Andrea had never been considered needy; as an only child, she’d learned at an early age to be self-sufficient and independent. Sadly the latter was often mistaken for being aloof, but with both parents maintaining demanding careers, she’d mastered both self-sufficiency and independence as character builders and succeeded in life based on those strengths. She lacked for nothing in her upbringing and was extremely close to her parents in spite of their demanding careers and her extended family, which helped fill the void of being an only child. Andrea’s calm and peaceful demeanor was the stark contrast to the impression of her aloofness and she found herself rather sought after by the young men who were often turned off by the popular girls and became the confidante in which her female peers found solace. Andrea was the ‘it’ girl in her own right, but paid little attention to what others said of it and instead made her way in life with hard work and a commitment to anything she put her mind to; including ‘the past their expiration date’ with a couple of past boyfriends. One was a college sweetheart with whom she thought would end in marriage, but instead it was his infidelity of which she forgave after some time and tried to reestablish the relationship only to find he was still carrying on with the woman. The second, and fortunately less scandalous; left her feeling confused and empty, so after two years she ended it and accepted a new position within her company where she spent her time traveling around the country and on occasion internationally. While Andrea missed intimate companionship, she refused to jump into another relationship until she was absolutely sure of herself and what the ‘he’ in the equation was truly bringing to the table. Save for the on again; off again fling she had with the pilot of the charter plane her company used for some of her travel; Andrea remained single. The protests from her mother and girlfriends fell on deaf ears and even her best friend and confidante Royce couldn’t convince her that there really were still some good straight men out there; and he would know since he was the most heterosexual gay man she’d ever known. Royce used his ‘gaydar’ to weed out real straight men from seemingly straight men that were actually in the closet or on the down low, which saved her from accepting the occasional date. Single life wasn’t what Andrea wanted as a permanent state of being, but given her current options and new position, it suited her just fine. She had the freedom to go and come as she pleased, she no longer missed what she no longer had; a man and sex, so with Royce checking on her house when she wasn’t there; she had little to worry about. That was until Andrea’s travel to Miami that brought Tariq into her life.
Andrea was attending the Black Business Expo and in spite of having to deflect some advances or sit through a couple of boring presentations, Andrea was having a blast. Her cousin in Boca Raton drove down to see her, giving her someone to hang out with when she wasn’t on the clock and they were enjoying a dinner at La Cote when Tariq walked in. Sahara stopped mid-sentence and stared shamelessly as he was being led to a table within their direct view. Andrea kicked Sahara under the table reminding her of her rather charmed upbringing and that her behaviour lacked decorum. The kicking, giggles, and protests went unnoticed until Sahara knocked over her drink drawing immediate stares from other patrons; including Tariq. To make matters worse, Sahara leaned to retrieve her clutch that fell with the glass and tipped completely out of her chair; that prompted a speedy response from Tariq. Sahara made quite the production of being lifted from the floor, dusted off, and being tended to by both Tariq and the restaurant staff. Sahara was fine and with all the attention she received, didn’t seem to mind her dress being soiled in the fall. It was collateral damage in garnering Tariq’s attention bringing him surreptitiously to their table.
After introductions, Sahara invited Tariq to sit with them since he was dining alone and it was the least she could do for his rescuing her and then promptly left the table with a wink to go to the ladies room. An awkward silence fell between them until they were saved by the waiter bringing Tariq’s drink to the table of which Andrea insisted be put on her tab since he had rescued her rather clumsy cousin. The perfunctory decline led to insistence on Andrea’s part to which Tariq finally conceded and they began actual conversation. They exchanged their reasons for being in Miami, their respective professions, and before things got personal, Sahara returned and the trio spent the remaining time eating and engaged in easy banter. An hour later after moving from the dining room to the cabana outside, Sahara bid adieu to her cousin and Tariq and headed back to Boca leaving Andrea to find a polite way out of the attraction she was feeling toward Tariq. She was in town for business and anything personal was reserved for her family not a rendezvous.
When the check came, Tariq insisted on paying for his share of it, but again Andrea declined and she beat him to the waiter with her credit card. In the time it took for the charge to process, Tariq insisted on buying her breakfast before he left for the airport. Andrea wanted to decline and tried, but Tariq’s smile was magnetic and the intensity in his eyes spun her response to an affirmative. He was staying at the Gansevoort, which was barely a few miles away, while she was at Fontainebleau where they’d dined. They agreed to meet in the Gansevoort lobby and eat at the hotel or elsewhere if that was Andrea’s choice. Andrea gave Tariq her business card and bid him a good night and was in an elevator before he had a chance to give her his card. Andrea may not have had a lot of relationships, but she knew the game and she was raised well and by her standards, a man was to contact her.
