Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

The Endless Visit

At the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink, two women meet and re-evaluate their relationship.

The Endless Visit

Maggie Cochran held the rose between the gloved thumb and forefinger of her right hand, watching the petals as she twisted it back and forth. Her elbows rested on the railing and she looked up from the rose to watch the skaters spinning below. The Rockefeller Center ice rink was crowded this late in the day and she wondered how anyone was able to move, let alone skate, on such a tiny surface.

She thought back to the unexpected phone call she received earlier that afternoon. “Maggie. It’s me. Look, it’s taking a lot out of me to say this, so just let me get it out before you make a decision, okay? I’ve had… an enormous crush on you for a long time. And I was wondering if you would like to go out for dinner tonight. I have tickets to Wicked, if you want to see that.”

Maggie sat back in her chair, frowning at the air in front of her desk as if Clara was actually in the room. “You mean like a date?”

“Sure. Yeah, you can call it that.”

Maggie couldn’t help laughing, but then realized Clara was serious. Her smile faded, replaced by a wistful expression. She toyed with the phone cord, twisting it around her fingers as the smile returned. It’s been a while since I was asked out on a date. I forgot how good it feels. “Sure. Yeah, a date would be lovely.”

They made arrangements via email. They would meet at Rockefeller Center after they both got off work, and they would either see what they could find within walking distance or, barring that, take a cab to a restaurant. It was Maggie’s idea to bring a single red rose, drawn in by the thought of a night of pure romance after such a long dry spell.

Maggie had just pushed up her sleeve to check her watch when someone behind her said, “I was starting to worry you couldn’t get roses in March.”

Maggie turned and smiled. “I was starting to think you weren’t coming.” She held up her rose and gestured at the duplicate in Clara’s hands. “Holdovers from Valentine’s Day, I guess.”

“I guess,” Clara said. She looked down, as if unsure what to do with her hands, and noticed the skating rink. “We have time before the show. Do you want to try skating?”

“No, there’s a huge crowd. We’d never get in. Let’s just see if there’s anyplace to eat around here.”

Clara held her right arm out, and Maggie looped her left arm around it. “It’s New York,” Clara said. “I’m sure there’s a restaurant or two around here.”

They left the skating rink behind and joined the crowd moving down the street, taking the time to window shop and catch up on mutual friends. During a lull in the conversation, Maggie became very aware of how good it felt to walk down the street arm-and-arm with Clara. She looked down at the rose Clara had given her and slipped the stem through a button hole of her jacket. She tugged it down until it stuck out like a boutonnière. Clara chuckled and said, “Looks nice.”

Maggie nodded and said, “So is this going to be our first date?”

“Yep,” Clara said, facing forward.

Maggie smiled and tightened her grip on Clara’s arm. “Sounds good to me.”

They found a pizza parlor on 53rd Street and managed to get in before a line started to form. They each got a slice and carried their plates to a table by the window. Clara was obviously nervous about their evening, so Maggie decided they could just eat their pizza in silence for a few minutes. It gave her time to really look at Clara for the first time in a long time. She was a tall redhead, lithe from the years of playing softball in high school and college. At the moment, coming home from her job at the library, she wore her hair in a loose bun and a pair of square-framed glasses slid low down her nose.

Maggie resisted the temptation to reach across the table to push the glasses back up, instead looking at Clara’s fingers. They were slender, manicured, and currently glistening with grease from the pizza. Clara followed Maggie’s gaze, took a few napkins from the dispenser, and wiped her fingers. “Some first date, huh? I might as well have taken you to a Sloppy Joe Eating contest.”

Maggie laughed. “What are you going to do, eat it with a knife and fork? Besides,” She picked up her slice and folded it in half. “It’s pizza. It’s supposed to be a little messy.” She took a big bite and made a show out of chewing it. A pepperoni fell from her grease-painted lips. She held her hands out in a ‘see what I mean?’ gesture and wiped her mouth with a napkin.

“I see your point,” Clara admitted. She took another bite of her pizza, dabbed at her lips and then looked at Maggie over the top of her glasses. “So, um… you didn’t act surprised when I asked you out on this date.”

“No,” Maggie said. “It’s a good idea. It feels really, really nice.”

Clara smiled and said, “Well, the evening is just beginning. I mentioned the tickets I have,” she looked at her watch, “but I just may be able to get you home before midnight.”

Maggie rested her elbows on the table and raised an eyebrow. “Well, I don’t have a curfew, you know.” She ran her finger along the rim of her soda glass and said, “Daddy wouldn’t know if I stayed out a little later.”

Clara looked down at the table, letting the strands of hair cover her eyes, and shook her head. “God, I can’t believe I’m actually blushing.”

Maggie laughed and leaned back. “Get used to it. Hurry up and finish your pizza. I don’t want to miss the opening number.”

Just over four hours later, they arrived at Clara’s car. Maggie was still humming the music from the play when she climbed into the passenger seat. Clara started the engine and angled the heater so it would thaw Maggie out first. “You took the subway this morning, right? We don’t have to worry about leaving your car behind?”

“Yeah, I took the subway, but I’d much rather get a ride home with you. As long as you don’t mind driving me, that is.”

Clara grinned. “All part of the date experience.”

