©2020 by Lisa Alex Gray

  • Lisa Alex Gray

The Serendipitous Life of Ruby slippers (Chapter Six - Romantic Comedy Novel)


After my failed attempt at canceling my date, I continue with the rest of my morning trying to distract myself.


Washing shampoo out of my hair in the shower, a while later, I wonder why I was so dead set on canceling the date in the first place?


How could I go from elation to complete terror in such a short period of time?


What was I so afraid of? Is it men or is it doing something new?


Reflecting back on my life it seemed clear I did my best to avoid change. I’ve had the same job for fifteen years, right out of high school, lived in the same house since I was born, and my idea of adventure was accompanying my mother to the yarn barn.


I definitely was a creature of habit but why?


Grabbing the bar of soap I start lathering up working the suds across my body when it hits me. I feel my eyes well with tears at the realization of what I’ve just remembered. There’s one person who paid a heavy price for spontaneity — and it was my dad.


Sticking with what I know is survival — it’s that simple.


Yet, here I am taking a chance on something new. Well, being kind of forced to take a chance on something new.


I could say no if I wanted. I just choose not to, by doing what my mother wants instead.

After my shower, the rest of the morning crawls by like sludge.


I do my best to stay busy promising to only check the clock once per hour.


The problem is every time I look at the clock, certain and hour has passed, only ten minutes or so have gone by.


Thankfully, my mother decides she wants to check out a sale at Big Lots, and then we stop by the Yarn Barn, for some more of the lilac yarn she bought on super sale.


By the time we get home, it’s time for me to start getting ready for my date — finally.

I picked out an outfit earlier that morning and had it laid on my bed so it would be ready to go.


I looked it over still unsure of my choice. I decided on a pair of gray dress pants and a blouse with small light blue cornflowers on it.


My mother was not a fan of my choice and made sure to inform me that if the date didn’t go well, it was because I dressed like a man — because men often wear silk blouses with light blue cornflowers on them.


Soon I was ready to leave for the restaurant.


In fact, so was my mother, forcing me to lock the doors on the car, to prevent her from jumping in.


Though she still followed me down the driveway as I backed out yelling advice after the car.

Driving down the street toward the restaurant, I start going over my list of things to talk about with Stanley.


I run scenes from various romance movies, and suddenly realize the BBC probably wasn’t the best choice for romance advice, considering the movies all take place in the 1800s.


As I close in on the Basket Cafe my hands begin to shake uncontrollably and my stomach starts somersaulting. I Grab my abdomen with my hand trying to stop the shaking and calm the flipping at the same time.


Pulling into the restaurant’s parking lot I glance at the clock on the dash hoping I’m on time — whew, I made it with ten minutes to spare.


Leaving early turned out to be a good idea. An accident on Walnut street had traffic backed up a couple of miles, making me fearful I may end up late after all.


All I could think as I sat gridlocked in traffic was, what if he doesn’t wait for me?


My mind raced with possible outcomes that all ended in the relationship being over before it began.


Which didn’t seem too horrible considering my nerves. If it weren’t for the wrath I would receive from my mother, the traffic delay may have been a blessing.


In the end, it didn’t matter. They finally moved the car off to the side and traffic began to flow again.


And now here I am. I made it.


I pull into the first available spot in the parking lot too distracted to worry about logistics.


Then I jump out of the car and head toward the restaurant when the sound of my car engine catches my attention.


I turn and flush in embarrassment at the realization that I’ve not only left the keys in the car, but the engine running.


I race back to the car, looking around to see if anyone’s noticed, jump in and grab the keys out of the ignition — thankfully I hadn’t locked the door.


Then I walk/run toward the front entrance of the restaurant noticing my reflection in the restaurant's picture window as I speed by.


Yikeshold on. I stop and smooth my hair and straighten my blouse, using the window as a mirror, then proceed to the entrance, taking a deep breath as I go.


Reaching for the front door handle I take one last look at my reflection and sigh, then open the door.


A jingling bell announces my entrance causing the bustling room full of customers to take a collective glance in my direction — and making my face flush.


I scan the faces of the guests looking for a man with a face like a “Stanley” or maybe a look in his eyes that says: “I’m over here”.


Nothing.


Then it occurs to me, what if he didn't show?


What if the whole thing is a bust?


Maybe the way I came across on the phone was off-putting or he heard bad things about me from someone at Bertson’s Grocers — lord only know what that would be?


I hear my name echo through the fog of bad thoughts causing me to snap out of my mental spiral.


”Hello, are you Ruby?” The voice comes from my right. I turn toward it heart beating wildly. This is it, the moment I meet him.


My eyes meet those of a young man who couldn’t be more than 18.


“Are you Ruby?” he asks again. I nod yes in disbelief. Is my mother off her rocker? I mean, I might be a desperate, but a teenager? What the..?


“Your party is already seated follow me.” the young man says smiling then turns and walks away. “Party?” I watch the boy move through the restaurant to a booth near the back where I can see a man’s elbow sticking out.


Wait, that kid’s not my date? I breathe out a huge sigh of relief. Then rush to catch up with the boy reaching the table just as he walks away.


The gentleman sitting at the table sees me and begins to stand. “Ruby?” He asks as he reaches out his hand. “Stanley Foster, nice to meet you”.


I reach my hand to meet Stanley’s and our hands touch briefly in a soft handshake making our date feel more like a business meeting.


I do a quick head to toe of Stanley’s visual.


He’s dressed in brown khakis, a light blue shirt, and a patterned taupe and blue tie. His hair is light brown, with a severe side part and neatly combed off his face. He’s wearing tortoise framed glasses and has a slight build including his hand that feel delicate in mine and a little clammy, making me wonder if he’s nervous too?


