Updated: Jan 15, 2020

The light seeping in through my eyelids stirs me from my sleep. I blink a few times then open my eyes as the ceiling comes into focus.

Looking over at the window and the soft bluish light streaming through, I guess it to be around 6:30 am.

Something tugs at my gut causing it to flip.

Hmmm, what’s that about?

My stomach pulls again like it’s trying to tell me something, but what?

Then my eyes pop open and I sit upright in bed as the gnawing feeling crystallizes.

It’s Saturday - my date is today!

I have a date!

I am having lunch with a mysterious man.

Gulp. Okay, too much, my stomach does a hardflip. I shouldn’t have watched the Hallmark Mystery channel last night.

Calm down, Ruby. It’s not like he’s a stranger, he’s my mother’s friend’s son. He’s only a stranger to me.

Although, it is my mother’s new friend’s son. I mean what do we really know about her?

She likes yarn… and… she has a son… who’s name is Stanley. She likes my mother - yeah, that’s not a positive sign.

Flip, goes my stomach again. This is a mistake. I need to call this date off.

I reach up and touch my forehead. I do feel a bit warm. I think there’s some kind of flu going around too. Didn’t I hear that on the local news last night?

Also, the lady in front of me at Walgreens yesterday was buying Theraflu. She probably infected me.

It’ll disappoint my mother if I cancel my date, but what can I do? It’s actually not responsible for me to go out in public when I’m contagious. I’ll spread the virus to Stanley and everyone at the Bread Basket.

What if I get Stanley sick and he ends up in the hospital or something?

The flu is serious business. People die from the flu. At least that one famous guy did, Jim something or other, who created the Muppets from Sesame Street.

It’s not something to mess around with.

I slump back down in bed.

I’m going to go downstairs right now and call Stanley. I'll apologize for the late notice, and tell him I have the flu, that I got it from the lady at Walgreens.

I’ll tell him we can reschedule. It’ll all work out.

My stomach flips at the thought of rescheduling. Ugh, there’s no lasting way out of this is there? I'm just delaying the inevitable. Which I’ll take, for now. I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Besides, I’m sick, I can’t go.

I lay still with my thoughts. How do I tell my mother? I can’t say Stanley canceled. She’ll find out the truth from Stanley’s mother.

She’s going to be so mad at me. She’s been singing her way through the house ever since Stanley called.

She even complimented me on a blouse I wore yesterday - a blouse I’ve had for about eight years. I consider it a breakthrough.

I sat up in bed again and looked over at the clock. It was almost seven. I’ll go downstairs, have a cup of coffee, then get up my nerve and make the call.

I swing my feet over the side, cram them into slippers and pad over to the door.

Then I carefully urge the doorknob to the right and open the door, willing the hinge not to squeak.

There’s a chance my mother is still in bed and I’m going to try and keep her there as long as possible. At least until I talk to Stanley - one challenge at a time.

I make my way to the stairs and head down avoiding the creaky steps - like some kind of CIA operative.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I listen for movement from above, hear none, and exhale in relief.

I creep through the living room and freeze at the sound of my mother’s singing coming from the direction of the kitchen.

Crap. Abort, abort.

I turn and step hard in the direction of the stairs, causing the wood floor to squeak under my feet.

“Ruby?” my mother calls out from the kitchen, singing my name. “There you are. I thought I was going to have to wake sleeping beauty this morning” mother laughs.

“You need to get in a good breakfast so your bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your date today.” mother says singing the last four words.

Sleeping beauty? Okay, she's officially gone off the rails.

Crap, how am I going to tell her I’m canceling. I’m not prepared for this conversation. I’m not even prepared for the phone call to Stanley, yet.

I place my hand on my forehead - please let it be warm - but it's cool to the touch.

She's never going to fall for the flu excuse. I mean, not excuse; fact. It's a fact that I have the flu or am pretty sure I have the flu. I mean the lady at Walgreens and all that; there is some fact there.

Yeah, who am I kidding what a pile of bull? She's going to bulldoze this story like its made of styrofoam.

I hear her humming as I stand frozen in the living room trying to figure out a plan.

I got it, monthly cramps, it always works as an excuse in TV commercials.

Forget it, she'll load me up with Tylenol and push me out the door, like she did last month when I was trying to get out of church bingo.

Think Ruby.

My heart begins to race as I search my mind for ideas.

“Ruby, have you picked out your outfit for today? I was thinking my pink lipstick would look good on you and you can wear the dress you wore to Dorothy’s daughter’s wedding.” mother calls from the kitchen.

“Ruby, can you hear me? What are you doing? I poured you coffee and it’s getting cold.” She demands.

I swivel on my feet and turn back toward the kitchen, knowing I can’t hold off any longer.

Then push through the swinging kitchen door as my mother looks over with a small smile.

She's smiling at me. I'm gobsmacked. I can’t remember when she’s looked this happy. You’d think she was going on the date with Stanley.

“Mother, I think that dress is a bit much for lunch,” I say as I walk over to the table and sit down, then add, “I haven’t decided what I’m going to wear yet. I’ll figure something out.”

My stomach responds with a flip-flop at the thought of the date being back on again.

I put my hand on my stomach, trying to calm the inner storm, then get up and walk over to the cabinet for a coffee cup.

“Ruby, I already poured you a cup right there.” Mother snaps as she sees me grabbing a coffee cup from the cabinet.

“What?” I look in the direction she's pointing, then walk over to grab the coffee cup and head out of the kitchen.

“Ruby, you didn’t eat anything.” My mother yells after me.

I head up the stairs as I hear her call out. “Careful with that coffee, you know I don’t like you taking food to your room. Remember what happened with that juice.”

You mean the juice I spilled when I was seven? Geez.

I shut my bedroom door, shutting out the sound of my mother singing.

Okay, well that went well. I set the coffee cup down on the dresser. I don’t think I'm getting out of this date. My fear of my mother far outweighs my fear of lunch with a stranger.

Which means I’m going to lunch today whether I have the imaginary flu or not.

That is unless some natural disaster hits before noon, and Willoughby isn’t exactly famous for natural disasters.

It’s weird how yesterday my pending date still seemed like a great idea. What a difference a day makes. My stomach begins to turn again and I hold my hand against to hold it still.

The truth is, even though I'm terrified, a small part of me feels excited knowing I’m being prevented from canceling. This date is officially on so I might as well begin preparing.

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