I’d like to think my past doesn’t follow me around like a shadow on a sunny day that I just can’t outrun. I have a good life. I’m smart, have a great job, long legs, perky boobs, and I’ve been told the guy I sort of date is a catch-and-a-half on more than one occasion. So why is it that as I look across the room, scanning for William in the crowded restaurant, part of me hopes he stands me up? What twenty-five-year-old wants to be stood up? One that will continue to coast through life on autopilot, unless circumstances in my perfect life force a change. Perfect is highly overrated. I’m a character in my story, going through the chapters of my life as if it was written by an imaginary person, when I should be the author.
I’ve been this way for a long time. I make responsible choices. My life is neat and organized and my heart rate stays constant. I like it that way most of the time. I should be proud of where I am in my life. But the truth of the matter is sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating in my perfunctory life.
William catches my eye and raises his hand to me at a table in the far corner of the restaurant. The one we almost always sit at. Same time, same place, every week, week after mundane week. I notice the two girls sitting at the bar near me, eyeing William and giggling. Their faces drop when they realize he’s waving at me and hasn’t even noticed them. I put on my best fake smile as William, always the gentleman, stands as I reach the table. He kisses me on the cheek and wraps his arm around my waist with a familiar touch.
“Sorry, I’m a little late.” I say with rehearsed speech as I take my seat.
“No problem, I just got here myself.” William replies, and I know it’s a lie. William Harper would never be late. I’m sure he was here fifteen minutes early and since I’m twenty minutes late, he’s probably been waiting more than half an hour, but he would never complain.
“Can I get you a drink?” The attentive waitress smiles at William, even though her speech is directed at me. If I were the possessive type, her overt flirting would probably piss me off. But I’m not. Possessiveness and jealousy would be emotional reactions, something I’ve spent years working to restrain.
“I’ll have a vodka cranberry. Diet cranberry, please.” I look to William and notice his glass is already empty. I inwardly smirk, thinking how well I know this man. He nurses the single drink he allots himself, a vodka tonic, for a solid half hour, then he switches to water.
“Just water for me, thank you.” William smiles at the waitress and she beams from his attention. William Harper is a handsome man. You’d have to be blind not to see that. Tall, blue eyes, blonde perfectly coifed hair, and always dressed like he just walked out of GQ magazine. His teeth are white and perfectly straight and dazzle from beneath his perfect smile. He comes from a respectable family and at only twenty-seven he’s already a partner at his dad’s law firm. So why is it that right now as he speaks, I’m seeing his lips move, but I can’t hear a word he’s saying?
“Elle, are you okay?” William senses my distance and I know the concern in his voice is genuine. He truly is a great guy, a catch-and-a-half as they say.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I pretend I just snapped out of a daze. “My head must still be in the case I was working on.” I lie.
The answer seems to satisfy him. “What kind of a case is it?”
It didn’t take long for us to get on the topic of work, it never does. I should be happy we have our work in common and he’s someone that understands what I do, but work is pretty much all we ever talk about.
“It’s an unlawful termination of employment case.” I latch onto the first case that pops into my mind. Luckily the waitress comes back and sets down our drinks and asks to take our order, giving me more time to think of something interesting from the dull case that I just told William my head was stuck in.
The waitress leaves and an older couple approach our table. “You’re Bill Harper, Jr. right? Bill’s son?” The gentleman extends his hand with a friendly smile.
“It’s William, but yes I’m William Harper Jr.” I’ve heard him correct dozens of people over the last few years. I’ve always wondered why it bothers him so much to be called Bill or Billy, that he feels the need to correct people. I mean, when someone uses a nickname it’s meant to be friendly, isn’t it? William has the polite manner in which he corrects people down to a science. Somehow it doesn’t come off as rude. It’s telling that I wonder why it bothers him, yet never ask.
The two men chat for a while and in less than ten minutes William manages to solicit the guy’s legal work and the man promises to call the office the next day. The way he does it doesn’t come off as sleazy ambulance chaser type speak. William is smooth and professional. It probably comes naturally to him, being his father, grandfather, and brother are all lawyers too.
We finish our dinner without interruption and our conversation is easy and natural. It’s been that way since we met in our last year of law school. We clicked instantly and I would categorize him as one of my closest friends, if I wasn’t sleeping with him once a week for the last eighteen months.
“I rented Possible Cover. I was hoping you’d want to come back to my place after dinner.” It’s just like William to rent the latest action movie, which he will most likely despise, because I am an action movie junkie. William is more of an artsy-Woody-Allen-type-movie person.
“Can I take a rain check?” I see William’s face wilt slightly. This is the second week in a row that I’ll be cutting our date off after dinner…and before sex. “I have to be in the office at 6am to prep for a deposition.” I feign disappointment in my voice as yet another lie flows freely from my lips.
I’m not sure if he buys my excuse or if he’s just too polite to call me on it. But I don’t care. I’m not in the mood tonight. The last few months our sex life has become a challenge for me, although William doesn’t seem to have any idea. It’s not his fault either. He has good equipment and it operates well, for the most part. But I’ve been having trouble getting myself to my happy place during our nights together lately. Maybe that was part of the problem. If I wanted a happy ending with William, I had to get myself there. He just doesn’t seem to be able to get me there on his own anymore. So I seem to have become one of those sex-once-a-week women who have to fake it. And I’m not in the mood to fake anything else tonight.