Now on to the post at hand. I was reading over something I wrote in one of my manuscripts and thinking about how I felt when I wrote it, which led me to question how our mood bleeds into our writing, or vice versa.
Here’s the passage that inspired this post:
Kate turned to look out her office window. Early shades of winter were descending upon the city. Normally it was her least favorite season, but this year it seemed fitting. The world felt cold and dark already anyway.
I wrote this at a really bleak point in my own life. I was mourning the death of someone I loved, and I couldn’t imagine feeling a light within myself again for a long time.
However, it’s two years later now and my days are filled with sunshine and blue skies. Both literally (thank you early spring!) and figuratively. I’m in love with a man who has brought me back to life, and it feels fantastic.
I used to enjoy writing about characters who were eluded by love, but now I find it more difficult to get into their heads. I want to tell them to just hold out a little longer, love is only around the corner.
Now I enjoy writing about meeting that special someone and falling deeply, madly in love, because that’s where I am in my life. I go back and read what I wrote during my darker days, and I’m genuinely surprised by some of the things I wrote. Was I really that sad?
Yes, I was, and it produced some terrific writing. Can I still be a good writer when I’m happy or are the best writers depressed and reclusive? Certainly some of the greats fit that bill.
I like to believe that my writing abilities are strong enough to overcome my insane happiness in my real life when it comes time to sit down and write something sad or angry. When I write about something, I usually channel events in my own life that made me feel that way. Sometimes I worry that going back to those times will somehow threaten my current state of bliss, somehow poison my emotions. Isn’t that what we all do though – write from experience? I think there’s a little piece of us in everything we write, however small.
So, to all you writers out there, I wonder…do you have to be in the same mood as the characters you are writing? Do you draw on your own memories to put yourself inside their heads?]]>
“One…two…three! Open your eyes,” Carrie says excitedly.
I muffle a gasp as my eyes adjust to the sight of myself in the mirror. My naturally straight blonde hair is shellacked into tiny corkscrew curls. And my makeup. There simply aren’t words.
“It’s lovely,” I say, pasting on a smile.
“That means she hates it,” Reed says dryly as she sprays her own mess of curls.
“No, I didn’t say that,” I say, fingering a lock that has fallen in my face.
“You look fabulous,” Carrie says, stepping back to admire her work. “The men are going to want to eat you alive!”
Nothing about that sounds appealing. I attempt to remove some of the dark gray eyeshadow with a swipe of my finger.
“Stop, you’ll smear it,” Carrie says. “Speaking of eating you alive, we have something for you!”
Carrie runs into the bedroom attached to the bathroom we’re all crowded into while Reed continues to fluff her curls. I catch Reed’s eyes in the mirror as I attempt to tone down my curls by smoothing my hands over the top from root to tip. She gives me a sly smile. I know she’s loving every minute of this.
Truth is, this bachelorette party is more for Reed and Carrie than me. I would have been happy going out for a nice dinner and drinking wine in our pajamas back at home afterwards. But no, Reed and Carrie insisted we have an all-girls beach weekend, complete with bar crawl.
“This,” Carrie says, holding up what appears to be a candy necklace, “should have gone on before we did your hair. I’m afraid we’ll mash it down putting it on. Reed, help me.”
I have no idea why a candy necklace is a part of my outfit for the night, but I have a feeling I’m not going to like the answer. “What is this for,” I ask as Carrie and Reed position themselves on either side of me.
As they stretch the necklace between them and attempt to get it over my hair without it touching my crisp curls, Reed says, “It’s for a little game we’re going to play. Don’t worry about it for now.”
In the mirror, I see Reed and Carrie exchange a knowing glance before they burst into laughter. They’ve already taken a couple of shots of vodka, which might be why my hair and makeup ended up prostitute-esque.
“Here, drink up,” Reed says handing me my wine glass.
I don’t want to get too drunk too quickly tonight, but I did agree to the Chardonnay if they’d quit harassing me to take shots. I dutifully take my glass from Reed’s hand and drink a long sip.
“What are you wearing tonight?” Carrie asks as she applies eyeliner in the mirror.
“Oh, I’m so excited. I got something new,” I said, raising to go into the bedroom.
“I hope it fits over your hair,” Carrie yells from the bathroom as I open my suitcase.
I unzip the built-in garment bag portion of my luggage and remove the hot pink dress I bought last week at Bloomingdale’s. Toting it into the bathroom, I say, “Tada,” and hold it up for the girls to see.
Blank stares are all I get in response.
“Aubrey,” Reed says in a tone that I know really says bless her heart.
“What,” I ask, looking back at the dress. “It’s practically fuchsia. You told me to pink out something exciting.”
“Honey, that didn’t excite anyone but the salesgirl who cashed the commission check,” Carrie says. “It covers you clear from your throat to your knees.”
“It’s okay,” Reed says, taking the dress from my hand. “I knew we couldn’t trust you to buy something appropriate for a real bachelorette party. So, I swung by the mall and grabbed something before we left town.”
My stomach does somersaults at the thought of what Reed might have picked out for me. She’s currently in a black sequin top with a v-neck that dips down to her navel and a white skirt so short I can almost see enough to verify my belief that she’s not wearing underwear.
Now the wine doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. I take a gulp before Reed returns to the bathroom with her purchase.
This time the gasp comes out before I can stop it. It would take multiple bottles of wine to get me to wear the top Reed is holding before me.
“I can’t wear that,” I say, shaking my head vehemently.
“Oh, come on now,” Reed says as if talking to an irrational child, “it’s a good four inches longer than mine.”
“You don’t mean that’s a dress?” Suddenly the top I wouldn’t even consider wearing with jeans was a dress.
“Of course it’s a dress, silly. Now don’t be ridiculous. I made sure it would come down almost to your knees so you wouldn’t protest.”
“I don’t know how short you think I am, but the bottom of that dress, if that’s what you want to call it, won’t even be in the same zip code as my knees. And it doesn’t even have a neckline because nothing is anywhere near my neck. What kind of bra are you supposed to wear with that anyhow?”
“None,” they both declare in unison before bursting into fits of laughter.
“Very funny, you two. Now where did you put my dress?”
“Well, about that. You know how klutzy I am. I might have accidentally spilled some cranberry juice on it when I was making my cocktail,” Carrie says.
“You what?” I’m completely panicked. I didn’t bring anything else I could wear out tonight, and there’s no way I’m completing the stripper look by putting on that thing Reed bought with this hair and makeup.
I realize Carrie and Reed are going to great efforts to stiffle laughter. Relief washes over me. They must have been joking about ruining my dress.
“Very funny. Now where’s my dress?”
They exchange looks I can’t quite read.
“Seriously, where is it? I can’t wear that,” I say motioning towards the red thing Reed is still dangling from a hanger.
“So, the word “accident” might have been a tad misleading,” Carrie says, trying not to giggle. “I might have purposely spilled something on that horrible frock so you’d have to wear this fabulous little dress Reed got you.”
I can hardly breathe I’m so angry. Teeth clenched, I look from Carrie to Reed and back again.
As crazy as Carrie and Reed can be, they’ve never tried to drag me into their world. I can’t believe they’d ruin a brand new dress to get me to dress up like a whore for my bachelorette party.
“She needs another glass of wine,” Reed tells Carrie. “Go get her one.”
I still haven’t spoken because I can’t find the words. Miss Delilah has always preached that you should say nothing if you can’t say something nice. So, I silently fume, clutching my wine glass in my hand so tight I’m afraid it’ll break.
As soon as Carrie can be heard in the kitchen opening the refrigerator, Reed stands before me and puts her hands on my shoulders. “I swear to you that I didn’t tell her to do that. You know how she can get. We both just want you to have a good time. This is the one time in your life you get to be wild and crazy. Take a deep breath and let’s just go with the flow.”
I can’t hold it in any longer. “She just ruined a $450 dress! And there is no way I’m wearing that,” I say, pointing to the red heap on the counter.
“Deep breaths,” Reed says. “Here,” she says, grabbing the wine bottle from Carrie who has reentered the bathroom, “let me refill your glass.”
I hold it out to her as instructed, thinking that perhaps another sip or two will help calm me before I say something I’ll regret.
No one understands why I’m friends with Carrie and Reed. Least of all Mitzi, Karin and Blair, who are in their own suite getting dressed.
I met Reed at a birthday party back in grade school. It was a pool party and she was diving backwards into the deep end. The parents were all enjoying cocktails at the other end of the yard, so I felt it was my duty to tell her that she could get hurt.
“You want to learn how,” she’d asked when I warned her that she could crack her head open.
I was drawn to Reed like a moth to a flame. I knew she’d burn me one day, but I couldn’t stay away.
