Chapter Forty-four

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Even after my aborted tea with HAT, the pizza puff, and lunch with Claudie, I got to my apartment earlier than expected. Still plenty of time before my date with Jimmy. Now I could spend hours wondering what to say to him when he asked if he could sleep over. At least I touched base with the girly sidekick, and we were on the same page. No closer to trapping Simone, but I had time yet to figure that out.

As if to banish those cheerful thoughts, I went through to my white-walled bedroom and glanced in the closet. This room was almost more bare than the living room. There was my bed with its bright blue coverlet, one dresser, and a little side table with enough room for a tiny reading lamp. The pile of dirty clothes in the corner didn't count as decor.

I grabbed a pair of jeans and sat on the bed, trying to picture what to put with it for an appropriate date ensemble.

It wasn't so much a date with Jimmy as an outing with Kate. When I praised the lasagna at Lino's, I inadvertently set myself up for a double date with Mr. and Mrs. Dolan. Kate, it seemed, loved Italian, especially lasagna. We had a reservation at Lino's for 6 p.m. Then we were going to a movie—all three of us. In this way Jimmy didn't leave any of the women in his life alone on a Saturday night.

I rummaged through the bottom of the closet where wayward tops always settled once they'd managed to fall off their hangers. I picked a surplice top that went well with a hoodie hanging in the closet. I even had the right color cami to peek out of the top of the plunging surplice. All I needed to add were silver earrings that dangled, and I was set.

As I contemplated the fun-filled evening before me, I began to understand why I'd sent Jimmy home the night before. Things were weird enough in our little love triangle. Jimmy staying over would have made everything worse.

Would he, for example, call Kate to tell her that he wasn't coming home? And what would I say to him in the morning? "Sorry, Jimmy, I gotta go talk to my therapist? Feel free to grab a shower and some juice."

I shook my head to clear the image of a sleepy Jimmy watching me walk out the door while still entwined in my sheets. Last night we'd reached my maximum weirdness quotient. One more molecule and my life became an episode on Jerry Springer.

I checked the time. Half an hour before I needed to leave. Jimmy offered to pick me up, but some strident voice of individualism beat me to the punch. I would meet them at the restaurant. Having my own wheels made it that much easier to bag out on the movie if I wanted to. In case Ireland's cutest couple began to bug me.

I left my apartment early and arrived exactly on time, despite having to park in the auxiliary lot. Lino's was always busy, but Saturday night was the pinnacle. I hoped that Jimmy had paid attention and called ahead for a reservation so we could be seated in one of the restaurant's "houses."

The waiting area was packed, but it wasn't terribly difficult to pick out the one over six-foot guy in the crowd. Jimmy took the word casual as an affront, so he appeared in dress slacks, a silky brown pullover sweater, and a houndstooth checked sport coat. Kate, on the other hand, looked fetching in brown boots, tight brown stretch pants, and a nubby mohair sweater from her native Ireland. Wonderful. Married and color coordinated.

I kissed both parties like siblings as the hostess called Jimmy's name for our table. Waiting was inevitable at Lino's, even with a reservation. The hostess walked us through two crowded rooms and up three padded steps to the uppermost house on that side. Lino's décor resembled a humble Italian village with multi-tiered houses. In two of the dining rooms, stairs rose up to create elevated booths or "rooms" enclosed on three sides with a stucco roof overhead and a single door. In one of these rooms, you sat above all the other patrons, with only your comrades to distract you.

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