©2020 by Lisa Alex Gray



I leave the radio turned off as I drive home from my date so I can contemplate my current outcome and get ahead of my mother’s questions.


Clearly, my ideas surrounding dating had been turned upside down.


I mean Stanley was nice, but I just thought there would be more to the date than sitting across from each other while we ate food in silence.


And after the date, I somehow imagined we would leave the cafe together, decide to go for a walk, maybe window shop for a while, and then at the right moment he would grab my hand and I would feel all tingly inside, and…


Well, I would know he was the one.


It would mean my mother’s chance meeting with Stanley’s mother that day at the Yarn Barn was fate. If we hadn’t been at that sale, then mother wouldn’t have met Florence, and they wouldn’t have conspired to fix Stanley and me up.


Which meant, we wouldn’t be raising our three beautiful children together, in our pale yellow house with the tulips out front.


Yes, my imagination, over the last few days, may have run away a bit.

I even saw a big smile on my mother’s face, bigger than ever before, at how pleased she was to be a grandmother.


She was finally happy with me.


But today I didn’t even make it out of the starting gate with Stanley, let alone to Henry’s baptism (our third born son).


And, no matter how I ran the days events around in my head, there was only one possible conclusion — he didn’t like me.


It was the only explanation for why he left so abruptly after our lunch.


He had been attentive and friendly during our date. Well, maybe that’s overstating a bit. I mean he was a little stoic, but who am I to comment on personalities, I’m not the most flowery and light-hearted person, as my mother always reminds me.


So he may not have been leaning in excitedly, at my tales of gardening, but it’s not like he was rude or anything.


Maybe his mother made him go on the date like my mother did? And he was forced to spend his Saturday at lunch with me against his will — that’s a real confidence booster.


My heart dropped at the thought. If so, then our date was doomed from the outset.


I mean it wasn’t like our pairing was love at first sight. He wasn’t bad looking, a little neat, especially the way he kept rearranging his food, napkin, fork, and a glass of iced tea. It was like watching a game of Battleship.


He even rearranged the turkey and lettuce inside his sandwich, straightening it out so it didn’t stick out of the sides of the bread.


He did seem smart, he talked about his job at Colico in the accounting department, how he had been there for ten years. Okay maybe he was a bit boring, as he droned on about checks and balances, but maybe all guys are that way.


Even the way my mother talked about my dad sometimes, a man usually held up as the second coming of Jesus, lead me to believe he wasn’t always the perfect partner.

Every once in awhile she would make a comment like men don’t care about women, we serve one purpose, were not their equal.


Then she would catch herself and include the disclaimer, “Well, except for your father, he treated me like a queen”.


The messages about my father were so mixed it was hard to get a clear idea of anything and my recollection of him was faint at best.


I remember once standing behind him peeking out from between his legs at a male friend who had come to the door. I think I was around four years old.


I also remember his hand and how big it was and how safe and loved I felt when I was holding it. Especially when he smiled down at me.


But, that’s pretty much the extent of my memories. Specifically, since he died when I was around four years old.


The story of how it happened, I’ll never forget, namely because it was my fault.


I was sick and the doctor had called in a prescription to our local drug store. My dad ran out in a storm to pick up and never came back.


He was killed in a car accident that night.


As my mother put it, especially on their anniversary, his birthday, Christmas and, well, basically every other holiday, or moment when he came to mind… he would be here with us now if it hadn’t been for me getting sick.


Just thinking about it caused some of my turkey sandwich to rise up in my throat.


My life was marked by that night, or possibly even cursed — I determined on sadder days. A fact my mother would easily second. Because, as she reminded me often, her life was a tragedy from that day forward, raising me alone, money tight, no help or anyone to turn to, and especially difficult because I was such an unruly and thankless child.


Well, based on how today went, maybe I AM cursed, maybe this is karma or retribution for causing my mother to be alone. I’m cursed to live MY life alone TOO.


And, I really thought this date with Stanley was the beginning of a new chapter for me.


Maybe I had served my penance and was being allowed some good in my life.


Or maybe not.


Regardless, I didn’t have time to think about it any further. I needed to decide how to handle my mother’s barrage of questions when I got home.


By the time I pulled into the driveway I resolved myself not to get carried away with potentially disastrous outcomes.


It was still possible Stanley had somewhere to go and our dated ended in a perfectly normal way.


I might be reading the whole thing wrong, I decide with a nervous smile, until I look up and see my mother standing on the front porch waiting for me with a scowl on her face.


Crap!


I stop the car and pause a few seconds before turning off the ignition.


My mind goes blank as my heart begins to race. What had I decided to tell her?


Before I can think any further she’s opening my car door.


