Life moves too fast to deliberate on some things. Sometimes, if you wait too long to go after something, the stars just won't align and you'll lose any chance you ever had. Sometimes, you'll go on to bigger or better, but always different things. And sometimes, life gets impatient, the stars align, and the universe delivers the thing you've most desired on a silver platter. All you have to do is reach out and take it. That's exactly what happened to me, when I went on the worst, weirdest, most incredible first date of my life.
The day started out just like any other normal Friday, and it kept on course until four after five. I know it was four after five because I have a tendency on Fridays to look at the clock every five minutes or so, starting after lunch. So it was four after five, and I was picking up my jacket ready to head home when Rachel from marketing started walking over to me. Now, when Rachel from marketing starts walking over to you, it's kind of a big deal. She was the girl in the office that all old guys in PR peeked at when she bent over, trying to catch a glimpse down her blouse or checking out her perfectly developed derriere. For me, I tried to make her laugh whenever I could. She had a laugh that could melt the ice off the winter warlock.
So, as Rachel from marketing waved me down on my way out the door, I puffed up my chest, put one foot in front of the other, and prayed I didn't say anything stupid. I gave her my best smile and she grinned back. My pearly whites look like Stonehenge in comparison. I told myself to be cool and confident. "Hey," I said in my best Clive Owen voice. Hey? I cringed inwardly. I might have cringed outwardly too. "Hey" doesn't woo the ladies, especially not Rachel from marketing. "Hey" is how you start a horrible, drunken phone conversation with your ex from college.
She smiled. "Hi!" Alright. Hi. We were on the same level of lame. "So, Chuck, a friend of the family is throwing a party on his yacht tonight…" That's right. Rachel from marketing had friends with yachts. "…And my brother just bailed, so I'm going to be the only one from my family there. I don't want to go alone, so I was wondering if maybe you'd like to…?"
"I would love to take your brother's spot on this hot yacht date," I said. Hot yacht. Nice. A rhyme.
She giggled, so I must have said something right. "Can I walk you out to your car?" I asked. We started out the door to the elevators, and I swear I caught Clive in HR checking out Rachel's ass with what looked like enormous envy. I gave him a sly wink and a subtle thumbs up.
"I can pick you up at seven," Rachel explained once we stopped at my car. "You'll want to look nice. Wear a suit. You do have a suit, right?"
"I have sweatpants, you think that'll work?" I said, forcing a laugh. Good God, I really was not a funny guy. "Yes, I have a suit. I know just the one."
Yeah, that was a lie. I didn't own a suit. But I did have a roommate who kept a healthy supply of suits, so it was almost as good. He was there when I got home, sitting on the couch with his laptop in his, well, lap. It seemed that was all he did. Honestly, I have no idea how he paid his rent. Or bought all those suits. Or his dozens of computers. He was a nerd, a major, huge nerd, with the computer programming and fixing my CPU and RPMs and all that good stuff. I don't know how he landed awesome, super-cool me as a roommate, but we both liked the Die Hard series (except for the third one, of course) and drank skim milk, and were both named Charles, so it only made sense that we should live together. Also, he had been my closest friend for like a decade and a half.
"I need a suit!" I announced as I threw off my jacket and kicked off my shoes. He looked up at my from his computer screen and adjusted his glasses. Oh yeah, he wore glasses. Part of the whole nerd thing. I'll bet he didn't even need them. "What do you got for me, Charlie?"
"A suit? For what?" he inquired.
"I'm going on a date tonight," I told him proudly, hopping onto the couch beside him. "Whatcha doing, looking at porn?"
"No, I wish. I have to finish writing this coding for work. Our client is getting impatient."
"So I take it you're going to have a nice Friday night in."
"Maybe I'll watch Pulp Fiction when I finish or something. What about you? Where are you going that you need a suit?"
"Remember Rachel from marketing? The one with the laugh I was telling you about? Well, she just invited me to a yacht party!"
"A yacht party? A yacht party?" From the way he looked at me, I could tell Charlie didn't believe me at first. I could see the little gears and hard drives and whatever he had installed up there working to figure out whether I was making it up. To his credit, I liked making things up. Then he gave me a sly smile. "Rachel has a yacht? Looks like you hit the jackpot, Chuck, atta boy! Didn't I tell you water cooler conversations were the way to go?"
