Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blind Date

           My eyes scanned each male who entered the Java Java Coffee House alone and took a seat by himself. Two men had done so in the last ten minutes. Each time my heart thumped, and I wondered, Is this my blind date?
I had arrived early—my date was for five o'clock this afternoon—and had taken a seat by myself in a corner at a table for two, where I had a great view of the front door and of the rest of the Java Java patrons.
I felt as if I wanted to chew my fingernails off. Would I be stood up? Or worse, would my date waltz in, take one look at me, and scurry out?
My hand shaking a bit, I carefully sipped my coffee. I tried to appear casual—just a forty-year-old widow on her first blind date, a woman who hadn't dated anyone in twenty years, a woman who wasn't nervous or frightened. Almost ready to bail.
The first man who came in alone and slumped into a chair two tables away from me couldn't be my date. True, he looked my age, but he was overweight and bald, glasses perched on the end of his nose. My best friend Elaine had set this date up. Henry Stone, my date, was her husband's friend. The two men worked for the same engineering firm. Like me, Henry had lost his spouse to cancer several years ago. Elaine said he was tall, good-looking, and clean-cut, though very hesitant about dating. "But not to worry," she assured me. "Dating again will be a great adventure. Better than planned. You'll be the perfect couple."
I'd brought a hardcover book with me so I could appear to be a lady who'd stopped for coffee to relax while she read. I held up my book. Last Kiss. A mystery. I flipped to the first page, but I couldn't concentrate.
I felt someone staring at me. Has to be nerves.
Over the top of the book, I glanced at the other man who had come in alone, bought coffee, and had taken a seat up front by the big glass window. Sandy-haired and dressed casually in a blue polo shirt and new jeans, he certainly looked tall and clean-cut. Handsome, too.
I realized I was staring at Mr. Handsome. He was staring back. He looked strangely familiar. How can that be?
I gulped. I blushed.
He smiled now, and I smiled back. My heart started pounding. He got up and ambled toward me, his coffee in hand. Oh my gosh! He is my date!
I closed my book and laid it next to my coffee.
"How do you like the novel?" he asked.
I gazed up into the warmest, killer blue eyes I'd ever seen. I felt my pulse in my throat. "I...I was just starting it."
He looked sheepish. "Um...I hope you don't think I'm off base here—"
"Not at all." My words sounded like a croak.
"Would you like a cinnamon roll with your coffee?"
"Yes...yes...of course," I said, hoping I hadn't sounded too eager. When he turned toward the counter, my cell phone chirped. Elaine's text message said: So sorry. Henry phoned. Said he couldn't make it. Jerk!
I nearly fell off my chair. Who I had just—?
The handsome, sandy-haired man appeared with a monster cinnamon roll on a plate along with two pads of butter, plastic knives and forks, and napkins.  "I wrote the book you're reading," he said, sitting across from me and flipping Last Kiss over. "I'm a local author. See. There's my picture on the back cover. I was wondering what you thought. About the book," he added, and smiled.
His picture and a blurb filled the book's back cover. Robert Cruz was a retired police officer, forty-three, who had used his vast experience in law enforcement to pen his first novel.
"I just made arrangements," he said, for a book signing with Readmore Book Store. I decided to stop for coffee. I spotted you, my book in your hand..." He cleared his throat. "Are you all right?"
I couldn't catch my breath. I must have appeared pale. "This is so weird."
Why fib? I told him my name—Susan Crosby—and explained about my blind date, how I thought he—Robert Cruz—was my date...and well, yes, and how I'd been stood up. We laughed. We split the roll. Buttered it. Delicious. We chatted. I discovered he was divorced long ago; I told him about my husband's death. Finally I said, "I've never met a famous author before."
"You still haven't," he said, and smiled. "And I've never been anyone's blind date..." He looked sheepish again. "That, if you wouldn't mind, Susan."
I ate my last morsel of the cinnamon roll and drank my last drop of coffee, sweetness and warmth flowing through me. "Not at all. This adventure," I said, "is turning out better than planned."

The End
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