An arch couple dine in the Labyrinth Restaurant and talk about their travels, but each is holding something back; by Joe Giordano.
Victoria's eyes widened. "An '83 Bordeaux? That's quite a splurge." She swirled, savored the bouquet, then sipped. Victoria rolled her eyes. "Orgasmic." She nodded, and the steward poured.
When they toasted, the Riedel glasses tolled like bells.
Randy said, "It's great to have you home."
The Labyrinth Restaurant was chrome, black leather, and beige accents in subdued light. Randy and Victoria were seated under an oil painting of Theseus sailing off, abandoning Ariadne on the island of Naxos.
Randy said, "Shall we order the Beef Wellington for two?"
Randy's eyes rose to the waiter. "Medium rare." The menus were whisked away.
"I'm sorry I couldn't join you in Greece," Randy said.
"Jessica wasn't the perfect companion, but I hate to travel alone."
"Tell me about the Greek economy?"
"Terrible. Homeless and Middle-Eastern refugees wander the streets. Athens is a concrete asylum."
Victoria said, "The Grand Bretagne gave us a deal. The Acropolis and the National Museum were fascinating. Still, I couldn't wait to get onto the plane for Santorini."
"You had time to send me this." From his Armani suit inside breast pocket, Randy produced a postcard picturing a sculpture of an amused Aphrodite playfully raising a sandal to ward off the grasping advance of half-goat Pan while Eros flittered above them. On the back was written, "Even the statues are horny."
Victoria said, "I kept getting your voice mail."
"Work was crazy."
"A couple of times I called late enough to wake you."
"Japanese clients were in town. They love the clubs and wouldn't stop drinking until they were embalmed. I couldn't leave; team building, loss of face."
Victoria said, "From my understanding of Japanese culture, men maintain control until they drink, then all bets are off."
"They enjoy more than karaoke."
Victoria sat back. "There were women?"
The waiter arrived with their dinner, then sliced into the pastry surrounding prime beef coated with a layer of goose liver pâté. As he meted out portions, Victoria and Randy's mouths watered with anticipation.
Randy sliced into his meal. "Let's get back to your vacation. Your messages expressed trepidation about swarming Greek men."
"Hairy chests with dangling gold crosses accosted us at the cafés. The locals call them kamaki."
Randy chuckled. "I bet you and Jessica were flattered."
Victoria sighed. "Not so much. Rebuked males remarked that it was our loss."
Victoria daubed her mouth with linen. "The real trouble started in Santorini."
Randy's eyes widened. "Tell me."
"We signed up for a three-day walking tour, but we were the only two who showed up. The guide was Nikos, tall with a large black mustache. Cretan. Very fit. He had a ridiculous lock of curls over his forehead that he'd sweep back before he talked. Very juvenile."
Randy said, "Santorini must have been beautiful."
Victoria smiled. "The three of us enjoyed pink-gray sunset dinners on the crest of the sheer stone volcano cliff, overlooking whitewashed homes, and blue-domed churches."
"Sounds a little staid for Greece."
"Oh, we danced. Once you hear the bouzouki, it's impossible to sit. We drank ouzo well into the evening. Every morning I'd wake with a headache and swear I'd get to bed earlier, but I had to keep Jessica company. She was drinking a lot and got out of hand, dancing too close to Nikos. I tried to get between them, but she didn't take the hint. She'd cut back in, and throw her arms around his neck."
Randy shrugged. "People can forget themselves in an exotic environment. A little harmless flirting. So what?"
"We had separate rooms. I don't know what happened after we split. I could understand the temptation. Nikos was rather good looking. The way she talked about her husband. She sounded bored."
"Temptation in the land of Dionysus to just let go. The ecstasy of wine and all that."
"Jessica acted jealous when Nikos came near me. She threw a glass of wine across the tavern. Everybody turned their heads. Nikos stopped by my room to go over the next day's route. He really had a great sense of humor; I'm not sure when I've laughed so much. Jessica burst in. She was red faced and accusing. I hate to lose a friendship over nothing."
Randy's brow rose.
Victoria's mouth pursed. "You can be sure that I acted appropriately. I hadn't a thought otherwise. Nikos smelled like pine, I hadn't expected that."
Randy leaned forward. "You were that close?"
"I quickly reestablished distance."
Randy sat back. His voice was monotone. "Sounds like you had quite a time with Nikos."
"What are you implying?"
Randy poked at his beef.
Victoria huffed. "I can't tell you anything. Next time, don't ask."
Randy sighed. "I thought you'd be in a better mood when I gave you this." He placed a small blue box on the table.
Victoria made no move toward the gift. "What's that?"
"The diamond earrings you admired in Tiffany's."
Victoria folded her arms. "Making amends? What happened with the Japanese?"
Randy blushed and chewed a bit of beef.