"You were right, Charlie, after five months of showing up at the water cooler the moment she does I finally worked up the courage to get asked out on a date by her. So do you have a suit?"
Charlie jumped to his feet. "A suit? You can't wear a suit to a yacht party, are you kidding me? A yacht party is tuxedo country! You go dressed in anything less and security will toss you overboard because they think you're a hobo."
"You seem to have a lot of expertise on the matter, Charlie. And no, it's not her yacht, it's an old family friend of her's."
Charlie disappeared into his closest on his quest to get me a tuxedo. "Really? They have rich family friends? What does this guy do? Is it illegal? Does he have dangerous enemies? Could Rachel from marketing be in cahoots with the mafia?"
"I doubt it, Charlie, but who knows? She didn't say much about him. All I know is her brother bailed on her at the last minute so she asked me."
Charlie stuck his scrawny little head out of the closest with a distraught look on his face. "She asked you to replace her brother? Oh man, Chuck, you're going on a bro-date! You've been family-zoned!"
"I have not been family-zoned, Charlie. Just get me a suit."
"You totally have been family-zoned! Forget any hope you had about getting laid tonight! Man, what's it been Chuck, six months?"
"Something like that. I'm flattered you're keeping track," I admitted begrudgingly. He tsked at me from inside his bedroom then continued to harp on me.
"Come on, man, what's wrong with you? Where's that magic touch? Hell, I get laid more than you do, and I'm a computer geek!"
"You have a steady thing going with Gina, that's not fair. I just haven't had free time for a while, that's all. I've been busy with work. But tonight that will change!"
"I don't know man, I just don't like it. You're going to a party on a boat owned by some rich, powerful man you've never met so you can replace the hot girl's brother. What if he's in with bad company? What if he's involved with the mafia? Oh my God, Chuck! What if the mafia puts a bomb on the yacht tonight? You can't put your life at risk like this!"
"Charlie, nobody's going to bomb the yacht. I'm sure this guy is clean."
"But you can't be sure of that! Chuck, you can't do it! What if you die? I would have to find a new roommate!"
"I'm flattered, Charlie, I really am. Just get me the tux."
"Alright man, but don't say I didn't warn you." Charlie walked into the living room carrying something out of James Bond's wardrobe. He grinned and nodded when he saw my expression. I was going to look awesome. I took the tuxedo from him and went to my bedroom to change. It was going to be a great night.
I put on the tuxedo and strutted into the living room. "How do I look?"
"Well, you fill it out a lot better than I do, I'll give you that," Charlie said from his spot on the couch. I swear, that couch had an indent where Charlie spent his waking hours. Even when his girlfriend Gina was over, that was his spot. He did pretty much everything in that spot. And I mean everything.
But that's gross, and not really relevant to the story. I spent the next hour checking myself out in the mirror, wondering if I should eat before I leave or just pray they will have food on the yacht, and pacing around the living, too full of nervous excitement to sit still. I wasn't about to sit on our furniture in that tux, anyhow.
As I waited for Rachel to come pick me up, I played through all the possible ways that night could go in my head. There was this one scenario I particularly liked, where the night went great and I ended the night by stealing a kiss, but it was dragged down by the nagging scenario where I discovered I was, and forever would be, family-zoned, just as Charlie said. That scenario went a little like this:
We stand beneath the stars, listening to the waves lap gently against the boat. She is close enough to me that I can smell that familiar fragrant perfume lingering on her soft, smooth skin. Her eyes sparkle in the light of the full moon. I look into those opulent pupils and she looks into mine. "Oh Rachel," I whisper softly, with Will Arnett's voice (that happens to me in my fantasies sometimes).
"Oh, Charles," She says, tossing her hair wildly behind her head. "I'm so glad you're here."
"As am I, Rachel," I reply, transferring my undying love into her with my smoldering gaze.
"I'm so relieved you can fill the hole my brother left, when he decided not to come. You're like the brother I never had."
