Risk vs. Reward

In which Alexandra Clark goes totally off-book…

Alexandra Clark ran her life in the same regimented way she taught Accounting to her community college students. Even if only in her head, she sorted everything from appointments and her ‘to-do’ list, to friends and potential girlfriends into neatly organized columns and rows. She expected each to conform to the clearly defined specifications of its particular cell and when something didn’t fit, she deleted it.

Her massage appointment on Fridays at 3:00 kept threatening to spill into her daily tea and biscuits ritual at 4:00, so it had to go. Bedtime was a non-negotiable 9:30 every night or she’d be awake until the wee hours, so Zoe’s cocktail party at 8:00 on Saturday was impossible.

Everyone she met had to pass a series of tests before being deemed worthy of one of several ‘Friends’ categories. Sue, based on her results, landed in the ‘Fun to Hang Out with but Unfuckable’ column, while Dana was in the ‘True-blue with Definite Girlfriend Potential’ column — though neither knew it. When Sue and Dana started dating, both were summarily banished to the recycle bin. When they broke up, only Dana made it back into her previous cell.

By her fiftieth birthday, Alexandra’s ‘Friends’ columns had been so drastically pruned that there was almost no one left to invite to the party she’d been planning for a decade.

Two days before that birthday, Alexandra broke routine and trekked to a teashop downtown. She had decided to treat herself to her favourite loose-leaf Darjeeling, the one that was normally far too expensive to fit into the ‘Tea Budget’ cell.

The shop was small and felt crowded even with only a handful of customers inside. She hovered near the teapot display while waiting her turn, enjoying the scent of tea from exotic places she’d never visit. She turned her head to watch as a white-aproned clerk scooped black leaves from an old-fashioned wooden bin, weighed them on a vintage scale from 1932, when the shop first opened, and carefully wrapped them for the trip home.

She was startled and turned sharply when a hand reached from behind her and picked up a heavy, cast-iron pot from Japan. She felt a tightening of her chest and a loosening of her limbs at the boyish beauty of the woman attached to the hand.

Sweat formed in her armpits and hot blood rushed to her face and neck as words came, unbidden, from her own mouth. “Hi… wow… it’s my birthday the day after tomorrow… I’m having dinner with a couple of friends … This is weird but I don’t suppose you’d care to join us?”

A wave of vertigo hit at the woman’s smile, followed by the strange sensation of arousal combined with nausea at her response.

“Why, yes. I think I’d like that.”

To be continued…