Jane stared in the mirror. Her face was pale and no amount of make-up was going to change it. Her disappointment in herself was written in frown lines at the edges of her lips. Why had she agreed to go on this date at all?
He hadn’t left her with any choice.
She hated that type of behavior. It was like her father treated her and her mother–overbearing and dictatorial. Why was she going out with a man like that?
Because she needed to get out of the house. She’d go out with him, enjoy being treated like a lady and end it.
She nodded to the image in the mirror. That was the answer. Allow herself some pleasure but remain in control at all times.
The doorbell rang at seven. Michael, dressed in his charcoal suit, handed her a bouquet of red carnations. “I’ve decided its my job to cheer you up tonight,” he said as she went to the kitchen to place the flowers in water.
“That’s nice of you,” she said. “I’ll be all right, soon. I just need to start writing again — the things that I like to write.”
“Oh?” he said, holding her coat for her.
She flailed her arms searching for the sleeves. Few men held a coat for her and she preferred it that way. She always felt so stupid trying to be graceful.
Michael came around to her front and brushed her lips with his. “You’ll get used to it. Just takes practice.”
“Uh…right.” He gestured for her to leave the apartment before him and he took her arm as they walked the hallway to the aging elevator.
“So, what kind of books would you prefer to write?” he asked after he pushed the button to call the car.
“I write women’s fiction. The kind of book where a woman figures out what she needs to do to move forward in her life and then does it.”
“Without a man.”
“Well. Yes. Um…no…sometimes. I mean, a man can be around, but he’s not the focus. My heroines are smart enough to realize they don’t need a man to survive.”
“And a woman in a romance could never figure that out.”
Was Michael mocking her?
The elevator bell chimed.
“I don’t exactly mean that, of course,” she said as the elevator descended.
“Then what do you mean? That women are better off without men?”
Jane thought about the men she knew from in-charge men like her father to easier-to-deal-with men like many of her college classmates. They were nice enough, but they weren’t really necessary, were they?
They were silent as they walked through the tiled lobby and out to the curb where the doorman hailed them a cab. After Michael got into the back of the car from the street side, he told the to go to one of the swankest…and most expensive..restaurants in the city.
“You can’t take me there,” Jane said.
“Actually, I can. I feel I need to make up for Sally at the ball last week.”
Jane’s eyes widened.
“Oh, yes, he said, “I heard how she behaved. At some point I will insist she apologize to you directly, but for now, I’m hoping this dinner will make up for my country-woman’s bad behavior.”
Jane felt something inside her melt a little. She could grow to like being treated like this. If only a woman didn’t have to give up herself to get it.
Michael took her hand and said, “I think your problem is you’ve never been in love.”