“Great show,” Sam’s statement was suggestive, “Your audience got good value.”
Shut up, Josh signed with an extra gesture which wasn’t official sign language.
“When do we get to meet this Belinda?” Drew was handing out the beers, “If she does that to you mate, I’m keen to be introduced.”
Never, Josh narrowed his eyes at Drew, she wouldn’t be interested in a man-whore like you.
“Woah,” Drew put up his hands, “Them fighting words! The gloves are off. There’s no need for you to feel threatened by my superior good looks and advanced love-making skills.”
For that comment, Josh used both hands to emphasize the gesture.
“Seriously, Jay,” Mark said thoughtfully, “I’d like to meet this woman too. Maybe she has some friends or a sister. If she can get you all worked up I’m keen to see what her sister’s like.”
You guys are dicks, Josh signed as he rolled his eyes.
“I’m pretty sure you’re is the only one who noticed that fact tonight,” Drew laughed, “The audience didn’t, we might as well have been peashooters! Goliath doing a standing ovation, that’s not an easy act to follow, mate.”
“Yeah, with Belinda around,” Mark grinned, “The Top-Hat dance might need to be added to the program.”
“Your date obviously went well,” Sam smiled as the other men laughed, “She took it well?”
Josh looked away.
“You didn’t tell her?” Mark’s mouth fell open, “Are you kidding me? Still? How do you think this is going to end?”
“Jay, you have a full spread in ‘My Woman’ this month and the press are hotter for you than a bride-to-be on her Hen’s night,” Sam grimaced, “She’s going to find out. It would be better if she heard it from you than seeing you spread naked on the racks of the local news agency.”
Is that coming out this month? Hell, he ran his hand through his hair. He’d done a photo shoot for MW months ago and it wasn’t PG. He’d done it with Desharvoo, who was currently in the charts with her latest album and was known for her lack of clothing and easy-going attitude. The pictures had been risqué but Deshar was a friend and they’d had fun while they posed all over each other.
I’ll tell her, he signed.
“You had better,” Drew took a drink from his beer, “I don’t want to have to make the trip to Trenton to console the girl.”
“I’ll drive,” Mark added quickly.
“I’ve got shotgun!” Sam laughed.
You are all dicks.
It was Sunday morning, too early, when he texted. He needed to see her, in a place where he could tell her. Somewhere where he wouldn’t be tempted to kiss her instead.
Are you free this evening? I know that you have work tomorrow, so if you can’t, all good. J
He sent the text and hoped that he didn’t sound like an idiot. He had Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights off. All the other nights he was dancing. He could juggle, and arrange to see her after the show, but it wouldn’t be ideal. He’d also rung his publicist and found out that the MW edition with the pictures in it was due on the shelves on Thursday.
He paced the floor. This wasn’t how this normally worked. The women he dated all knew who he was. Belinda was right, his ex-girlfriends were models or women who were in the business of entertainment. They were happy to be seen with him but that was why they didn’t last. It was all about the limelight for them. These women wanted people to see that they were dating Goliath. They craved the publicity and the sex, the rest of him was superfluous. His relationships all ended the same way, with him feeling used and exhausted.
After a string of these, he gave up. It seemed clear that while he was Goliath he couldn’t have a relationship. He’d avoided getting involved. It wasn’t that difficult. As his popularity increased he’d hidden himself away. He’d come to the decision that women feel into three camps, those who screamed at his name, those who wanted what was in his pants, or those who saw him as something dirty and cringed away from him. He had no interested in having any of them in his life.
The last woman he’d dated was Desharvoo and that was almost two years ago. Despite that, he was a man and he still had the occasional woman in his bed. These liaisons were a discreet thing with a dancer or someone who knew the story. The women were happy with the arrangement, didn’t expect more and didn’t talk to the press. They were strictly one-night performances.
He had a plan. He could only do this for so long before his body became unappealing to the audience. Then he would settle down, out of the public eye and, once no one recognized him, he’d be able to look for someone special. That woman would see him for who he was, and he’d want to have a relationship with her.