“So, you just had to ruin things didn’t you Ruby?”


“Florence called me and said Stanley seems quite upset.” mother shot at me angrily.

“What? He’s upset?” I swallow hard.


“Yes, Ruby, when you told him you didn’t want to see him again, of course, he’s upset. How do you think he’d feel? I mean really Ruby, who do you think you are? You’re in no position to be picky”.


“It’s all about you, isn’t it? Just as its always been” mother continues, “Well, what about me? When is it my turn? Haven’t I done enough for you by now?”


As my mother drones on all I hear is blah, blah blah, blah, my brain is still stuck on, I told HIM I didn’t want to see HIM?


When did I say that? My mind races over our date and limited conversation trying to figure out where he might have gotten that impression.


“I didn’t say that mother. I didn’t tell him I didn’t want to see him again.” I respond before thinking it through.


“Well, he clearly got that impression however it came across.” mother charges back, then continues, “and now your best prospect for a future is gone. Thank you once again, Ruby, for ruining any chance I have at a life.”


My mother turns and storms off into the house.


What the heck?


I don’t want to see HIM? Where the heck did he get that idea?


I sit in my car, too stunned to move until I notice my left cheek burning from the heat of the sun beating down on it.


I break my trance and stumble out of the car, deciding avoiding a sunburned face outweighs what’s waiting for me inside.


Stepping through the kitchen door I head toward the living room and hear my mother crying loudly upstairs.


My shoulders slump forward and I drop my purse and keys on the entryway table, then slowly head up the stairs to my bedroom and shut the door.


I sit on my bed and stare at the painted violet flowers dancing across my baseboard as tears begin to well in my eyes.


The next five days are utter torture as my mother continues to blame me for ruining “the best thing that ever happened in my life”, that is when she pauses long enough from her sobbing to speak to me.


I’ve since grown tired of running that day in my head trying to determine what really happened and most of all where Stanley got the idea I didn’t want to see him again.


I even wonder if I suffered some kind of stroke or blacked out during the date and therefore can’t remember what happened.


Whatever went wrong, I resign myself to the reality that my lunch date last Saturday was likely my first and last.


I mean, what were the odds my mother was going to meet another new friend with an available son my age?


And I wasn’t really drawing men in on my own. So it was time to move on and get back to my life pre-Stanley.


Walking into the kitchen on Wednesday evening, I notice my mother on the phone. When she sees me she quickly ends her call and leaves the kitchen — likely a call with Florence to mull over what a horrible person I am.


I had just returned home from my shift at Bertson Grocer a half-hour earlier, changed into something comfortable, and was looking forward to watching a new masterpiece mystery at seven that night.


Actually, the thought of this new show had been the only bright light shining through an otherwise dark week.



I brought a roast chicken with me from Bertson’s and a couple of sides, so I didn’t have to worry about dinner and was setting up in the kitchen when the phone rang.

Before I could get to the receiver mother popped around the corner and grabbed it herself.

“Yes, well hello there.” I hear my mother saying super politely. “So nice to hear your voice. Yes, she’s right here, just hold on a moment.” my mother sings sweetly into the receiver then hands me the phone.


I looked at her perplexed. “It’s Stanley” she whispers under her voice, then adds, “you be nice” muffling the receiver with her hand, “You have no idea what it took his mother to get him to call you again.”


What? Stanley’s calling me? I take the receiver, handshaking, and breathe out a raspy, “Hello?”


“Hello, Ruby? This is Stanley how are you doing this evening?”


How am I doing? He’s talking like we're old friends catching up on our day.


“Um, uh, fine?” I respond in confusion.


“Yes, so I was wondering if you would like to go to a concert in the park this Saturday?” Stanley asks politely.


“I, uh, Saturday, uh?” What the heck? Mother overhearing my hesitation chimes in loudly, “Saturday, hmm, you said you didn’t work this Saturday isn’t that right Ruby?”


I look over at her and she has a look of pleading desperation in her eyes.


“Um, yes, um Saturday. I ‘m not doing anything Saturday.” I respond in disbelief.


“Okay, I’ll pick you up at two pm. good evening.”


Silence.


“Hello?” The dial tone responds back to me so I place the receiver in the cradle.


“Well, there you go.” my mother sings, “Boy are you lucky he’s willing to give you another chance after what you pulled. Just don’t blow it this time. Appreciate what you have and make it work.”


There’s a sharp edge to her last sentence.


What in the world is she talking about? Make it work? “I didn’t” I start to respond to her accusations then think better of it and kept my mouth shut.


Besides, deep down, I can’t help but feel elated with my mother for once.


I don’t know how she did it, but somehow I have a second date with Stanley — which means there’s still hope.


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