I throw my head back, aghast. "Oh, Rachel, your words tear at the strings of my heart! I want to kiss you like no one has ever kissed you before!" I lean in to plant my mouth on her supple lips, but she flees away from me.
"Oh, Chuck, I could never love you in that way! Leave me be, and never speak to me again!"
Worst case scenario.
But that was silly, right? She wouldn't have invited me if she didn't like me. Obviously she liked me. And even if she didn't, so what? I was young. I could take my time. Slow and steady won the race, after all.
"I should take it slow with Rachel, right?" I asked Charlie. For being such a nerd, he was a pretty knowledgeable guy when it came to women.
"That depends. Normal people slow or your slow?"
"I just don't want to rush into anything is all, and I don't want her to think I'm coming on too strong!"
"Chuck, if you keep taking relationships are your pace you'll have to schedule your wedding for the same day as your funeral. Actually, that would save me a lot of time. Go for it."
"I never said anything about getting married, Charlie!"
"I'm just saying. Life moves too fast for you to deliberate for months on every decision. By the time you decide to get serious with Rachel, she might have slipped away from you. There's no time like the present!"
My phone buzzed in my pocket. "That will be Rachel," I said, answering the call. "Hey, I'll be right out."
"I like the voice. Sounds like a young Alan Rickman," Charlie called after me as I stepped out the door. "Have fun tonight! Not too much, though; if anything happens to that suit you're a dead man!"
It was already dark outside as I walked to Rachel's car, trying to look as suave as I possibly could. I was going to milk that tuxedo for all it was worth. It worked, too, until Rachel got out of her car. As soon as she set her bare, slender leg on the curb and glided out wearing that stunning blue dress of hers, I was bumbling around like a fool. It was hard to walk straight when I was feeling so giddy. I could have just flown to her, it might have been easier. I was as light as a feather.
I was probably babbling like a brook, talking in chunks of incoherent nonsense as she gave me a friendly hug and climbed back into her car, but all I can remember from that moment is how good she looked. She had curled her hair and it fell around her shoulders in long brown curls. Her eyes looked like two bright blue lakes. By the time I had regained my composure and was my calm, cool, oh-so-suave self again, we were on our way to the party.
I could tell she wanted to talk because the radio was on, but it was quiet enough that we could just barely hear it. That's just how women work. "So, the guy who owns this yacht… tell me about him. Obviously he's rich."
"His name is Brock Monto. He's in business. I've only actually talked to him once, but my father knows him from college so we always get invited to his events. He throws one hell of a Christmas party."
"I can only imagine," I said. "So, business? Is he like a mob boss or something?"
"Not everyone who has money is a bad person, Chuck," Rachel replied, rolling her eyes. "As it happens, Brock has a lot of fundraisers and charity dinners."
"And yacht parties."
"If you're so adverse to yacht parties, I can take you home," Rachel said, giving me the stinky eye.
"No, I wouldn't want you going to this thing alone," I said, winking.
"Good. I'm glad you're coming along." Me too, Rachel from marketing. Me too.
We arrived at the docks and a nice valet boy offered to take Rachel's car. The yacht was pretty gorgeous, as far as yachts go. I'm not expert in the subject or anything, but it was lit up like a Christmas tree and was as tall as the office building where we worked. It was a big freakin' boat.
"That's a big freakin' boat."
"A big boat for a big party," Rachel replied, winking. "Come on, let's go."
We walked down the dock and across a big metal gangplank to the deck of the yacht. Music boomed above our heads on the third story. That's right, this boat had stories. The one we were on was filled with people mingling and talking civilly. We walked up the stairs and found people playing party games. Someone in a suit was pulling a "Matrix" move beneath a limbo stick. It looked like the fun had already started without us. The third level was where the party was really at. A bar was set up beneath the open night sky, and people were dancing to the pounding of the stereo system. The scene was so lively, so vivacious, I didn't know quite what to say. "Woah."
"The guy knows how to throw a party, doesn't he?"
"I'll say. So, should I get us a drink?"
"I'll come with you," Rachel said, grabbing my hand. "Lead on."
