The Plan (and Chapter 1 – A New Love)

So … as I mentioned in the About section … “Me & Eryn Carlo” is finished but requires a serious amount of tweaking.

The plan is to post every Tuesday. What I’d like to do is post a chapter every two weeks – in between I’ll post a character introduction or a miscellaneous post relating to the book.

I’m partially nervous because I am the world’s biggest procrastinator so forgive me if I post late…

And without further delay – here is chapter one.

Chapter 1 – A New Love

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

“I am falling in love!” I sigh and sink into my work chair. “And good morning, dear friend.”

“No way. Tell me about him. Spare no juicy detail.” Karma turns slowly in her swivel chair while simultaneously shoving a double chocolate mini donut into her tiny mouth.

“Okay so I’m perusing the stores at the Sawgrass mall with an old girlfriend and–”

“Mmm. These are delicious. Have you tried these?” She presses yet another frosted donut into her mouth without wiping the chocolate icing off her lips from the first one.

“Ugh. No. But you have. Many times. Honestly, Karma, I’ve never seen someone eat so many donuts in my life without gaining a single pound.”

She smiles at the hint of jealousy in my tone. “Good genes, baby. Good genes. Don’t hate – it’s not very becoming on you.” Karma reaches over to pat me on the cheek with her slender yet chocolaty fingers but I swiftly dodge the attempt. Donning a false scowl she continues, “Are you going to tell me the story about Mr. Right or what?”

“I’m trying to but your obsessive addiction with donuts is intertwining itself into yet another conversation which, I remind you, started with me saying I am in love!” I twist my long pin-straight chestnut-brown hair up into a high, sophisticated bun.

“You’re grinning like a 14-year-old.” Karma rolls her eyes.

“I am!” My smile is so cheesy.

“It annoys me. Really.”

“You are a strange friend, Karma.”

“Been there. Heard that.” She sets her focus back on the donut minis she bought this morning from her second home – the quaint bakery down the block.

“So I’m at the Sawgrass mall with my friend, Liz, and…”

“Yes you mentioned that already. I –“

“Oh my gosh! Just sit and listen!” I hastily stuff another donut into her mouth even though she’s still working on the previous one. “Silence is golden. Haven’t you heard?”

Karma shakes her head slowly signaling a “no.”

“Before I continue I should mention that a few months back I’m at Macy’s looking for a cocktail dress when I see this handbag I absolutely adore but, unfortunately, cannot afford at full price. It’s the prettiest shade of mocha and the leather is soft and comfortable. The initials ‘EC’ are printed all over it in gold but not a brassy gold. It’s more of a light angelic gold, if that makes any sense. I’ve never heard of EC before but no matter.”

“Uh huh.” Karma mumbles, eyeing me speculatively.

“A week later, on payday, I’m driving to Macy’s excited to buy the EC bag only to find that it’s entirely sold out. Disappointment inevitably follows, you know.”

“I thought we were talking about a guy? Can we skip to that part? The latest and greatest form of Mr. Right? Mr. Right-For-The-Moment? Did you sleep with him?”

I close my eyes and plea with my hands in prayer position. “Shut … up … Karma.”

“Yes ma’am. Shutting up.” She purses her lips and sits like a soldier at attention.

“Now, back to Sawgrass mall, Liz and I are perusing through handbags at the mall and we come across an EC bag. Imagine my delight! By the way, EC stands for Eryn Carlo. I Googled the brand. This designer mirrors my exact taste in handbags: simple, classic, chic, and one hundred percent wearable. The beauty of this find is that the bag is marked down to about half the original price and so, unsurprisingly, I purchase it! Voila!” I pull out the bag and proudly display it as if it’s a silky first prize ribbon rightfully earned.

I pause for reaction but Karma simply polishes off her fifth donut from the baker’s dozen held in an exquisite mint green and white laced box.

I ignore her less than enthusiastic response and continue. “Anyhow, I’m uber excited! I discover a designer that I’m confident no one I know is fixated with yet. But they will be. It’s only a matter of time. Eryn Carlo. The name just rolls off the tongue. They have a clothing line too!”

“Oh and I’m the strange friend? You tell me you’re falling in love with a handbag and clothing designer, Lucy.” Karma snickers and tosses a paperclip at me.

“Hey! Yes, well, we are both fully aware that I’m terminally single due to my lack of fortunate grace with men so I’m leaning more towards designer handbags and such. They’re reliable. Besides, you know my dates are consistently disastrous, Karma. There’s no hope for me.” I sigh, resigned to my fate of being a permanent resident of Singledom.

