With each blind date, Beth is more discouraged. When ex-Navy sailor Mitchell deserts Beth before the meal is over, she decides her search for love is over. That is until fate places her and Mitchell together for a Fourth of July event. When he starts to show interest, she finds herself in uncharted waters.
Beth hit her clock for the fourth time and pulled the covers back over her head. She was determined to forget what waited on the other side of her down comforter—the reality of her biological time piece winding down to explosion—and return to her afternoon nap.
Get up! Unfortunately, the persistent voice of her sub-conscious was louder than that of apathy. She tossed off her covers and swung her feet to the cold floor. Why did I allow Mom to set me up on another blind date? Like she’s a good judge of character. After five failed marriages, her mother had switched her romantic energies to helping her daughter find love. Lucky me.
Slumping to the bathroom, Beth drew her shoulder length hair into a ponytail. A quick shower, a few pats of powder, a layer of lip gloss and a flick of mascara and Beth was good to go. She was simple, right down to her plain black pumps and cross necklace. Picking out an outfit was never difficult. She stared in her closet and pushed the hangers aside one-by-one. Black. Let’s see, black. And, oh yes, black. Her mom once chided her wardrobe and Beth responded by saying, “Well, at least I’ll be stylish at your funeral.” Yeah, that went over well.
Beth stepped into a rayon dress and turned sideways in the mirror. “Eat your heart out Michael.” Or was it Mark? No bother. Probably won’t matter tomorrow anyway. No one had ever asked her out twice.
The doorbell rang.
Beth opened it slowly and peered over the chain. “Hi, Michael.”
Of course. “Sorry, about that Mitchell.” She undid the chain and stepped back. “Come on in.”
He entered, bringing with him a spicy sent mixed with Irish Spring soap.
Her hand trembled as she tried to close the door. “I’ll be right back. I just need to grab my purse.”
He nodded and she disappeared in her room. Why was she so nervous? Because this guy is too good for me. She peeked out behind the door. They always are.
Mitchell stood confidently with broad shoulders pulled back and his chiseled jaw perched high. His highlighted, brown hair hung slightly over his left eye, defining his chocolate-colored eyes. Mom has good taste. Too bad she can’t see them in relation to me.
Beth glanced around her room and retrieved her purse, then joined him.
“Ready?” he asked.
She nodded and followed him out.
At the restaurant, the conversation lulled. Over plates of pasta, he asked about her job. “I’m an independent contractor. I create marketing packets for organizations.” She didn’t really want to tell him. Did he really care? Small talk. She’d mastered it. What do you do? What do I do? Let’s talk about the weather and the insanity of blind dating. She sighed. He looks bored enough.
He offered the occasional smile.
“And what do you do?” Beth asked, then spun her fork around in the butter-saturated noodles and lifted a bite to her lips.
“I work for the government planning events.” He grinned again and stared at his plate. Either he was shy, wanted out, or was just as uncomfortable at this date stuff as she was. A thick silence hung between them.
“So, what do you think about this weather? Think hurricane season will be as bad this year?” It was the safest subject. Weather. The subject for when there was no other.
“I hope not. My office works extra hard when we have natural disasters. We’re on the front lines.”
She set her fork down and pushed back her plate. “Were you part of the Katrina efforts?”
“Yes, that was sad.”
The waitress cleared their plates and another moment of silence followed her departure. As the tiramisu was placed in front of them, Beth noticed Mitchell’s hand tremble as he reached for his fork.
She studied him. Was that nervousness she detected? Sweat permeated his brow and suddenly, his confidence seemed to waver. His phone buzzed on the table causing him to glance at the screen.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He didn’t meet her eyes at first, and then said. “I’m sorry; I need to take this call.” He snapped it open and held it to his ear. “Hi, Marilyn.”
“Sure.” Beth dabbed her lips and folded her cloth napkin on the table. “Will you excuse me one moment? I’m going to use the ladies room.”
He nodded and went back to his conversation.
She pushed back in the chair and made a mad dash for the restroom in some vain hope to calm her anxiety. No man stayed the full date. She knew the signs. Her problems with the male species started two days after her tenth birthday. Stepfather number three called her ugly. For as long as Beth could remember, she believed him. And with each date, it was obvious Daddy number three wasn’t far off with his assessment—she was homely.
Beth forced the swinging door closed behind her, bolted herself in a stall and exhaled. She leaned against the door and stared across the tiny space. Graffiti covered the walls. Most expletives and sayings she could have lived without reading. She shut her eyes and slowed her breathing. Why did the male race seem so complicated? Did she really care if she ever found love? Who needs it?
But her heart couldn’t lie. It bothered her that she felt worthless. Repulsive. She pictured her heart-shaped face; straight, shoulder-length red hair; and fair skin. Her almond-shaped green eyes skimmed her loose dress. Underneath, her thin frame didn’t lack for curves. She stepped out and stared into the mirror. “Am I ugly?”
A flush sounded behind her and an elderly black woman crossed to the sink. Her eyes skimmed Beth’s face and body. “Girl, please. I wish I looked as good as you when I was your age.” She touched her hair and went out the door.
Beth glanced back to the mirror. It was like a veil lifted and she saw her face for the first time. Maybe daddy-three wasn’t completely right. I have nice eyes and smooth skin. She squared her shoulders; thrust opened the door with a new found confidence, then halted and grimaced. Her heart sunk. The chair across from hers sat vacant.
She scanned the crowed restaurant. No sign of Mike. Martin. Oh, whatever this one was called. A waiter stopped in front of her.
“Can I help you, Miss?”
Her eyes searched the room again. “I’m looking for my date.”
He glanced at the door. “Was he about my height, brown hair?”
The waiter pointed to the exit. “He paid the bill and left.”
She forced a smile. “Thanks.” Well, at least this one didn’t leave me with the check. She gathered her purse from under the table and walked to the door. Another free meal. That is how I will view it from now on. The fact she was without transportation didn’t bother her either. Calling her mom for a ride was good. Maybe at some point, the mother figure would tire of picking her daughter up from failed attempts at love and leave her be.
Beth dialed the familiar number.
“Hi, Mom,” she said.
“Just a minute.” The TV blared in the background and her mom was obviously searching for the controls to turn it down. “Sweetheart? Aren’t you on a date?”