The fact that I was holding hands with Rachel from marketing suddenly had me a little preoccupied. I did my very best to swoop and swerve through the throngs of party-goers losing their inhibitions. Rachel clung on to my hand as I smoothly maneuvered us to the bar. "Get me a vodka red bull, and a gin and tonic for the lady."
The bartender gave me a frown. "We don't have Red Bull, sir. So sorry."
I shrugged. "Make it a vodka martini then." Just like James Bond. Aw yeah.
"You want that shaken, not stirred?" The bartender replied, giving me a smirk. It was like the man read my mind. I gave him my best smile.
"I usually just drink beer. I'll trust your expertise on this one, pal." He nodded and went off to make my drinks. Rachel said something softly that was accompanied with a smile, but I couldn't hear her over the music. "What?" She leaned in closer.
"I asked you how you knew I drank gin and tonic!"
"You told me. At work," I responded. Water cooler conversation. That's the way to go.
"Oh. I'm surprised you remembered!"
"Don't flatter yourself; I have a fantastic memory," I said, grinning slyly. Thank you, Charlie. The bartender gave us our drinks, and Rachel and I shared a look. It was weird. It was like we were having a telepathic conversation.
It was like, she looked at me and said, "It's crowded here, we should move somewhere more… private."
And then I was all like, "Yeah, I totally agree. Let's find somewhere where we can be alone."
Then she was all, "Lead the way, hotstuff." At least, that was how I interpreted the mental exchange at the time. We bobbed and weaved like Rocky in the movie Rocky until we reached the guard rail at the side of the yacht. We stood there and breathed the fresh, open air as the music pounded behind us. It was nice, not gonna lie.
"This is nice," Rachel said, as if she had read my mind. The whole telepathy thing was getting weird.
"I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm standing on a yacht wearing a tuxedo drink a vodka martini with a beautiful woman. I feel like a secret agent."
"Except you're not here to kill anyone," Rachel said, laughing.
"Hey, secret agents don't always kill people, Rachel. Mostly they're just trying to save the world! Haven't you ever seen James Bond?"
"Only one," she admitted, giggling as I just about crumpled to the floor. She helped me back up as she explained. "It was Goldeneye, but I had just watched the screen adaptation of Mamma Mia, so it kind of ruined Pierce Brosnan and James Bond for me."
"Oh, come on!" I said, rolling my eyes. "Pierce Brosnan is the wimpiest of the many James Bonds! You haven't watched Bond until you've seen Sean Connery, he's classic. You've got to at least watch the new ones with Daniel Craig."
Rachel took a drink and looked out over the lake. "I'd be down for watching those. Daniel Craig is a hunk."
"Great! It's a date."
Rachel turned to me, the smile still stuck to her face. "Is it?"
"Isn't it? I thought it was." Yeah, that was where it went downhill. "I mean, it doesn't have to be. A date, I mean. Well, I didn't mean date, as in a date-date, like, a friend date…" Jesus, it was middle school all over again. I had forgotten how to talk to girls.
"A friend date?" Rachel raised an eyebrow at me. Arched eyebrows are never a good sign. At least, I don't think. To be honest, there's still a lot I don't know about women. I'll ask Charlie some time.
"Yeah, you know, like this is…"
"So you think this is a friend date?"
"Well, yeah! Isn't it? I mean, I'm replacing your brother and everything…" It was an awkward mess. I needed some way to get out of it, anyway… then I saw her drink was empty. "Can I get you another drink? You might need it to deal with me the whole night."
She chuckled and nodded. "Another drink would probably be good." Off I went, diving back into the crowd. My wallet was going to be hurting tomorrow morning, but I knew after that we both needed another drink. I got to the bar and got us another round. When I got back to Rachel, though, it seemed she was already on round two. She stood leaning casually against the guardrail, talking to a man I really, really hoped was gay. He was that attractive. I knew I wouldn't stand a chance otherwise. I walked over to them and handed her the gin and tonic.
"Thanks, Chuck. Don, this is Charles, one of my friends from work. He took David's place."
