Gulping down the last of her Vodka Collins and taking a firm hold on her clutch, she decided she’d waited long enough for him to show. The faint scent of Aramis reached her nostrils and a hand rested on her shoulder.
“Seventeen minutes, Chantalle? I remember when I used to rate half an hour. I’m hurt.” His bemused tone told her he was anything but.
“I remember we were still married then and you had the keys to our only car. I had to wait for you.”
Rather than reply, he motioned to the bartender. “The lady will have a very dry vodka martini with two olives, William. If you could, please have it brought to my table.” The barmen nodded and left.
“I don’t drink those anymore, Robert. I haven’t for nearly eight years.”
“Well, you’ll have one tonight...with me.”
She didn’t resist as led her away to the table. As he pushed in her chair, her drink arrived.
“Put that on my tab and please bring me another tonic and lime. And don’t be stingy with the limes, eh?”
He saw her upraised eyebrow and withdrew a brass disk from his coat, twirling it before her eyes. “Five years in July. I don’t drink martinis anymore either.”
Unable to resist any longer, she whispered, “Robert, after all this time why couldn’t you just –“
“Why couldn’t I just stay a forgotten shadow? I’m getting old Chantalle, old and tired. Things matter to me now that didn’t so much before.”
“So, I’m just one stop of many on your 8th step journey?”
He tried to shrug it off but she could see she’d scored a hit with that one.
“What you are is my wife. You’re the only woman I ever loved and the only one I thought would never give up on me. You did.” Score one for him, she winced.
“I gave up on the drinking and the not coming home and the damned…interminable…silence. I understood the problems at your office better than you think. I could have helped but you shut me out. You should have just…talked to me…let me be your wife.”
Sipping, he nodded. “Well, Stephen took up that torch for me there, eh? He may have been a total bastard to work with but he wasn’t such a bad guy, I suppose.” His thinly-veiled bitterness was palpable.
“He was good to me at a time when I needed someone to reach out to who reached back. We…we’ve not been together now for… almost three years”
“I know. I had no intention of bringing that up. I’ve kept track of you over the years, babe.” She flinched as he stroked the back of her hand. “Look, I’m not the man you married, the man you loved or the man you left. C’mon and talk to me. You may just find the man I’ve become isn’t such a bad sort either.”
She melted in the irresistible glow of his forgotten smile and talk they did.