The Pass

by Adelaide B. Shaw

Dolores looked at her son-in-law in an entirely new light. It was sudden and unexpected. After seven years of marriage to Ginnie, he looked handsome. Stunning, actually. Nick had lost that skinny nerdy look of a dedicated student and had acquired some flesh on his bones, some color in his complexion.

Steady, sober, hardworking and not particularly exciting had been Dolores's summation upon meeting him for the first time. Ginnie found him attractive and attentive, and that was enough. He would make a suitable husband, and Dolores and Bill had given their blessing.

She took a sip of her wine and tried not to stare at him. He sat directly opposite her, and it was difficult to sneak a peek without him noticing. No matter. He and Ginnie were visiting for a few days, and tomorrow Ginnie was taking Arianna into the city for a ballet. Dolores had to work in the morning, but would be alone with Nick all the afternoon. It was a delicious thought.

She glanced at Ginnie and at Nick. What had gotten into her?  She was not going to seduce him. The very word made a flash of heat spread across her face and chest. She had no plan, just a desire to look at her handsome son-in-law, to study him closely, observe his moves, his manners.  Perhaps, even to talk with him. They spoke, of course, but only of family matters, the weather, gardening, a few innocuous political issues about which they were in agreement. Bill had talked with Nick about sports mostly. Since his death three years earlier, Nick had spent nearly all their visits reading the newspaper or watching some sport on TV alone. With no one to discuss the games, the scores, the strategies of each team and their chances, he hardly spoke. Dolores now wished she had paid more attention to what Bill had tried to tell her for 28 years.

* * *

"What will you do?" Ginnie asked Nick in the morning.

"Find a baseball game on TV, I guess. Read. Take a walk. Go, go. Don't worry about me."

"Maybe you and Mom can meet up for lunch?"

"Ummmmm…." Dolores mumbled, looking at Nick.

"Yeah, sure," Nick said with a slight shrug.

He didn't sound too sure about the idea, Dolores thought, but what else could he say to Ginnie.  Such a wonderful suggestion. Thank you, Ginnie. No, he wouldn't say that, nor would she. But she could think it.

Oh, this was not good. This was not like her. But what was wrong with having lunch with her son-in-law? There's nothing bad about it. Always pure in thought and deed was Dolores. Never any embarrassing confessions for her. All her confessors had to be bored. The priests always sounded like they were stiffing a yawn.  No, Dolores had never been bad, except for that summer before she married. And she paid for that. Girls don't pay, these days, do they?

She hurriedly checked the day's weather and went upstairs to dress accordingly.

* * *

"Would you like to go to the ballet with me, Mom, instead of Arianna?" There was a precise clip in Ginnie's voice.  Through the telephone Dolores heard Arianna crying. "Take off that outfit or I'll take Grandma with me and you stay with Daddy." Ginnie's voice, although loud, was not aimed directly into the telephone. "Sorry, Mom. Your granddaughter wants to wear her ballet shoes and a tutu, not a dress and regular shoes. I thought if she heard me asking…Oh, God. Will you listen to that? I don't know what to do?"

Dolores did not want to go to the ballet. What did it matter what the child wore? Ginnie had her own ideas on raising a child. "Just let her…" No, she wouldn't interfere. She and Bill had both agreed, that unless the child's safety or health were at risk, they would not interfere. There had been too much of that with her own mother and mother-in-law.

"What did you say?" Ginnie asked. "Oh, never mind. Nick's got her quiet. And changing to a dress. He's got a way with her. We clash sometimes."

Both stubborn, Dolores thought. But, how wonderful of Nick. Perhaps he preferred lunch with her than baby-sitting Arianna. Whatever. Lunch was still on.

* * *

Dolores waited for Nick at a small Italian restaurant near her office.  It was casual Friday, but she wore a white linen dress and black patent leather pumps. She loosely draped across her shoulders a large red, black and gold silk scarf to ward of the chill of the air conditioning in Tuscana's. Not bad, she thought checking her reflection in the window. She didn't look 51, closer to 41. Slender, with good legs and a small waist she was in better shape than Ginnie. Maybe she should color her hair. It was an even silver, worn short; Bill had liked it that way. Perhaps it was time for a change.

