John kept the back door and window that was facing the porch open so she would feel more comfortable. If there’s one thing that can make a young woman nervous, it’s a bachelor who locks the door after she enters the house. Then all he had to decide was whether or not to open a bottle of wine. Thinking that might give her the impression he was trying to seduce her, he decided against doing that. Maybe next time, if there was a next time, which he hoped there would be.
To his delight, Olivia was a good conversationalist. She worked in a bank and had been thinking about starting night classes in a local college that September. They seemed to be having a good time together, especially since their musical interests and senses of humor were similar.
While he was washing the dishes, Olivia broached the subject he hadn’t wanted to get into. “I heard your wife left you.” She didn’t hear his heart thump. “I don’t know if I could leave a man who cooks,” she said and hesitated for a few seconds. “Would I be prying if I asked why she left you?”
John slowly turned, leaned against the sink and crossed his arms. “It’s a long story,” he said and sighed. “How about staying for coffee and I’ll tell you about it.” Although he couldn’t see her face well from that distance, he heard the warm smile that accompanied her acceptance.
While he was sitting at the table and telling Olivia what was going on with his eyesight and how Ann hadn’t been able to handle the strain of living with someone who would eventually be blind, she was very quiet. He talked about it for a while longer, but she seemed to be edgy, perhaps understanding Ann’s dilemma. John was to the point where he wanted her to leave. Who was he to expect such an attractive woman, one who was almost fifteen years younger than he was, to be interested in a guy who had nothing going for him?
Suddenly, the conversation took a turn. “But you’re going to college,” Olivia reasoned, having noticed his self-doubt. “If you can do that, you can do anything else you want to do.”
“Yeah.” John grunted a laugh. “But that’s not to say I’m gonna finish college.” A big problem was he had only gone to high school to play football. And after that, he had been a construction worker for sixteen years and had never read a book in his life.
“Oh, stop that!” Olivia said maternalistically and sighed. “You will finish.” She put a hand over his, more as a comforting gesture than anything else. “So stop saying that.” She nodded her head sharply to accent the point and close the subject.
Thinking she was unreal, John smiled and laced his fingers with hers. Since he didn’t pull her hand away, should he invite her into the living room? No, not to rush. Olivia was only being neighborly by having dinner with him. For all he knew, she was happily involved with a boyfriend.
Not to show his anxiety, John released her hand while they continued talking. Yes, she would go to a movie with him. And no, she wouldn’t mind if he had to hold her arm since he couldn’t see well in the dark. Then he got onto the subject of his eyes again and his doubts about becoming totally rehabilitated.
A shy intonation invaded Olivia’s voice. “I heard you were a very hard worker in the construction business. And you’ll be the same way in school…” Wondering if she should have said that, she stopped abruptly.
John smiled and resisted the urge to grab her hand again even though it was only resting about three inches from his on the table. “So you’ve been checking me out?”
Olivia was sitting close enough for him to see her blushing. “No comment,” she said and quickly added an offer. “But if you need some help with reading, I can spare some time.”
Although she seemed to be interested in him, all John could think of was how unworthy he was. Ann had left him. And he missed his daughter so much that his heart ached to the point where he thought it would break. He had no job, had only completed his first year of college and wasn’t sure he could finish. Olivia had everything going for her. Maybe she was attracted to him. But did he dare make a move and ruin her life, too?
“Think about it,” Olivia said, pulling him from his thoughts while glancing up at the wall clock. “Wow! It’s ten o’clock already? I have to get home.”
When she stood, John offered to walk her out. He wasn’t sure if she took his hand or he, hers. But they walked that way toward the front of his driveway.