Some time later, Katrina was a bit better. She bathed her face with cold water and took a dampened paper towel to the back of her neck. Slowly, she gained control of her overtaxed nerves and unsettled innards. Katrina looked at herself in the mirror. It showed her face clearly...red and splotchy with the stress and the recent upsurging of food. She bathed her face once more, then reached for her handbag to repair her looks with makeup. It wasn’t there; she must have left it at the table.
With a sigh, Katrina realized she had best get back before Gavin stormed the place to make sure she wasn’t sneaking out the back window or some other equally ridiculous thing. Again she wondered what he wanted of her and worried what the connection with Charleston really was. She couldn’t imagine the two of them being friends. The difference between them was too great, unless Charleston had changed a lot since she left. She also felt Charleston wouldn’t have had the money to employ Gavin as his lawyer. It had to be some other connection, but she couldn’t imagine what it could be. She shook her head in wonder.
Katrina took a dry paper towel and patted her face. She castigated herself again for leaving her handbag on the table. She couldn't even add a little lip gloss. Oh well, it was his fault she was here, and also his fault she was sick to her stomach. He'd have to pay by being embarrassed about her looks. Taking a deep breath, she gathered what shreds of courage she still possessed and left the restroom.
She walked back toward the table where she had left Gavin. He wasn't there. Neither was her purse. Panic shook her. Had he left her? How would she get home? She didn't have her purse for cab fare, or her keys to get into her house. She turned, looking for Gavin in the direction of the Maître d’s stand. He wasn't there, either. What was she going to do? She hoped he’d at least paid for dinner, and not left her with the bill. Without her purse, she’d be washing dishes for a week to pay for this dinner.
The Maître d' caught her eye and came over to her solicitously.
"Madam, your husband has just gone to bring the car 'round front. My humble apologies if it was the dinner that has upset Madam. Please just sit here until your husband returns." He led the way to a small gilt chair near his stand.
Katrina, still weak from her ordeal, tried to say something to correct the Maître d's mistake about Gavin being her husband. The Maître d' apparently thought she was trying to apologize for becoming ill. He held up his hand to hush her and said comforting words to keep her from worrying about causing a kerfluffle in his establishment. It was of small importance to him. Would Madam not distress her pretty head about such small matters, please, and simply accept his humble apologies for any distress their food may have given Madam?
Gavin came in just then, effectively stopping her from additional attempts at correcting the mistake of identity and the cause of her indisposition.
His face marked by worry and concern, Gavin relaxed visibly at seeing her seated on the chair. Between Gavin and the Maître d', Katrina was practically carried out the door and put into the car, where she found her handbag on the dash in front of her. She grabbed it quickly and clutched it to her, feeling a little more secure. Gavin strode quickly around and got in, starting the motor, and pulling out into traffic.
"Are you all right now?" His voice was gruff.
"Yes, I think so." She looked out the window.
Suddenly, she giggled and looked over at him.
Gavin looked at her with surprise. “What?”
"The Maître d' thinks that you’re my husband. If he only knew, right?" She giggled again, the nervous sound filling the air.
"I don't think that would be so bad, do you?"
Shocked, Katrina looked at him wide-eyed. She lapsed into silence, overwhelmed at his reaction to having someone think he was shackled to a dismally dressed non-entity...a little dab of a girl such as herself.
She turned back to look out the window, not really seeing anything they were passing.
They were both quiet for a time, the streets slipping past with his expedient driving. They were nearly to her home.
"Kerfluffle,” Katrina said. “I've never heard the word before. Kerfluffle,” she repeated, trying it out, seeing how it felt on her tongue. “I take it that it means some sort of trouble? That's me, for sure. The world's biggest kerfluffle."
"Where did you hear it?" Genuine curiosity filled Gavin's voice, and she glanced at him.
"The Maître d' said not to worry about making a kerfluffle in his establishment, as it was of very little importance to him. Does it mean trouble or disturbance?" Katrina looked at Gavin's profile as he continued to drive. She looked away as he spoke.
"Either one's close enough. Who said you were any trouble, though? Surely the Maître d' wasn’t that rude."
"No, he was very polite to me. It was Charleston who always told me how much trouble I was. How stupid I was. How inexperienced I was." She paused, musing over Charleston’s various words for her. "I don't think I was much good to anyone. Not even to myself." She made a little sound that was half giggle, ending with a sob.
"Oh, Katrina." Gavin's hand found hers in the darkness and his strength flowed into her. "Please, Little One, don't believe the things he said about you." He lifted her hand to his lips, his eyes still on the road ahead. He replaced her hand and patted it gently as he let go of her. The electricity between them almost crackled.
She watched him from under her lashes, wondering once again what he wanted of her and how much more pain she would have to endure before he went away and left her alone.
Somehow, she couldn't decide if the pain would stop or just begin with that separation. And deep within herself, Katrina was afraid to learn what the answer to that question would be.