Greetings and Salutations Notable readers of the blog,

Digger is lurking around grumbling something about where the hell I’ve been. I assured him he would get his say in due course. To which he responded with a string of insults I’m not at liberty to repeat. So today we’re going to get right to the conclusion of Blind Date.

Blind Date (continued)

By Dave Benneman

“I said, a penny for your thoughts.” Marissa’s gaze turned rueful. “Maybe I should raise the ante? Where were you just now?” She motioned with one hand, like a magician causing something to materialize.

He was saved from answering when the maître d’ called his name from the end of the bar. “That’s us.” He held the stool for her then after you’d her toward the restaurant.

The bartender appeared from out of nowhere.

Sean reached for his wallet but the bartender waved him off. “I’ll have your drinks and tab sent to the table. Enjoy your dinner.”

“Thank you.” Sean hurried after Marissa who waited with the maître d’.

Once they were seated, he ordered a second round of drinks, while they each studied the menu. The waiter brought their drinks and ran down the specials.

Once dinner was ordered, Marissa’s clear blue eyes locked onto his. “I would like to discuss the elephant in the room, if you don’t mind?”

“Not at all.” A lie. He did mind. He minded one hell of a lot, but much like this blind date, he assumed it was inevitable. “What’s on your mind?”

She looked away for a moment. “You’re obviously distracted. I sense you don’t want to be here. This is a beautiful place, but I don’t expect you to buy my dinner, I—”

His abrupt laugh interrupted her. “I’m sorry. It’s not the cost of dinner. I selected the restaurant knowing what the prices would be like. Besides, Grace would kill me if you paid for your own meal.”

She frowned, clearly puzzled. “Do you mind telling me where you drift off to?”

“Look Marissa, you seem like a nice person, which makes your friendship with my bulldog sister all the more mysterious. It would be rude to talk about my wife when a beautiful woman is sitting across the table from me. I told Grace I wasn’t ready to date. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.”

Worry disappeared under sympathetic understanding. “Grace did say you were reluctant, yet still here you are.”

“Yes, I was manipulated.” He shook his head, leaning in just a bit. “If you know Grace, you shouldn’t be surprised by that. I’m afraid of her, always have been. However, that is not your fault and I certainly shouldn’t take it out on you. Can I have a do over?”

“I would like that.” Another of her smiles appeared. “So, tell me about your wife. Grace said you were married a long time.”

“Twenty-three years.” Relieved to be on safer ground, his nerves drained away. “Just kids really. Had no idea what we were getting into. In love, and that’s all that mattered. Her parents hated me. Tried to get rid of me every way they could think of. It only made our resolve stronger. Her Granny was a hoot though. She told me she was seventeen when they got married. ‘Everyone said it would never last. Sixty-three years later, I’m still waiting to see if they were right.’ Funny old lady.”

Sean fell into a rhythm, talking around bites of the best Chilean Sea Bass he ever tasted. “We grew up together, started out with nothing. Us against the world for the first five years. I went to college and worked nights at a spaghetti factory.”

Through out dinner he regaled her with anecdotes from his marriage. She nodded and laughed in all the right places.

“After I got my degree and a teaching job her parents came around. Eventually they came to love me. I’m glad they weren’t around to watch Sarah’s battle with cancer.”

At the mention of the C-word, he grew quiet. The dishes were cleared and coffee delivered. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to talk about Sarah all night.”

Marissa laughed. “It’s fine. You were quite entertaining really. Once you relaxed. It must have been hard, those last few years.”

“Enough about me.” He was not going to step foot on that road. Those last few years taught him more about breast cancer than any regular person should have to learn. As Sarah’s primary care giver, he performed tasks he never imagined possible on their wedding day. Best not to be sucked into those memories. “What’s your story?”

She sipped her coffee, then set it down. “I’m afraid I’m much more boring.” She traced the cup’s rim with one polished nail. “Went to college, fell in love, got married after school. He turned into a jerk. We stuck it out too long. Then took our anger out on each other in a bitter divorce. Out of spite, we made each other miserable while the lawyers cashed our checks. In hindsight, I should have walked away from everything, and maintained some dignity. Once the fees were paid, I had nothing. Out of necessity, I focused on my career. Became the executive buyer for Macy’s. Occasionally dating people in the industry. Never from the office. Nothing serious.”

