Hidden In Plain Sight
Copyright © Mimi Barbour
Tonight, I have another blind date to look forward to, the fourth in as many weeks. Once again, my hopes are high. I keep telling myself to cut it out and stop building foolish dreams, especially since I’m always disappointed. Isn’t there one nice, normal, single guy out there looking for a nice, normal, single woman just aching to share her life? I mean, I’m not model perfect, but my red hair, brown eyes and generous figure have always had men interested enough to take a second look.
My name is Maxine Koral, and my story isn’t so different from other women who find themselves middle-aged and alone. Before my husband passed on, I’d envisioned us content and living our golden years together. Unfortunately, the big guy upstairs had other plans. So I find myself sad, watching each empty day follow another, and brimful of love to share with someone who might be in the same predicament. My problem is finding him.
Through the years, I’d repeatedly told my son and daughter, “Go after what you want, don’t wait for life to fall in your lap.” So, taking my own advice, I’d put my information on a dating network, and life has twisted down peculiar paths ever since.
For the dating program I signed onto, the first step is for the man to send me an e-mail, which I carefully answer. Excitement overflows as I dream and wonder—could he be the one? We write for a while, discovering each other, and that leads to phone calls. We talk, and eventually arrange to meet for a meal. That’s when the disillusionment hits. So far, the majority of men I’ve met have been tolerable, just not for me. In most cases, they have too much baggage, or they’re immature and self-centred.
Last week, my date, tall, lean ‘Harry hockey-stick’ talked non-stop. As if one of those ‘press me’ buttons on a stuffed animal you see in Wal-Mart’s had become activated and stuck.
The week before ‘Henry the blinker’ said very little. When he did, his sole conversation focused around the rotten wife who’d left him for another man. As the evening progressed, I found my sympathies diverting to the rotter.
From previous weeks, the memories dim of a drunken leech who suffered from a variety of unacceptable habits, beginning with wandering hands and bad breath to an irritating habit of spitting his words. Then who could forget the idiot with the personality pitfalls of a tree stump?
Even my optimistic nature is losing its sense of adventure. I’ve decided tonight is to be my final effort before settling back into my now comfortable life of lonely widowhood. A role, I hate to admit, has become easier as time passes.
I look around at my beautifully decorated living room, with the Christmas tree glowing in the corner, the sparkling lights shining from the windows and all my precious ornaments in their perfect places. Contentment swelled and brings tears to my eyes. Time has helped me heal, but the loneliness still hovers.
A knock at the front door heralds my attractive, rather new, next-door neighbour who’d shovelled my driveway every day in the last week. I’d begun to fret about his wife taking umbrage at all this neighbourly attention he’s lavishing on me.
I open the door and look up into his smiling blue eyes. “Hi Kevin.Can’t stay away from my snow, aye?”
“Something like that! Just wanted to tell you the temperature is dropping again, and it’s going to be pretty treacherous for driving tonight. Hope you aren’t intending to go to the gym.” His hands are shoved into the front pockets of his jeans, and his large, muscular body is hunched over from the cold. Shyly, he looks at me, his eyes full of concern while the laugh lines around each deepen. His face smiles even while his lips don’t.
“Actually, I have a date. We’re meeting at the Cactus Club. It’s not that long a drive.” I added the last part when I saw the flare of annoyance he didn’t bother to hide. “I’m sure I’ll be just fine.”
Even if Kevin was a married man, I felt glad my hair had curled perfectly tonight, soft and shiny, and my makeup went on smooth from the first try. Running a day care from my home curtailed my activities. Most of my outings consist of me going for walks with three or four toddlers and playing with them on the street. Many times, Kevin joined us, and the kids loved him. Those were the best days. His wife, silhouetted in the window, only watched. She never comes out to visit.
“The snow is getting worse. It hasn’t stopped all day. It might be better to cancel, than to take any chances. You don’t even have snow tires.”
Kidding around, I answered. “But you do! If I get stuck you’ll come and save me. Right?”
“Right! Just call.” Sighing, he grinned in the one-sided way that made foolish emotions twist inside my stomach.
A few hours later, I decide Kevin has put a curse on me. Sure enough, I’d gotten stuck in the parking lot. The inconsiderate loser, I’d spent two disastrous hours with, has driven off without even knowing my plight. Beseeching Kevin to come to my assistance seems my only option.
He answers the phone immediately, almost as if he hasthe receiver in his hand waiting for it to ring. The relieved tone in his voice has my eyebrows rising. Had he been worried? My goodness, he is a sweetheart. I let out a very long sigh; then shake my head. If only…
Minutes later, I jokeaway my awkwardness as he guides me to his truck. “You must have been sitting in your jacket, waiting for my call. Your wife has to hate me for dragging you out on a night like this.”
He stops, grabs my arms and turns me toward him. “What wife? My sister is sound asleep. She has lung cancer, and in the final stages, people need a great deal of rest. My wife passed away about five years ago. I missed her so much, that when my sister became ill, I talked her into moving in with me so that I can look after her. It seemed the sensible thing to do since she has no one else and neither do I. We bought the house next to yours because it’s close to her clinic.”
Moved, and speechlessness, I just stare at him. Then words burst out before I can stop them. “You’re single?”
Probably because I hadn’t tried to hide it, he picks up on the surprised pleasure covering my face.
“You didn’t know?”
“You never said anything.”
“From the way you acted, I didn’t think you’d be interested.”
“In my mind, you were taken.”
“What if I’m not?”
“I’d be extremely happy.” And to prove it, I smiled, staring directly into his eyes.
The light from a snow-covered streetlamp formed a halo, which encircled us in its warm radiance. His growing half-smile filled every empty nook and cranny in my heart. We stared at each other, beaming.
Speaking only with our eyes.
Falling in love.
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