Card Challenge: Day 14
*Sigh* So, this is late and, because I somehow forget to ever consider how I would actually go about writing Fridays sans computer, I had to skip another day. The bad news is my computer is deader than a doornail. The good news is I was able to save all my files. The ambivalent news is that about ¾ of day 14 was lost. Save early and often, folks! So, here is the re-write of day 14, and day 15 should be up by end of day today. Fun fact: Ashley’s first bit of dialogue was actually said to me by a lady in the restroom at the airport, which helped me decide the direction I wanted to take this semi-romantic inspired story. Also, I am using my husband’s work laptop, and the keyboard is miserable. So, please forgive the typos that are certain to sneak in. Happy reading!
Card Day 14: A daisy in cracked ground, plucking its own petals.
Another woman entered the bathroom, her heels clicking against the reflective tiles.
“I’m not waiting,” stammered Ashley with an apologetic smile. “Just hiding out.” She laughed softly, and the other woman returned the half-hearted smile before stepping around her. Ashley walked over towards the sink, fixing her own reflection with a sad, piercing gaze. Yes, here she was, once again hiding out in the bathroom.
She checked her watch, noting that the hand had only trekked ten minutes away. Still, that should certainly be long enough for him to have left, right? And the awkwardness of loitering in the women’s restroom was beginning to wear even on Ashley’s generally calloused sense of social appropriateness. Washing her hands, she turned to leave the bathroom. Another bad date, but at least it was another nicely furnished, pleasant bathroom. She smiled to herself. Maybe she should write a guidebook.
Ashley rounded the corner to re-enter the dining room. She hoped he had left to spare her the awkward pleasantries of letting him down easy. She had learned that, generally, if the ten minute absence did not scare them off, it required a much more direct approach. And Ashley hated seeing the looks of defeat, anger, surprise, and embarrassment in their eyes. She hated even more how snooty and arrogant she sounded. But, it was her heart, after all. And her evening to spend in more productive pursuits.
Unfortunately, there he sat, building a tiny fort of the unused silverware. Daniel looked respectable enough—tall, dark-haired, scholarly spectacles, and lively brown eyes. It was just that, after only the appetizers, she was certain she was going to lose it if she had to hear one more story about his favorite bike trails. Ashley enjoyed biking, she truly did, but there was only so much detail that could be squeezed from a discussion of the local city-maintained trails. She winced as she sat back at the table, gingerly setting her napkin on the table cloth.
“Is everything ok? You aren’t sick, are you?” he asked, his eyes searching.
“No, I’m fine. I just—“ she paused. This was the worst part. She looked at him, his eyes expectant, his mouth slightly agape as he hung on her hesitation. “Listen, this has been really nice, but I don’t think it’s fair for either of us to waste the other’s time.” His mouth snapped closed and he nodded.
“I’m sure you—“
He cut her off. “I’ve bored you to death, haven’t I?”
In some universe, Ashley conceded with a yes and left. In the one she was currently inhabiting, she instead fell back on common courtesy. “No, not at all. I just think—“
“You don’t have to spare my feelings. I know I’m terrible on dates.”
She fumbled, uncertain of how to continue. The truth was, he was terrible on dates. Ashely wanted to agree, and feared continue placations might rope her into entrees that would not be worth the painful conversation. Seeing her discomfort, her laughed self-deprecatingly.
“See? Terrible.” She expected him to be upset in some way, but his smile was good natured and friendly, as if he had discovered they were long-lost best friends. “I know all the rules about what you are and aren’t supposed to talk about, how to act, what topics I should sell myself on—bike riding seemed like a good enough one tonight. I just really can’t get the whole ‘dating’ thing to work.”
“The bike riding stuff was a little over the top.”
Rather than responding, Daniel lifted his hand and gestured towards her, his eyebrow raised. ‘You see my point,’ the gesture said. “I know. It was utterly intolerable. Me just droning on and on. I just get so nervous, and then all I can think to talk about are politics, religion, or world news. And those, so I’ve been told repeatedly, are strictly off limits for a first date. So I treat someone to the most boring lecture on bike paths anyone has ever heard.”
Ashley couldn’t help but smile. It was nice to hear someone else rail about the artificiality of dating, rather than just griping to her mother on the phone and receiving additional platitudes about “best foot forward” and other garbage. “When you get rid of all the good, important topics, I guess it’s easy to get stuck.”
“Exactly! But when I do bring up something really interesting, some recent news article, I get shut down. When I don’t, I get shut down.”
“It’s a lose-lose,” she conceded. The paused, smiling at each other in the restaurant. His rant had gotten a bit louder than the hushed whispers of other diners, but they just smiled, finding a common enemy on the war against superficial dating.
“Hey, listen, this has been nice, and I think you are probably pretty great,” he said, leaning in conspiratorially.
“All I really know is that you love to bike,” she ribbed gently. He shrugged and nodded amiably.
“Yeah, I kind of screwed up. What I would like to do is ask you to not date me. Let’s you and I not-date.”
Ashley felt a little taken aback by the strange comment. Yes, she wanted ot leave, but it felt a bit abrupt right then. Still, it was what she wanted. She gathered her purse and stood to leave. He laughed.
“Geez, I guess that was clear as mud. I mean, would you like to go on a completely not-date date?”
The idea was strange enough to give her pause, and she turned back to the table. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, let’s take a first date and actually get to know each other. Like me, I don’t mind these high-end restaurants, but I can’t say I appreciate the food much more than I would a good slice of pizza.”
“I’d kill for some pizza right now,” she said, laughing.
“That’s what I’m talking about! You and I, we like pizza, but we have to get all fancied up for a first date. So, would you be up for an un-date?”
“What would the un-date entail?”
“I order pizza, you pick up your favorite soda, six pack, or what have you. We go back to my place—“
Ashely’s face fell. It was a shameless ploy, just a desperate attempt at sincerity. Her irritation showed plainly on her face.
Daniel threw his hands up with a smile. “Or your place. I’m not looking for anything. And I promise my aunt would not set you up with me if I were a serial killer. Either way, we pop in a movie, mock it or become enthralled, and just relax. I’m a big fan of really terrible seventies sci-fi, but I’m up for anything. No pressure, no rules.”
“Do you have Psy-Clops?”
Daniel smiled a broad smile. “Of course. No collection of mockery complete without it.”
“Your place it is, I guess.”
Daniel called for the check while Ashely left for her car. Perhaps it would be another wasted evening, she mused. But, perhaps it was the beginning of the first truly authentic thing in her life.
It was, at the very least, the beginning of something beautiful.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.