“Howdy, ma’am," he said, sitting down on the barstool next to her. “My name is Charlie and before the night is over I’ll have your attention, your name, and your phone number.”
“Excuse me, what?”
“I said, Howdy…”
“I heard you the first time Cowboy,” she replied crisply, taking a sip of what looked like whiskey. “I come here every Friday night, and I have for more than two years. You aren’t the first to try and fail. I always arrive by myself and always go home alone.”
“Well, first of all, I don’t plan on taking you home. Secondly, you’ve never talked with me on any of those Friday nights. If you had, I’d already have your number.”
“Oh you would, would you?”
“Yes ma’am. And, I’d like to add, you’d already be in love with me.”
His response made her laugh out loud and, surprisingly, intrigued her. “Alright Cowboy, buy me a drink and give it your best shot. I’ve got an hour to kill.”
“Ok,” he said, signaling to the bartender to fill her glass and to bring him one as well. “But, first, I do have a few rules.”
Once again, she laughed out loud. “Rules? Let me get this straight. You sit down next to me, uninvited I might add, and boldly state I’m not only giving you my name and phone number, but also predict that I’ll fall in love with you.”
“And on top of that you expect me to follow your rules. What makes you think I won’t just get up, throw my drink in your face, and walk away?”
“Is this guy bothering you—”
“Don’t say another word, J.D.,” she said as she held up her hand like a stop sign. “Charlie here is trying to get my name, and I don’t want you to make it easy for him.” With a grin on his face, J.D. filled their glasses and went back to tending the bar.
“Now, Cowboy, I‘ll ask you again. What makes you think I won’t just leave?”
“Because you laughed.”
“Because I laughed?” she repeated, failing to suppress a smile.
“Yup. You won't leave because I made you laugh. I’m sure you’ve been approached by a lot of good looking guys, but you like to laugh. I could see it from the moment I walked in.”
“I was laughing at you, not with you.”
“Be that as it may, you laughed just the same. That's all that matters in the beginning.”
“So what are these rules?” she asked, enjoying the banter more than she cared to admit. “I’m not saying I'll agree, but I am curious.”
“First, I am required to treat you with respect. I’m not trying to pick you up, I’m trying to prove to you I’m worth your time.”
“And?” she interrupted.
“What are my rules?”
“You have only two,” he continued. “The first is you have to give me a honest chance. I can take no for an answer. But if I earn a yes, then I get your name and number.”
”And the second?”
“The second is if I guess your name, you have to give me your number, too. Do we have a deal?” Charlie stuck his hand out and waited.
“Hold on, that's hardly fair. You could just keep guessing until you get it right.”
“You underestimate my ability to guess.”
“How about this. I’ll give you three guesses. Three strikes, then you’re out”
“Okay, that works for me. I agree to your terms. Now do we have a deal?” Charlie again offered his hand.
“Deal,” she responded, giving his hand a firm shake.
“Susan? Why in the heck would you think my name is Susan?”
“I don’t know,” Charlie responded, “I guess my whole life it’s seemed that every woman I've known named Susan was beautiful. I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Nice try, Cowboy. Not even close. That’s strike one. Care to try for two?” She smirked, taking another sip of her drink. “Let me ask you this. Why me? There is a bar full of young ladies in here. Why waste your time with me?”
“I’m glad you asked,” he replied. “You see, when I was about ten years old, my parents were looking for a plot of land where they could build their dream home. The four of us, mom, dad, my younger sister, and I, spent the better part of three hours, in August, in a car with no air conditioning on our way to rural Virginia to—”
“Is this story going anywhere?” she interrupted.
“I’m getting there,” he replied. “Geez, I hope you don’t interrupt me on all of our dates.”
“You’re pretty confident for someone who thinks I’m a Susan.”
“That I am,” Charlie acknowledged. “Now, because I always finish my stories, I’ll continue. After a long hot ride, tempers were a bit raw. When the real estate agent offered to drive us around in his air conditioned car, my parents jumped at the opportunity. My sister and I were relegated to the third row seat, but I was close enough to hear the agent say something that changed my life.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You came over to me because of something a real estate agent said to your parents over 15 years ago?”
”I did. You see, the man told my parents, ‘I can take you to all the properties we have listed and let you decide which you like, or I can just take you to the best right away.’ Well, my parents, fresh off an exhausting trip with an irritated ten-year-old boy and an infant in a car seat, decided on the latter. And guess what? That first property was the best. They still live in the house they built there” Charlie paused and looked around the room then back at her. “Sure, I could have made my way through the bar and talked to a bunch of women, or I could have just talked to the best. I also chose the latter.”
“You made that story up,” she responded curtly, raising her glass.
“I did not. You’ll see the property when I take you home to meet my parents.”
“I’m not going to meet your parents. Stop trying to trick me,” she said, smacking Charlie gently on the arm. “Anyway, what makes you think I’ll choose you?”
“Because you love me.”
“I love you. I don’t even know you!” she said, incredulously, but quickly added: “What makes you think I love you?”
