Denise opened her eyes and stretched her arms and legs out in the King-sized bed. Her head ached. She drank too much wine at last night’s dinner. She hadn’t noticed the new mirrored ceiling in Randall’s bedroom last night and was troubled by the sight of it now. She sat up and looked around for other things that were different: new leopard print sheets and linens on the bed, an unusual abstract painting on the wall, and even the old lamps were replaced by new, and quite stylish, lamps, with purple sheer cloths thrown over the shades. The whole décor of the room was different. The whole feel of the room was different, but not man different, woman different. A woman decorated this room she thought.
The shower, which was running down the hall, had stopped. She lay back down and covered her naked self with the sheet, pretending to be still sleeping.
“Get up, Lazy Bones, time to start the day.” Randall pulled the sheet away and caressed her body. She felt the tingle of his fingers as they found their way up her thigh, hip, and side. She turned to him and they kissed good morning. “Come on, you better get going or you’ll be late.”
“It’s a holiday, remember?” Her eyes pleaded with him to get back into bed.
“It’s inventory day, Denise.”
“Shit! Oh, I forgot!” She jumped up and began gathering up her clothes from the floor. In minutes, she was kissing Randall goodbye and was out the door. Even though today was the Civic Day holiday, she and the girls had agreed to go in to do inventory.
She pressed the Parking button once inside the elevator and searched her purse for her phone. The doors were just about to close when she stuck her arms between them and rushed back to Randall’s unit to find her phone. The front door was unlocked so she walked in and headed for the bedroom, certain that it would be on the floor somewhere. Just as she was about to walk in, she stopped. Eli was on the phone.
“I had a great time, too. When can I see you again?”
Silence for a moment.
“I have to work late tomorrow night. How about we have dinner on Wednesday?”
“Okay. See you Wednesday night at Tu Casa around eight.”
Eli got up off the bed.
“I love you, too.”
He turned and saw Denise by the door.
“Sorry, I forgot my phone.” Her voice was shaky. “Check under the bed for me, I’ll check the under the dresser.”
“Here it is, Babe.” He came to her with the phone and noticed that she was flushed. “Are you all right?”
“Yah, I’m just out of breath. I’ll call you later.” She grabbed the phone and ran out the door.
He stood there, in his Calvin Klein’s and wondered if she had heard him on the phone. Naw, he thought, and continued with his daily routine.
Denise got to her car and was on the way back to Brampton. She had plenty of time to get back to her place and shower before starting work at the flower shop. Her head was spinning: Who was he talking to on the phone? Is he seeing someone else? Why am I being so paranoid?
She shook off the doubt, but by the time she got to the flower shop her feelings got the best of her, and Jessie and Rose knew something was wrong the moment she walked in.
“What’s wrong? What is it?” Rose inquired from behind the rolls of wrapping paper.
Denise blew her breath out, making the sound of a horse. She went to the back room and hung her purse in the closet. Jessie and Rose just looked on as she put a cup of water in the Keurig and placed a K-cup in the machine. She plopped in the chair behind her desk and scratched her head.
“I just don’t understand men,” she said.
“It’s Randall? Did you guys have another argument?” Jessie said.
“No, not exactly,” she said and went on to tell them about the telephone conversation that she had overheard.
“Maybe it was family,” Rose said, trying to be positive. “His sister. Or his mother.”
“Yah, you’re probably right, Rose, but I just can’t seem to shake this feeling that he is hiding something.” She got up and dressed her coffee with cream and sweetener and sat back down. The taste of the hot coffee settled her nerves. “Maybe I am just overreacting. It’s just since that whole orgy incident I feel like there’s something not right.”
“I thought you were over that?” Jessie looked puzzled. “Perhaps it’s just residue from your old relationship, y’know? It took me a while to trust Eli, and I don’t think I’ll ever trust any man one hundred percent, I think that just goes with the territory. Ask any woman and I’m sure she’ll tell you the same thing.”
“Yah, we talked about that night and he did ask me to be exclusive, but I haven’t even met his parents and I probably wouldn’t have met his sister if he hadn’t been in the hospital with that crazy spider bite. I dunno. I just feel like he’s not being totally honest with me.” She ran her fingers through her hair, scratching her scalp.
Rose rubbed the site of the spider bite and spoke up, “I hate spiders.”
