In general Meaghan Barnes was happy with her life; at the age of 28 she had a great job, a nice apartment and a pretty decent social life. What she didn’t have was a man in her life; something her mother liked to remind her of on a regular basis. Especially since her younger sister had announced that she was expecting her first child. Meaghan had been in a few relationships, but none of them had lasted for more than a few months. Much to her mother’s dismay Meaghan was pretty content with her life as it was and wasn’t searching for a man. Her best friend, Kelly, had dragged her to a few speed dating sessions without success and she’d jokingly suggested that she should sign up for an online dating service a while back, Meaghan refused. If she couldn’t find a man without retorting to a website she’d rather be single. Speed dating was as far as she was willing to go.
“Come on Megs, you know you wanna come with me.”
“No Kelly, I don’t actually. Another speed dating session? Seriously? The last one you dragged me to was a complete disaster.”
“It’s just for fun. It’ll be over in an hour and who knows? Maybe you’ll meet prince charming? What do you have to lose?”
Meaghan sighed. Kelly had a point; she didn’t have anything to lose (except from an couple of hours of her time and she didn’t have any plans for the evening). If none of the guys were decent she never had to talk to them again.
“Okay, I’ll come.”
“Awesome! Listen, why don’t you wear that dress I left at your place and maybe wear your hair down or something?”
“What? No, I’ll wear my own clothes.”
“Have you ever considered that your black and gray wardrobe and sleek ponytail might be a bit intimidating? Why don’t you give a softer look a chance for once?”
Meaghan sighed. She liked her style and didn’t see anything wrong with it. At the same time she realized that Kelly might have a point.”
“I’ll think about it, okay? No promises.”
“Great! I’ll meet you outside the bar at 6:30, okay?”
“See you there Kel,” Meaghan said and hung up the phone. With a sigh she flopped back on the couch; she couldn’t believe she’d agreed to go to a speed dating session again. Hopefully this time wouldn’t be as bad as the previous one.
Forty-five minutes into the speed dating session Meaghan was about ready to shoot herself. This was definitely where all the losers in town came to pick up girls and so far she hadn’t been able to carry a five-minute conversation with any of the men she’d been paired with. Now it was time for the final “date” of the evening; all Meaghan wanted was to get through the next ten minutes and then get the hell out of there. She made her way to a table in the corner where a dark haired man was seated; he seemed to be distracted by his phone. Great, he’s more interested in his damn iPhone than me, Meaghan thought as she pulled out the chair across from him. The sound obviously caught his attention and he put the phone down and looked at her with a small smile on his face. Hmmm, maybe my luck is changing, Meaghan thought. The man, whose nametag said Bryan, was definitely good looking; chiseled jaw, straight nose and dark brown eyes. His dark brown hair was shaggy, slightly tousled and curled over his forehead and along the collar of the plaid shirt he was wearing. The shirt had short sleeves and showed off his muscled arms; it looked like he kept himself in shape.
“Sorry about that,” he said apologetically as he extended his right hand across the table. “I’m Bryan Norfleet.”
“Meaghan Barnes,” she replied as she shook his hand. His handshake was firm and she noticed his hand was slightly rough. “So, have you done this before?”
“No. My brother dragged me here,” he said with a shrug. “Apparently it’s a complete disaster that I’m about to turn 30 and still haven’t found ‘the one’. What about you?”
“I’ve been to a few. My best friend over there,” Meaghan pointed to Kelly, “shares your brother’s views. It’s not really my thing though, to be brutally honest. How do you feel about it?”
“It’s not my thing at all either. There’s a limit to how many awkward conversations I’m willing to put up with in one evening.”
Meaghan laughed. “Definitely. Tonight is actually the worst session I’ve ever been to. Until I met you I was about to lose faith in humanity.”
“Until you met me?” he asked with a grin.
“Yeah, you’re the first normal guy I’ve met here tonight.”
“You think I’m normal?”
“Well, you haven’t given me a lecture about your snakes, you seem to have all of your teeth and appear to have access to a shower.” Meaghan ticked them off one at a time with her fingers, earning a laugh from Bryan.
“Well, I don’t have snakes, or any other pets for that matter, I brush my teeth at least twice a day and I shower daily. And I have to say that I’ve got similar thoughts about you.”
“Yeah. Would you like to have a drink with me when we’re done here?” Bryan checked the time. “I know it’s not ‘by the book’, but I’d like to get to know you better and they’re about to wrap things up here I guess.”
