“Sweet Thing” Mary J. Blige
"The Way You Make Me Feel" Michael Jackson
“Seconds of Pleasure” Van Hunt
“Stand Back” Stephanie Mills
Kelton took me to the Hamptons. His parents had a home in Southampton; a beautiful stretch of property adjacent to the beach and it was there, on the back deck overlooking the blue, blue ocean, we had lunch. It was a New England clambake, individual dessert tarts, and all the beverages I could want. I’ve never had a clambake, and I must say that my life is richer now having had one. The tarts were crème brulee piled high with fresh fruit, and…one had to be enough. There was a team of servers waiting on us hand and foot, and when they poured out that giant pot of seafood directly onto the table, I squealed in both fright and joy. Kelton smiled at me and got up. He came over to my side of the table and put a bib on me as I wondered aloud about the silverware.
When he sat down, he was grinning. “Love, you must eat this with your hands and plenty of napkins.”
“It’s going to be messy.”
“It’s supposed to be.” He gestured to the serving board that contained a loaf of crusty bread, a bowl of liquefied butter, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. “Dip your seafood in any of these condiments, but make sure you dip the lobster and crab in the butter. This is not a meal for prissy people.”
“I’m not prissy,” I said, still wishing for a fork.
“Prove it,” he said as he boldly tore a poor lobster in half. He looked like he was enjoying himself.
I met his smiling gaze and picked up a crab leg. “Challenge accepted.”
Forty-five minutes later, I was stuffed and my cheeks hurt from laughing so much. Kelton had a droll wit that was very, very refreshing. He told me stories about himself and his family, and had me laughing so hard, I almost pissed myself. Then, after a trip to probably the most lavish guest bathroom I’ve ever seen, we took a walk around the grounds and he pointed out places where he spent some of his childhood summers, and then we went for a walk on the beach. He took my sandals and carried them as we walked. The warm sand felt so good between my toes. I felt like I was in another world.
We had the run of the place. His parents were away, he explained.
“They’re after me to take a wife,” he said.
“Well, that’s what parents do,” I replied.
“Well, why aren’t you married, then?”
“My parents knew which way the wind was blowing. I’ve been career-minded ever since I decided to become an attorney. I dreamed of having my own law firm.”
“And you don’t care to have anything more?”
“I’m content with my life, Kelton. I have what I need. Do you want to get married?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, don’t do it if you’re not.”
He stopped walking and it took me a moment before I realized he did. I turned to walk back to him and he was staring out at the water. I turned to look and took a moment to appreciate the view. It was a gorgeous day and I was glad to be here with him. It was nice.
“I want to know you, Iolanthe. I’ve tried to be reserved in my actions, but I think I’m failing in this regard. I must say, meeting your back before your face presented me with a magnificent challenge, one I’m trying to meet. I’ve heard of you; knew you by reputation…but meeting you…I’m a bit out of my depth because I’m utterly smitten with you and I don’t even know who you are. How is that possible?”
I thought about my relationship with my neighbor; how I knew so much about him, yet didn’t know him at all. And how absolutely fine I was with that situation.
“Kelton, I’m not sure how you want me to respond.”
“You won’t allow me to get to know you because you are my boss. This,” he waved a hand over us, “took some finagling on my part and while I have been able to make you laugh, I still cannot figure out who you are. And since I am not a man who gives up, I’m going to have to tender my resignation.”
“What? Kelton, you can’t resign! You’ve only been there a couple of weeks!”
“I’d much rather be your friend than your employee. If you’re not going to fire me, I have to quit.”
“Can you come up with a better solution, then? How is a man like me supposed to court you, woo you…when he can’t even be allowed to know how to contact you outside of work? You do not go to bars or to clubs or to places where someone like me could bump into you; my understanding is that you go home every single night. You are not married, and you don’t care to have gentleman friends because they’re…messy…what should a man do if he is interested? You are attracted to men, correct?”
I thought about my neighbor kissing the hell out of me the other day. “Yes, very much so.”
“Then tell me what to do, Iolanthe. You have such tight boundaries and I respect that as an attorney and an employee, but as a man who wishes to see more of you in an unprofessional manner…it is very, very frustrating. I’ll resign, if that’s what it takes. It’s best that you know this up front.”
“I need you to keep working, Kelton. Where am I going to find a lawyer as good as you are on short notice? Not to mention what this means for my clients? You can’t quit!”
“Then offer me a solution.”
“Is there someone else in your life? A not-husband, a not-boyfriend?”
I looked away, over at the water. How do I answer that? What I had with him was secret, private…perfect. With him, I could be exactly who I wanted to be and be with him in the way I needed to be with a man, without all of the bullshit that goes along with relationships. I thought about the boundaries that were re-set because he wanted more intimacy. It was good. I didn’t want to give that up. I didn’t want to give him up. But there was no way on this earth that I could keep him and seriously consider allowing Kelton to woo me. He could never come to my apartment, and time away from my home was time away from him.
“Iolanthe? Is there someone in your life that keeps you from allowing this?”
“Not exactly, Kelton. You have to understand…I’m used to my life being a certain way. I mean, I know that you like me, but I really haven’t had time to process what that means.”
“Are you saying that no man has ever liked you or found you attractive?” He looked like his head was hurting.
I thought about my neighbor again. “No. I just need…time…to think this through. I know that I’m hard to read and that I keep people at a distance. There are reasons for it, I assure you. My professional reputation is everything to me and I will not smear it for anyone, no matter how charming I think he is. I just need to process this and figure out if there is a way to make it work. Then I will answer your question.”
A long moment passed and his face seemed to relax. “Are you always this methodical?”
“And you wouldn’t condescend to make this easy for me, would you, love?”
“You should know the answer to that. I am not an easy woman to be with, Kelton. I am not easy to love. I’m very disciplined in every aspect of my life. Perhaps you’d rather have someone who allows for spontaneity. Unfortunately, I’m not that girl.”
“Let me be the judge of that.”
I smiled at him and after a moment, he smiled back. “Will you give me some time to consider this?”
“Should I resign my position?”
“I think it would be unwise to do so right now.”
“How much time do you think you’ll need?”
“I can’t answer that, but if you’re going to hound me—”
“I won’t. I’d rather it not be for weeks on end, however.”
“Maybe you should take the time to date other women. Expand your options. There are plenty of women out there waiting for a good guy to come along.”
He chuckled. “Would you like to go back to the house? Dinner is at six, unless you’d prefer to go home? I imagine you’d like to take a nap before then.”
It was at that moment with my body decided it needed to yawn and he laughed. “Guess that answers that question. You’re welcome to the guest bedroom, and if you’d like to wash up for dinner, you’ll have everything you need.”
“Thank you, Kelton. I really appreciate your consideration, and it appears that I could use a nap. I did get up earlier than normal to get ready for today.”
He held out his arm and I took it. “Let me escort you back to the house, then.”
I beamed. I was really enjoying my day in the Hamptons. I’d heard about it, but never been. It’s not really my style, as I grew up lower middle-class and had to work for everything I had. And this man grew up with servants catering to his every whim. I’m not going to lie; I had to get my mind around that aspect if there was a chance anything might happen.
As we headed back to the house, I asked, “What’s for dinner?”