lair met Ben under very normal circumstances. In a typical New York fly-by, she’d stepped into the tail end of a round of birthday drinks for the man that her good friend Tara was technically dating. Still, she liked Rick so much that she figured he deserved to see her more than once a month. The only problem was that between her freelance work, theater rehearsals, and the other two men in her life, there just wasn’t time.
And so Tara attended his birthday party and invited Blair to come in during the last half hour. They would leave together to meet friends for dinner. This way she’d have an excuse to leave, and Blair could get a good look at Rick, whom she couldn’t date.
Perfectly normal in New York.
On top of all of this Blair was just in from a transatlantic flight. She showered, had several coffees, and felt ready enough to push through the next five hours. She wore the only dress in her suitcase that didn’t need pressing, a long, form-fitting Missoni copy in shades of brown and turquoise.
She found the bar easily, a dark and down-at-heel whiskey joint on the lower east side. She felt instantly overdressed, but after her first Jameson’s on ice she settled into a high stool between two people. The jetlag melted over her. On her left was a man with light brown curls. When he leaned toward her his light blue eyes caught the light of the candle at the table. He extended his hand. Blair pulled her chair in closer and they clinked glasses and turned their heads in the direction of the birthday boy.
“How do you know him?” she asked.
“He’s my lawyer,” said Ben, “You?”
“Oh…he’s a friend of my friend.” She struggled to raise her voice over the buzz of the people. He squinted and leaned in closer. She repeated herself. He nodded. A pause. Blair wondered if he would continue the struggle to speak, and braced herself for that awkward silence between two people amid the clatter of a crowded bar.
And then he scooted closer and asked her about her job. She began: green wine marketing. She’d just returned from another (practically useless) tour of biodynamic vineyards outside of Rome. While they had the time and money to entertain her for a few days, they’d need some time to think about hiring her as a representative. “Time” usually ran from several months to never.
Most people let their gaze slip after the first couple sentences, but Ben moved in closer. His eyes lit up. He’d have to introduce her to his brother! He was trying to get back into the wine distribution business. She should leave her card! She dug in her purse and pulled out the last one she had. A corner was ripped where her phone number ought to be, but her email address was perfectly legible.
Before she could finish her drink, Tara grabbed her by the elbow and whisked her out the door. They waved to Rick and company and dashed for a cab.
The next morning Blair opened her email to find a message from Ben.
“Hope the jetlag is wearing off. Just wanted to double-check your info, you know, for my brother. And hey, your phone number was missing….”
Blair wasn’t sure what to make of the exchange, but she remembered his eyes and the way they ignited in the low bar light.
“Hey Ben. I’m feeling pretty good, but might fall asleep before dinner (smile). 646-662-3322.”
An hour later her cell phone blinked. A text message: “How about lunch, then?”
She couldn’t help but admire his persistence, but the guise of a potential business partnership irked her. She would go to lunch, but they would talk business… or so she vowed.
She arrived at the restaurant first and waited for him at the bar. He was 15 minutes late, and when he walked in he was on his cell phone. He mouthed “sorry.” Blair sighed and ordered a second martini. She was drowsy as it was. While the bartender shook, she stole glances at Ben on the phone. By daylight he was lovely. Soft curls, a fine jaw-line, long legs, and eyes that glittered. Actually glittered!
He sat down beside her and apologized. It was his brother. He was on his way now… was that okay? Blair nodded, unsure whether to be pleased at his sincerity, or chagrined that they would not be dining alone. Ben ordered what she was having and they clinked glasses.
“My brother only has a minute, he just wants to chat — ” he began. And then she felt a warm hand on her thigh.
“I, on the other hand, am hoping you’ve got time for dessert.”