That was what he was saving his kisses for. He held his lips as something precious. With his body so publicly accessible, most women knew every freckle and every inch of him. His physical appearance wasn’t special and just for her. Having her get to know his kisses were supposed to be part of the courtship process. He didn’t know if Belinda was the one or not, but the time wasn’t right to be forgetting this rule. He wasn’t in the right place to find that woman. He still had his career to muddy the waters.
Belinda was special, irrespective of whether she was the one or not, he felt something for her that he hadn’t felt before. He had kissed her, he couldn’t get her out of his head and he needed to know if she was the one woman who could love him for him. But that meant telling her the whole truth. The problem was that he wasn’t sure she was ready for that yet. She didn’t know him well enough to see that Goliath wasn’t the man he was. He just needed some more time.
The other complication was that he couldn’t tell her. Not having the ability to talk to her was a serious disability. How was he supposed to communicate who he was, to her, without talking to her? It wasn’t a new problem for him, but the struggle was highlighted with her in his life. The voice was a vital tool and he was at a serious disadvantage without it. Scribbling his words on a pad of paper wasn’t ideal and wasn’t romantic. And it wasn’t like he could bring one of his friends along to translate.
His phone binged with the text notification sound.
Tonight 7pm is good, what’s the plan?
He’d made some arrangements with a friend who ran a restaurant. Sundays were quiet for them and they were prepared to assist him. He texted Francois, to check to make sure tonight was still going to work. When he received the reply, he texted her the restaurant’s name and address.
French? That sounds expensive, what should I wear?
Not like that, it’s not formal. Good food and we need to talk, he replied.
He sent it then re-read the words. Hell. He’d just made it sound like he was going to break up with her.
I mean, with a table I can write answers better for you.
He was well out of practice with this. He hoped that she understood. She didn’t respond. He paced the floor. It was over an hour before she answered.
Great, good idea. Sorry, busy at work. I’m going to be out of town Wed to Sat – lots to prepare.
You’re at work, on a Sunday?
Big court case next week, tell you about it Tonight. Got to go. Miss you.
He looked at the last words and felt his heart constrict. Did she mean that? Did she really miss him?
Something blossomed inside him. It felt like hope. He closed his eyes. Hope was a dangerous thing. He couldn’t give in to it. Hope had a nasty habit of growing out-of-control. It made him want things that might never happen. It gave rise to plans and dreams. He would have to snuff it out before it turned around and bit him hard. More than once, he’d been on the receiving end of one of hope’s vicious bites and he wasn’t keen to repeat the experience. He needed to control it out before it become a monster. But that was easier said than done.
Miss you? What the hell was that? She looked at the text and cringed. She really needed to get a filter. She wondered if there was an App for that – Stupidity Filter – if there wasn’t one maybe she should invent one and make her fortune.
She wanted to text back and clarify what she meant. She spent five minutes looking at her phone. Anything she said now just dug her deeper into that hole. There was no graceful recovery from ‘Miss you’.
He wasn’t texting back, so she had to assume one of two things. Either, that comment didn’t phase him and he wasn’t replying because she’d just told him that she was too busy to communicate. Or, he wasn’t replying because he was busy packing his bags and boarding a flight for the Antarctic or some remote island in the Caribbean where she’d never find him. There was no way to find out which one. She would have to wait until Tonight. If he didn’t turn up at the restaurant she’d know that he’d gone with the later option.
She didn’t have any more time to dwell on it. As the head of MS&T’s Forensic Accounting division, she’d be presenting evidence at a trial in Boston. It was her job to analysis the financial information for the defendant’s team and bring her findings to court as evidence. This was a big case for them. She’d been setting up the division for two years and this was their biggest contract so far. The Law Firm that was retaining them was prestigious and if everything went well it would bring in more work. If she did this right, it would assure her of the promotion.
The team she had were great, but at the end of the day it was her head that would roll if anything when wrong. She wasn’t that worried though. She was good at her job and she’d been through all the numbers with a fine-tooth comb. She was confident that she could present the evidence to the court in a way that would make it obvious to the judge that there was no foul play.
The trip to Boston had been a draw-card for her. She’d never been before. Her experiences since moving here were limited to the trip from her flat to the office. She’d arrived two years ago and not been on a holiday, taken a weekend off, or done anything other than go to work. She worked in New York everyday and she’d never been to Central park before Josh took her. She’d never seen any of the tourist sites. She knew the train, the train station and the pavement between the train station and her building. That was her routine and, even though she’d promised herself that she’d get out more, she never varied it.
