Jason Strikes Out

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Jason believes he has just one chance to save his engagement to Amy; he has to show her total commitment.

Jason Strikes Out

by Angela Rasch

Copyright  © 2010 Angela Rasch
All Rights Reserved.

 


 
“I’m going as. . . .”

The scent from the lady’s perfume, which had seemed pleasant when we first sat down, had revealed itself to be sickening sweet, even though she was at least ten feet away. She laughed incessantly at an old Huckleberry Hound cartoon playing on one of several televisions scattered around Joe Senser’s, a Plymouth sports bar and restaurant. Her wicked-witch-of-the-west cackle kept me from hearing what Jason had said.

I had been struggling to pay attention. ESPN was showing highlights of the previous day’s baseball games and even though I love the guy to death -- anything Jason might be saying took a secondary priority to the action on the field.

My wood-roasted quarter chicken with steam vegetables was getting just as little attention as Jason’s babbling. Senser’s menu had a little red heart next to the chicken that suggested it was good for preventing coronaries. Jason had gone me one better and was eating a dreary salad with vinegar and oil dressing.

“Jennie Finch,” he said softly, checking the tables around us, as if he was afraid someone would overhear.

“The softball pitcher/” I asked. “What about her?”

“Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said, Chad?” he asked with apparent exasperation. “I’m cutting a vein for you . . .and you. . . . You’re the one person I thought I could trust.” His lower lip quivered, and he squeezed his big eyes shut.

He can be a real wuss. There were times I wondered about Jason. “Jeez, buddy. The Twins are trying to hold on to first place. It’s tense out there with both the White Sox and Tigers coming on.”

A waitress walked by with an eye appealing and fragrant platter heaped with fries and a California burger.

My health conscious diet is crap. I’m in great shape; why should I worry about cholesterol? I stared at Jason to signal he had my undivided attention, although the crisp double play on the TV just behind him was actually sharing at least half of my brain.

“I’ve wanted to do something special for Halloween for years,” he started, again.

“Halloween?” I snorted. “Aren’t you jumping the gun? It’s two weeks before the Fourth of July. No one plans their Halloween in June.”

“Ohhh,” he wailed. “I really couldn’t care less about Halloween. I have to do . . . something . . . to save my relationship with Amy.”

Amy the barracuda. Amy had been an Aquatenniel queen and seemed quite certain her excrement didn’t reek. She was an adequate engineer and a first rate pain-in-the-ass. Their engagement had marked the official end of Jason’s manhood. Ever since she had accepted his proposal he lived in fear that she would change her mind.

“I’m just not good enough for her,” he said, as firmly as he said anything. “She’s right to be upset with me. I don’t have any follow through. She was right to have said that about me, even though she didn’t have to do it in front of Mr. Watkins.”

Roy Watkins was the sole owner of Watkins/Harper. Amy had spouted off at a meeting with the senior management team about Jason’s lack of commitment to a mutual project. It appeared to me that her sly remarks were nothing but blatant attempt to take credit for his brilliance.

“What?” I asked. “You’ve always been a committed person and team player. You were captain of our high school tennis team. You took third at state. Doesn’t that stand for anything?”

“That was twelve years ago.” He bit his lip. “Amy knows me better than anyone. But, I can change. I know I can. I’m gonna show her.”

Jason and I both worked at Watkins/Harper. We had known each other in high school, but had lost contact for the next five years when we went to different colleges. In was a highly fortunate coincidence that brought us to the same employer and eventually to having design tables right next to each other on the third floor. “You’re one of the best electrical engineers in the Midwest. Your buildings have put you in the running for an eventual David Sarnoff Award.”

“No one outside of a few electrical nerds cares about any of that,” he scoffed.

I’d walk a mile on crushed glass, on my knees, just to see a Sarnoff award. “I suppose you’re right.”

“Amy’s going to Europe for the next four to five months to lead a design team in Germany. She’ll be back the week before Halloween and I’m going to prove to her that I can take on a project and give it my all.” He stuck out his jaw, uncharacteristically. Jason was known for finding the middle ground in disputes. His ability to nurture harmony was one of the many positive attributes that set him apart from most engineers. . .or people in general, for that matter.

