Short Story: The Yellow Dress

Here’s a short section of the novel I’m currently writing, the still-to-be-named love story I mentioned the other day:

The car hogs on both sides didn’t give me much room to get out, but it wasn’t like I had a choice in parking spots. I opened my door a crack and realized it just wasn’t happening. Thankfully, the lights flashed on the car parked on the passenger side. I pretended not to notice the frustrated look the driver shot at me after they’d squeezed into their car, and I fiddled with my radio (that didn’t work) until they’d pulled out of their spot. Then I slid over the center console, falling into the passenger seat just as another car pulled in. Luckily, there was enough room this time, and I opened my door before the other driver could. I looked up, tripping over my feet in my hurry, to see Charles Finnigan patiently waiting for me to move out of the way…and Sonny sitting next to him in the passenger seat, an amused look on his face.

Shit.

“It’s fine. This is fine,” I muttered, trying to look casual as I leaned awkwardly across the passenger seat to lock the driver’s side door, and then the passenger side before closing it and moving aside. As much as I wanted to evaporate into the warm afternoon air, I waited at the back of my rusted white car for Mr. Finnigan and Sonny to join me. Clutching my purse in front of me, I pretended the last few minutes never happened as I stood with my strappy flat sandals together while my maxi dress moved in the breeze.

I’d taken an embarrassingly long time getting ready that morning, unsure what one wears when preparing to do business with one’s ex-boyfriend. I’d started with a can’t be bothered look, putting on a knit dress I often gardened in because of the large, bright strawberries splashed across the material. Thanks to a matching strawberry apron I found on Etsy, it never got stained, so it was fine to wear in public. Still, just because I wanted to show Sonny I didn’t care didn’t mean I needed to show up at a nice business lunch looking like a giant casual piece of fruit. So I went the opposite direction, putting on a grey pencil skirt with a business jacket, like the formal business outfits I wore when meeting Stuart Jackson at his high-rise office in San Francisco. With my hair in a French twist, I looked in the mirror and saw someone who was trying too hard to be someone I wasn’t. The hair came down, the skirt came off, and I was left staring at my closet. That’s when I decided to stop trying to make an impression and just go as me. The gold mustard maxi dress was one of my favorites, with a Roman style to its ropy gathered straps, the high banded waist that complimented my figure even on my fluffiest days, and the way the skirt flowed to my ankles. I felt like kind of like a golden ray of Mother Nature in this dress, and yet it was also completely appropriate for a business lunch in the heart of Wine Country.

Of course, I imagined Mother Nature was much more graceful than I was, and I only hoped my wide smile would make up for my passenger side exit from my jalopy of a car. To his credit, Charles Finnigan seemed to disregard my awkward display as he exited his shiny black Lexus, coming toward me with arms open wide.

“Cricket, you’re a breath of fresh air,” he said as he gave me a hug instead of the customary handshake. He pulled away and then gestured to Sonny. My stomach did a slow roll, and I realized I didn’t know how I should act. Did Mr. Finnigan know about us? Sonny answered that for me when he extended his hand.

“Edison McIntyre,” he said in his thick accent, affecting my heartbeat as he clasped my hand in his. The amused squint of his eyes didn’t help, our secret history flowing between us, unbeknownst to Mr. Finnigan. “Charles has told me all about you,” Sonny continued. “I look forward to us working together.”

“Likewise,” I said, sliding my hand from his and creating distance with a side step. Sonny slipped his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels, just like he used to do when I amused him, usually when I was irritated about something he did. Back when I loved him, just his sly grin was enough to quell my frustration. This time, I had to look away, conflicted by the warm sensation that spread over my body, mingling with my annoyance. The confused feelings continued as Mr. Finnigan led the way to the restaurant and Sonny remained at my side as if we came here together.

“You look nice,” he whispered. I took a deep breath, glaring at him. He held his hands up, as if signaling defeat, but the expression on his face continued to show how humorous he found all of this.

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