Part of her wondered if that was what made Josh so exciting for her. He was different. He dragged her from her normal and made her look at the world in a new way. It was dangerous thinking when she had a career to focus, but it was thrilling and made her feel adventurous.
She pushed the thoughts of Josh out of her head. If she didn’t get this finished she wouldn’t be able to make the date. Going out tonight should be fine, she had most of the work complete. If she had to work late Monday and/or Tuesday there was always the travel bed available if she needed it. She had a fold-up bed stashed in the cupboard in her office, along with a selection of clean clothes and a bathroom bag. When you lived all the way out in Trenton, it made working late then getting home at a realistic time difficult. If it was past 11pm, the commute didn’t make sense. She’d have five hours sleep and four hours of commuting. Sometimes it was just easier to sleep here. The firm didn’t mind, there was a shower and kitchen available and she wasn’t the only one who did it. Her boss wasn’t one of these people, but he seemed happy for her to be here 24hours per day.
The time passed too quickly and too slowly at the same time. Too quickly because there was a lot at stake and you could never do too much preparation. She had her files ready and she had Monday and Tuesday to finalize. She need to map out a few scenarios to ensure that the prosecution wouldn’t catch her unaware. Josh on the other hand was what made the time go slow. She’d spent every hour trying not to think about him.
She was starting to feel obsessive. She wondered about him. She speculated about him. She fantasized about him. He was driving her crazy and he’d done nothing to deserve it. The phone had stayed quiet. He hadn’t encouraged her. It was all her. All in her head.
With so much Josh on her mind, she was worried. What if he didn’t turn up? What if he saw her text and was running? If he did come, what if she’d glamorized him in her head? What if she’d fantasized so much that reality was disappointing? What if he was just human?
Then there was that thing in his pants. What did she do about that? What would she do if he offered it to her?
For someone who prided themselves on their professionalism, she was falling apart. And this was not a good time for her to lose the plot. She had to get through this week. Once she had this week out of the way, the Partner promotion, then she could relax a little. Then she might have time to be a woman instead of an accountant.
It was only a dinner date, at a restaurant, she told herself. What could go wrong? It was a Sunday night, she had work tomorrow. It wasn’t like a Friday night date where he might expect her to fall into his bed and spend the rest of the weekend naked and pleasuring him.
That didn’t help. She couldn’t afford to think like that. It was wrong. It led her to places that she couldn’t go.
Sunday night. It was a Sunday night. She would say goodnight to him at 10pm and catch the train home. That gave them three hours. She had her exit strategy prepared, rehearsed and committed to memory. It was going to be a nice dinner. Nice.
She walked to the restaurant. It was only a few blocks away from her office. When she got there the place was empty. The lights were dim, and the door was closed. Was she in the right place?
She checked the text he sent again. Yes, this was the place. Maybe they were just quiet. It was mid-winter. She walked up to the glass door to check the opening times that were printed on it for the public.
She blinked. The door opened and there stood Josh. He was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans, a thick cotton collared shirt that was a light blue with two buttons undone, and leather boots. His hair was tied back, his short beard was groomed, and his eyes shone. He held the door open with a smile that made her melt and made her legs go all gooey. His forehead creased a little as she tried to compose herself.
“Hey,” she whispered, “Do you work here?”
He laughed that silent snigger, with the deep creases that emphasized his grin as his eyes glistened with humor. He looked so amazing when he laughed. He might not be able to verbalize it, but his face looked amazing as it transformed with deep laugh lines as he expressed his joy. Watching this happen made her heart beat faster and made her smile like a fool. She felt that if he’d laughed, made the sound of laughing, it would detract from the beauty of what she was seeing.
He took her hand and led her inside and to a round table with a heavy white linen tablecloth. He pulled the chair out for her before he sat opposite her. She touched the water glass as she looked at the empty tables around them. There was no cutlery, glassware or menus on these tables, just the bright white cloths and chairs tucked in.
“Josh,” she turned to look at him, “What’s going on?”
A friend owns this, he scribbled on the pad that was next to him, He’s doing this as a favor.
“But why?” she looked at the curtains that drawn in front of the door.
