A light evening rain adorned the streets below, patterning little rainbow prisms in the traffic headlights. It was a beautiful ambient evening, perfect for an amorous engagement.
He checked his watch. It was 7:10 pm.
Where was she?
He sighed and took another sip of the Cabernet Sauvignon he had brought two hours earlier. Glass in hand, he paced the floor and checked his watch every few minutes. He had a special evening planned: an intimate dinner for two followed by…whatever she wanted.
“She” was Olivia, his on-again-off-again lover for about 6 years. They had tried dating exclusively, but abandoned the idea after a year as their highly stressful careers started taking precedence over their relationship. For Cliff and Olivia, maintaining a full-time relationship with any significant other had repeatedly proved futile as they could never commit to the time and effort to cultivate any meaningful romance.
But they had genuinely liked each other a great deal so they remained friends, though they hardly kept in touch.
Then two years ago, they happened to meet quite accidentally on the same flight heading for a conference in San Diego, California. They ultimately spent much of their free time together that week, attending a few performances, having dinner together, and catching up on the events that occurred in their lives since they had last met.
In fact, they had such a good time together on this trip that Cliff and Olivia decided to rekindle their relationship, but in a much more flexible way.
They agreed that due to the hectic nature of their schedules, they would plan to meet up one weekend a month, as long as it was convenient to them both. There would be no pressure, and no exclusivity, and they were free to date whomever else they pleased.
Over time this arrangement worked brilliantly. Not having to “check in” with each other all the time took all the stress out of their relationship. They still called each other about once a week, but because they wanted to and not because they had to. So whenever they met up on a weekend liaison, there was no guilt and no lies. They’d go to dinner, or dancing, or stayed in and watched a movie. And oh yes, lots and lots of sex.
During their time together they were able to rediscover each other and learned that they liked many of the same things – movies, music, travelling abroad, and wine tasting. But they continued to keep their relationship as it was, neither attempting to take it to the next level.
Recently, though, Cliff began to notice that Olivia didn’t seem to be as enthused as he was about their monthly appointments. She would make excuses and not show up or she would appear and suddenly have to leave early. This happened three or four times in recent months.
Even more oddly, Cliff was starting to feel … jealousy? He couldn’t explain it but he would have little pangs of resentment at those times when Olivia called to cancel. He wasn’t dating anyone else, but he was never sure if Olivia was. He started to resent the idea of her seeing anyone else. He’d gotten used to her being available and convenient. Where was she? What else could be so important? Is she bored with me already? The questions nagged at him constantly as doubt crept in. Then he would feel slightly embarrassed, because this was not the deal that they had.
He had not mentioned any of these feelings to her, for fear that she would think he was pressuring her into a committed relationship. He was trying to keep their friendship as casual as it was, as he didn’t think she wanted it to be anything more.
But he was starting to feel that he really wanted to be with her more than just one weekend a month. He could close his eyes and picture the outline of her tall, lithe body. He could smell her perfume and feel her lips on his as her body quivered at his touch. He wanted her full time.
Yet, here his was, in a hotel room at the appointed time with no Olivia in sight.
Cliff checked the time again. 7:35 pm. They had arranged to meet at the Sans Souci at 6:00 pm. Dinner reservations had been made for 7:00 pm. The bottle of Cabernet was almost empty and she had not responded to any of his earlier phone calls either.
Just forget it, he thought angrily, and moved away from the window. Tomorrow he would send her an email letting her know how disappointed he was. He would tell her that they were just friends, but he was not to be taken advantage of in this manner. He was going to call the whole thing off and quit the affair now while he was ahead with what little respect he still had.
Just then there was a knock on the door.
His pulse quickened and he felt strange fluttery feeling in his abdomen.
He strode over and opened the door.
It was Olivia, looking slightly damp from the light evening rain. She was shivering a little, and flashed her playful smile that always disarmed him.
“Hi,” she whispered.
With all his former bravado, the sight of her in the doorway completely floored him.
“Hi,” was all he could manage to say.
She looked him straight in the eyes and said,
“Cliff, why don’t we just cut out all this “friends with benefits” silliness and make it official? This has gone on long enough.”
He smiled, took her by the arm, and pulled her close.
“Come inside,” he said. “Let’s get you out of those wet clothes.”
- Ok, maybe this one was a little sweet 😉 …