The Long Way Home - Tara Brown

June 2012


His hand slid down my back as we listened to the speech from the headmistress. I swallowed slowly, keeping my look calm.

“I meant what I said last week about me and you,” Frank whispered into my ear. The room erupted in applause as the speech ended with a toast. I maintained my smile, clapping and looking supportive of the proposed playground being installed at the local elementary school. Honestly, it was a waste of funding, but I didn’t have children yet so I wasn’t truly allowed an opinion. Being on the committee for the school my children would attend was dry as hell, but it was what women in my circle did.

Frank chuckled, “Only a few more weeks and you’ll be married and having kids, then it’ll be you whispering into my ear.”

I laughed and took the chance to step away from him, hoping no one noticed his advances on me, not that I was the only one he would have hit on all afternoon. I was certain he had worked the room at least twice already. The problem with being part of the committee was that I had to remain amiable or he wouldn't donate to the school. His kids had long since left it so he had no real reason to help out.

The room was filled with prying eyes and sneaky whispers of course, as we were amongst our closest friends and neighbors. I finally started breathing as I made it away from Frank and his octopus hands. I stepped up to the bar, glancing around for my fiancé, Phil. He hadn’t brought me a fresh drink; I'd waited for ten minutes but he never came. I couldn’t see him anywhere. In the sea of well-dressed people, he blended perfectly.

The young bartender smiled at me, “White wine?”

I shook my head, “I had red.”

He brought the bottle over, “You look like more of a white wine to me.”

I smiled at him, “Do I? What makes you think that?”

His eyes roamed my face in a way that I could almost feel, like they were his hands lightly brushing each spot he gazed at. He licked his lips and nodded, “Pink, full lips, fresh makeup—not over done, slight curl to your hair but the frizz is in total control. You're put together enough that I’d say you’re organized and maybe a slight ball buster. Red wine drinkers are artistic, messy, and free. You look too confined in your life.”

I met his blue eyes with a hard look, “Do you always sweet-talk the ladies this way?”

He leaned across the bar, speaking softly, “I have a sneaky suspicion that you may not qualify for that classification.”

My lips lifted into a grin, “I like honesty in a stranger.” I also liked the way his black dress shirt fit his body. He looked fit. In my early twenties, he would have been the exact sort of person I would have snuck off with. I missed that carefree time in my past even more when he gave me a cocky grin with dimples and muttered, “I know you’ll like me. I get off in two hours, then we can see about getting you off.”

I winked, hoping it covered up the blush spreading everywhere, “If I happen back this way for a napkin, you be sure to have a number on it.” It was a joke. I had no intention of taking his number. But I did like the way he looked at me and talked dirty to me.

I turned, scanning the room for my next stop. I smiled at Frank, giving me a death glare from across the room. I walked back over to him, feeling recharged and safe from his advances. I stayed at a safe distance from him as I spoke softly, “Did you speak to the school to see what type of donations they’re looking for this year? I know it’s not just money.”

He leaned against the wall, clutching his drink, “You never answered me about not returning my call last week. I was serious about what I offered you a week ago.”

I scoffed, “I never returned it because I wasn’t interested in what you had to offer. I’m still not. So don’t touch me or hit on me. I’m not like that, Phil and I are happy.” I hated forcing sentences. I sipped my wine and nodded, “But be sure to find out about the donations.”

He shook his head, laughing, “You like acting like a hard bitch, but I bet you like