She and Bill had had a comfortable marriage. That thought would have turned her off marriage completely when she was in her teens, but that's what had evolved. It was inevitable that the passion and excitement would go, but it had gone rather surprisingly fast. Not like a slow leak in a bucket, but more like a burst pipe. After Ginnie was born she and Bill had settled into their roles of compassionate loving spouses. It was comfortable, and she had been content with that.

Ah, there was Nick. He had changed from his attire that morning, but it wasn't much different. He had replaced the running shorts with longer shorts, the stretched T-shirt for a white polo shirt, sneakers for brown leather sandals. If Tuscana had a dress code, it was never enforced. Unless the diner were bare-chested or barefooted any attire was allowed. One thing about Bill…he had liked to dress when they went out to eat.

She imagined Nick wearing a summer weight black sport jacket, light cream colored slacks, pale blue shirt, black loafers and black socks. Yes, with his tan, he would be gorgeous.

"Hi, Nick. No trouble finding the place? Shall we have a drink? I'll have a scotch and soda. I usually don't drink at lunch, but this is an occasion." Nick nodded and ordered ice tea.

"You got Ginnie and Arianna to the train, O.K.?" He nodded again.


Dolores and Bill had not had any problems talking. There was always something to discuss: their jobs, the children, their finances, the world. They had been high school sweethearts. When Bill came home from college for Thanksgiving vacation they had kissed and groped wildly, but she held her ground and remained a "good girl." Given all the frustrating evenings they had together, Dolores anticipated marriage with Bill as one long ecstasy of sex. That following summer vacation she gave in, got pregnant, married Bill in September and spent the next several years helping to put Bill through college and grad school while she juggled Ginnie, a second child, Alan, and a job. She never had that ecstasy.

"What's good here?" Nick asked, rousing her from her thoughts.

"Any pasta dish. And the veal is outstanding."

They were the only customers. After placing their order their silence was more

resounding than a brass band.

"Tell me about your work," Dolores said. "Any interesting clients?"

"No. Summer's quiet. No lawyer or judge wants to tie up his vacation by scheduling even a motion in August. And you? Are you busy?"

"No. No one lists a house in August. Funny, things pick up after school starts.

People start thinking holidays. Wouldn't it be nice to be settled by Christmas? So they list in the fall." Nick didn't look interested, but he nodded in between bites of bread. Dolores shifted in her chair. "Sorry. Was that you I kicked or the table?"

"Me. But it wasn't a kick. More like a graze."

What if she slipped her foot out of her shoe and "grazed" Nick again? Would he

know it was deliberate? Would he respond?

A party of five came into Tuscana talking and laughing. Nick turned his eyes toward the door. Now!  While he was distracted. She slipped off her shoe, a little too energetically and it rolled into the aisle. Dolores, while sipping her drink, rubbed her foot against Nick's bare shin.

"Oh, your shoe." Nick got up, loudly scraping back his chair, and bent down to retrieve the shoe just as the waiter bent down to get it as well. There was a tangle of hands and a bumping of heads. Nick was faster and held out the shoe like Prince Charming. Would he slip it on her foot? It was out there, waiting, gently rocking, the slender arch curved like a half moon, the shapely toes,  nails painted vermilion which was still visible through the sheer stocking. But, no. He thrust the shoe into her hand.

"Sorry about that," Dolores said. "Thank you Nick. Is your head O.K." She laughed. Nick laughed. The waiter and the five customers waiting to be seated laughed. Had Nick even been aware of her foot rubbing against his shin? Would he say or do anything if he had? "Your mother tried to play footsie with me." Is that what he would tell Ginnie. He probably wouldn't believe it even if he had felt the caress. She smiled, pretending embarrassment at her clumsiness.

Their orders arrived. Dolores offered Nick some of her veal scaloppine; he declined.  He offered her some of his bow-tie pasta with sun dried tomatoes; she accepted. "Just put some here," she said, sliding her plate near his. Her hand rubbed up against his. "Please." She motioned toward his plate. "I insist you have some. It's delicious." Dolores ignored his refusal and placed a slice of veal on his plate. It was cozy, intimate almost, this sharing of food. "Ummmm…." they mumbled in unison.

