February 11

“I know it’s only been a week since you’ve known me and it might be a little too early to ask you this, but here I’m anyway!” he blushed.

“Between us, time or proximity should never be a hindrance. What is it?” she quizzed.

“Would you like to come over to my place for lunch tomorrow? I want to cook for you,” he said.

“Oh! Well, I could,” she hesitated.

“No strings attached!” he gushed.

“Alright then, I will see you tomorrow. Write down your address for me,” she said. While he wrote down his address on a piece of paper, in her head a million thoughts whizzed. Was he taking things forward too quickly? Was she sure about accepting the invitation? Would it upset him if she cancelled on him? Was she ready yet to take a chance with love? Her thoughts were interrupted when he handed over the note with his address. He was brimming with happiness, as though he had just won a lottery. She smiled back meekly, said goodbye, and left the café.

The next day, she picked out a mahogany red dress for lunch and matched them with a pair of pointed Mary Janes. She didn’t want to look too dressy and send out wrong signals to him. She promptly arrived at his place and rang the bell. He opened the door and gave her a hug. “Thanks for accepting my invite. I’m so glad you came.”
She followed him to the kitchen to see what he was cooking and she caught the aroma of her favorite roasted salad. He cooks to impress or maybe he just knows me too well, too soon. “Would you like some wine while I finish roasting the steak? Don’t mind me, I was hoping to have the table set by the time you came,” he said.

“That’s okay. It’s not too often you see a man cook for you. I’ll have some wine, yes,” she assured him. But only she knew how nervous she felt and the wine would help calm her nerves. It’s been a few years since she’s been in the company of a man in his house. The thought of it was so daunting, she thought she would collapse. By then, he had poured two glasses of wine and some on the steak. She picked up her glass and took a sip. He offered a tour of the house and she obediently followed him. It looked more like an extremely spacious studio apartment. He owned the house, lived alone, friends came by occasionally, he ran the chores by himself, and seemed at ease with the arrangement. Self-sufficient, she thought and asked him abruptly, “May I use the washroom?”

“Straight and to your left. You can find me in the kitchen.” He took her glass and went back to the steak. She went inside the washroom and closed the door behind her. The next minute, she found herself standing in utter disbelief. It was the scent of something familiar—cologne, perfume, mouthwash, shaving lotion—what was it? The wine? What the fuck was it? She was sure she wasn’t hallucinating or imagining it. The mind cannot play tricks on the sense of smell. She knew it. She also knew that smell. It was his scent—the man she had once loved. She quickly looked up and down the rack of bottles of all sizes and shapes. She could not find anything that matched the smell of the concoction. She took a deep breath and sucked in the scent as much as she could. She realized how much she missed it, missed him. And here she was surrounded by the same scent on another man. What could this mean? Was she attracted to him because he somehow reminded her of her (ex) lover? Was she blind to it all along? Was she too afraid to admit it now?

She splashed water on her face, steadied herself, took one last look at herself in the mirror before stepping out of the washroom. She decided she was going to give him, herself, and this evening a chance. She decided she was going to need more than just one glass of wine.

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