"I have the pleasure of..."
There was some hesitation.
"... sharing his bed." She finished the sentence, and continued "I get to lay next to him every night."
Friday night we were invited to a friend's 40th birthday party. My friend had just come back from a surprise trip to Paris with her husband - and her dearest friends were throwing her a party when she returned. The house was filled with all sorts of people - younger and hip. Older and refined. Middle aged and friendly. No children. The liquor bar was busy, the exquisite food table was not. The music was drowned out by friendly chatter.
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted, glasses placed into our hands and introduced to lovely people. A middle aged, handsome man chatted with Derek. I joined the conversation.
Paul was a good friend of the birthday girl. He had done all the tile work in both this house and their Lake House. He was a construction kind of guy. Down to earth. Likeable.
A young lady walked up beside him, and Paul introduced her.
"This is Ashlee."
She was young. Barely in her twenties. Probably his daughter.
We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. I learned that she was an interior designer. She'd grown up in Singapore and was well traveled. She fidgeted and touched her hair as we spoke.
Derek asked - "So, how do you know Paul?" gesturing to the stone-worker.
"I have the pleasure of..." she looked down and then up at my eyes again "sharing his bed". She forced a smile and struggled to find words. "I get to lay next to him every night."
Was she his girlfriend? Is that what she was getting at? He probably hadn't made it official, but was enjoying all the benefits of having a doting young woman at his disposal.
I didn't let the words hang in the air long. It was already uncomfortable. I smiled, touched her arm and moved on to other conversation.
But, those words hung with me after the party was over. The awkwardness for her at that moment. She had settled. I could sense the disappointment and the difficulty in finding a label for their relationship.
Some people say they don't need commitment or labels for their relationships. But I really don't believe that. I believe every man and every woman really want something significant. True connection. Something more than just physical. We all want soul-satisfying relationships. Ashlee did. I could see it in her eyes.
This couple had settled for something less. They're playing a sort of Russian Roulette of the heart. Risky business. And all for what? Bragging rights? They'd been unconventional. But at what cost?
I think the price is more than she can afford. And, in that moment - when she looked down - she was aware of it. I think we all were.