I scrutinized the man under veiled eyes. My long dark eyelashes were one of my vanities, and in times like these they came in useful. (The Exit Door)
Since when did I follow a complete stranger ( I wondered – what’s an incomplete stranger?) out of a social setting where I knew at least half the participants, toward a “wonderful café” he suggested?
“George,” the blue-jeaned “complete” stranger said as if reading my mind. And no, I don’t do this often.”
“Do what?” I asked.
“Take a chance on a woman I know nothing about.”
“What are the chances?” I retorted, and then answered my own question. “I suppose chances are we both wanted to escape the normal drudgery of small talk.”
By then we were out of the high-end hotel that housed the fundraiser and strolled on the wet pavement. June in Boston can be soggy and humid, and the city was being true to form. I touched my hair and felt my coif frizz.
The old-fashioned city lights gave off a warm glow, and I felt marginally safer. George smiled while lightly holding my elbow as we crossed the street. “I have a feeling that you prefer large talk,” he noted as he led me toward a street corner, turned, and then opened a dark green door with a sign overhead: “Sullivan’s.”
“Sullivan’s what?” I wondered out loud as we entered a tavern seemingly lit only with candles on small round tables spread graciously apart from each other. A curved mahogany bar spanned the entire right side.
“Bruce Sullivan, at your service,” replied a white-haired gentleman as he led us to one of the round tables toward the back of the room. “Sullivan’s Respite – Sullivan’s Bar – Sullivan’s Comfort Food – take your pick,” he added as George and I settled in.
I stood up, surprised and for some reason, relieved. “Mandy. Mandy Shepherd,” I said pulling my arm behind me as I remembered that shaking hands was no longer de rigueur. Sitting back down I added, “George and I have known each other for less than an hour. Do you vouch for him?” For some reason, I felt as if I could trust Bruce. I liked him instantly, and usually my instincts didn’t fool me.
Bruce pulled up a chair at the table as if to join us. Then he faced me, his white mustache hovering over an almost beatific smile.
“George is simply the best man I know. Not only is he a minister; he’s holy. Not only has he earned a doctorate in philosophy, he’s a philosopher; not only is he my brother, he’s my best friend.” Bruce stopped to catch a breath: “And not only is he single, he’s a dedicated monogamist.”
I laughed out loud and turned to George. “No wonder you suggested this ‘café.’ Okay, I’m hooked. No reason to dangle me on the line. Now, what’s on tap?”