Part 4 of our story: the day after Thanksgiving
Friday morning found me still planning to head back to Austin that afternoon.
Several weeks back, I had promised to take informal photos at a co-worker’s wedding. Though we hadn’t discussed it recently, I still felt on the hook for being there on Saturday, and I needed to get back on Friday to pick up the camera from my office.
Sometime around mid-morning, Scott took me aside to suggest some things were worth breaking promises over, and maybe, just maybe, Sara was one of those things. I remained committed to the promise I’d made, though, so I continued to pack up my stuff.
Meanwhile, Joanie had it in mind that Sara and I would have a “rendezvous” before parting ways, and offered us some privacy in their apartment that morning, with that particular purpose in mind. Joanie still pretty much saw this only as a quickie affair for us, and arranging the consummation suited her vicarious anticipation, especially managing to set it up at my family’s house. When neither Sara nor I felt comfortable doing that in the apartment there that morning, I suggested we take a walk instead.
So we left the house and started walking, our talk turning to more earnest expressions of mutual interest. We walked around the old neighborhood and ended up strolling along the tree-lined lane beside my old high school. I remember thinking how I dare not touch her. I knew that if I were to put a hand on her shoulder, or slip my hand in hers — or even brush against her hand — that we would stop strolling and might indeed need some privacy to continue.
I was explaining to her why I needed to go back to Austin because I had promised someone. I hoped that my upholding a promise to someone else would be a good reason in her sight, and she seemed to accept it. We wandered slowly back to the house, still not quite touching physically though already emotionally entangled.
We went inside the house and I finished packing and said my good-byes to the family. Sara walked with me back out to the truck as I got ready to leave. I told her I wanted to see her again and spend more time with her sometime soon. But since she was flying back to California on Sunday, that was about to get difficult. We promised to try to manage that somehow, but neither of us could offer a solution to that central problem.
We had one long hug at last and I drove away.
The whole time I drove to Austin, I kept muttering under my breath, “Fool…fool!”
Back in Austin, I retrieved the camera for Saturday’s wedding (still muttering “Fool!” to myself repeatedly). I wondered if somehow I could make good on my Saturday commitment and then head back down to Houston before Sara flew out.
Sara supplies the details for some of the scenes where I was not present — like this dinner
Back in Houston, Joanie was having a terrible time.
One of the planned highlights of Sara coming to visit and distract her was a highly anticipated, very fancy meal, planned down to every last morsel, especially the sweetbreads. And there at the restaurant with all that sumptuous food spread out before them, Sara was acting miserable and did not show any interest in eating.
Frustrated, Joanie did her best to try and cheer Sara up and rescue the occasion, but there was just no joy to be had for Sara in the dinner, and her mood made it impossible for Joanie to enjoy the meal, either.
Finally, in desperation, Joanie said, “Listen, we could just drive to Austin.”
Sara immediately brightened. “Really?”
Joanie assured her it an easy enough drive and they could be on my doorstep in just a few short hours. Joanie wanted to just show up and surprise me (maybe she was tired of being the one surprised), but Sara insisted on calling me to make sure she’d be welcome.
When she called and told me she wanted to come to Austin to see me, I responded, “Wonderful…wonderful.”
As soon as I hung up, I started picking up around the house in anticipation. See, I’d been sharing the same house with a string of bachelors for 9 years, none of us any too good about any housecleaning. I couldn’t possibly get the house clean before she got there, but I could at least try — which amused my roommate, Bob, immensely.
“So what’s this woman like?” Bob asked skeptically, as he watched from the couch.
“You’ll see,” was all I said to him and went back to clearing some of the accumulated clutter. No way could I get the house actually clean, but at least puttering about felt like I was trying.
Another sequence I’ll briefly re-tell from Sara’s account:
Meanwhile, back in Houston, Joanie insisted Sara needed to prepare appropriately for showing up for a romantic rendezvous. They went shopping, specifically perfume shopping. Joanie relished her role in setting a seduction in motion, and insisted they try multiple fragrances before Sara settled on one.
After selecting on a perfume suited to Sara and the evening, they headed off on the highway. Somewhere along the way, they got stopped for speeding by a cop (Smithville? or was it La Grange?). The cop asked Joanie point-blank if she’d been drinking (yes, she had), insisting he smelled alcohol on her breath and insinuating she was intoxicated. Joanie explained the smell came from testing all the perfumes at the store. Skeptical, he challenged her sobriety by asking her to recite the alphabet backwards. Wrong move: as a writer-editor-publisher, Joanie spit it out quicker backwards than most people can manage going forwards, followed by, “Can we go now?”
Finally, they arrived and stepped out of the car. I walked down the steps to greet Sara in the front yard — with a hug and our first kiss.
And you know what? That’s all I’m telling you about Friday. Sara & I go behind closed doors for this next part of the story, and you are not invited.
See you on the other side!
Next: Saturday and all it brought…