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Another Blind Date
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Ken Orford

Modern Fiction

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Dan shook his head, sighed and picked up his drink. His friend Brian just looked at him and smiled:

“Aww come on, what’s the harm in it?”

Dan put the drink down, took a deep breath and looked at him:

“Are you serious? Have you forgotten the last one?”

Before Brian could answer, Dan went on:

“And don’t tell me it wasn’t too bad. Okay, she wasn’t bad looking – granted. But the limit of her conversation was Big Brother and bloody shoes!”

“Not bad looking? She was fucking gorgeous.” A pause, “I would have.”

“Yeah, all it takes for you is a bit of cleavage and a short skirt – Christ, you’re as shallow as she was!”

“Hey, don’t sell me short … it was a LOT of cleavage.”

Dan looked at the ceiling then back to his best friend:

“Okay, so why didn’t you? Oh yes, that’s right, you were with Julie. Who, as I recall, dragged you off so that we could ‘get to know each other’. More like stop you from slobbering all over my blind date.”

They sat in silence for a few seconds. Brian looked up, grinned and acknowledged that perhaps she was a bit lacking in the personality department … “But God mate, she had a great pair of tits.”

Another shake of the head:

“I really don’t know what Julie sees in you.”

Brian laughed and said something about charm, personality and “other assets”.

Dan had to admit to himself though that Brian and Julie had a great relationship, and whilst Brian could be a bit of a letch at times, he could easily see himself as best man at their wedding! He started to think about the best man’s speech – bloody hell, there were so many stories it would be a problem to edit them down. Mind you, there were a couple of “What goes on tour, stays on tour” type stories that would not see the light of a wedding day.

He was brought out of his thoughts by Brian’s voice, pleading softly:

“Look mate, can you just do this favour for me? Julie says she’s really nice. She didn’t really go into details but says she’s had a difficult time recently. And besides, it’s dinner at her place, so Julie and I can’t bugger off and leave you talking about Stella McCartney designs or Gucci handbags or anything.”

Brian left a suitable pause:

“Go on, you know you want to.”

With a distinct feeling that it was not one of his better decisions, Dan nodded, and before he could qualify it or (worse still) change his mind, Brian had grabbed his phone and was talking to Julie announcing that Dan had “gone for it” – all of which made him even less certain he’d done the right thing.

As they parted company outside the pub, Brian grinned at his friend and said he and Julie would pick him up on Saturday at seven sharp, and then he added:

“You won’t regret it!”

As he walked the few hundred yards to his flat, the thoughts went round in Dan’s head. What’s the worst that could happen? She’s a rotten cook and poisons us? She’s an axe murderer (murderess?) and kills us all? She’s ugly? No, I’m not that shallow – that wouldn’t worry me if she’s witty and interesting. Hmm, dunno – maybe I am a bit shallow!

He was joined on the front doorstep by his cat, who gave him a very stern “where have you been ‘til this time? I want my dinner!” look.

He went into the kitchen, got the cat food out of the cupboard and looked at his companion:

“So Moggs, what do you reckon? Have I been had again? I suppose she can’t be as bad as the airhead! Let’s look on the bright side – she might be a great looker, a great conversationalist, a great cook ...”

Just over three miles away Stella sat reading a cook book. Julie had called and told her it would be four for dinner on Saturday. The butterflies had set off in her stomach straight away. It had now been quite a while since David. Despite the fact that everyone told her she was great looking, funny and witty, and a more than passable cook, there was still that obstacle to get over. She clenched her fist in quiet determination. This time, it wouldn’t matter!

***

True to their word, Julie and Brian had picked him up at seven. As he got into the back and closed the car door Julie remarked how smart he looked … “not like someone else I could mention” making a pointed look at Brian. Dan smiled to himself, Brian always was a bit of a scruff. Then she added:

“I’m sure Stella will appreciate your making the effort.”

“So come on Jules, what’s she like?”

Julie laughed and told him he’d have to find out for himself. Dan responded that she should at least tell him if she had one leg, or a horrible speech impediment or something horrendous.

Julie smiled:

“Stella is perfectly normal. She runs the telesales department at work, and is really witty and funny.”

Dan felt reassured that this may at least be a normal evening. Well as normal as any blind date can be. But he didn’t see Julie’s hand. Her fingers were crossed as she spoke.

The war of the butterflies that had been raging inside Stella’s chest for the past few days had now gone nuclear. Her heart was pounding and she felt short of breath. The glass of white she had allowed herself had done little to calm her. She checked one more time that everything was in its place, that the dinner smelled fine and the wine was opened. Please God, no slip ups. The doorbell rang and she walked to the door, put her hand on the handle, took a deep breath and opened it.

