A Sizzling Summer by The Bay - Part Five

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A Sizzling Summer by The Bay - Part Five

June 2016 – San Francisco, California

 

Estelle sat on a park bench, enjoying her fresh-popped kettle corn, and watching patrons of the farmers market from the outskirts. It was lunchtime, and she really should have bought something more substantial than sugar-coated corn, but it was calling to her. It smelled so damn decadent.

Iona had texted and said she was running late. It didn’t surprise Estelle. She kind of figured as much after the conversation they’d had the night before.

Estelle was the opposite of most. She thrived on waking up early, loved the stillness in the air before the bustle of the day began. She relished the soft light of the sunrise before it touched down on the city. The briny scent of the ocean lingering in the dense morning fog was unlike anything else. It made her feel calm. She was definitely more alert and productive before noon.

Although, when she needed to, she could caffeine-up and push through a workweek like this past one. In her line of work, you kind of had to pull late nights sometimes.

Her eyes lazily panned the crowds. She was keeping an eye out for Iona, but also enjoying the lackadaisical ambiance of the park on this beautiful summer afternoon.

Just then, she saw Iona crest over the hill, making her way down the walking path. Estelle waited for her to get a little closer. Iona was wearing a pair of denim capris and a soft baby blue peasant blouse that exposed her shoulders. She had on Grecian style lace-up sandals, and her hair was pulled up in a messy bun on top of her head, with loose tendrils of hair framing her face. Estelle felt herself flush with anticipation.

Maybe she was mistaken? Perhaps Iona did consider this a date.

Estelle stood up and waved. Iona spotted her, smiled, and picked up her pace.

“Hey,” Estelle said.

“Hey, yourself.”

“Would you like some? I probably shouldn’t have but carpe diem!” Estelle offered Iona some popcorn.

“Ooh tempting, but I’m holding out for the BBQ. There’s a little roach coach that has ribs. The kind where you die a little every time you take a bite.”

“Wow, now I’m worried I spoiled my appetite. We should go find this vendor,” Estelle said as she pulled the twisty tie around her popcorn bag.

 

*****

 

They walked along, keeping a slight distance between them. Close enough that they didn’t have to talk too loud over the crowd, but not so close it was crossing personal boundaries.

Estelle mused as they strolled along, that Iona seemed under the impression that it was, in fact, a date. The way Iona was dressed, and the electrical current that sparked the moment they locked eyes in the park. Neither of them had to ask. It was spoken through subtle gestures and nonverbal cues.

Estelle fell into step slightly behind, following Iona. When they got to the BBQ catering truck, Iona bought them two box meals of ribs, corn on the cob, and potato wedges. When Estelle tried to offer her card, Iona rolled her eyes and pushed Estelle’s hand away.

“Thanks,” Estelle said.

“You’re welcome.”

They scoped out the picnic tables, which were buzzing with patrons. The dining area was close to the stage where a local band was belting out a rock song. Iona had to lean into Estelle’s ear and shout, “Let’s go somewhere else. I have an idea.”

Estelle shivered at Iona’s warm breath against her neck. She nodded her head and turned her face away, hoping that Iona had not seen the heat creep up her neck.

Iona took them back to the grassy knoll on the outskirts of the festivities. She handed her food to Estelle to hold for a moment and rummaged around in her shoulder bag. She extracted a thin sheet and fanned it over the ground.

Estelle sat down. “Very prepared. I’m impressed.”

“It’s not that big a deal. I’ve been a few times. I like going to festivals, but if it gets too crowded, I get a little claustrophobic.”

“Claustrophobic or agoraphobic?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces, and agoraphobia is fear of being around people. I mean, those are generalizations, but ya know.” Estelle shrugged.

“No, definitely not afraid of being around people. Just when there’s a lot of people around, it feels a little uncomfortable. Did you minor in psych or something?”

“I did change my major about halfway through college,” Estelle said. She picked up a rib and tore off a small bit of meat. “Oh – My – God! This is like an orgasm in my mouth.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” Iona smirked knowingly. “But it is pretty close, huh?”

Estelle laughed.

“So, why’d you change your major?” Iona asked.

“I thought psychology seemed like a great profession for me, but then I realized it didn’t quite fit. I mean I don’t want you to think I don’t care about philanthropy and such. I want to help people, but I also wanted to make good money.”