“Right. Yes I do know. But I sure love to hear about your horrific date experiences.”

“Ha! Guess what else? I’m starting a blog.”

“A blog for what?”

“The designer. I’ll call it ‘Me and Eryn Carlo.’”

“And now you’re officially starting to scare me.” She promptly Googles and emails me a web link to a local psychiatrist.

I literally laugh out loud when opening the link and I hear Karma giggle lightly from her cubicle desk positioned adjacent to my own.

“Just kidding.” She turns and squeezes my arm gently to reassure me of her underlying sincerity.

Karma is so cynical and tough on the exterior but deep down she is a softie.

“So how about you help me with this new blog venture?” I scoot closer to her desk and seize a donut.

“Not a chance, though you have given me a brilliant idea.”

“Have I now?”

“Yes. I’ll create a blog on donuts. I just love donuts. All kinds.”

“I hadn’t noticed!”

Her eyes narrow in my direction and she purposely pushes the donut box out of my reach.

We begin our research session on blogging which was a completely foreign concept to each of us up until now. Together we explore trendy blog sites: Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr to name a few.

“Do you two not have enough work to do? I only ask because you’ve been talking nonstop all morning.”

My boss. Eric Weston. Also known as Mr. Mean (which gives us a good chuckle because we sing it with the ‘Mr. Clean’ commercial song). Eric is not the most joyful person on our floor … or in the entire company, for that matter. Eric is just plain cross about anything and everything. We’re not sure why but we chalk it up to him being born this way. Or perhaps he acts like this only at work. Eric isn’t exactly one for attending company functions that involve enjoying each other’s company in a non-work environment. I always wonder what his wife is like. Is he nice to her? If not, how does she stand his temper?

He stands before us, arms crossed, his icy blue eyes shooting daggers.   I want to tell him he looks very nice today but I’m too afraid. However, I’m not going to shy away from observing his handsome appearance even if it is tainted by his infamous evil stare. Eric has salt and pepper hair, neatly combed and lightly gelled. He is wearing a perfectly tailored navy blue suit with a stark white dress shirt and a bold red diamond patterned tie. It’s a typical ensemble for the male VPs here at Sunny News but he wears it well. In fact, he wears it better than most. His hands are now finding solace in their respectable pressed pant pockets and his shoes are shined to perfection. I laugh inwardly as I imagine using his super-shiny polished shoes as a mirror for reapplying my lip gloss. Lost in the scrutiny of my manager I almost forget to respond.

“Sorry, Eric.  We are working while talking. Multi-tasking at its finest. Promise. Scout’s honor.” The most productive way to handle Eric was to kill him with kindness.

“Were you a Girl Scout at some point, Lucy?”

“Uh … no?” I blush.

“Is that a question or a statement?”

“No, sir, I was never a Girl Scout.” Geez. “But I wanted to be.”

“I haven’t seen one email from either of you this morning.” Eric steps forward, closing the gap between us, his stance threatening.

“You always tell us not to copy you on every email because you receive such a profound number of emails.” Karma replies matter-of-factly.

“Karma, you owe me a spreadsheet. I want it by lunch time. No breaks or conversation with Lucy until it’s in my inbox.”

“It’s already in your inbox. I sent it to you yesterday, sir.” She practically sings the last two words.

“Fine. Get back to work. Both of you.” He huffs and dramatically turns on his heels to leave.

“You’re such a nut.” Karma mutters under her breath.

“Excuse me? What did you say?” Eric looks back over his shoulder, his eyebrows raised and his lips tense, ready to deliver harsh verbal reprimanding.

“I said, ‘Would you like a donut?’” She holds out the box and bats her deep black mascara lengthened eyelashes.

I turn completely around to hide my amusement at his bewildered expression. Eric snatches a donut and stalks off without so much as a ‘thank you.’

“Karma, really! You’re going to get in serious trouble if you keep that up.” I can’t help but laugh now that Eric is out of earshot.

“I know.  But it’s entertaining so … anyway, back to the blog convo.”

“I think I’ll use WordPress.” I clap my hands in excitement.

“I’m going with Blogger. It’s simple. Donuts are simple.”

“Nice comparison. I like it. Run with it.”

“Thank you, thank you.”

“Oh by the way, I have a date tonight.”

“Another huh? Same sweetheart as last week? Or is it someone new?”

