Chapter 9 ~ This Is Not A Date
Grace turned onto Grove Street and drove slowly. She spotted the large green Starbucks logo two blocks ahead. She was still fighting a raging internal battle that started the moment she pulled out of her driveway. Initially, she didn’t like James. She thought he was pompous, narcissistic, and vain. Yet, as the afternoon wore on, he grew on her. They talked about the symphony. His favorite was Mahler, her’s was Mozart. They talked about singers, she liked Diana Krall, he like Nora Jones. He like Italian food, so did she. He had a season pass to the botanical gardens and so did she.
Grace and James exchanged phone numbers but made no commitment to see each other. She wanted to see him, but she knew Matt did not like him. She knew Matt and he was like his dad, Mike, once his mind was made up, no amount of the facts or reasoning was going to change it. If Matt knew she was meeting James this morning, he would have gone into a sulk that might stop for a week. She tried to remember the questions Matt wanted to ask him, something about the Cowboys and what was the other? She remembered, the difference between a curve ball and fast ball. Why was she meeting James if Matt would never like him? Why was she letting Matt decide who she should see? Her brain felt like she was watching a tennis match between two evenly matched players that would never end.
Grace glanced at the time on the car’s dash, it was 6:55. James said he’d be there at 7. She didn’t want to be early. If she was, it would make her seem too eager. Then the thought crossed her min, what if he asks me to go out for a date? What do I tell him? What do I tell Matt. Maybe I should have him over for dinner so Matt can get to know him. That’s it. That’s what I’ll do if he asks me for a date. I’ll turn it around on him.
Grace drove around the block, the traffic was light, and she made all the lights. It was 6:59, still too early to make an entrance. She started around the block a second time and stopped at a parking place on a side street and pulled over. She pulled the visor down and looked at herself in the visor’s mirror. A quick panic hit her. She didn’t wear makeup, not even a hint of lipstick. I look like I’m singing in a church choir. She studied her face and spotted a line near the corner of her right eye. I am getting so old, she thought. The text tone chimed on her cell phone. She pick it up, it was from Matt. Hi Mom, Jimmy’s mom is here. I’m leaving. Have a great day at work. Love Matt.
Grace text back, TYVM – Enjoy camp. Tell me all about it tonight. Love, Mom.
Feelings of guilt rose within her. She took a deep breath and tried to tell herself she was not doing anything wrong, I’m only meeting some to talk and have coffee. It’s not like I’m going home with him. Why do I feel guilty? Will I ever be okay? Oh, dear God, what’s wrong with me?
Grace checked the sideview mirror and pulled into traffic, two more right turns and she was at Starbucks, she pulled into the crowded parking lot. No parking places, it’s a sign from God, I’m not supposed to be here, she said to herself. She no sooner finished the thought when the rear backup lights of a car appeared. The car backed out, leaving a parking space for Grace. She took a deep breath and pulled into the space.
Grace turned her car off, unbuckled her seatbelt, and took her handbag off of the passenger seat. She stepped out of the car, put her handbag over her shoulder, pressed the lock button on her keys, she heard the door click, and walked toward the door. She opened the door and quickly scanned the room, she didn’t see James. She realized her worst fears, she was going to be the first one there, I’ll seem to eager she thought. She started to turn to head the bathroom, when James walked in.
“Hi Grace, thank you for coming. I got caught in traffic. Have you been waiting long? said, James.
Hi James, I just walked in,” said Grace. The gave each other a friendly embrace. And joined the line.
“What do you usually order when you come to Starbucks? It’s on me, I invited you,” said James.
Grace pulled out her iPhone, “I’ll pay for my drink, I’ll get stars and free drink at some point,” Grace liked it better that way.
“I insist, Grace. Let me get the drinks,” said James.
“Just a tall black coffee, no room for cream,” said Grace saying a mental goodbye to her skinny vanilla latte.
“You’re a cheap date,” said James looking at the barista. “We’ll have a tall dark roast coffee, no room and a venti dark roast with a double shot of espresso.”
I’m a cheap date, thought Grace. I didn’t think this was a date. James handed her the tall coffee and they walked to the pickup station to wait for James’ special order drink.
“I’ve got an important date in court this morning at nine, I’ll need the extra caffeine,” said James.
“Oh, what’s happening?” said Grace.
“I’m the lead attorney for Paxton Oil. Maybe you read about it in the paper or saw it on the news how the city is suing Paxton for polluting Clear Creek.”
“I have. You’re representing Paxton?” said Grace.
James picked up his drink and guided Grace to a table. James placed his drink on the table and pulled out a chair for Grace. Grace slid in and said, “Thank you.” She thought about the gesture. Mike never pulled out her chair. What did this mean?
James sat down, “The city is being unfair to Paxton. I think I’m going to get the judge to dismiss the case.”
“The spill in the creek came from Paxton’s holding tanks, that’s what I read, is that true?” said Grace.
“I’m not arguing that point. I’m arguing the city should be suing the company that made the holding tank. It’s all legal gymnastics, blame someone else. If you’re not at the end of the blame game you can get off.”
Grace hadn’t touched her coffee. She stared at James, “Don’t you think Paxton has a social responsibility to the city to clean up the creek? It used to be clean enough to swim in it. Now, the city forbids swimming or fishing in it.”
James held up his hands, “Whose side are you on? If I win, I get a big bonus and a trip to Aspen for two this winter.”
Grace bit her tongue, her first thought was Matt I have to start listening to you. She said, “I like clean water, I like a healthy environment. And, I don’t like companies that take advantage of the law to stick it to the public.”
“Paxton has a right to a strong defense. That’s what I’m paid to do. If the city loses, they’ll have lost to the better lawyer. And, there are not too many lawyers in the city better than me,” said James.
Grace stared at James. He continued to make his case to the jury or the judge or whoever. She wasn’t listening, she noticed his veneers, sparkly white. She looked at his gesturing hands and manicured fingernails. She turned her attention to his hair, perfect, not a hair out of place and path straighter than the edge of a square table.
James finished his summation, he placed both palms flat on the table and looked at Grace, waiting for her applause.
Grace said, “That’s nice, James. I have a question for you, do. you mind?”
“Of course not,” said James.
“What’s the difference between a curve ball and fast ball?”