrap an arm around her and kiss her on the temple. Evelyn blushed, her cheeks hot to the touch.
“So, would you like to come in? I think I have some cake, if you’d be interested.”
“Ok,” he agreed.
Evelyn combed through her purse, searching for her keys. They jangled in her hands as she clumsily unlocked the door. She giggled and shrugged, then mentally kicked herself for looking foolish.
She pushed open the door, held it for Levi as he walked in and surveyed her place. It was clean – sort of – and Evelyn scooped up scattered music to pile on a chair.
“Sorry, it’s not very neat in here” she said.
“It’s fine,” Levi said, taking a seat on the coach, laying an arm across the back. “Why don’t you come sit with me?”
“Don’t you want cake?”
Evelyn smoothed the skirt of her dress, ran a hand over her mane of curls, mentally said a quick “Don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up, don’t mess this up,” before settling herself on the couch within the circle of Levi’s arm.
“So,” she said, giggling again. And kicked herself for it.
“So,” he said. “Tell me more about yourself.”
“Ok, um…I’m a classical pianist. I play with the symphony, and I play with some ensembles around town. I teach in my spare time.”
“Could you teach me sometime?”
“Sure,” Evelyn said, relaxing into his body. Music was always a comforting, familiar topic for her. “What about you? What’s your passion?”
“I have lots of passions,” he said, winking.
Oh, God, she thought. He winked. It was so awful when guys winked, but when he did it…it caused a ripple through her.
He leaned over, kissed her cheek, the lobe of her ear. His fingers tangled in her hair to rub the back of her head.
Although she wanted, desperately, to let him take her over, she began to feel awkward, off-balance. Her mind was racing, flashes of Charlie, of his comforting, familiar touch. The thought brought a wave of longing, an ache deep in her chest that overwhelmed the brief curl of lust. She leaned back, turned to face him.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I just went through a bad break up. I’m not ready yet.”
Levi continued his gentle massaging, his fingers moving to the nape of her neck.
He angled toward her, laid his lips softly on hers. She kissed him back. He withdrew, gripped her hands and gave them a reassuring squeeze.
“How about that cake?”