Friday 29 April 2011

Friday Flash - First Date

I'm sitting at the table near the window. Trust Parker to book a table with such a lovely view. The first time I read his profile on Match, I knew he would be a man of taste. I can look out into the landscaped garden to my left, and if I look to my right I can see the door. I wonder if this was Parker's intention, to sit here and watch me make my entrance. Of course, Parker would need to be here first, and he's not. Still, he's only seven minutes late. He couldn't have known I'd be early due to nerves. He's probably parking the car right now.

The waiter brings me my first glass of wine - a heady merlot. I think he's relieved I've finally ordered something. I'm sure Parker won't mind when he gets here. After all, it's only one drink, just to be polite. I leave it on the table, intending to drink it when Parker gets here. He'll be here soon.

7:25pm.The waiter whisks my empty glass away. I wonder where Parker is. It must be the right date and time, or they would never have shown me to his table. I check my phone in case he's tried to call to say he's been held up. Wasn't his big presentation today? I try to think back to the last email he sent. Yes, maybe he's just been held up.

The waiter brings me a second glass of merlot. Still no word from Parker. Is it too soon to call and ask if he's coming? I don't know what the protocol is. I haven't dated in fifteen years, and this is the first date I've had from an Internet site. It wasn't like this when I met Ben. Back then, it was having to share a table in a busy cafe, swapping phone numbers, and then marriage six months later. I send Parker a brief text, saying I hope the presentation went well, and that he can tell me about it over dinner. I wonder if he's forgotten our date. Ben never forgot anything.

The waiter whisks away my empty glass. I gaze around the room. The other tables are occupied by gossiping women guzzling wine in between courses, happy couples, or loud businessmen discussing deals over their steak. Only one other person is here on his own, and he scribbles in a notebook after every forkful. Maybe he's a food critic.

The waiter just came back to ask if I want another glass of wine. I tell him I don't - I should really wait for Parker. As soon as he leaves I want to call him back, just for someone to talk to. I look around the other tables and imagine that they're all staring at me. I bet they're thinking I look pathetic, sat here by myself. Is it okay if I have a third glass of wine, or does that just mean I'll go from waiting for a date to drinking alone? The waiter glares at me, and I consider ordering dinner. I can't bring myself to. If I do, then Parker will arrive and think less of me for not waiting. Then again, if I don't order anything, he won't show.

Parker is an hour late and there is still no word from him. A third glass of merlot sits on the table in front of me. The smell turns my stomach. I check my phone again. Nothing. I find the email app and log into my account. There, in black and white, is today's date, 7pm, and the name of this restaurant. I didn't get it wrong after all. I wondered if he'd taken one look at me and decided not to come in. I hope not. He's seen my picture online, and I took care to use the nicest photo I have. I don't think I look all that different in person.

The waiters are getting angry with me. I pull up Parker's number, and my finger hovers over the 'Call' button. Who am I kidding? Parker isn't running late - he just isn't coming. I think of Tex, my old labrador, who is no doubt sat in the living room patiently waiting for me to come home. I get the urge to pay my bill and go home. There's a pizza in the freezer that I can have for dinner. If I leave now, I can be home in time to curl up on the couch with Tex and watch The Mentalist. Still, I can't leave. Not alone. Everyone will know I was stood up. The waiter glares at me. I have to make a decision. I either order more drinks, have dinner, or leave.

I work up the courage to call Parker. His phone rings for what feels like an eternity, before I'm put through to voicemail. I hang up, knowing my voice will crack and betray my disappointment if I try to leave a message. I look out of the window, keen to face away from everyone in case they see me welling up. I think of going home, and I picture Tex greeting me at the door and wagging his tail when I give him a cuddle.

A couple walk past the window. The woman is a stunning blonde with the kind of bombshell figure you only get with surgery and a personal trainer. She's wearing a clingy gold dress and I suddenly feel very dowdy in my burgundy blouse and cream skirt. My eye is drawn to her companion. He's tall, and grey streaks through his dark brown hair. He has his arm around her waist. The man briefly looks in my direction, and looks away just as quickly.

I signal to the waiter for the bill, and try not to think about how much the man outside looked like Parker.

* * *

This story came from a prompt from Tony Noland about an empty wine glass. Tony's just released his first short fiction anthology, Blood Picnic, which is a bargain at $2.99 over on Smashwords!

However, the story did give rise to two endings. After throwing open the voting for a happy ending on Twitter, more people wanted the unhappy ending you see here, although I'll be posting the alternative happy ending next week!


Tony Noland said...

Well done, Icy, and thanks for the plug!

Oh, Parker... at least have the decency to sent a text.

Sam said...

Very nicely done, Icy. I really felt your MC's emotions, the downward spiral from nervous anticipation to despair, her thoughts about Tex and the frozen pizza were perfectly woven in. And Parker, what a rat!

Unknown said...

Icy, I think this is one of your best. I could really feel her emotions and you got me to internalize them. Plus I think you have even forever stained the name Parker for me :)

John Wiswell said...

Could Parker be dumb enough to waltz this golden girl by her place? I read it as her being oversensitive and seeing things to affirm her disappointment. Certainly happened to (and by) me in the past. For all we know, Parker couldn't make it because he died in a wreck.

Anonymous said...

Aw, God love her heart, nothing worse than being stood up, unless of course you see your date with someone else - the nerve!

Very well told Icy!

Sam Pennington said...

Hey, that was brilliant Icy, plus you've put me off trying internet dating for life! How could he be so horrible? Grrr, men!!

Steve Green said...

