By Eileen Slovak
Word Count: 895
Sprinting through the neighborhood, Caryn completed her daily four-miles in record time before sending a quick text to her sister, Kim: Will B ready 2-power shop in 15.
Back in her apartment, she showered coffee in hand, then, dressed hastily as her cell phone chirped signaling Kim was waiting. Moments later, Caryn climbed into the minivan. Kim handed her sister a homemade scone.
“Thanks, I didn’t have time to eat.”
“That’s why you’re so thin and I’m well, me,” Kim moaned.
Caryn shot her sister a look, “You’ve had two children and you’re too hard on yourself. So, what’s the emergency today?”
“Jeff forgot to tell me about his boss’s dinner party tomorrow night. It’s been months since we’ve been out for anything other than fast food and aside from jeans and t-shirts, everything in my closet is two sizes too small.”
“Hmmm,” Caryn said nibbling on her breakfast. “Okay, how about Anne Taylor or Nordstroms?”
“I was thinking more like Marshall’s or TJ’s.”
“Fine, but no clearance racks.”
“Not even a little one?” Kim asked sheepishly.
“Caryn, clearance means no one wanted it enough to pay full price.”
“Maybe it means no one saw its’ great potential.”
Caryn shook her head no, adding:
“So…you need me to babysit, then?”
“I hate to ask again, but if you don’t have plans…”
“Do I ever?”
“Speaking of plans…how about dinner at our house tonight?”
“Jeff and I would like you to come over, that’s all.”
Caryn raised an eyebrow, “Kim, you know how I feel about being fixed up.”
“Jeff’s friend Carl might stop by for drinks and we think he’s perfect for you.”
“Just give him a chance.”
Caryn sighed, asking: “So, what’s his story?”
“He’s single, new in the area, employed and in his mid-thirties.”
“I’ll think about it over shopping.”
In the fitting room’s three-way mirror, Caryn modeled a cute pair of jeans and a sweater, secretly hoping, despite herself, that Carl might be the one. Kim peered out of her stall, complaining.
“If department store owners had any sense, they’d install low lighting and fun house mirrors to make women look twenty pounds thinner. Help, I think I’m stuck!”
“What did you do?” Caryn asked helping free her sister from a dress that would not budge over her hips or her shoulders.
“Maybe try wiggling out of it,” Caryn suggested.
“Let’s go look at shoes, at least my feet always stay the same size,” Kim laughed. “Is that what you’re wearing tonight?”
“I guess. You win, I’ll meet him.”
After dinner, Caryn helped Kim put the children to bed. When the doorbell rang, Caryn felt a twinge of nervous anticipation. On her way downstairs, she observed the man standing with Jeff: handsome, tall, fit…so far, so good. Then he began talking.
“Well, hello there. Carl Waters, pleasure to meet you Caryn. Wow, I see fire behind those gorgeous green eyes of yours.”
“Oh…well, it’s nice to meet you too,” Caryn said shaking hands.
“Let’s have a drink,” Jeff suggested, leading the group into the living room.
While Kim poured wine, Carl’s eyes wandered all over Caryn.
“Fine vintage, Kim. I don’t know if Jeff told you, but I’m a bit of a wine connoisseur. Let me tell you a quick story about a little tour I took around Napa…”
An hour later, Carl was still expounding with expertise on every subject from baseball to hunting to mountain biking, while periodically throwing comments Caryn’s way:
“Caryn, I hear you’re a runner? Well, let me tell you, you’ve been running through my mind all night.”
At nine o’clock, Caryn discretely sent a text. Ten minutes later, she reached for her coat.
“Kim, Jeff, thank you for a wonderful dinner. Carl, it was nice to meet you. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
“What?” Kim asked incredulously.
“Kim, I’ll call you later.”
“Where are you off to so early? I was planning to take you home,” Carl, droned.
“Oh, no Carl, I wouldn’t dream of it, besides, I have a cab waiting. Goodnight all!” She called over her shoulder, making her escape. Breathing in the relief of the fresh outdoor air, she read the name on the door of the cab and laughed aloud: The Pick Up Line, Cab Company.
“Where’re you headed?” the driver asked.
“Far, far away,” she said hopping in the backseat.
“Sorry, never mind. The Willows Apartments please, on…”
“It’s okay, I know it well. I live on the second floor.”
Caryn looked at the driver in the rear mirror and said:
“I’m embarrassed to admit, I work so much I hardly know any of my neighbors.”
“Same here, I teach at Washington High during the day and drive the cab a few nights a week, you know, paying off those student loans. I’m Jay Stevens.”
“Caryn Ross. I run past Washington High every morning.”
“So, you’re the runner. I see you every day on my way to work. I run too, but usually after school.”
They chatted away until the cab pulled up in front of the building. Caryn was quiet and then said: “Jay, if you’re free next Saturday, maybe we could run together.”
Jay turned to face her, jotted his telephone number down on the receipt and said:
“That would be great. I’m glad I picked you up.”
“So am I,” Caryn smiled.