Excerpt from Dancing With The Enemy
Lisa’s workday the following day passed by uncharacteristically quickly. She was in a good mood and neither the difficult patients nor Lindsey with her passive aggressiveness were able to derail her good humor. Even Jennifer noticed.
“Were you just humming?” She asked Lisa as they filled out charts side by side.
“No I wasn’t.”
“Yes, you were. What’s got you so cheery today?
“Are you trying to say I’m usually grumpy?”
“Not at all, but you know how you are. Serious, focused, until a cute baby comes in then you’re Miss Goofy. So what gives?”
“Nothing, I’m just in a good mood. I need to go splint room 2’s broken wrist.
“You’re not going anywhere till you tell me what’s going on. I smell a man involved. Did you get laid?”
“Shut up!” Lisa said in a loud whisper looking around to see if anyone had overheard Jennifer.
“Well, you need to. It’s been way too long.”
“I have a date.”
“I knew it! Well done you. Who with?”
“Someone I met at the Farmer’s market last Saturday. We’re having dinner at Elephant Walk tonight.”
“I want to hear all about it tomorrow. Have you decided what you’re going to wear?”
“It’s just a casual dinner.”
“No such thing on a first date. You have to showcase your assets, and hon, I’m not just talking about your brains. You, Dr. Johnson, have an ass I would kill for and perfect hair.” Lisa snorted. “You do,” Jen admonished. “Oh, and wear something sleeveless so you can show off your toned arms. All your sessions at the gym were in preparation for tonight. So flaunt those triceps, girl!” Lisa giggled.
“I always suspected you had a thing for me.” Lisa said.
“I can’t help it. You’re gorgeous. And this guy is blind if he doesn’t see it.”
Lisa smiled wide and picking up her chart headed toward Room 2.
“Lisa,” Jen called out.
Lisa turned around.
Lisa stood in her closet looking at herself in the full length mirror. She wore a navy A-line skirt that came to her knees, a cream tank top and a little orange cardigan that wrapped around her waist to tie in the back. She looked at herself critically trying to determine if the outfit adequately toned down her assets. She had no interest in attracting a man who was primarily interested in her curvy bottom or imagining her long legs wrapped around his waist. She turned this way and that. She didn’t know what Jen was talking about. Her butt was not much bigger than average. And her hair. She sighed. Then smiled. It had taken her years to accept then love her mass of curls. Once she learned how to properly take care of her hair after watching countless videos online, she began to appreciate how fortunate she was to be able to “wash and go.” She switched out the earrings she was wearing for bigger hoops that would be visible under her hair, then selected several bangles and a thin gold necklace. Heeled beige sandals and a small handbag completed the outfit. She walked out of her closet, closing the door on the pile of discarded outfit choices on the floor.
The restaurant, Elephant Walk, was one Lisa had been to before. It was one of Boston’s numerous gems. A relatively small, unassuming restaurant but big in charm and flavor and a favorite with the locals. She approached the door to the restaurant and reached for the handle but a large clearly masculine hand reached past hers to grab it.
Lisa looked up and immediately wished she hadn’t.
For a moment, Lisa wished she had canceled the date. Because how was she going to carry on a conversation with a man who rendered her mute, less because of his good looks, than a certain magnetism that made her want to step into his embrace. He was stunning. He’d had his hair cut, she noticed. He wore a pair of khakis and a white t-shirt whose hem showed beneath a long-sleeved blue knit shirt with the buttons at the top undone. He was dressed casually but had the bearing of someone who would be comfortable wearing Valentino or Fendi.
“Lisa?” He reached out and lightly took her arm at the elbow.
Sam reached forward and kissed her on the cheek. Then the other. He smiled, gesturing with his free hand. “After you.”
As Lisa stepped through the door he held open, she was thankful for a few moments to collect herself. She took in the feel of his lips on her cheeks, the way he smelled and filed it away for future review. She took a deep shaky breath as unobtrusively as possible. As the hostess led them to their table, Sam kept his hand on the small of Lisa’s back. She sat in the chair the hostess had pulled out and noticed that Sam waited until she was seated before he took his seat.
“You look very nice, Lisa.”
Lisa was glad her skin tone prevented a blush from showing.
“Thanks. So do you. You sure don’t look like a strawberry farmer right now. But you’ve already mentioned you’re not.”
“My family owns several businesses. Marco is the farming genius. My father owns a limousine service and Mom cooks.”
“Does she work in a restaurant?”
“No. She just cooks for the family.”
“Do you have any siblings other than Marco?”
Sam shook his head. “Nope. Just the two of us.”
“Cooking for the family keeps her busy enough? I mean, you guys are grown now and I presume not still living at home?”
Sam laughed. “Definitely not still living with my parents. When I say the family, I mean La Famiglia. I have a large extended family. My Mom had some complications after Marco was born and couldn’t have any more children. But she has three brothers and three sisters. My Dad has 1 brother and 4 sisters. I have about 30 nieces and nephews. I lost count about 2 years ago. And in true Italian fashion, we get together for Sunday dinner every week at my Mom’s house because she’s the eldest of her siblings. She starts preparing for Sunday dinner on Thursday. And of course people come by all the time regardless of the day of the week.”
“She sounds quite impressive your Mom.”
“She is. She’s a true matriarch and works really hard to care for the entire family and keep us all connected.”