"Good veal."

"Great pasta."

Gelato and biscotti followed Dolores' entrée. "I can't possibly eat this alone." She slid the plate between them. "No need for another dish."

Nick motioned the waiter for a check, but Dolores said, "Not yet. Let's get an espresso. There's no need to hurry. Ginnie and Arianna won't be back for hours." She leaned forward in her seat and smiled. Nick shrugged.

"O.K., but I'll have regular coffee."

"Perhaps a brandy?" Dolores suggested. "I feel like celebrating."

"Anything in particular?"

"Particular? Oh, you mean the celebrating. No. Nothing. Just summer, a pleasant day, a good lunch. Just feeling good." Feeling a new kind of excitement she thought. Feeling an expectation, an awareness of something other than her predictable routine.

She signaled the waiter and ordered a brandy. Nick again declined to drink. It wasn't  much fun having him so sober. He often had a beer with lunch or a cocktail before dinner. Why was he being so abstentious today?

Was he smiling? His lips were doing something. No, not quite a smile, but his eyes were lively and he gave a low chuckle. What was he thinking? Was he aware that… that she had made a pass at him? My God! That's what she had actually done. Made a pass at her son-in-law. It was unthinkable. Yet…she had done it. Why? She must be losing her sanity. She looked around the room at the few other customers and the waiter. What if she hadn't been so clumsy and had actually succeeded? Had anyone been watching?

The waiter appeared with her brandy and more coffee for Nick. Dolores inhaled the fumes and took a swallow. It hit her stomach like a hot coal.  Nick reached for the check at the same time as Dolores. "My treat," she said. As they tugged at the check, their hands touched again. Dolores backed away, moving her chair a few inches. She was feeling hot and tossed the scarf from her shoulders.

"It's the least I can do," Nick said.

"What do you mean?"

"For such a fun lunch." He gave her a full smile now.

And a wink. It was a wink. She was certain of it. She fanned her face with a napkin.

"What's wrong? You don't look well?"

He knew. He knew what she had tried to do and was tormenting her. "It's warm in here, don't you think."

"I'm quite comfortable. Maybe you're having a hot flash."

Dolores headed for the ladies room and splashed water on her neck and face, removing most of her makeup with a paper towel. It was of no importance now. Nick was laughing at her. That wink and slow smile. Would he tell Ginnie?  She wouldn't think it was funny.

Nick was waiting for her outside, no longer smiling, looking disgusted. He apparently had had enough of teasing. Perhaps she should apologize. That would be too humiliating. Better to say nothing and pretend it didn't happen. "I'll see you back at the house," she said.

"I'm going to wait for Ginnie's train."

Of course. He'd wait the two hours in the station rather than be alone with her again. "Well… I'll see you later then," she said. "And thanks again for lunch."


He looked about to add something, but stopped. "Anytime. My pleasure. We'll have to do it again." Not likely he would say anything remotely similar.

It had been the physical change in Nick that had set her off. Like an alarm. Goody, goody Dolores.  Never a look or a thought. Never a desire beyond the confines of her marriage, and not much desire in that after awhile. Good, safe, steady Bill.  She wasn't too old. There was time. Too bad the spark had been ignited by Nick and not by some stranger. Even a young stranger.

As she walked toward her car she stopped herself from sinking into a slouch. Actually, she should be grateful to Nick. It was an embarrassing incident, but useful. Perhaps, he wouldn't tell on her, but, just in case, she began to form apologies and explanations to her daughter should the need arise.

BIO: Adelaide B. Shaw lives in a small rural community in New York State.  Her stories have been published in several literary journals, including The Toronto Star and The Writer's Journal, both contest winners, American Literary Review, Green's Magazine, Sunscripts, The Villager, Reader's Break, Dogwood Tales, Housewife Writers' Forum, New England Writers' Network, Emrys Journal, The MacGuffin, Griffin,  The Country and Abroad and in Loch Raven Review  In addition to writing fiction, Adelaide writes haiku and other Japanese poetic forms, such as tanka and haibun.  Her collection of haiku, An Unknown Road is available at www.modernenglishtankapress.com