Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- 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
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 22
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disaster at Age 40: Part 23
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 25
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Epilogue
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 (NON) DATE WHERE I MAKE A MOVE
Inside the gym, a new smoothie bar opened offering a blend of fruits, vegetables, and things resembling items plucked from my backyard. Additives for nutritional value it reads on the menu. Or as I call them, weeds. I wait in line to order—not because my tastebuds crave the earthy delights of wheatgrass and alfalfa sprouts. But Deltoid Dylan hovers nearby, observing the progress of the smoothie side-hustle.
Tables and chairs claim space that used to house a sectional, the former lobby turned into a potential profit. A long, white counter separates customers from workers.
The person ahead of me orders a Kale and Spinach Surprise, which…yuck. Whatever surprise comes with leafy greens sounds less appealing than cat vomit. Looking over the non-lettuce options, I split my attention between the board and the handsome man holding a clipboard. Dylan checks things off as a woman standing next to him calls out ingredients.
My heart beats a little faster as I remember our last encounter in his office. The small touches. The flirting. The way his laugh made me question my love of music when something like that sound exists. I take a breath to calm my racing pulse and run through my practiced lines.
A complex Choose Your Own Adventure dialogue draws up in my mind. My first line will be, it’s nice to see you again. To which he will reply with (option 1), I’m busy, leave me alone, though hopefully not. Would you like to see more of me? (option 2), definitely. Or (option 3), Let’s get married. Sure, then we’ll see each other all the time.
The diagram continues from there, leading me on a journey to date-hood. I wrote it all on napkins at Kira’s dinner table, connecting lines to design the perfect-speaking Anna. The soft tissue crinkles in my pocket as I clutch the sketched notes in my fist.
“Next,” the cashier calls.
I greet the younger guy who has a snake tattoo running up his arm. “Hi, I’ll have…” In the brief second it takes me to review the menu, my order is interrupted.
“Anna. Hey.” Dylan’s voice rises to be heard over the smoothie mixers. Setting his clipboard on the counter, he meets my gaze and smiles. The muscles in his arms flex, a tantalizing glimpse of bicep peeking below his athletic shirt. “Checking out the new addition?”
“I can’t resist a delicious Kale and Spinach Surprise,” I joke.
“Get her a Kale and Spinach, on the house,” he says, missing my sarcasm. Which is a shame because the Peanut Butter Cup Collision sounded delicious. But I can’t shout a new order and risk smoothie judgment. Besides, Snake Tattoo is already scooping heaps of salad into a blender.
It’s an unfortunate start to asking Dylan out. If I switch around dialogues one and three, then backpedal to two, I can do this. I’ll improvise. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Scooching down the counter, I put myself in front of him. His eyes watch my movement, a sparkle lighting the gray depths. The girl next to him attempts to get back to business, but he introduces us instead. “Jess, this is my friend Anna. Anna, meet Jess.”
The way he says friend makes me smile, and warmth spreads in my belly. It fills me like a pecan pie straight from the oven. The blond, ponytailed woman sticks her hand out, stealing my attention from Dylan, and we shake. She wears a light blue shirt with the words Jessie’s Juice printed in bright coral letters. “Nice to meet you,” she says.
“Are you the Jess behind Jessie’s juice?” I ask.
“I am. And this is opening day so we’re really busy.” Message received. She leads us down the option 1 dialogue path: I’m busy, leave me alone. The planned response eludes me, and I fight the urge to take the napkin from my pocket and review it.
“Sorry. I’ll sit down.” I gesture behind me and take a few shuffling steps back.
“No, this can wait. We’re just going over inventory.” Dylan leans forward, his arm span long enough to reach across the counter and grip my jacket. With a gentle tug, he draws me back. “How’s your knee?”
“My knee?” I’m so distracted by his fingers curled around the smooth fabric that I need to reorient my brain to answer. “Oh, my knee. Right. It’s good. You’d never know Jason tried to murder me with the treadmill.”
He laughs, rendering the current top billboard music charts irrelevant. “Killing clients would be bad for business. I hope he’s treating you better now.”
Unbidden, the image of Jason angling in to kiss me comes to mind. His breath, hot. Horror clawing at my stomach like an alien parasite breaking free. I tamp down the shudder before it attacks. “Yeah, things are going well.”
“I’m glad.” His dreamy eyes keep me anchored. The counter separates us, a twenty-four-inch slab of Formica I press into, just to be a little closer.
I can’t describe what fascinates me with Dylan. Yes, he’s attractive. And funny. And kind. But something else captures my interest. An undefinable “other” quality that speaks to my soul. Like the way a sunrise soothes, fresh air heals, or chocolate cures.
“Babe, we gotta get this inventory finished.” Jess nudges his arm, and the spell between us breaks.
A thunderstorm of thought clouds my brain: the nudging. The babe-ing. Who is this Jess? His girlfriend? A wave of disappointment dampens my enthusiasm.