Reed is everything I’m not: vivacious, loud, carefree and fearless. We got in trouble one time in high school. A teacher thought we’d been drinking. We hadn’t, we just couldn’t stop laughing. It happened all the time with Reed. She’d say or do something stupid and we’d get into fits of laughter we couldn’t stop.
I didn’t want to be Reed all the time, but sometimes it was nice to escape from my world of always saying and doing the right thing. It was fun not to care what anyone thought. As long as no one saw me doing it.
“I already looked through your suitcase. You didn’t bring anything else you can wear out for a night on the town. You’ll wear the red dress and look fierce,” Carrie says, breaking the silence in the room.
“At least try it on, then you can refuse to wear it,” Reed said, handing it to me.
I take another gulp of my wine and retreat to the bedroom. They were right; I have nothing else to wear. I want to want to wear the dress, to look sexy, but I don’t. I don’t want to be the bachelorette who makes a fool of herself drinking from phallic-shaped straws and making out with random strangers. That’s the kind of bride-to-be who wears this dress.
I wiggle the dress down over my hips and close my eyes as I turn to the mirror.
I’m shocked to find that it’s not the second skin I expected. It shows off my hips and cleavage I didn’t know I had.
I turn to see how bootylicious I am, but instead find that while the dress proves I have a butt, it doesn’t evoke images of Kim Kardashian. That’s sure to disappoint Reed, who I think aspires to that look.
“See, you look fabulous,” Reed says as she enters the bedroom after a small knock on the door I closed behind me.
Carrie bursts in behind her. “You’re so hot. I would do you!”
I feel the color flood to my face. It’s sort of flattering in an embarassing kind of way. I’ll never admit it to them, but there’s a tiny part of me that enjoys how I look right now and the attention it would likely provide later on, but it just seems distasteful. I’m nearly a married woman.
Besides, the other girls will be horrified. I might be able to get away with going out with Carrie and Reed like this, but not the other girls. What if they tell their mothers? Miss Delilah would faint if she saw me in this.
There’s a knock on the door, as if on cue.
“I’ll get it,” Carrie says, bouncing out of the room, the long dark waves of her hair trailing behind her.
“I can’t wear this,” I say, reaching for the zipper in back.
Reed’s hand closes over mine. “Yes, you can,” she says firmly. “Who gives a rip what Mitzi, Karin and Blair think? I know that’s what you’re worried about. You feel great in this, don’t you? I know you sure as heck look phenomenal.”
“It’s too much. What if they tell their mothers and it gets back around to Miss Delilah?”
“Then blame it on me. She already thinks I’m a drunken hussy,” she says, laughing as she fluffs my hair in the mirror.
“Just remember. Those there are all old married hags and they’re just green with envy that you still have this killer body and can wear this dress. Now go out there and show them what you’ve got,” Reed says, shoving me towards the door before slapping me on the backside like I’m a pitcher being dismissed from the mound.
I smile as I leave the room. That’s why I’m friends with Reed, because every once in awhile she rubs off on me, and I always end up having a great time.
Maybe tonight will be one of those nights.]]>
If you need to get caught up, here are the links for Parts 1-7: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8.
“Nice view –”
Before I can finish my sentence he has one hand behind my head and the other on the small of my back. His mouth crushes against mine, needy with traces of the tequila we were shooting earlier.
I stumble back against the stucco exterior of the high-rise. I only had a moment to take in the Atlantic Ocean sprawled in front of the building before he had me up against the wall.
A voice in my head tells me to pull away, but I tell it to shut up. It’s been months since a man has touched me like this, and I’m kind of enjoying the sensation of his tongue plunging inside my mouth.
I let out a groan as he tugs on my long hair, pulling himself closer against me, if that’s possible.
“Did I hurt you?” he asks, no trace of genuine concern in his voice.
“No,” I say, not recognizing my own voice, low and guttural.
Now I find it’s me putting a hand behind his head and pulling him closer.
It’s only seconds before his hand is under my shirt, making small circles on my back. It’s nearly a hundred degrees out but the goose bumps appear on my skin anyway.
Thoughts race through my head, the proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other, making my dizzy. I pull away an inch or so. “I never do this,” I say.
He makes a grunt I assume was meant to assure me he believes me, but it doesn’t.
The hand that was drawing quick circles on my back is on my thigh now. I know its destination, and I’m surprised I have no desire to resist.
The roar of the ocean is in my ears, or maybe it’s my own heartbeat. It grows louder as his hand slips under the thin layer of lace that separates naked skin from his touch.
I stumble backwards, unable to maintain my balance on my three-inch wedge sandals.
“You okay?” he asks, stepping towards me like a vulture eyeing its prey.
I nod my head and breathlessly say, “Yes.”
The dim lighting on the balcony reveals he has sandy blonde hair. I could have sworn it was brown in the bar. How many tequila shots did I have? I knew I should have stuck to the chardonnay.
I don’t have time to take in anything more before he has me backed against the wall again. The stucco is clawing into my back but I feel no pain. Only his mouth on mine again.
His hands are on either side of my head on the wall, his body pressed to mine. The sensation of his growing excitement against the inside of my hip makes me tingle. The feeling of being wanted hypnotizing.
As his tongue searches my mouth with greater intensity, I slide my hands under his shirt, running them along his back. Muscles grow tense beneath the surface at my gentle touch.
“Maybe we should take this party inside,” he slurs, pulling away. His eyes are dark and vacant, void of emotion.
The reality of coming home from a seedy beach bar to this guy’s condo begins a dull ache in my head.
Pounding on the door inside interrupts before I can answer.
“Fuck,” he says, raking a hand through sweaty hair. “Must be Austin.”
Shit. I left Carrie at the bar with his brother, Austin. Now if only I could remember my guy’s name.
I follow him in the open sliding glass door, white linen curtains billowing in the sea breeze. What was his name? Another city in Texas, some weird thing their parents have about their native roots.
“Dude, what the hell? Where’d you two go?” Austin asks, barging through the door that’s been opened.
Dallas! That’s his name. I let out a sigh of relief as Carrie stumbles in the room behind Austin.
“What are you two kids up to?” Carrie asks with a wink before tripping over her own feet and collapsing onto the couch.
“I was just showing Reed the view,” Dallas says, returning to my side and putting an arm around my shoulder to pull me closer.
“Bartender gave me a six-pack,” Austin says, holding up the proof of his bounty. “We were headed to the beach. You two coming?”
Dallas looks to me, raising an eyebrow as if to throw the question to me.
Thrilled to have an excuse to slow things down, I say, “Sure.”
Dallas’ hand finds mine in the elevator and our fingers lace. The gesture is sweet, although it’s only been mere minutes since his hand was pulling aside my panties.
I grab the Bud Light Austin is handing me and take a generous swig.
My heart is still pounding from the memory of Dallas’ hands on my naked skin when we begin our walk down the boardwalk into the inky black night. There’s a new moon and the only light on the deserted beach comes from the condos now a hundred yards away.
Austin tosses the six-pack in the sand and begins chasing Carrie across the beach to the right.
“No,” Carrie squeals as Austin catches up to her. I hear her giggles but can’t see her once she collapses into the sand.
Dallas is pulling me in the opposite direction, and I let him lead me towards the crashing surf.
“I’m glad you came back with me,” he says.
I catch a playful look on his face as he turns to face me and the condos. The light plays on his chiseled features, perfect lines forming his jaw.
“Now, where were we?” he asks, circling his arms around me to pull me closer.
His touch makes my skin tingle, and I decide behaving oneself is overrated.
I grab the back of his head with one hand and smother his mouth with mine. This time I’m the one who’s needy, plunging my tongue deeper and harder.
His hand is tugging down the top of my dress, slipping between the lace of my bra and my bare skin. Chills race across my body as he caresses and then grabs my breast in his hand.
I run a hand under his shirt, over his stomach and around his waist. I can feel muscles tighten and twitch at my touch.
I let out a low groan as he cups my ass with both hands and pulls my hips against his. He’s hard against me, and I feel the warmth between my own legs growing.
I know what’s next, but I won’t be the one to make the move. I run a hand through the hair on the back of his head, grasping the curly strands as I kiss him harder.
A hand slips under my dress and tugs at the lace resting on one hip. Just as I think he’s going to pull them off, he slips a finger underneath and runs it along my hip bone, tracing his way to my stomach and back again. I have no control as I shudder beneath his touch.
I nearly pull away so I can open my mouth to tell him to take me, when I feel his whole body stiffen against mine.
“Shh,” he says. “Someone is coming.”
We both freeze as a flashlight sweeps the sand fifty yards away. It’s a guard from the condo.
