I started the Fiction Friday series in October to help improve my descriptive prose writing. Perhaps I’ll write a book some day, most likely not, but I’m enjoying being creative each week. If you’d like to write along with me, I will have a link up for the series each week. Add a link to fiction on your blog.
Today’s story is the last part in a series. Here are the earlier installments.
At 7:00 PM the next night I check my reflection in the mirror in my bedroom one more time. I am happy with how I look in my red floral sundress and strappy brown sandals. It’s still 75 degrees out, but I grab a jean jacket from my closet in case it cools down later. Then I walk downstairs. I select a bottle of red wine from the wine rack as a hostess gift and head into the garage.
Once I’m in the car, I pull up Melissa’s email with the party details and click on the address to bring up a map. I turn on the GPS and back out of the driveway. The invite said the party started at 6:00 PM, so I figure that by showing up around 7:15, I’ll be fashionably late. Since I didn’t commit to coming, I don’t want to arrive too early. I don’t want Melissa to know I’ve been going crazy all day. Without Jack to attend to, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I read a little, watched TV, and took a walk, but after that I was at a loss.
When I pull up to Melissa and Nick’s house, there are a lot of cars in the driveway and on the street already. They’ve got a good turnout. I circle back around and park about half a block away. I stow my keys and phone in my purse, a casual red clutch that matches my dress, retrieve the bottle of wine from the passenger seat, and climb out of the car. As I walk towards the house, I pull up a mental image of Nick. I’ve only met him once, at the company picnic in May, but I want to make sure I can spot him in the crowd that’s clearly already assembled in their backyard.
I debate whether I should ring the front bell or just walk around to the backyard. I can hear music and laughter emanating from the back of the house, so I decide to head around there. I assume everyone is outside. As I round the corner, I take in the scene. Christmas lights hang from tree to tree almost as if they were Japanese lanterns. There are indeed 5 plastic snowmen set up throughout the yard. It doesn’t look corny as I expected. It looks fun and festive. I see about 40 people scattered around the yard and on the deck. No kids, so I don’t feel out of place without Jack.
I don’t see Melissa, but I spot Nick on the deck talking to a woman about my age, so I decide to head up there. Luckily, Nick notices me coming, so there is no awkward moment when I approach him. He smiles and says, “Teresa, right? Melissa mentioned you might be coming.”
“Hi, Nick,” I say as I hand over the bottle of wine. “I brought this as a gift for you and Melissa.” Way to state the obvious, Teresa. Nice going.
Nick seems un-phased. He introduces the woman he’s been speaking to as their neighbor, Gwen. I say hello and attempt to make small talk while Nick heads inside with my wine. He said he’d find Melissa and let her know that I’m here.
A few minutes later Melissa comes out and interrupts Gwen’s story about her dog. Thank God. I am not an animal person.
“Teresa!” Melissa squeals. “I’m so happy you came. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
I panic. Now it makes sense why Melissa invited me to the party yesterday afternoon. She’s trying to fix me up with someone. I should have known.
“Oh no,” I start. “I don’t know if I’m ready for that,” I protest. Not to mention I’m kind of obsessed with someone already.
“Nonsense,” she says and grabs my arm. Before I can stop her, she’s leading me off the porch towards a maple tree in the far corner of the yard. Standing right next to one of the snowmen is Playground Dad. I do a double take. Am I imagining this? Could he really be here?
As we get closer I confirm that it is in fact him. I take note of his slightly messy brown hair and his muscular arms. I can’t breathe. I glance down at my sandals to keep myself from staring. Pull yourself together, Teresa.
When we stop in front of Playground Dad and the other man he’s been talking to, they look at us a little strangely. Or maybe that’s my imagination.
“Aaron, can you go inside and help Nick with the coolers?” Melissa asks the other man by way of dismissing him. Then she turns to Playground Dad and smiles.
“Ben, I want you to meet someone,” she says as she gives my arm one last tug. “This is Teresa from my work. The one I’ve been telling you about.”
“Teresa, this is Ben,” she says to me now. “He has twins who must be around Jack’s age.”
“I know,” I say completely shocking myself. Ben and Melissa both look a little startled. “I mean, I think I’ve seen you at the playground,” I mutter quickly. How could I be so stupid?
Ben gives me a sly smile and winks as if we’re in on a joke. Melissa doesn’t notice. Someone calls her name from across the yard.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it,” she says and walks away.
“So, you’re recently divorced too, huh?” Ben asks rather boldly.
“I thought you might be,” I blurt out. I’m really not doing well here. Why didn’t Melissa tell me yesterday that she was trying to set me up? And how is that Playground Dad is actually here at the party?
Ben laughs. “Are you stalking me?”
“No. It’s just, there aren’t a lot of dads at the playground.” I say, attempting to explain myself. I need a drink!
Luckily, Ben is kind. He changes the subject.
“You have a son. Jack. How old is he?”
“4. And what about your twins?”
“3 and a half,” he answers. “They won’t be 4 until December, so they miss the cutoff for preschool.”
Our conversation flows quite naturally after that. It’s easy to talk about Jack. And I’m genuinely curious about his kids. I learn that the twins names are Josh and Sophie. They live with their mother most of the time and only visit with Ben every other weekend, as I guessed. Ben is a web developer. That’s a little surprising considering how outgoing he is.
He asks questions about me as well. I tell him more about Jack and his obsession with trucks. He already knows where I work because of Melissa, but I explain what I actually do there. And before I know it, half an hour has passed, and I’m feeling much less awkward.
“Do you want a drink?” Ben finally asks.
“Sure,” I answer.
He leads the way as we walk to the deck.
I think I’m going to take a break from my Fiction Fridays for a while. I need to find regular time to write fiction, so I can really improve. I have enjoyed this endeavor, and I definitely feel like I could write more with more time. I have been surprised how the words flow when I really get to focus on this task.
Thanks for reading!