“Hi, Ruby Slippers. It’s nice to meet you too.” I smile and sit down, my heart in my throat. “I hope you weren’t waiting for a long time. There was a car accident, I was stuck in traffic.”


Stanley smiles back, “I arrived early”, then looks down at his watch, “you’re just in time.”

The waitress approaches handing us menus and breaking the tension. Then leaves again, allowing us a moment to collect ourselves.


I stare at the menu flipping it open and glancing at the words inside, nothing is legible in my current state — I’ve lost my ability to read.


I flip over to the back cover and decipher the word breakfast, then flip back to the inside.

My heart starts to race again.


What am I going to eat? I don’t want Stanley to see me chewing like a cow or what if I end up with food on my face?


I can’t eat anything messy, so no sauces — a burger is definitely out. I’ll have to open my mouth too wide.


How about soup? But what if I make a slurping sound?


The waitress returns asking if we’re ready to order — Crap.


What am I going to say? “I’ll pass. I had a late breakfast and I’m not hungry?”


No, I’ll sound like an idiot. Why would I have a late breakfast when we had a lunch date?


My heartbeat begins to pound in my throat. “Ruby, do you know what you want?” Stanley interrupts my thoughts. “Huh?” I look up. “Um, what do you recommend?” I look desperately at the waitress.


“Today’s specials are on the board on the wall” She points to the wall on our left.


I glance up at a huge blackboard covered in writing. A, no, I’m not going there.


“Um, you go ahead” I smile at Stanley, buying for time.


“Okay, I’ll have a turkey club sandwich with fries and an iced tea.”


“I’ll have the same thing” I rush in as soon as Stanley’s done speaking. The waitress scribbled on her pad then walks away.


Okay, crisis temporarily averted, but now what?


I gulp, swallowing the saliva pooling in my mouth almost choking at the attempt. Then look around the restaurant hoping at any minute the floor might swallow me up.


I have no idea what to do or say next.


Think of something to say, Ruby. You rehearsed this.


“So, my mother says you’re a gardener. That sounds interesting. What do your garden?”


Stanley asks breaking the awkward silence.


A gardener? Boy, my mother really inflated my resume. “Um, a couple of vegetables. I just started the garden a few months ago. It’s not going very well. The green beans look okay, but the carrots are, um, yeah, a…”


My words trail off.


Boy, do I sound boring. I’m talking about carrots and green beans. I look up at Stanley expecting him to be asleep and he smiles back at me.


“My mother said you're an accountant?” My words come out in a rush using up all my air. I take a deep breath in and exhale slowly trying to regain control.


Stanley responds telling me about his company and his job for the next fifteen minutes until our food arrives — thank god.


The food actually ends up the perfect distraction — you can’t talk if your mouth is full of food and iced tea.


On the fly, I come up with a clever eating strategy to ensure I’m not caught with food on my face or looking like a farm animal chewing hay.


I take a small bite of food, let the food melt in my mouth as much as possible, add the least amount of chewing that I’m humanly capable of, then swallow hard washing the food down with a drink of tea. I finish the pattern with three or for wipes of my mouth and lower face with my napkin.


I’m still only able to finish half of my sandwich. My stomach seems to be on lockdown and refuses to allow input.


Soon the waitress shows up to clear our plates, leaving me feeling both relieved and a bit sad that it appears our date is coming to an end — already.


Stanley asks for the check and before I can register what comes next we’re getting up to leave.

Whoa, hold on, it’s over?


Now what? My heart begins to pick up its pace again — what if he tries to kiss me once were outside?

I have no idea how to kiss. I didn’t practice kissing — crap.


Does my breath smell like turkey? Can I strategically pop a mint in my mouth without him noticing?


I hurry ahead toward the restaurant door hoping to create enough gap between us to go for a mint.


Unfortunately, his footsteps are hot on my trail — so the mint is a no go.


Then Stanley steps in front of me and reaches for the door as it swings shut from the last person’s exit. “Whoops,” He says as he catches the door and ushers me outside.

Well, he’s a gentleman, that’s for sure.


“So, it was nice to meet you, Ruby. I enjoyed our lunch,” Stanley says once we're outside, “Good luck with your garden. I hope your carrots do better.” He stares at me waiting for my response.


“Um, thank you for lunch. It was nice meeting you too.” I reply praying my breath smelled okay.


“Well, have a nice day,” Stanley responds then turns and heads down the sidewalk away from me.


I stand there dumbfounded watching him disappear around the corner. What the? Um, okay, date over?


I guess I didn’t have to worry about my breath after all.


I stand outside the restaurant for another minute thinking maybe he’s returning, maybe he just had to go get something real quick.


Then, when it’s clear he is NOT returning and I’m starting to look a bit odd just standing there staring into space, I head to my car.


Okay, could I be misinformed about dating? Or were all the movies wrong? Because I’ve not seen a date end like this in anything I’ve watched on tv or in the theater.


And if this wasn’t normal, what did I do to make Stanley sprint away like that?


Whatever the answer, it didn’t matter at the moment. There was an overriding issue looming on the horizon in the form of my mother.


She was either going to skewer me when I got home or celebrate me based on how my date went.


And if Stanley’s mom tells my mother how and why he sprinted away from me like that — I’m a dead woman walking.


At the thought of heading home to a likely abysmal fate, I slow my walk to the car, then take the long way home.


Where’s a car accident to back up traffic when you need it?


It’s funny, this morning I thought my date was going to be the hardest part of my day and now its nothing compared to what’s waiting for me at home.


Click here to go to Chapter Seven


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