Mimi studied her proposal one last time. She was meeting Zeke at The Bistro for a late lunch, then staying for her Spring Into Summer festival committee meeting. She’d done an extensive outline: the budget for the band, the procedure for charging for concert tickets, how much security they’d need. Every detail she could think of (and every detail Bettina could think of as well) was all mapped out. She’d stayed up till three in the morning working on it and was paying the price for it today. She stifled a yawn and took another swig of her large coffee.
It was after one but the place was still packed with customers. Zeke walked in the door and everyone turned to look. Mostly because he was the chief of police, and that in itself demanded attention. But also because he looked like a god in that uniform. Mimi sighed. He spotted her and began walking toward her table.
“Sorry I’m a few minutes late,” he said, taking the seat across from her. Normally, orders were placed at the counter, but Frida herself came over to see what they wanted to eat. Probably as a courtesy, but the curious look on her face told Mimi she was more interested in figuring out what was going on with their relationship than she was being an attentive café owner.
Mimi glanced around the restaurant. Everyone tried not to stare but it was obvious all eyes were either discreetly, or not so discreetly, aimed at them.
Mimi ordered a salad and Zeke got a sandwich. He waited till Frida left to say, “Is everything all right?”
“Sure, why wouldn’t it be?”
“It’s just we don’t normally meet up for lunch. Even when we were…”
“We’re still together,” he said tightly.
“But not living together,” she clarified.
“Just say the word. It’ll take me about five minutes to pack up my stuff from the cabin.”
Don’t give in. Don’t give in.
It was the mantra running through her head these days.
She lowered her voice. “Are you ready to talk to the counselor about your father?”
Zeke gave her a dark look. It was all the answer she needed.
Mimi shifted in her seat. “I asked you to lunch because I wanted to talk to you away from Claire and Cameron.”
He stilled. “Is everything all right?”
“Oh, yeah, it’s good.” She felt herself flush, which was ridiculous. He was her husband. The father of her children. She was acting like a sixteen-year-old asking the captain of the football team out on her first date. “Couples Bunco is in a few weeks and, you know, we’ve always gone before and—”
“Of course I’m going with you to couples Bunco. Did you think I wasn’t?”
“No, I just…under the circumstances…” She shrugged. “We’re doing a theme this year. Famous couples. We got Rick and Ilsa from Casablanca.”
Their food came and Zeke dove into his sandwich. “Does that mean I get to wear a fedora?”
“No fedora. But definitely a white tux.” Mimi took another sip of her coffee and tried to envision it. He would look gorgeous, as usual. She’d have to come up with something equally spectacular. Maybe Lauren could help her.
“How are the wedding plans coming along?” he asked. “I hope you don’t think I’ve dumped all this in your lap. I’ll be happy to do whatever.”
“Take Tom out for a beer?” she suggested.
Zeke made a grumpy noise.
“He’s going to be your brother-in-law. The two of you should be friends.”
“Maybe,” he said. “Let me think about it.”
A prickly sensation skated up Mimi’s spine. Like she was being watched. Which, she probably was. Out of the corner of one eye, she could have sworn she saw Mrs. Bruner over at the next table take a picture of her and Zeke with her cell phone. If Zeke saw it, he chose to ignore it.
“So, what are you up to after lunch?” he asked.
“I have my Spring Into Summer festival committee meeting.” She hesitated, then handed him her outline. “This is a proposal I hope to get through the committee this afternoon. Do you mind taking a look and telling me what you think?”
Zeke laid down his sandwich and began reading through the papers. Mimi expected a quick perusal, but he took longer than she thought he would, like he was studying each and every little detail. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? She couldn’t tell from the expression on his face and she found herself beginning to squirm. Any second now, her foot was going to have a seizure.
He handed her back the paper. “Ten grand for Fatback Bubba and the Rattlesnakes, huh? You think they’re worth it?”
“For what I hear they’re worth it, plus some.”
“Okay. I think it’s good then.”
“Actually, it’s better than good. I think it’s brilliant.”
The way he looked at her made her feel brilliant, too.