Your are going on a blind date for Valentine’s Day. In case the date is a dud, you have your best friend on standby. Your friend is to call you at 9:30 on the dot. If the date is going well, you answer and use the phrase “I already took care of that.” If it’s not, you answer and claim your friend has an emergency. The date is going well and your friend calls at 9:30 as planned—only problem is, the friend calls with a real emergency. What is it and what do you do?
“Keep it together. You’ve got this.”
The words had little effect on the nerves dancing in my belly, but a quick glance at my reflection and I had it under control. I’d spent the afternoon in the best salon in town, where I had been primped and polished to within an inch of my life. The results were astonishing. I looked like I used to look; before life had dragged me through the shit heap and I’d left my confidence behind with my ex.
This was my first date in twelve months, and considering it was a blind date, my anxiety levels were through the roof. I knew only that his name was Darren, and he would be carrying a yellow rose – his idea, not mine.
Of course I had an escape route planned. If the date went south, all I had to do was declare an emergency when my friend called at 9pm, and hightail it out of there. The nerves fluttered again when I thought about Chris; a good friend, but somewhat of a flake. No, that wasn’t fair. He’d been my rock during the past year, but he’d never been on time for anything in his life; starting, as his mother enjoys pointing out, with his entry into the world.
Brushing thoughts of Chris aside, I left the restroom and searched the elegant restaurant. In truth I’d been killing time because, unlike my friend, I’m habitually early.
I spotted the tall, smartly dressed stranger immediately, and nerves shot up into my throat when I saw the rose. This was it. It was show time.
“April. How lovely to see you again,” he said, and his face lit with genuine pleasure.
I’m not going to lie, for a split second words failed me. My mind threw an absolute blank. That was until he smiled and I sucked in a breath. I’d recognise that smile anywhere.
“Darren Johnson.” The words sounded like an accusation.
In response he hit me with a grin. I remembered that too. My blind date wasn’t a stranger at all. He was the boy I lost my heart to when I was twelve; the boy who had moved to another country just before graduation and killed my dreams. Well, okay, that was a little dramatic, but I liked him a lot. And I mean wedding bells, four children and a mortgage kind of feeling.
“I had a huge crush on you in high school,” he was saying, and my eyes grew wide.
Oblivious to my thoughts, he touched a hand to my elbow and guided me towards our table. All the while he complimented me on my dress, and I smiled and nodded like a crazy person.
Thankfully, I got my act together and we fell into easy conversation over our meal. I felt so relaxed I actually jumped in surprise when my phone rang. For a moment I considered ignoring it, but then I remembered I’d been expecting the call and snatched it up with an apologetic smile.
“How’s it going, babe?” Chris said in my ear.
I blinked, unsure of how to respond. After a few seconds of silence, I gave him the code we’d agreed on. In fairness I was completely distracted by the knowing twinkle in Darren’s eyes. “I already took care of that.”
This time I frowned. Chris had gone off script. He was supposed to hang up, be pleased, something. “Okay, great,” I said, smiling lamely. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
“You sound weird.”
I put my hand over the phone, feeling anger and embarrassment vying for first place. “Will you excuse me for a minute?” When I got a nod from Darren, his eyes creased in amusement, I stood up and walked back toward the restroom. “Chris, what’s going on?”
“That’s what I want to know. You sound like you’re having fun.” I didn’t miss the petulance in his tone.
“Isn’t that the point? You’re supposed to be happy.” I glanced over my shoulder, and when I caught sight of Darren I forgot I was angry with Chris. “You’ll never guess who my date is.” At his silence I pressed on. “Darren Johnson.” The silence went on so long I thought I’d been disconnected. “Chris?”
“There’s been an emergency and I need you,” he blurted.
“That’s very funny. Stop raining on my parade and let me get back to my date.”
“April. I don’t want you to…I mean…I need you to come home.”
Completely losing my patience, and aware I had an audience, I dashed around the corner away from prying eyes. “Chris, what the hell has gotten into you?”
This time the silence grated along my nerves, and I was about to disconnect when he spoke. “April, I…I love you.”
“I love you too, you goof.”
“No. I mean, I love you.”
The phone dropped to the floor with a resounding thwack.
Thanks for stopping by.