Fish of the Day?
“What, could you, Miss Davison, possibly be afraid of? ” he challenged.
“Oh God, I’m afraid of my own shadow some days.,” she said slowly, almost sad.
“Seriously? ” Nathan ventured. “You seem to have so much together. You’re so accomplished.”
“Yeah, that’s work, though, it’s not real…Why am I talking so much? ” Carrie said.
“Don’t stop.,” he leaned on his elbows, looking intently, waiting for her to continue. “What are you scared of?”
She thought for a moment, not sure how to respond. She never showed fear, or at least rarely, but if she was honest, she was a big chicken about a lot of things. Losing your mom at such a young age would do that. Whether she was aware or not (and usually she wasn’t) her constant need for approval stemmed right from her fear that she’d be abandoned, again. “Ahhh, not external stuff, like clowns or sharks. Though I hate clowns.,” she answered finally.
“Oh, me too! ” he shuddered.
“I don’t know.,” she continued. “A, a life half lived, maybe.
The paradox of not being seen or loved as I am but also being too terrified to show anyone who I am. It’s like there is someone really bold living on the inside but the courage to let her out…,” she trailed off. “I’ve never told anyone this before.”
She shivered and very serious expression fell over her face. She tried to shake it off. Nathan shifted and came to her side of the table. Putting his jacket, not hers, around her shoulders and sat down beside her.
“God, I feel like I am yammering on. I’m not talking too much? ” she asked.
He shook his head. He wanted to know everything, anything. “I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed someone’s company like this.”
His eyes were locked on hers, willing her to continue. She had a strong feeling that the boyish half-smile he was directing at her coupled with the warm pools of hazel searching her own eyes, could get her to talking about anything so she continued.
“I love what I do and jumped on this ladder and dominated my industry, fast.
I didn’t do it alone thankfully but there we were, a couple of kids on top of the world. But, what do they say about being at the top? The only place to go is down and so I feel, a lot, like I struggle to stay relevant. I kept climbing when people told me I couldn’t, which I am sure you can relate to.” She sighed, feeling really exposed. She truly had no idea where any of this was coming from. It’s like words kept spilling out against her will.
“I do get it,” he affirmed,”For me, though, the path was really clear. Not easy but I knew what I wanted and there were only so many paths to get there. It was like climbing a ladder on rung at at time. Not like you.”
“It’s not the climb up that’s the problem. I know that there were probably lots of times on my way up that I could have stopped, gotten off, taken another turn but I didn’t. I just let the momentum keep pushing me up. If I climbed too high, I hit my head on the ceiling and learned to duck, no big deal. It’s the walls along all sides that…,” she shook her head, stammering. She made her hands into little claws, making aggressive digging motions at the air,
”Sometimes I just want to put my hands and feet on the walls and just push them so hard.
But then there is a safety in being corralled so I don’t push.” She dropped her hands to the table with her palms up. “I’m gonna shut up now.” she whispered, biting her lip as if to button her mouth shut.
Nathan reached over to graze Carrie’s hand with the back of his knuckles. Instinctively she allowed him to take her hand and hold it loosely.
“Wow.,” he breathed. She was incredible. He loved the way she thought, how she put things., “I kind of understand. I see it with my patients. So many of them are terminal unless a miracle happens. I’m so grateful for my health so I’d never want to trade places with them but the clarity a person gets near the end of their life is so enviable. They get so tuned into what is and is not important. And that boldness you’re talking about just comes.”
“Life is short.”, she said soberly.
“See, I think life is long, we just waste so much of it, filling it with stuff that doesn’t matter.,” he insisted.,
“We spend energy on people and things that aren’t good for us and we forget that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.”
She turned that over in her mind for a second., “So, what would you do? What one thing would you do if you knew that this was it, last day on Earth?” she asked him.
“Oh, no. I already did my bold deed for the day!” he claimed.
“What did you do?” her eyes danced the somber moment over.
“I asked a pretty girl for her phone number.” he said, giving her that half-smile again.
“Oh, okay.” she smiled broadly, pleased by his answer.
“Your turn.,” Nathan winked at her, making her insides flip. “no fear, no consequences, what do you do?”
She pulled in a long, deep breath. “I would…” she thought out loud, “do… so many things. Fall in love, zip-line through a jungle. Okay, maybe not. I’d kiss a stranger, eat a waffle, make some crazy career move, or quit altogether. I don’t know exactly where I’d start. I’d just shake things up, you know. Seize the moment.” she laughed at herself.
“Carpe Diem! ” he stated.
Carrie, with a smirk, replied, “Fish of the Day?”
Nathan laughed, really loud so that half the diner stopped and looked in their direction. “You are so adorable,” he said still laughing, slightly embarrassed by the admission. But, at this point, there was no use playing it safe. He was hooked on her (no fish pun intended) and she knew it. He pulled the waffle across the table with his free hand and brought a bite to her lips. “Speaking of Carpe’ Diem,” he said.
“You’re really going to make me eat that? ” she challenged.
“No, I am not going make you. I’d never make you do anything you didn’t want to do.,” he raised his eyebrows when he said it, daring her, “But, I really think you should.”
“I can barely breathe in this dress as it is.,” she argued.
“Well, let’s test the quality of that stitching, shall we? ” he loved teasing her, “C’mon, Fish of the day?”
She glanced around as if looking for an escape route, batted her eyes at him and opened her mouth. She chewed slowly and moaned unintentionally. It was crispy on the edges but had an almost creamy taste, like fresh-churned butter or raw cake batter. ,” Mmmm, what witchcraft is this? ” she asked, still with a bite of food in her mouth.”
“It’s good, right?” Nathan asked, not requiring an answer.
“Yeah,” she said dreamily. She tilted her head to the side, considering the plate on the table. “Okay, one more bite.” she giggled.
Nathan was already scooping up a second bite, this time, swirling it around in a little puddle of syrup. He fed it to her, laughing as a bit of syrup dripped on her bottom lip. Dropping the fork Nathan reached across, caressing her face with his free hand and leaned in brushing her lips with his thumb. She swallowed hard, met his gaze momentarily before fluttering her eyes closed. He lingered for what felt like forever. Oh, God. Please just kiss me, she thought.
“Damn it,” a voice behind them muttered causing them both to jump. Legacy and David were both standing there, both looking uncomfortable but for very different reasons.
Nathan brushed the syrup from her mouth and sucked it off of his thumb before turning fully to see. David saw the gesture and Nathan was secretly glad. What was he doing here?
“What are you doing?” Carrie asked, irritated.