I looked at Jason. “Look.” I tasted my words, trying to find just the right thing to disclose. “Amy’s not as. . . .” I stopped -- suddenly thinking better of what I was about to say. How can anyone be so evil to someone as nice as Jason? “Okay. . .tell me about your plans for Halloween.” I signaled the waitress to bring me another Arnold Palmer.

“It’s pretty simple,” Jason said. “Terry Balke always has her costume party.”

I nodded. “Terry loves Halloween. Everyone loves Terry. Ergo; everyone puts up with finding the latest mask at Target and becomes a clown or Batman for the night. What does that have to do with you and Amy?” Should I tell him?

He looked at me with eyes that I had seen several times in the last few months. He seemed controlled by a desperate urge that registered on a scale somewhere between terror and lust. “If I don’t do something spectacular to prove to Amy that I’m a person who lives up to his commitments, she’ll break off our engagement. She’s as much as told me that we’re on very thin ice.”

“Un huh,” I said, carefully keeping the “let her go” out of my voice.

“So I’m going to do the hardest thing I can imagine for Halloween. I’m going to go to Terry’s party as Jennie Finch.”

I laughed. Although I wasn’t entirely sure, I thought Jennie Finch was that incredibly sexy softball pitcher. I always mixed her up with Sidd Finch, the fictional baseball player George Plimpton had created decades ago for Sports Illustrated as an April Fools’ Day joke. Sidd had learned to master baseball pitching by studying mind and body control in Tibet. Jennie had mastered softball by pitching with a body that sent most men reeling out of control.

“I’m not joking,” Jason whined.

“You’re not built at all like Jennie Finch,” I offered. “For one thing, you’re way too tall.”

He bristled. “Do you think I went into this without planning? I looked at all the most beautiful athletes and decided she was the one. Chad, how tall do you think Jennie is?”

I shrugged -- thinking back to the one or two times I’d seen her play while idly channel surfing and a couple of unforgettable moments on the ESPY awards show. “She’s on the tall side. Hmmmm. Five. . .uhm. . .eight?”

He snorted. “She’s 6’1” and weighs 168. I’m actually an inch shorter than she is.”

“But,” I argued, “you’re not effeminate. If you want to go to a party in a dress why don’t you go as one of the muscle-bound Williams sisters? You played tennis. You could do that.”

He shook his head. “I’m a little light in the skin color department, don’t you think? How would I ever look exactly like a Williams sister, short of a melanin transplant?”

“Then what about Maria Sharapova?” I had surprised myself by coming up with the name of a top ranked women’s tennis player, but then remembered I’d seen her on a calendar posing in a bikini.

“I don’t want this to be too easy,” he said earnestly. “Besides, there are a lot of rumors about her being a lesbian. If I’m to do this right, I have to go to that party as a 100% heterosexual female.”

I shuddered. The conviction in his voice left no doubt as to his resolve. “As I recall Jennie Finch has blonde hair and blue eyes — and an impressive rack.”

“I’ve got the hair and eye color thing covered and. . .” he bit his lip and shook his head, “. . .she’s actually 32-30-35.”

“No way. She’s been at the top of several lists for being the sexiest female athlete.”

“That much you’ve got right.” He shoved aside his salad, leaving half of it. “She even beat out Anna Kournikova as the most attractive female athlete in a ESPN poll.”

I thought I would break the tension of an absurd conversation with a joke. “Why would you want to be a blonde? They’re the butt of a lot of jokes. For instance, why can’t blondes put in light bulbs?”

He gave me a blank stare.

“Because they keep breaking them with their hammers.” I waited in vain for his laugh. “So what’s the big deal?” I asked after I gave up hoping he would appreciate my humor. “You have long hair already. All you need is a hairpiece extension thing and a girls’ softball uniform and . . . voila . . . you’re Jennie Finch. Is a girls’ softball uniform any different than a guys’?”

“It’s not the uniform,” he explained with exaggerated frustration. “Jennie Finch is sexy. It’s not all about physical. It’s mental . . . and I intend to find out what makes her tick. I’m going to tap into the inner Jennie Finch and really become her for Halloween.”

