Eric wished he hadn't came to this dinner. It was a nice idea at the time, but now that he was here and all these faces, some familiar and some not, he felt so nervous. He just knew he'd say the wrong thing.
But Kyle was there, and he chatted him up about - how was it living alone. Having his own place. He put him at ease. That helped.
And then there was Liz. No one seemed to know much about her other than she was Bridget's sister, who was in town through Thanksgiving. She reminded Eric a bit of his own sister Dora. He hated to be put off by her, but she wasn't exactly friendly. He didn't think. It was awkward. Just what was he suppose to do? Hit it off and bring her back to his place. That's not the way it worked.
He couldn't really talk to anyone he wanted to talk to. He didn't think. Like Ellie, who was so fussed over by Lon and then there was the baby. It felt as if he were invisible. Then Olivia was keeping to herself too. Perhaps she and Roger had had a spat. There wasn't this total unity that he had remembered. He hated to admit it, but it pleased him. Finally he couldn't help but grin.
"And what are you smiling about?" Liz wanted to know. He just couldn't take his eyes off Olivia, but here he was coupled with Liz, who finally took the hint that she should go over and talk to him.
"Oh, its nothing, really." He shook the smile and finally greeted her properly. He did his best to learn what university she attended. It seemed unnecessary to know all these facts, but he listened. After-while they ate and she sat by him. She was so laid back, but still he felt so reserved as if he had to be. He felt as if he were frozen in space as everything went on about him as if he weren't here. The laughter rang through him, but he couldn't catch a hold of it.
Yet, near the end, he noticed how Liz looked at him as if she had some sort of expectation too. He was sure he couldn't live up to it. Not with the way things were going for him these days. It almost frightened him.
"Well, Ravi and I need some down time, you know." Bridget spoke up.
"Down time?" She winced. Naturally, Bridget gave her a silly smile, and Liz looked at Eric then as if this was his cue.
"Oh, oh, I guess, we could- you know." He shrugged as if he couldn't make a thing up.
"Yeah, we could." She smiled slightly as if she were reading his mind, but then Eric wasn't sure what she was reading. But he looked around. He'd been set up, now hadn't he? Truly he had.
They were going to be alone.
"Sorry, my car's not much." He told her when they got to his mother's old Honda Accord. It was cold, getting frosty. He turned on a mix he'd made of Siouxsie And The Banshees along with Bjork tunes. "Where do you want to go?"
"I don't care." She shrugged as if she'd played this game plenty of times.
"So, you're not seeing anyone?" He asked.
"I don't have time for, you know, a relationship," Liz said.
Eric just nodded.
"I'm not seeing anyone." He hated to say it, but it was true.
"Cool. Sort of evens the playing field, doesn't it?" She made light of it, but it made him flinch all the same.
"Lets just see if anything's open." He started to drive, but then felt as if he'd said the wrong thing. What if she took it the wrong way?
"We could just go back to your place." She looked at him out of the corner of her eye.
"I have a cat," Eric said. There, that alone would be the last straw, he supposed. That darn cat really came in handy, sometimes.
"So, its not like its a mountain lion, is it?" She almost laughed. Eric couldn't help but smile. Maybe they were on the same page here. He guessed this was a bootie call.
It didn't take long to figure out what was up, nor how to get back to his place. It wasn't long until they were smashing lips, and she had a string of condoms in her back pocket.
"I have an IUD," Liz said. "But you can never be too careful."
Eric just nodded and she kissed him hard. So hard, he imagined what it might be like to be with a guy. He guessed. Of course, a guy might have gone easier on him. He wasn't so sure about Liz.