Sahara called upon her arrival home and demanded to know the details of the evening after her departure. They giggled like schoolgirls as Andrea relayed the limited details since nothing more than conversation took place and spoke of the plans for breakfast. Sahara hoped the details would’ve been juicier, but she knew her cousin well enough to know that she wasn’t inclined to be casual with her body and even though she teased her about it, she certainly respected her discriminating ways. They ended the call and Andrea put her nightgown on and prepared herself to review the material for the next day before going to bed. About twenty-five minutes later her in-room phone rang and even though the hour was late, she assumed it was a colleague calling. She answered to a warm and deep voice on the other end confirming he’d reached Andrea Phillips. She acknowledged his inquiry and almost dropped the phone when Tariq stated it was him. She hadn’t expected him to call tonight if at all and found herself taken aback and suddenly speechless. Tariq apologized for the late call, but insisted that he just had to speak with her again. Work ended up taking a back seat and the call lasted until well after midnight before Andrea realized the time insisting they end it in order for her to be rested enough for breakfast.
Andrea’s internal clock woke her at 5:30 am and in spite of her later than expected bedtime, she felt surprisingly refreshed. She washed up and went to the hotel gym to do her daily run and lucked out by finding a masseuse free at the early hour, and reserved her for a 7:00 am in-room massage. Morning ritual and impromptu massage complete, Andrea called a cab to take her to the Gansevoot to meet Tariq. They’d agreed to a later breakfast since Tariq’s flight was closer to noon and he’d be leaving from the hotel to the airport affording little time for lunch.
Tariq was seated in the lobby when the cab pulled up and he walked to greet her once he saw her step out. He tipped the bellman waiting at the cab stand and took Andrea’s arm in his and walked to the elevator taking them to the 18th floor where they’d be eating breakfast. Tariq had reserved a cabana and took the liberty of ordering a fruit tray with coffee and sweet breads to start their breakfast. Andrea was impressed with hotel, the view, and most of all Tariq’s initiative; sending her brain into immediate overdrive with mental notes. They talked a little more business since Tariq noticed Andrea’s satchel and informed him she was going from breakfast to an informal business meeting at a potential client’s house.
After the first course was eaten, Andrea found herself full and really not in need of more food when Tariq ordered a hot breakfast, but ordered eggs anyway in order to balance the table. The conversation became immediately personal and to her surprise, found Tariq refreshingly what she’d been missing. He was confident without being conceited; completely engaging and easy-going; much like the night before, self-sufficient; like herself, and damn if that disarming smile didn’t make her want to lose her scruples and act like an errant teenager. The way he made eye contact made her stir in ways she shouldn’t with a stranger, but there was something kindred about Tariq that penetrated her usual guard and allowed her to relax more so than usual. It was an unnerving feeling and Andrea felt the pull to back away. She remembered Michael and how she’d felt that similar draw, what she tolerated as a result and then how it ended. She didn’t want to hold Tariq to Michael’s standard, but the fear was ignited and her restlessness began to show. Sensing unease, Tariq excused himself to the men’s room and Andrea seized the opportunity to call Royce who’d actually been expecting her call since Sahara had already called him to spill the beans. In two minutes flat, Royce talked Andrea off the ledge and she greeted with Tariq with a genuine smile when he returned and apologized for her sudden change in demeanor. The apology led to an unexpected revelation on her part about past relationships and the pact she’d made to not get involved for anything less than the right reasons. Andrea’s revelation led to Tariq’s view on relationships and the recent messy demise of his own, which given the details, should have made him rather bitter, but instead he seemed sadly relieved and ready to close that chapter of his life to move forward without resentment. This was another note Andrea quickly added to her mental list. They talked off topic before realizing how the time had flown by and a cabana girl came to clear the table and advise Tariq that his car would be arriving soon to take him to the airport. Andrea instinctively looked at her watch and stood to make her exit. Tariq settled the check and escorted Andrea back to the lobby where his bags were already waiting for him; the car was scheduled to arrive in fifteen minutes. Tariq insisted Andrea use the service car to take her to and from her meeting instead of taking a cab since it was already booked for the entire day; a habit of Tariq’s if he didn’t use a rental given how travel plans often changed without warning. Andrea accepted and they sealed their meeting and time shared with a hug and Tariq’s word to keep in touch.
©Blu Jewel 2012