His level of commitment finally reached me. “Are you serious. Do you really think you can actually get people to think you’re Jennie Finch -- not some yahoo in a dress?”

He nodded gravely. “It’s the only way I can be sure Amy will marry me.”

“Say you succeed,” I offered quietly. “Is Amy going to be more attracted to you when people mistake you for a blonde bombshell?”

He nodded. “I’ve thought it all through. It’ll be perfect. It’s the ultimate sacrifice. . .100% proof of how much I love her.”

She ain’t worth it, buddy. If I were a girl I’d love to have a great guy like Jason marry me. Can’t girls see how wonderful he is? Outwardly I grinned, unable to find anything more to say.

“What the heck,” he said. “It’s worth a shot to have Amy as my wife.”

It’s worth a shot, all right . . . shot to Amy’s head. “You’d be better off trying to go to Halloween as Brett Favre — except he has grey hair.” I scrawled my name on the tab and chuckled. “Next time -- you buy . . . Jennie.”

He grabbed my shoulder to stop me from leaving. “Chad, you’ve got to promise me one thing. Don’t tell anyone why I’m doing this. . .please.” His eyes flashed wildly.

I thought for a moment, and then nodded slowly.

***

Three weeks later I walked into a meeting of all the engineers working on the Vang Building remodel. Gadin Chopra was shaking his fist at Jason. Gadin once told me in all sincerity that the difference between a dog and a fox was a complete understanding of the power of Jagermeister.

“Hyato Vang,” Gadin said with affected importance, “told me this morning that he won’t have his building planned by someone as totally weird as you.” He poked a finger in Jason’s direction.

“Hold on,” I said, asserting my position as coordinating engineer on the Vang project. “Start from the top.” The Vang job represented about twenty percent of our division’s third quarter revenue.

“It’s Jason’s damned perfume,” Gadin said, barely containing himself. “Hyato specifically said no man should smell like that . . . and I have to agree.”

Jason sniffed. “At least three of the women in this office use the very same scent -- at least once in a while. I’ve never heard anyone complain about them.”

I shook my head. I’d noticed the perfume, but had reasoned that Jason was wearing it as part of his ridiculous preparation for Halloween. After that day at Senser’s we hadn’t mentioned his plans, but he’d obviously started his transformation. Gadin’s a prick and not half the engineer that Jason is.

“It’s not just the perfume,” Gadin complained. “Men should be broad at the shoulders and narrow at the hip. Look at him!” He pointed at Jason, who was standing next to the marker-board where he apparently had been drawing a work progress graph prior to me coming in.

Taking a critical glance at Jason I had to admit he had become more pear-shaped than I remembered.

“It’s my diet,” Jason said apologetically. “I’ve been losing a few pounds -- trying to get in better shape. Can I help it if I lose weight around my middle first? I’ve always been a bit . . . ah . . . . bottom heavy.”

“It’s not natural,” Gadin said, much too loudly. “Also not natural is the way you now smile all the time.”

“I have been trying to smile more,” Jason admitted.

I caught his eye to get him to give me permission to tell the others what was going on, but his subtle headshake demanded that I stay silent.

Gadin slapped the conference table. “Jason’s gone over the creepy side of the boat. I’m personally no longer comfortable using the men’s room if he’s in there.”

“Oh for crying out loud,” I started. Should I suggest that Gadin can go piss up a rope?

“What’s gives here?” Mr. Watkins asked while he entered the room. He rarely attended our project meetings and must have heard the argument from the hall. “Gadin, you sound upset.”

“We’re in danger of losing the Vang project . . . and it’s all Jason’s fault,” Gadin whined.

“Jason’s fault?” Mr. Watkins shook his head. “I find it hard to believe our brightest engineer is creating a problem with our client base.” He smiled at Jason.

“He’s too skinny,” Gadin said, and then blushed when he apparently knew how stupid he had sounded. “I mean,” he hurriedly added, “his clothes are hanging on him. He looks like an AIDS poster.”

We all turned toward Jason.

“I probably need to buy a few new things,” Jason allowed. “I’ve dropped fifteen pounds over the last several weeks. I’ll buy a new wardrobe this weekend, I promise.”

“Are you ill?” Mr. Watkins asked kindly of Jason.

