“How’s your love life these days, dear?”
Katie stared over the top of her tea mug at her mother. She was sipping her coffee, eyes cast down, her other hand playing with her spoon, spinning it gently on the table. Katie’s mother had asked her to meet her for coffee this morning which was the first indication to her that something was up. Her mother’s evasive behavior was not unexpected. Now, she’s asking about my love life?
“Okay,” Katie leaned back in her chair. Her mug hit the table with a little more force than she had intended. “What’s up?”
“Can’t a mother take an innocent interest in her daughter’s happiness? Her mother’s steely eyes appeared on the surface to be concerned.
Katie paused a moment. Her mother definitely had a scheme in mind. But what could it hurt? Whoever her mother had in mind had to be better than what she had gone through recently.
“Well,” Katie said, bracing against her better judgement, “The last guy I had a date with couldn’t stop talking about himself. I don’t think he even asked one thing about me. And, the one before that spent more time on his phone than he did anything else. How’s that for a happy love life?”
“Oh, Katie,” her mother purred, “I think it’s time for a change, don’t you? To some nice guy rather than those losers.”
“I thought those guys were nice guys, Mom,” Katie sighed. She couldn’t help notice her mother holding back a smile. “I suppose you have the perfect ‘nice’ guy in mind for me.”
“As it happens . . . “
“Noooo,” Katie tried to sound confident without pleading, “Please don’t set me up with some random guy you met at the doctor’s office, the market, or some other place like that.”
“Would I do that?” her mother shot back at her, “I talked to Margaret Clarkson last week. Do you remember her?
Katie froze in her chair. “Yeeeesss,” she said hesitantly.
“Then you remember her son, Zachary . . . “
“Her obnoxious son? Yes, of course, I do,” Katie said as she set her jaw to stubborn. “You can’t be serious.”
“Zach has moved back here, and he’s single. Margaret and I thought that maybe you . . . ”
“No, absolutely not,” Katie said. “He used to tease me mercilessly, pull my hair, and call me names. Is that really who you want me to go out with?”
Her mother gave her a pleading look, “You were kids. All kids do things like that.”
“Once a cad, always a cad,” Katie rebounded angrily, caught herself, and softened her voice, “I’m not interested.”
“Margaret says he could do with a friendly face to help him adjust to the new environment. He hasn’t lived here for twenty years. It’s like it’s all new to him,” Katie’s mother said, “You wouldn’t have to think of it as a date. And, you know, he could’ve changed a lot.”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” Katie sighed. Her memories stirred childhood pain. Probably because she liked him. She was a kid, but she was drawn to him, tried to be nice to him, and all he did was chide her to no end.er
Her mother smiled, “If you could open yourself to the possibility that he’s changed, you might open the door to opportunity.”
Katie opened the door to her apartment to find Amber, her roommate, still dressed in her running clothes, sitting at their kitchen counter. Gleaming from exertion, she picked up her water bottle and took a swig. Then, peering at Katie, she said “You look like you’ve had bad news. I take it the meeting with your mom didn’t go well.”
Amber always looked good, even now. She had nice guys falling at her feet. She never lacked for male companionship. Some women have all the luck.
“She and an old friend of hers are plotting to get me hooked up with the friend’s son,” Katie sighed.
“And this is bad news because . . . ?” Amber ran the bottle across her forehead, condensation from the bottle mixing with the sweat on her brow.
“Because,” Katie said as she shut the door, “Because he’s a jerk. I knew him when I was 8 or 9 years old. Our families spent a lot of time together, and he was always awful to me.”
“Like how?” Amber said.
“He used to like to scare me. Come up behind me when I wasn’t expecting it and grab my hair. I wore braids a lot. It would always scare me so bad that I would run away. Sometimes so bad, it would make me cry. Then, he would tease me for that.”
“Wow, really,” Amber said lifting an eyebrow, “You used to wear braids? Ms. Fashionista?”
Katie laughed. “Really? That’s what you got from that whole thing?”
“All I’m saying is that you’ve changed, right? At least your choice of hair style has. Maybe he has too. How old was he?”
“I think he was 11,” Katie’s tone turned solemn.
“Yes, a guy’s personality is pretty much set by that age,” Amber said with a hint of sarcasm. Pausing, she continued, “People change. Don’t throw away an opportunity to maybe meet the man of your dreams because he once was a jerky kid.”
“You’ve been talking to my mother, haven’t you?” Katie said.
“I’ve never met your mother,” Amber smiled, “but if she says ‘open the door to change, then you open the door to love’, I would have to side with her. I’m going to go take a shower now.”
Katie reached for a kitchen stool and sat down. Maybe Amber, who had her pick of any man she wanted, and her mom were right. Maybe she was being too hard on him. If she did change her attitude toward him, she might find he had changed his attitude toward her.
“Amber,” Katie caught her just before she entered the bathroom, “If it were you, would you do it?”
Amber grinned back at her, “In a heartbeat.”
Katie pulled out her phone and dialed her mother. “Okay,” she said when her mother answered, “I’m ready to open that door to opportunity.”
Time had come. She sat outside the restaurant feeling both anxiety and a sense of excitement. From the moment she spoke to him on the phone, she had sensed a feeling growing inside her. It was a flicker from the childhood attraction she’d felt long ago. It fluttered about her body, bubbling underneath the surface. And when it would flair beyond her inner nerves, it caused her mind to wander back to those days in her past. She would then have to quash it with all her mental power to keep it from expanding into real hope.
Better to get it over with. If she had this one evening with him, and he proved himself to be who she knew him to be, then it would be easier to push the attraction back where it belonged – into lost childhood memories. With new resolve, she opened the car door and headed for the restaurant entrance.
As she approached, a handsome, nicely dressed man opened the door from the inside allowing her entrance. “Katie,” he said, “I wasn’t sure you would show up. It’s me, Zach.”
Before her was an older version of her memory, exuding a quiet confidence and courteous demeanor. “Why wouldn’t I?” she said with a tentative smile.
He laughed nervously. “I was so awful to you when we were kids,” he said, “I used to make you cry.”
“That you did,” she said, “I remember.”
“Boys tend to be cruel to the girls they like,” he said shyly, “Thank God I’ve grown up. I hope you will give me an opportunity to show you just how nice I can be.”
Katie’s tentative smile grew more relaxed and genuine, releasing some of the repressed feeling she had banished not five minutes earlier. This just might be a good night after all. “I look forward to seeing you prove yourself a changed man.”
“I’m up for the challenge,” he said, closing the door behind them.
Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson