Unexpected Packages, page 4
“Hi. It’s Kenny. Kenny Jamison, the guy from Friday night. You took pity on me and loaned me ten bucks to get gas.”
Her heart stopped beating. Kenny Jamison was on her phone. How had he gotten the number? What did he want? Questions tumbled one over the other before she remembered to breathe.
“Hi. Yes, I remember you.”
As if she could forget. She tried to tell herself there was probably a really good reason why he was calling. Just because she couldn't think of any didn’t mean they didn’t exist.
A short laugh came across the line.
“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.”
How was she supposed to respond to that? There was no way she could divulge the truth and admit she hadn’t been able to get him off her mind.
“I’ll let you know when I decide,” she said, cringing.
The games men and women played had never been her forte, but she relaxed a little when she heard the deep timber of his laughter.
“Ok. I guess that’s fair enough.”
“How did you get my number?”
She was torn between wanting to know the reason for his call and wanting to continue fantasizing about the reasons.
“I called Roger, and he was kind enough to give it to me. I hope you don’t mind.”
Okay. So he had called Roger to get her number. Again she told herself there had to be a perfectly logical reason why he had gone through the trouble. And there was only one way to find out.
“Why?” she asked.
“Why did you call Roger for my phone number?”
Connie found herself holding her breath as she waited for his answer.
“Oh. Well I wanted to repay you the money you loaned me Friday night.”
“Oh,” slipped out before she could stop it. What had she been expecting him to say? That he had been thinking about her since Friday and couldn’t stop. Yeah, right. Just because that’s your deal, girlie, doesn’t mean it’s his.
“I thought we agreed it was my good deed for the day. One step closer to heaven and all.”
“I never agreed to that,” he said with a laugh.
“Well, if you insist on paying me back, I’ll be at work on Friday night. You can bring it by then.”
Connie hoped the disappointment she was feeling couldn’t be heard in her voice. Had she really expected him to tell her she’d been on his mind? When would she learn that just because a cute guy is nice to you doesn’t mean they want to see you again or get to know you?
“I was kind of hoping to get it to you sooner. Like maybe tonight, and as an extra thank you, maybe I could take you to dinner. I mean you really were a life saver.”
Wait. What had he just said? There was no way she could have heard him correctly.
“I’m sorry what?”
“I asked if you would like to have dinner with me tonight.”
The words left her lips before she could stop them. She had to stop speaking without thinking first. She could only imagine how it made her sound.
“Why what?” he asked, laughing.
Embarrassment had her heart pounding in her ears, and her stomach was doing flips.
“Never mind,” she mumbled into the phone, playing with a lock of her hair.
Oh, God, had she really just asked why he wanted to go out with her? She didn’t have a lot of experience with guys, but she was pretty sure you didn’t ask why they wanted to go out with you.
“Okay,” he said slowly. “So how about I pick you up tonight at seven?”
Regret over what she was about to do was already causing hot tears to pool at the back of her eyes. She was sure she would regret it later on as she ate a frozen Lean Cuisine by herself in front of the TV, but what other choice did she have?
“I’m sorry, but I can't,” she said, getting ready to hang up.
She had a paper to get done and no more time to waste on foolishness. It would probably take her an hour to get her mind back on the task at hand. Great. She should have just let the answering machine pick up.
“Okay, I can understand if you already have plans for tonight. It is short notice after all. I don’t know what I was thinking about. How about tomorrow night?”
Connie’s jaw dropped. Was God playing a cruel joke on her or what? How much will power was she supposed to have? She had already said no once.
“Um, tomorrow wouldn’t be good either,” she said slowly.
She questioned her decision immediately. Her doubts only got worse as the pause on the line seemed interminable. She worried for a moment that maybe he’d hung up.
“Okay,” he said, drawing out the word. “How about you tell me when would be a good time for you? I’m free all this week. You pick the night?”
All she could do was sit there, mouth open in disbelief. She tried to think of something to say but nothing came readily to mind. Then, it hit her like a ton of bricks. How could she have forgotten?
“What about your girlfriend? On Friday night, you said you were running late for a date.”
He had probably forgotten he had let that piece of information slip. This proved he was no better than all the other pretty boys she had met. No matter how old, the games never changed.
“Well, we kind of broke up on Friday. Actually, she broke up with me,” he said, a hint of embarrassment in his voice. “Said she was tired of me being late all the time.”
Would the surprises never stop? His girlfriend had broken up with him. What was wrong with the woman? Just because he’d been a little late getting to her? She could only imagine what his girlfriend, ex-girlfriend she corrected, looked like if she blew Kenny off for something like being a little tardy.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, lost in her thoughts.
“Don’t worry about it. It was for the best anyway. So how about that dinner?”
