Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21 (pending)
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira, and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming of middle age story.
THE DATE WHERE I GO TO A WEDDING
Holden Jones: Age 43; Hair Color: Blond; Eye Color: Brown; Height 6’1”; Divorced, 3 kids
I sit in the parking lot of The Merry Magnolia; the place Holden and I plan to meet. Heat pours in through the windshield as I review the profile for my date du jour. His kind eyes and bright teeth smile at me from the phone screen, and I try to squash the niggling doubt that my dates turn into disaster. All except for the evening with Dylan. But he wants to be just friends. So, onward and upward.
Or at least onward.
The van’s engine sputters, a gasping cough of the dying, and I turn off the ignition. It continues to choke for nine… ten… eleven seconds before huffing into a heavy silence. The dread of expensive car repairs hangs over me like my ex-mother-in-law’s cloying perfume.
Bills float in my mind, from partially paid to past due, and I wonder how to squeeze one more thing into the mix. Maybe if we subsist on ramen, water, and imagination, I can keep the power on and afford an honest mechanic. But Josh’s cellphone will have to wait.
Exiting my van, I step into the sunshine. Giant trees line the walkway to the rustic white barn. A hand painted sign announces the couple: Mr. & Mrs. Irkenberry. I cringe at the thought of being saddled with that last name.
A tall, attractive man stands beside the door, looking over a collage of bride and groom photos. His black suit fits well, and he runs a hand through his blond hair. Honeyed tones blend with lighter shades in a color remarkably similar to Dylan’s.
“Holden?” I ask, and he turns. Brown eyes catch me off guard. I’d pictured the cool, gray gaze of another man, who I must stop thinking about.
“Anna, hi.” He opens his arms for a brief hug. No weird side hug like the barely domesticated Brad. But no Deltoid Den either.
I straighten my dress and offer a polite smile. “This is your cousin’s reception?”
“Yep. Irina, the bride.”
“Irina Irkenberry?” Flashes of the movie Wedding Singer dance in my head, specifically the name Julia Guglia. The thought must show on my face because he laughs.
“We told her to keep the Jones name, but she’s proud to be Mrs. Irkenberry. Oh!” He reaches into his pocket, pulling out index cards. “These are for you. I’ve documented the family drama, so you won’t miss out on the subtle glares and sarcastic insults.”
I take them from his hand. “How thoughtful.” My raised eyebrows pair nicely with the note of sarcasm in my voice.
“It’s the least I could do considering you agreed to this reception.” He tucks his hands in his pockets. “I won’t say desperation drove me, that’s unflattering to you, but I was relieved you said yes.”
“Couldn’t face the relatives alone?”
“I’m a coward when it comes to family,” he says. “I’d rather answer questions about my pretty date versus why I skipped the graduation party for my nephew.”
I ignore the backhanded compliment. “Was that a big point of contention?”
“It’s in the cards.” He points to the stack, and I laugh. Looks like I need to read up.
He shakes out his arms, an athlete loosening his muscles, and reaches for the door. “Are you ready?”
Pulling off my sunglasses, I put them in my purse. “I wish we had popcorn.”
The room is decorated in pale purple and peach, a perfect combo for a spring wedding. Soft music plays through hidden speakers. A good number of people fill the round tables to the left, and to the right a lengthy line weaves almost to the door.
“I’ll be right back. I need to say hi to Grandma.” Holden looks over his shoulder, where a distinguished woman sits near the front.
“I’ll study the cards,” I say.
He chuckles and walks away, leaving me to read. The notes are written like a cast list, names at the top and bulleted points highlighting the various conflicts. There’s even a card for him.
–Got divorced, major upset in the family (ex-wife was beloved by Grandma Jones).
– Often misses Sunday dinners.
-Skipped graduation for nephew, MATT JONES, because it was my weekend with my kids, and Matt’s a delinquent.
Laughing, I flip to the Matt Jones card and read his sins, which include “probably sells drugs,” “a total punk,” “barely graduated high school,” and “for some unfathomable reason is the favorite great-grandchild of Grandma Jones.”
On Grandma’s card, I discover she has money, lots of money, and everyone sucks up for fear of being written out of the will. But most importantly, everyone wants her award-winning recipe, the “Decadent Double Chocolate Brownie.” The hallowed recipe never leaves her purse, and her purse never leaves her side.
If it’s that good, I’ll marry Holden and endear myself to Grandma. Few things in life compare to the perfection of chocolatey goodness.
My phone buzzes, and I check the incoming message. Uninvited flutters party in my chest as I see Dylan’s name. We’ve fallen into an easy friendship. He texts me often. I reply. The banter builds until I remember he wants to stay just friends, and I reign in the butterflies.
Dylan: You have a date tonight, right?
I glance around and spot Holden still talking. More people wander in, joining the line or finding seats to pack the Merry Magnolia. Against my better judgement, I reply.
Me: Yes. I’m here now.
Dylan: Must be boring if you’re texting me.
Me: Not necessarily. Imagine a soap opera set at a wedding reception, a sacred brownie recipe, and voila!