The light turns back towards the boardwalk and disappears.
I can hear Dallas breathing heavy next to me and work to control my own breathing. A minute of silence passes between us as we watch the light reappear near the boardwalk and bob up and down as the guard retreats.
“Reed,” I hear Carrie hiss from somewhere nearby.
I squint and still can’t see Carrie in the darkness.
“Reed, wake up.”
I feel a hand on my shoulder and realize it’s not Dallas standing next to me. It’s Carrie.
Struggling to adjust to the light, I look around and I’m not on the beach. I’m in the condo we rented for Aubrey’s bachelorette weekend.
“Some night last night, huh?” Carrie gushes, plopping down next to me on the bed.
Still attempting to separate the here and now from my dream, I mumble, “Apparently. My head is killing me.”
“That boy was so cute! I can’t believe I got stuck with his dorky brother. But boy did you hit the jackpot!” Carrie is beaming at me, far too awake for how drunk I think we got the night before.
Looking around the room at the scattered shoes and clothes from last night, I try to remember coming back to the room. The last thing I can picture is being on the beach when the security guard came around.
“Did we get in trouble for being on the beach? I remember there was a guard . . . . “ I squint in Carrie’s direction, light filtering in through the blinds behind her.
“No, silly. Just sort of ruined the mood and we decided to come home.”
Good. That means I didn’t have a random one-night stand after all.
“The boys are supposed to meet us out tonight,” Carrie continues. “I’m kind of hoping Austin bails, but I’m sure Dallas will show up for you.”
“Crap. Did we invite them? Tonight is Aubrey’s bachelorette. She’ll kill us when she gets here.”
“She should have known better than to send the two single girls a night early,” Carrie says with a smile.
As if on cue the doorbell rings. I turn to the clock on the bedside table. Eleven forty-seven. The other girls were due by lunch.
Well, let the fun begin. Right after I find an Advil . . .or three.]]>
I’ve been here under ten minutes and have already downed two glasses of champagne. Have you seen the size of a champagne flute? And then they don’t even fill it to the top.
All around me, women adorned in chic cocktail attire share stories of their recent honeymoon or affectionately pat pregnant stomachs.
I have died and gone to hell, otherwise known as an engagement party.
Watching Aubrey across the room, I remind myself to be on my best behavior. She’s so happy she’s literally glowing, her porcelain skin fit for a Neutrogena ad. I only had a few minutes with her before the crowds descended upon the large corner of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens reserved for the party. She was the happiest I’ve ever seen her.
She’s the only person in this world that tolerates me on a daily basis, so it’s the least I can do to observe this horrid ritual, dateless.
Chris still hadn’t called, and one look around the room tells me I won’t be meeting Prince Charming here. Although the crowd is full of men, they’re all dutifully standing by their woman’s side, no doubt as miserable here as I am.
As I swipe another glass of champagne from a tray floating by, perched on a tuxedoed waiter’s hand, Miss Delilah frightens me from behind.
“Reed, darling, don’t you think you should pace yourself?” Her voice is straight out of Gone with the Wind; although she would have been horrified to be told anything about her resembled the movie she considered to have ruined the rest of the country’s view of the South.
Continuing to hold the glass, but not daring take a sip, I reply, “Have you been watching me, Miss Delilah? I know you must be worried that I’ve come without a proper date in tow.”
“Well of course I’m worried dear. You are getting to be that age. . . .” She let her voice trail off at the end, as if Armageddon came next.
“Aubrey found happiness at the ripe old age of 25. I’m sure I will too.” I don’t believe it, and the look on her face tells me she doesn’t either.
“Yes, dear, well when was the last time you went out on a proper date?” She eyes me skeptically, as if she couldn’t imagine what sort of men I would go out with on a date.
Nervously shifting the champagne flute from one hand to the other, I consider my response. I’m not sure going out with someone I met online qualifies as a “proper date” with Miss Delilah. Not wanting to risk her fainting at the idea that I would meet a man off the internet, I reply, “I’m just picky, Miss Delilah. You taught me to be so discerning, I’m afraid none of the lazy boys I meet lives up to my expectations.”
“You know,” Miss Delilah said, taking my elbow and turning me towards the open bar at the other end of the garden, “I believe a couple of Nate’s friends have come without dates. And look, they enjoy a good bar. You’ll have something in common.”
The shot at my drinking habits stung a little. At least she hadn’t taken away my glass of champagne yet.
“I’ll be sure and meet them,” I say, hoping to appease her. Nate already dispelled any hopes I had of hitting it off with any of his stock broker buddies. One of them has a wife at home with a newborn. Another has a girlfriend who lived in New York, and the other is going through a nasty divorce.
“I’m going to see that the bride doesn’t need anything,” she says, patting my hand. I watch her move across the garden, stopping to greet each guest in her path. No one can work a crowd like Miss Delilah.
At a statuesque 5’10”, Miss Delilah is an imposing figure. Her perfect posture and tendency to lecture make her feel more like an etiquette instructor than your best friend’s mother. Her flawless skin, inherited by Aubrey, and impeccable taste in clothing make her seem timeless, as if she has stopped aging.
I feel like I am fifteen again every time I am around the woman. I love her, but she scares shit out of me.
Remembering the champagne in my hand, I down it. Time to go in.
I’ve decided I can’t be antisocial and alone all evening, so I join a nearby circle of people Aubrey and I went to grade school with. I wouldn’t consider any of them friends, but Aubrey is better at keeping in touch with people than I am.
“Reed,” a petite brunette named Charlotte coos as I approach, “how are you?”
“I’m just fabulous,” I say, plastering on my biggest smile, “and how are you? Pregnant I see.”
“Yes, she’s due next month,” Charlotte says, putting one hand on her protruding belly and the other on the shoulder of a tall sandy-haired man standing next to her. “Bill and I just couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Oh yeah, stretch marks and 3 a.m. feedings just sounded like the best thing that could ever happen to a person. I grit my teeth, willing myself to continue to smile. “Well, congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Charlotte says, still rubbing her belly.
I’ve never understood why pregnant women have this compulsive need to caress their stomachs. It’s not going anywhere; no need to constantly check to see if it’s still there.
Turning my attention away from Charlotte, I say hello to Mitzi and Karin, who were talking to Charlotte and Bill before I interrupted.
“I was just asking Charlotte if she’s chosen a name,” Mitzi says, filling me in on the conversation.
Looking to her husband and back, as if silently asking permission to reveal the big secret, Charlotte replies, “Madison Rose, but we’re going to call her Rose. It was Bill’s grandmother’s name.”
Calling kids by their middle name. Add that to the list of things I don’t understand. If you liked the name so much, why not make it the kid’s first name? Instead, the poor child will have to explain to her teacher and fellow students each and every year when roll is called for the first time that she goes by her middle name.
Mitzi and Karin are busy oohing and ahhing over the name.
“You know, we named Ava after Adam’s grandmother as well. I just love family names,” Karin says.
I mentally check out of the baby name session and grab another champagne flute as a waiter passes by. I don’t notice that the conversation has turned to me.
“Reed. . .”
“Oh, sorry. I got distracted by the bubbly for a moment. What were you saying?”
“Charlotte was asking what happened with Matt. We noticed you’re not wearing a ring.”
I hadn’t been prepared for this. Matt was my college sweetheart. He had proposed senior year, but when I wanted to move away for law school, he couldn’t understand. I gave the ring back and got a law degree instead.
“That didn’t work out,” I said, leaving out that it was none of their business. They already knew, of course. They were simply engaging in a friendly game of my-life-is-better-than-yours at my expense. The joke is on them though. I don’t have a baby screaming in the middle of the night, and I can still sleep with random strangers just for the hell of it.
“In that case, Mitch works with someone I just have to set you up with,” Mitzi said.
Is everyone trying to marry me off tonight? “As much fun as a blind date sounds like, I think I’ll pass.” I see the injured look on Mitzi’s face, so I continue, “I work all the time. I really don’t have time to date right now.”
Karin chimes in first. “I think it’s just super you’re so career-driven, but don’t you want to get married and have kids one day?”
Honesty is not always the best policy. Honesty will get me strange looks and will probably lead me to say something that will hurt the feelings of all three ladies. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but for Aubrey’s sake I’m trying to behave tonight.
“It’s just not a priority for me right now. I’m still young. I see myself getting married one day.”
“Just don’t wait too long,” Charlotte says with a smile, “that clock will start ticking.”
I knew what clock she meant. The biological one. The one all women are supposed to be born with that counts down to when they’re old and dried up and incapable of reproduction. Mine’s either missing or on mute.