"Can you blame him? Hah-hah!" That's the best way to describe Don's response. It was one of those weird, open-mouth laughs that you'd imagine a bad news anchor using. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Chucky. Can I call you Chucky? Great, I'm Don, I work for Bruce for a few years now. I've known Rachel for as long as I can remember."
"Our families are friends," Rachel explained, "so we've been friends for a long time."
"Oh, we've been more than just friends, isn't that right?" Don did this weird thing where he kind of smoldered into Rachel's eyes. The worst part was it seemed to work. Rachel got flustered and giggled.
"Well, we dated a while in high school, but everyone thought it was weird, since we were such close friends. We were like family, so we decided it was a bad idea." Oh God, the family zone. Charlie was right.
"She decided it was a bad idea," Don said, shaking his head and looking dramatically into the horizon. "My unrequited love still burns for her today."
"Oh, shut up," Rachel said, laughing as she playfully pushed Don. "I'm sure you've got enough women to take your mind off the love of your life."
"Quality over quantity," Don said. Things were getting weird, and scenario one where I stole a kiss at the end of the night was seeming less and less likely.
"I'll leave you two to catch up, then. I'm going to go get a drink."
"But you have one already," Rachel called after me. Believe me, I knew it. I also knew I was going to need another.
Getting through that crowd was like being born again, with all the pushing and the squeezing. Finally I was out, and I sat at the bar alone with my drink. The music pounded on as I sipped and thought about life and just basked in my own self-pity. The Rachel-meets-weird-ex-boyfriend-and-they-hook-up scenario had been buried deep enough in the cabinet that I hadn't worried about it. I downed my vodka martini, and asked for straight whiskey. I needed something to take my mind off of Rachel for a while.
Then I saw her. Sitting at the edge of the bar, she had long blonde hair and a clear, young face. She wore a tight red dress with a long, seductive cut right down the leg. She was sitting beside a pile of shot glasses and empty drinks, so I knew my chances would never be better. I slid over beside her and said in a sultry voice, "Hey."
She looked up at me and I was taken aback by her eyes. They were the most piercing green eyes I had ever seen. "Hi there," she said, and then she went back to her girly mixed drink.
"I'm Chuck," I told her.
"Hi, Chuck," she said, smiling.
"This is usually the part where you tell me your name," I said. Man, am I cheesy or what?
"Usually," she answered, nodding.
"That's your name? Usually?"
"You can call me that."
"I'm sensing a certain amount of reluctance here. You clearly haven't had enough to drink." I ordered the girl another cherry appletini or whatever.
"No, this is the last one for me. I have to work tonight." She waved the bartender away. I set my chin in my palm in my most interested pose and tried my hand at small talk.
"Work? What do you do?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You sure are persistent, aren't you?"
"A beautiful woman with a pile of empty glasses in front of her is the only kind of beautiful woman I might have a chance with," I said, though it might have been the whiskey that was doing the talking.
"That's sweet," She said, sounding more amused than flattered.
"If your personality is as great as your looks, you're going to make some man very lucky. "
"As are you," she said, laughing. I laughed with her. The music was pounding smooth and slow, which meant all the single people would be making their way to either pick up a chick or throw themselves over the rail of the yacht. I turned and looked for Rachel, but she and her hunk of burning Don were nowhere to be seen. I figured they were off remembering the good old days together somewhere, so I turned back to the woman whose name I had yet to ascertain.
"Want to dance?"
She sat there for a moment, looking at me like I was asking her to go jump off the boat or something. I thought she was going to reject me, to top of a lousy night with a great big cherry of disappointment. But then she stood up, looked at me from beneath her eyebrows (which was a lot more seductive than it sounds, believe me), and said, "Lead the way."
So I walked out onto the dance floor, this woman who was way out of my league in tow. There were a few other saps holding each other beneath the moon that night, but when we got out on that slick wood deck it was just her and me. I put my hands on her waste and she set her hands on my shoulders and we danced. We moved to a heavy tango rhythm, and though I'd never learned a single step of tango in my life we danced like the only two things in the world we knew were dancing the tango and drinking too much. I spun her and then she spun me, and I moved my feet in such ways I'd never known was possible. Then I grabbed her tight around the waist and did something I had always wanted to do: I dipped her. I dipped her good.
