“Jackie? Are you paying attention?”
Obviously I wasn't because I didn't hear my partner the first time. We were sitting in the mall having coffee and making small talk. Had our relationship become so predictable that I had mentally switched off the conversation?
“Sure am, hon,” I answered automatically while my gaze swept the huge open are of the mall.
“And what did I say?” she asked impatiently.
I turned by attention back to my loving wife – well, not quite wife but getting there – and spoke, “It was about what's for dinner.” I had absolutely no idea what she had said so I took a stab in the dark. “Wasn't it?” I added sheepishly.
She glared at me over the rim of her coffee cup but I couldn't keep a straight face. Milk foam crossed her upper lip, forming a rather rakish white moustache.
I grinned at her. “That look suits you.”
I motioned with my finger across my own top lip, but when he didn't respond I leaned forward and wiped the milk off with a tissue.
“So, what do you think?” she asked.
“About what?” My mind had left the conversation again and was on the prowl around the various walkways and passages of the mall for something a little more interesting.
“Dinner,” she snapped. “What do you want for dinner?”
“Food?” I replied cheekily. I was probably asking for trouble by baiting her but the obvious invitation to be a smart ass was just too hard to ignore.
“I should just le you starve.” She put down the cup and slumped back in her chair. “How about steak?”
“We had that three days ago, but we can have that again if you want.” I really didn't care about what we ate. As long as it was edible I was there.
Something on the escalator caught my attention, and it took several seconds for my brain to register what it was. Allie continued to talk to me about pasta, vegetables and chicken, but I only heard the occasional word. A pair of black stilettos stepped off the escalator and onto our floor. If I was truthful, it wasn't the stilettos that caught my attention but the two shapely ankles sitting above said shoes.
I leaned back in my chair and quickly shifted my gaze elsewhere, then at Allie, and then without thought back to those two incredible ankles, wondering if they were attached to two equally spectacular calves.
Why was I not surprised to find that I wasn't disappointed? I couldn't stop looking, eagerly awaiting every luscious inch of stockinged leg to be revealed to me. I was sweating, so I reached for my coffee cup to cover up my nervousness.
It took everything I had not to openly stare at the lithe, athletic body that was so blatantly outlined in the tight dark blue dress covering it. Every twist, turn and bend accentuated her body, as did the hem of her dress which seemed to magically rise as she walked. But I couldn't see her face. The moment I looked she had turned away, giving me a view of the back of her head.
“So, how about it?” Allie's voice interrupted me.
“Yeah, that's fine,” I said absently. I only hoped that I hadn't agreed to some sort of sadomasochistic activity she had just dreamed up.
“Good, because my parents haven't seen me in ages.”
“What?” Oh God, they hated me with a vengeance. “When?” Could I find an excuse not to be there?
In my peripheral vision I could see that Miss Luscious Legs was moving away from me. I so desperately wanted to see what she looked like but Allie had me pinned in place with her stare. “What?” She knew very well that I hadn't heard a word she said.
“What's so interesting over there that you've ignored everything I've said?” Her head swiveled in the direction of the escalator.
Don't look, don't look , I prayed, knowing that she would find what I was looking at and I'd be in even more trouble. I know that it was rude of me, but I was only looking. It wasn't like I was going to act on my interest of anything.
Her head moved again and I caught a glimpse of her reaction. Disappointment was here, as was anger, but it was the hurt that caught me off-guard.
Allie stood and said nothing, instead she waited for me to pay the bill and join her. “Was that really necessary?”
“I didn't do it on purpose. She just happened to walk into my field of vision.” I tried to justify my roving eye but I don't think either of us was convinced.
“Are…,” she started to say. “Are you tired of me?”
I could hear the ‘little girl lost' tone in her voice. “What are you talking about? Of course not.”
“I know I've added a few pounds”
I pulled her to a stand still. “Get that thought right out of your head, young lady.” I was sounding like a stern school teacher scolding a child. “I love you just the way you are.”
“I wish you'd tell me that more often.”
That surprised me. Had we become so complacent that we had forgotten the most basic of rules? I knew that this incident was only small in the scheme of things, but it was something that needed to be rectified. This bullet graze to our relationship made me realize what was really important. My indifference had almost ruined the best thing that had happened in my life.
“Well, let's start today with…,” I took her hand and drew her toward me, “…I love you.” I leaned in to kiss her lips and she looked around nervously. “Who cares what they think?” I whispered. “Let them get their own girl.”