Chapter 15: Second thoughts
At the familiar sound of her cell phone ringtone shortly after noon on Saturday, Cassie held her breath in hopes of it being a call from Jacob. Disappointed, but not surprised at the caller ID on the screen, she answered with “Just waking up, Blanche?” expecting the call all morning.
“Well, just getting out of bed. We’ve been awake for a while,” Margo replied on the other end.
“Oh. Great! Please, spare me the details,” Cassie said, halfway kidding, halfway serious. She was pleased that Margo and Mark were hitting it off so well and that he was the “greatest lover” her friend had ever had. That certainly said something for Mark Morgan; Margo had had her share of lovers over the past six years since her millionaire husband, twenty-five years her senior, had passed away after battling a lengthy illness. But Cassie had no desire to know the full details of Jacob’s friend’s “incredible” ability to please her friend.
“Well, unlike you, my dear friend,” Margo replied, “I do want the details. I want to hear all about last night. I must say, I am quite impressed with Mr. Miller. Not only does he like women, but he’s also quite the little romantic, it seems. Very impressive setup at your Tara. So tell me, are you still a virgin, or not?”
Margo’s question caught Cassie in the middle of a large swallow of iced tea, which she instantly spit across the room. Laughing hard while reaching for a napkin on the kitchen counter, Cassie replied, “That is hilarious, Margo. But, in this instance, the answer would be yes. My virtue is still intact when it comes to Jacob Miller.”
“That’s too bad, but I can’t say I’m at all surprised.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Margo, but I’m not like you. I can’t just jump into bed with the first man I go out with following my divorce from Phillip. Even if I like that man—a lot. I wish I were more like you. But I’m just not.”
“And there is nothing wrong with that, hon. I am who I am, and you are who you are. And I haven’t had my heart broken the way you have, either. Stay true to yourself. If Jacob Miller is the right man for you, he’ll wait. And if not, so be it. There’s plenty of other fish in the sea, and any one of them, including Jacob Miller, would be damn lucky to have you.”
“Thanks, Margo. I needed to hear that.”
But how could Cassie possibly know if Jacob Miller was the right man for her? Or any other man? For over twenty years she had believed Phillip was the right man for her. How could she trust another man, or even her instincts, ever again?
“So, tell me, Margo, just how much did you have to do with planning all that last night?”
“None. Jacob planned all that himself according to Mark. I didn’t even know about it until Mark said we needed to make a quick delivery to Tara. We delivered and set up the champagne, the roses, and the desserts, and turned on the fans. Everything else was already there and set up when we arrived. And I think we almost got caught, too. Mark saw you guys in the rearview mirror turning into Tara just after we turned onto the highway.”
Cassie smiled to herself as she disconnected the call after making plans with Margo to meet for lunch one day the following week, pleased at knowing Jacob had planned the entire evening himself. She couldn’t imagine anything more romantic. The only thing missing had been music, but everything else had been there—the candles, the champagne, the chocolate-covered strawberries, the roses. Those roses now had the center of attention in the middle of her coffee table. She gently touched one as she replayed in her mind every moment of her perfect first date with Jacob Miller.
When Sunday afternoon rolled around and Cassie had still not heard from Jacob since he had walked her to her front door and kissed her goodnight following their dessert at Tara, she became alarmed. And disappointed. She had spent Saturday evening at home alone, dining on a frozen pizza and green salad as she watched old movies on the TCM network. She had downed several glasses of wine during the evening. It hadn’t bothered her since her divorce to spend a Saturday evening alone. She had reconciled the idea of it as part of her new life sans Phillip. But this Saturday night, sitting alone on the beige sofa of the cramped living room of the small, dull rental house with the white painted walls, and the beige carpet, in the equally small, lifeless community of Vacherie, watching old movies, it had bothered her.
Why hadn’t Jacob called her? How had he spent Saturday night?
She hated having those feeling. She didn’t want to be lonely, to be thinking of someone who might not be thinking of her, who might be with someone else while she sat at home alone. She’d had Aunt Sissy’s mansion to occupy her time and her mind after Phillip left her, and then Tara and her dream of turning it into a successful Bed and Breakfast. But now she needed something to take her mind off Jacob Miller, and Tara wouldn’t work. Jacob was part of Tara; the two were inseparable. There was no way she could think of one without thinking of the other.
Deciding to occupy her time—and mind—by reading, Cassie collected a newly-purchased mystery/detective novel from the small stack of paperbacks on the bedroom nightstand. After pouring a glass of wine, she relaxed on the sofa and began reading, only to toss the book on the coffee table moments later, unable to concentrate on the words.
“Now what?” she sighed, tapping her fingers on the table.
The option of shopping was senseless, needing nothing she could think of and no room in the small rental for another thing, not even a new pair of shoes. Calling Margo to meet for lunch or a movie as she had often done in the past would be futile. Margo now spent every second of her free time with Mark. Patricia and Patrick were too far away to visit, and the pleasure of hearing their voices would last only as long as the phone call itself. Cassie hadn’t felt this incredibly alone since the night of her surprise birthday party, the night she had spent in the downstairs powder bath of her large country club home, curled up next to the toilet on the cold tile floor.
Why had she accepted the date with Jacob? Why hadn’t she trusted her initial gut feeling and said no? She had let her guard down and was now paying the price for having done so.
Finally, the idea struck to go for a long drive in her new sports car, maybe head for New Orleans with the top down and the music blaring. Something spontaneous. She recalled one quiet, lazy Sunday afternoon when Phillip had laughed at her for wanting to do something spontaneous.
“Cassie, you’ve never done anything spontaneous in your life,” he had said.
Well, the hell with Phillip, and Jacob Miller!
After taking a large sip of her wine, Cassie entered her bedroom, where she packed a small overnight bag. Once done, she changed from the comfortable tattered blue jean shorts and white tank top to a tight, short, casual white summer skirt, pink short-sleeve cotton blouse, and pink heeled sandals. What to do and where to stay the night would be decided upon arriving in the French Quarter. Screw reservations!
As she passed through the living room on the way to the garage, the roses caught her eye. Dropping the overnight bag on the floor and retrieving the vase from the table, she carried it into the kitchen, set it on the counter, pulled out the small trash can under the sink, gathered up the roses in her hands, and pulled them out of the vase.
Not that I want to call it a night. But I’m willing to take things as slow as you want, as slow as you need.
Jacobs words from Friday night at Tara suddenly filled her head, overwhelming her.
After placing the roses back in the vase, separating them into the lovely arrangement they had been and setting them back in the center of the coffee table, she grabbed her handbag from the kitchen and headed out to the garage, leaving her packed overnight bag sitting on the living room floor.
After making a quick stop at the locally-owned and operated grocery store, she headed down River Road with the top down on her convertible and the music blaring. She drove in the direction of the one place she most wanted to be at that moment—Tara.
As she drove down the recently graveled road leading to Tara, she lowered the volume of the music. Once in sight of the mansion, she smiled at what she saw. It was what she had hoped, but not expected to find—Jacob’s light grey pickup truck parked in front. She checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror, then reached into the center storage box for the small hairbrush inside, using it to smooth her windblown hair. Then she stepped out of the car. Carrying her handbag and the grocery sack, she headed inside.