Paige was at her wits end. At thirty-three she was still single, though once divorced, and her latest prospect for committed bliss had just announced to her the previous evening that he found his soul mate in someone so very not her.
The first thing she’d done after arriving home was to get everything he’d ever given her, and every photo they’d ever taken together, and chuck it in the garbage bin. That’s where their love had ended up, so she thought it was fitting. Then, after she’d called Gabby- her best and oldest friend- she threw herself across her bed and decided to fall into a self-induced coma.
Turns out those don’t work out so well if your brain is aware that you are conscious.
So, deciding to forgo the coma, she had opted to simply lay in bed and watch sappy romances all night on Lifetime
She decided that it would all work out well with her sliding into a zombie-like state in front of the television until, on the third day, Gabby and her very own sister, Paula, decided to gang up on her in her self-imposed prison of doom.
“Is he really worth all this?” Gabby asked, throwing open the heavy drapes.
“No,” Paige said in her best pouting voice. “He’s definitely not.”
“So why are you doing this to yourself?” Paula practically screamed. She had never been one to understand the little eccentricities of people.
Paige looked at her sister. “Because I am thirty-three years old and single!”
“Single, shmingle,” Gabby supplied.
“That’s easy for you to say,” Paige quipped. “You’ve been married for fifteen years!”
“Ten,” she corrected. “And you could have been married for that long, if you hadn’t married a loser.” She plopped down on bed, hugging the large feather pillow to her chest.
“He was a loser, wasn’t he?” Paula said, plopping down beside her sister. “Why don’t you get up and come to lunch with us.”
“Cause I don’t want to. I’m testing a new theory.”
“Oh yeah?” her sister said, one of her carefully manicured eyebrows arched.
“What is that,” Gabby asked with a laugh.
“I want to see how many hours of television you can watch before your brain melts.”
They both burst out in laughter and Gabby smacked her with the pillow she’d been holding. “You tested that during your divorce,” she said. “So now you have no excuse not to go out to lunch with us.”
“You have fifteen minutes to shower and get beautiful,” Paula said, shoving Paige from the comfort of her full size bed.
Begrudgingly she made her way through the closet that separated her bedroom from the bathroom and into the large room housing the large mirror that told no lies. “I look like crap,” she said to her reflection.
“You sure do!” Gabby said, tossing her a bra, panties, and her favorite bohemian skirt and peasant top.
“I don’t feel like wearing yellow,” she said.
“Tough,” Gabby said, closing the door. “Hurry up! We’re hungry!”
“It’s too bright,” Paige complained, as they made their way two blocks over from her apartment to their favorite little bistro.
“Tough!” Paula shrieked. “Put on your Jackie O’s and deal!”
By Jackie O’s Paige knew she was referring to the large frame glasses she wore everywhere. Paula hated them, but she couldn’t break away from the happy-retro vibe she got while wearing them. Even today, in the midst of her agony they were making her a little happy.
“Why am I even outside!” she cried as they ushered her to a cast iron chair and forced her to sit.
“Because you need to get out,” Paula said.
“She needs a lot more than that,” Gabby supplied.
“And what is that supposed to mean, o’ former best friend of mine?”
Gabby laughed. “I’m just saying. You are all down in the dumps over this guy that you should have never gone out with in the first place. You only went out with him because he was safe. He’d been in your circle of friends for years and you thought it would be easy. You never do anything bold.”
“What!” Paige almost squealed. “how can you say that? I am Miss Bold!”
“Pi-sha!” Gabby said as Paula burst out in laughter. “Girl, if you’re bold then I am shy.”
That was the farthest thing from the truth and they all knew it. Gabby would talk to anyone. It had caused more than one tiff between her and her husband Phil.
“You can’t say I’m not bold, I’m wearing bohemian chic and it’s not even in style this season.”
“Oh,” Gabby said, holding her hands out in front of her. “I’m so sorry! You’re right!”
Paige knew what she was doing. This was Gabby’s way to get her out of the funk. Still, it was working. How does that happen? How do you know someone is just trying to get to you and you still let them!
Gabby looked at Paula. “How dare we insinuate that she is not bold!”
“No insinuation here,” Paula said. She looked straight at her little sister. “You are the least bold person that I know. Deal with it.”