“I’d like that,” Meaghan said with a smile. There was something about Bryan’s slightly rugged appearance that appealed to her, in addition to his apparently easygoing personality.
“Great,” Bryan replied with a smile that lit up his entire face. Before he could say anything else the hostess announced the speed dating session was over and thanked everyone for attending.
A few moments later a man that looked a lot like Bryan, except a bit scrawnier and with blonde hair, appeared by the table.
“Hey bro, I’m about to head out and figured I’d drop by the diner and grab some food. Wanna come?”
“Actually this pretty lady agreed to have a drink with me, so I’ll have to take a rain check.”
“Nice Bryan,” he said with a wink before he turned his attention to Meaghan. “Hi, I’m Josh, Bryan’s slightly older brother.”
“Meaghan Barnes, nice to meet you Josh.”
“Nice to meet you too. I’m going to head out. Have a good evening.”
Josh left and before they could say anything else the scene pretty much repeated with Kelly. Meaghan promised to call her the following day.
“So you can share all the ‘dirty’ details on me, huh?” Bryan said with a teasing grin as Kelly walked out of the bar.
“Oh, absolutely. You know how women are, we share everything with our best friends.”
“Well, I guess I’ll try to be on my best behavior then. So, should we get some drinks? Or would you like to grab something to eat?”
“No that you mention it, I’m actually hungry. How about you?”
“I’m hungry too. Well, what would you like to eat?”
Meaghan thought for a few seconds. “How do you feel about Chinese? There’s a great Chinese restaurant just around the corner.”
“Mr. Xiu’s? Sounds good to me.”
“Yeah, you’re familiar with it?”
“I’ve been there a few times, they’ve got the best Chinese food in town if you ask me.”
Meaghan stood up, hung her bag over her shoulder and draped her cardigan over her arm. Her jaw almost dropped as Bryan came around the table to join her; he was in a wheelchair. Not the big, bulky kind Meaghan had seen at the hospital as a kid, but a small chair with a black frame and no armrests. The backrest was low, it came up to the small of his back and she noticed that his sneaker-clad feet were resting on a single footrest.
“I probably should’ve mentioned this sooner,” he said gesturing to his wheelchair; all of a sudden he appeared a bit unsure of himself and self-conscious. “I just didn’t want to scare you away. For some reasons the wheelchair seems to scare people away before they get to know me.”
It took Meaghan a few seconds to pull herself together before she decided to give Bryan a chance. Before he revealed that he was in a wheelchair she’d liked him and she figured she shouldn’t hold his disability against him. He seemed like a nice guy.
“Hmmm…well, I want to get to know you and I’m hungry, so let’s go.” Bryan seemed to relax a bit and when her stomach growled audibly to emphasize her statement he burst out laughing.
“I think we’d better hurry, before you die of starvation,” he said as he started wheeling towards the door and Meaghan followed a couple of steps behind him.
“So, what do you do for a living?” Meaghan asked Bryan after the waitress had taken their orders.
“I’m a doctor. Used to specialize in emergency medicine, but for the past six months I’ve been an oncology fellow at Georgetown University Hospital. Working in the ER without working legs is a bit of a challenge, so… Anyway, what about you?”
“I’m an architect.”
“Really? That’s neat. Wouldn’t have pegged you for an architect though.”
“Oh? What would you have pegged me for?”
“Teacher. I was pretty sure you were an elementary school teacher.”
Meaghan looked down at her outfit. She’d listened to Kelly and was wearing a knee length dress with a floral pattern from her and her hair was in a French braid. Smart move Megs she berated herself for listening to Kelly.
“Why?” she asked meekly, although she knew exactly why.
“Well, you don’t exactly dress like an architect,” Bryan said with a shrug.
Meaghan laughed self-consciously and decided to come clean. “I actually prefer black and grey clothes and I usually wear my hair in a ponytail, but Kelly, you know…my friend…”
“That I met back at the bar, the one that pushed you to go to the speed dating session, right?”
“Yeah…anyway, she advised me to go for a ‘softer’ look, so I wouldn’t scare they guys away. The dress I’m wearing is actually hers.”
“Well, I hope I get to see the ‘real’ Meaghan the next time we meet.”
“Oh, you think there’s going to be a next time?”
“A man can hope, can’t he?”
“Yeah, a man can hope. He might even get what he hopes for,” Meaghan said with a smile. She definitely liked Bryan and found herself longing for a second date despite not knowing much about him.