The way this is written makes it very easy to see the scenario from the MC's perpective. The indecision, the feelings of embarrassment of being stood up and knowing that others around are p[robably quite aware of it.

N Icy ly done.

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

Dating is a serious pain in the behind. Poor girl.

Anonymous said...

That guy's an ass. He should have called or texted or something!

Anonymous said...

The sense of her excitement and excalating dissapointment was conveyed. I liked this ending, with her still questioning herself.

Larry Kollar said...

Good illustration of man's inhumanity to woman. But I have to wonder who the 7:45 scribbler is — maybe part of next week's happy ending?

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Oh, Icy. I hope this series of posts about bad dating experiences is not a secret cry for help. FWIW, I would never stand you up. Also, I would never deliver you to the lair of a character from Greek mythology. But that, of course, is another story.

Chuck Allen said...

Having seen Tony's prompt on Twitter I am extremely impressed with what you turned this into. The timeline diary-style telling was perfect for this one. I love it.

Helen A. Howell said...

wow I loved it! That poor woman, I felt her anxiety as she slowly realised he wasn't late and that he just wasn't coming. Parker, what an inconsiderate pig!

Emma Newman said...

Poor woman. Liked the detail of the repeated glasses of wine.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Tony - Luckily I've never been stood up, but I have had men text me about half an hour before we were due to meet, saying they weren't coming. It sucks.

Sam - I really wanted to try and capture that sense of reassuring yourself through to just accepting it.

Michael - I'm glad you liked it!

John - You can read it like that but that's not how it's intended. Considering she only sees Parker at the end, it's difficult to say she's seeing things to affirm her disappointment.

Deanna - Thanks!

Sam - Oh internet dating can be amusing if you don't take it seriously. Good fodder for stories though.

Steve - I really enjoy using first person purely for that reason.

Raven - It's wrong, but the arranged marriages of yesteryear at least circumvented the awkwardness of dating.

Storytreasury - He should have!

Lara - I'll be posting the alternate ending next week!

FAR - Shush!

Tim - Yeah, I possibly shouldn't have posted them back to back...

Chuck - The trick is looking at what it is you're trying to say, and then deciding how best to convey that. In this case, splitting it into chunks seemed best to highlight the passage of time and her growing disquiet.

Helen - Thanks!

Emma - It's all Tony's doing!

Anonymous said...

Very good. Very readable. I loved the food critic, notebook and all.

It works better with a downbeat ending but I'm intrigued to read its alternative.

Lee-Ann said...

Brilliantly written. You really took us inside her head... the growing disappointment, the self-consciousness... I think this is my favourite Friday Flash this week.

Cat Russell said...

Well written. I felt sorry for the mc, dating again after 15 years just to get stood up by a jerk. He could of at least emailed her!

Mari said...

Excellent! you portrayed very well your MC's disappointment at being stood up. Parker is a jerk.

Jason Coggins said...

Oh Icy, I so felt for the protagonist through out this. Dating is truly the realm of the young and feckless. It takes guts to put yourself back out there ... so Parker I'm not willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, cad!

AidanF said...

I like how you captured the character and even provided little bits of contrast between Parker and Ben. I'm not even waiting for dates sometimes when I travel and eat alone in restaurants and feel self-conscious. I can imagine how much worse she feels.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Very well told, a great build up of emotion over time though I wouldn't have been able to hold off so long before ringing. It will be fascinating to read the happy ending next time.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Catherine - It was bad enough after I tried dating again after 18 months, but after fifteen takes a lot of courage.

Mari - He is indeed!

Jason - It does take guts. Guts I'm not sure I have any more.

Aidan - You're always so sure everyone else is staring at you, when they're probably not.

Alison - Oh I would have called straight away but that's just me!

Virginia Moffatt said...

Oh I loved this. You really got her emotions and nervous energy. What a rat!

Anonymous said...

Excellently described. A nightmare situation I used to dread when dating. Great work Icy

Deb Rickard said...

A insighful peep into a woman's denial, agony and pain. Thanks, Icy.

Stephen said...

Hi there Icy --

Great story. Great subject.

There's nothing worse than sitting in a restaurant alone, waiting for someone to turn up. Other than them not showing at all...

I really liked that "seven minutes late" at the start, it immediately and very compactly set things in place for the developing situation ("uh,oh"). The ever attentive waiter, the isolation and the wondering about proper protocol, all evocatively and cringingly familiar...

Personally, I think she's better off with the dog.

And nice idea opening the ending up to the Twitterati. It better not have been them at the other table watching to see what happened. They owe that poor woman a hug ;)


Icy Sedgwick said...

Virginia - There are few things I hate more than the lack of courtesy. If he was too much of a coward to say he wasn't coming because he'd found someone else, then he could have at least made something up!

Brainhaze - It's a situation I still dread.

Deb - Glad you liked it.

Stephen - At least Tex still loves her!

Anonymous said...

This is a great character description. So very vivid and telling.
Adam B

Anonymous said...

Oops, I'm a bit late to this one Icy. I liked the time pointers as she goes through this evening of discomfort: it increases the desperation she feels although I reckon she looked at her watch at least every thirty seconds. I thought the single guy in the restaurant would turn out to be Parker watching her but then she would have seen his picture profile.
You have such a range of subject matter and styles. It's impressive.

Mike Robertson said...

Icy, I'm way late reading this too, but glad I finally found it. A tiny nit: "...who is no doubt sat in the living room..." should that be "sitting"?

It surprised me a little that her disappointment didn't turn to outright anger at some point, but that's probably just me.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Mike - Nope, "who is no doubt sat" is right, as is "who is no doubt sitting". Weird quirk of English!

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