by Veronica Forand
Daniel wanted only one seat in the dining room. The seat next to the pretty woman in the green dress. Damn, her blue eyes could knock the socks off every guy within a ten-mile vicinity. Probably the rest of their clothes as well. He’d finally worked up enough pluck to sit with her.
He tried to meander up to her with the debonair style of a man about town, but his actions resembled more of a stop and go action. Not smooth, but he made it to the table without falling and breaking a hip.
He slid into the chair next to her and her eyes flashed in his direction. “Hello. I’m Alice.” Could a smile be soft, sweet, and sexy? Absolutely. Her pink lips proved it.
“Nice to meet you, Alice.” He rocked his chair a little closer toward her.
In response, she leaned slightly toward him. “Nice night.”
He nodded. “A little chilly, but manageable.” The nerves tightening his stomach relaxed and he eased into the comfort zone he’d known most of his life.
The waiter came over and served them each a turkey dinner, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. Daniel sent him away to get them both some coffee.
“Do you mind me sitting with you?” Daniel asked, after taking a few bites of his meal.
She laughed with a low throaty sound that curled his toes and sent shivers up his spine. “Mind? I was hoping you had the nerve to come over and keep me company.”
The waiter returned with their coffee. Daniel preferred black. Alice liked cream and sugar in hers. Smooth and sweet.
She took a tentative sip of her drink, and then placed the mug on the table. She tilted her head, perhaps contemplating her next words. They came out in a breathy invitation. “I don’t understand why my heart skips past my arrhythmia and almost into a full blown coronary when you’re nearby, but your companionship feels as comfortable as my favorite sweater.”
“You sure say the sweetest things.” He reached for her hand and enjoyed the warmth of her skin against his.
She squeezed his hand. “It’s true. And you’re also the best dressed man here.”
“How else to attract your attention?”
“It succeeded. An argyle sweater and a beige turtleneck? You could be Cary Grant.”
“Only if you’d be my Ingrid Bergman.”
They both laughed. Their hands never parted. Their eyes remained fixed on each other, highlighting the familiarity of each other’s face among the thousands they’d seen in their lives.
The evening carried on like a dream. They laughed about their first cars, their first kisses, and the first time they’d struck out on their own. She’d lived a life of adventure and he was a willing audience to hear her stories.
An hour later, the dream dissipated like fog in the sun. A woman dressed like Gumby arrived and reached toward Daniel’s dinner companion.
“Mrs. McClare, it’s time to go back to your room.”
Alice held up her hand to the woman, halting her steps. “Just a minute, dear.” She turned back to Daniel. “Agree to have breakfast with me tomorrow.”
Daniel smiled. Not a crazy teenager in love smile, but a smile that told the woman to his left that he appreciated her flirtations and reciprocated the interest. “Same table. Eight o’clock. I’ll be waiting.”
Gumby pulled Alice’s chair away from the table and from Daniel.
“Until breakfast, my sweet.” He touched her chair before it rolled completely out of reach.
“I can’t wait.” She waved and departed with her nurse.
Daniel beckoned over his orderly.
“Mike, I need some help out of my chair.”
“No problem, Mr. McClare.” He grasped Daniel’s arm and lifted him, moving his walker over within arm’s length. “There you go. Did you have a nice dinner?”
“The prettiest girl in the place just agreed to have breakfast with me. I had a perfect dinner.”
Mike’s booming laugh followed Daniel out of the room, but Daniel ignored it. He needed to get back to his room and pick out an outfit. He had a date first thing in the morning.
by Veronica Forand
Mary Ellen Thompson sat down at an empty table at the Chemistry CaFe in the Frick Chemistry Building on Princeton’s campus. As she began to inhale a ham and cheese on rye with a small Diet Coke, a tall, dark and amazing guy asked if he could sit down. She would have answered “yes” if her mouth had enough saliva to swallow the sandwich. It didn’t. Forced to raise her hand for him to wait, she took a quick chug of the soda and then exhaled forcefully.
“Sure,” she finally answered. She twirled her copper braid and batted her eyelashes as her mother had instructed her to do when confronted with a potential spouse.
Mr. Amazing nodded and sat next to her. His lunch consisted of a large salad with grilled chicken and a glass of milk. He didn’t touch his meal though. Instead, he stared into her eyes. A total cliché of a moment, but what the hell, she hadn’t dated a hunk like him since her freshman year when she’d tutored a blond, buff running back in Calculus. She deserved a romantic cliché on her life.
“Are you a student here?” he asked.
“Yes. Are you?” she continued their dry and otherwise predictable conversation.
“Yeah. I’m a history major and I play on the soccer team.” A slight smirk lifted the corner of his mouth. He was intelligent. He had to be in order to garner an exclusive spot at an exclusive school. He also had toned muscles that stretched the sleeves of his polo shirt. He could be the future father of her children. He could be the one. “What’s your major?”
She smirked back, sure that she’d found her equal. Her match. “I study astrophysics and am a member of the robotics team. I’m focusing my thesis on the long established problem of cosmic ray confinement in the Galaxy.”
His brown eyes, still staring intently at her, began to gloss over. “Cool.” Those baby browns turned toward the door, the cashier, the blonde with her breasts hanging out of her tank top, anywhere but toward Mary Ellen. “I’ve got to go. I’m late for class.” He stood with his untouched salad and milk and hightailed it away from her.
Her mother’s advice about finding a husband was proving more difficult as she moved closer to graduation. Should she stick with math or science majors and give up her dream to be held in the arms of a rock solid athlete? Or switch majors to something less intimidating. Maybe neuropsychology or microeconomics. A husband, after all, would be the most important decision of her life.