Later, Ethan and Brittany sat in his sister’s minivan in front of Brittany’s century old beachfront rental. With its gingerbread details and ocean swept yard it was postcard perfect. He killed the engine and stared out over the steering wheel towards the breakers as they rolled off shore.
“I want to tell you again how sorry I am for this morning,” Brittany told him, reaching and lightly touching his arm. “And to thank you for last night, for everything, you and your sister have been so kind.”
“Don’t mention it,” he mumbled, as if picking up drunken women passed out on the beach and getting vomited on was an everyday occurrence.
“No really, I know this is not normal, I mean standard operating procedure or whatever you call it.”
“Brittany,” he said looking at her. “It’s ok, and your welcome.”
Brittany crossed her arms and leaned against the passenger side door as she looked at him. She guessed him to be about 30, or 32, tall but not overly, in pretty good shape from what she could tell, dressed in an old pair of his brother-in-law’s sweats, after she had soiled his uniform. His dark hair was cut short and neat, not surprising for a cop, a touch of early gray she noticed, and maybe beginning to thin a little. Leading man material she asked herself? No, well maybe, she re-evaluated, not a Baldwin, but perhaps a Harrison Ford.
Ethan finally smiled at the way she was studying him. “What?” he asked, seemly a little embarrassed.
“Oh nothing,” she said, adding the qualifier of a young Harrison Ford to her mental description, it was the smile that synched it. Smiling herself, Brittany opened her door, and although the sun was shinning the air was still cold and blustery. “Listen, thanks for bringing me home in the van, I’m sure the neighbors don’t know who is staying here, but the last thing I needed is someone calling the papers saying they saw me getting out of a police car.”
Ethan just nodded from behind his sunglasses.
“Anyway, thanks again,” she said, sliding out of the seat and stepping back to close the door.
“Brittany?” Ethan asked, stopping her before she could go.
She looked at him and waited.
“Can I buy you dinner, or coffee?” As soon as he said it he knew it was inappropriate and sounded lame.
“I don’t know Ethan, I still don’t feel so good and it’s hard for me to get out. You know?”
“Oh sure listen I’m sorry for asking just forget about it.” He said all this fast, running the words together. All he wanted to do now was back out, and drive away with as much of his dignity still intact as possible.
Smiling at his obvious discomfort, Brittany thought for a moment. “Although,” she began, “You did save my life last night. I guess a meal or a cup of coffee is the least I could do.”
Realizing she was teasing him he replied, “Actually, it was Mrs. Watson and Trixie who saved you, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Caught off guard by not knowing who Mrs. Watson and Trixie were, she was speechless for a moment. Shaking her head at the mystery she put her hands on her hips and asked him, “Well?”
“Well what?” He asked.
“You’re not very good at this are you?” She said, rolling her eyes. “Is it going to be dinner or a cup of coffee?”
“Oh,” he said laughing out loud.
Brittany was surprised at how nice it sounded.
“Both, actually, and I promise it’s a place you can go without being bothered. Its close too.”
“Ok then,” she said, surprised that she was going along with this. “When?”
“I’m on duty tonight, but I’m off Tuesday and Wednesday, if either of those are all right?” He wasn’t feeling so confident now as everything started to sink in.
“Tuesday it is. About?” She said, trying to pull the time out of him.
“Seven”, he added quickly, “Seven o’clock.”
“Great, it’s a date,” she said, and closed the door.
He watched her walk up the sidewalk and disappear around the corner of the house before starting the van and backing down the drive. As he pulled into light traffic and headed towards his townhouse, he thought, I have a date with Brittany Stephens. He opened the window and let the cold air blow in. It had been a hard day’s night, and he had only gotten a few hours sleep on his sister’s couch. His next shift started in a little over three hours, but what the hell, he thought; I have a date with Brittany Stephens.