People, he frowned like he wasn’t sure what to write, I’m not great with people.
“You’re not,” she cringed, “A criminal, you know, a mobster or something like that?”
“No,” he laughed the word.
“That’s a relief,” she smiled. “I’m too straight to be a mobster’s wife!”
His eyebrow lifted.
“Oh, gawd,” she blinked as she realized what she said, “I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean that I was anyone’s wife. I shouldn’t have, just ignore me, please.”
Don’t want to ignore you, he wrote and pushed the pad to her so that when she uncovered her face she would see the words.
“Can we start again?” she took a deep breath, “You wanted to talk?”
I want to get to know you, he smiled but the smile didn’t quite go to his eyes.
“I think you already know everything about me,” she laughed a short huff, “I’m not that interesting and I’ve done nothing but talk since I meet you.”
I find you interesting.
“Let’s talk about you,” she was blushing as his eyes didn’t leave her while she struggled with his words. “If you aren’t a mobster then what do you do? Where did you go to college? Where do you work?”
He took a deep breath as he watched her ask the questions. She waited as his eyes didn’t move from her face. It looked as if he was trying to memorize her face before he told her. Was he afraid of telling her?
No college, he wrote. The pen dug into the paper. I’m not an educated man.
Was he embarrassed? Was that why he didn’t want to tell her? She’d given him her business card. He knew she had a line of letters behind her name highlighting her many qualifications. Was that what was bothering him?
I wanted to be an Actor, he frowned. It was my dream.
“I remember,” she whispered, “You said that in the park.”
No voice, no parts, no future, he shrugged but she could see the sadness in his eyes, Life lesson – don’t pick a fight with a Marine.
“A Marine? He did that?” she watched him nod, “He hurt you?”
She was surprised to hear the anger and protectiveness in her tone.
My fault, he wrote quickly, I was being an asshole. Her eyebrows shot up and he smiled and added, before this I was a jerk.
“And now?” she smiled.
Still a jerk, he smiled, but don’t pick fights anymore.
“I’m happy to hear that,” she laughed, “What is your last name, you never did tell me?”
Joshua McClean, he wrote the name down automatically then stared at it.
“Nice to meet you Josh McClean,” Belinda smiled at him, “So you were forced to give up acting? What happened then? You must have found something?”
Yes, he paused and took a deep breath before he wrote, I dance.
He was embarrassed. She could see it written all over his face. Did he really think she would judge him based on his profession?
“Josh,” she said his name softly, “That’s great. You are obviously very good at it. You should be proud of the fact. You must be talented to be both an actor and a dancer.”
Not rocket science, he scoffed as he wrote.
“But I don’t understand why you don’t socialize. Why are you so shy?”
Not shy, he wrote then took a deep breath, People want to talk, stare and, he paused while he looked like he was trying to think of how to explain it, People are difficult.
She watched him while she thought about this. He had a disability. He was mute but not deaf. Many people wouldn’t understand that. They probably spoke to him like he was slow. He wouldn’t be able to communicate anything to anyone.
“Do you use sign language?” she asked and watched him move his hands rapidly to confirm that, “Will you teach me some?”
They ordered the meal and ate while he taught her some basic sign language. They laughed as she messed up and he translated her mistakes by writing them on the pad. It had been a long time since she’d laughed so much. When he phone chimed it’s alarm she regretted setting it. She had to go soon if she was going to make that 10pm train.
“I fly to Boston on Wednesday morning,” she sighed, “I’m an expert witness in a court case so I’m going to have to sit in a court room for two days until they call me. I fly back on Saturday.”
That sounds, he paused as he searched for the right word, important.
“Yes, and stressful,” she smiled, “I’ve got a big week this week. Which is why I have to go.”
Home time? He wrote.
Yes, she used the sign language gesture he’d taught her, which was like knocking on a door with her fist.
I’ll drive you, he wrote.
“No, Josh,” she shook her head, “I can’t ask you to do that. It’s too far.”
I want to drive you.
She swallowed as she read the message and heard the double meaning in the phrase. She tried to hide her embarrassment. He didn’t mean it that way. To him it was an innocent offer. It was only her fantasy that had twisted the words to mean it in a different way. She was the one with the dirty mind.