“No — It’s a special diet. I’m done losing weight now — I’ve reached my target.”

Mr. Watkins padded his own ample stomach. “You’ll have to let me know how you did it.” He chuckled. “I’m already getting requests to play Santa this Christmas at the local schools.”

“This is serious, Mr. Watkins,” Gadin asserted. “Hyato Vang is upset.”

“Hyato Vang is a douche bag,” Mr. Watkins said without any humor. “But — the client is always right, unless he’s wrong — so tell me more.”

“Vang seems to be a bit homophobic,” I said tentatively. “He thinks Jason is weird and. . . .”

Mr. Watkins laughed and looked to Jason. “Does Amy know you’ve switched sides and are playing for the other team?”

Jason blushed. “As far as I know I’m still as hetero as the next guy.”

Pete Wilkes and Ernst Sergio, who were sitting at the table, on either side of Jason, slide their chairs away from him.

“It’s the earrings,” Gadin said. “Vang doesn’t like Jason’s earrings.”

“They’re studs,” Jason said quietly.

He’d had his ears pierced, but no one had said anything about it that I’d heard -- until now.

“Earrings shouldn’t be a problem for anyone in this day and age,” Mr. Watkins said.

“Uh huh, but when they’re worn with rings like Jason has on his hands, they look real girlish.” Gadin balled his hands into fists.

Everyone swung their attention toward Jason, as if we hadn’t seen his rings before. They did make his hands look quite feminine, but that girlishness was probably more due to the lack of hair. I’d seen his legs a few days back when he’d accidentally allowed his pant leg to pull up. He apparently was shaving his body. Also, his nails seemed a bit too perfectly manicured. It’s one thing to keep your fingernails neat and an entirely another to let them grow too long, and then shape them into oval tips and use a clear polish.

“Mr. Vang said Jason was out to the work site, bent down, and accidentally revealed he was wearing panties.” Gadin had obviously been saving his biggest salvo for last.

“I’ve heard enough. . . .” Mr. Watkins said.

“Look,” I started, ready to break my promise to Jason to never reveal what he was doing, in order to help him keep his job, “we’ve all been in love and sometimes. . . .”

“No need for that,” Mr. Watkins stated, cutting me off. He looked around the room at each of us, before continuing. “I’ve been over this particular bridge too often in my life.” He paused and took off his tri-focals. “When you get to be in your seventies, you’ve seen everything too many times. I’ve witnessed every kind of hatred, and I don’t like any of them.”

I looked around the room at the men and women of my division. Of the twenty or so people in the room I knew at least four of them were gay. The almost two dozen faces looked like the rainbow Jesse Jackson once preached about.

He continued. “The name on the side of this building is Watkins/Harper. Nathaniel Harper was my business partner for thirty years, until he succumbed to AIDS nearly twenty years ago. If Mr. Vang values his homophobic principles over the immense service this company can provide for him . . . and the unique skills Jason brings to the table, he’s a fool. Watkins/Harper doesn’t allow fools to set the direction for our organization.”

I nodded, as did most of the heads in the room. There’s a good reason we all love our boss.

“Gadin,” Mr. Watkins said, “can you explain to Mr. Vang that our corporation has a policy of acceptance and inclusion. We have a special place in our hearts for all manner of individual expression. I happen to think that these kinds of difference in sexuality are as unconnected to the engineering integrity of our projects as what Jay Leno has for breakfast — if he eats breakfast. In other words, what Jason looks like doesn’t mean a thing to the ultimate success of this remodel.”

He turned to look directly toward Jason. “A few weeks ago I heard rumors of changes in your appearance. I pulled samples of your work from the last year. If anything, your most recent work is some of your best. I’m proud to have you on my staff and would walk away from a thousand clients like Mr. Vang before I would ask you to be something you truly aren’t.”

He walked to the door. “I trust all of you will have a good day, and apologize for barging in.” With that he left and the meeting quickly adjourned.

Gadin wasn’t pleased or convinced, but he delivered the message to Mr. Vang. I waited a few days before calling Gadin into my office to lay down the law about being a homophobic ass and how it would be grounds for me rearranging his face should he ever make Jason feel bad again.