“Did you learn to cook from her?”
“I did. She had no daughters so Marco and I both learned to cook really well.”
“What do you most like to cook,” Lisa asked.
“You laugh. Wait until you’ve tasted my homemade pizza crust covered with 3-hr simmered tomato sauce, organic tomatoes and basil from Marco’s garden, fresh mozzarella, oregano and accompanied by a glass of chianti. You won’t be laughing then.”
“What will I be doing?” Other than licking the sauce off your fingers.
“Licking the sauce off your fingers.” Sam paused. A strange look flitted over his face but quickly disappeared. “But enough about me. Tell me about your family.”
Before Lisa could speak, the waitress arrived with their starters: chicken satay with a spicy peanut sauce and spring rolls.
“I love these,” Lisa said picking up the tender grilled chicken on the wooden skewer and dipping it in the sauce on her plate. ‘I always order them when I come here. She took a bite of chicken and had to tug a bit to get it off the skewer.
“Ow!” She squeezed her right eye shut.
“What’s the matter?”
“I got some spicy sauce in my eye.” Her eye started to water.
“Do you want to go splash some water into your eye?”
Lisa didn’t answer for a moment. “No, it’s okay. It’s already started to ease off. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few minutes.” Despite her brave words, she still couldn’t keep her right eye open. Acting as nonchalant as possible, she picked up her glass of water and took a sip. She looked up at Sam and nearly choked on her water.
“What?” She asked. He could barely contain his mirth and stopped trying to. His deep chuckle rather than annoying Lisa sent a shiver through her.
“I’m sorry, Lisa. I don’t mean to laugh at you. But you do look a little funny sipping your water with one eye closed .”
“Ha ha, very funny. You shouldn’t make fun of a woman in her misery. That’s not very gentlemanly and I only associate with gentlemen.”
“You’re right.” Sam took her hand laying on the table and looked in her left eye. “I’m sorry,” he said, still barely able to keep a straight face.
“Apology grudgingly accepted.” Lisa looked to where her slender hand rested in his much larger one. His nails were clean and neatly trimmed. There was a smattering of dark hair on the back of his hand. He wore a Bulgari watch, understated luxury. Definitely not a blue collar worker, Lisa thought. She gently pulled her hand out of his grip under the guise of taking another sip from her water glass. It had felt too good holding his hand and she was starting to imagine how his touch would feel on other parts of her body.
Sam cleared his throat. “You were about to tell me about your family.”
“My Dad is a middle school teacher and Mom works at the cable company. I have a younger sister Monica who has a two year old boy whom I spoil rotten. My family unlike yours is small but we’re from such a tight knit community that it feels like I have a much larger family. It helps that my parents are very involved in the church.”
“You’re from a good churchgoing family and you’re not bad looking at all.” Lisa chuckled at Sam’s choice of words. “How are you still single?”
“Sometimes I feel I’m married to my work. What about you, Sam? You have a beautiful daughter. Where’s her Mom?
“Maddy’s Mom and I divorced a year ago. It was rough there for a while, but Maddy’s such a tough kid for being just five years ago. Sometimes I feel she’s the only reason I kept it together.”
“She sounds incredible.”
“She’s my life.”
After a pause, Lisa asked, “So what is it that you do for a living, Sam?”
Sam sat back in his chair, graceful as a jaguar, Lisa thought. “Any guesses?” he asked.
“Let me see… Firefighter!”
Sam laughed. “I do have a red car, but no.”
“Rocket scientist…exotic dancer…hired gun.”
Sam just grinned bigger.
“Alright, let me be serious. I’d guess you probably work in an office.”
“You strike me as highly educated.”
“I do have a graduate degree.”
“Ok, so you’re a professional. Engineer? Lawyer? Architect? Business Owner?”
Sam leaned forward with a serious expression. “Tell you what, Lisa. I’d rather we didn’t share just yet what we do. The minute you tell people what you do, there are so many stereotypes that go through their minds and color the way they view you subsequently that may not be accurate. So for now, can we just be Sam and Lisa? If I’m lucky enough that you want to see me again, maybe in a month or so after we’ve had the chance to get to know each other a bit, then we can share what we do.”
“There’s a different approach to getting to know someone. Ok. I agree.”
“Unless you’re a witch or otherwise involved in the dark arts, then you must tell me right away. As beautiful as you are, I’m sure you’ve bewitched a lot of men.”
Lisa laughed. “Rest assured. I am not a witch. Same goes for you. If you’re some kind of financial con artist or involved in the mafia then tell me now. Because if you’re hiding something bad, I will find out and it won’t be pretty when I do.”
Sam pretended to be hurt. “So because I’m Italian I’ve gotta be involved in the mafia.”
“I’m just saying. I need to know. A month may be too long for me to extricate myself if you’re part of La Famiglia.”
“Rest assured, Cara. I am not.”
The rest of the evening passed in a blur of lighthearted conversation frequently punctuated with laughter. Lisa couldn’t remember the last time she’d had such a pleasant evening. As Sam talked about his daughter Maddy, his Mom and his big Italian family, Lisa couldn’t help but be envious of the obvious love he felt for all of them, including his brother Marco whom he loved to tease. Slow down, she chastised herself. You’ve only just met him. But as she listened to him talk, she knew she never wanted him to stop.