Every fiber of her being wanted to say yes. Kenny was the best looking man she had ever seen, and it looked like he wanted to go out with her. What were the odds? Could she trust taking it at face value? Doubts assailed her as she sat contemplating what to do next. Too many bad decisions on who to trust had soured her against believing in fantasies and fairy tales. She had given up her dreams of ever finding a Mister Right who looked like Mister Hot a long time ago.
“I’m sorry,” Connie said to him as much as to her own starved ego. “But I have to know why.”
“Why what?” he asked, confusion evident in his voice.
A deep sigh of frustration blew pass her lips. It was a good thing he couldn't see her face. Who in their right mind asked a guy why they wanted to go out with them? She shook her head and braced herself for whatever happened next. Well, she was sure of one thing at least; she wouldn’t have to worry about him distracting her with calls after this.
“Why do you want to go out with me?”
“I have to have a reason to ask you out?”
“Unfortunately, in my experience with men, there’s always a reason. Sometimes it’s the right one, but rarely have I found that to be the case,” she said, taking a deep breath before continuing.
“Look, I don’t want you to feel obligated to do anything extra to show your appreciation for my loaning you a few bucks for gas. You’ve already said thank you and you’re welcome. But I’m sure you have better things to do with your time. So let’s just say we’re even and leave it at that.”
A soft laugh came across the phone line, and her spine stiffened. Was he laughing at her?
“Actually, since my relationship ended on Friday night, I find myself with tons of time on my hands. And I have never done a pity date in my life,” Kenny said. “Well, maybe this once when I was in high school for a neighbor who wanted to get back at her boyfriend for cheating on her, but that was entirely different.”
More laughter sounded from his end of the phone, and she relaxed somewhat.
“Is that right?” she asked, a smile coming to her
She liked the thought of his doing a noble deed.
“Yes, that’s right. So what do you say?”
The timber of his voice had dropped. She could almost see the boyish grin from Friday night tilting those luscious lips up. She bet he was probably used to getting what he wanted and could be very persuasive when he wanted to be. As it was, she was having trouble holding onto her resolve to be tough.
“Somehow I had you pegged for a man who liked a different sort of woman. Not someone who normally picks up their dates at a gas station,” she said, shaking her head.
This was pure craziness. By her calculations their conversation should have been over as soon as she had turned him down the first time. They were now on date offer number three or was it four? She had lost track. Could he really be sincere in his offer? He sure was being awful persistent.
The deep chuckle from the other end of the phone had the same effect as earlier. Her stomach fluttered with hundreds of butterflies as it washed over her, making her want to sigh from the pleasure of it.
“Okay, I’ll give you that one. You are correct. I do normally date a different sort of woman, and no, I don’t typically find them at the gas station. Well, not working behind the counter at the gas station,” he said, laughing again.
“So why would you want to go out with someone who’s outside of your norm?”
“That’s kind of what I’d like to figure out.”
What the hell did that mean? Connie wondered if she should feel insulted instead of merely confused.
“I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand. What exactly is it you're trying to figure out?”
Kenny suddenly found his mouth drier than the Sahara Desert. He got up from behind his desk and retrieved a bottle of water from the mini bar in his office. He couldn't remember the last time he’d been so nervous about talking to a woman. He didn’t know what it was about this one that had his tongue tied and his stomach all in knots.
“Are you still there?”
The uncertainty in the voice on the other end only made the knots tighten.
“Yeah, I’m still here,” he said moving to sit back behind his desk.
“Well, are you going to answer my question?”
“Of course, I am,” he replied as much to himself as to her.
But how was he going to explain to her what he didn’t quite understand himself? And exactly how did you tell a woman that you wanted to know why you couldn't get her off your mind? Would she be insulted? Flattered? He hadn't planned this far ahead. Hell, he hadn’t expected to still be having this conversation. Again his own arrogance and ego had made him think this would be an easy task. The simple truth was he had expected to ask her out, she’d gush or maybe become flustered, possibly stumble over her words, but in the end, she would pull it together enough to accept his offer of a date. Needless to say things hadn't gone anywhere near how he had expected them to go since she’d answered the phone. It had been he who had become tongue-tied when he’d heard her soft voice on the other end. When she had turned him down the first time, it was he who had to pull himself together and think quickly. But when she had turned him down a second time, he had become flustered and uncertain of himself. Something that had never happened before. It had been out of desperation when he had given her the choice of picking the day for their date. But that too had backfired. Now she wanted to know why. Why did he want to go out with her? Wasn’t it enough that he did? Nothing about this woman was as it should be or as he was used to it being. And instead of making him want to end things now, Kenny found that it was only making him want to know more about her.
“Well are you going to answer the question today?” she asked, giving a nervous laugh.
“Sure I am. As soon as I find the best way to put it,” he replied almost to himself.
He ran his hands down his face, uncertain of what to do next.
“Let me see if I can make this easier for you. I prefer honesty. I’d rather be told the truth upfront instead of being told a half-truth and end up looking like a fool later down the line.”