“Oh, sorry, Rose, I didn’t mean to bring that up.” Denise said.
“No, it’s okay, I’m glad the scar has finally healed. Denise, didn’t you say they were going to a restaurant?”
“Yah, some restaurant called Tu Casa, at least I think it’s a restaurant.”
Jessie was closest to the laptop and Googled Tu Casa. It was an upscale restaurant in Mississauga. She made reservations for herself and Eli at eight on Wednesday.
“There, no worries, Denise, I’ve got it under control.” Denise felt guilty, but a little relieved. New relationships were so hard.
After inventory was done, the girls closed up shop and went for a late lunch at Swiss Chalet. Each took turns talking about the highs and lows of their relationships. Rose and Denise were still getting over the fact that Eli had come back and was now courting Jessie, and Denise and Jessie were still shocked that Rose had not consummated her relationship with Alex.
“How long’s it been, Rose?” Jessie said.
“Almost six months.” Rose was proud of her abstinence.
“Rose, how do you string a guy on for that long? If it were me, I’d have been sent to the curb by now.” Jessie said, munching her Caesar salad.
“Oh, we’ve had oral sex and we’ve done a lot of petting, and let me tell you, it’s been hot and heavy.”
Jessie and Denise put down their forks. Rose seemed on the verge of telling some great secret.
“He’s asked me to go on a trip with him. Just up north, near Wasaga Beach. His parents own a cottage there.”
“And, and what did you tell him?” Denise said impatiently.
“I said yes…to everything.” Rose was ecstatic. She cupped her cheeks and rolled her eyes and smiled bigger than Julia Roberts ever could.
Their squeals of laughter and exhilaration were heard all over the restaurant. Rose was finally gonna get laid!
When lunch was over, Denise felt better about her situation, but when Wednesday evening came, she was back to being a bundle of nerves. Rose’s shift ended at seven, but she stayed on with Denise for moral support. And she also wanted to know what Jessie was going to find out.
It was now almost nine and Jessie hadn’t called.
At the restaurant, Eli and Jessie were finishing up wonderful gourmet meals.
“This lobster bisque is delicious.” Jessie said. “How’s the beef?”
“Tender. And the veggies taste awesome, and I don’t even like veggies that much.” He chuckled.
“Great wine choice, Eli. Do you know about wines?”
“A little. My father had a small cellar back home.”
Jessie looked around. There was no sign of Randall. She wanted to text Denise, but thought it rude to do so during dinner. She decided she would excuse herself once she ordered from the dessert menu and take a quick trip to the ladies room to call.
Denise answered anxiously. “Where are you? Are you at the restaurant? Who is he with?”
“Hold on, Denise, he never showed.”
“He’s not there?”
“No, he never showed, and we’ve been here since 7:30.” Jessie sensed the disappointment in her voice.
“Ok, okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’m sorry, Denise.”
“Don’t sweat it, I’m seeing him tomorrow. I’m sure it’s all innocent.”
“Okay, goodnight.” Jessie felt bad that it didn’t go as planned. She went back to Eli and finished her meal. Eli did not know anything.
Denise and Rose locked up and went home.
“Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do?” Rose said.
“No, it’s okay, thanks for staying. You’re a good friend.”
They blew air kisses and went on their way. Denise did not go home. Instead, she decided to face Randall and ask him just what was going on. A half hour later she was on The Collegeway, facing The Palace Condominium. She parked the car and the need for a cigarette boiled up. Ignoring it, she walked up the front stairs and headed for the elevator. The sound of Randall’s laughter echoed through the lobby. She followed the sound and found him in deep conversation with another woman. They were discussing the print on the wall. The woman had a stiff posture with a fine pair of legs and warm blond hair. Randall was dressed in one of his Harry Rosen suits. The two seemed very comfortable with each other. When Randall put his arm around the woman, Denise spoke up from behind him.
“I thought that was you.” She caught him red-handed.
Randall turned around surprised to see her. “Denise, what are you doing here?” He grabbed her and hugged her.
She was brimming and ready to tell him off for his cheating, but confused that he was genuinely glad to see her.
“I had to go to Sheridan to pick up an order.” It wasn’t the truth, but it could have been true. She eyed the other woman, seeing the fine lines around the eyes and mouth.
“Mom, this is Denise, the girl I was telling you about. Denise, this is my mother, Angela.”