“New. That last guy is a sweetheart but he’s also a real mama’s boy. I have to let my mom know I’m not interested in him. That’s the tough part.” I twist open my new Smashbox lip gloss in a slightly darker shade of brown than my hair. “I hate being set up on blind dates.”

“Yeah he’s a mama’s boy now. Maybe he’ll grow out of it under your tutelage. If your mom sets you up with him then maybe she sees potential.”

“Grow out of it? At 35 years old? Sweetie, I think he’s done all the growing up he can do by now.”

“If you say so. Tell your mom I’m on her side with this one.”

“Yes. I know. I’m glutton for punishment. But what else can I do? If I don’t click with the guy then I don’t click. My alternative option is to cower in the comfort of my condo but I cannot meet anyone when I sit at home all scrubby in my pajamas, devouring countless pints of rum raisin and caramel waffle cone Haagen Dazs, and consuming bottle after bottle of champagne.”

“That certainly is an image to behold.” Karma spins around again while taking a sip of her hot pumpkin latte from Starbucks. “You never know. This guy could be the one. He may even have a single, rich, gorgeous brother for me. Hm. Ingenious. I’m lucky to have you as a cubicle mate.”

“Likewise.”

“Send me this dude’s info and where you’re going tonight. You know the drill.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“What does he do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Occupation-wise.”

“Umm. I don’t remember.” I grimace with embarrassment.

“Sounds promising. I see he made a lasting first impression online.”

***

“Henry?” I cautiously approach the only fidgeting man standing outside of the mid-scale restaurant.

“Yep. Are you Lucy?” He smiles shyly.

“Yes, that’s me. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too. Do you wanna go in? I gave the hostess my name already. Shouldn’t be too long of a wait.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Here’s the lowdown on Henry. He and I have been emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks now via one of the many dating sites I signed up for months back. Dating sites always feel promising and inspiring in the beginning. In that moment there is a distinct possibility of seeking and locating Mr. Right through a convenient, and thoroughly detailed, search tool. An endless supply of single men is available to you in accordance to your wants and needs, your must-haves and must-not-haves.

On the downside, there’s only so much you can convey about yourself with an internet profile. I’m quickly learning that there is a large surplus of short and bald men available for love, commitment, and happily ever after. Prince Charming – without the glossy full head of hair. Not that short balding men are completely atrocious but they’re just not this gal’s type. Many web-dating participants also embellish or intertwine fabricated details within their e-dating profiles in order to attract a landslide of eligible maidens. And let us not forget the guys that post primary photos that were taken twenty years prior to their enrollment.

Henry has a shaved head. I’m momentarily ditching my must-have of a full head of hair to get to know him (don’t mistake this for desperation). He seems like a good-hearted man so I’m willing to throw caution to the wind. Besides, I’ve been on this one particular e-dating website for three months now and this is the first date challenge I’ve agreed to. That makes this date a $150 date. I’m anxious to see if this meeting turns out to be worth one hundred and fifty dollars of pure bliss.

At first glance Henry appears to be a bit on the feminine side.

I shake my head and immediately shut down my judgmental voice of treason. We head into the restaurant and the scent of hot, appealing food resuscitates my fading optimism instantly. It is well-known that this precise establishment serves the best burgers and steak in a five mile radius. It’s not too casual but not too extravagant either. The atmosphere is bustling but relaxed with dim lighting emitting a calming energy.

 Conversation isn’t horrible. A little awkward and forced at times but that’s emblematic of a first date. Turns out Henry has a speech annoyance, meaning he says something habitually that tends to annoy in the long run. He begins just about every statement with a drawn out “well” and I repress a giggle every time he stretches the word with a high pitch.

“Good evening, my name is Alana. What can I get you two to drink tonight? House wine perhaps? Or maybe a lemon drop martini? They’re the bartender’s specialty.” The waitress is perky and bright which makes me smile. She winks at me. Maybe she can tell we’re on a first date? I tell you what, I like her. And I absolutely love lemon drop martinis.

I ask Henry to order first to see what he chooses. To my surprise he says, “I’ll have an iced tea.”

Iced tea? Damn. I want a real drink. Something with vodka and a sour lemon flavor chilled to perfection. Should I still order one? No, I’ll keep it simple. “Just a Coke for me, please. Thank you, Alana.”

Our sad alcohol-free beverages arrive and it’s time to order entrées.