Kenny paused in his pacing. Was she speaking from experience? He could hear a hint of hurt in her voice. He was surprised to find anger filling him at the thought of someone hurting her.
“So that being said, I’d like an honest answer to this question and all others I may ask you in the future. And in plain English please, so there’s no misunderstanding about it.”
He opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out. Kenny couldn't recall the last time he’d been completely honest with a woman. Perhaps when he’d been young and foolish enough to believe honesty really was the best policy. It hadn't taken him long to develop a new motto when dealing with women - tell ‘em what they wanna hear. It had seemed a more realistic approach to dealing with the women in his life. But if honesty was what she wanted, then it was what he would give her. So he took a deep breath and cleared his throat.
“Connie, I asked you out because I can’t seem to stop thinking about you. The fact that you are so far removed from the women I normally date has made it even tougher for me to understand why you have occupied so much of my thoughts since I met you. I figured if I spent some time with you, I could figure it out. Whatever it is,” he said in a rush of words.
He felt winded as he clamped his mouth shut hoping he hadn’t said too much. It hadn’t been his normal smooth talk. There had been no finessing of words whatsoever. They were what they were. Now that they were out in the open, he felt exposed and vulnerable. They were both feelings he wasn’t quite familiar with because he normally never put himself in a position to feel either of those emotions. Had he made a mistake in being honest? If he had fudged the truth just a little bit, would she ever have known? No, but you would have, his conscious scolded.
“Tonight at seven will be fine,” she said so softly he didn’t think he’d heard her correctly.
“I’m sorry what?”
“I said seven o’clock would be fine for you to pick me up for dinner. That is if the offer’s still good.”
There was that uncertainty again. It pulled at his heart strings. Suddenly the most important thing to him was to reassure her he hadn't changed his mind.
“Okay then. Let me give you directions. I don’t live far from the gas station.”
He pulled out a clean sheet of paper to write down the directions. Looking over what he had written, Kenny realized she lived about three streets over from him. He wondered how their paths had never managed to cross before. Or had they and he’d just not noticed her.
“Any preferences on where you’d like to go for dinner?”
Normally he picked somewhere expensive and meant to impress. Since nothing else about Connie fit the normal, he figured he’d better get her thoughts on dinner.
“Do you normally ask your dates where they’d like to go for dinner?” she asked laughing.
At her laughter, his shoulders relaxed a little as the last remnants of tension drained out of them.
“No, not usually, but then nothing about our acquaintance thus far has been normal.”
He hoped she didn’t take that the wrong way, but it was the honest truth.
“Okay, I will give you that one. Where do you normally take your dates?”
Settling back in his chair, he realized though the conversation hadn't gone anything as he had planned and he practically had to twist her arm to get the date, he was enjoying himself. There was something refreshing about her. Something he hadn’t seen in a woman since he’d been younger.
“I normally pick an expensive restaurant for a first date. Somewhere like LaSalle’s downtown. Afterwards maybe head over to the country club for drinks in one of the private rooms. How does that sound?”
Her soft laughter on the other end of the phone brought an even larger smile to his face.
“It sounds positively …
Laughter burst from Kenny before he could stop it. At least she seemed to have a sense of humor. It wasn’t on his list of things he normally looked for in a woman, but maybe it should be. He enjoyed the sound of her laughter. Come to think about it, how long had it been since a woman had made him laugh?
“Do you have a better suggestion?” he asked, enjoying their easy banter.
“Nope, but I trust you will come up with a plan B by the time you get here. I’ll see you at seven,” she said and hung up.
For a few minutes he just sat there, the receiver in his hand. Then, he felt what could only be described as the world’s goofiest grin come across his face. He checked his watch and saw it was barely pass four. Shutting down his computer, he did something he hadn't done in a very long time. He got up from his desk, grabbed his coat and keys and left work early. This was one date he didn’t plan on being late for.
Kenny couldn't believe it. The absolute disgust he felt was all consuming. Cursing loudly, he got out of his car and slammed the car door. He checked his watch and shook his head.
He let himself back into his house and went in search of his briefcase and the cordless phone. If he hadn't been trying to make such a good first impression or maybe this was his second impression or was it his third? Well, regardless he had wanted to do it right. And he’d come up with a plan B he hoped Connie would enjoy.
Sitting down heavily on the arm of his couch in his family room, Kenny realized he should have known things were going too well. He had managed to make it out of the office as soon as he’d gotten off the phone. When he arrived home, he had been surprised to find himself beset with nerves. It had been a while since he’d anticipated a date so much. Could it be because he’d actually had to put some effort into getting her to say yes? Nonetheless, it had felt kind of good to be excited about seeing another person.
Now as he punched in Connie's number, he found nerves of another kind taking over.
“Hello?” a female answered.