We sat back down in the booth. Sarena sat so close, her thigh rubbed against mine the entire meal. It was incredibly distracting, but in a way that I hoped would never stop. The hope that eventually, her skin would be rubbing mine, was all that kept me going through the meal. I know I probably didn’t make a lot of sense, but my mind was regressing to a primal Id state. The longer I was around Sarena, the worse it got. The only consolation I had was that I was having the same effect on her.
Ma didn’t notice a thing, but I Chester did. He watched us rather closely, not exactly frowning, but not exactly not either. As dinner drew to a close, the ladies excused themselves to go to the restroom. Chester sat there quietly a moment, then sprung on me.
“You and Sarena seem very chummy.” There was a hint of hostility in his voice.
“We got talking on the phone the last few days. I’m very impressed with your daughter, sir.”
“If a man looks at a woman the way you’re looking at my daughter, I usually ask him what his intentions are. But I suspect I already know.”
“Chester, I’ll be honest. I’m very attracted to your daughter. But if you’re going to sit there and lecture me about premarital sex, you better not do it as the man who’s schtupping my mother.”
He reddened considerably, staring at his food as he moved it around his plate.
“We’re both men. We both have a man’s needs and expectations,” I continued quietly. “We both have women in our lives that are dear to us. I have no intention of using and abusing your daughter. If you can say the same about my mother, then I think we need to shake on this and agree never to talk about it.”
He nodded slightly, attacking his dessert like it had wronged him. “Agreed.”
I nodded too, sipping my coffee. “Agreed.”
We shook hands hurriedly, hardly looking at one another.
“So,” he said, followed by an awkward pause. “What brought you together?”
“Bonding over Ma Manipulation. You didn’t notice all of a sudden, the traveling got easier?”
“I did. I have you to thank for that?”
“Initially. Your daughter is very astute. I gave some tips, she embellished and adapted. Clever.”
“God, boy, you’re a diabolical genius!”
“I think your daughter is the genius. I’m just diabolical.”
He gave me a startled, somewhat offended look. I put my hands up like he had a gun on me.
“Kidding. How’s the cheesecake?”
“Delicious. This was a good choice.”
“I don’t have a lot of food on hand,” I told him honestly. “But I can do breakfast at my place if you want. It might make Ma feel more like she’s visiting than if you take all your meals out.”
He wiped his lips, staring at me. I was about to get very uncomfortable when he dropped his napkin.
“I expect you’d like some alone time.”
“I expect you would too.”
His dark eyes glittered knowingly and he smiled. “I expect you’re right.”
“Look. Cards on the table, Chester. Sarena is gorgeous. She’s funny, smart as a whip. . . . She is everything I’ve ever looked for in a woman and more. If she feels for me anything like how I feel about her. . . . Well, she’d honor me. . . . Dammit, you know what I’m trying to say.”
“You won’t take unfair advantage.”
“You’d treat her right? Her ex is a prick.”
“I always treat a woman well. I’m still friends with every ex-girlfriend. I was best man at a couple of their weddings.”
He chuckled, nodding. “That’s all a father can ask, that the man who catches his daughter’s eye, treats her with respect.”
“I’m falling in love with her. Give me five more minutes. . . .”
“Give you five more minutes for what?” Ma and Sarena had snuck up on us.
We stood to greet them. Chester made a big deal over Ma and I held Sarena’s hand under the table.
“You didn’t answer the question,” Ma said sternly.
“Oh, before I have to go to the little boy’s room,” I lied glibly.
“We didn’t want to leave your bags unattended, my love,” Chester said gallantly.
“You can go now, anytime.”
© Dellani Oakes 2014