Checking his watch yet again, Mike B sighed heavily into his tumbler of gin. He’d fucked up royally, he was man enough to admit that. He just wished he hadn’t done it so close to Valentine’s Day.
Things had been moving along promisingly with Nadine, or at least, she hadn’t been outright ignoring him anymore. Dinner and a show was his hopeful first step to something greater. But that had been before. Before Sheila, an aide for some Junior Senator. Before a flirty smile that had only been to get Sheila to hand over details she wasn’t supposed to share.
Before Nadine had caught him, one arm on a pillar as he’d been leaned in close, Sheila’s fingers caught around his tie.
Now he was sitting at the bar of the hottest romantic spot in town… alone.
“I’m such an idiot.” He muttered to himself.
“That wasn’t how I heard you described.”
Mike turned quickly in search of the voice, finding Jay dropping into the seat beside him. “You heard something?”
Jay flagged down the bartender and then gestured to Mike’s glass without even asking what it was. “I share a very thin wall with Nadine… Yes, I hear things.” When a tumbler landed in front of him, he saluted the bartender with it and took a mouthful, making a face at the taste. “Why are you here?”
“I had reservations with Nadine for tonight.”
“Why? What’s wrong with this place? It’s the best place in town!”
Jay shook his head. “You have no clue about her, do you?” He put down the glass and pressed fingers into his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Um… half eight.”
“I should go home.” He finished his drink and started to stand.
“Wait!” Mike grabbed his arm. “Why not here?” When Jay looked ready to refuse answering, he sweetened the deal. “I’ll pay your fare home.”
Jay dropped back into his seat and yawned. “Tell me about her.”
He motioned with his fingers. “You are trying to date Nadine. Tell me about her.”
“She…” He had to think. “She likes expensive things.”
Mike huffed. “Isn’t it obvious? Look at what she drives, what he wears… where she lives! No cent spared.”
Jay only shook his head.
“What?” He as confused now.
Jay carried on though. “What’s she like to eat?”
Mike squinted, suddenly determined to prove he knew Nadine. “Wine, champagne on occasion… salad… fish. Refined flavors, European cuisine.”
Jay rolled his eyes. “What’s she like to do in her spare time? Evenings, weekends.”
“Art museums. Maybe stay home and read books.”
“What kind of books?”
“Classics.” He was certain in that. “Not just in English, but French and Russian too.”
Jay sipped his drink silently.
“Well?” Mike leaned in.
“You haven’t the first clue who she is.”
“I mean, I’m impressed you knew she could read other languages, but still… you haven’t got a clue who she is.”
“So, tell me who she is then.”
“You’ve known her how many years now?”
“Directly? Two. I’ve known of her since she came to DC with Marsh. She was gorgeous and intriguing even then.”
“So you’ve been aware of and somewhat interested in Nadine for over a decade and you still know nothing about her?” He huffed. “Walk away man. Walk back to women like Sheila who won’t care that you’re superficial and not interested in getting to know them.” He stood again. “I need that uber now.”
“… Yeah. Sure…” Slowly, he found his phone and requested one before following Jay to the door. “Tell me one thing.”
“One thing about Nadine. Tell me one thing.”
He stared at the passing traffic for several minutes in silence until Mike had given up hope on getting an answer. “She loves flea markets.”
“… Flea markets?”
Jay bobbed his head slightly. “Flea markets and old, vintage things. Not necessarily old enough or nice enough to count as antiques. Just… things that have had a life, have a story.” He turned on the sidewalk, waving at the restaurant. “This kind of place? She puts on a show, for the job. A convincing one, but… it’s not her. None of what you described is her.”
A car pulled to a stop at the curb and Mike watched as Jay crossed to it.
Door open, Jay turned back one last time. “Do both of you a favor and give that little obsession up. She’s not the right woman for you.”
He straightened his spine. “You can’t know that.”
“I do know that. While you’ve been watching her from afar for a decade, creating a fantasy of who she is… I’ve been her friend for at least as long.” He yawned, shaking his head. “I need to get home. Good night, Mike.” He slipped into the car and shut the door.
Alone again, Mike stared out into the darkness, thinking about Jay’s answers.
He regretted even asking.