I smile back as if I know exactly what she means. No need to tell her that I prefer being able to hop on a flight to Bali tomorrow without arranging a sitter or flying with an unruly infant.
The sound of metal on glass saves me from the conversation, and I look over to see Miss Delilah clinking her glass, ready to give a toast.
“Everyone if I can please have your attention.” She glances around the room, daring anyone to speak while she is commanding an audience. “First, I want to thank you all so very much for coming. My late husband, Gerald, rest his soul, would be so happy to see you all here tonight, celebrating the union of our beautiful daughter Aubrey to a fine young man like Nathaniel.”
I nearly let out a giggle. Nate hates being called Nathaniel. Not a chance he’ll ever correct Miss Delilah though.
“Next, I’d like to welcome Nathaniel to our family. I’m so glad you chose my little girl to fall in love with. But, what man could resist?”
Laughter filled the room as everyone nodded in agreement. Aubrey is the perfect catch for an up-and-coming stock broker from a ridiculously wealthy family.
“To Aubrey and Nathaniel,” Miss Delilah said, raising her glass to the room.
I drained my glass and excused myself from the group. No more talk of weddings and babies.
Thankfully the crowd has swollen to what appears to be a couple of hundred of guests. I don’t recognize the majority of them, but then they’re not really Aubrey’s friends. They’re Atlanta’s elite, men and women Miss Delilah knows from the dozen boards on which she sits. She generously donates her late husband’s fortune to their various causes, and they show up with engagement presents from Tiffany’s.
Having them here allows me to make an early escape while Aubrey and Miss Delilah aren’t looking. I’ll blame it on work if I’m caught.
I ditch my empty champagne flute and dart around the edge of the garden and out of sight.
I’ve survived the engagement party. Only four bridal showers, a bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner and wedding left to go before I’m done playing nice and wearing panty hose.]]>
Kate Dalton’s heart raced as she replayed the voicemail, listening for clues hidden somewhere in the deep, Southern tones of Jake Bailey’s voice. She missed most of what he said the first time. She was too busy celebrating that Jake had finally come to his senses and realized he couldn’t live without her.
“Hey Kate, it’s Jake. There’s something I really need to tell you before you hear it from someone else. Give me a call…please.” He was almost pleading at the end.
Her heart sank. Jake was getting married, she was sure of it.
How could he be getting married? A year ago, when they rekindled the relationship they’d had in college, she thought they were finally getting their happily ever after. It had only been six months since they’d broken up. How could he have met someone so fast? He was supposed to come back to her, just like he always had.
Surely Abby would have mentioned if she knew he was dating someone. Whenever they broke up, which had been more frequent than she would have liked over the years, they joked that they shared custody of Abby. They both knew Abby’s true loyalty lie with Kate, however.
Her stomach churned with an odd mixture of excitement and terror as she dialed his number and braced herself for news of his impending nuptials.
“Hey,” he said in an even tone she couldn’t read.
“Hey there, how are you?” she asked, hoping her voice didn’t shake.
“Are you sitting down?” he asked in a tone that seemed a little too serious to be about wedding bells.
“Well, I’m driving. So, yes. What’s up?” Come on. It’s like a Band-Aid, just rip it off and get it over with already.
“I know you said not to call, but this isn’t about us. I need to tell you something.” There was a pause before he continued, “After all these years, you deserve to hear it from me.”
His tone was so sincere. He had something he needed to tell her. She’d always been his confidant. Maybe it had nothing to do with marriage. After all, they’d only been apart for a matter of months.
Her heart fluttered, and she silently reminded herself not to get too excited just yet.
“Okay…” she said tentatively, waiting for him to go on.
“I don’t know how to say this…”
Oh, just get it over with, she pleaded with her mind.
“Kate, I have cancer.”
Suddenly it was as if all of the oxygen was being sucked from her car. Her surroundings went on mute and her whole body felt numb, yet incredibly heavy.
She thought perhaps he should have told her to pull over for this, yet she kept driving. As if continuing on her routine course home from work would somehow keep her world spinning.
“Are you serious?” A ridiculous reply, but she could think of nothing else to say.
Cancer? Jake was the picture of health and fitness. His 5’8” frame was solid muscle acquired through a lifetime of baseball and manual labor with his father’s company. No one could outwork him out on the baseball diamond when they were in college. Heck, they still couldn’t. He was only twenty-nine and he was as healthy as a horse. Or at least she had thought he was.
“Yeah, it’s stage three.”
“Well, what does that mean? What kind of cancer is it?” Kate was asking questions, but she wasn’t really processing any of the conversation.
“I have a tumor in my colon, but they’re going to treat it with chemo and radiation. I’ll be fine. I just wanted to tell you before you heard from someone else. I told a couple of the guys last night.” He said it all so matter-of-factly that she couldn’t believe they were really talking about cancer.
Kate probably should have pulled over, but she was close enough to her house that she reverted into auto-pilot. Compartmentalizing what he was saying, as Kate was prone to do when faced with emotional situations, she began asking every question she could think of. How did he find out? What were they saying? When were his treatments going to begin?
Kate had an uncle who had successfully fought leukemia and she’d spent a couple of years working in a children’s cancer hospital, so she became very scientific about it all.
“Seven years,” he said in response to her question about how long they thought the tumor had been growing.
Seven years? It was practically the entire time they’d known each other.
It wasn’t until they finally hung up, with a promise by Kate that the silent treatment was over and that she was there for anything that he might need, that she finally let it run through her mind. Jake had cancer. Healthy, athletic Jake, who she had spent the past six months trying to convince herself wasn’t her soul mate, had cancer.
As she slowed to a stop in her driveway, she realized she wasn’t exactly sure how she had gotten there. She had done so without shedding one tear though. She wasn’t going to cry because there was nothing to cry about. Jake was going to be fine, he had said so.
If she really believed that though, why did she feel as though she’d been punched in the stomach?
You can find more about this story here.]]>
As a little girl, I dreamed of my wedding day. My dress would be so big they’d have to cram it into the limo. The bridesmaids would wear pink and carry white roses. Four tiers of cake would greet my guests, complete with tiny pink roses.
Now I’m all grown up, and I hate roses. I’m not a huge fan of pink either. I’m too old for a gown that billows around me while I pretend I’m Cinderella for a day. Oh, and I’m not getting married, because the groom is gone.
My best friend once told me that when your dreams don’t come true, you have to get new ones or live a nightmare. He was right about the last part. The nightmares I have when I’m asleep are nothing compared to the one I live every day when I awaken.
The last thing Billy said to me was three little words. Ones I’d heard him say a thousand times.
I hate you.
Then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
The people around me look as though they’re in front of one of those fun-house mirrors that makes you short and round. The tears that fill my eyes make lines into curves, and I find myself unable to focus.
Then I hear Reverend Stone mumble something about how he prays that I will find another love. My grip on the black satin clutch in my lap grows tighter, and for a moment I consider heaving it in the direction of the too-thin, wrinkled old man who looks more like an undertaker than Billy’s childhood minister.
Billy’s mother reaches over from the chair to my left and pats my forearm, as if she can read my mind. Another sign that she knows what I’m thinking is the fact that she hasn’t let go, making it impossible for me to take aim at the Reverend from here.
You’d miss him, I can hear Billy taunt me. I’m not as good with my left arm, but I could probably make it. Heck, he’s only ten feet away.
Mrs. Carraway’s hand tightens on my arm, and I realize he’s moved on to her now.
“No grief is like that of a parent who loses a child,” Reverend Stone says, sounding genuinely sympathetic. Where was that empathy when he was talking about me? Just because I wasn’t in labor for nine hours with the guy doesn’t mean I won’t miss him.
Child birth. That’s what we were fighting about that night. Billy had started the baby talk again.
“Won’t you even discuss it?” he asked.
“No, I won’t. I’ve told you since the day I met you that I don’t want children. You’re the one who changed your mind.”
Billy stopped pacing back and forth in our tiny kitchen and slammed his beer down on the counter. “Did you ever consider that you might change your mind if you gave it some thought?”
His hair was disheveled from the heat we endured to be able to eat out on our porch and watch the sun set. Dark, curly strands stuck to his forehead, and I silently wished he’d keep his hair that length and not chop it off when he realized it was long enough to produce the curls he’d hated in childhood.
“I’ve thought about it my whole life, every time I see a baby screaming in a restaurant or a toddler kicking the back of my chair on a plane. I don’t want children, Billy.”
“You infuriate me,” he growled, running a hand through his hair to push it back. Now it stuck up in strange directions, but I found him sort of sexy in this state of aggravation, flushed with heat and anger.