Julie’s flowers smelled wonderful and she hugged her and thanked her. Dan was very pleasantly surprised by the woman at the door with her arms round Julie’s shoulders. He watched as she turned to Brian as Julie announced:

“This is Brian, excuse his dress sense – his mother didn’t check on him before he left the house.”

Stella giggled nervously as they kissed briefly on the cheek, and announced that she’d heard a lot about him, and that he was okay as far as she was concerned. Then Stella turned to Dan:

“And this is the much more sensible, better dressed, better looking and generally much nicer guy – Dan.”

Dan leant forward and they touched cheeks, and he got a faint whiff of a very expensive perfume.

“Wow, you smell gorgeous – that’s really nice perfume.”

“Oh God!” exclaimed Brian, “he uses that line all the time. Ignore him, he’s just trying to show me up.”

Dan smiled at Stella:

“And just to emphasise it even further, these are for you.”

Stella took the small box and smiled as she caressed it.

“Ooh, I love Thornton’s, thank you!”

The small group made its way inside, and Stella asked what everyone wanted to drink – they opted for wine, and settled down to socialise for the ten minutes until dinner was ready.

Dan watched his hostess as she moved in and out, checking on dinner and her guests. Nice legs, shown off by a short (but not tarty) skirt. Blouse unbuttoned just enough to keep you interested. But best of all, a really pretty face framed by shoulder length light brown hair. Well, judging by the smell from the kitchen, that’s two out of three boxes ticked. This could be a really good evening.

As Stella and Julie were serving things up in the kitchen, he looked round the small flat. Obviously a woman’s – incredibly tidy, no clutter, no magazines, shoes or DVDs lying around – everything in its place, not at all like his.

Dan had always been the nosey type, and he was really enjoying looking around and painting a picture of Stella in his mind. He liked the music that was playing and thought he recognised David Sanborn’s sax playing. He got up and nudged past the coffee table over to the hi-fi. He picked up the CD case and looked at it, and confirmed his suspicions – it was David and he was playing with Bob James, the jazz pianist. He made a mental note to download “Double Vision”. He put the CD case down and took his seat again as Stella came back in.

“I love the music. No-one plays a sax like Sanborn,”

Stella smiled and agreed. She said a friend had given her the CD – mainly because she loved Al Jarreau and he did vocals on one of the tracks. Then she announced it was time to eat.

Dinner was delicious – Stella was clearly a gifted cook. Brian made some comments about the possibility of her giving Julie some lessons. Dan said:

“Sod giving Julie lessons, I’d love to be able to cook better.”

Stella smiled at him:

“Well, I’m up for that, but it would be easier for you to just buy a Delia book. Almost everything I do is hers!”

As the conversation progressed it became more and more dominated by Stella and Dan. She was bright, intelligent, easy to talk to and laugh with, had a wicked sense of humour and Dan found himself increasingly relaxed in her company. But there was something. Something about her Dan couldn’t quite put his finger on. Something … not quite right.

And there was something else, over coffee as Stella and Julie were talking so Dan found himself once again looking at the combined living/dining room. There was something odd about it – something Dan couldn’t quite place.

He got his answer a few minutes later when Bob James and David Sanborn finished. As Stella walked over to the sound system to put on another CD, she accidentally walked into the coffee table. Only Dan noticed as Julie and Brian were talking. He heard Stella mumbling to herself, asking who moved the bloody table.

Then when she got to the hi-fi she ejected the CD and went to pick up the case, but of course Dan had moved it. Only a foot or so, but it wasn’t exactly where she’d left it. As soon as he saw that, Dan realised what was missing from the room. He glanced at his watch – they’d been here almost three hours. This was one impressive woman.

Now he knew, it was so obvious. A few minutes later he offered to help clear up. Part way through, when Stella was clattering about in the kitchen he caught Julie’s eye, gave her his best “you cheeky bugger” look, and a small shake of the head, indicating she should keep out of the kitchen for a few minutes. As far as Brian was concerned, kitchens were women’s territory, so that wouldn’t be a problem.

He took in a handful of crockery and put it down.

“I’ve put these just to the left of the cups you just brought in.”

Her head jerked round in his direction.

“Julie promised she wouldn’t tell you, and I trust her – so when did you guess?”

Dan walked over to her and held her shoulders:

“About ten minutes ago. You carried it off for three hours. You are the most astonishing woman I have ever met.”

“What gave me away?”

“When you walked into the table, and it took you a couple of seconds to find the CD case. And then I realised that there was no TV in the lounge. I can’t remember ever seeing a lounge with no TV.”
She ‘looked’ at where she assumed his eyes were:

“So?”

“So how about we have another date, another blind date?”





© Ken Orford, 2011



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