“Well, you see when I was going into high school . . . ”
“Going into high school? That has nothing to do with us here today.”
“Let the record show you just referred to us as an us for the first time.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“And yet you said it all the same.”
For a moment, she looked entirely put out until curiosity got the best of her. “So tell me about high school. What does that have to do with me?”
“Laura? No, my name is definitely not Laura. I know I’m probably going to regret asking but why Laura?”
“When I think of the name Laura, I think of a spitfire with a sneaky sense of humor.”
“Well, thank you, I think. But that’s strike two, Cowboy. You better tell me about high school before you completely strike out.”
“Okay, I was getting there. You see I was pretty scrawny going into high school. In fact, I was just under five feet tall and just a shade over 100 pounds. I had never had a girlfriend, not even just a girl friend. It seemed as if I had a choice to make. I could either go through high school lonely or I could act as if every girl loved me. I’m guessing you know what I chose.”
“That’s not endearing. That’s narcissistic.”
“Maybe so, but then again, maybe not. You see, in my experience girls are attracted to confident men. That being said, confidence is not what makes women fall in love. To make that happen you have to treat them right. No, actually you have to treat them special. The good news is that’s exactly how my dad treats my mom, so I have had a good role model. You’ll see when you meet him.”
“I see what you’re doing. You're pretending I love you already—just like the girls from high school.”
“Yes ma’am,” Charlie responded. “But, here’s the thing, I’m willing to do the work, too. I’ll send you flowers and take you out on Friday nights. I’ll write you love letters and sing you romantic songs. I don’t want you to fall in love with me because I decided you should. I want you to fall in love with me because you discovered I’m the man for you. Remember my rule. I will treat you with respect. I’m not going to play games with you. Oh and remember—I already made you laugh.”
Almost on cue, she laughed then smiled warmly at him.
“But what if, after all your hard work, I still get up and walk out that door? What will you do then? Are you going to chase me down in the parking lot? Follow me home? Are you a stalker?”
“Nope. If you get up and walk out that door, I’ll do what my dad did with my mom.”
“Yes, but it’s a good one, I promise. The first time my dad saw my mom, he was working the counter at a snack bar in Woolworth's. To hear my dad tell it, she acted as if she didn’t even know he was there. According to my dad, he knew the moment he saw her that my mom was the girl for him. That very first day, he asked her for her name.”
“Let me guess—she gave it to him?”
“No, actually she didn’t.”
“I’m beginning to like your mom.”
“I told you it was a good story.”
“Maybe I’m just being polite.”
“If you are, I can stop.”
“No, go ahead and finish. I promised you a fair shake.”
“Okay, where was I?”
“Your mom wouldn’t give your dad her name.”
“Oh, that’s right. So, after she declined, he just smiled and told her one day she would. He was willing to wait. Usually at this point, my mom jumps in and tells her side of the story. Unbeknownst to my dad, she was actually so impressed with him that she wanted to tell him her name right away, but she felt she would have been too forward. Instead, she went back to that snack bar every few days. Even though he would talk to her, tell her stories, and make her laugh, my dad never asked for her name again. She wanted him to, but he was giving her the time she needed to come around. Finally, mom grew impatient and marched into the store, walked right back to the snack bar, and said, ‘My name is Mary Ann, and yes, I’ll go out with you.'"
“And they lived happily ever after, right?” she chimed in, feigning disinterest.
“Why yes, they actually have. That was 30 years ago and they are still very much in love.”
“Okay, that is kind of sweet.”
“I know, right. So, in answer to your question, if you say no and walk out that door, I’ll come back on random Friday nights and, as long as you’ll let me, I’ll tell you more of my stories. I believe one day, just like my mom, you’ll give me your name. And until then, just like my dad, I’m willing to wait. But, I will tell you one thing.”
“Well. my mom always says she regretted not giving my dad her name on that very first day. You see, no matter how many days they have had together, she has always wished they would have had more.”
“That’s actually very romantic.”
“Monica? It has to be Monica. My younger sister’s name was Monica, and she was the kindest person I’ve ever known.”
“Was? What happened to her?”
“That’s actually more of a third date question,” he responded quietly.
“I’m sorry, Cowboy. That’s strike three and your hour's up. Like I said, I’m not here to meet people, I’m just here to unwind.” And with that, she gave the bartender the universal sign for the check.
“Fair enough. Will I see you here next week?”
“It’s a free country,” she responded with a chuckle as J.D. handed her the receipt. She quickly scribbled her signature, finished her drink, and walked out the door.
Charlie just smiled because he knew she would be back.
So would he.
“Hey there, fella. I think this is for you."
Charlie looked up as the bartender handed him her signed receipt. “Turn it over,” J.D. said.
Charlie flipped the receipt and read the writing on the back.
My name is Mary Ann, just like your mom. Give me a call and tell me another story.
Just below the note was a phone number.
After taking the last sip of his drink, Charlie pulled out his cell phone and began to dial.