I rounded the bar between us and sidled up to him, grabbing him around the waist to pull him closer. He loomed a full foot over my five-foot-three frame, refusing to put his arms around me. “Come on, do we have to talk about this now?” The smell of his cologne mixed with sweat intensified the stirring inside that had begun across the room.
Shoving away from me to grab his beer, Billy lowered his voice to say, “We’re getting married in three months, Taylor. I want to talk about it now.” He took a long swig before continuing, “Don’t you want something that’s part me and part you?”
“This apartment is part me and part you. I decorated the bedroom, you decorated the living room. This,” I said, motioning around us, “represents everything we are. We don’t need to raise a child and go through eighteen years of torture for that.” I was part kidding, but mostly serious. Kids are a lot of work, and I’m simply not cut out for it.
“How can that be enough for you, Taylor?” He picked up one of the thick, square plates on the counter from dinner and let it fall back down, which produced a loud clack as the heavy porcelain landed. “Dishes and throw pillows? That’s who we are?”
“No, silly, that photo of Lombardi over there after he gave the Number One speech,” I said pointing to the large black and white across the room, “that’s who we are. We’re the kind of people who have time to travel, who eat out every night in nice restaurants, and who can splurge on things like Super Bowl tickets, because we don’t have children.”
“And that’s really enough for you?” he said in a tone that bordered on disgust.
Where was this coming from? Neither of us had ever wanted children. He has one too many beers on the porch and suddenly I should be hauling around a bowling ball in my stomach and then spending the next eighteen years of my life sacrificing for someone else?
“Yes, Billy, it’s more than enough. It’s exactly what I want. I don’t need to spread my seed in order to feel like I’ve made my mark on this world. Just because you somehow feel like you’ve failed your father in running the business doesn’t mean you have to produce some male heir to make him proud.”
Then he said the three words he loved to say when he was drunk and not getting his way: “I hate you.”
I had ignored him, like I always did when he was drunk and feeling inadequate, and went to bed with a book. I knew he’d apologize the next day, maybe even bring flowers home after work.
Except he never made it back home that day.
Thinking about it again makes my blood boil. He changed his mind. He reneged on our plan, and I’m the one who has to spend the rest of my life feeling guilty.
I let him go to bed angry. He always drove too fast when he was upset. They said he couldn’t have seen the guy coming, but maybe if he’d been concentrating on the road instead of stewing over our fight on his way to work. Maybe if I’d convinced him to go into work late and settle our problems between the sheets that morning…
“Maybe” and “what if” seem to be the only words in my vocabulary these past few days.
When it was my turn to approach the dark hole in the earth and throw my little handful of dirt, I gritted my teeth and narrowed my eyes, wiping away the excess moisture with a black-gloved hand. Then, as I flung the red Georgia clay into the silence below, I quietly hissed those three little words I had been longing to say to Billy for days: “I hate you.”]]>
I firmly believe it takes seeing yourself through another’s eyes to be self-aware. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find someone who knows us better than we know ourselves. If we’re really lucky, that person loves what they find.
Call that person what you will – soul mate or maybe better half – but finding that person is how you discover yourself. It happens every day, all over the world. That connection is more pure, more honest, than any other in your lifetime. But what happens when it’s severed? When you wake up to find that person is gone?
Last year Billy taught me how to ski. I fell in love with it instantly, and I couldn’t wait to hit the slopes again. Sure, I fell down a lot, and I had a bruise on my backside, but it was great. I remember the wind in my hair and the rush of gliding downhill; it was such a high.
When we got home, I spent my entire paycheck on a new pair of skis and boots. On the way out of the store, I grabbed brochures for every ski resort within driving distance. It was barely winter, and I intended to ski every weekend until spring.
“What is that?” Billy had asked, staring at me blankly as I drug the skis into the living room, leaving a trail in the carpet as the tip of a pole traced my path from the front door.
“I got skis!” I said smiling proudly, holding them up for him to see.
“I can see that. Why?”
“Because I loved skiing,” I said, shaking my head as I wondered how he could be so dense sometimes.
“You didn’t love it,” he said flatly, picking his book back up from his lap. “You just got a rush from the challenge of it. You’ll hate it as soon as you can get down the slope without falling down.”
“Why would you say that? We had fun this weekend. I thought we could go again next weekend. I even got brochures,” I said, digging around in my bag for the glossy pamphlets.
Billy was still looking down at his book when I produced them from the depths of my purse. I let my purchases drop to the ground and crossed to his chair, fanning the colorful brochures out in my hand like a deck of cards to wave over his book.
He looked up from behind his reading glasses with a lazy smile that made him look like a sexy professor. I wanted to drop everything and straddle his lap right then and there, but I reminded myself to stay focused on the conversation at hand.
“Okay, we’ll go again next weekend,” he said, as though placating a child. He was still giving me that grin, but now it looked condescending.
“Why would we go?” I asked, huffing back across the room to my new gear, piled in the center of the living room floor. “I don’t even like it, remember?”
He marked his spot in the book, laying it in his lap before slowly taking off his glasses so he could see me across the room. I could see him out of the corner of my eye as I struggled to pick up both skis and the box of boots without knocking the lamp off the end table with the pole I clutched under one arm. The amused smile on his face only irritated me more.
“Skiing isn’t an easy sport to pick up. You’ll still like it this weekend. Once you master it though, all that stuff is just going to be taking up room in our storage unit. How much did you spend anyway?”
I finally had all of my purchases in hand again and was headed back towards the door. “None of your business. I have my own money. And you’ll see. I love skiing!” The end of a ski made a loud whack against the door as it shut behind me, punctuating my sentence.
Once inside the storage unit, I flipped on the naked bulb that illuminated the small space. I glanced around the room, looking for a spot to store my new equipment, vowing for the hundredth time to purge some of the clutter I hoarded down there. As I moved aside an old tennis ball hopper and a batting tee, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The one I got every time I realized Billy was right.
Standing back to survey the 10×10 cinder-block room, I noted a bin of basketballs and footballs, a pitching machine, scuba gear and a boxing bag. I’d always known I loved sports, I just hadn’t known why. It was because I lived for the challenge. When a sport no longer was one, I moved on to the next adventure.
No longer handling with care, I shoved the new skis and poles into a corner and dropped the box of boots to the ground with a thud.
Damn! I hated when he was right.
But he always was, at least when it came to knowing me. Living with Billy was like walking around naked every day while someone pointed out all my imperfections.
Except he didn’t see them as flaws. When I fell on the slopes or missed a jump shot out on the court and cursed in disappointment, Billy would be standing there laughing. He thought it was “adorable” that I was so competitive.
Trust me, I’ve seen me when I’m like that – there’s nothing cute about it.
Now I sit in his chair, breathing in the faint smell of his cologne, wondering what he’d say about me now. If he saw me like this. I wish he’d come back and tell me, because I’m not sure who I am anymore.]]>
If you need to get caught up, here are the links for Parts 1-6: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.
I hate Mondays. Getting up after sleeping in for two days, going back to work, staring at the long week ahead…Monday has no redeeming qualities.
This Monday also marks the fourth day with no call from Chris. But who’s counting?
Why do men ask for your number if they’re not going to call? A guy friend once told me it’s either to make the woman feel good about herself or for the guy to prove to himself that he can get it. Seriously? As for the former, I’m damn good catch and I don’t need some guy to ask for my number to prove that to me. In terms of the latter, find some other way to bolster your weak ego and quit wasting my time.
I closed a multi-million acquisition for a client today, so I think a celebration is in order. Staring into the contents of my refrigerator I have a tough decision to make. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio?
My old buddy Chardonnay is always a safe bet. I pull a glass from the cabinet and pour the cool, golden liquid. Taking a small sip, I immediately feel my nerves ease. Who cares if that loser calls? Not this girl.
After all, there are hundreds of men just waiting to hear from me on eMatch. Despite my lack of luck so far, I have an urge to go glimpse through pictures. It’s like online shopping, and I love to shop.
Logging in, I wait for the mailbox to reveal how many messages have arrived since my last visit. After I met Chris, I completely forgot about eMatch. Surely after four days of not checking it I must have mail from some eligible bachelors.
Sure enough, there are seven new messages. I scan the pictures and decide to open Jason from Marietta first.
Fourteen pictures. That’s a good sign. One or two pictures means that out of the dozens of pictures he’s had taken over the last year or two, he only thinks he looks appealing in one or two. Not a good sign.
The first picture of Jason is a nice casual shot by a lake. Only he’s so far away he could look like Brad Pitt or Billy Crystal, who could tell?
Next up is one of him skiing. Points for enjoying one of my favorite activities, but they’re negated by the fact that all I can see under all the layers of clothing and gear are his eyes.