Again I let him order first. What can I say, I like to observe. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they drink and eat. Okay, maybe not a lot but you can at least perceive an inkling of their personality.

“I’ll have the club sandwich please.” Oops, he did it again. I hummed the notes of the ever popular Britney Spears song in my head.

A sandwich? On a dinner date? No meat and potatoes? No real man food?I find that a little odd but here I go judging again. At the risk of appearing as a subservient follower I feel uneasy about ordering a true dinner entrée so I decide to go with a classic cheeseburger and fries.

We talk about our jobs while we wait for our meals. He’s in construction, that’s right. It’s all coming back to me now.

“So have you gone on any crazy dates yet?” Henry asks once our mouth-watering plates arrive. At this point I’m so hungry I could care less what our conversation is about.

“Oh, no, not through this site. Yet, at least.” I laugh trying to not sound so over the date already. I’m having an okay time but it’s nothing to write home about. There’s a serious dearth of chemistry and zero percent chance of a budding spark.

“I have some funny ones. Do you want to hear them?” His eyes are wide with eagerness.

“Sure.” It’s obvious he’s trying. I can’t say no.

Thirty minutes later Henry is still going strong with his storytelling. I attempt to sway the conversation each time he concludes a dating adventure but I’m repeatedly overruled by “just one more” or “wait, this is a good one.”

Resigned, I cradle my face with my hands, bored out of my mind. I already finished my cheeseburger, attacked most of the french fries, downed three cokes, and planned my TV schedule for the rest of the evening. All of this accomplished while he consumes a measly half a sandwich. Henry is full. From half a sandwich.

I check my watch and frown.

“Last one, I promise.”

“Okay, Henry. I’m sorry but I really need to get going soon.”

“Me too. Yeah so this girl was, you know, pretty good-looking in her pictures online and we had some average conversations but when I pick her up for our date she looks so different.”

“Different how? I mean a lot of people don’t post recent pictures of themselves.”

“That wasn’t it, though. This girl is physically handicap and there I was shocked. I didn’t know how to handle it. I thought about leaving but that would be all kinds of wrong. But then again she hadn’t told me she was handicap.”

“Wow. That’s pretty crazy.” I signal the waitress for our check.

“Right?” He’s just having too much of a good time with this. “She basically gets plastered on our date. Again, I’m shocked. Who gets plastered on a first date?”

I’d sure like to get trashed right about now.

“Wellll, I finally find a way to end the evening and drive her home only to reach the high point of our date.” He pauses to add a bit of suspense to the story.

“Oh the anticipation is killing me. By all means, don’t stop now.”

Henry laughs, completely oblivious to my sarcasm. “Wellll, I help her out of the car because she’s so far beyond inebriated it’s ridiculous. Then she tells me she really has to pee badly. So she squats over the grass outside her apartment and just goes.”

“She peed outside?”

“Yep.” Henry slams his hands on the table for extra emphasis.

“Eww.”

He’s howling with laughter and I wonder to myself how I made it through this date without ordering one of the bartender’s special martinis Alana recommended. “What’d you do after that? Did you run?” I ask, curious of his reaction.

“Wellll,” There it was again. The drawn out, over-used word. “No. I mean it was weird but I helped her into her apartment and then got out of there fast.”

“Despite the peculiarity of the whole date it was really nice, and brave, of you to make sure she made it home safely.” This is my attempt to conclude this terrifying conversation.

“Allow me.” He grabs the check and pays.

“Thank you very much for dinner.” I flash him a genuine smile. I’m appreciative that he covered the check. Believe you me, there are some men that disregard this courtship tradition and ignore the fact that they are supposed to pick up the first date check and be happy about it.

“It’s my pleasure.”

We slide out of the booth after Alana wishes us a pleasant evening.

“Where’d you park?”

At least he has manners. “Oh you don’t have to walk me to my car. I don’t mean to run out on you but I have to prep for a big meeting tomorrow morning with my boss. I’ll be burning the midnight oil.”

“You’re gonna go home and work now?”

“Yes. I have to. We’re so busy lately. I work from home in the evenings quite often.”

“That sucks.” Henry has disdain smeared all over his face.

“It’s not too bad. I don’t mind it. It’s my career so it’s pretty worth it.”

Henry silently concedes, we hug, and say goodbye.

It won’t work out for Henry and me. He’s a kind guy but too ‘buddy-buddy.’ There is no vibe of attraction on my part or high hopes to see him again. And that is the harsh reality of online dating. On to the next.

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