She swayed and hummed a little, remembering the final notes of the sonata as she stepped up to the bar just outside the concert hall. “A glass of Chardonnay,” she was saying to the bartender when suddenly he was there at her shoulder.
“Pinot. Pinot Noir.” He rested his right hand on the counter as he spoke.
The bartender nodded while pouring her wine into a bulbous glass.
As she reached out to take the glass, she watched the expression of the man at her side. As her fingers closed on the stem, recognition flashed across his face.
For a moment, she supposed he would turn and run away, or perhaps the flash would glaze suddenly into a mask of plastic cordiality, culminating in a measured, “How do you do.” This salutation would end quite emphatically with a period rather than a question mark.
She would have been fascinated if he had run away, but of the glazed cordiality she was frightened.
He did neither, however. Instead he simply said her name.
“Imagine seeing you here,” he started again. “It’s been an awfully long time.”
“Hasn’t it?” She replied, a little breathless in spite of herself.
“Sir,” the bartender extended the glass of red wine.
“Thank you.” He said it softly, swishing the wine in his glass in a slow circle. Then he turned suddenly back toward the bar, “Do you take tips?”
The bartender laughed, “Do I look like I take tips?”
The man handed him a five-dollar bill and looked at her significantly. “Never less than 5,” he said softly.
She remembered. “Did you come to the concert by yourself?”
“I did,” he replied. “You know I could never resist Bach on period instruments,” he laughed a little at himself. “You?”
“No,” she hesitated. A tall, smiling gentleman man emerged behind her.
“Elizabeth. Here you are.”
“And speaking of the man,” her face suddenly brightened into a smile, but the corners of her lips failed to rise, betraying a shadow of anxiety. “Here he is. Jared meet Caleb, an old friend of mine from college.”
Jared extended his hand dutifully and the two men looked intently into one another’s eyes. Then suddenly, both grinned and laughed.
She wasn’t quite sure what to make of the exchange.
“Aren’t you going to get a drink,” she asked Jared, raising her glass with a delicate flourish.
He glanced toward the bar, then down at his watch. “I’m not sure there’s time,” he looked apologetically at Elizabeth, “if we want to catch the 9:57 train–”
“Of course,” she sighed.
“I’ll bring your coat,” he offered.
When Jared had left, Caleb’s eyebrows voiced his question almost audibly but she pretended not to understand.
“Warm in here, isn’t it?” she murmured, “Did you like the gamba?”
“I’d love to catch up sometime.” He said softly, ignoring her question. “Do I have your permission to text?”
She nodded and sipped her wine, “I suppose you may.”
Jared appeared again suddenly, her coat and scarf draped across his arm. “Sorry to rush away,” he apologized again. “Nice to meet you—was it Caleb?—yes, have a good evening.” Then to her, “I’ve brought your coat.”
She let Jared take her glass and slip the coat over her shoulders, then she turned back to Caleb, “Do you like my gloves?” she asked, slipping them on over her fingers.
“You’re lovely,” he smiled
“Goodbye,” she called back, allowing Jared to usher her away.