by Jeannie Yee Davis
“Have fun!” I hollered as Sally, my niece, dashed off with her friends.
“Call me,” I turned towards a twenty-something man who doesn’t look like the father type dropping off a preteen girl to the same birthday party. “Call me!” he repeated, though the girl was out of earshot. I tried being discreet, covering my giggle, not to embarrass him—too late. He grinned and said, “I’m new at this.”
I stifled a chuckle, nodded, and said, “ah.”
We smiled at each other before heading off in opposite directions. Sally’s friend held her party at Dave & Buster’s at the Great Mall. It gave me an excuse to shop for a new outfit for tonight’s blind date that my cousin talked me into. “It’s been a year since your breakup. It’s time you started dating again,” she argued, and she’s right. Except, how do I trust again? My ex and I were inseparable through four years of college. I foolishly assumed wedding bells were our next step after graduation and landing jobs. Instead of popping the question after graduation, he popped the news that he preferred the perpetual student lifestyle over a career. He headed East taking my dream with him, and I went West to live in the real world—alone. The hardest part was having nobody to share the highs and lows with. That became the catalyst for the blind date.
My eyes skimmed the Spring dresses in the display windows, but my mind lingered with newbie dad. What was his story? What did he mean by “I’m new at this”? New single dad? I couldn’t imagine a decent-looking guy like him staying single for long.
I turned the corner, caught newbie dad window shopping. Guilty of being enraptured by him prompted me to U-turn before he saw me. Too late. We locked eyes. He waved. I grinned, waved back, and skedaddled like a nervous school girl. My shopping trip became a mindless stroll fixated on newbie dad. I knew nothing about him, yet he fascinated me. The concern on his face for his charge won me over.
An hour later, my growling tummy sent me to the food court where newbie dad was checking out a menu. I did an about-face when he asserted, “We meet again!”
I relented and added, “We meet again. Are you shopping or killing time?”
“Killing time until I got hungry. You must be hungry, too? Wanna join me?
“That obvious?” I asked, he raised one eyebrow in response, and we both chuckled. “Sure, I am hungry. What do you feel like?”
“I haven’t met a food I don’t like. You choose. By the way, I’m Steve.”
“Pleasure, Steve. I’m Manny.” As we shook hands, I glanced at his left hand—no ring, and my heart danced. “Interested in Taiwan Street Food?”
“Lead the way. I’m opened to new foods.”
“Cool. I love sampling world cuisine. It’s like traveling without leaving home.”
“Good perspective. I like traveling. My job takes me everywhere.” he said.
“What do you do?” I asked, leading the way to the kiosk, filing in line.
“I’m a health club trainer.”
“No wonder you look so good,” I mumbled. He grinned. “Did I say that out loud?” He nodded. I blushed. I pointed to the menu. “The popcorn chicken sounds delish.”
“Two orders of popcorn chicken, please,” he told the cashier. “Green tea for me. She’ll have…” he turned to me.
“Same here, please.”
“I got this. Would you mind grabbing that table?” Steve pulled out his wallet, tilted his head towards a couple vacating a table.
“Sure thing,” I accelerated towards the vacancy.
“This is quite tasty. Good choice.” Steve nodded, and I agreed. The meal was the first of many common interests we shared. “I’m glad I took my friend Bill’s daughter to this party.”
“She’s not your daughter?”
“No, oh no. I’m not married.”
Yes! I thought.
“Not dating anyone, either. Thinking about settling down, though. Bill thinks I need experience. I think he wanted free babysitting.” Steve said, chuckling. What’s your story?”
“My sister was busy. I was available. Viola, Manny’s taxi to the rescue.” My cell pinged. “It’s Sally. Time to head back.” We promised to stay in touch before saying our goodbyes.
For my blind date, I chose a pale lavender dress that complimented my long straight blackish-brown hair. I thought of Steve’s wavy hair as I added a wave to mine and dreaded my blind date when the doorbell rang.
I opened the door, and there stood Steve on my porch with a bouquet in hand, “It’s you!” I gasped.
“Yes, you’re Francis?”
“Steve is my middle name. I was hoping you would be my blind date. This is going to be the best blind date ever because it’s you.”