On an impulse, Frank calls Marka, inviting her to breakfast the following morning. Afterward, he suffers a fit of nerves, not unlike when he was a teenager. Feeling foolish for behaving like a kid, he gets ready for bed.
He did his nightly workout and brushed his teeth. Moments after crawling into bed, he was asleep.
Frank’s alarm went off at 7:00. He couldn’t believe he’d slept so well. Usually, he put in four good hours, then dozed the rest of the night. The fact he’d gotten eight solid hours surprised him. He showered, fixed himself a mug of coffee and dressed.
Today’s suit looked black, but was really a dark plum. His shirt was lavender with thin blue and white pinstripes. The tie looked like watercolor on wet paper, hazy blotches and swirls of purple, blue, pink and green. A coordinating silk handkerchief was precisely folded to a double point.
Smoothing his hair with his hand, he admired his image. Not bad, although he could use a trim. Maybe he’d hit the in-house barber shop later.
A few minutes before 8:00, he headed to Marka’s room. He tapped on her door at exactly 8:00. She opened breathlessly, smiling.
“Sorry, I’m a little behind. I can’t find my other shoe.”
“Check under the bed?”
“I haven’t unpacked it yet—I don’t think. You know how it goes. Everything shifts in transit.”
“I once found a pair of ladies’ underwear in my shaving kit.”
“Really? Do that often?”
“What? Pack panties in with my razor?”
“Something like that.”
“They ended up there when I shot them across the room like a slingshot.” He mimicked the motion with a smirk before leaning against the doorframe.
“Right.” She cut her eyes at him, disbelieving.
“Seriously.” He held up his hand like he was swearing an oath.
“Must have been a fun night.”
“I’m sure it was.” He smoothed his tie and shirt, saying nothing else.
Marka laughed at him. “You don’t know whether to be proud of yourself or embarrassed.”
“I’ll be both, thanks. I never talk about my fun nights. But it was a good one, as I recall.”
“Decidedly proud of yourself now.”
Frank wasn’t sure where to look. He allowed himself to examine a painting on the wall. It was far more interesting than the hotel art he had in his room.
“Found it!” She crowed from the bedroom. She came out carrying two red, slingback pumps. Balancing with one hand on the kitchen wall, she slipped them on her feet.
Frank caught her elbow when she lost he balance. Her perfume wafted toward him, smelling like flowers and sunshine. She was dressed kind of like June Cleaver in a beige full skirt and tailored white and red striped blouse, with a wide red leather belt.
“You look great,” he complimented honestly. “I like the retro style. It suits you.”
She thanked him with a smile. “Oh, lipstick!” She rushed to the bathroom. “Hair up or down?” She asked as she walked to the living room for her purse.
“I dunno, put it up and let me see.”
She pulled it into a loose chignon, holding it with a piece of tooled red leather and a lethal looking metal skewer. Turning, she let him see the back of her head. He whipped the skewer out, letting her walnut colored locks fall to her shoulders in thick waves.
“Down.” He killed the urge to run his fingers through it. Instead, he handed her the skewer and piece of leather, forcing himself to breathe. “Much better down. Although, it looks great up.”
“Man’s honest opinion.” She shook her head, her hair cascading over her shoulders and down her back.
He drew a deep, shuddering breath. “Oh, yeah.”
Marka giggled as she put the leather and skewer in the bathroom. “Down it is. I’m ready—finally.”
“Not bad. Only seven after. One women I dated was always twenty minutes late. No matter where we were going. If I wanted her ready at eight, I had to tell her seven forty so we’d be on time.”
“Stickler for punctuality?” Marka pulled the door shut behind them.
“Military father, grandfather. . . .”
“And you. You can’t tell me you weren’t. Your posture is simply too superb.”
He smoothed his tie as he led her to the elevator. “Guilty. I was in the Army.”
“Why’d you get out?”
“Came too close to dying a few too many times. I decided not to re-up.”
“Was it awful?” Her eyes softened and she laid her fingers on his arm.
“Yeah. You know, sometimes, it was good.”
“Not often enough.”
“No.” He mashed the elevator button again.
“It won’t come any faster if you keep hitting it,” an old man said from behind him.
“Mr. Witherspoon! Hi there. I want you to meet a new associate. This is Miss Ventimiglia. Excuse me, Doctor Ventimiglia. She’s a psychologist.”
“The Alzheimer’s lady? I saw your show last night. I want to put my Dolly in there. And me, I’ll come. Dolly’s getting a little loopy.” He made a crazy gesture by his right temple.
“I prefer to avoid terms like loopy,” Marka said gently.
© Dellani Oakes