“Don’t counselors or psychologists make good money?”

“Oh, they do, but you have to do far more than four years of schooling before you make really good money. I wanted a crossover of helping people but on the four-year plan if that makes sense. Marketing seemed like a good crossover in analyzing people, and their problems, then helping their businesses succeed, and I make great money too. Probably seems shallow of me.” Estelle half-joked, wondering what Iona would think of her for being so candid.

“Nah, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Iona said.

 

*****

 

Estelle smiled. “Also, I kinda love to shop and indulge in good food. I really hate cooking. I didn’t want to have to be savvy cooking for more than four years.”

“No, wonder you find all the great little eats!”

Estelle shrugged and smiled. “What about you? Why did you get into advertising?”

“Well, I knew I wanted to major in business. I’ve always had this dream of building my own company. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus my business degree in. I had to take a marketing class as part of the general business curriculum. I kinda loved it, so I went full throttle with it.”

“So, why haven’t you started your own company yet?”

Iona hesitated, and Estelle bit her lip feeling she’d pushed too far. Iona looked away for a moment as if collecting her thoughts, then replied, “It’s kinda complicated.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. It just sort of came out.”

“No, you didn’t pry at all. It was a fair question. I kind of have a small business, then it got put on hold. It’s a long story.” Iona smiled wistfully.

They were quiet for a moment picking at their food. Estelle could sense Iona’s reticence to divulge any more details, so she bit her tongue in probing any further.

They enjoyed the cool ocean breeze and the sounds of patrons in the park. Estelle looked up and noticed that Iona had a bit of BBQ sauce on her bottom lip. Estelle reached out and lightly touched her lip. “You have a little sauce…”

Iona flushed with embarrassment. “Gods, I make a mess when I eat this stuff. I’m seriously surprised I haven’t ruined my shirt.”

“It’s a nice shirt on you.” Estelle lowered her chin and softened her tone.

“Thanks, I wore it with you in mind,” Iona said slowly.

Estelle tentatively reached out and brushed the top of Iona’s hand. Iona’s face split into an impish smile as she stared at Estelle’s fingers tracing the ligaments along her hand. Iona let out a soft gasp at the caress.

Estelle’s mouth curved into a sensual smile.

Then like a change in the wind current, Iona suddenly shifted her demeanor. Her face fell, and she slowly drew her hand back.

Estelle was slightly bewildered. “I’m so sorry. I— We probably shouldn’t. I just thought—”

Iona seemed to want to say something but hesitated. The pained look on her face made Estelle squirm with discomfort. Had she read Iona wrong? She looked down at her hands. Usually, she was so good at reading people, and yet she’d obviously gotten it wrong. She felt so embarrassed, she wanted to get up and leave.

 

*****

 

Iona placed her hand on top of Estelle’s. “It’s not you. I know that sounds so cliche, but it really isn’t.”

“I’m sure it’s because we work together, and you’re right, we probably shouldn’t get involved. I just thought—”

“No, I don’t actually care about work. They don’t have an official policy, so it’s not something that concerns me.” Iona paused. “I just got out of a serious relationship. I mean, we were going to get married and everything.”

She seemed near tears, and Estelle scooted closer and put a comforting arm around her. Iona leaned into her embrace. “I’m sorry. I don’t mind if you need to vent. If you just need a friend, I understand. I did make it through those two years of being in the psych program,” Estelle added wistfully.

Iona offered a wan smile. “I did love him. I really thought we were compatible. It’s amazing how a major life decision can show a person’s true colors. I almost made the biggest mistake of my life. I mean, I’m glad I didn’t, but it doesn’t hurt any less. Then it got really ugly at the end. He got vindictive and…” Ion’s voice trailed off. She turned away from Estelle to rummage in her bag for a tissue. She dabbed at her eyes. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to have a meltdown like this…” she mumbled.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. How long were you together?”

“Almost six and a half years.”

“I’m so sorry, Iona. That’s rough. Do you mind me asking what happened? Sounds like the breakup was kinda sudden?”

“I don’t mind sharing. I’ve opened that can of beans, gotta go forward with eating it, I suppose.”

Estelle cracked a wry smile.

