He’s quiet and businesslike, but he gives me a soft smile every time. He’s like a warden with sympathy for his prisoner. The thought makes a sarcastic huff of a laugh leave me, although it’s barely heard.
I don’t know where he was hiding or if he was seated, perhaps standing. I have no idea. But Seth nods at me with the same polite smile the host had for me in the foyer. As if no one in this world would dare admit what a shit-show my life is and how I look the part for it right now.
I can’t hear Jase’s murmur but I don’t need to. Seth disappears for a moment, swiftly walking away when the waitress arrives with oysters Rockefeller and seared scallops. Setting the large plates in the center of our table, she then places two small plates equipped with tiny seafood forks as well in front of each of us.
She’s courteous and polite, smiling at me but more so at Jase before asking if we need anything else. Jase shakes his head once and I do the same, not trusting myself to speak.
“I chose the courses while waiting for you,” he explains.
“I’m not hungry,” I tell Jase, spotting Seth making his way back to us with The Coverless Book in his right hand by his side.
“You haven’t slept; you should at least eat.”
The tight smile graces Seth’s lips once again and then holding out the book for me to take, he tells me, “The rest is now in your car, Miss Fawn.”
“Thank you,” I say, and somehow the words are spoken; how? I don’t know. My head feels dizzy as I hold the book tighter than I’ve held anything in my life. It could give me the answers to everything.
“That’s all,” Jase says lowly and Seth is gone before I can say anything else. Before I can even swallow down the ball of dread that’s cutting off the oxygen in my throat.
I should ask him where he found it; I should say something or attempt to carry on conversation so it’s not obvious that this book may change the way I think about him. He has no idea and he’s given it over to me freely. I should try to keep my cover, but I’m an awful liar.
“I have to go to the restroom,” I tell Jase as I stand up from the table and reach for my purse, setting the book inside before slinging the bag over my shoulder.
Jase only nods. I have to grip the back of my chair, taking him in for what could be the last time. The air changes around me, it moves around him, pulling me toward him, begging me to stay there… just in case.
I think if I ran, which I know very well I may do depending on what’s in the book, I’d miss the way he looks at me the most. He doesn’t just glance at me, he doesn’t observe me the way others do, inconsequentially and only with little curiosity. He stares at me with a hunger and a need for more, to see more of me and what’s inside of me. He looks at me like he never wants to stop seeing me.
Even knowing he’s angry with me and how we’re surrounded by prying eyes in a crowded restaurant, he only sees me. Yes, that’s the way he looks at me. Like I’m the only one worth seeing. With my back turned to him, I know it might be the last time, and it hurts. I wasn’t expecting that. I should stop expecting anything at all.
As I’m walking away, I feel the vibrations of my phone ringing silently, but I ignore it, quickening my pace to get away from Jase and from these thoughts.
The women’s restroom door pushes open easily and I don’t hesitate to lock myself inside of the stall farthest from the entrance, dropping my purse to the floor and quickly opening the book to where I was.
I check my phone just before opening the book, and it says Rockford called. For a second I hesitate, wondering what work wanted and why they called.
I drop it back into the inside pocket when I hear the door open and someone walking in. I can just barely make out a pair of red heels by the sink and I hear the telltale zip of a bag as she stands there. Maybe she’s reapplying lipstick or checking her appearance. I have no idea, but either way, alone in the stall, I open the pages of the book, searching for the last page I read.
My eyes are tired and the black and white is more blurred than it should be. But the underlined words are still there and just beneath the lines, the first letter of the sentences are just as I remembered.