***

“I need your help,” Jason said. His voice had grown progressively higher throughout the early fall. During the last several weeks he had taken his commitment to “be” Jennie Finch by Halloween to a number of new levels.

The new wardrobe he had mentioned in Gadin’s “bitch” session had turned out to be decidedly feminine. He wore women’s blouses and slacks or jeans every day with a variety of shoes, some with rather high heels that had created a sway in his walk and much shorter strides. His earrings had become much more decorative and matched his necklaces, bracelets, and pins.

“I’m always ready to help a teammate,” I said to him with real enthusiasm. Any time I could I wanted to work with Jason. His projects always turned out great and I learned a lot. Besides, it was always fun to be around him. “Is it the Vang building, again?” Vang had come around when he realized his attitude would cost him our services.

“It’s personal,” he said. His smile glowed.

I’m not sure it’s because his tan is so dark, or if he had his teeth whitened, but his smile is dazzling. “How so?” Has he finally heard about Amy?

“I have just over a week left before Amy gets back . . . and then Halloween.”

“You look ready to me,” I said with real appreciation for how much he actually looked like Jennie Finch. His hair, now bleached and pulled back into a ponytail, matched the blue eyes that stared at me, thanks to his colored contacts.

“I’m not really ready,” he said, and then stuck his lip out in a pout. “I just can’t get myself to leave my home when I’m dressed like a woman.”

“Huh?” What does he think he’s dressed like now?

“Uh huh, when I’m in a skirt or a dress I reach for the front door . . . and lose my nerve. Until I can go out in public and convince myself I look exactly like Jennie Finch -- when the rubber hits the road -- everything I’ve done means nothing.” His eyes misted and he looked every inch the saddest person I’d ever seen. The smile that had become a constant fixture on his face over the last few months was gone.

“What can I do,” I asked. He’s ready . . . he just doesn’t know it. I’ll play along so that he pushes himself over the top.

“Can you help me? All I need is for someone to be with me when I go out. I’ll buy the meal.” He smiled and lit up the room. “I know that Redstone is your favorite restaurant. If you’ll go with me to Redstone, I’ll buy you that Backyard Barbecue Chicken that you seem to love.”

I licked my lips, thinking of the last time I’d eaten there. “Nope!” I said.

His face fell.

I laughed. “I’ll go with you, but you have to let me buy. Think of it as a graduation gift.”

“Oh -- thank you,” he enthused.

“No,” I insisted, “thank you. When you first told me about becoming Jennie Finch I had no idea the extent you were willing to go. I have nothing but admiration for your dedication to detail. It’s been a lesson to me what a person can accomplish when they give it full effort. I’m always learning from you.” I’m truly envious of his spirit.

His smile nearly knocked me over. “I can see admiration on your face and hope that I continue to live up to it. Tomorrow’s Friday. Why don’t you pick me up at my house at eight? I’m on your way to Redstone and there’s no sense for both of us to drive.”

I nodded. He’s wearing a different perfume today. It’s much more provocative then anything any other woman in the office wears.

On his way out the door he did that little finger-wave thing. “I’ll see you at eight, tomorrow night. Dress business casual — I want you to be comfortable. Thank you so much.”

He didn’t blow me a kiss, but I wouldn’t have been too surprised if he had.

***

Promptly at eight the next evening I was at his door. For some strange reason I had taken quite a bit of time getting ready and ended up selecting a shirt and sport coat I’d bought recently that I’d never worn to work.

When he opened the door I felt totally underdressed. “You look great,” he said. “I love that jacket on you. It lets people see your muscular shoulders.”

“Wow!” I managed to get out of my mouth. His face is absolutely stunning. He must have gone to a professional beauty salon. “That dress is a great color for you.”

“Chad,” he answered, blushing, “you certainly know how to make a girl feel pretty. Its color is called cobalt blue. The designer is Nicole Miller; I found it on line.”

“It sure is shiny,” I said feeling like a complete boob.

He laughed lightly, while a calico cat did figure eights between his legs. “The material is stretch sateen.” He reached down to cuddle the kitty, and then spun to show me all sides of the dress. The back was cut open nearly to his waist -- exposing . . . delicious-looking skin. “You’re already doing so much for me,” he said in a voice that sounded as if he were almost out of breath, “but could I ask for one more teeny-weeny favor.”

