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Admitting I decided to give online dating a try wasn’t something I’d blab about to my parents even if I was almost 29. And no, worrying about what my parents thought didn’t make me strange. My dad was the first person to complain about everything. Like when he paid his monthly bills, only to then make a comment about the following month’s bills. But it wasn’t like today’s date would be profiled on an episode of NBC’s Dateline or give fodder to Law and Order SVU. I played it smart because by agreeing to meet in public, I was on Main Street at Café Yesterday where there would be plenty of witnesses.

            The waiter shuffled over to my empty table. “Can I get you anything, Ashely?”

            Yeah. I was one of those people who ate, breathed, and dreamed about coffee. Therefore, all of Café Yesterday’s employees were on a first name basis with me. Although I usually got my large cappuccino to go. I often crammed a quick coffee stop into my busy days of writing romance novels. Driving to town was enough of a break to clear my head when I got stuck on a writing issue, yet it wasn’t too long to prevent me from having a productive writing day.

            “I should wait for my date,” I said.

            Raquel twirled a strand of her purple ombre hair. “Fair enough.”

            I checked my watch before looking back up at her. I mean, just because my date was ten minutes late didn’t mean it was the end of the world. I knew better than to have a meltdown. It wasn’t like something bad happened. I was also lucky enough to be sitting outside despite how fall was well under way as a result of the whistling wind from nearby trees. Although it wasn’t like the cold air bit my face, which was worth squealing about. I always dreaded winter.

            But no. My parents convinced me to remain in the Northeast since they thought being close to family was important. Check that. Living near family wasn’t essential; it was mandatory. However, modern technology meant I could write anywhere. I usually just communicated with my editor and literary agent through email.

            “Hold on. Maybe I’ll have my cappuccino now,” I said while she was about to walk away.

            Raquel flashed a smile. “No problem.”

            She went back inside, leaving me alone.

            Nearby yelling made me shift my gaze. A woman and a guy in sweat pants, a tee-shirt, sneakers, and a backpack stood a few yards away at the end of the block. She sported a buttoned down long-sleeved blouse. The shirt was tucked into her khaki pants, and had a belt looped around them. Her salt and pepper hair was even wrapped in a bun. I even would’ve laughed if she wasn’t pointing her index finger at the guy. Being amused was unavoidable. My mother also always dressed up, even when she was gardening at home. She often had her hair in a bun too. Except Mom’s hair was auburn without any hint of grey seeping through.

            But the woman’s physical appearance shouldn’t have been my only concern. Her scowl and lecturing with the guy made me continue dwelling on Mom. Like with how she always asked me when I’d find a guy and get married. There were only so many times I could listen to Mom asking those questions without clenching a fist or whispering some obscenity under my breath. Plus, I couldn’t forget about Mom criticizing my writing. Being a New York Times best-selling romance author wasn’t enough for her. She used my success to make me feel inadequate. She always mentioned her confusion about how my unsuccessful love life should’ve stopped me from writing romance novels.

But no. She failed to see the situation’s irony. I understood the feeling of longing for love. Sure. Having a couple’s relationship end with a happily ever after or happy for now ending was required by my publisher. But I made romance feel palpable by channeling my own frustration into my writing; yet I could never catch a break like my characters. All my previous first dates had gone wrong for one reason or another.

The worst part was Mom wasn’t 100 percent wrong. Finding a guy shouldn’t have defined my happiness. Although having something to do besides watching SEX AND THE CITY reruns on a Friday night would’ve been great. Yes. I had a few good friends, and I didn’t want to sound ungrateful. Yet there was a difference between platonic love and romantic love.

Whatever. Hopefully, my love life would sort itself out regardless of how frustrating it was. The important thing was being a successful author meant I could afford my own place and didn’t have to work at home. Except even having my own home had limitations. Mom sometimes stopped by my place without calling.

The woman and her son (who must have been arguing for at least a few minutes) walked over to a station wagon parked by the curb. The woman got in the driver’s seat, and the guy took the front passenger’s seat. But he had barely put on his seatbelt when the woman drove away.

And no. Assuming the guy was her son wasn’t presumptuous. Being a writer meant picking up on the little details—things that might’ve been irrelevant to other people. A backpack had been strapped to his back in addition to how it was Thursday mid-morning. Hmmm. Maybe. The guy had skipped school. Whatever. I had enough to be focused on without worrying about the kid and woman.

Footsteps pounded against the ground.

“Here you go, Ashley.” Raquel rested the cappuccino down in front of me on the table.

One touch of the glass made me take my hand off it after heat scorched me. The cappuccino was just too hot to drink. However, I would ‘ve been lying if I didn’t say it looked nice because it did. The cappuccino consisted of a thick layer of foamed milk for the first third of the glass while the remaining two-thirds was a bright mocha color. The cappuccino also happened to be topped with cinnamon.

“Thanks,” I said while fidgeting in my chair after checking my watch.

My date’s continued tardiness still wasn’t cause for panic. Even if he was now twenty minutes late. People got stuck in traffic all the time. Especially me. There was still a lot of traffic in a small place like Featherwood. Like between four and six in the afternoon by Exit 3 when people left work.

“No problem. Will you need anything else?” Raquel asked.

I shook my head. “No. I’m good for now.”

“Okay. But I’ll check up on you in a few minutes since your date will have hopefully arrived by then.”

I touched the cup and sipped some of my cappuccino. It was no longer scolding hot, and the mixture of the sweet and bitter flavors jolted my taste buds before I put the glass back down on the table.

Another gust of wind pushed a nearby soda can down the street, making me scoff. One would’ve thought a well to do town like Featherwood wouldn’t have littering. But no. That wasn’t the case since the littering concern seemed to have gone into a black hole like me wishing Mom would stop bugging me about marriage.

Whatever. No use in getting upset even though the Sierra Club would’ve had a fit if they knew about the littering problem in Featherwood. Sure. I might’ve been stuck in the small town I grew up in all my life, but at least I was a published writer.

“He’s still not here?” Raquel asked after once again stopping by my table and checking up on me.

“Maybe I should see if he contacted me.” I pulled up the dating app on my iPhone and checked if there were any messages from the guy.

Nope. No messages from SMILES25. Although sweat clung to my forehead. The app said the guy was within one thousand feet of me, yet there was no guy in sight.

My jaw twitched after I tilted my head. A man and woman were laughing as they approached an ice cream shop across the street. The chime on the ice cream shop’s door clinked.  Then, I glanced at the photo of SMILES25, only to realize it was the guy that just walked into the ice cream shop with the woman.

Raquel furrowed an eyebrow. “Something wrong?”

“Traffic isn’t the problem; he got a better offer.”

“What do you mean?”

“The guy who was supposed to meet me for the date just walked into the ice cream shop across the street with another woman.”

Raquel sighed. “I’m sorry. But take your time. The cappuccino is on the house.”

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it; it’s the least I can do.”

I gritted my teeth. “Rescheduling our date four times should’ve been a clue.”

Her eyes lit up. “You’re joking.”

“I’m afraid not,” I said. “But at least I dodged a jerk. Imagine if he showed up, we clicked, started dating and got married, only for me to think he’s Mr. Perfect until I catch him in bed with another woman.”

Raquel clenched her jaw. “Don’t even think it!”

So much for worrying about the guy being a predator. I should’ve been more concerned about him being an asshole. Flaking on someone without even lying and coming up with an excuse defined shitty behavior.

End

 

Bio

Chris Bedell's previous publishing credits include Thought Catalog, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Entropy Magazine to name several examples. Also, his YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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