Her mouth was dry, and it had nothing to do with the desert plains of Oasis Springs. Eliza tugged the fabric of her clothes, trying to cool herself as she awaited Scarlett. It was the maiden voyage, the first date, with Scarlett and of her whole life. Eliza was in her mid-thirties, coming to the end of a successful sporting career. When Scarlett called, Eliza worried what Scarlett would think of her distant tone. That the distraction by her nieces when accepting a date meant Eliza was not interested. Scarlett arrived flustered, apologising for their lateness. A last-minute change to the trains, and they missed the connection.
The Chez Llama had changed little over the years. A fresh coat of paint and menu changes kept people returning. The balcony offered views of endless burnt land, rocks and artificial grassed areas. Scarlett’s gaze drifted across the land. They were nervous; on their first date in years. The waiter hovered, impatient to get the order and make fewer trips up the stairs. Otherwise, the balcony was private, making Eliza wonder if lunch was the best idea for a date. The waiter added to the awkwardness and pressure to decide. His sighing and pencil tapping against the pad irritated them both.
Scarlett had shown themselves a capable chef; the meals they provided were heaven. Eliza flushed, panic sitting at the back of her throat concerned she might make a dining faux pas. What would Scarlett think if she mispronounced the name of a dish or paired the wrong drink. Relief flooded her as Scarlett suggested a few they would love to try. Eliza agreed to share and was grateful Scarlett knew the correct wine to request.
In the silence left by the waiter, Scarlett led the discussion. They were curious about how Eliza became a soccer player and what plans she may have for the future. The conversation flowed; with sweet nectar and divine food. Eliza had put little thought into life after sports. Since it was a few years away, she believed there would be ample time. Scarlett’s life came with tragedy, as their parents died during a volcanic eruption. They had lived in Sulani all their lives and had never seen one. It happened fast, there were no warnings, as the lava bombed their home. Scarlett decided to move to the city rather than trying to rebuild. With the monsoon season approaching, it was futile to try. They hoped to one day return, open a restaurant in honour of their family.
Talking with Scarlett seemed natural, a sense they had always known each other. This comfort gave Eliza confidence in her desire as their eyes lingered on each other. The flecks of red in Scarlett’s eyes were clear as the sun danced around them, glistening like ruby’s. Eliza found her gaze tracing the curves of their face. She rested a moment on Scarlett’s lips, the way they shaped around the words. Neither had stopped smiling and when Scarlett spoke of her parents, Eliza touched her arm. The touch developed into a subtle stroke, giving Scarlett goose bumps. They pulled their arm back and interlocked their fingers with Eliza’s, eyes resting on the act.
They both reached for the bill as the impatient waiter dropped it. Gentle laughter filled the space. Eliza took charge; it was the least she could do to say thank you. Scarlett had conditions; they wanted a second date. Another chance to explore the romance festival as a couple. Butterflies filled Eliza, had her ears deceived her or did Scarlett want them to be official?
Eliza brushed stray hair from Scarlett’s face, her fingers tracing their jaw. Her lips brushed theirs, a tentative and faint kiss. Scarlett’s hands rested on Eliza’s hips, sliding upwards to her waist and back. They pressed closer. The kiss was firm, complete and dizzying. Eliza never wanted to let go of Scarlett, as they were all that tethered her to this world.