Picture number three is him with some friends in a bar. I have no idea which of the five is him and, again, they’re so far away I can’t tell anything except that they appear to be male.
He gets one more picture to show me what he looks like. I click next and get another picture by the lake. From roughly a hundred yards away. Bye bye, Jason!
I scroll through the mailbox for bachelor number two. Craig from Lawrenceville isn’t drop dead gorgeous, but at least I can tell what he looks like from his headshot.
His profile says he’s in real estate finance and loves football. It’s not baseball, but it’ll do. I head back to the top of the page for the pictures.
There are seven. A fair number, enough that I can probably get an idea of what he looks like. Clicking past the headshot I’ve already seen, I find one of him with a little girl on his lap. She looks about three and has curly blonde hair. If it’s his niece, we’re still in business. If it’s his daughter, we’re done. I’m not looking to become anybody’s mommy anytime soon.
The caption on the photo says niece, so I go to picture three. It’s him with the little girl again and a slightly older brother. They’re playing in a yard.
Photo number four is him playing football with the little boy. Taking the last sip of my wine glass, I sigh. Nice knowing you, Craig.
I wish someone would tell these guys that I’m not shopping for the father of my children. I do not need to see multiple photographs of you with your nieces and nephews. I don’t care that you’re good with kids. I’m not even sure I want children. They want all of your attention. So do I. You probably can’t handle us both.
I pad back to the kitchen for another glass of wine. Maybe I’m not meant to find love. My life is pretty fabulous as it is. I have a job I love, a beautiful house, a nice car, loyal friends, and a family that lives far enough away that I can see them when I want and avoid them the rest of the year. What could a man possibly add to my life?
There are still five men in my inbox though, and I have nothing better to do. I grab my glass, put the bottle back in the fridge, and head back to my home office.
As I walk across the thick area rug to my desk, I notice something is blinking. A new instant message.
Phil275864: hi there beautiful, what are you doing tonight?
I scrunch my nose at the screen. There’s something a little too cheesy about using “beautiful” as a noun versus using it as an adjective when you’ve never spoken to me, much less met me. Picking up the phone and hearing “Good morning beautiful” on the other end from a boyfriend? That’ll give you warm fuzzies all over. Getting it in an instant message from a stranger? Cheese ball.
I click on Phil’s profile anyway. He has one eyebrow, not two. Someone should introduce him to some wax. All three pictures were clearly taken with a webcam. He’s looking intensely at the camera in all of them. Like he’s trying to melt it with his mind. Not sexy. Try again.
I hit the X on the instant message box and go back to my mail. Trey from Atlanta has a picture that appears to be in front of an elaborate fountain. It looks European, so I’m curious to see where it was taken. When I enlarge the picture to get the caption, I’m delighted to see it was taken in Italy. One of my favorite places to travel.
The second picture is in France. A world traveler, huh? I love seeing new places. Aubrey and I used to travel every year, but I bet this whole marriage thing is going to derail that. It has for our other friends. Maybe I need a man after all, even if just to have someone to jump on a plane with.
Photo three is Trey in Spain. Fourth is in Germany. Fifth is in London.
Okay, I get it. You like to travel. You’ve been all over Europe.
Six is in Amsterdam. Seven is with a pint of beer in Ireland.
I head back to the mailbox. I feel roughly the same about too many travel pictures as I do about too many photos with kids. One or two pieces of evidence is sufficient. I don’t need you to give me an entire album to prove your point.
A quick scan through the rest reveals they’re all either too old or too unfortunate looking. I logout and grab my half empty glass.
Settling in on the couch, I wonder if maybe I could call Chris. He did text me after he left Thursday night, so I have his number.
It’s too bad I love the movie He’s Just Not That Into You, otherwise I might convince myself to give him a ring. Instead, all I can think of is the overwhelming advice in the movie that if a guy likes you, he’ll call.
The guy in the movie would tell me that no, he’s not intimidated by me. He hasn’t lost my number either. If he had any interest, he would find a way to get in touch.
I click the tv on in frustration, draining my glass while the surround sound fires up. I replay the events of meeting Chris in my mind. We had such good conversation. He could have left without getting my number, because I was busy talking to Aubrey and had my back turned to him. If he’d just turned and slipped out, he wouldn’t have had to go through an awkward goodbye.
Instead, he asked for my number, and even texted me that night. I gave him all weekend, sure he would call, and nothing. Then I thought maybe he was sticking to some ridiculous three-day rule. Today rolled around and made it four days, and still not a peep.
As thoughts of texting him, just to test the waters, creep back into my mind, I leap up from the couch and go hunting for the movie. Clearly I need a reminder about why I can’t contact him.
I find the DVD tucked away neatly on my shelf and pop it in the player. Back in the kitchen, I grab the rest of the bottle (leftover wine is never good anyway) and head back to the couch. I pour another glass and sit back just in time to see the words flash bright and white across a black screen: He’s just not that into you…]]>
Aubrey calls on my way home. I answer hoping she wants to go grab a drink, and thankfully she does. She forces me to recount my date with Peter as we both drive towards our favorite bar.
“He took you to the St. Regis?” She’s squealing with delight. Miss Delilah taught her to enjoy the finer things in life. Especially when they’re paid for by handsome gentlemen.
“Yes, and don’t get so excited. It was perfectly awful.”
“Reed,” she said in a disapproving tone that sounded eerily like Miss Delilah, “Did you even give the poor boy a chance?”
Thankfully I could roll my eyes in the privacy of my own car without notice. “Yes, Aubrey, I gave him a chance Know what he did with it? Proceeded to tell me how well off he is and all the money he’d spend on me.”
“Oh yeah, that just sounds terrible,” she said in mock disgust. Giggling, she said, “What’s wrong with being treated like a princess now and then?”
“Because it’s one thing to treat a woman well and surprise her with little presents now and then like Nate does with you, but it’s another thing to lead with ‘Hey, guess how much money I have?’ on a first date.”
“That is a little tacky,” she concedes.
“Have you been to the St. Regis? I swear I felt like I was in a bad black and white movie. The servers wear old school flight attendant outfits!”
Aubrey’s easy giggle fills my otherwise silent car as I speed down Peachtree. “Really? It sounds kinda fun.”
“Trust me, there was nothing fun about it.” I signal to turn onto the side street that runs beside the little bar we’ve frequented since college. “Enough about my pathetic dating life. What does it feel like to be someone’s fiance?”
More giggles. I can picture her holding her hand out to admire the ring again. “It’s wonderful! Nate says I can have the wedding anywhere I want, that he’d marry me in burlap sacks in Cambodia if I wanted. He’s so silly. I think I’m leaning towards the Botanical Gardens. What do you think?”
“I think you’ll look beautiful anywhere you get married,” I say, meaning it. Aubrey has classic good looks. Her hair is always done, her makeup lightly applied and flawless. She has porcelain skin she keeps shielded from the sun with ridiculously big hats when we go to the beach. Nate is right; she’d be a knockout in burlap.
I whip into the last parking spot in sight and hope Aubrey can find one. There’s an overflow lot down the street, but we try not to park that far from the building. It’s not a bad part of town, but you can never be too careful. I think that pearl of wisdom may have come from my own mother. Miss Delilah would need beta blockers if she saw the hole in the wall bar her precious Aubrey has frequented with me for years.
I flash my id at the bouncer and step into the music-filled haze of a place simply called The Pub. The walls are bare with the exception of a large mirror placed here and there, and the brown leather of the barstools and booths blends into the dark wood interior. Big screen televisions extend down from the ceiling in every corner and provide the only evidence that any money was ever spent on this place.
I pick spot at the bar that faces the Braves game, glad I made it in time for the last few innings, and order a Corona.
“Anybody ever tell you that you shouldn’t order Mexican beer in an Irish pub?” comes a voice from my right.
I turn to see a preppy looking guy on the stool next to mine. The blue in his polo shirt highlights the same color in his eyes. There’s a mischievous look as he smiles at me.
“Guess I missed that memo. You’re drinking Guinness I presume?”
“You bet,” he says, winking before taking a long swig of the chocolate-colored liquid.
An eruption of applause down the bar turns my attention back to the game. Brian McCann has just tied up the game with a grand slam.
When Troy Glaus grounds out to the pitcher, an audible groan espapes my lips.
“You like baseball?” the sandy-haired Guinness drinker asks me.
“Like it? Nope,” I say, smiling. “I love it!”
He laughs before tilting back his glass.
We both turn our attention back to the game as Johnny Venters comes on in relief.
“You know they’ve started calling him Everyday Johnny?” he asks, pointing at the screen.
“I know. You’ve gotta love him. He totally deserves to be considered for Rookie of the Year. Too bad a reliever never wins.”