I held her by the small of her back, leaned over so far her hair touched the ground. Her leg had found its way around my thigh. When I brought her back up it stayed there, curled up around my leg like a horny dog. Then I felt something against my pant leg; it was hard and long, on the inside of this woman's leg. Suddenly I felt like Ray Davies. I pulled her away and wondered if I had found my own Lola. It was obvious that in all the excitement she had forgotten about… well, whatever it was down there. "I'm sorry," she said, all flustered.
"It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world," I said, espousing the first thing that came to mind.
"I had forgotten all about that…" She reached down between her legs, and with a yank pulled a little dagger. Or a big knife. I don't know what the difference is. All I knew then was that I had never been more relieved to have someone draw a blade on me in all my life. She sheathed it back up and adjusted her dress, her face red. "It's just a… precaution."
"I'm not exactly employed in the safest line of work," she told hesitantly.
"Is that so? You've piqued my curiosity. Now you have to tell me what you do." I could tell she was still trying to shy away from the subject, but the combination of all that alcohol and the awkward situation with the crotch-dagger presented the ideal opportunity.
"I'll tell you, but you have to keep it an absolute secret. And you have to promise me, promise me you won't judge me too harshly."
"Sure, yeah, anything," I said, as custom dictated. I wasn't about to say anything that would stop me now.
"Chuck, the truth is that I'm here tonight because I've been hired to… take care of Mr. Monto."
She was hired to take care of him? Okay, so this chick was an escort. Alright. That's cool. Except I didn't know how to reply to that. What do you say when someone tells you they're a hooker?
"That's nice," I replied, nodding coolly. "It's an… admirable profession."
"It pays the bills," she told me. Then it was like I had broken a dam. As soon as those words left her lips, I became her confidant. "It's my first time," she confided. "If I seem nervous that's why. I've never done this before. It's crazy. I never pictured myself doing this. Ten years ago I thought I would be training for the Olympics right now. Or something."
"Oh yeah? Are you an athlete?"
"I'm a gymnast." She told me.
"A gymnast? I'll bet that comes in handy in your… line of work."
"I guess it does."
Suddenly dancing in silence was the unbearably awkward. "So how does one… get into that line of work?"
"A few years ago a close friend thought I might have… promise," she explained. "She had already spent years doing it, having been introduced to the business at a very young age by her father before her." This was getting weird, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do at this point. The chick had a knife, after all. "She introduced me to it, and during practice I did a really great job. It turns out I was a natural."
"Well… I guess some people are just born to do some things."
"This wasn't my first choice, Chuck. I wanted to be a gymnast. But the stars just didn't align. So now I'm here, doing this. If I could go back and do it all again, I would have jumped at any chance I could get."
"I'm sorry." She shrugged.
"Someone has to do it."
I was about to argue that point when she broke away from me and rushed off suddenly. It took me a second to understand what had happened, and by that point she was gone and I was alone again. For a second I just stood there, slowly coming to terms with the weirdness of what had just occurred. Once I sort of had my mind around it, I decided to quit the loner thing and look for Rachel. I would just swallow my pride and play the third wheel.
I found her leaning on the side rail, a glass of scotch in her hand. She was alone. I came up from behind her like a lion on the hunt. "Rachel?"
"There you are. I was starting to think you just swam home."
"Nah, my roommate would kill me if I went swimming in his tuxedo," I leaned on the rail beside her. Don was nowhere in sight. "I'm just borrowing it."
"Well it looks like you were born to wear it," she told me, smiling.
"I look good in anything," I told her. She laughed and leaned in close.
"What about nothing at all?" Woah. I didn't reply to that, I just grinned and started panting like a dog. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a sudden flash of red, and I turned just in time to see two bare feet splash into the water. It was too dark to make out any features as Rachel and I squinted to see who had decided to take a dip. That's when the screaming started.
We could hear people freaking out on some other part of the boat, somewhere beneath us. Rachel heard it too, and we both looked around the boat. Other people heard it as well, and they had the same idea we did, craning their necks every which way to see what all the noise was about. Suddenly the yacht started turning, veering for shore. Rachel took me by the hand and we made our way below deck. We found lots of ladies crying and wailing and freaking out. We had no idea what was going on until we ran into Rachel's buddy Don.
