The champagne tasting was about to begin. Near the front of the room there was a sea of people who were clustered together waiting for the first pour. Arriving a few minutes late, I made my way through the crowd to get a glass.
“Here you go, Miss,” said a forgettable looking 20-something man.
“Thanks,” I said and went to stand in far corner.
“Would you like a chair?” said the young man again and I realized he had followed me to where I was standing.
“Yes, thank you. That is very thoughtful of you,” I said, turning to look at him and realized he was focused on making eye contact and smiling at me. I gave a half smile.
As he walked away to get the chair, I didn’t think anything of it. The first pour was finally starting and a very well dressed French man began talking about the Champagne region in France. This man was mesmerizing.
“Excuse me, Miss. Here’s your chair,” said the young man smiling as he opened the folding chair. Others turned their gaze from the French man to the young man.
“Thanks so much,” I whispered and sat down.
“You know, I can tell you about champagne, too,” he said in my ear.
“OK, maybe after this man is done talking,” I said politely as I didn’t want to hear about champagne from an American college kid.
The young man disappeared and I could give my full attention to the French man. He was talking about Reims and showed everyone a map of the region with wineries included. There were members of his entourage who were there, too, speaking in thick accents about their wineries.
We were now on the third pour when the young man tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Here try this brie,” as he held up a black plastic tray that had brie on it in one hand and a toothpick cup in the other.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said as I was now wondering why he kept on coming over to me. With my champagne flute in hand, I moved further to the corner to set more of a boundary for the last three pours. After the cheese was passed around, the French man began again.
“And, if you are in Paris, and you like champagne, visit Épernay. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site,” said the French man commanding everyone’s attention as chatter stopped and people were focused on this champagne.
“So, what’s your name?” I heard in the silence of the crowd.
I turned around to see the young man holding an empty cheese tray right beside me.
“It’s Betty and yours?” I said lying through my teeth.
“Ryan. Hey, how old are you? I’m 24.”
“I’m a lot older than you.”
“Do you like younger guys?”
“I’ve never gone out with a guy as young as you, not even when I was 24,” the champagne was talking and now, everyone was laughing and talking in the group. I wondered if they heard that.
“Maybe we could go out sometime and you could try it,” he said confidently.
“Sure, I guess I’m an accidental cougar but I doubt we have anything in common,” I said.
We exchanged numbers and within two days of dull texting, my stint as an accidental cougar ended as quickly as it began. I wish I had gotten the French man’s number instead.
Short story by L.B. Lewis for June 3, 2016. Copyrighted. All rights reserved.