First Date

by Maxine Mayer 8/28/99

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am acting like myself.

Imitating myself.

Instead of taking aside this surprising, exciting, explosive man and simply talking to him - finding out why he’s here, for example - I am pretending to be me.

Rather than admitting that this man’s golden skin and infant-soft hair and smoldering eyes and lanky body elicit a sexual response from me, I’ve put on my “me-mask” and gone into overdrive.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Later, after I’ve discovered the truth about his sudden arrival in my life, I watch Ray Kowalski settle into a slouch on his side of the booth in the Chinese restaurant I’ve taken him to for “a bite” and wonder if I’ve lost it, become unhinged, after all.

What am I doing?

I’ve selected a Chinese restaurant in order to impress this man with my command of the language. I must be mad.

Unfortunately for my vanity, Ray grabs the menus, tosses them back into the hands of our startled waitress and asks me, “Specials, Fraser?” And without waiting for my reply he adds, “Two of them veggie plate specials, with egg drop soup, egg rolls, and a large side of spare ribs -“ he turns to me, “fer the hound, Fraser -“ and back again to the waitress - “wrap ‘em up to go.”

”That won’t be necessary, ah… Ray,” I interpose.

“Nah, no trouble at all, at all - we’ll bring ‘em outside to - what’s his name, again? Diefenbaker? yeah, that’s right, ya call him ‘Dief’ fer short, dontcha - before they get cold.”

“Thank you kindly,” I reply finally, for the moment both flustered and pleased with this man’s generous consideration for my wolf.

“That’s what friends are for, right, Fraser? An’ Dief’s a friend a yours, an’ any friend a yours is a friend of mine - like that. We ain’t just a duet - we’re a trio.”

He blasts me with a smile that nearly knocks me out of the booth.

I’m suddenly so frightened I have trouble breathing.

And not frightened enough. Not nearly enough.

I murmur nonsense syllables. “Duet, trio - no end to your musical references, is there, ah… Ray?”

“Ya gotta get usta callin’ me ‘Ray’,” he tells me patiently. “People gonna think somethin’ ain’t kosher if you say ‘ah’ every time you say my name!”


“It is my name, ya know.”

“What is?” I ask.

“Ray. Ray’s my real name.” He laughs. I swallow. “One of dem well-known cosmic coincidences we got goin’ here in Chicago. Ya musta heard about them, up in Canada?”

I’m aware that he’s joking, teasing me, trying to lighten our burden of… newness. It was all so much easier for me during the day while we were working, constantly on the move. Now, however, I discover that my usual fund of conversation has dried up. I barely manage to grunt a few words in response to his forays into the small-talk arena.

All the energy I brought to the charade of our day has dissipated. I feel spent, boneless.

He’s got me.

He’s got me.

I worked with Ray Vecchio for two years and never once ran out of boring anecdotes to tell. Never felt anything but in control of every situation, of him, and of myself.

One day with this man and I’m so utterly out of my own charge that I believe I’ll never take the reins again….

I ought to be more frightened but instead I’m delighted.

I trust this… mesmerist… with my self. I shake my head and he notices.

“Fraser. Fraser. Fraser. Fraser?”

“Yes, Ray?”

“Fraser, come home! Yer miles away. Yer soup’ll get cold. Eat up,” he encourages. Obediently, I take my spoon and begin to eat. “Good, good. Yer getting’ the hang a things.”

“What things, Ray?”

“Listenin’ to what I tell ya. Doin’ it, lickety-split. Like that.”


“Well, I still got my work cut out fer me. Gotta break ya a that ‘ah’ business.”

I smile. “Won’t you leave me a bit of individual liberty, Ray?” I ask, surprised at my forwardness.

“Nah, what for? We’re a duet, remember? First and foremost, a duet. No individual liberty allowed.”

“So, it applies to us both equally, then - your theory?”

“’course! You break me in, I break you in. Even Steven.” Another smile. Conspiratorial, this time, I believe. “Gotta make it look like we been together a long time. So we hafta work fast at this partnership thing.”

“I see.” Then I add without a moment’s pause, “Any ideas to speed up the process?”

“Lots. But they won’t work wid you.” He waves one hand in a small circle. “Not yer fault. Just the way things are. The way you are. Don’t worry, Fraser, we’ll make it up as we go along. Instinct. What I’m good at.”

“But not my forte -“

“So I’ll improvise an’ you’ll think things out. It’ll work. We’ll mesh. Don’t worry.”

“I’m not worried - about that.”

When he doesn’t respond I add, “Our ‘meshing’ doesn’t seem to be the problem. I believe we have other things to worry about… ” and I’m astonished at my own boldness. I’m actually perpetrating innuendo….

He’s got me, all right.

