When we last saw Oscar, he was enjoying the company of Ms. Jasmine Bond of the car rental agency. Ms. Bond had gone above and beyond the call of duty in customer service.
It wasn’t until the phone rang at nine the next morning that they woke in the middle of the bed, spooning. Oscar didn’t know which of them was more embarrassed, but rather suspected it was he. Even as a teenager, he’d never bedded a woman he’d known less than a day. Sure, he’d fooled around a lot in high school and college, but always with girls he’d known for awhile. As an adult, the only women he’d gone to bed with were ones he’d known for months or years, never a casual acquaintance.
Feeling wretched about his behavior, he finally realized that the phone was ringing. As Jasmine stumbled to the bathroom, he answered.
“Oscar, where are you?”
“Huh? Who is this?”
“Patrick. It’s Patrick!”
“Oh, hey, Patrick. Sorry, I didn’t recognize your voice.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Last night, some…. I lost track.”
“You’re late. You were supposed to be here an hour ago.”
“Oh, crap!” He sat up in bed, dropping the phone.
Scrambling around, he picked it up again. Patrick was in full voice, yelling angrily.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Yes, Pat. Sorry. I overslept. I had a little bit to drink last night.”
“Get your ass over here now!”
“Coming. I’m coming. I need a shower. I’ll be there.” He hung up.
Jasmine stood in the bathroom doorway clutching her clothing. “I’m so embarrassed. I never did anything like this before. I’m mortified.”
“I’m so sorry,” Oscar began. “Me either. It was just so….”
“….. Right,” she finished.
“Yeah. I have a huge favor to ask.”
“Can you drive me to today’s venue? I don’t trust that car. It gave me fits yesterday.”
“Sure. I need a shower.”
“Me too. Let’s share.”
Raising an eyebrow, she gave him a dubious look.
“I promise. No peeking. I’ll bathe with my eyes closed.”
Giggling, she tugged his hand. “You’ve seen me naked already.”
“Which is why I’ll bathe with my eyes closed. Otherwise, both of us are gonna be real late getting anywhere.”
They bathed and dressed quickly, heading to the parking lot together. His car was parked right where he’d left it, looking innocent in the morning sunshine. Walking to another area of the lot, they got in her car and headed to the Barnes & Noble where the day long event was taking place. Huge banners in the windows proclaimed his presence at the store.
“Thanks,” Oscar said as she pulled up in front of the store. “Jasmine, about last night….”
“Forget about it,” she smiled.
“I don’t want to. I know it sounds crazy, but I really don’t want it to be a one night thing. I’d like to see you again. This time, I swear, I won’t get you drunk and take advantage.”
“I’d like that. Shall I pick you up at six?”
“Yes, please.” Leaning across the seats, he kissed her deeply. “Thanks for the ride. And thank you for last night.”
“You’re welcome – and you’re welcome. Get out now, I’m holding up traffic. Your fans await.”
“Come back before six, I’ll give you a signed copy,” he grinned, getting out of the car.
He walked in the store with the biggest smile he could remember. Patrick was stunned at how happy he looked. Oscar smiled and chatted with everyone, giving them personalized inscriptions, selling more books than he ever had at one venue before.
“What’s got you so happy?” Patrick asked him as they were closing for the evening.
“I met someone yesterday.”
“Really? Do I get to meet her?”
“Yeah, she’s picking me up soon. There’s something really special about this woman, Pat.”
“She the reason you were late this morning.”
Blushing, Oscar dug his toe into the carpet, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, she was. We had an extended date last night. More than that, I’ll be damned if I tell a married man.”
“You lucky bastard.” Patrick chucked him in the shoulder. “And you aren’t the least bit proud of yourself either.”
Oscar chuckled nervously. “It’s been a long time since a woman made me feel like this. Maybe this the one, Pat. I’ve been alone a long time. Barb’s been gone for six years now.” His wife, Barbara, died of cancer shortly after their sixteenth wedding anniversary.
“Just be careful,” Patrick said with a frown of concern. “It’s easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment. Don’t set yourself up for a fall, Oscar.”
“If I fall, I fall. I’ve lived the last seven years of my life in fear. First of Barb’s death, then of living again. Not again, not this time.”