I wore the ballet flats.
He noticed but said nothing, and rattled off the menu for dinner to me in short order, handing me a glass of wine as he did, with a smile.
We're having Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Are you hungry?
Starving. He seems to be on his best.
Can you wait a half-hour or should I do up a plate of fruit in the meantime?
I'm fine to wait. Will there be garlic bread?
I have a baguette. Would you like to make some?
Sure. I kick off my shoes, put my wine glass on the island and get to work sawing the bread into slices with the giant serrated knife he keeps in the block. When I'm a third of the way through I wrap the remaining loaf, tuck it into the fridge and pull out the butter dish and minced garlic.
I enjoy cooking with you, Neamhchiontach.
Come over any night of the week. I'm there same time every day.
And most of last week.
Did you want to talk about that? You and August are vying for Most Put Out.
No. No, not really. I just wished you kept in touch while you were gone.
A call or something. Just so I can hear your voice. He drinks his wine in one swallow but I heard it. His voice cracked ever so slightly.
For what it's worth, I did miss you.
Then next time, call.
Let's get the bread in the oven. This took no time at all.
Soon we are eating outside at the little bistro table in the far corner of his patio, jutting out over the cliff. Usually I'd be hesitant to remain here on the frightening part of the cliff but this is my third glass of wine and I have no fear of anything anymore. I always try to front-load my courage for Caleb. Dinner is delicious. Tiny olives pop between my teeth. I eat everything on my plate. So does he.
I rise to clear the dishes.
Sit, Bridget. Not a suggestion, it's a clear order.
I sink back to my seat. He softens.
I'm sorry. Can we just enjoy this? How are you? Not too warm? Too cold?
No, I'm just...what is it?
I just want to enjoy dinner with you and then I'm afraid I'm going to have to send you home.
Did I do something wrong? Panic builds. I need things. Where are they?
On the contrary. I made some beautiful plans for tonight with you but I'm afraid you'll have to come back another night. I'm very tired. I'll walk you home. He stands and come around to take my chair. Take the wine with you. He brings the bottle to walk me home. You and Lochlan can have a nightcap.
Once across the drivewat at the door he hands me the bottle of wine and gives me a lingering kiss. I'm sorry if I wasn't able to give you the night you were expecting.
Come in with me.
As I said-
We'll go to sleep. We can have a nightcap with Lochlan and go to sleep. You said you sleep better with me, this should help.
Did you ask Loch-
I don't have to, remember? It's in the rules.
Why are you doing this for me?
Who said I'm doing it for you?