Four o’clock on the dot, Scarlett is at my desk with my dealer plate and she hands me a key fob for a 2014 C-Class Benz. I follow her out to the parking lot and I feel like I am holding the key to the city. The car is beautiful. Silver and shiny like a roll of new quarters. The interior reminds me of angel food cake; the leather doesn’t look worn; the steering wheel looks like it’s never been touched. Scarlett screws in the plate and cozies up in the passenger seat. She opens up the glove compartment and retrieves a pack of tree fresheners. “It’s a silly surprise, I know!” She says fanning out the fresheners like a deck of cards. “I feel like you’d either be a vanilla or coconut guy.”
“Enough with the surprises, Scarlett.” I burn up with embarrassment. “Let me surprise you.” I push the start button and the engine growls and then releases a clean hum. There’s no hiccup in the engine. No shaky steering wheel or rusty brake pads. I rev up the engine and she gyrates in her seat, moves her hips, shakes the tree fresheners like maracas. She turns on the radio and Santana’s “Smooth” is playing. We glance over at one another and laugh. “Where can I take you tonight? Let me buy you a drink.”
She throws the fresheners back in the glove compartment. “I don’t know, Eric.”
“One drink, just as a thank you, that’s it.”
“You can thank me by selling a few more cars this week.”
“I’m serious, though. Maker’s Mark on the rocks,” I put the car in drive, “tell me and I’m there.”
I’ve never had an afternoon quite like this one. Pulling up to a restaurant and having the valet attendants greet me with a compliment about my car, refer to me as ‘sir,’ and refer to the most beautiful woman I have ever met as ‘my date,’ is equivalent to a high school crush luring me into the janitor’s closet to give me a blow job. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen in my world. Until now.
I hand the key over to the main valet attendant and let Scarlett walk ahead of me. The woman standing at the hostess podium glances up at me and nervously pushes her bangs to the side and smiles. Every woman in the restaurant is quick to reapply her lipstick or dab on perfume before I walk past her table. I grab me and Scarlett an end seat at the bar and order us two Makers on the rocks before she can even take off her coat. “Can you add a cherry and orange wedge to mine?” she adds. The bartender, who has a blonde soul patch, keeps his eyes on Scarlett as he distributes handfuls of ice to our glasses.
“You good man?” I lean in towards Scarlett and prop up my elbows on the bar. His jaw tenses up in the corner of his cheeks and he keeps his eyes down at our drinks.
“Orange and cherry, huh?” I ask after we clink glasses. “So, there is a sweet side to you!”
She jabs my arm and rolls her eyes. “You’re just jealous.” She uses the stirrers to stab her cherry. “You want my cherry?” She grabs the stem and dangles it in front of my eyes. The cherry drops in my glass. “Oops,” she exclaims.
I use my stirrers as chop sticks and lift the cherry up to my lips. “Looks like it’s mine now,” I whisper before taking a bite.
Scarlett catches her breath and leans away. She stares into her whiskey and stirs her ice cubes around. I can hear a small ringing sound each time the cubes hit the glass. “I’m going to go freshen up, and then I think you should take me home.” She grabs her purse.
“We just got here though. Do you want any food?” I gesture at a happy hour menu but she shakes her head and makes her way to the restroom.
Soul Patch clears Scarlett’s spot in exchange for the check. “Girlfriend?” he asks leering at her seat.
“You really think she’s my girlfriend?”
“I don’t know? Wife?”
“Boss.” I put down a fifty, chug the last of my drink, and tell him to keep the change.
Scarlett returns to the bar to grab her coat, murmurs a thank you to the bartender, and heads to the front.
“Is there something that I did?” I ask on our ride home.
“It’s not just you. It’s both of us.”
Scarlett’s fiancé’s mangled BMW is parked in her driveway; she sighs at the sight of it. “Thank you again for today,” I tell her, “it means the world.” I hold her hand and it’s cold with sweat. She pulls away and rubs her hands up and down her blouse. “Does my driving make you nervous?”
“Thanks for the drink.” She steps out of the car and before closing the door, says, “Maybe next time, you can order your own cherry.”