“You noticed what I was having for lunch back at the office? And you found me delightful?” I ask, utterly stunned. He nods.
“My mother passed away when I was ten. For a while it was just me and my dad, and it was good. We spent a lot of time together and became really close. Our house wasn’t immaculate and sometimes we would sit in front of the TV and have hot dogs with chili and onions for dinner while we watched the Yankees, but it was fine. After a year or so, some busybodies started telling him that I needed a mom.”
I stare at him.
“Who would do that?”
“I think our neighbors, and probably some of his co-workers at the company. Anyways, my dad was and still is a very handsome man and he had a decent job with a retirement plan. As you can guess, women were all over him, jumping at the chance to be my new mom.” Keith lets out another exasperated sigh. “There were two wives after my mom. They were both haughty and snobbish, more concerned with social status and having a handsome man on their arm than being genuine or caring. They convinced my father to take them to restaurants he couldn’t afford so they could order $40 salads they barely touched. I think I mentioned previously that by the time I was in high school, we were broke. Both marriages ended in divorce and when the second ex was done taking my dad’s money and pension and our house, we struggled to make ends meet. That’s part of the reason why I detest women who order $40 salads and never eat them. It’s a hot button for me.”
He releases my hand and I nod, still thinking. I pick up my appetizer fork and fish a tasty mussel out of its shiny black shell. It must have been hard for Keith to reveal his past to me, so I feel I should make my own confession to him. What’s more, I feel I can confide in him. I take a deep breath.
“Keith, I’ve only dated a few guys and it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that my weight was a problem for a lot of guys. If I ordered a plate of lasagna I’d get a wary glance, not to mention decimating my chances at a second date. No guy ever came out and said he thought I needed to lose weight, but I was always single by the time bathing suit season rolled around.”
He looks at me, utterly confused, and I nod.
“The last relationship I was in was disastrous. We were having drinks one night at a bar and his friends suggested going on a camping trip at a lake once it warmed up. His friend said there were some great hiking trails and we could swim in the lake, but my ex didn’t even hesitate. He said ‘Kelsey doesn’t swim or hike so she won’t want to go, but I’m in.’”
Keith looks stunned, and I nod again.
“I was sitting right there beside him and he didn’t even bother to ask. It’s true that I can’t swim but he thought I couldn’t take a walk in the woods? I asked him about it when we were alone, and he said he didn’t think I’d be comfortable in a swimsuit with my jiggly body and thunder thighs. I broke up with him that night and haven’t talked to him since. As a result, when I’m out with a man, I feel embarrassed if I eat a lot.”
That is the first time I’ve ever confessed my insecurities about my weight to a guy. I watch Keith’s face, uncertain of how he will react. I see a little flash of anger in his eyes, and they become a deep, stormy gray.
“Kelsey, men like that are shallow pigs who project their own insecurities onto you. You should never have to tolerate that sort of disrespect. Men like that don’t know what they’re missing by passing over a lush girl like you.”
I flush at the compliment. It means so much coming from a guy who can have any woman he wants.
“That’s very kind of you to say.”
He shakes his head vehemently.
“I’m not just being kind, and I have my own confession to make, sweetheart. There is no business meeting here in Tahiti. No one else is coming. I made it all up so I could get you alone. I wanted to spend time with you without the whole office knowing about it, and I have the means at my disposal, so why not?”
“Wait a second.” I feel a torrent of embarrassment as well as heated delight. “You lied to me? Does Corrine know this was an elaborate set up? We all know you sleep with lots of women, Keith. I book your reservations for you sometimes. The entire office is aware you’re a womanizer, so why the discretion?”