Denny was enjoying himself immensely; he and Alan were at their favorite steakhouse for a late dinner. The spouses had come into Boston to attend an art gallery opening sponsored by the local arts council, of which Denny was a member. The opening was well - attended and the early buzz was that the Boston Globe would be publishing a favorable review. His steak was superb, as was Alan's lobster, and he had incurred his husband's pretend wrath by helping himself to the buttery mashed potatoes that he so loved, much to Alan's annoyance.
"Denny, do you mind if I eat some of my dinner?" Alan huffed as he signaled their server and ordered more potatoes. "Why must I watch like a hawk to ensure that you don't make off with my meal?" When no answer was forthcoming, he looked up to see Denny staring over his right shoulder. "Hello? Am I boring you?"
"That girl," Denny said, "Don't look now, but she looks familiar and she's looking at me."
"Well, if I can't look now, how can I tell if she looks familiar to me?"
Denny picked up his glass of wine and sipped. "She's heading this way! Do I have any creamed spinach in my teeth?" he asked as he bared them to his dinner companion.
Before Alan could respond, a woman appeared at their table and stood between them. "Mr. Crane, I thought that was you!" She turned to face his dinner companion. "Alan, it is so nice to see you again! You look well."
Alan turned his full attention to the black woman speaking to him. "Vanessa Walker? Is that you?" When she nodded affirmatively, he exclaimed, "You cut your hair!"
She ran her hand through her pixie haircut and smiled. "Yeah, I did, about three years ago. I was ready for a change."
"Well, I must say that you look absolutely incredible," Alan opined as he stood. "Where are my manners? Please. Join us."
Denny started to stand, but she placed her hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to stand, I'm not staying. My husband and I were just finishing dinner when I saw you two come in; so, I wanted to say hello before we left."
"Married, you say? Congratulations!" Denny said. "He's a very lucky man. I hope he knows it."
Vanessa laughed at that and replied, "He does, I remind him often! I understand you and Alan are married, too."
"We are," Alan said, "For almost fourteen months. We're still in our honeymoon phase."
"I'm glad to hear it. It was great seeing you both. Take care."
"You, too," Alan whispered as he leaned in to kiss her cheek. "Continued success in your marriage and career." He stood a few seconds longer, watching as she walked back to her husband who held her coat for her so she could don it. It was obvious to a blind man that her husband adored her. He unbuttoned and smoothed his jacket as he retook his seat and picked up his fork to continue eating. When he took a sip of his wine, he noticed Denny gazing at him intently. "What?"
Denny leaned forward and said, "You and Vanessa Walker had a fling, didn't you?"
"We did. It started the night of the costume party. Remember? I was dressed as Shirley. After our balcony time, I met up with Vanessa and we went out for drinks and a late dinner. We ended up dating for four months."
"Yes, thanks to my new medication, I do remember. She wasn't in a costume."
"Oh, but she was, Denny."
The older man frowned. "No, she wasn't; she was wearing a yellow dress."
"Indeed. A dress she had worn once before and I told her then that it reminded me so much of a beautiful young girl in a yellow dress I went to high school with and was too shy to approach. She wore that dress as a costume for me. I knew I had to have her and even better, I knew Vanessa wanted me to have her and she knew I knew it."
"Don't confuse me. Just tell me all about it. Was she nasty?" Denny asked with a leer.
"I suggest we finish our meal and go home. We can talk there," Alan replied. "And if you don't mind, I will eat my potatoes."
Hours later, the two men were home in their bedroom getting ready for bed. The evening was quite pleasant and when they were both in their pajamas, Denny's suggestion that they have a nightcap on their bedroom balcony was met with a smile. Alan led the way out and they settled into their seats. "So," Denny said, "what happened between you and Miss Vanessa?"
"Well, like I said, after our balcony time, I went back to the party, found Vanessa and invited her to be my dinner date." Alan smiled at the memory and puffed on his cigar. "She made me laugh, Denny, during dinner and when she invited me back to her place."
The older man's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "She asked you back to her place? Ooo, so she is nasty! How was the sex?"
"Don't be vulgar. We were two consenting adults who shared a mutual attraction and acted on it. Sexually, we were very compatible. We dated for five months."
Denny was shocked. "What? Did I know?"
Alan was quiet for a few minutes. "I actually did tell you I was seeing her, but you...forgot." He held up his hand to quiet his husband when he saw him open his mouth. "It's not a big deal, Denny. That was back when the Mad Cow was getting worse and now you're taking the new medication and you've gotten better."
Now it was Denny's turn to be quiet. He downed the last of his drink and went inside. He reappeared with bottle in hand and poured himself another three fingers of scotch. Unbidden, he refreshed Alan's drink. He sipped his drink and puffed his cigar while gazing at the stars. Finally, he turned Alan's way. "Why did you two stop dating?"
"Why does any woman stop dating me? She wanted more than I was capable of giving. She wanted monogamy and a proposal and marriage."
"Wait a minute! Are you telling me that Vanessa Walker was in love with you?"
"No, I'm telling you that Vanessa was beginning to develop feelings for me and asked me if I was feeling the same way and where I saw our relationship going. When I assured her that I was not marriage material, she said she needed to stop seeing me because she was ready for commitment and needed to make a connection with someone likeminded."
"How did that make you feel?"
"Denny, I wasn't ready to marry anybody so as much as I liked her, I knew she was doing the right thing for herself. From what I saw tonight, she made a good choice when she chose that man to be her husband."
Denny stood up and said, "I'm getting chilly, let's go inside."
The two men put out their cigars and finished their drinks before heading into the bedroom. They doffed their bathrobes and climbed into bed. They met in the middle and took their usual positions: Denny on his back with Alan resting his head on his husband's chest.
Stroking the back of Alan's head absentmindedly, Denny opined, "You were always marriage material. You just needed the right incentive. Denny Crane! Like you told me: We really are the best couple you know."
"Indeed. Goodnight, Denny."