I nodded like a race horse working the stable boy for an apple.

“Could you make an effort to think of me as a girl tonight and treat me as you would a real date? I think that if you can do that I’ll make it over the last hurdle and really be ready for Halloween.”

“Okay,” I said tentatively. The only jewelry she’s wearing are those simple earrings, a single, rose quartz ring, and that gold necklace with a crucifix. Yet, she looks. . .special.

“Great!” she said. “We’d better hurry. Our reservations are for 8:20. Just call me ‘Jennie’ — that will help.”

“ ‘Jennie’ it is.” Reservations! Oh God, I didn’t make any. It’s a good thing she thought ahead.

She draped a white sweater over her shoulders, fastened its top button, and then picked a small purse off the maple antique table near the door. She then smiled to indicate she was ready.

I finally picked up on her signals and opened the door.

“Thank you, she said merrily. “Did I ever tell you how much I love your car?”

We walked toward my white 1994 Porsche Speedster. It was my pride and joy and had cost me nearly half of my last year’s take home. “Thanks. It’s fun to drive.”

“You look handsome in it,” she said. “It really fits you. I liked the car you had before, but this one really is special.”

My previous car had been a tricked out 2008 VW GTI. If I could have, I would have kept it to drive when the weather was too bad for the Porsche, but I couldn’t afford two cars.

I opened the door for her. She sat daintily, and then swung her legs into the car. After I got in she turned toward me. “I love the leather seats,” she purred.

Sitting in my Porsche, dressed as she was, she looked like an ad in a magazine. Her blonde hair and hoop earrings framed her face perfectly. In the office she always kept her gorgeous hair in a ponytail.

On the drive to the restaurant we talked about how the weather was warm for October. It was surprising how simple talk about mundane things can seem so special when someone takes the time to listen to what you say — hanging on every word, like Jennie did. At least three times her pink-polished finger touched my elbow to let me know she understood exactly the point I was making. Her face was always glued to mine and as near to me as the car would allow. It’s a Porsche, you idiot. She has to be that close.

When we got to the restaurant I mentally compared her to all the other young women waiting to be seated. Her dress seemed to be right in line with what the others had on, but none of the others seem to fill theirs as ideally as she did.

Her face shined in the dim lights and I cursed the architect of the restaurant, wanting to be able to see every nuance when her eyes smiled at me.

“Right this way,” the waitress said.

I indicated with my hand for Jennie to go before me.

“How gallant,” she whispered as she passed by. “Thank you, kind sir.”

People at the tables we went by seemed to stop whatever they were doing to stare at her.

It’s not just me. She’s as beautiful to them as I see her. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been envied by every other guy in the restaurant.

The waitress brought us to a booth near the rear and indicated we should sit across from each other.

“Do you mind?” Jennie asked me. “It can be so loud in here at times. Would you mind moving to sit a little closer so I can hear everything you say?”

“Sure,” I said — and quickly moved to sit next to her.

“That’s much better.” She smiled. “This is such a treat for me. Do you have any idea how many of the women at work would kill to be out on a date with you?”

“Don’t pull my leg,” I said. “I’m not a big ladies’ man.”

“I know,” she said. “You’re devoted to work, which makes you all the more attractive. Believe me. I have lunch with the women now, and they love to talk about what they’d do if they had you for an evening. That’s their favorite game.”

I blushed -- struggling to find something to say.

“They’re crazy about your chiseled jaw. Can’t say that I blame them. In fact. . . .” She reached for her purse, and then took out two tickets. “I’m so grateful for what you’re doing tonight that I got you a ‘thank you’ present. These are Vikings’ tickets for the Packer game. They’re in the fourth row, near the fifty-yard line.”

“Wow,” I said, taken aback. “I haven’t been to a Vikings’ game for two years, but I sure would like to go. There’s two of them — would you like to go with me.”

She giggled. “I didn’t buy them so you’d take me . . . but if you insist . . . I’d love to go — with you. They’re for a week from next Sunday. I’ll cook us a big dinner after the game. You’re still a big steak and potatoes eater, right?”

I nodded, dumbfounded.