“See, like right now. Yer waitin’ fer me to ask what other things we got ta worry about, but I’m not gonna ask that.”

“You won’t?”

“Nope. Yer the kinda guy who’ll tell me when yer ready. And ya ain’t ready, not yet.” He flips his wrist. “So I won’t ask. I’ll wait. I can do that. Wait.” His eyes narrow and for a moment I fear we’ve already gone too far, that he will speak and I’ll deny and something terrible will have occurred. But he merely says, “I’m right, ain’t I? Ya ain’t ready to really talk ta me yet, are ya, Fraser?”

I relax. Ray’s instincts are good. I tell him, “No. Not yet. But you’ll certainly be the first to know when I am.”

“Oh yeah! I like dat! The first to know! Great! Greatness!” His joy is simple, beautiful. I stare at him, enthralled.

He picks up my fork, points to my plate, hands my fork to me and says, “Dig in, Fraser. Gotta keep yer strength up. I can tell already you’ll need every ounce ya got!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When the waitress brings over the spareribs he ordered for Diefenbaker, Ray grabs the bag and tells me, “I’ll take ‘em out ta yer wolf. He’s the other one’s gotta get usta me.” And he’s gone.

I put down my fork and breathe deeply. I rub my forehead and let out a sigh.

In my mind, I ask Ray Vecchio what has he done to me, leaving me with this man. This incredible golden man. This… temptation.

If Ray Vecchio knew, he’d never have left, I’m sure. He’d have turned over heaven and earth not to leave me alone with such a person. To protect me from myself, as he tried to do with Victoria. To save me from this Ray, as he tried to save me from Victoria.

I often wondered how much Ray Vecchio guessed about me. Now, for the first time, I’m certain he guessed everything.

And left without saying a word.

I smile. If he found out about Ray Kowalski, my Ray would be back in a heartbeat and drag me away in an instant.

Protect and save. Yes, Ray Vecchio would do that. Not for his own sake but for mine.

Already, though, I know it’s too late. Nothing anyone can do now will protect me or save me from the temptation that is Ray Kowalski.

He’s got me.

In local parlance, he’s got me good.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“I never seen such a grateful animal,” Ray remarks as he slips back into the booth. Gratitude is a virtue I’ve never noticed in Dief but I don’t say so.

Our tea arrives and I serve us both. “The tea here is quite good. Authentic. Imported, I believe.”

“Thanks. So, tell me more about what we do to have fun, Fraser,” Ray requests, resuming eating but with his eyes on my face. His eyes twinkle. No doubt he’s remembering our day.

I consider for a moment. “Aside from work, eating out together, occasionally spending an evening with Ray’s - with the Vecchio family - not much, I’m sorry to say.”

“It’s a start,” he replies philosophically, nodding. “We can up the pace.”

“How, Ray?” I ask, carefully refraining from prefixing his name with ‘ah.’

“We could take in a movie, once in a while. What kinda movies ya like, Fraser?”

“Foreign films, mostly, I’m afraid. French, Italian. Occasionally, something from Sweden. I’m sorry -”

“Why ya sorry? We’ll trade off. You pick, then I pick. Deal?”

“That seems equitable. What sort of films do you like?”

“Old ones,” he tells me without a moment’s hesitation.

“I don’t follow.”

“Old - like - classics. ‘Casablanca,’ ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ I dunno, ‘Rocky,’ like that.”

“I’ve never seen ‘Rocky,’ although I’ve heard good things about it. But the others you mentioned are wonderful.”

“See, I tol’ ya it’d work out, Fraser,” he asserts with a smile. “We’re doin’ good. Great, even. We’ll have ‘em all fooled, inside a week.”

“Is that important to you, Ray?”

“Sure. Ain’t it important ta you? Gotta protect Vecchio. The whole world knows he hangs out wid a Mountie. If we don’ hang out, people‘ll start askin’ questions. We don’ want no questions.”

“I see.”

And I do.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

He’s protecting Ray Vecchio’s cover and by extension, his own. He’s assessed every aspect of his work and drawn intricate, inevitable conclusions.

In order to do his job he’s willing to put up with a Mountie who makes him wait to hear what’s on his mind. A man he can’t get close to in the ways he’d ordinarily attempt with another officer, a new partner. Cruising for women together, I presume. Drinking in bars. Perhaps other activities that Ray knows won't happen with me. Going to the track. Playing pool…. I find that I have difficulty even imagining just what another man and Ray might share….

Yet he’s willing to tolerate me, work hard at making our partnership a reality rather than simply a cover, invent a bond that he believes couldn’t really exist between two such dissimilar beings. To do his job.

All things admirable, all things perfect.

All things… calculated. Cold.

Ray Kowalski’s a fine police officer who will make a fine partner and might even become a loyal friend of a sort, in time. But no more than that…. Not with me.

