69

Sam's proposal, whether literal or rhetorical, takes Joanna by surprise, embarrassed and flattered equally by his chivalrous performance, wishing he would get up off his knees while content to have him stay on the coffeehouse floor, arresting everyone’s attention, hers included, charmed as she is by his boyish insecurity (she may or she may not grant him forgiveness), his tragicomic posture (histrionic yet sincere) his old-world show of chivalry (baseball cap swept off like a plumed cocked hat) and his eerie, unbelievable resemblance to her betrothed—her ex-betrothed, that is, the two-timing prick, the despoiler of her youth, the irresponsible sire of her destined-to-be-a-bastard child (the thought inspiring a grimace both outside and in, as if mother and fetus lodge protests in forsaken solidarity).

"Bastard."

Sam looks up.

"Guilty as charged."

Realizing Sam has misinterpreted her remark (directed not at him but rather at his look-alike impregnator), Joanna gives a sign inviting him to join her.

Rising, swinging his leg astraddle her table’s vacant chair, Sam seats himself like a cowboy mounting a Shetland pony.

"I really am ashamed of... well, you know what. It didn’t take a genius to figure out you’d mistaken me for somebody else. In my own defense... Check that; I don’t suppose you’ve come to hear my lame excuses. Whomever I resemble, you must love him pretty passionately."

"I hate his good-for-nothing guts, if you want the gospel truth."

Sam’s perplexed expression invites her to explain.

She does.

"Not when you played impostor, I admit; I’ve grown to loathe him since. Your... twin, I have to call him, is a double-crossing pervert!"

"Sorry to hear that, Jo."

"You know my name?"

"I learned it from Bernard."

"Bernard? Bernard my Hairdresser-Bernard? Back in Palo Alto? When? Before or after our under-false-pretences fling?"

"A few days ago."

"You just happened to be in the neighborhood?"

"I drove down on the off-chance..."

"Of scoring another freebee?"

"Ouch; I guess I deserve that; but no, that wasn’t it."

"Okay, I’m listening. You and Bernard are pals?"

"Hardly."

"Why; because he’s gay?"

"More because we’d never met before last Sunday. I was having coffee on the main drag... Lytton Street?"

"University."

"Right; I parked on Lytton; I was trying to look engaging in hopes someone might stroll by and recognize me."

"Mistake you for my ex-beau, you mean?"

"Right."

"And Bernard walked by on his way to work?"

"He did."

"And recognized you?"

"He did not. I smiled."

"And he, of course, said, 'Hi.'"

"He sat down; we started to talk; I told him I was looking for a redhead who drives a pink Mercedes."

"And he said?"

"'Sounds like Jo, come to think of it. Pink Mercedes. Yes, indeedy.'"

"That would be Bernard. What else did he tell you, the flirtatious little blabbermouth?"

"He told me you were engaged. He told me you were pregnant."

"He what?! Of all the loose-lipped informers; I’ll have his gums sewn shut!"

Unabashed by the presence of several furtive eavesdroppers, Jo vents her displeasure; ears already cocked in the couple’s direction quiver like antennae.

Sam, of two minds when it comes to causing commotions (sometimes playing the extrovert, sometimes the reverse) finds himself inclined to hide inside his shirt.

"Maybe we should talk somewhere more private?"

"We’ll talk here."

Dead against repairing to some more intimate locale (presuming Sam is about to suggest his apartment), Jo resists the (palpable) temptation in favor of delving into less connubial sources of attraction, his knowing she is pregnant (marriage mentioned regardless) having rearranged her goals (or rather having further jumbled them) persuading her a relationship (a committed one) might yet ensue—provided he is serious; provided she is, too (the bulge below her navel like a silent ballot cast).

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