Gina had always been aware of her good looks, her long, lustrous hair. She knew the flutter of hearts as she pouted her full pink lips and threw her head back, letting the tresses bounce, and settle down, like waves on the seashore. How many secret glances had she stolen from men;married,bachelors,old men and youngsters!
She knew, from his frequent glances at their table, that she had captured his attention.
“Mom, I am going to a play tomorrow,” she spoke up, suddenly, and rather loudly, for his benefit. He looked up from his tomato soup, bit into a bread roll, and looked down again.
It’s called `Solitaire.’ Just two of us are going, Sheila and I. You won’t mind being alone for an evening, will you?”
Mother was the strong, silent type. “Sure, go ahead. I’ll catch up with the housework.”
Their family consisted of just the two of them. It had been that way, since the death of her father, 4 years ago. During the first two years, she was a teenager. Staying close to mother was easy. Now, she wanted to be free, unfasten the shackles of her mother’s supervision, and meet new people (specifically good looking young men, such as the one at the adjoining table).
It was a weekday evening, and the club wore a deserted look. Mother and daughter were seated facing each other, in the middle of the lawn. The young man was to the girl’s right and she could steal glances at him without attracting attention.
He had now moved on to the main course. She judged him to be about five feet eleven. Half-sleeved shirt complimenting his sinewy build and muscular arms. Firm posture accentuating a broad chest and square shoulders. The typical gym type. Would he be more brawn, less brain? Could he read her eyes, her occasional glances, or pick up the cue for the play?
Mother was strict about these matters; otherwise she would have talked to him, using some pretext. The Club encouraged members to mix like family, and sometimes such wierd ideas came in handy.
Squarely to her right, and seated facing them, he could not help looking at her. To turn away would be a contrived action, so he looked ahead, yet she noticed he was polite enough not to stare. She turned to her right, glanced at him casually till their eyes met, repeated her trademark head-throw, hair-bounce routine and added a bodice heave to add to his discomfiture.
Presently, the waiter brought the voucher for signatures, first to mother and then to the young man, who studied the debits carefully, signed, and slipped in a tip, much against club rules.
The play,Solitaire was turning out to be tedious. The actors had rehearsed poorly; it showed. The air conditioning kept failing; she fumed. The young man never turned up; the hint hadn’t worked. Gina was not amused.
“All he had to do was look up the morning’s paper under the theatre section, in the entertainment column. Mr. Brawn must have thought I was going for a game of cards,” she spoke, wryly. The curtains finally came down, freeing her from her self-inflicted solitary confinement in a hall full of people.
Dinner would be leftovers, she remembered, with Mom busy fixing the curtains. Feet dragging, heart morose, romance stifled, she trudged back to her sprawling suburban home, a disappointed, depressed, disenchanted adolescent.
Mom had company. That was weird. She was never fond of guests and never encouraged them. So who was this? Why hadn’t she called me?!
A 1960s Fiat 1100, gleaming in the reflection of garden lights, reflecting the owner’s taste for objects well preserved, was parked in the driveway. Lights were on in the living room. She was curious to discover who the visitor was. The front door was ajar. It opened into an anteroom. As she slipped off her shoes, a routine at home to prevent street dust from entering in, she noticed a rugged pair of moccasins. The visitor’s voice floated towards her.
“It has been nice talking to you for so long,” she could hear a man saying. “Isn’t it amazing that we’ve both been members of the club for so many years and have never met? I’ve enjoyed this evening so much that I almost forgot the main reason for coming. Could you be the judge… for the beauty pageant next week at the club? It’s for members only.
“The Committee has asked me to coordinate the event. You know, I was mesmerized when I saw you last evening… And I decided only a woman as beautiful as you can be the judge…”
Slowly, almost on tiptoe, she stepped across the anteroom and peeped into the living room. Lounging by the show case, legs crossed, arms crossed, dressed in a sheer white, translucent round neck T-shirt and blue jeans that set off his physique was… Mr. Brawn. With enough brain to seize the opportunity and take the cue. With the knowledge that older women crave for attention – from strapping young men whom they could mull over, when the mind was idle.
Mom was seated on the divan, her back resting on a cushion against the wall. She must have changed, because she was not attired in a dress designed to fix curtains. Her hair, long and lustrous, flowed loose, her eyes shone and her face was flushed. Nervous, yet exuding feminine charm and grace, she tossed her head back, letting the tresses fall like waves on a seashore, taking in a deep breath, savoring the young man’s air of confidence, biting a trembling lip, flattered, riveted and mesmerized by the modern-day Greek God.
“Please don’t refuse! the young man cajoled in a voice akin to warm honey gliding down the throat. “I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer after all the trouble I had finding you. All I had was your code number on the debit slip, and I had to coax the club office manager into giving me your address. By the way, the girl who was with you yesterday… is she your younger sister?”
The girl in question sighed and looked ruefully at her mother. Talk about the other woman! With romance in such doldrums, all she could do was to go up to her room and play a game of cards, all alone… what was it called… Solitaire!