Awkward Tensions

Jim sat on the edge of the couch, looking sideways at Rita. The wine in the glass shook like a minor earthquake, his white knuckles gripping the stem almost to the point of cracking it. He laughed slightly, trying to relieve the tension.

Rita, on the other hand, was the picture of calm. She sat quietly, eyebrow slightly arced, looking at Jim’s eyes and wondering what he was going to do. She sported a half smile, which, coupled with the tasteful black dress and heels she was wearing, she assumed made her look slightly sultry, slightly worldly, and generally inviting. To Jim, it looked like she was mocking him.

They both breathed in at once to talk, noticed the other doing so, and stopped. “Go ahead,” Rita finally said.

“No, you,” Jim replied, blushing slightly.

“I was just going to say, it was a lovely play,” she said, her red lips parting to sip the wine.

“Oh! Yeah, it was. I thought it was really interesting, the dynamic between the two characters, I mean he was so self-assured, and obviously very good at seducing women.”

“Hm, yes, but I don’t think he would have seduced her if she didn’t want to be seduced. Based on the way she gradually lured him in, she definitely held the power in that relationship, and just let him think he did.”

“Umm, no, I think you’re wrong there,” Jim said, warming up to a topic he was comfortable talking about. “He very much held the power, holding her for just as long as he wanted, playing her just the right tune to make her dance, then leaving her when he wanted. I mean it wasn’t the mostly socially acceptable way to treat someone, but he was in charge the whole time.”

Rita crossed her legs away from Jim and said, “Hm, I suppose you’re right.”

They both sipped their wine, sitting quietly for a moment.

“Anyway, you were going to say?” Rita asked.

“Oh, right, umm…I don’t quite remember now, sorry.”

“That’s too bad,” Rita said, crossing her arms. She was beginning to regret inviting him in after their passionate kiss at the door. He had seemed to be relaxing through the date, but was now obviously tense again. Maybe if he leaves soon, I’ll give him another chance, and try to keep him at ease, she thought. He’s smart, and kind of cute; if only he weren’t so awkward and uncomfortable. She looked at him, and he smiled.

“Not to sound cliché or anything,” he said, “but you’re very pretty, Rita.”

“Thank you,” she said, canceling the possibility of future plans. If you need to start with “Not to sound cliché”, she thought, you shouldn’t say it.

He leaned in for another kiss, and though she allowed it, her heart wasn’t in it. He looked into her eyes and whispered, “So, do you think…”

“God no,” she replied, standing up.

He flushed, embarrassed, and grabbed his coat. She opened the door, and without another word, he left.


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