Tim stood just inside Comforts. When the host asked, he said he was waiting for someone. He had taken off a few minutes early from work, to be certain he'd be on time. It was now ten past one and he was beginning to think Richard had changed his mind.
The door opened again, letting in a fresh burst of cold air—and Richard. "Sorry I'm late. A very persistent client insisted I stay until his painting was wrapped and ready to put in his car. Considering how much he'd spent, I figured it behooved me to cede to his wishes."
Before Tim could reply, the host returned. When Tim said they were ready, the man led them to a table at one side of the room. After taking off their coats and laying them on a vacant chair, they sat.
"You're a painter?" Tim finally had a chance to ask.
"Not even close. I couldn't draw a straight line if my life depended on it. I own an art gallery, Off the Wall." He looked expectantly at Tim, as if hoping he'd heard of it.
"I've walked past it a few times but never stopped in." Tim chuckled wryly. "The only piece of art I own is a copy of Picasso's 'Don Quixote'."
They stopped talking long enough to tell the waitress they hadn't decided what they wanted for lunch and ask her for coffee. Then Richard said, "You should come in next time."
"Now that I know it's yours, I might."
"So if it wasn't mine, you'd definitely keep on walking by, the way you always do?" Richard asked.
For a moment Tim debated how to answer before replying, "Honestly, probably. Unless I saw something through the window that made me want to take a closer look."
Richard's smile seemed to be one of relief. He verified that seconds later. "I'm glad you said that. It means you'd rather tell the truth than try to flatter me by saying something like 'I always meant to because you have great art, but…'."
"Well, you do, but…" Tim said seriously. Then he laughed. "To continue my honest streak, I know very little about art. To me, it's something you hang on your wall to fill an empty space."
Richard harrumphed, but with a smile. "Philistine."
"In that respect, yes. Now ask me about books and I'll talk your ear off."
"Gentlemen, are you ready to order?" the waitress asked, appearing with their coffees.
After a moment's perusal of the menu, they did. When she left, Richard asked, "What do you do in your spare time?"
"Read," Tim told him with a self-deprecating smile. "Go home, eat, read, or maybe watch TV, if there's anything interesting on, then go to bed. And you? Other than taking care of Cherie, that is."
Richard laughed. "That's a full-time job in and of itself."
"One you wouldn't trade for the world."
"Exactly," Richard agreed.
"No social life?"
"No more than you have, I suspect. I'm not really into the bar scene. I get more than enough socializing, if you can call it that, when we have a promotional opening for a new artist."
Tim shuddered. "I don't think I could deal with that."
"You'd learn to, if it meant bringing in new clientele. Luckily, I have a good staff to help me handle it."
Their meals arrived just as Tim said in response, "Not me. People at the library are one thing. Otherwise, I generally prefer my solitude."
Richard studied him while taking the first bite of his turkey club sandwich. "You're not really outgoing with people, are you?"
Tim sighed. "It's not that I don't like people. I just tend to shy away from anything that could become personal."
"And yet, you're here with me."
Tim nodded, picking up one half of his tuna melt. "I'm…taking a chance? I know that probably doesn't sound good, but it's the truth."
"I think we both are," Richard responded with a smile.