A Short Story by Tiffany Luv Wright Copyright 2015 The Hive Publications
He could hear her heels clicking across the house floors as she moved from room to room getting ready. It was a sound he had grown used to. The kids were at the sitter. They didn’t get many nights out these days.
She had been excited when her old friend had called them up and asked to go out to dinner. Liam didn’t realize who it even was. She told him their families had grown up together and it had been years since she had seen him. They communicated by email and social media, and an occasional text now and then. His name, was Tommy. And he lived in California now.
Why did it bother him so much? He shifted uncomfortably in his chair while he waited for her to be ready. Was it the way her eyes lit up when she said his name? Was it the history that he only had minimal details on? He just wasn’t sure. She had cemented the fact that they had only been friends over the years.
Gracie came around the corner.
“Are you ready?” she said with a smile. He turned to look at her. Sometimes in moments like these, she still took his breath away. Even three years later. He didn’t believe that there was any truth in only staying in love for the two year myth. He just couldn’t imagine not being in love with her. He should probably tell her that more often. He smiled back. Gracie moving in had been a pivotal moment in his life, he had been dead inside before she came along.
“Yep, if you are.” he rose and walked to the coat closet and pulled his coat out. He turned to hand her her own coat. She smelled incredible.
“You look nice, babe.” was all he could say. The truth was, she looked more than nice. The black dress clung to her body and the heels that she always complained about complimented her long legs.
“Thanks.” she replied as she smiled at him, looking him in his eyes.
They arrived at the restaurant and waited for her friend to arrive after they put their names on the list for a table. It was a new place she had wanted to try and Tommy had agreed they should, if she wanted to. Of course Tommy agreed with her.
The doors to the restaurant opened and a cold breeze followed the patron coming through the door.
Liam recognized him right away from the picture she had shown him. He was almost six foot tall. He was handsome and well dressed. The laugh lines on the corners of his eyes gave away his age.
Gracie rose with a huge smile that lit up the entryway and Liam could feel his nerves.
Tommy smiled at Gracie with a huge, friendly smile and pulled her in to his arms in a tight squeeze. He picked her up a little and said “It is so good to see you!” He put her down and took a step back. “God, you look great.” Gracie smiled at him and turned to Liam.
“Liam, this is Tommy.” Liam stuck out his hand to shake Tommy’s hand.
“Nice to meet you, Liam.” Tommy said.
“It’s nice to meet you too, Gracie speaks well about you.” Liam tried to fake a smile, but he was nervous inside. What was making him so nervous?
“Your table is ready.” the waitress said to the group with a smile. “Follow me.”
The three followed her to the center of the restaurant. It was busy and loud.
“Can we get a booth?” Tommy asked, winking at Gracie.
He beat me to it, thought Liam. Gracie hated sitting in the center of the room.
“Um, sure…” the waitress turned to look around, finally spotting an empty booth and the three followed her across the room and took their seats.
The two chattered quickly and Gracie asked about Tommy’s family right away sending the two in to a deep conversation that Liam only added small snippets and questions to.
Gracie’s phone rang and she looked down at it with a frown.
“Yeah, I have to take it, sorry babe…you guys chat and I will be right back. I have to use the ladies room too.” she kissed Liam’s cheek softly. “Can you let me out?” she smiled. Her cheeks were pink from the white wine she was sipping.
Liam rose and let Gracie move out of the booth.
The two men watched her walk over towards a quiet corner by the bar where she answered the call.
They also watched several patrons watch her as she walked away.
Tommy took a sip of his bourbon and turned to Liam.
Liam waited for Tommy to speak. Could he tell Liam was jealous?
“You know I am married, right?” Tommy asked Liam. Tommy was bold with his question. Liam shifted a little bit in his seat. He nodded back at Tommy.
Tommy nodded towards Gracie who was busily chatting away, no doubt solving a problem at work that they needed her for.
“I’ve known Gracie for a long time. Our families go way back.” Tommy said quietly. He raised his eyebrow at Liam and spoke again. “You love her?” Tommy waited for Liam to respond.
Liam shifted in his seat. He looked at Tommy in his eyes. “Yes.” He took a sip of his drink and ran his finger around the rim of the glass. “I do.”
“She still doesn’t have a ring on her finger.” Tommy said, staring across the table at Liam. “You realize a woman like her only comes along once in a lifetime.” Was he challenging Liam?
Liam nodded again. “I do.” What did Tommy want from him?
Tommy sighed. “She’s been through more than you and I ever will go through. Look at her. Do you ever notice how people watch her move? As soon as she comes through a door, they watch her, it’s like they can’t help themselves. I hope you love her enough.” he smiled a bit at Liam and the laugh lines crinkled in the corners of his eyes.
Liam sat silent for a few moments. He looked over at Gracie. She was talking fast and her face was flustered, but she could still smile through it. She was complicated and passive aggressive at times. She laughed loud and sometimes giggled like a little girl. She was smart and funny, beautiful and yet simple. She had a temper that was sometimes uncontrollable and yet she had a way with people that was calm and loving. She was fire, and he was ice. Total opposites. His heart swelled suddenly. He remembered the first time he took her out. He knew it was different then, but he had fought it. He had been a bachelor for so long that it was an adjustment. Not too mention the hurt from his first marriage at that time, was still a sting he could feel. But Gracie had changed the game. She didn’t have a ring, because he was scared. He had the ring, he just couldn’t find the time or get past the fear to give it to her.
Liam looked across the table at Tommy. He was lost in thought staring across the room at Gracie. He cleared his throat.
Tommy turned and looked at him.
“She loves me because I tell her what she is. Because I see her for WHO she is. And I love her because there won’t be another one like her in my life.” Tommy said boldly. “But she loves you more. Do you understand?” he smiled at Liam and sipped the bourbon. “She’s tired. I won’t tell you anymore because you already know.” he shifted and sat back in his seat, still staring at Liam. “A woman like her…she needs to know, she’s strong. Maybe even stronger without men like us holding her back.”
Liam shook his head, agreeing with Tommy.
“You need to tell her. Believe me, you need to show her and tell her. She needs to hear it, because her self doubt is louder than you would think. Don’t let her get away.” Tommy said.
Gracie was heading back to the table now.
A memory bled through in Liam’s mind. It was late winter last year. Gracie was in a worn out tee shirt and pajama pants. He had pulled her in to his arms in the kitchen and they danced to no music at all. He wanted to tell her to marry him then, and he let the moment pass.
Gracie was at the table. Smiling at both of them. Maybe she could feel the tension.
Liam rose and allowed her to scoot in beside him. He smiled at her. But when he looked at her it was like the first time he ever looked in to her eyes.
He could tell that Gracie could feel it, because momentarily she was breathless.
She blushed and scooted closer to Liam.
All Liam could think of were Tommy’s words.
“But she loves you more.”