Paige continued to stew as they ordered their salads and ice teas. That was their usual here. Not because they were salad fiends or watching their weight (though every woman is secretly watching her weight), but because they made the absolute best salads. Afterward they normally visited the ice cream down the street.
With each bite of her Greek salad and every giggle from her companions, Paige realized that- as much as she hated to admit it- they were right. She had only dated disaster mate number one zillion because he was a safe choice. She knew quite a bit about him, knew his ex wife, his children, where he’d gone to high school and college. There was no unknown in their relationship and she had liked it that way.
“Are you seriously mad at us?” Gabby asked, shaking her out of her reverie.
“Not anymore,” she admitted. “Well, not as mad.” She laughed. “I’ll be back.” Grabbing her hobo bag, she sauntered into the cool interior of the ninety year old building, her eyes roaming over the period features that most everyone else overlooked. At least everyone she’d ever brought along.
Making her way through the array of bistro tables that spread out over the dining room, she walked past the kitchen and into the small hall that led to the bathrooms. “Is there a line?” she asked the young blond woman leaning against the wall outside the two-stall ladies room.
“Uh-huh,” she said. Paige wondered if she was annoyed with the wait, or if she’d actually been bothered by a simple question from a stranger.
She settled in behind the girl, her urge to tinkle growing stronger with every passing moment. When the mens room door opened she contemplated, for a moment, running inside. It wouldn’t take long. Her foot was pointed in that direction, when the door opened and an astonishingly cute guy, mid-thirties, stepped out into the hall.
He met her gaze and she felt the color rush to her cheeks.
Maybe using the mens room wasn’t the best idea.
“Hey,” he said as he walked by.
She raised her hand and gave him a flash of a smile. Oh, God, she was flirting!
When the door to the ladies room opened and spilled forth two teenage gigglers she had never been so happy. Almost shoving the girl in front of her, she followed her in.
“He was cute,” the girl said, fluffing her hair in the wide mirror before making her way into the farthest stall.
“Yeah,” Paige said, getting situated in the smaller stall. “He really was.”
“And he was totally into you,” she added.
Why is she talking to me, Paige wondered.
The girl was leaning over the counter when she reemerged. She’d hoped the girl had slipped out after washing her hands, but there she was in the mirror, running a finger over her freshly glossed lips. Paige smiled at her as she took her place in front of the sink.
“If I were you,” the girl said, wrapping her long blond lockes into a messy bun. “I would go for it if he’s still here when you get out.”
“Seriously,” the girl continued, checking out her tiny bottom in the mirror.
Why was she still talking!?
“You’re cute,” she said. “And he was super cute.” She smiled. “What do you have to lose?” she said before bouncing out of the tiny room.
Paige looked at her reflection. “My self-respect if he laughs in my face,” she answered. “My good humor if he turns me down. My…” she snapped her mouth closed when the door opened and the two teens from earlier returned.
“Sorry!” they squealed.
“I was just leaving,” Paige said, maneuvering out of the small space.
She paused outside the door, taking a deep breath before walking into the dining room.
His table was beside the front door. There were four of them, all guys, sitting at the table. How could she approach that?
He looked up as she made her way across the room, a smile spreading across his face. He was sun-kissed, that was for sure. His skin was a light brown, making the blond of his hair and the scruff on his face stand out a little more than it probably did in the fall, and his faded blue button up shirt hung loose with the first two buttons undone. He was beautiful.
She took a deep breath as she stepped up to the table. “Hi,” she said.
“H-hi,” he answered. Was he taken aback by her intrusion.
Reaching into her bag she pulled out a bright green business card with hot pink trim, and held it out to him. “I’m Paige,” she said, trying to be as confident as possible, though her heart was racing so fast she thought she might keel over right there.
He smiled, taking the card. “I’m Stephen.”
“Lovely to meet you, Stephen,” she said. Then, looking around at all of his friends she smiled. “I won’t keep you gentlemen. Please excuse my interruption.” Looking back at Stephen she smiled once more. “See ya around.”
When she sauntered back to her shocked, and open-mouthed, friends, she took a seat and smiled. “Did someone say I wasn’t bold?”
Gabby cackled. “Never again!”