My silence lengthens until Ray is finally driven to ask, “What? Whaddid I say?”

“Nothing. You’ve said nothing wrong.”

“So, why’d ya clam up like that an’ get all quiet and scary and… long-eyed?”


“Yeah, long-eyed, like yer starin’ at somethin’ far away,” he explains impatiently, no doubt wondering why I don’t understand his meaning immediately. Evidently, he’s heard I’m smart as well as straight-laced and close-mouthed about personal matters with strangers.

“I am. Staring at something far away,” I reply slowly.


“My life.”

He leaps. “Ya don’ like the look of it?”

“I’m sorry to say that I don’t, Ray.”

There. I’ve told him what’s on my mind, insofar as I’m able.

More than my Ray ever knew.

That should satisfy this Ray’s hunger for getting through to me. His yearning after verisimilitude.

He probably believes I’d have told Ray Vecchio every thought in my head without hesitation….

Then, without warning, and with a solicitude and sweetness shocking in its intensity, he pleads, “Let me make it up ta ya, Fraser. Whatever’s botherin’ ya about yer life. Gimme a chance.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Indeed, I don’t like the look of a future as partner to a man who tolerates my presence for professional reasons. Who’s happy that I’m going along with a charade not of my own making, because it fits in well with his own plans. A man who is so great a chameleon that I mistrust not simply his words but the very emotions he exhibits.

I know I ought to be grateful that Ray Kowalski is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect Ray Vecchio’s cover, but I am not.

I am not grateful.

I am miserable.

Still, I reflect, where there’s time, there’s hope.

While I wait, I can bask in his beauty, suffer the urgency of my sexual attraction to him with equanimity. I can… hope. I don’t need to look very deep inside my heart to discern what it is that I’m hoping for….

At least he’s near.

According to Ray Kowalski’s plans, he’ll always be near.

That has to be a good thing….

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yes, it certainly is a good thing.

Because when he drops me off at the Consulate I anticipate the loss of his presence immediately. I feel cold. Blasted by the cold of his impending absence.

So his being near, us being a “duet,” must certainly be a good thing.

As was Victoria’s nearness a good thing….

So much for my integrity which apparently exists only when I am not tempted….

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ray gets out of the car to say goodnight. Dief nuzzles his hand and Ray squats down and pets my wolf, squeezing and releasing the strong muscles and thick fur of Dief’s flanks. Dief tongues Ray’s face and Ray grimaces, grins, shuts his eyes and opens them again to look up at me.

“You might not like me, but yer wolf sure does!” he tells me with a laugh.

“It’s not that I don’t like you -“ I begin.

Ray pats Dief hard and stands. “I know, Fraser. I know. Jus’ kiddin’ - don’ take everythin’ I say so serious. Lighten up.”

“I’m sorry, Ray. People tell me that I take things literally when it’s inappropriate. I’ll try to… curb that tendency.”

“It’d make things easier all around, Frase,” he agrees. I notice that for the first time he’s shortened Fraser to Frase and I’m absurdly pleased. Perhaps as pleased as this man was when I first called him Ray.

Then I remember what torture I’m facing and my pleasure is at an end.

I consider what to say next. Finally I ask softly, “Will you want my services tomorrow, Ray? As liaison on your cases?”

“Dontcha go bein’ that way, Fraser!” he retorts angrily, instantly alert to the spirit of my words. “We’re partners now. I thought ya agreed to that!”

“Yes, I did -“

“You worked every one a Vecchio’s cases wid him, right? When ya got time off from this joint?” He tosses his head to indicate the Consulate.


“So that’s what yer gonna keep on doin’ an’ I don’ want any more a them kinda questions from ya, either.”

“All right, Ray.”

He shakes his head. At last he tells me, “All right. I’ll pick ya up tomorrow mornin’ - seven sharp. We’ll get breakfast. That okay wid you?”

I nod.

He goes back around to the driver’s side of his car. “Bring the wolf wid ya,” he orders.

I nod again.

Ray gives me one last look. I wonder whether I’m reading his expression correctly. He appears to be hurt by our last exchange. Which would mean he cares how I feel, sympathizes with what I’m going through….

The impulse to believe that, to believe in him, surges up again - the great temptation that I must resist.

To believe in him would be wrong. And dangerous. I must resist the impulse…. I cannot afford to make that mistake….

Ray gets into his car and drives off and I watch his departure until I can no longer see his vehicle. I continue to stare long-eyed at the emptiness in the distance after he’s well and truly gone.

I shiver.

I turn, finally, and go into the Consulate.

I wonder how much of myself I’ll be able to muster to bring to this relationship. What degree of fortitude I’ll manage to retain…. What measure of distance I’ll be strong enough to defend….

And what my future holds.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ F i n i s ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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