© Chris Courtney Photography
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”
Ever since she read those words as a young girl, she wanted to be that. She wanted to be the light, the fire, and the sin.
He was waiting for her there.
He stood when she walked in the door, and she knew by the way he looked at her. Even when the hostess approached her and asked if she would like to be seated, she remained in that moment with him. He almost smiled at her defiance of social convention in deference to the moment. He couldn’t wait to play with that further down the road.
He approached her. “Come, sit down.” He reached out his hand and led her back to the table. He took her coat and helped her into her seat.
There was a glass of wine already poured for her, and while he was taking care of her coat, she examined the bottle. A Peju Province Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. He slid back into his chair, and she sat silently taking him in as he drank.
“Your eyes flash when you think. I like that.” He let her continue for a moment until he knew she wasn’t able to figure it out. “You posted that it was your favourite in comment to your brother. I had a case shipped.”
Her eyes narrowed, “Thank you.”
“My pleasure. It's a stunning wine."
The waiter came with two salads. “Blue cheese for the lady. French for you, sir. Pepper?”
“For me, please. None for her.” When the waiter left, he explained, “I’ve already ordered for us.”
His voice was subdued but resolute. He didn’t need to show his control, he just had it.
She sat very still, as if moving might break the spell or was she testing his resolve? He laughed in amusement, stood again and stepped behind her. He took her napkin from the table and placed it in her lap, then he leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Don’t start with defiance, you’ll just go hungry. If you decide to walk away after dinner, I will let you go. But if you choose to be mine, there will be consequences for testing me.” He put his hand on the back of her neck, “But you know that.”
She noticed the fine quality of his tailored suit as he sat back down. He was impeccably dressed and had a lovely lean and elegant body. She liked the silver in his hair and beard, but it was his bewitching green eyes that kept her mesmerised. He smiled at her before taking another drink of his wine, and she noticed his dimples for the first time, which were very disarming. She picked up her salad fork and began to eat.
“How do you know I don’t like pepper?”
“There’s very little I don’t know about you.”
“When I find a woman who intrigues me, I do my research. It’s not as though you hide anything.” He lowered his voice and leaned in a bit, “In fact, you’ve been begging for me to find you for too long.”
She looked hard at him, and choose to believe, “Yes.”
“May I kiss you goodnight before I get you a taxi home later?” He watched intently for her response. She was visibly taken aback. The kiss was a reward but he had a lot of work to do with her, “I’m not taking you home tonight. I want to see how you deal with disappointment.”
She smiled too broadly, “How do you know I’ll be disappointed and not relieved?”
“You are going to be so delicious,” he almost laughed. “That little mind of yours is very sharp, but your body betrays you. When I touched your neck, you nearly swooned. Now, answer my question. May I kiss you goodnight?”
The waiter came to clear their plates, and she thanked him. He smiled as he adjusted his napkin.
“Are you amused?” She asked with more insolence than she intended.
He laughed, “You have lovely manners. Your attitude is going to get you into a lot of trouble with me,” he stopped for a moment and looked directly into her and when he saw what he was looking for, he continued, “but I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.”
“You don’t know if I’m going to say yes all of this,” she was trying to regain some ground.
He looked through her again, “Yes. I do….” He stopped talking as the waiter came and set down their plates. He ordered her steak, perfectly medium rare, asparagus, hollandaise, baby potatoes with rosemary. He poured her another glass of wine. When she reached for the glass, he stopped her hand and told her to let breathe for a few minutes. Then he continued.
“You’ve been playing at this for a long time, but you’ve never really tried. There’s a part of you that’s afraid of drowning. Afraid of losing control. So you fight it – and every time you fight or you run, you betray the part of you that wants to live. You betray that part of you that’s dying to be loved. You’re far too damaged to be loved normally so you seek to enslave yourself. You think that taking away the choice absolves you of making poor ones,” he took a bit of his steak and drank more wine as she watched him. “It doesn’t, by the way. You are still responsible. You’ll just never get away from me. I won’t be pushed away, and you could run to the top Mt. Everest, and I would come find you.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“Yes, I do. You’re me. Feminine. Inverted in many ways, but when I saw you – when I watch you – I see myself. Drink your wine.”
She drank obediently without thinking. He reached out and traced from her finger down to her wrist. He imagined binding her wrists and claiming her body. He imagined her like a rare, savage mare that everyone had given up on. He knew she had suffered terribly from the stupidity of men, and he almost wanted to thank them for leaving such a gift behind.
She didn’t know yet that he had first seen her three months before in this very restaurant or that he had found out her name and researched everything he could about her. She didn’t yet know that he hadn’t met her randomly online or that he had meticulously planned how to capture her imagination. She didn’t yet know that he was already obsessed with the idea of her, and that idea was about to become a reality.
The waiter came to clear their plates again, leaving the desert menu in the middle of table.
He picked it up and started to peruse it and nonchalantly aksed, “so yes or no?”
“Yes or no what?” She was feeling more relaxed with him and the wine had started to effect her.
“Yes or no to me.”
“You want me to answer now?”
“But... I don’t even know you.”
“Yes, you do.” He poured more wine and searched her face for intently for clues. He wanted to be able to read her every expression to know with absolute certainty the effect every tiny detail had on her. When she didn’t answer, he said, “I have something for you,” and he took out a small box and put it on the table. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use this yet, so when you open it, if the answer is no, this ends now.”
She said okay thinking that he had bought something like an expensive watch or possibly even a collar to try to seal the deal in some sleazy way. She wondered why men always fuck things up just when they're at the point of success, and she readied herself to politely demur as best she could if this went south quickly.
He slid the box towards her and she opened it. She immediately recognized the colours and was overcome with wonder and gratitude. She pulled out a silk scarf like one she lost months ago. A chill went down her spine. She had bought her scarf at a street fair in San Francisco. It was handmade. Was this a bizarre coincidence? Maybe he saw a picture of her in it on her Facebook page? But how could he have found the artist who made it? Then she saw the tag, and she looked at him in complete bewilderment.
“The first time I saw you, you were sitting at that table,” he pointed to a table in the corner, “and you were talking to a man about the value of the greater good vs selfishness. When you reached underneath your chair to get your purse, that scarf fell from your shoulders, and you left without it. I picked it up thinking it would be a good excuse to track you down.”
“That was over 3 months ago.”
“It took me awhile to find you, and to figure you out, and then you were seeing that other guy so I had to wait," he paused to let her process the magnitude of what he was telling her. "Now, you owe me an answer. Yes or no.”
She looked at him, and with every fibre of her being she ignored the voice in her head screaming 'no.'
“Yes.” And she felt her stomach drop as if she were diving off a cliff in the great, bottomless abyss.