“Well, Symon was breaking into day trading just before 08. He was doing pretty good up until the recession hit. Then he didn’t quite recover after that. It was kinda feast or famine with his income. Mine was more steady. Between my little business and my part-time job at a small advertising agency, I kept us afloat. When he’d make a large sum, he’d—” she paused and made air quotes, “‘invest,’ the income back into stocks. Inevitably he’d do well for a while, but then he’d lose most of it. He didn’t invest too much in conservative mutual funds or bonds like he should have. I don’t think I wanted to see it then, but he had a gambling problem. Lot’s of people in Vegas do. His ‘slot-machine’ of choice was Wall Street.”

Estelle was quiet, sensing there was more.

Iona inhaled a deep breath and exhaled, then plowed forward with her story. “He was always talking about wanting to move to New York one day to play in the big leagues. It was always ‘I’m really getting this,’ and  ‘It’s all ‘technical analysis, so I just need a little more time figuring this out.’ To be fair, maybe it is mathematical, but Symon could never get a jump on it.”

Iona stopped and huffed out a noise that was between a laugh and a croak. “Ya know the thing is, I was totally fine being the stable one. If his dream was to be in trading, far be it for me to interfere. He was pretty decent about letting me pursue my dreams. Then it all came down about a year ago. He was on an upswing. It lasted for a pretty long run. I actually thought he was going to make it stable this time. So I stupidly let him invest in a property that was beyond our means. Of course, it began to unravel again. He slipped into his old habits of not putting a percentage of his gains away. We were about to lose the house.” Iona paused then said, “Ya know, Annie in human resources?”

“Yeah,” Estelle answered.

“She’s an old classmate from UNLV. She said that if I put in an application at Avery’s, she could likely get me in the door. It was paying twice as much as what I was making in Vegas. I was going to be able to keep the house. All we had to do was rent it out, move here, and get back on our feet. We would have only had to live here a few years to get ahead again. I had a good solid plan.”

“Let me guess, Symon didn’t like that plan?”

“That’s putting it mildly. He had a complete meltdown. He didn’t want to leave his family. They all live in Vegas. He’d never lived anywhere before. I tried to convince him that we could finally tie the knot and have a romantic wedding on the beach. He said he didn’t want to put his family out, making them come to us for the celebration. He came up with all the excuses in the book.”

“But his business was remote, right? He could live anywhere, and it was only a temporary move, then you had plans of going back?”

Iona had a wry ‘you’re preachin to the choir’ look on her face as she nodded her head up and down.

“I’m so sorry,” Estelle said.

 

*****

 

“Yeah, in the end, it was for the best. Symon was very immature. When this all came to a head, it got ugly. He started spreading rumors in our social group, and became vindictive because I was breaking it off. Until those life circumstances forced me to see the situation for what it was, I had some massively thick blinders on.”

“I understand. Boy, do I understand.” Estelle blew out a long breath.

Iona quirked her eyebrow in a questioning expression.

“It’s a bit uncanny that you’re sharing this with me. I was with a guy for almost seven years. All that time and I didn’t see we were totally wrong for each other. We didn’t break up on sour terms, though. Thankfully, our parting was amicable. Didn’t make it any less difficult.”

“I’m sorry. Yeah, I have to admit, that is uncanny. Do you mind me asking why you guys broke up if it was amicable?”

“Have you ever seen ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding?’”

“Yeah, it’s a cute chick-flick,” Iona said.

Estelle pinched her fingers together and waved them in the air, “Dry toast Toula, He’s a-like a-dry toast.”

Iona laughed. “Really, though? It was that bad that you broke up after seven years?”

Estelle shook her head ruefully. “I’d just turned thirty-five years old and had this sudden realization. I didn’t like my job – hated LA – and wasn’t in love with my boyfriend of nearly seven long years. It was like a bucket of water to the face. I realized I had been settling on every aspect of life, instead of really living it.”

Iona put a hand on top of Estelle’s. “I’m so sorry.”

“Crazy thing is, I feel a little lost as to what to do next.” Estelle looked down at her hands, shame heating her face.

Iona must have sensed her embarrassment. “No, I get it. I’m right there with ya. I think I had that exact moment with Symon too. I realized, ‘what the fuck am I doing with my life?’ ya know?”

