I didn’t even realize I was staring and time was passing… too much time for me to be staring mutely at him. His lips quirked up and he gave me one of the heated glances that I’d been getting from him at work. Here somehow it seemed hotter. I swear my clothes were melting right off. I had to say something but I was at a loss.
“So are you from New York?” he asked. Thank God!
“Yes, born and bred,” I told him.
“You don’t sound like a New Yorker when you talk,” he said.
“You mean like someone who grew up in Brooklyn, or the Bronx… or Queens?” His comment had insulted me. It felt like he was saying that he expected me to be talking like a sewer rat because I had to have undoubtedly grown up on the wrong side of the tracks.
My angst seemed to amuse him. “I wasn’t casting stones,” he said. “I don’t have a “New York” sound to my voice either, but that’s because I spent a big part of my life at boarding school in Switzerland. I was going to ask if maybe you had done the same.”
My mind went back to the posh private school I had attended in the Hamptons until my seventh grade year. At that time I was forced, because of his father, to attend an inner-city public school. I adjusted quickly. I was smart enough not to let my former upbringing get in the way of making new friends and learning new customs.
“No,” I said finally. “No boarding schools for me. Private school.”
“Ah,” he said, as if that explained everything.
The waiter returned then with a tray and presented a bottle of wine to Seth. Seth nodded and my glass was filled with a cool amber liquid. Seth nodded again and the waiter filled his. He left the bottle chilling table-side and disappeared again.
I picked up my wine and before it made it to my lips he held his up and said, “To new acquaintances.”
I went through the motions and toasted with him, still feeling like somehow his question had been designed to put me in a lower place than him. After he finished his drink of wine he looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said, “What are you thinking, Erin?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I was just enjoying my wine.”
He laughed and said, “I was honestly not trying to insult you.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “I think it’s just past my bedtime and I’m getting cranky.”
He laughed again and said, “So by now you would be home in your pajamas… doing what?”
“Probably commiserating with my roommate about our days.”
“Is she in business as well?”
“He… Grant is an MBA like me. He works as an accountant at a law firm here in the city.”
He raised an eyebrow again and said, “Your roommate is a male. So, are you two…?”
“Involved? No. Grant and I are just friends.”
“Is he gay?”
“No, why would you ask that?”
“Well I was picturing you in your pajamas…”
“You did bring it up.”
I had to admit that was true. “Okay, so I brought it up. What does that have to do with Grant being gay?”
“I was just wondering how any red-blooded man who was privileged enough to sit with you while you were in your pajamas being able to maintain a “friend’s only” relationship.”
I felt my face go hot when I said, “Well then, I doubt you’re picturing the same pajamas that I wear when I go home.”
He chuckled softly and said, “You’re probably right about that.” The way he said it made me blush again. I was saved once again by the waiter who came back then to take our orders. I hadn’t even glanced at the menu. I opened the menu quickly and ordered the Chicken Alfredo, the first thing my eyes landed on. Seth looked amused… again. It was obvious that he’d flustered me… again.
“I’ll have the Manicotti,” he said, handing his menu to the waiter. I handed him mine and he once again disappeared. As I watched him go, I was beginning to think the waiter was the lucky one.
When I looked back at him, he was still smiling at me. I was beginning to think he did that just to unnerve me. “So, you grew up in New York when you weren’t away at boarding school. Two parent home, rich, privileged upbringing… you’re comfortable in those clothes.”
He looked down at his suit and said, “I suppose I am. Do you not like my clothes?”
“No… I mean yes, I like them… the question wasn’t really about your clothes, it was more about your upbringing…” Flustered again I said, “Your clothes are fine.”