Fantasy turned to dread as Virginia pulled into the parking lot of her apartment complex. The sun had set and she hadn’t checked in with Michael since he left her at the auto show. She hadn’t even checked her phone. He was going to be furious and would never believe any excuse she could invent.
She checked her phone. No texts. No voicemails. Nothing.
She looked around the parking lot. No car.
She sighed with relief. She didn’t care what he was doing as long as he wasn’t there to ruin her fantasy.
When she got inside, she didn’t find a note. Virginia assumed Michael went out with his friends and hadn’t cared enough to leave a note. Such inconsiderate behavior wasn’t unusual for him. Maybe he even met someone else. She didn’t care.
She opened a bottle of wine, drank, listened to music, danced, and relived her date with Robert. He was so perfect. She couldn’t believe he wanted to date someone like her. He was so clearly out of her league.
When Robert texted her not long after she got home, she practically cheered. He wanted to make sure she got home safe. He wanted to make plans for their date. She planned to meet him for dinner after she got off from the trade show. She didn’t know how she’d pull it off. How she’d get away from Michael. But she was too drunk to care.
Her heart beat wildly with anticipation and anxiety. She couldn’t believe that she was actually driving to meet Robert. As it turned out, it wasn’t difficult to deceive Michael. She hadn’t seen nor spoke to him since he left her at the trade show the day before. He hadn’t come home that night. It was wonderful to wake up and get ready without him being there. She felt almost as if she lived on her own.
Not long after she arrived at the trade show, Michael finally texted and explained that he had a wild night with the guys and was too hungover to come to the show. She returned his text and said that she was meeting old co-workers for drinks after the show. She didn’t return any of his suspicious follow-up texts.
Virginia was too happy to worry about the repercussions of lying to Michael. Her mind was preoccupied with the fantasy of dating the perfect man. She had already transformed Robert into her knight in shining armor. The man who could save her from her abusive relationship with Michael. The man with whom she could ride off into the sunset.
She saw Robert as soon as she pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant. He looked so handsome in his black t-shirt and jeans. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She suddenly became very nervous. She could barely concentrate on parking, so she parked far away from any other car. She gave herself a final look in her rearview mirror before getting out of the car.
He was at her door when she got out of the car. Laughing. “Why did you park all the way over here? Are you worried someone might ding this clunker?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at herself. “You love to make fun of my car don’t you?”
“I’m sorry,” he said giving her a hug. She hoped he couldn’t feel her heart pounding.
“I guess I can let it go this time.”
“Okay, I promise I’ll only make fun of your car five more times.”
She laughed. “I may not speak to you again after the third time.”
“I better be good then.”
She looked toward the restaurant door and saw a line.
“Do you have reservations?” she asked.
“Yep and you’re just in time.”
They walked into the restaurant and were seated by a window with a view of the ocean and the setting sun.
“You look beautiful,” he said, “You’ve met me twice now if full hair and makeup. I have you know I’m going to expect this treatment every time I see you.”
“I might be willing to do that for you.”
“I feel so special.”
Conversation came as easily with him as it did the first time they saw each other. They drank a little too much wine. Laughed a little too loudly. But they had fun. It’d been so long since she had fun.
After a couple glasses of wine, she became brave enough to ask what happened with his girlfriend.
“The last time I saw you, you had a girlfriend. What happened to Lisa?”
“We broke up.”
“We were fighting all the time. It obviously wasn’t working out.”
“When did you break up?”
Her heart sank. She knew she shouldn’t be jealous, mad, or even concerned, but she was all those things.
Her voice shook, “Before or after you had dinner with me?”
“Listen, it wasn’t working out. Meeting you was the push I needed to end it.”
She knew it was time to confess. She put down her wine glass, so he wouldn’t notice her hand shaking.
“I’m worse than you.”
“Why? Are you seeing someone else?”
He tried to sound casual, but she could hear the change in his tone to one of slight apprehension.
“I have been yes.” She felt the blood rush to her face as she prepared to make a full confession. “I’m trapped in a horrible relationship with a horrible man.”
“Do you live with him?”
She looked down, ashamed of the truth. “Yes but I’m saving money to leave.”
He sighed, “Look, I like you enough to get past it, but you need to leave him if you’re going to date me.”
She couldn’t look at him. “I know, but I’m afraid of him.”
There was a pause in the conversation. She played with the tablecloth anxiously.
“Whose name is on the lease?” he asked.
“So kick him out.”
He made it sound so simple. Maybe it was that simple. Maybe it was easier than she thought.
“Well, now that everything is out in the open, how about some dessert?”
It was as easy as that with Robert. He didn’t get mad. He didn’t walk out. He wanted to be with her and didn’t care that she still had a boyfriend to dump. She felt relieved and soon began laughing again.
After dinner, Robert suggested they walk along the beach to sober up. She could no longer see the water but could hear it lapping at the shore. There was a warm breeze in the air. It blew through her dress, lifting it slightly, but she didn’t try to fight it. She was holding Robert’s hand and didn’t want to let go. She felt free.
Robert talked about how much he hated the dating scene. How he hated the way no one dated exclusively anymore. How everyone was always looking for something better. He didn’t want that with his relationship with her. He wanted to date her exclusively and see where it went. She agreed.
When it was time to leave, he walked her to the car. He opened the door for her. Kissed her gently before she got in. She felt a tingling, a longing for him. She didn’t want to stop. But she got in and started the engine.
She heard a knock on her door. Robert wanted in. She reached over and unlocked the door. He got in and kissed her immediately. Passionately. He reached under her dress. Under her panties. Began massaging her clit.
She wanted him to respect her enough not to want to have sex with her. She wanted to feel like, for once, that if she didn’t have sex with him, he’d still want to be with him. But she wanted him. She had to fight her own longing not to have sex with him right there in the parking lot. It’d been so long.
“Okay,” she said between kisses, “Alright…we need to stop.”
“I know,” he replied as he continued rubbing her clit, “But I don’t think I can stop.”
“I know,” she said weakly, “but we’re in a parking lot.”
He broke away from her, held both her hands, and smiled. “I know. I’m being bad. I’ll stop.”
She looked into his eyes, “I don’t want to be rebound sex.”
“Okay, I understand. I don’t want you to think I’m using you as a rebound either.” He looked around, “And I don’t really want to get caught having sex in a parking lot.”
She smiled. He was her knight.
He kissed her hands. “So, we’ll talk tomorrow.”
He gave her one more kiss before leaving her. For the first time ever after a date, she felt confident that he would keep his word. He would talk to her again. He was perfect that way.
She tried not to think about Michael as she drove home. She knew he wouldn’t be happy. And she was right. He was waiting up for her when she walked in. He was sitting on the sofa, watching TV, a half-empty bottle of cheap whiskey on the coffee table.
He didn’t say anything to her when she walked in. She tried to walk past him to get to the bedroom, but he ran to block the doorway. She faced him and exhaled. She knew she was in for a fight. She had to stand her ground.
“Don’t think I don’t know what you’ve been up to,” he said.
“No, but I think you’re trying to get back at me.”
“Whatever. You’re completely shit-faced and I don’t have to listen to this.”
“Oh you don’t think so.”
He grabbed her arm roughly and began pulling her toward the bedroom.
She was too angry to fear him. “Let go or I’ll call the police.”
“Whatever,” he said, releasing his grip on her, “like I was going to do anything.”
He turned away from her and stumbled to the bedroom. She heard him collapse onto the bed.
She smiled. She realized that if she could stand up to him this time, she could summon the courage to leave him.