GENRE: Chick lit, literary fiction
LENGTH: 10 minute read
Grace likes Francois, but she doesn't want to go as far as he would like to take her.
Thursday evening, 7pm: Grace’s date narrated the ills of working as an Engineer. He was clearly unhappy in his job. They had started their dinner poring over the results of his Boss-mandated personality test, examining in sophisticated terms what his strengths and weaknesses were.
A pop psychology nerd and pro-personality profile taker, Grace was absolutely loving this. Her small fingers flipped through the thick ream of paper, analyzing him in tiny little details.
“My boss doesn’t know how to manage human persons,” Francois complained in his gorgeous French accent, “so he called in a psychologist to cove-err his ass.”
She felt the eyes of a neighboring dinner guest look over. Maybe it was her insecurity about being watched, but Grace snuffed her assumptions with personality insights.
“Highly vulnerable to criticism and conflict - questioning their motives is the quickest way to an INFJ’s bad side,” read Grace out loud. She felt Francois brace his fingers around her ankle, comfortable. Their side-by-side sitting positions in this Japanese cushions-on-floor restaurant gave him prime, ample access to her feet and shins. His subtle touching wasn’t uncomfortable for Grace, but it did accelerate her thought process.
Noticing their obvious chemistry, the waiter placed two wine goblets on the table, “Are you two ready to order?”
“Hai,” Grace nodded.
“You are reading out my soul,” Francois flirted with her, ignoring the waiter. His thumb danced across the top of her socked foot. He wished she hadn’t worn pants, but a flowing cotton skirt, maybe with sheer underwear…
Grace put the personality results on the table and acknowledged the waiter. She smiled at him - “Are you Japanese or Korean?”
Francois looked up from his touching-reverie, startled.
“I am Japanese,” the Waiter replied, not expecting to be asked a personal question. “And you two?”
She turned to Francois. “Well my parents are mainland Chinese.”
“And I am Japanese,” awoke Francois, impressed at his own sudden joke.
The waiter smiled and poured their wine. Grace continued engaging with the waiter. Part for enjoyment and part surprising herself, her high school Japanese asked him how long he had lived in Sydney, and that in 2007 she visited Tokyo and Hiroshima. The waiter was visibly impressed.
In her peripheral vision she could feel the physical, silent presence of Francois. She knew he could not participate in their banter. He began poking her foot, touching her again to remind her whom her attention should be directed towards. “I never ignore wait staff,” Grace turned to him finally, when they had wrapped up their conversation and the waiter reached the other side of the restaurant. “I used to work in hospitality and people were animals towards me.”
Francois nodded, deciding whether he should be sympathetic or academic in his response. He was also unbearably attracted to her. His house a literal ten-minute walk away, he was trying to figure out how to end this date with Grace in his bedroom.
Despite it being their fifth time seeing each other, Grace enjoyed their ease of conversation, and wanted to test how long they could both hold out before becoming physical. She had let her guard down too quickly with the last guy she dated, and regretted it deeply.
“We will take turns when I start speaking in French and you can’t participate,” he purred. She laughed.
“No seriously, when I was 16 I worked at KFC. A guy walked in, looking like that Comic Book Store Owner from The Simpsons. He ordered a 2-piece feed and asked for his potato–and-gravy to be swapped for a chocolate mousse. My boss took over as it was my second day, and said ‘no sorry, you’ll have to pay 2 dollars extra.’ The guy got so mad that he picked up our cash register and threw it over the counter.”
Francois gripped her foot tighter. “What happened to him?”
“Well, we called the police but he walked out of the shop and pushed the button to cross the road… he just stood at the traffic light and waited. Totally different energy to suddenly throwing a machine.”
“Ha… some people are fuckers.” Francois swore. But in his accent even expletives sounded beautiful. His hand lounging on her right foot, Grace battled with her thoughts of letting herself follow his advances or giving him the talk. Insofar, he was a gentleman to her. Maybe she would not need to halt him.
With the last guy Grace dated, the chemistry had been so unbearable she allowed herself to go into forbidden subject matter. They had kissed passionately and talked, thankfully not going further than that, but their talking filled her mind with thoughts of lust that followed her into her dreams.
How does a grown woman wait until marriage for sex? Francois told her that he followed chemistry like a tour guide; sometimes it was first meetings, and other times it was long after a friendship “matured”. For Grace, chemistry was to be interpreted to be as fleeting as her emotions: turbulent and exciting, yet temporary and unreliable. She could not bear to think that she could give her body to someone, only to have him change his mind one day and drop her, taking her dignity and virginity with him.
“Wait staff in France,” continued Francois, “are usually very unhappy people. It is like they feel stuck in an unhappy career; whereas here in Sydney, you have university students who are still young and nice to you.”
Their sushi and sashimi platter arrived. Both his hands were required for handling chopsticks, dipping raw fish into soy wasabi trays, and sipping a small cup of green tea. Aspects of his seduction were taking a break.
“I think if you are unhappy in your day job you shouldn’t be there. Plain and simple.”
Francois released a hand off his rice bowl and rested it around the curve of her ankle. He knew if he just agreed with her (which he did) they would land into friends-discussing-things territory, and they’d spent their last four dates doing that.
“Really?” he challenged, “what about if you have three kids you are trying to send to private school, a pregnant wife and a mortgage?”
“Well, you’re stuffed then. Doomed. Stay in a job you hate. It pays the bills doesn’t it?”
“Don’t put me in a box. That might be me in a few years time…”
“That would be terrible. I don’t wish that over your life, Francois.”
He leaned over to kiss her forehead. “Thank you. For letting me buy you dinner at cheap places. I knew you didn’t give me your number just because you saw my Honda CRV.”
Truthfully, she let him call her because he made her laugh and he had a career job. Grace was a dedicated Health Worker, but she wasn’t impractical about men.
“Just keep driving me home, I like it when a man can drive a woman home. Oh,” she pulled out a twenty-dollar note, “here.”
“No,” Francois backhanded her money away. “I invited you to dinner tonight, it’s my shout.”
Grace smiled. Admittedly she was expecting this, because she had read somewhere that proper gentlemen enjoy rejecting a woman’s offer to pay. Still, she was willing to pay her share.
He paid the bill to their Japanese waiter and Grace grabbed his satchel.
“The night is still young, Belle.” He took his satchel from her. “My house is close. I can show you some of my drawings.”
She slid into him. She felt so comfortable with his arm around her shoulder. It was as if he could glide his fingers across her lower back and she wouldn’t notice the transition.
“I’d love that, but…” she was about to launch into autopilot with her speech.
“I get it, you are a Church girl. You don’t go home with strange boys to see their drawings. You are 28 years old and still a virgin because you are waiting until you are married for sex.”
Wow, thought Grace.
Unsure of how great her poker face was, Grace was definitely shell shocked. Could he see this? “You knew? This whole time?”
Francois released his hand from around her waist.
“It’s complicated. I’m not going to pretend that I will accept this. But girls like you don’t come by very often, so I’m just going to keep trying to seduce you until you succumb to me… and that’s it.”