Freedom. Is that what she was feeling? She was free to do what she wanted when she wanted, unbelievable as it seemed. For a few minutes Danielle Stevens stared out of the floor-to-ceiling window of her new high-rise apartment. An unexpected tinge of melancholy swept over her but she shook it away. She smiled at her reflection, gave herself a thumbs up and turned away from the window to grab her purse.
The ringing of her cell phone jolted her just as she was about to leave her apartment. She plucked it out of her purse and, seeing who was calling, laughed out loud.
"Good grief, Elaine, I'm on my way now."
"Hey, I'm already at the restaurant."
"Well, good for you. I'll be there in a jif."
"Dani, how lucky to live close enough to the Bodacious Bistro you can just walk here."
"Maybe I am, Elaine," Danielle said closing and locking her apartment door.
"No maybe about it. Any time you feel like it, you can just walk down the street and have a fun meal."
"A fun meal? What's that supposed to mean?"
"My dear, you are now forty years old and suddenly unattached."
"Are you insane? I was asking about a fun meal not my paltry description."
"Well, a fun meal would entail meeting a dashing, handsome hunk of a man. And remember, forty is the new twenty."
"That is absurd, simply absurd."
Ignoring her statement Elaine said, "I hope we don't have to wait for a table."
"Only one way to find out. Go on in and see if one is available or, knowing you, just go to the bar and hang out until I get there."
Elaine laughed. "Okay, see you in a few minutes. Bye."
Danielle descended in the elevator, walked through the lobby, and out the front door. She started to hurry down the sidewalk and then thought, why should I hurry? Probably right now Elaine is striking up a conversation with some strange man since that seems to be her main hobby. Danielle smiled and slowed her pace.
Her cell phone rang again. She glanced at the number and sighed.
"Hi, Mom, how's it going?"
"Everything is fine here, honey. I just wondered how you were."
"Gosh, Mom, I couldn't be better. Everything I ever wanted is coming into place."
"Everything? I know you have a new job and a new apartment but surely there should be more than that."
"Oh, don't you start in on me. Can I call you back later? I'm on my way to have lunch with Elaine."
"You don't have to call me later. I just wanted to make sure you were all right after your breakup with Frank."
"I thought you were more than okay with my breakup with Frank. I always had the impression you didn't like him."
"Well, he was stodgy, and the two of you never seemed to have any spark."
Danielle burst out laughing. "You only met him twice, Mom, but you hit it on the mark. He was comfortable, reliable, and dependable. To tell the truth, I don't miss him at all."
"That's a relief, honey. Your father has always been on the stodgy side but that certain spark never left us, if you know what I mean, even after all these years."
Danielle moaned. "You know, Mom, sometimes there are things daughters don't want to know."
"Okay, honey, then I'll let you go. Have fun with Elaine and tell her I said hi."
"Sure thing, Mom. I love you." She turned off her cell phone.
No, she didn't miss Frank at all. That was where most of her newfound freedom came in and it felt good, very good.
When she reached the Bodacious Bistro or the BB, as it was more commonly called, she opened the door to the establishment and was met by a cacophony of conversation and laughter.
She looked around and saw Elaine was indeed seated at the bar. However, she was talking to the bartender and not some unknown masculine patron.
At that moment, Elaine turned around and saw her. She picked up her drink and made her way to Danielle.
"Isn't this perfect?" exclaimed Elaine.
"How can you say that? The noise is deafening. I would prefer something more homey or comfy."
"Maybe not comfy to you but it's my kind of place."
"Uh-huh, that's what I was afraid of."
The maitre'd approached and immediately focused his greeting on Elaine, a tall redhead dressed in a bright blue linen business suit.
"Ladies," he said, "how many for your table?"
Elaine winked at him. "For the time being, just two of us, please."
He led them to a table in the middle of the busy restaurant. "Will this do, ladies?"
"Certainly," said Elaine smiling at him as he pulled out her chair.
After both were seated, he gave them menus, discreetly withdrew and left them to make their choices.
"I don't know how you can say this isn't comfortable, Dani."
"Oh, good grief, Elaine. I prefer quiet downtime with my meals."
"At least we didn't have to wait," said Elaine.
"Yes, but how are we going to hear ourselves talk?" asked Danielle.
"Let's not talk," said Elaine. "Let's listen and observe."
Danielle sighed. "For crying out loud, Elaine, don't you ever get tired of looking for men?"
Elaine smiled proudly. "Look at the menu and forget about me. Anyway, sooner or later you'll get into this groove, too, no matter how career-dedicated you think you are. Oh, would you look at these appetizers? Let's order the sampler. If there's as much as I think there is, that's all we'll need to order."
"Fine with me," said Danielle, resigned to an Elaine-style luncheon. "By the way, I got a call from my mother while I was walking over here. She said to tell you hi."
"Oh, she's so sweet. I've always liked your mom although I've only met her a couple of times. She seemed like she would be a lot of fun."
"Uh-huh. I guess that's because my mom always had aspirations to be a hippie."
"So what kept her in that small town for so long? Plainsville couldn't have been a breeding ground for hippies."
Danielle hooted. "Exactly. Mom wanted to get out, see the world and join the flower children, but from high school onwards she was in love with my dad."
"And your dad doesn't seem the hippie type at all."
"Oh, he isn't now, but I think he was a free spirit before Vietnam. When he came home, he had changed a lot, according to Mom, and just wanted to stay in Plainsville. I never learned how the war changed him but whatever it was, my mother understood."
"But they don't live in Plainsville, North Dakota now so something must have changed his mind when he retired."
"I'm sure it was Mom who changed his mind. She wanted to move to a retirement settlement in Florida, but Dad was leery of hurricanes so they compromised and moved to the Texas Hill Country. I think he must have felt guilty all those years knowing she yearned for something new and exciting."
"So the Texas Hill Country is exciting?"
Danielle laughed. "Who knows? But the climate and terrain are completely different from our hometown. They live in a hilly area complete with lakes and pine forests. It's just beautiful there and not nearly as hot as other places in Texas."
The waiter interrupted their conversation. "What would you like to drink, ladies?"
Danielle glanced in a nonchalant manner around the crowded room while Elaine ordered wine spritzers and appetizers. Without warning, her eyes collided with those of a good looking man sitting across the room. She immediately turned her gaze away, almost paralyzed at what she thought she had seen.
"Oh!" she gasped, immediately wishing she hadn't.
Elaine, looking in the opposite direction, turned. "What's the matter?"
"Oh nothing. I think I have the hiccups."
Shock waves rippled over her body, but she didn't dare tell Elaine whom she thought she saw, and she didn't have the nerve to look that direction again to make sure. With any luck she was wrong, dead wrong.