It was almost midnight, so the streets weren’t as crazy as they’d been earlier in the evening. They rode in relative silence, punctuated by Maggie humming songs from the musical. She reached across the console and rested her hand on Clara’s thigh. Clara took her eyes off the road to look down at it, smiled, and then covered it with her own hand. “It was a good date,” Maggie said.

“I’ve never been very good at them. Dates, I mean.”

Maggie nodded. “I know what you mean. I’m glad you asked me.”

“I wasn’t sure you’d be up for it. I kept telling myself it was such a dumb idea…”

“It was a brilliant idea.”

Clara glanced away from the road. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Clara pulled to a stop in front of Maggie’s apartment building and watched as she unfastened the seatbelt. Maggie opened the door and looked back at Clara. “Well? Aren’t you going to walk me to the front door?”

“Oh,” Clara said. “Right. Sorry. I’m out of practice.”

Maggie chuckled and waited for Clara on the sidewalk. Together, they walked to the front door of the building. Maggie turned to face Clara and said, “Well, I had a terrific time tonight.”

“Would you be interested in maybe doing it again?” Clara asked, keeping her eyes on the ground so she wouldn’t see the rejection coming.

“Of course I would like to do it again. Just name the time and the place. You know where to find me.”

Clara grinned and looked up, meeting Maggie’s eyes. Her smile wavered and she hesitantly moved forward. Their lips met and Maggie closed her eyes, leaning forward to deepen the kiss. Clara moaned quietly, brushing her tongue across Maggie’s bottom lip before retreating. She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth and retreated, but kept one hand on Maggie’s shoulder and the other on her hip.

“Nice,” Maggie said.

“Yeah, well,” Clara said, suddenly shy. She looked at the car and said, “I left the car running in a tow zone. I should probably…”

Maggie nodded. “Yeah. I did have a great time tonight. Thank you.”

Clara’s smile returned and she said, “I’ll see you soon.”

“You’d better.”

Maggie remained under the awning until Clara was back in the car. She lifted one hand in a wave, then turned and entered the lobby. She smiled as she crossed the lobby and chose the stairs over the elevator. A first date. It had been a long time. And it had been almost as long since she arrived home feeling so elated. If she looked down, she wouldn’t be surprised to see her feet floating off the ground. Her mind was filled with thoughts of Clara, of that good-night kiss. It was such an alien, but utterly welcome, feeling that she almost didn’t recognize it.

When she got to her apartment, she turned on the lights and stripped out of her coat. She put the rose into some water, making a mental note to find a vase for it in the morning, and undressed on her way to the bedroom. She left her work clothes in the hamper, turned on the light over the sink, and changed into an oversized T-shirt.

She began humming again as she used a wet wipe to clean away her make-up. She was almost halfway through the song when the bedroom door opened. Maggie smiled at the reflection of her partner and dropped the wipe into the trash. “That was quite a first date, Mrs. Cochran.”

Clara wrapped her arms around Maggie’s waist and kissed the back of her neck. “Thank you, Mrs. Cochran.” She rested her head on Maggie’s shoulder and looked at their reflection in the mirror.

“When did you come up with this plan?”

“A couple of days ago. I was starting to worry about us. We were in a rut.” She kissed Maggie’s shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault, or mine. We were just kind of… content. You know?” Maggie nodded and rubbed Clara’s wrist with her fingers. Dinners where Clara had one eye on her work and the other eye on the news, bedtimes where Maggie rolled over and went to sleep while Clara was still in the shower.

“Yeah. Content is accurate,” Maggie said. “We got married and I guess we decided we didn’t need to win each other over any more.” She didn’t want to admit that it broke her heart sometimes, watching as if outside her body as they went through the motions. Sitting and staring at the TV together, sharing space in each other’s lives but never really intersecting. A second first date was exactly what they needed.

Clara sighed and brushed her nose against Maggie’s neck. “I’m sorry if I ever took you for granted, baby. I do love you. More than anything.”

Maggie turned around in Clara’s arms and kissed her lips. Clara moaned into the kiss and rested her hands on Maggie’s hips. Maggie broke the kiss and smiled, brushing her nose against Clara’s. “Are you planning to take me to bed? Because, honey, I don’t do that sort of thing on the first date.”

Clara raised an eyebrow. “If I recall, on our real first date, you drove us out to the country and–”

“Okay,” Maggie interrupted, laughing. “Okay. I was just checking your memory.” She kissed Clara and started moving her toward the bed. She pushed Clara down onto the mattress and started undoing the buttons of Clara’s blouse. Clara shrugged out of the shirt as Maggie tugged up the hem of her nightshirt and straddled her thighs. Clara cupped Maggie’s rear end with both hands and took her lover’s weight onto her lap.

Maggie brushed Clara’s hair out of her face and said, “So. Now I have to make sure you ask me out for a second date.”

“Well,” Clara said, her hands on Maggie’s bare thighs, “I’ll have to check my calendar.” She grinned evilly and flipped them both so that Maggie was on the bottom. Maggie’s surprised shriek was drowned out by Clara’s laughter. As Clara kissed her way down her body, Maggie stretched her arms out over her head, gripping the headboard in anticipation. When Clara eased her thighs apart, Maggie arched her back and silently swore she would never again take what they had for granted.

“Marriage is like an endless visit in your worst clothes”
– Joseph Priestley

The End

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