I practically hear his laugh and picture his sparkling gray eyes.
No, bad Anna. No picturing things that sparkle. Or flex. Or resemble any romantic kind of anything with Dylan.
The three typing dots appear, but before I read his response, Holden places a hand on my shoulder. “Grandma wants to meet you.”
“Okay.” Apprehension tickles my belly. I remember Cory introducing me as his girlfriend to his ex-wife. That’s a first date experience I choose not to repeat. “Does she know we just met?”
“Yes,” he says with a laugh. “She’s just really protective.”
“I can be a mama bear when it comes to my kids.”
He tips his head before a slow smile spreads. “It’s not family. It’s the brownie recipe. Every new face is a potential spy for Betty Crocker or Ghirardelli.”
“Really?” I shake my head. “That must be some brownie.”
“The best I’ve ever had,” he confirms.
Tucking my phone into my purse, I follow Holden to where Grandma Jones sits. Hateful glares follow my progress, the family staring daggers. Do they see me as a threat? Or competition for the recipe?
“Grandma, this is Anna.” Holden introduces me to the woman in a purple beaded dress clutching a brown Hermes purse. The bag features a giant gold H and a golden lock. For real. A lock. On her purse.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I offer my hand and she squeezes the bag to her chest, refusing the greeting. Some might find this demoralizing. But one dinner with Mrs. Song cured me of intimidation tactics from judgey old ladies.
“You wanted —”
Holden’s words screech to a halt as the doors fly open and Elvis walks in. Or at least, someone impersonating Elvis. A white, sparkly jumpsuit with a low vee exposes his smooth chest. Dark sunglasses cover his eyes, and blue suede shoes cover his feet.
Instant silence reigns, as if a switch flipped. Everyone watches Elvis march to the center of the room. He carries a cordless boombox and his white cape trails behind him.
“Thank you. Thank you very much.” He places the boombox on a table and presses a button. Burnin’ Love pours out of the speakers.
Shock keeps us all quiet as he starts singing about his temperature rising. His hips gyrate. His lip curls. Two security guards approach. Without warning, Elvis reaches for his thighs and the mighty sound of Velcro ripping echoes, leaving his bottom half bare aside from a pair of tighty whitey underwear. It takes me a moment to realize what’s happening. The show, the tear-away pants. This is a stripper.
I bite my lip, trying to keep the laughter contained, but I can’t do it and my giggles explode. A burly security guard rushes at the impersonator, grabbing him right as he gets to the chorus. The half-clothed Elvis jerks away, and more Velcro splits as his tear-away top rips off. It hangs from the guard’s fingers, the rhinestones sparkling in the low light. In nothing but his undies and blue suedes, Elvis makes a run for the door and the second guard tackles him to the floor. Elvis squeals and squirms, a greased pig fighting capture.
Tears stream down my face as I watch the guards escort the nearly naked man away. A side ache grips my stomach and I clutch an arm across my ribs, inhaling deep breaths to settle down. Swiping my cheeks, I glance around and realize there are exactly two people laughing: me, and a punk teenager who I peg as Matt Jones, the delinquent great-grandson. And the most likely culprit to hire an Elvis stripper to show at the reception. Everyone else looks horrified, and it sobers my laughter.
“Sorry,” I whisper to no one in particular.
“Get out.” Grandma Jones squares her shoulders, the Hermes bag held as a protective shield.
Holden’s head sinks, and he seems disappointed. In me? In Grandma? This whole situation went from bizarre to hostile in a blink.
“You want me to leave?” I ask for clarification.
She raises her voice and the golden H trembles from the power in her dictate. “Go. You and your friend—” she points in the direction Elvis went— “will not get my recipe.”
She thinks I hired the stripper? Not a chance. If it were me, I’d have employed someone with a little more muscle. Probably from Australia and doing something manly like carrying a toolbox and repairing my Mom-mobile. Wait, is that a possibility?
Conversation flutters, the shock shifting into murmured gossip. Holden refuses to meet my gaze even as I feel the irate gazes of his family. I’m too surprised by the accusation (brownie thief? Really?) to care about leaving. But I won’t go without the last word.
“Thanks for inviting me,” I say loud enough for anyone listening to hear, a bright smile on my face. “But I have a meeting I can’t miss. Duncan Hines doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Gasps follow my announcement, and I turn on my heels, heading to the exit. No one tries to stop me, and no security guards take me down. My red pumps click on the floor and my turquoise dress flounces around my knees as I head out.
My laughter erupts when I get to the car. Kicked out of a wedding. Accused of being a spy. Why do these things happen to me?
Knowing I shouldn’t, but doing it anyway, I reach for my phone. Dylan is an addiction I can’t seem to quit, but the thought of his musical laugh is worth pretending I’m happy to be just friends. Opening my texts, I see his last response.
Dylan: What qualifies as a sacred brownie?
With a wide smile and the anticipation of our inevitable conversation, I send a reply.
Me: Wish I could tell you, but I just got kicked out of the wedding.