"Don, why is every freaking out?" Rachel demanded. I could see she was getting upset at all the upset people. Don looked really upset too, which I think just upset Rachel more. His eyes were wide and red, like he'd been crying. "What's going on?"
"Brock's dead. Someone's murdered him." Holy shit. Rachel gave one of those little gasps that means something really bad has just happened, and put her hand to her mouth.
"Are you sure?" I asked Don. In situations like these words just kind of slip out, appropriate or not. The look Don told me two things. One, he thought I was batshit insane. Two, he was quite sure. Brock Monto was dead.
"Oh my God…" Rachel was crying now, and I was going to sit her down next to the rest of the crying ladies when she buried herself into my chest. My first thought was to comfort her, and I held her tight. My next thought, and it still shames me to this day, was that I was wearing Charlie's tux. The tux Rachel was crying into. For all I knew all her tears and snot were getting all over the tux as we stood there.
But then something funny happened. Not funny in a way that made us all laugh the whole thing off, but funny in a way that I would look back on and chuckle. I thought of Rachel, the way she was leaning on me, crying to me, looking to me for support, and I thought of Brock Monto, the man who had been murdered, the man whose yacht we stood on, the man whose booze we had drank. Then I thought of Usually, the hooker I had shared a drink with. It occurred to me briefly that she had probably been the one who iced Monto, remembering that knife strapped to her leg, but what really stuck were her words. About the stars aligning, and only getting one chance.
So I held Rachel tight, tears and boogers be damned. She cried for a while, but she hadn't actually known the guy, so she cried more out of shock than out of sorrow. So then I just held her for a while, watched the coastline draw ever closer on what was the longest, most awkward yacht ride back to shore of my life.
When we stepped off the boat we were welcomed by the red and blue of the police. It was a good hour before we finished answering questions, gave our phone numbers and addresses, and were sent on our way by the cops. A very solemn valet boy got us Rachel's car, and we climbed in heavily. It was a quiet drive home. Rachel had the music so low I could barely make out the beat of the bass, and couldn't for the life of me tell what song we were listening to. I had "Lola" stuck in my head so I started patting out the rhythm of the song on my knees. After a while Rachel abruptly reached over and took my hand in hers, ending my improv percussion jam. I didn't argue, I just held her hand right back.
Finally Rachel pulled to a stop in front of my apartment building. I didn't move at first, still brushing my fingers over hers. "I'm sorry." She said finally. "About this. Everything."
"You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for," I told her, smiling. This situation was unprecedented. "Up until that last bit, I had a great time."
"Yeah, that last bit… I still can't believe it." I held her hand tighter. "And don't you lie to me, Chuck, not after all of that. You didn't enjoy yourself. You thought it was awkward. I could tell."
"Rachel. Fine drinks, a beautiful woman, a floating party barge, it doesn't get better than that. All in all, I thought it was a fantastic first date."
Rachel chuckled softly and tucked her hair behind her ear. "So this was a date then?"
"And yes, I would love to go on another, thanks for asking." We both laughed and that uncomfortable silence sunk in again. I knew it would be there for a while. It's not every day you take a date to a party where the host is murdered. And usually those are put on by lousy acting troupes over a six-course dinner. "Are you doing alright?"
"I think so," Rachel sighed. "It's going to be weird going home alone. I'll spend all night thinking about what happened tonight."
"Well… if you like… I can take your mind off it, if you want to be with someone tonight."
"I'd like that very much." Rachel gave me a gracious smile, and put the car into drive. We decided to go to her place because Charlie was home. And the rest is history.
Well, most of it. The Rachel thing is still going on, which is pretty awesome if I do say so myself. There's something liberating about getting it on with a coworker in the janitorial closet, which we did. Twice. Rachel was over the Monto fiasco after a few weeks. We found out he did in fact have ties to the mob. Several mobs, actually, and the mafia, and the yakuza. The man was dirty. As it turned out, Usually the hooker had done the world a favor killing Monto. I guess life works in mysterious ways.