Dylan opens his mouth—to protest? To claim his undying love for me? —but Snake Tattoo interrupts, handing me a foam cup. “Here’s your KSS.”
For a moment, I think he says kiss (from Dylan, please and thank you). But alas, no. KSS: Kale and Spinach Surprise. More disappointment. “Thanks,” I say.
Accepting the green-colored mush, I turn back to Dylan, but Jess has his attention. She obliterates my fleeting courage to ask him out. What was I thinking? Girls like me don’t date guys like him.
Even though I know better, I compare myself to her. She’s taller than me by a few inches, lean and fit; a beautiful Arabian horse bred for running and endurance. I’m more like a pony at the carnival, walking circles with a kid on my back.
Dejected, I clutch my KSS and walk, my feet carrying me from the man who makes my tummy flutter. And into the man that decidedly does not. Jason steps from his place in line to catch my attention.
“Anna, fancy meeting you here.” He stole my line. But it sounds greased in bacon fat coming from his mouth. At least I hope I didn’t sound cheesy and unimaginative.
“Had to try a refreshing Kale and Spinach Surprise after my workout.” I lift my cup, pretending excitement over the liquid salad.
“That sounds delicious. Hey, let’s sit.” He puts a hand on my back and guides me to one of the tables, pushing me in a chair. Taking the seat next to me, he scoots in until our knees touch. “How do you think your training’s going?”
“Uhh, good.” I narrow my eyes and hope he has no intention of bumping up my treadmill to superhero speed again.
“Great. Great.” He nods and laces his fingers together. A heavy silence follows, his mouth opening and closing as he finds his words. Then he clears his throat. “Now that we’re off the training clock, I want to ask you out. On a date.”
“Why?” The question slips out before I think about it. But I stand by the query. Why? He already rejected me once.
“You heaved my couch off a balcony!” His loud voice garners a few side-eyes and I want to hide. “Please. Go out with me.”
The awkwardness presses in, my discomfort level high enough that I take a sip of the smoothie. And there is no surprise accompanying the kale and spinach. It tastes like blended lawn clippings. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Jason,” a familiar voice says from behind me. “We’ve talked about this. No dating the clientele.”
Shifting in my seat, I look at him over my shoulder. A stern expression creases his brow, and his lips turn down. He stares at Jason, arms crossed, the clipboard hugged to his chest. An air of manliness flows from him, something like sandalwood musk or mahogany motor oil. It’s really sexy and I reconsider; maybe I am the type of girl that dates a guy like Dylan.
“I know,” Jason says, apologizing and standing up. “But she threw my couch. It was awesome.”
He retreats to the smoothie line, and we watch him go. A smirk quirks Dylan’s lips and he takes the vacated seat. “You threw his couch?”
I laugh. “It’s a long story.”
“One day, I want to hear it.” He glances back at the smoothie counter, and Jess casts panicked glares our way as she tosses ingredients into a blender. The line is growing longer. The service continues at a slow pace. When a deep sigh echoes in his chest, I sense his reluctance to leave the table.
“Who’s Jess?” I ask. “To you, I mean.” I internally cringe at the question. It’s none of my business. And do I sound jealous?
Another sigh, more tired than the last one. “She’s my ex-wife.”
The ex. A tight ball of insecurity tenses in my gut. I swallow hard, a piece of wheatgrass lodging in my throat. “I could tell there was history between you.”
“This has been a dream of hers, to open a smoothie shop. And I had the space to make it happen.”
I think of my last conversation with the ex-hole. His eyes scanned my emerging muscles and the skinny jeans. He said, it must be nice to take hours away from our kids for your gym time. “You’re a great guy, Dylan Pound. My ex would laugh at my dreams. Then throw a grenade just to stir chaos.”
“I’m sorry.” Dylan reaches for my hand. But before I feel the warmth of his touch, a crash sounds from the smoothie counter. A rogue blender spins in reckless abandon and he cringes at the sight. “I better check that out.”
He rises from the table and walks away, leaving the clipboard behind. Picking it up, I call to him, but the commotion drowns me out. And then inspiration strikes. The kind of inspiration that changes lives and says eat chocolate cake for breakfast. I’m going to give him my number. Nerves bubble, the words of Dr. Seuss play in my mind, The Grinch got a wonderful, awful idea. I can relate.
Plucking the pen from the clipboard, I twirl it in my fingers. For throwing couch stories and more, call me. Below that, I leave my digits and my name. With trembling hands, I walk to the front.
“Dylan,” I say, getting his attention. “You left this at the table.”
“Thanks.” He smiles and takes the clipboard.
I leave before he notices what I’ve written. Heat dots my cheeks; a chill shakes my spine. The beginning stages of menopause run their course as I hustle from the gym. Will making my move turn out wonderful? Or awful? I have no idea. But I did it. I gave Dylan my number.