“Are you trying to keep women away for good?” asked Chantal.
“Look at me.” Christian told her, still joking, “I don’t need to keep women away, they aren’t attracted to a man my size anyway. What woman would want me?!” He laughed again.
Joanne looked at him. Christian was not a slim man. He was a bit large around the waist, but he also had wide shoulders, and his weight was evenly distributed through his arms and legs. When she looked at him, she did not see a fat man.
The others continued joking, but Joanne was not listening anymore. She continued to look at Christian. To her eyes he was pleasant to look at. His brown eyes crinkled in the corners when he laughed. His face was expressive, his smile was charming. She liked the way his very dark brown hair curled at the neck. He kept it just a little on the long side, and it waved just a bit on his forehead too.
Christian glanced at her and noticed her staring.
“What?” he asked.
Joanne leaned towards him and said softly “It’s not true no woman would want you. You’re not that ugly you know. There was at least that one girl remember?”
“I’ve gained weight since then.” Christian said and turned away.
Joanne leaned closer and said in his ear, “I know of at least one woman who was very attracted to you since then.”
Christian turned back to look at her. The conversation flowed smoothly around them. Joanne saw Chantal looking at them from the corner of her eye but no one was really paying attention.
“Who?” he asked with a touch of irony.
“Me.” Joanne said firmly. She breathed in. She was amazed that that declaration had not physically hurt her. Her heart was beating a little wildly, but other than that, no damage done. She wasn’t even shaking. Yet.
“You?” Christian whispered hoarsely. He looked like a bomb had just been dropped.
“Yes, me.” She affirmed authoritatively. “Don’t have a heart attack, I won’t try to seduce you or anything.” It was her turn to look away.
“But,… how…” Christian seemed to be having some trouble finding words.
She turned back to face him, aware that by now, more than one head was turned in their direction. “Let’s talk later.” She told him.
They both ate the rest of their dessert in relative silence. Joanne noticed that the others seemed to be wondering why Christian had suddenly quieted down and appeared to be lost in thought. Neither Joanne nor Christian addressed a word to each other until it was time to leave.
Christian took the key to the roadster out of his pocket and was going to hand it back to Joanne, but she shook her head. “No, drive.” She said, “You know where you’re going better than me, and I get to drive the car all the time.”
Christian unlocked her door for her once again and opened it, then went around to the driver’s side. He backed out of the parking spot and took the main road, back towards the village the wedding had taken place in.
The shadows had lengthened, the sky was starting to turn pale pink in the west. As they drove through the trees, every once in awhile golden bursts of sunlight would shine through the leaves. God rays, Joanne remembered them being referred to as. The air had the smell of night coming. It was already cooling. The evening light made the occasional fields turn a deeper green.
Christian saw a lane, where two brown tracks showed up against the green of the grass. He pulled into the lane and drove a little ways, until they came to a small meadow dotted with wildflowers. He parked to the side, in the grass and turned to look at Joanne.
“Why did you never tell me?” he asked.
Joanne shrugged. “I thought it must have been obvious.” She said. She smiled a small ironic smile. “I used to want to kick myself for doing or saying things that made it so obvious.” She could feel herself start to tremble again, the way she always did when she felt vulnerable. She tried to relax.
“But why did you want to hide it?”
Joanne stole a quick glance at him. Christian was looking straight ahead, out the window. Somehow, it made her feel better to know he was not watching her as she spoke.
“You must be kidding me.” He said before she could answer. Joanne turned to look at him. He was shaking his head.
“Why would I do that?” Joanne asked.
“I don’t know.”
Joanne crossed her arms in front of her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would bother you so much. Besides, that was 10 years ago.”
Christian looked sideways at her. “It doesn’t bother me.” He said. “I just… never thought…”
“Never thought what?”
He looked tortured for a second and then turned to look out the window again.
“I didn’t think I was attractive to anyone.”