They went to a dimly lit bar with an intellectual flair. Authentic old newspapers covered the walls and a shelf above each wooden booth was lined with books. It would be hard on the eyes, reading in that light; the books were there to establish a refined atmosphere where intellectuals, or those who considered themselves such, could conjure up the ghosts of William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald and get roaring drunk.
"I guess it has to be non-smoking, doesn't it?" Marty inquired fatalistically.
"It certainly does," Lyssa insisted. Despite some personal hesitancy, Lyssa could be very determined, dogmatic even, in impersonal matters.
Roxana ordered French red wine, Lyssa ordered Oregon white wine, and Marty ordered German beer. Sidney, Spenser and Turgenev looked on benignly from the shelf at Lyssa's shoulder.
"I hope you don't mind my nosiness," Roxana began, swirling her wine around in her glass, "but those two daughters of yours, do they belong to the present or the distant?"
"Distant," Marty replied, grinning at her across the table.
"Do you get to see them very often?" Lyssa asked next to him.
"Rarely," Marty admitted.
"Another casualty in the war between the sexes," Roxana pronounced.
"Not casualty," Marty protested humorously. "Nothing more than walking wounded. Anyway, I fear it was mostly my fault. It was a rather messy story and the role I played wasn't very appealing."
"Well, aren't you going to tell us the story?" Roxana pressured.
"Shhh," Lyssa muttered. She felt sorry for Marty.
Marty chuckled. He didn't seem to be aware of needing anyone's sympathy. "When you hear this, you'll know why I don't usually tell people. Anne, my ex-wife, announced that she had somebody else and I had to go, and I got jealous and desperate in a good old-fashioned way. I threatened her and her lover and she used that against me."
Lyssa watched him in amazement as he told them what was probably the tragedy of his life, smiling the whole time. He hid behind his grin and his glasses. She had to admit it was a nice grin to hide behind, though.
"Losing your kids is a frequent disadvantage of being a father," Marty concluded.
"Not only of fathers," Roxana said.
"Are your kids distant too?"
"Kid," Roxana corrected. "And yes, she is. My mistake was that I did a Kramer--you know, like in that corny Dustin Hoffman movie, except my judge wasn't so understanding about the rights of a deserting mother."
"I guess I'm the only one fortunate enough to be enduring the trials and tribulations of parenthood," Lyssa said.
"Count your blessings," Roxana admonished.
"It's difficult sometimes."
"What's the problem?" Marty asked.
"A pretty average one," Lyssa admitted. "I have a rebellious eighteen-year-old who is picking up suspicious-looking men and doesn't want to listen to my advice anymore."
"Eighteen?" Marty asked. "You must have been a terribly young mother."
The light in his eyes made Lyssa's heart beat a little faster, but she did her best to ignore it. It must be the candles. "Actually, I wasn't much younger than most women were back then when they started having kids."
Marty lifted his bushy eyebrows and nodded approvingly, saluting her with his beer. Lyssa had the distinct impression he was flirting with her, and she wasn't sure how to deal with it. She'd forgotten how to play the game; the magazine took all her time, and romantic entanglements had gotten lost in the shuffle. Now to her surprise, she found herself beginning to see more in Marty than his function as excellent assistant editor and staff writer. And he must be at least half a decade younger than she was.
"So you've got quite a bit of experience in the mothering department."
"Counted in years, certainly more than in my profession. Newspapers and magazines are more predictable, though," Lyssa said with a smile, and Marty laughed.
Roxana raised one plucked eyebrow. Wonder of wonders, Lyssa was attempting to be humorous. No one could accuse Roxana of being slow--she dashed off the rest of her wine, adjusted the shawl at her neck and groped for her jacket. "You ready to go?" Lyssa asked as she noticed Roxana preparing to desert her.
"I have some unfinished business in my darkroom."
"Wait a minute and we can all go together." Lyssa didn't want to be left alone with Marty, however charming he might be. She didn't know what to think of his interest yet, or even if it was interest. And he definitely didn't fit the mold of an Oregon hero, the kind of man Lyssa should have been attracted to. If he were an Oregon hero, he would be mellow and he would tell people about it. If he were an Oregon hero, he would wear Birkenstocks and drive an old pick-up and smoke grass instead of guzzling beer and smoking tobacco. But at least he didn't wear a tie to work. He let his abundant curls grow past his collar. He might suffer from a slight case of emotional invalidism, but he was emancipated enough to giggle.
After Lyssa and Roxana had said good night to Marty, Roxana turned to her friend and shook her head.
"Lyssa, you're hopeless."
Lyssa shrugged and gave a hesitant laugh. "Well, at least I'm successful."