Later, after the beach, we are both in the bathroom, getting ready for dinner. Tim has a towel wrapped around his waist and is shaving. I’m at the other sink, washing suntan oil off my face before a shower. Tim takes the towel off, unselfconsciously, and wipes lather off his jaw.
“Is it okay if Rachel comes to dinner with us?” he asks. I look over at him. “Sure. Why not.”
“Great,” he says, leaving the bathroom.
“She’s from San Diego, you said?” I ask, drying my face. “Yeah. She goes to UC San Diego.”
“Who is she here with?”
“Well, won’t they want to have dinner with her tonight?”
“They’re in Hilo for the night,” he says, underwear on, searching for a shirt. “Some business her stepfather’s involved with.”
“You like her?”
“Yeah.” Tim studies a plain white shirt as if it is a book of answers. “I guess.”
“You guess? You were with her all afternoon.”
After a shower, I walk into the bedroom and over to the closet. Tim seems happier and I’m glad he’s met this girl, relieved that there will be someone else with us at dinner. I put on a linen suit and pour myself a drink from the minibar and sit on the bed, watching Tim put gel in his hair, greasing it.
“Are you glad you came?” I ask.
“Sure,” he says, too evenly.
“I thought maybe you didn’t want to come.”
“Why would you think that?” he asks. He puts some more of the gel on his fingers, rubbing it through thick, blondish hair, darkening it.
“Your mom mentioned that you didn’t feel like coming,” I say, quickly, offhand. I sip the drink.
He looks at me in the mirror, his face clouding over.
“No, I never said that. I just had this paper to do and, um, no.” He combs his hair, inspecting himself. Satisfied, he turns away from the mirror and looks at me, and as I’m confronted with that blank stare, my decision not to pursue it is made.
We meet Rachel in the main dining room. She stands by the piano, talking to the piano player. She has a purple flower in her hair and the piano player touches it and she laughs. Tim and I walk over to the white baby grand. She turns around, her eyes flat and blue, and she flashes a perfect white smile. She touches her shoulder and moves toward us.
“Rachel,” Tim says, a little reluctantly. “This is my dad. Les Price.”
“Hello, Mr. Price,” Rachel says, holding out her hand.
“Hi, Rachel.” I take her hand, noticing that she has no polish on her fingernails even though they are long and smooth. I tentatively let go of her hand. She turns to Tim.
“You both look nice,” she says.
“You look great,” Tim says, smiling at her.
“Yes,” I say. “You do.”
Tim looks at me, then at her.
“Thanks, Mr. Price,” she says.
The maître d’ seats us outside. There’s a warm night breeze. Rachel sits across from me and she looks even more beautiful in candlelight. Tim, clean-shaven, wearing an expensive Italian suit I bought him over the summer, his tan darker than Rachel’s even, his hair combed back slickly, complements Rachel unnervingly, almost as if they were related. Tim seems comfortable with this girl and I’m almost happy for him. I order a Mai Tai and Rachel has a Perrier and Tim has a beer. After drinking the Mai Tai and ordering another and after listening to the two of them drone on about MTV, college, videos they like, a movie about a deformed girl who learns to accept herself, I feel relaxed enough to tell a joke that ends with the punch line: “May I please have some mouthwash please?” When both of them confess to not understand it and I need to explain it to them, I move on.
“What’s that stuff in your hair?” I ask Tim.
“It’s Tenax, Dad. It’s a gel for your hair.” He looks at me with mock exasperation and then at Rachel, who smiles at me.
“Just wanted to know,” I say idly.
“So what do you do, Mr. Price?” Rachel asks.
“Call me Les,” I tell her.
“Okay. What do you do, Les?”
“I’m into real estate.”
“I told you that,” Tim tells her.
“You did?” she asks, looking at me blankly.
“Yeah,” Tim says sourly. “I did.”
She finally looks away. “I forgot.”
An image of Rachel, naked, hands on her br**sts, lying on my bed, flashes past my line of vision and the idea of taking her, having her, does not seem unappealing to me. Tim pretends to ignore my constant staring but I know he’s watching me watching Rachel, very carefully. Rachel flirts boldly with me and I keep debating whether to flirt back. Dinner comes. We eat quickly. More drinks are ordered afterward. By this time I am comfortably drunk enough to lean forward and smile suggestively at Rachel. Tim is so deflated it doesn’t even seem like he exists.