I arrived at the restaurant early, by design, so that I could pick out a table at the back, one where I could face the entrance with no obstructions. If I didn’t like the look of Trevor when he appeared—if that was even his real name—I wanted a clean shot to the restroom, where I could climb out of the window. That didn’t sound too difficult.
I ordered a black-currant martini. I’d never had such an exotic drink before, but its picture was on the cover of the cocktail menu. I sucked down nearly half of it two seconds after the server set it in front of me. So, with twenty minutes to kill, I used the time constructively, devising painful ways to murder Kit, my best friend, who had pushed me into this situation. Ignoring all my protests, she had combed several online matchmaking sites and settled on Élite Chicago Singles. I would have been more comfortable with Run-of-the-Mill Unmarried Guys, but I had to hand it to her, the ECS website was bulging with men of the right age, all attractive and with interesting careers.
Then she had started to whittle them down. She really liked the astronaut, since while he would presumably be in space a lot, I would always know where he was. For the same reason, she also liked the idea of any professional race car drivers, baseball players, and doctors (with the exception of male gynecologists, which she considered weird). She immediately dismissed anyone who claimed they enjoyed long walks on the beach.
“Why?” I had asked.
“Because it means they are cheap. No one wants to walk on a beach with a skinflint.”
Also out of the running was any business owner who didn’t mention the precise nature of his business.
“Why?” I had repeated.
“Because he might make license plates for a living.”
Back to my vigil. Forty-five minutes later, with now two black-currant martinis under my belt, I was refining my plan to boil Kit in hot oil when I felt the presence of someone standing in front of me. I looked up, discarding the napkin I had been shredding. It was Kit.
“Where did you come from?” I asked. I was horrified and relieved at the same time to see her there.
She turned and pointed to the far side of the room. “Back there. You didn’t think I was going to let you do this alone, did you? Not after half a dozen of those.” She glanced at my empty martini glass. “And just what is that, anyway?”
“Two, just two,” I corrected her. “And it’s the September cocktail of the month. Delicious. And what difference does it make, anyway, since Trevor has not shown?”
“Maybe he did,” she said, “and we don’t recognize him because he looks nothing like his picture.”
I thought of the image next to his bio on the website. He did look very handsome, athletic, and youngish. But then again, the picture Kit had posted of me was taken five—okay, ten—years ago, and I was wearing oversize sunglasses and a baseball hat—and not even the Cubbies, but rather the Athletics.
Kit sat down, and we both turned toward the hostess, who was now walking our way with a man, not quite visible, behind her. When she got to our table she stopped, looked surprised to see Kit sitting there, and asked if I was Valerie.
“No. Nooooo. Oh no,” Kit piped up. “This is Magda; she’s Romanian and doesn’t speak much English.”
The man behind the hostess took a sideways step so we could see all of him. If anything, he looked younger and handsomer than his picture. And he definitely looked way too pleased to learn that I was not Valerie.
On the way home, Kit called me from her car. “Remind me what Trevor does for a living.”
“He’s a surveyor,” I said.
“That could mean he works in a lighthouse. And his eyes were awfully close together,” she added. “I think you dodged a bullet with him, Val.”
“Yes. Definitely. Did you notice he wasn’t wearing socks? Probably one of those losers who likes cozy dinners at home.”
Oh man, Trevor was sounding better all the time. What’s wrong with a cozy dinner in a lighthouse? And besides, I think I could have adjusted to those close-set eyes.