Into You (Part 16)
'Now I'm gonna go out on a limb, because I want the wine…' He leans in closer to me, and in a hushed voice whispers, 'Scary stories… Horror…' He draws out the last word, enunciating in such a way that I actually break out in goose bumps.
'Okay… How did you…?' If he says ‘boo,' I'm going to jump out of my skin. However, he's smiling so broadly, my heart eases back one gear and doesn't race like made. Still, I can feel the blood coursing through me, and my face is doubtless flushed. The wine bottle dangles at my side, yet I hang onto it because I owe him the proceeds of the win.
'When all hell broke loose at the lab, and we were trying to find the entity on Arlo, you kept your cool. I figured you may be desensitized to creepy tales. At least, that's the gut feeling I have.' He whips his gaze back to the grill. 'Speaking of… I better take these off before they char.'
With deft precision, he flips up the grill cover, grabs the serving tray, slips the spatula under each steak consecutively, and deposits them both on the tray in one fluid motion. He sets the spatula on the sideboard of the grill and pulls up a set of long tongs hanging on a hook on the edge of the platform. He goes back for the potatoes and the ears of corn, setting each one in turn on the tray.
'Timing is everything,' he quips, closes the grill lid, and motions to the table with his free hand. 'Let's eat before it gets cold.' We both step over to the table and he sets down the food platter. 'May I…?'
He reaches for the Merlot and has his hand open for the corkscrew. I oblige and let him take both. The weight of the bottle leaves my left hand, but a different weight settles upon me as I hand him the corkscrew and my fingertips touch his palm. It's not onerous, nor truly even heavy; yet, I feel it press upon me, as a comforter would cocoon me and put me at ease. Gerald grows quiet as he unwraps the foil and uses the tool to extricate the cork.
'Ta-da! Give me your glass.' He motions with the neck of the bottle for me to reach it to him. I eagerly comply, and he fills it to three-quarters, then does the same for his wine glass. He raises his and nods at me to follow suit. 'To new beginnings and a brighter future…' He toasts and we both take our obligatory first sips. It's good, it's smooth, and it warms me even more than the lingering heat of the day.
'That's a sweet sentiment, Gerald. What brings all this on?'
'There's change on the wind, Lynne. You feel it, don't you?'
I nod slowly. He pulls out the chair for me and waits until I'm settled. Then he takes his seat, not across from me, but the next nearest adjoining chair. I realize he's arranged it so we face south, with a view of the night sky skirted only by the tops of my willow tree and the upper boughs of his oak. The sunset is gorgeous, shifting from deep orange to violet to midnight blue of space. Stars already twinkle overhead, and the sparse cloud cover is dissipating.
'Hand me your plate and I'll dish out a portion.' I do so and he uses the tongs to distribute the steak, the potatoes, and the corn to each of our plates. Gerald then walks the tongs to the grill, sets them beside the spatula, and returns to his chair. 'Lynne, do you typically bless the food before a meal?'
'I do,' I tell him, 'but that's a topic for another conversation. A much longer one. If you're more comfortable without, we can press on.'
'Alright then…' He pulls the cloth napkin from under his utensils, sets it in his lap, scoots his chair in a smidge, and lets out a contented sigh. 'Let's eat.'
As always at the beginning of a meal, there's the initial silence, punctuated only by the scrape of cutlery upon the plates, accompanied by muffled comments of appreciation for the taste sensations. The evening is drawing down, shadows are being cast from the soft glow of electric bulbs stationed to provide ambience without blinding. There's a cool breeze vying with the warm air currents of this June summer night. The food is excellent, and the conversation picks up again.
'I've got another interesting tidbit to share with you, Lynne.' Gerald looks up from his forkful of food, pausing, seemingly for effect.
'Oh? What subject this time?' I'm holding the ear of corn, now shucked, now buttered, now partially munched in a line three kernels deep.
'I told you about what I thought was a meteor shower, remember?' He holds up his fork, the handle clasped between thumb and forefinger, and the rest covered in the curl of his palm. He stirs the air above the table with it, indicating the night sky and all the glittering diamonds so far away.
'Yes. What's up?' I roll my eyes when I make the connection at the same moment he does. We both laugh.
'Obviously, they no longer are… Up, that is. Relative to the Earth, that is.' His countenance bunches up a bit, and he squints and bites his cheek. 'You know what I mean. Objects in space… that don't stay there.' I nod in understanding. 'They enter our atmosphere. If they're simply rocks, many burn up before they hit the ground. Others with more heft might make it, and survive intact enough for scientists to examine them.' He takes a long moment to very deliberately slice off a forkful of steak, but he doesn't immediately eat it. He holds it aloft, ruminating.
'What's on your mind, Gerald? What's got you in such an introspective mood?' I push bits of my buttered baker around my plate, paying more attention to his demeanor and his words.
'Well, it goes like this. There's a pretty regular meteor shower display, called the Perseids, in the summer months every year, typically from July through August…' He trails off, perhaps letting me make a connection.
'Um… it is summer,' I point out. 'Right on schedule.'
'Not actually, Lynne. We're only a couple weeks into June…and they seem to already be dropping out of the sky. The Perseids, that is. It's almost a month too early for them.' He finally takes the bite of steak and chews while I attempt to poke holes in his worrisome attitude.