A soft half laugh escaped. “Grace has been riding me for months to go out with her little brother. She is my one true friend outside of the office. Most fix-up attempts come from people I work with, and I’m always quick to point out that I never let my personal life seep into work. Your sister used my rule against me. From the way she talked, I assumed you knew everything about me and were eager to go out. When I finally capitulated and agreed to go out with you, she admitted coercing you.” She winced and put a hand between her breasts. “And here we are.”

Sean peered into his empty coffee cup, discomfited by Marissa’s retelling. “I understand we really shouldn’t leave here without trying the Butter Cake.” He managed to drag his gaze back up. “Are you up for desert?”

Flushed, Marissa squirmed in her seat. “Maybe I shouldn’t. The grouper gave me indigestion.” Her left hand clutched her chest. She rose from her seat looking a little shaky. A waiter hurried over to pull out her chair.

Sean stood. “Are you feeling okay? Should I call—?”

Before he could finish, without ceremony she collapsed in a heap. Sean rushed to her side. He straightened her out and fixed her clothes, panic bubbling up. “Marissa, hey Marissa, I’m right here.”

Her purple face and moan of discomfort illustrated the severity of her situation.

He dialed 911, but hung up after realizing he wasn’t the first to call. On the floor, he held her in his lap, surrounded by restaurant staff. He felt as if they were in a tight grove of trees protected from an approaching storm. “God, let her be all right.”

In his lap, Marissa let go a long shuddering breath. Panic collided with anguish. He could not watch another woman die in his arms. His grip tightened around her even as somewhere deep inside the certainty that Marissa had vacated the building rose.

The EMTs arrived and pushed everyone out of the way, before beginning their ministrations. They cut her clothes away to apply the paddles. Despite the situation, Sean gaped in embarrassment for Marissa. She would not like this. Not one bit.

“Clear!”

To his amazement, the other customers continued eating. One old lady sniffed her soup than spooned it in as if nothing important was happening. When the current was applied, Marissa’s body leapt off the ground causing her breasts to flop around and still the other diners stuffed their faces.

“Clear!”

Nothing. They gave her an injection.

Squawky, yet calm voices repeated information given over the walkie-talkies.

Still nothing. Then they were wheeling her out.

Sean trailed after them. “Can I accompany her?”

“No sir, you will have to follow behind. We’re going to Einstein Medical Center. What’s her name?”

“Sarah Connor…no sorry it’s Marissa. Marissa.” He hit himself on the forehead. “I don’t remember.”

The ambulance door slammed shut, then it was pulling from the parking lot, lights flashing, and siren screaming. At a loss, Sean searched for what to do next. Reverting to the familiar, he found his waiter and asked for the bill.

“Management took it sir. Do you have your valet ticket?”

Sean produced the ticket and the waiter ran from the room. Someone else guided him to the entrance, although he couldn’t remember who it was or what he said. His car waited, the driver’s door stood open, and the engine quietly ran.

The valet waved off his attempt to tip him. “Buckle up sir.” He pulled the seat belt out and held it until Sean accepted it and snapped it into place. Only then did the valet close the door.

Sean heard two taps on the roof. Cleared for takeoff. Was the valet being metaphoric when he told Sean to buckle up? Probably not. It was far too late to buckle up. This ride was well underway.

In the brightly lit driveway of Mastro’s loss and sadness overtook him. Tears blurred his vision. His chest heaved. Sarah was gone. I can’t do this again. What would he do? Where could he go? His fist hammered on the steering wheel.

Into the chaotic mess of grief a quote from the Terminator flashed. “Cyborgs don’t feel pain, but I do.”

 

The End

I hope you enjoyed this edition of story time. I love to sneak in pop culture references into my stories, I wonder if anyone out there can mention a couple of the more subtle ones. leave a comment, valuable prizes await. 1st prize is a round trip no expense paid trip to North Korea. Of course I’m kidding, there 0  prize money in the budget. But hey. Thanks for playing.

Don’t forget to stop in on Friday for a fresh round of abuse dished out by our own Grave Digger.

Todays quotation comes from Ralph Ellison.

“The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghost like.

Thanks for tuning in,

Dave Benneman

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