“We’ll have steak and potatoes, with all the trimmings. You can put your feet up, watch Sunday Night Football, and have a beer or two, while I prepare the meal. It’s the least I can do -- seeing how supportive you’ve been. You still drink that Russian beer — Extra Lager 9?”

“When I can get it,” I admitted.

“I know a place that stocks it,” she said with obvious delight. “I’ll keep it chilled in my refrigerator for whenever you drop by.”

I smiled in anticipation.

After we ordered cocktails and reviewed the menu the waitress took our order. I had the chicken and Jennie ordered salmon. The waitress acted toward Jennie like they do when they seem to want to be girlfriends.

Jennie beamed. Every time I looked her eyes were staring deeply into mine.

Throughout the meal Jennie asked probing questions. She knew a lot more about me than I thought she might and seemingly had an unlimited thirst to hear more. Her queries weren’t off-putting in any way. I felt pride that she cared so much.

When we were about done eating, a man about my age came up to our table and addressed Jennie. “Excuse me for bothering you. I’m a big fan. I saw you in person at the Athens’s Olympics. You struck out thirteen batters in eight innings.”

“I’m not who you think I am,” she said and blushed.

“I heard your husband call you ‘Jennie’,” he accused. He faced me. “You must be Casey Daigle. You played ball for Arizona, right.”

I laughed and shook my head.

“Okay. I get it,” he said smiling, and then turned back to Jennie. He winked broadly. “I wasn’t trying to get an autograph or anything. I just wanted you to know how great I think you are. My wife told me to tell you that she thinks you’re much better-looking in person than when you’re on TV.” With that he hastily retreated.

“Well, Jennie,” I said. “Are you ready to call it a night?” I started to stand and then realized I was fully aroused. I sat back down to consider my next move. It’s not dark enough in here so that no one will notice.

“What’s wrong?” Jennie asked, showing true concern.

“I decided I wanted another Arnold Palmer,” I lied. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all, Chad.” Her smile seemingly grew two sizes allowing her teeth to almost blind me. “There’s something else I wanted to talk about, anyway.”

I could get lost in her dimples. I signaled, and then the waitress came and took our drink order. Think of baseball, that always works to make Big Sam behave himself.

“I got a call from Amy this afternoon,” Jennie said. “She had a bit of news for me that I’ve been expecting.”

Should I tell her what I’ve been hearing about Amy?

“Amy got married,” she said quickly.

I reached for her hand, which seemed a bit funny given that she was talking about her fiancée “Amy” dumping her. But it all fit. “She never deserved you.”

“Oh, Chad. That’s so sweet of you to say. It’s not a huge thing anymore. I realized a few weeks ago that Amy wasn’t the one for me and mentioned it to one of the girls in the office. She told me about Amy and Carl.”

“She’ll use Carl to climb the corporate ladder,” I said with disgust. “Can you imagine picking Carl over someone as sweet and amazingly talented as you?”

“Well. . .” she said with a tiny laugh, “. . .she did. I hope Carl knows what he’s getting into.”

“Are you crushed? Here we are out having a great time . . . and you didn’t even let on that your world. . . . I feel like an idiot.”

“Oh, don’t,” she whispered urgently. Her hand pulled on mine and she covered it with both of hers. “It’s you -- that I’ve fallen for. When this all started I had no idea who I really was. Now I’m sure I’m really what you see in front of you. I met with my family last weekend and they’re all right behind my decision. Tonight was simply affirmation for me. I can’t wait to complete my journey.”

“You’re doing the right thing,” I said quickly. “I think you’re an incredibly beautiful woman. I would be the happiest man on earth to make this the first date of hundreds to follow for the rest of our lives.”

Her face seemed closer to me than it had been all evening. Her lips. . . . I leaned in the last inch or so and dared to place a gentle kiss, which she returned.

“Let’s go,” she whispered. “I really don’t want anything else to drink.” She stood next to my chair and shielded my front from view as I rose. “Please don’t be embarrassed by your physical reaction to me.” She handed me her sweater and in the process discretely brushed across the front of my trousers. “I’m actually quite flattered — and pleased by how you feel.”

The End

Thank you for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed it. - Jill



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