This piece was originally written for the Flash of Valentine's Day fiction group and published on their website.
Your best friend just set you up on a blind date. You just know this is an exercise in futility. And then you see the one man you've always wanted to get to know. What do you do?
Marlene stepped out of the shower, wrapping the towel around her long chestnut curls, and using the other to dry herself off. She stepped into the bedroom, trying to think what the hell she was going to wear…and stopped in front of her full length mirror. She managed to drop the towel to the floor without making some kind of remark about the woman in the reflection. She wanted to. Mirrors were not her friends. And this one surely wasn’t.
She stared at the overly curvy woman and wondered what kind of fool would want to date her. Forty pounds overweight, what the hell was she thinking? Breasts that were saggy at best, and even that was being kind. No decent guy was going to find her attractive. Probably a good thing that Natalie hadn’t given her the guy’s number or she’d be doing a quick phone call to cancel this blind date.
Marlie tilted her head, first one way and then the other. Well. Maybe she might be able to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. Sow’s ear, she thought with a huff. How appropriate for the pig in the mirror. Okay, guys loved big boobs. Maybe she could wear the dark purple dress that would show off the cleavage. Yeah, the shirred sides accentuated her curves even more. She didn’t look quite so fat when she wore it. The amethyst necklace and matching earrings would give her a bit of a sparkle too. She didn’t look so bad when she wore that. Maybe pile her hair on top of her head and let the curls cascade down over her shoulders.
It can work. I can at least be presentable. Hopefully, he’s a good conversationalist. Because he’s damn sure not getting a beauty queen.
She went to her makeup first, a flattering base that put some color in her face. A lovely shade of blush that put the roses in her cheeks. Blessed with long, thick eyelashes, she added just the lightest hint of plum to her lids and then went to town with the mascara. Her lips were a bit thin to worry about lipstick but, she could add a shimmer thanks to the gloss that she had purchased. She used her fingers to shake the curls loose and then a pair of tortoise shell combs to pile the hair just as she wanted. Marlie stepped back to look at that hateful image again and decided, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. She started to feel a little confidence building.
By the time she’d added the shaping underwear and her strapless bra, she was in the dress and zipping it up the side. She smiled at herself, her reflection smiling back. There was just enough emphasis on the cleavage and her eyes were smoky and sultry. Maybe… Maybe…
She drove to the restaurant, one minute petrified that this was a stupid idea. The next minute telling herself that she had nothing to lose. One night, at least, where she wasn’t going to be alone. She wasn’t going to sit with another Lean Cuisine and watching NCIS reruns. And in between, trying to decide what they’d talk about. She could sound like she knew something. Not just a brainless Administrative Assistant. This is stupid. I should just go home. I want to go home.
Valet parking? Oh God, it was that kind of restaurant. Did she have enough money in the checking account to cover her dinner? The valet helped her out of the car, and for the briefest moment, he almost seemed to be checking her out. But then, he jumped in her car to park it and she was immediately forgotten. She went inside to the host’s station.
She suddenly realized that she had no idea whose name was on the reservation. That panic rose up again.
“Miss? Is your name Marlene Wallace?”
Marlie glanced up. “How did you know that?”
The host held out a card with her name on it, the time of the reservation, and Lily’s name. She’d put the reservation under her own name.
“Come with me, Ms. Wallace. I’ll take you to your table.”
Lily Harry was her best friend. And worried about Marlie constantly. It was rather nice but she could take care of herself. And yet, Lily worried about her being alone. Lily had been the one to set up this blind date. Nothing like a pity date, she told herself. Lily’s heart was in the right place.
Marlie carried her clutch under her arm, pressed close to her side by her elbow. She followed the host, every step digging into her self-confidence a little more. She was a few steps from the table when she saw him. Oh shit, it had to be him. He isn’t interested in me. He won’t even look at me. Damn, Lily. Why him?
Him was the attorney in the office. Him was David Manning, a tall and well-built man with golden blond hair and the deepest chocolate brown eyes she’d ever seen. He looked like Robert Redford in Sneakers, but a bit younger. She had been smitten with him since she’d come to work in that office. But he never looked at her. Never gave her the time of day. And always seemed to have a hot model on his arm. Lily fixed her up with him? That was cold and cruel.