Estelle laughed. “Well, maybe the universe thinks we should be friends? If fate is a thing, sure seems like it wanted us to connect.”

Iona smiled. “I can’t deny that.” She let out a long breath and looked out over the grassy knoll where a group of kids were playing tag, then turned her attention to Estelle. “I’m not sure if I’m ready to date. I’m kinda on the rebound. I don’t think it would be fair to you.”

“Well, that makes two of us.” Estelle paused, then asked carefully, “The work thing is truly not an issue for you, though?”

“Surprisingly, no. I read somewhere eighty percent of people meet their dating partners at work, and ten percent meet in a bar.”

Estelle smiled. “What about the other ten percent?”

“Church, I think.”

Estelle let out a hearty laugh. “God, I hope not. How sad.”

“Good to know we’re on the same page there.” Iona cracked a smile.

“What if we were to just hang out once in a while – see where the wind blows – no strings attached at all. Coworkers with benefits?”

“Not friends with benefits?” Iona teased. “Just coworkers?”

Estelle leaned in. “I think starting with friends would be nice. I like you. I haven’t met anyone I liked this much in a long time. And to be frank, I’m tired of being so cautious with my life. I want to be a little more spontaneous if that makes sense. The only reason I held back last night was that I could sense your hesitation and didn’t want to scare you off by pushing too hard – too fast.”

Iona searched Estelle’s face, and then she leaned in. Their lips brushed softly against each other. Then Estelle ventured to press herself further in, moving her lips in a slow exploring way. Iona moaned softly and pulled back just enough to say, “I have missed being with a woman.” Then began to kiss Estelle again.

Estelle was having a hard time keeping it chaste. She wanted to pull Iona in closer and kiss her more passionately. It had been a long time since she’d felt the sparks of genuine passion. But the sounds of kids playing nearby, niggled at her brain, and it forced her to restrain herself.

When they broke from their kiss, Iona said, “I think maybe we could try for friends with benefits. That might be really nice, actually. Really, though? No strings attached? You’re really fine with that?”

“Yeah, why not? People do it all the time. If it goes somewhere, it does, and if it doesn’t, we agree that we’ll not let it come between us as friends. Have you ever done something like this before?” Estelle asked.

“Actually, yes, and it was kinda nice. Have you?”

“No, but like I said, I’m tired of playing it on the safe side.”

“It really could backfire,” Iona warned.

“Or we could end up being soul mates. Who knows. I don’t want to think about it. I just want to live.”

Iona smiled and pulled Estelle in. They kissed a bit longer, then stood up. Walking hand in hand, they enjoyed the remainder of the festivities. Iona suggested they go back to her place when the festivities were winding down, and Estelle felt a rush of heat go straight to her core.

“I think that would be great, but are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Iona said with finality.

So they each drove in their cars and met back at Iona’s.

By the time they got there, Estelle was suddenly a bundle of nerves. She hadn’t been with a woman in years. She didn’t want to botch it before it even started.

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3 Responses

  1. What’s the funniest/worst date you’ve ever been on?
    *
    My story: I was sixteen and hardcore crushing on this guy in my class. He actually asked me out. To set the stage, he was from a wealthy family, my dad was a janitor. I’d never even dined sit down at Denny’s.
    *
    Well, he took me to a semi-upscale place. When they brought the salads to our table, I had this massive cherry tomato on my plate – like golf ball size. I didn’t think to cut that sucker in half, cause I was so nervous. So… Yeah… I popped the thing into my mouth whole, couldn’t close my mouth, chomped down, and sprayed tomato juice across the table into his salad.
    *
    Needless to say, there wasn’t a second date. Hahaha…
    *
    All for the best. I’m very happy with the spouses I am with now, and I don’t even know where that guy is today.
    *
    Do you have any sweet/funny date stories? SHARE!
    *
    Yours,
    Mistress Black Rose

  2. Sweet? Yes. I got tickets for Tigers game and asked co-worker to go with me. I know she loves game plus her favorite team from Boston was in town. 2 birds right? Did I said I have a crush on this girl? Yeah….so I took her out to dinner first, we spend nice evening together, went to the game, which was delayed due to rain, talked and drunk a lot. Spend probably about 6 hours together. Best day I had for a long time….and best, part? When I dropped her of….best hug ever…..yeah for me that was enough. Made my day…..

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