Sandy-hair is cocking an eyebrow my way, clearly impressed with my baseball knowledge. “You really do like baseball, huh?”
“I told you,” I say, unable to hide my satisfaction.
“I’m Chris, by the way,” he says, extending a hand.
“Reed,” I say, shaking back.
“Here you are,” Aubrey says as she pushes her way up to the bar. She hugs me, and I glance over her shoulder to get a better look at Chris, who has turned back to the game.
Aubrey grabs the barstool to my left and orders a glass of Chardonnay from the bartender with the too-tight t-shirt. “You just had to sit where you could see the game, didn’t you?” she asks me.
“You know me well, my friend,” I say, finishing off my bottle. I signal for another one as Venters gets his third and final strikeout of the inning.
“Oh good, a commercial. So tell me about the other guys you’ve been talking to. Who are you going out with next?” Aubrey asks, literally teetering on the edge of her seat.
I moan. “No one. No more internet dates.” I shake my head sternly when a small pout appears on her lips.
“Oh, come on. One bad date. The next one is bound to be better.”
“No,” I say, pointing the tip of my bottle in her direction, “it’s been two bad dates. I’m done.”
“Third time’s a charm?” she says, smiling hopefully. “At least think about it while I run to the ladies room.”
Before I can protest she’s eased off the stool and is headed to the other end of the bar. As she disappears around a corner, I hear the voice next to me again.
“Looks like they’re pinch hitting Conrad. I feel pretty good lately when he comes to the plate,” he says, nodding towards the game.
“I know. Did you see that homerun that he thought was caught? He’d already turned and headed towards the dugout when he realized everyone was celebrating his walk-off. Poor kid will never live it down.”
As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I hear the gasps around us. I look up just in time to see the ball sailing out of the park off Conrad’s bat.
I turn towards Chris, exchanging big smiles and high fives. “Hey, he must have heard us. Can’t beat that. Another big walk-off win from Conrad” he says.
“The Braves are making that an art form this year. They’ve got the most last at-bat wins in the Majors.” My dad says I shouldn’t talk about baseball so much with guys, but I can’t help myself. I can’t just pretend not to know this stuff.
He’s cocking an eyebrow at me again before taking the last swallow of his beer. “Impressive. How’d you learn so much about baseball?”
I shrug my shoulders like it’s no big deal, because it isn’t. I’m just a girl who likes baseball. Perhaps more rare than a two dollar bill, but not like discovering radium or anything. “My dad’s a big baseball fan, so I’m one too.”
We both return our eyes to the screen as the players celebrate.
“So they won?” Aubrey asks, sliding back onto the stool to my left.
“Yep, walk-off homerun by Brooks Conrad.”
I half expect her to ask me what a walk-off homerun is, but she’s already lost interest in the game. “Hi, I’m Aubrey,” she says, leaning across me to offer her hand to Chris, who has apparently been watching our conversation.
“Chris,” he says taking her tiny, perfectly manicured hand in his. “I was just enjoying the game with your friend her until you got back.”
I see the flash in her eyes, but I’m powerless to stop her.
“Did she tell you she loves baseball? She knows everything about it,” she gushes. It’s the Baseball Annie debacle all over again. Her efforts to brag on me always backfire.
Chris smiles at me before turning back to her, “Yeah, I was kinda gathering that. How do you two girls know one another?”
“We’ve known each other since kindergarten,” I say.
“Long time, huh? You girls must be close. Are you roommates?”
“No,” Aubrey says, “I live with my fiance.” She flashes her ring at him for a lingering second before continuing, “Reed lives here in Brookhaven, just down the road.”
“Well, well. Me too,” he says, motioning for the bartender to bring him his bill.
I’m horrified to find myself a little disappointed that he’s leaving.
“If he brings my tab, tell him I’ll be right back,” Chris says, excusing himself and heading towards the bathroom.
Aubrey is squeezing my arm, “He’s so cute!” she squeals in my ear.
“He’s okay I guess,” I say, trying to cover the blushing I feel traveling up my cheeks.
“Oh stop, you know you like him! Give him your number.”
“Now what would Miss Delilah say about that?” I ask, giving her the best stern look I can muster. “Ladies do not chase gentlemen.”
“Oh, please. When do you listen to my mother,” she says, shaking her head, causing long strands of her white blonde hair to escape from her swept-back bun.
“On this one she’s right. Did you just offer up your number to Nate?”
Aubrey frowns in defeat. “No,” she says, sheepishly, “he chased me down in the parking lot to ask for my number.”
“Exactly. That’s how it’s supposed to be. They’re supposed to chase us if they really like us.” I nudge Aubrey and nod my head towards the bathroom, where Chris has emerged and is headed back our way.
In order to avert any awkward attempts at goodbye, I pretend to be totally engrossed in a conversation with Aubrey about wedding colors. I pretend not to notice his return.
“What about pinks and browns?” I offer, having no idea how you go about choosing wedding colors.
“If I get married in the garden, the pink might clash with all the red roses, don’t you think?”
I have no idea. Can you really clash with nature? “Yeah, maybe you’re right. What about pale yellow?”
Aubrey isn’t answering, she’s shifting her eyes over my shoulder, and then I feel a hand on my arm.
“It was nice to meet you both,” Chris says, nodding towards Aubrey before his eyes are back on me. “Maybe I could call you sometime? I get Braves tickets from work all the time and am always looking for a game buddy.”
Yes, I want to scream! A date to a Braves game, now that’s my idea of a good time. “Sure,” I say, willing myself to stay composed. I wait for him to remove his BlackBerry from his pocket and then slowly recite the number.
“Great. I’ll give you a call sometime.” He slides his phone back in the pocket of his jeans. “Good night ladies,” he says with a dramatic bow.
Aubrey is giggling at his exit, her manicured claws digging into my leg as she squeezes it under the bar. “See! He totally likes you!” she says as soon as the door shuts behind him.
As excited as I am to give out my number to a guy I actually want to hear from, I’m cautious about getting my hopes up. Guys from bars never call. Or they only call for a booty call. Either way, the odds of seeing Chris again are slim.
“Yeah, we’ll see,” I offer her before steering the conversation back to her impending nuptials. “So what about yellow? Does it have wedding color potential?”
She’s babbling on about how her cousin Jennifer has already refused to wear yellow in the wedding when I hear my phone beep. I look down to see a new text.
It’s Chris. It was nice to meet you tonight. You girls have fun.
Audrey doesn’t even notice me staring at my phone as she debates the merits of sage green. I can’t wipe the grin off my face as I put my phone away and turn my attention back to wedding palettes. Maybe I managed to turn this night around after all.]]>
I turn around in front of my floor length mirror. This dress fit a few months ago. It must have shrunk when I washed it. Either that or the half gallon of ice cream I had the other night is creeping onto my backside.
I crane my neck around to get a good look. There’s a hint of Kim Kardashian back there. I realize men appreciate her assets, so to speak, but it’s a little much for a first date.
I shrug at my reflection and decide I don’t really care if the dress is too tight. Another evening I’ll probably be wasting with some loser from the internet.
This time it’s Peter, the commercial real estate broker Aubrey found the first night. She’s convinced that because we’re both diehard Florida Gator fans, we’ll instantly click. I’m skeptical, at best.
Best case scenario, he’s tolerable and I can drag him to Aubrey’s upcoming engagement party. I’m pretty sure I’m the only single friend she has, and I can’t stomach the idea of a night in coupledom alone while they all try to fix me up with their second cousin who lives in his mother’s basement (but only because he quit his job as a stockbroker to pursue his dream of becoming a rock star).
Peter is meeting me at The St. Regis Bar in Buckhead. Normally, I would be sketched out by having our first date at a hotel bar, but this one is a seen-and-be-seen kind of place. A little glitzy for my taste, but it was his suggestion since he lives nearby. Besides, it’s a bar; how bad could it be?
As I exit my car at the valet stand, I notice Peter waiting by the massive gold front doors. He smiles when he sees me, and I give a little wave as I approach him.
“You must be Reed,” he says, extending a hand.
“I guess that would make you Peter,” I say as we shake. I’m pleased to see he’s even better looking in person than in his photograph. He has a full head of rich brown hair and perfectly straight white teeth. He’s dressed in grey slacks and a button-down pale blue dress shirt. Our complimentary shades of blue either make us an attractive pair or we look like we’re getting ready for one of those family photos where everyone is dressed alike. I hate those.
With a grand gesture towards the door, he indicates I should enter the hotel first. I mentally write “gentleman” on my pro/con list.
A doorman swings open the door, and I try not appear overwhelmed by the oppulance that is revealed inside. There are marble columns and a sweeping staircase to one side, an array of leather chairs and couches to the other. Crystal chandaliers hang down every few feet, and the place virtually smells of money.
