And here's this weeks Cassie:
It was Saturday night, and I was going to dinner at Matt’s house. Mark was at a sleepover, to be picked up at 10 am the next morning. I had a stomach full of butterflies, a head full of doubts and fear. I dithered over what to wear for far too long. What did one wear on what may be the most momentous night of her life? How did one approach such a night anyway?
I was pretty sure it should not have been so prosaic as the message I eventually sent to Matt – Dinner at yours Saturday night? I’ll bring the wine.
This of course gave no hint as to why I wanted to come over, no clue about the eureka moment I had experienced. So naturally Matt’s reply was laidback and casual. Sure, steak ok?
There were a few more to and fro messages, but not once did I give any hint about anything. As far as Matt knew this was nothing more than one of our regular dinners, where one of us cooked, the other brought the wine, we chatted and watched a movie and then the evening was over.
And maybe it would pan out that way, if I lost my nerve. So I spent an age trying to select the right clothes. I was going for relaxed, casual, but sexy and meaningful. And I suck at choosing clothes like that. Well is there any sort of an outfit that could convey such meaning? Not in my wardrobe anyway.
Eventually I settled on a loose and floaty skirt and a close fitting button through top. I left a few buttons undone, but then remembered an episode from my past life with Nathan involving a button through dress (which I now no longer own – the dress or the life). In a fit of disgust with myself I discarded the entire outfit and chose instead jeans and a simple t-shirt.
Studying my face in the mirror while I ran a brush through my hair I had my second change of mind, and removed all of my make-up. This was Matt, he was more used to seeing me without make-up than with it. And I didn’t want our relationship to be based on superficial things. Then I decided I was being pretentious and reached for the make-up bag again, but on seeing the time put it down.
I left the house without the wine and without feeding the dogs. I got partway down the footpath towards Matt’s house before the pitiful whining from the dogs reminded me. So I went back, fed the dogs and let them out into the back yard. At the front gate I remembered the wine and went back for it. Halfway to Matt’s house I realized my phone was at home and went back again. With Mark being at his friend’s house I needed to be contactable. Phone safely in my bag I reached the front door before turning back to get the wine which I’d put on the counter when I picked up my phone.
By the time I made it to Matt’s house I was flustered, hot, and late. He opened the door with one eyebrow cocked in enquiry.
“Yep, just forgot to feed the dogs.”
Matt followed me as I went into his kitchen.
“You forgot to feed the dogs?”
“Yes, then I forgot my phone and almost forgot the wine.”
I waved the bottle of red wine in his general direction before putting it on the counter and opening the drawer where he kept the bottle opener.
Matt stood still, watching me. I wasn’t looking at him but I could feel his eyes on me.
I fumbled with the bottle opener, almost stabbing myself in the hand with the corkscrew. Matt came over and took it from me, efficiently opened the bottle and poured the wine. All the time I stood watching his hands, unable to look at his face. I felt like a gauche schoolgirl, a foolish teenager in the presence of her crush.
Matt handed me a glass and picked up his own.
“Cheers,” I replied. “Dinner smells good.”
“It’s almost ready, take a seat while I finish up.”
I sat on one of the kitchen stools and studied the deep ruby colour of the wine in my glass, swirling it gently to make waves on the surface.
“Ok Cassie, you’re weirding me out. What’s going on? Why are you forgetting things like feeding the dogs and why can’t you look at me?”
I sighed, met his eyes and felt a blush race under my skin, threatening to blow off my ears. Matt’s eyebrows rose, he studied my face, captured my eyes with his. Whatever he saw he chose not to pursue, to my relief. Instead he began bustling about dishing up our dinner.
Handing me my plate he indicated his back deck. “I thought we’d eat outside tonight. Is that ok?”
I took the plate and preceded him outside. “Sounds good,” I threw back over my shoulder.
Matt’s back deck had much the same view as mine – the bushland backing onto all of our houses. The remnants of sunset tinged the sky with pink and orange, while the birds – and bats – were flying overhead, returning to their roosts and in the case of the bats, heading out for the night.
Barney was beside himself with excitement at having people and food outside in his domain. He ran around in circles for a while before coming to lie underneath the table, waiting for titbits.
The outdoor table was already set, it only needed the fat pillar candles to be lit, which Matt did before sitting across from me. He smiled, a sweet smile that pierced my heart.
“You look lovely tonight Cassie.”
I found that hard to believe, flustered and make-up free as I was.
“I don’t think so, but thank you for saying.”
Matt studied me over his wine glass, his expression unreadable.
“Tuck into dinner while it’s still hot.”
Feeling uncomfortable under his ‘police stare’ I did just that. Dinner was delicious, the early evening air was balmy and the wine proved a good choice. As the meal progressed I relaxed, and by the time we were carrying our plates back inside I felt much more normal.
“Cheese?” Matt pulled a selection pack from the fridge and started arranging it on a board.
“Thank you.” I poured the last of the wine into our glasses, and carried them through to the lounge room with Matt following with a fresh bottle and the cheese.
We settled into his comfortable lounge, Matt putting the cheese onto the coffee table where we could both reach it.
“Do you feel like watching a movie?”
“Something light, I don’t want to think too much tonight.”
“Let’s see if there’s any comedy or action on.”
Either sounded good to me. My main purpose for coming here tonight was still unspoken and I had no idea how to broach the subject. Half my mind was worrying at this and I didn’t have enough left to figure out a complicated movie plot.
Eventually we settled on a light comedy and sat back to watch it. I was too distracted to give it my full attention, something that did not go unnoticed by Matt.
“Cassie, you haven’t been yourself all evening. Want to tell me what’s wrong?”
I stared at him, movie forgotten. Where to start?
“Cassie? Did something happen today? Did Nathan bother you?”
“No, nothing like that. Almost the opposite really.”
“I had a good session with Sue the other day, and that night I realized something that’s changed the way I think.”
Matt put his wine glass on the coffee table and leaned towards me.
“What does that mean?”
I shrugged, unsure of how to say it. “Well, I finally understood that I can never have a simple friendship with Nathan, that he will always have an agenda beyond that.”
“And I understood that he’s been controlling me still, even after all this time.”
Matt reached for his wine, took a healthy swig.
“And I figured out that I’ve been feeling guilty about what happened in the marriage, and feeling I don’t deserve anything good in my life. And that I didn’t know how to have a good relationship. And I was afraid Nathan would still be able to control me, and would destroy any new relationship I had.”
“And you still feel that way?”
Overcome by shyness, awkwardness and fear I stood. “Can we go outside for a bit?”
Matt said nothing, just picked up his wine and mine and led the way out to his deck, where we were greeted by a joyous Barney.
Matt sat down in a long bench seat off to one side, indicating that I should join him. He handed me my glass as I sat and I took a mouthful, taking some time to gather my thoughts. The heady scent of the night scented jasmine wafted in the breeze.
“I can smell that jasmine at my house, but it’s much stronger here. It must be close by.”
“It is, it’s over there in the corner.”
“That’s why it’s in the corner. You were going to say Cassie, do you still feel all those emotions about Nathan and your marriage?”
I stared at Matt, struck by the parallel of the jasmine playing a part in both my breakthrough thinking and this conversation now.
“That’s why I wanted to see you tonight Matt.”