THAT’S ALL IT TOOK?
Flash Fiction by Voni Harris
He was nervous.
That’s why he slopped the dollop of mustard down the front of his shirt. Went perfectly with the already stinking baby spit-up from his last client’s baby.
He’d shouldn’t have stopped at the sidewalk vendor on his way out to his car, even if it was destined to be a late dinner. Now there was no time to change before he met her.
Fortunately, there was an extra shirt in his car.
Unfortunately, it was his yellow shirt with large dots of many shades of green. Perfect for alumni events, with jeans. Not so perfect with his blue pin-striped suit pants.
Better than smelly baby spit-up and a mustard blotch. He quickly switched shirts at the side of the road. Glancing at his watch, he saw he was cutting it close, and he needed to impress tonight. She was looking for romance tonight; she’d made that clear.
He pulled up outside her office. She gave his clothes a quizzical look through the window, then waved and came lightly running out to the car with a smile, full skirt flowing behind her. He got out and walked around to open the door for her…
…just in time to knock her off the curb and send her rolling onto the lawn.
“Are you okay?” he asked, reaching to help her up.
She dusted the grass off her backside.
“Perfectly fine,” she answered, then frowned. “However, my shoe is not.” She held it up for his inspection. The heel of the left shoe was rolling in the gutter.
“Sorry about that,” he mumbled, embarrassed.
“That’s okay.” She opened her voluminous purse and pulled out a pair of flats. “I came prepared.” She slid onto the car seat and slipped on the flats, tossing the heels in the back seat.
Great. Just great. This date was supposed to knock her socks off, not break her shoes!
He closed her door for her, then walked around and started the car. She teased about his clothes, chattered about her day, and there had never been a faster 45-minute drive. With her in the car, even the pot holes after they turned onto the dirt road didn’t annoy him.
This was a woman he intended to impress and keep impressed.
They pulled up in front of a barn and parked. She took one look at the sign and squealed. “A hot-air balloon ride? Seriously? I can’t wait.”
She dug a ponytail holder from the depths of her purse and pulled her hair back to combat the wind while he walked around the car and opened the door for her.
The balloonist came walking over. The man rocked back and forth on his heels as he greeted them. “Sorry to give you bad news. I was hoping this wind was going to die down by the time you got here, but it increased instead. It’s too heavy for us to go up tonight. We’ll have to reschedule.”
He looked up to see her face fall, and his stomach fell to his feet.
“I’m sorry.” he told her, grinding his toe into the dirt.
“Not your fault.” She deliberately put a smile on her face. “Nor yours,” she told the balloonist, who smiled back in relief.
She turned to look at him. “Now what?” she asked.
He hoped she didn’t just write off the whole date. “We could go on to the restaurant. I was a little worried we wouldn’t make our reservation, anyway, and it’s quite a drive.”
“Let’s do it!” They waved to the balloonist as he drove away and slid into their seats.
That’s when the car refused to start. It wouldn’t even turn over. He got out, muttering a prayer, and looked under the hood. He saw the problem and hooked the loose wire back up.
The car still wouldn’t start.
He got out of the car again. That is when he noticed the pool of liquid under the gas tank; one of the pot holes must have caused the obvious hole in the tank.
At least they came across a field of wild flowers as they walked around, waiting on the tow truck. A girl seeking romance had to have flowers, right? He picked her a mess of them and hoped she’d not notice that he’d forgotten to order a bouquet for the night.
Sitting between him and the tow truck driver on their way back into town, she rubbed her arm where she’d been stung by the bee he’d unwittingly picked along with the flowers. Loud and twangy country music on the radio kept them from any conversation, but she did he reach over and take his hand.
They left the car at a repair shop near the restaurant and walked down the street, still holding hands.
That’s when they were deluged by the storm the wind had been blowing in. They took off jogging and pushed into the restaurant soaking wet.
The maitre d’ inside looked them up and down and gave a self-satisfied smile as he tapped his notebook. They’d missed their reservation time after all.
They ran to the restaurant next door. The wait was over ninety minutes. She tapped his arm, “It’s getting late at this point. McDonald’s is across the street.”
McDonald’s. I am such a clod.
But he couldn’t take her home hungry after all he put her through. He sighed in agreement, and they ran through the rain once more.
McDonald’s. So this is where our perfect date ends up.
Fifteen minutes later, she took a huge bite of her burger as she ran her fries through a pile of ketchup.
She threw her head back in laughter. “This has been the most perfect date night!”
His jaw dropped.
“I love being married to you,” she said, her sky-blue eyes sparkling.
With no idea what to say, he just grabbed her hand. And held on.