Happy almost Valentine's Day! On Monday, you voted from a choice of three new scenes and your voices were heard. Today, I give to you the Wendy blind date scene, in celebration of the novel being in my editor's hands.
This scene takes place in the present timeline, when Wendy's best friend Reese encourages her to try to find a date for their other friend's wedding. And without further adieu….
Wendy's Blind Date
Wendy didn’t know how to date someone she didn’t know. She realized this halfway to the restaurant, mid-lyric of a country song. She wasn’t quite sure where to put her hands. Clasped together in her lap made them sweat, crossed over her chest sent the I’m pissed off message and she had no idea how to make herself look like an actual human being. Since when were hands so awkward?
Everything about Gray Fulton screamed man. He smelled like aftershave; and in his hair, he wore a gel or a mousse, which made it Ken doll stiff and shiny. There was a slight lean in the way he drove his car, a kind of cool comfort.
He took her to Sander’s, a fancy steakhouse that Mom and Dad took the family to for special occasions. On cue, Dad would always say, “I really need to teach y’all how to make hollandaise,” which he promptly forgot by the drive home.
Gray Fulton did all of the gentlemanly things boys are supposed to do: door-opening, chair-pulling and jacket-taking. Wendy knew girls were supposed to want these things, but it always made her feel like a show horse, like something to parade around a group of judges. Look at her, isn’t she a byoot?
“Wine?” he asked her.
“Absolutely,” she said.
Boys who bought her wine received high marks in her book. She loved wine. Red, mostly. But even though she loved wine, she still felt strange ordering it, like she was breaking some kind of rule. She wasn’t, she reminded herself. She had an ID to prove it.
What did one talk about on a date? Did you start with light conversation about your job or did you start even simpler with a nice weather type of comment?
The waiter brought the wine. Good, Wendy thought, Something to hold.
“So tell me about yourself,” Gray asked her.
This was most likely the hardest question he could have drawn from the question hat. She laughed uncomfortably and countered with, “What do you want to know?”
He didn’t know what to do with this response. He straightened his tie. Oh yeah, he was wearing a tie. “The basics, I suppose.”
That’s when Wendy realized that Gray Fulton, despite his gentlemanly check marks and quaffed hair, lacked an essential component to any and all Wendy contenders: a personality. Namely, a sense of humor/an awareness of social cues.
“Well, I work at a law firm,” she started. Basics only. Simplistic personality traits. “I graduated with a double major in art and business. I live with my parents.”
He kept pulling at his tie, like a dog with a collar. He coughed a little. “Cool.”
One word. No elaboration. Another observation about Gray Fulton: he had no propensity for conversations with females. Or maybe conversations at all.
“How about you?” she asked.
He muttered something about being in IT, then something else about living in New Orleans. He said all of this while biting on his bottom lip, nay, chewing, and the words had to maneuver themselves around this impediment, making them sound more like grunts than actual syllables.
Wendy nodded, gulping down her wine. “That’s great.”
She had no idea what was great, but the silence was a jarring. She was dating silence, and it just sat there sprawled out on the table in front of them, naked and awkward.
“So, I’m a painter. Watercolors, mostly.”
Once Wendy opened her mouth, she couldn’t close it again. She started talking about work, about Donald, about the storyline of the most recent series she’d started watching. Gray nodded along with her, playing with his fork, swishing the wine around in his glass, whatever it took to lose himself in her jabbering, to distract himself from the fact that he was out, on a date, with a very chatty girl.
So, this was how it was going to be. Wendy: the egotistical, self-obsessed loudmouth.
And all before 8:30.
“Can I just say something?” Gray interjected, finally allowing Wendy to catch a breath. “When Reese set us up, I had no idea how attractive you would be. You are seriously a beautiful woman.”
Gag me, Wendy thought. His words actually sounded sincere, but maybe that just made it worse.
This statement freaked her out more than anything else. A beautiful woman. Were they allowed to say that? She would never tell her friends, “I went on a date with a gorgeous man last night.” She wasn’t a woman. Women had rents and suits and titles like Mrs. or Dr. or Ms.
Women did not watch Saturday cartoons and drink their coffee out of Disney princess mugs.
She excused herself to go to the bathroom. She didn’t say she had to powder her nose or wash her hands. She straight up told him she needed to use the restroom.
“I’m not cut out for dating,” she said hurriedly when Claudia picked up. She wasn’t sure why she called Claudia.
“Oh no, are your teeth all stained like they always get when you drink red wine?”
Wendy gritted her teeth at the mirror. Purplish. “Add that to the list. He called me a beautiful woman. After I talked his ear off for a straight forty minutes. And he wears hair gel. And he bites his lip. And I hate this so much, please please bail me out.”
“I think you should stay,” Claudia said, “If you bail now, you’re just going to keep making excuses not to go on dates.”
“However,” Claudia continued, reveling in her power, “I’ll bail you out this one time. Because of all your recent emotional turmoil and whatnot. You owe me, though.”
“I owe you big time,” Wendy said.
At home, supposedly caring for her sick sister, Wendy set herself up to paint. She ran her palm over the paper, and dipped the brush into the water. When she closed her eyes, she could almost smell the air bouncing off the pond water. She could see the field of swaying grasses. She could picture herself there, her hand through his, standing in the wind.
She would date, eventually. Just not now.
For now, she would paint, and she did just that.