David looked up at her as she got even closer and for a moment, he stared at her. Forgetting his manners. He opened his mouth to say something and she knew it. She just knew it. He was trying to find some way to let her down easy and make his exit. The rock dropped in her stomach and she stood with the clutch her hand, trying not to burst into tears.
“Marlie? Please sit.”
He was standing next to her, holding the chair for her. She met his gaze and nodded, sitting down. He scooted her to the table and came back to his seat.
“Let me guess,” she started. “You were hoping for Jackie in reception. She is a former Miss Kentucky.”
He poured a glass of sparkling wine and held it out to her. “I’m not sure which one of us has been insulted here. You for not realizing how beautiful you are…or me, thinking I’m that superficial.”
The shock had to be showing on her face. He…he… He thinks I’m beautiful?
“I’m sorry. I didn’t…mean it that way. I just…” Marlie took a sip of the wine. Chilled and absolutely delicious. “I didn’t think you were the blind date type.”
“I’m not really,” he answered, sipping his own glass. “I hope you like chardonnay.”
For the first time since she’d sat down, she smiled. A genuine smile. And felt something…go away. “I do,” she answered. “This is wonderful.”
“I don’t know much,” he explained, “but I do know good wine. This is a small local vintner. I usually buy several bottles when I can. I like to support local businesses.”
“Yeah. A bit.”
“I’m kinda glad that Lily booked this place. It’s my favorite. They have great Italian here. Fresh made pasta and the sauces are pure heaven.”
“I love seafood alfredo,” she answered.
The surprise on his face was hilarious. Like he’d been expecting her to say something else. It suddenly dawned on her that he was just as nervous as she was. There was a light sheen of perspiration on his face and his fingers moved restlessly on the tablecloth. Why are you nervous?
“It’s my favorite dish here.” He winked at her, a teasing gesture. “Have you been spying on me?” When she started to bluster at that, he put a hand out to touch hers. “Hey, I was just teasing. Are you okay?”
Marlie lifted the glass to her lips again and was surprised that it was empty. She’d drunk that entire thing without paying attention. She stared at it stupidly but he was already refilling it. For a moment, she had a sense it was a really dumb idea and moved to put the glass back down. Only to have it to her lips again, taking another small sip. And feeling suddenly very bold.
“No. I’m scared.”
She shook her head. “I don’t belong here. I’m not your type, David. I’m not young and thin and pretty. I burp my wine, I eat too much, and… and….”
She was surprised to find out that he was still holding her hand.
“And what, Marlie?”
“When Lily set this up, did she tell you it was me?”
“No,” he answered. The smile was lighting up his eyes into warm chocolate pools. “She just told me it was going to be someone I’d been wanting to be with for a long while.”
Surprise turned to shock.
“Wait…you wanted to be with me?”
David chuckled again, his cheeks turning a light shade of pink. “She never told you? God, you’re all I talked about. Feels like you’re all I ever talk about…when I’m not talking about the legal aspects of the company.”
David raised his glass in a toast to her, then sipped. “For what? Having a saucy mouth? I love that about you. It’s one of the things that made me want to get to know you. I figured a woman with a saucy mouth was going to be a real woman with spirit.”
“But I’m…I’m…damn it, I’m fat. Why would you be interested in a fat woman?”
“First off, you’re not fat. You have more curves and they are delicious. If I want to make love to a bag of sticks, I’ll go date one.”
“But what about all those models?”
David blushed again. “They asked me out. I was arm candy. Besides, all they talked about was themselves. And their careers. They didn’t give a damn about me.”
The stone in the pit of her stomach was gone. It sounded like he was lonely too. Marlie turned her hand in his so that she could thread her fingers in his. “I do.”
It was his turn to be surprised. “You do? Really?”
She giggled. “I do. I give a damn about you. And movies. And manga. And anime.”
“I love anime. And manga. And movies.” He raised her hand to his lips, raising up just enough to kiss that hand. “I really did want to go out with you. I think you’re sexy and funny. I just didn’t know how to talk to you. What to say.”
“I wanted to talk to you too. But I just figured I wasn’t your type. That you’d never be interested in me.”
She smiled, a real smile. Feeling sexier than she’d ever felt before. Knowing that he thought she was made it all worthwhile.
“I think we need to give Lily a special present. To thank her for this evening.”
They raised their glasses in salute to their friend. And to each other.