“Oh, wow, this place is really nice,” said the mid-twenties woman next to me as we walked into the Italian restaurant.
I smiled at her. “I’m glad you like it.” Dominique and I had gone to school together, actually, but we hadn’t really known each other. We’d run into each other by random chance at the grocery store and gotten to talking. Her cousin had been on the baseball team with me; I’d asked her how he was. She’d asked about me. Her eyes had kind of lit up when I told her I was starting pitcher for the Raven’s, but that tended to happen to people. It was like a big neon sign dollar sign started flashing over my head. Still, I’d found that, usually, that was a knee-jerk reaction, so I brushed that off. “The food here is excellent.” I’d brought a few dates here, but that was because the place truly had become a favorite of mine. It was expensive enough that the waitstaff were well trained not to bother patrons for autographs and actually helped fend off other people trying.
“You’re so lucky you can afford to go to places like this.”
“I’ve been very blessed.” I knew from some of my teammates that it was really easy to let a little bit of fame and a lot of money go to your head. I didn’t want to end up one of those has-beens in twenty years, living in a hovel on the city limits. Once I’d realized I had more money than I knew what to do with, I’d hired an accountant to invest and manage everything.
I approached the hostess and gave her the name for my reservation. She smiled brightly at us. “Good evening, Mr. Yuen. Your table is ready. Follow me, please.”
“Swank,” Dominique murmured under her breath.
I held out her seat for her when we arrived at the table before taking my own seat. The hostess excused herself, and I picked up the menu to peruse.
Dominique looked at her menu and then looked back at me. “This thing is in Italian.”
“Read the right hand side. It’s in English.” I’d been a little thrown the first time I’d come here too. That time, it was my date who’d had to explain to me that there was an English version literally right there.
After we’d placed our orders, she smiled at me. “Will you tell me about some of the people you’ve met? Have you ever met Johnny Depp?”
I snorted softly. “We don’t exactly run in the same circles. I mostly just know baseball players.” I’d met a few minor celebrities, not even a handful.
She looked a little put out. “I’m going to have to start watching your games. Maybe you’ll take me to one?”
“The season’s over for the year, but I’d be happy to get you a ticket,” I said with a smile. “What is it you do again? I think you mentioned you work in a boutique?”
“Oh, yeah. Nothing fancy. I just fold clothes, hang stuff up. The discount is nice, at least.” She smiled prettily at me. “What’s it like being famous?”
“I wouldn’t really call myself famous.” It sill weirded me out to see people walking down the street with Yuen emblazoned across their shoulders.
The whole dinner was more of the same. The more she asked about famous people I knew, what kind of place I lived in, the less-attractive she got to me. She was just another of the same – just like all the mostly-nameless women I’d hooked up with. Just wanting a taste of the fame they themselves craved so badly.
A few months ago, that would’ve satisfied me for the night. I’d have gone back to her place or mine and lost myself in her for a few hours. But I still vividly remembered the realization I’d come to the morning after Mari. It was so funny; I could barely remember some of the women’s faces, but I remembered her with complete clarity. Probably because she was the last, the catalyst to cleaning myself up. I wanted more now. I wanted to settle down, start a family.
I wasn’t sure if the “one” was out there, but I knew that Dominique wasn’t her.
After I footed the bill, I drove her back to her place. I walked her up to her house and smiled politely at her. “I had a nice time tonight.”
She looked up at me, a sultry look in her eyes. “The night doesn’t have to be over. We could have a night cap.” She gestured to the house she shared with roommates.
“That would be nice, but I can’t. It was really nice getting to know you. Good night, Dominique.” I turned and went back to my car. I didn’t say I’ll call you or Lets do this again some time. I never needed to see her again. It was back to the playing field.
I taped up a box and stacked it on top of the one before it. Loralee and I were still in the process of moving to the new house, but things were coming a long, judging by how bare-bones the house was beginning to look.
I stepped into the bedroom where Loralee was seated at the desk, working on packing it up. I’d left that to her, as that was her domain. I had no idea how she organized the recipes she’d jotted down on index cards or scraps of paper.
“How’s it going in here?”
She turned to look over her shoulder and smile at me. “It’d be going better if my insides weren’t getting pummeled.” She pushed to her feet and stepped away from the desk, beckoning me over to her.
I smiled broadly and crossed the room to press my hands against her stomach. Sure enough, within a moment, I felt tiny feet kicking against my hand. “With legs like that, I’ll bet you she’s a soccer player.”
My wife laughed softly. “Or he could be.”
We’d decided to be surprised over what we were having, and we were each hoping for a different gender. I wanted a little girl with Loralee’s hair and spirit. She wanted a boy with my eyes.
When the movement under my hands gentled and then ceased altogether, I leaned up to slide my arms around Loralee.
“He loves his daddy. He always calms down when he knows you’re around.”
I smiled and kissed her nose. “Or she’s a daddy’s girl.”