Title: Perfect Stranger
I'm trying to figure out why I'm here. I haven't been to Dupott drive since just after Mark died when I went to see if Elizabeth needed any help with anything. I'd meant to visit her earlier actually…just didn't get the chance. Our schedules weren't the same and I'd usually be asleep by the time she got home. However, today I find myself at Elizabeth's door with a toy for Ella. I am looking around to see what house might be Alex's when the door opens and there she is standing in front of me. I say the first thing that comes to my mind, not always a good idea, “What are you doing here?” I immediately regret what I said because Alex looked very pleased to see me and I had never seen a face fall so fast. “I'm sorry…I didn't mean that the way it sounded.”
“No it's okay. I do happen to be Elizabeth's neighbor and a good friend of hers. I was invited over for supper. What's your excuse?”
Ouch. Again. “I was meaning to visit for awhile now…thought tonight might be a good time.”
We stare at each other for a minute and that thought that was in the back of my head is coming towards the front again. Luckily I am saved by a wonderful British voice, “Who is it Alex?”
Elizabeth comes to the door, “Susan! How are you? We were just about to eat, but there's a lot if you're interested.” I nod and they let me in. I hold up the gift for Ella and Elizabeth takes it with a rush of you-shouldn't-have's. I pick up Ella and give her a hug then put her down with her new toy.
Supper is wonderful. Elizabeth and Alex keep up the commentary and I sit and watch. Eventually Alex excuses herself to go to the bathroom and Elizabeth turns to me. “So Susan you came all this way to visit and haven't said a word since. What's up?”
“Is Alex gay?” It comes out before I even realize what I said and try to cover it up by taking a drink of water. Smooth, Louis.
Elizabeth looks at me with an expression of surprise and…was that a hint of a smile? “Uh…yes, yes she is.”
That's all I needed to know. I'm pondering this when I realize Elizabeth is staring at me. I give her a “what?” look.
“Uh…I don't know. I really don't know. It's a long story that I don't want to get into while Alex is here.”
“Come back tomorrow. We'll talk. But if you're wondering Alex is also single and thinks you're cute.”
That's really all I need to hear. The smile on my face is evident as Alex comes back down. She looks between us and says “what?” To which both Elizabeth and I answer “Nothing” at the same time. She shakes her head and mutters something about doctors as she sits back down. This time it's me and Alex having the conversation and Elizabeth watching with a hint of a smile as she helps Ella with her chicken. We talk about everything this time, from Weaver to Phoenix to Minnesota where she grew up and where she met Abby. Soon Elizabeth gets in on the talking and we are all having a very good time. When it is time to leave I am already deciding to change girl's night out to a supper kind of thing instead of bar hopping. I like this a lot better. I thank Elizabeth for such a wonderful supper and she says she will call me. Then I walk Alex home, which turns out to be across the street from Elizabeth's house.
“So did you have a good time tonight?”
“Huh? Oh yeah I did.” I'm looking at her house, a beautiful place with lots of room and a beautiful garden.
“Susan, maybe this is my imagination but it seems every time we are alone together you lose the part of the brain that lets you talk.”
I look up to answer her, only I can't because she's right. I can't talk. Instead I cup her face in my hands and brush her lips with my own. She kisses me back and then stands back to look at me. I stare into her eyes, eyes that seem to want to memorize me in a very short time. They stare so intensely into mine that I feel I am going into a trance just looking at her. Then, just as abruptly as I kissed her she looks away. “This doesn't mean I forgive you for not talking to me much you know.”
“I'll try harder.”
“Well that's a start.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means what it means. It's a start. I can tell this is a first time thing for you and so I am not taking you to bed tonight. You have no idea how hard that is for me to say. Go home and think about this. I am not going to be an experiment for you. When you've figured it out let me know.” Her face softens into a smile, “In the mean time I want to be your friend. Can you do that?”
I smile. I'm sure it's a smile of relief and that's probably what it looks like. “I'd like that.”
“Well okay then. I'll see you at work tomorrow.” She leans in and kisses me again, and then to my confused face whispers, “Friends are allowed to kiss sometimes.” I nod and then turn around and go to my car. As I'm getting in I look up and see Elizabeth looking out her window. She gives me thumbs up. I am so embarrassed.