For they will meet for lunch at the cafe, where, they know, they will take a table on the terrace. There will be large, canvas umbrellas to protect them from the sun, and a white fence to seclude them from the pedestrians on the sidewalk. It will be a gorgeous June day: the sun will be out, and the streets will feel festive as they sometimes do.
Carol, slender and delicate, like a thoroughbred, will leave her apartment, wearing a white cotton dress; a pale-blue linen jacket will be smartly folded over her left arm, just in case they will choose to sit inside and the airconditioner will be blowing. Before reaching the cafe, she will unfold the jacket and put it on; she's an astute dresser and is well aware of how snugly the jacket rounds her narrow shoulders, how the blue weave of the linen highlights the depths of her blue eyes, and brings to life the smooth texture of her healthy tan.
Jim, a shrewd dresser himself, will tame his muscles under a black T-shirt, and a dark Helmut Lang jacket. He will wear his usual dungarees, which sit tight across his hips and pull the eye toward the promise of his crotch. From their perch on top of the world, both Jim and Carol will look and feel good, their optimism bolstered and confirmed as they cast a last glance in their respective mirrors, and later, when they will sit across the table from one another and observe their wellness reflected back to them.
They will both reach the cafe at the same time.
How good she looks, Jim will think with genuine pleasure.
How good he looks, Carol will think with a pinch of envy and regret.
Good timing, Jim will say, leaning over and brushing his lips against the silky, aromatic skin of her cheek.
Stingy. Like two strangers, Carol will think, allowing herself a quick frown of displeasure.
Jim, after a moment of indecision, will lead her to a corner table at the far end of the fenced area.
Would you rather eat inside? it will suddenly occur to him to ask.
No, no, this is fine.
Sitting there, one across from the other, they will know themselves to be very special, very fortunate -- youth and exuberance will be on their side. The future will be avoided, and so will the past.
The above is an excerpt from a novella of the same name.