Hands On: Chapter 3
A few minutes before it was time for me to clock-out I hurried into the women employees’ restroom to do what I could to make myself more suitable for a date. A date. I barely believed it and kept punishing myself with the assorted what-if questions tailor-made to take away joy. This wasn’t my first date post-divorce. There had been a couple of fix-ups orchestrated by Pam, with Ted’s grudging approval. Pam was all eager for me to have fresh start, but then she had never really liked Derrick, and when she wasn’t being careful she fairly gloated that her doomsday predictions for Derrick and me had come true. Ted on other hand was ambivalent. He didn’t truly approve of Derrick either but he also didn’t approve of divorce. I supposed in another era my brother-in-law would have simply sent me to a nunnery. Needless to say, Pam’s matchmaking for me had gone nowhere. After all she and I definitely did not have the same taste in men.
There wasn’t much I could do with the Target uniform, but at least since my vigil I had been making the effort to keep my shoes polished. I had also been wearing makeup: foundation, blush, mascara, and lipstick. I had pretty good skin and a little cosmetic augmentation went a long way and didn’t take a long time. A travel-size pack of disposable wet wipes facilitated an emergency bird-bath to freshen up. Face, ears, neck, under-arms, and even genitals all got a fast once-over, the latter area still aglow with the feelings Madison had made between his hands among the shoes. If my former clients at Friends for Life could see me now; their no-nonsense case manager who preached the safety of going slow when it came to sex, especially when it was with someone you didn’t know, all wild with desire. How many times had I said it: “Passion is romantic but being safe is for life.” Yeah, I’d go slow, I thought to myself as I punched out, unless Madison offered me another option, then all bets were off. Diets worked just great until you were in a pastry shop. As in pastries indeed, I chuckled to myself, putting on my coat. Given the chance I might just gobble him up and worry about the calories tomorrow.
“Hey Paige!” Melissa called to me as I was reaching the swinging doors. “Wait-up!”
Wait-up. I stopped. This wasn’t good.
“Yes?” I said in what I hoped was a neutral tone.
“A bunch of us are tryin’ out that new Mexican restaurant, Dos Cocineros,” explained Melissa catching up with me. “You wanna come with us? I’ll give you a ride home.”
She looked so happy about the idea and pleased to include me. Knowing the value of good relations with co-workers, I honestly appreciated the invitation. I hadn’t been working here two months yet and I was being included. I wanted to hang-out with them, but just not tonight.
“Thanks, Melissa,” I said. “But I can’t tonight.”
Her smile faded. I was kind of letting people think I was shy. It seemed easier than dealing with the shame.
“I’m meeting somebody,” I reluctantly told her.
Now her face brightened again.
“You got a date?” she asked eagerly.
Was it really such a miracle?
“Yes,” I admitted.
“You go girl!” exclaimed Melissa.
It must have always been so throughout history. A man trumped friends every time.
“He’s meeting me out front,” I said.
Melissa was now literally pushing me through the swinging door.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she laughed.
It would take me a minute, which I didn’t have, to unpack that statement, and besides I wasn’t a counselor anymore.
Near the front entrance to the store, there was a pseudo-Starbucks, where Madison could have taken me. It lacked the friendly baristas and cozy coffeehouse ambiance that had made Starbucks’ a hit corner to corner almost all over America, but it was right here, as dreary as it looked at the end of the day. Fortunately Madison hadn’t suggested it, and he wasn’t waiting there for me. From the looks of things we’d be taking our first-date awkwardness on the road, at least sparing me the proverbial fishbowl-effect, especially since now I had confessed it to Melissa.
Not seeing Madison inside, I stepped outside into the cold night. The headlights of a car parked in one of the handicapped spaces flashed. It must be him. The car backed out and headed towards the curb where I stood. Now just exactly which woman’s safety video said that it was perfectly fine to get into the car with a total stranger? Not one ever. But I was about to do just that. Just because he had a beautiful smile and wonderful eyes, and shoulders that bested any other man I knew. Did I think it was safe because he was disabled? What if he was just bait, setting me up to take me to some psycho brother of his who lived in their basement? We’d all seen the horror movies. And yet when Madison parked beside me, I willingly opened the passenger door and got in.
“Hope you don’t mind if I drive,” he said. “It’s easier.”
“Oh no, that’s fine,” I replied.
Plus I didn’t own a car anymore. At some point I’d have to admit to that.
“Nice car,” I told him as I buckled my seatbelt; because after all if I was going to be a hostage I should try not to crack my head open in a crash.
The car was a Buick something or another, which sort of surprised me. I supposed I had been expecting some kind of import. It was a four-door sedan with leather seats, a dazzling dashboard complete with satellite radio and an assortment of other glowing icons including GPS and Pandora. There were hand controls attached to the steering column, and a kind of three-knob apparatus on the steering wheel where his left hand rested. His wheelchair was stowed on the backseat in what appeared to be separate pieces. Maybe his hands worked better than I thought.
“Thanks,” said Madison pulling off.
As he was driving out of the Target parking lot it dawned on me definitively: I was definitely doing this. Going God-knows where with God-knows who.
Abruptly I blurted out, “I-don’t-have-a-car-so-I’ll-have-to-be-back-here-before-ten-to-catch-the-bus-or-my-sister-will-worry--”
“Paige,” he interrupted my breathless speech. “I can take you home.”
“Paige,” he repeated. “I said I can take you home.”
Maybe it was his voice, or the little smile playing around his mouth, but suddenly I was not only glad but reassured. I was safe. I still didn’t know him from Adam but I felt as right-placed as Eve.
“Thank you,” I said and honestly felt grateful.
“Why don’t you text your sister? My last name is Reese. R-E-E--”
“As in the candy?” I smiled at him, all imaginings of hostage horrors gone.
He glanced at me and laughed.
to be continued...