Peter leads me across the lobby, his hand on the small of my back to guide me. It seems a little early for that, but perhaps a little chivalrous. With the men I’ve been meeting, I’m a little fuzzy on what a proper gentleman does. Miss Delilah would know.
We begin to ascend the staircase to the bar. When we round the corner, I realize this isn’t the kind of bar I’m used to frequenting.
The walls are mahogany and the lighting dim, reminding me of the men-only cigar bars you see in old black and white movies. There are leather chairs and couches (which I suppose are really called settees in a place like this) arranged around the room in small seating groups. Scattered with them are end tables with lamps, lending to the old-boys-club atmosphere.
“Let’s sit over here,” Peter says, pointing towards two wingback chairs with a small table between them.
I nod, still taking it all in. Looking around, I expect a server to appear with cigars and a decanter full of port. As a matter of fact, I’m kind of hoping one does.
Instead, a woman wearing a uniform that resembles a 1950s flight attendant appears before us. I hope she doesn’t notice as I gawk. Who takes a job where they have to wear such a ridiculous costume?
“We’ll have a bottle of the Sarget de Gruaud Larose,” Peter says, placing the menu back on the table between us.
He doesn’t seem to notice the look on my face. The one that says I don’t appreciate when men order for me. What in the hell had he ordered anyway? It was literally in a different language.
“I hope you like red,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “It’s a really nice full-bodied Bordeaux blend.”
Aubrey’s voice is in my head, telling me to try something new. He’s not my type, but she would simply offer that I’ve been dating the wrong men. Fine, I’ll try it her way.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I say.
Peter is glancing around the room, offering a small wave to an older man at the bar and then to another flight attendant with a serving tray.
The con list is growing. Right behind “orders for me” is now “hangs out at stuffy bar on a regular basis.”
Not only does this bar make me feel as though we’re trying to play grown up, it says we’re trying to pretend we’re rich and sophisticated adults. The kind that go to symphonies and operas.
So much for us having anything in common. I couldn’t picture this man who is clearly at home surrounded by mahogany and marble getting decked out in orange and blue and singing out “We are the boys of old Florida” at the top of his lungs during a Gator football game.
“So, you’ve never been before, right? I come several nights a week. They’ve got a good wine selection, and there are a good group of regulars.”
“I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t been. It’s quite impressive.” I wanted to pat myself on the back for answering in such a politically correct manner.
The server delivers the bottle of wine, which Peter takes great care to swirl in his glass before sniffing thoughtfully and taking a small swallow.
I love wine, but I’ve never understood the ritual people go through at nice restaurants and bars when the wine arrives and they’re asked to give their okay before the server pours it around. I simply don’t discriminate, I love all wines.
“This’ll do,” Peter says, nodding at the server.
It’ll do? Didn’t he just tell me how fabulous it was when he ordered it? I add “snob” and “wannabe wine connesiour” to the con list.
I decide against doing a pretend swirl-and-sniff on my own glass of wine, and instead jump right into tasting it. That’s the real test anyhow, right?
“How do you like it?” he asks, as if my opinion on the subject suddenly matters.
“It’s very nice.” Miss Delilah would say that a proper lady is always complimentary of a man’s choice. She’d be proud.
In reality, it’s a little heavier than I prefer, but it’ll do. I’ve decided to give him at least one glass of wine to turn the evening around before I bolt out the door.
“You’re a baseball fan, right?” he asks.
Okay, so he’s asking questions about me. Mental checkmark for caring about more than himself. Double checks if he asked because he likes baseball. “Yeah, I’ve always loved it.”
“A friend of mine had his rehearsal dinner at Cooperstown. We had the whole place to ourselves,” he said.
He had me at “Cooperstown.” I’ve always wanted to visit baseball’s Hall of Fame.
“That’s amazing. I’m hoping to make the trip up there in the next year or two,” I say to him.
“It was pretty impressive. Maybe I’ll take you there one day,” he said, winking over the top of his glass before taking a long sip.
I give a light laugh, “I’ll hold you to that.” Maybe he has some redeeming qualities after all. I just need to introduce him to a good old fashioned dive bar.
“A trip like that is expensive,” he says. “I hope your parents taught you that nothing worth having is free.” Another wink, which now reeks of sleaze, follows.
Is that bile I taste? I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Is he insinuating that sexual favors are his favored currency or just flaunting that he has money? I’m not even sure which is worse.
I take a long sip of my wine, nearly draining the glass, while I formulate a response. I can feel the heat rising to my face, fueled by irritation and expensive Bordeaux.
Before I can speak again, he says, “I’m very generous with a lady who’s worth it. Fine dining, flying first class, staying in five star hotels…nothing is too good for my woman.”
I’m sure the sentiment behind it is well-meaning, but my first reaction is to inform him that I make six figures and don’t need a man to treat me to anything. Miss Delilah’s voice in my head forces me to bite my tongue.
Instead, I say, “You’re such a gentleman. I’m sure women just line up for a guy like you.” Except me.
He’s pouring us each another glass, which I plan to gulp down as quickly as possible before making my exit.
“It’s tough to find a woman who appreciates the finer things in life, but isn’t just after my money,” he says, placing the nearly empty bottle back on the table between us.
Really? You do such a nice job of hiding whatever wealth it is you seem to have. “That’s terrible. My parents always told me to be sure I could provide for myself, so I wouldn’t have to depend on a man.”
“You just need to find a nice man who’ll take care of you. No sense in someone as pretty as yourself having to work.”
“I actually enjoy my job. I can’t imagine not working.” It came out a little curt, but I don’t care anymore. Only two more big gulps and the wine will be gone. Followed shortly thereafter by me.
He swirls his wine, deep in thought. “It just seems silly. Women go off to work and leave the kids with a nanny, when really they’re only making enough money to pay for the help. Why not just stay home with the children?”
A big swallow cuts my remaining wine in half. “Well, actually, I make a little more than that.”
“I just realized I don’t even know what you do. How rude of me.” The pained look on his face reveals he is embarassed by his gaff, but I doubt he genuinely cares about my chosen profession.
“I’m an attorney,” I say, satisfied when I see the disappointment cross his face in the shadows of the table lamp.
“Oh,” he says, a visible frown on his face.
“Not what you expected, huh?” I give a little satisfied smile and realize it’s the first one I’ve produced all evening.
“Is your father a lawyer,” he asks, seemingly grasping for some explanation.
“Nope, no one in my family is an attorney. Just something I always wanted to do.”
“What firm are you with? Several of the guys I went to prep school with are at firms here in town.”
“Pope, Moore, Smith and Garrett,” I reply. One last big sip and the Bordeaux is gone, leaving me with nothing else to do but escape.
He’s frowning again. “Hmm, I haven’t heard of that one. My roommate from college is at Queen & Spears,” he says, naming the biggest firm in town. “He’s making bank right now, but your firm probably doesn’t pay that well, right? I mean, I’ve never heard of it.”
Clearly he knows nothing about the legal industry. All the big firms are competing for the same talent, so they all pay in roughly the same range. Generally, when one bumps first-year pay, they all rise to match. My firm is no different. Although it’s smaller than Queen & Spears, it’s still fairly large. I only make a few thousand less than his friend.
Miss Delilah is on my shoulder, a stern look on her face. It’s bad enough you’re an attorney. Do not discuss your income. I can almost hear her hissing through her teeth, the way she does when I’ve broken some cardinal rule of etiquette. I’ve heard it a lot in the past twenty years.
“It pays well enough,” I say, giving a tight smile. I glance around the room, noting the exits. At the next seating group over, there’s a young, busty blonde plopping herself in the lap of a gray-haired gentleman in a suit. The whole scene here continues to remind me of some bad black and white movie.
Peter only nods and then sip his wine. He’s doing a search of the room as well.
I decide to put him out of his newfound misery and bow out. “Peter, it’s been lovely, but I think I should be going.”
An insincere look of disappointment on his face, he says, “So soon? Well, it’s been a pleasure.” He reaches out to shake my hand, his eyes lingering across the room on a blonde at the bar in a tight black dress who’s giggling loudly at something the bartender has said.
I nearly sprint from the table after a quick goodbye, picturing puffs of smoke behind me like the roadrunner in Looney Tunes. I don’t look back to see, but I’m sure he made his way to the blonde at the bar just as quickly.
As I wait for the valet to bring my car, I vow to cancel that stupid subscription as soon as I get home. I’ll cover the mailbox with one hand so the little flag can’t tempt me. I’m not getting lured into opening another one of those emails. Nope, no more online dating for me!]]>