Brian zipped his jacket and turned his back to the wind. Leaves swirled around his feet. It would be Thanksgiving soon, his third without Laney. That he had gone from a happily married man to a widower about to have coffee with a stranger in three short years was still mind-boggling.
“You’re lost,” his sister, Lisa said. “You walk around in your own world. You barely know what day it is.”
“It’s Sunday,” Brian answered, “otherwise we wouldn’t be having lunch and I wouldn’t be listening to my second sermon of the day.”
“It’s time, Brian. Laney wouldn’t want you to stop living. You need to get out there, date a little, get your feet wet.”
“I hate wet feet,” he’d joked.
“Be serious. I read that it only takes three dates to start to feel comfortable. You could do that, just three dates.”
Brian nodded. Going out on one date, much less three, sounded like torture. The pain and worry was evident on his sister’s face.
“Three dates, and you’ll drop it for awhile?”
Lisa smiled. “Cross my heart.”
Fine. He could do three dates. Besides, he had a plan - find three, completely inappropriate women, have three terrible first dates, and be done with it.
The first date went perfectly; it was awful. He’d met her online, and could tell from the profile description that he was definitely not her type. He’d watched her eyes glaze over as he spoke of his church, and the mission trip he’d been on a few years ago.
“No more online dating,” Lisa admonished.
Brian made his second date a few days later through a dating service called, “It’s Just Dinner”. They matched him with a very young, very hip Event Planner who worked in the city and couldn’t believe he had no interest in going to the opening of the newest hot-spot bar. She’d received an “emergency” call before the entrée came. Two down, one to go.
He’d met his third date on the bus. He hadn’t planned on asking her out, but a small voice whispered, “her”, and because she was completely inappropriate, he’d listened.
She had a pretty face, but her long, dark hair hung in tangles down her back. She was dressed totally in black, even her lips and nails were painted ox-blood. She wore onyx rings and black, bangle bracelets. He’d noticed her trying to read the other side of his newspaper and offered it to her. With the confidence of a man with nothing to lose, he’d asked her out. She’d hesitated briefly, but agreed to meet for coffee.
Brian shook his head. He’d been walking without paying attention and now The Java Jive loomed in front of him. Might as well get it over with. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door.
Whew. The only people inside were the staff and a petite blonde sitting by the window. Maybe he’d get lucky and she wouldn’t show. His sister might not count that as a date, but he would. Feeling better at the prospect of not having to make small talk, Brian ordered a coffee and went to sit near the door.
The petite blonde smiled at him. Did he know her? Brian smiled back. Maybe she was someone from his church. Great! That was all he needed, someone from church seeing him drinking coffee with the Queen of Goth. His sister would never let him rest.
Uh oh. Now she was getting up and coming toward him. “Brian?”
Brian stood. “Yes?”
“I’m Shelly, we met on the bus?”
Brian’s heart pounded in his chest. This couldn’t be the same person! This woman was dressed in a pretty, brown dress, conservative makeup, a cross hanging around her neck.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered, pulling out a chair for her to sit. “You look so different.”
Shelly laughed, “You’re joking, right?”
Brian shrugged, confused. “I’m sorry, I guess I don’t understand.”
“Ohhhh.” Shelly began to laugh, her eyes filling with tears. “You thought that outfit was real? You didn’t realize it was Halloween?”
“Halloween? My sister says I’ve been in a fog, I guess it’s true.”
“The man in the rabbit suit didn’t give you a clue?”
“Ohhh. That makes a lot more sense now,” he laughed.
“Should we forget coffee? You were obviously expecting someone different.”
Brian remembered the still, quiet voice that had said, “her”.
“I was,” he agreed. “But I shouldn’t have been. Please stay.”
So she did.
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