“Hi, my name is Charlie," he said, sitting down on the barstool next to her. “Before the night is over, I’ll have your attention, your name, and your phone number.”
“Not a chance,” she crisply replied, taking a sip of what looked like whiskey from the glass in front of her. “I come here every Friday night, I have been for more than two years, and I always go home alone.”
“Well, first off, I don’t plan on taking you home. What kind of guy do you think I am? I just met you. Secondly, you’ve never talked with me on any of those Friday nights. If you had, I’d already have your number, and you’d be in love with me.”
His response made her laugh out loud. Against her better judgement, she stayed glued to her seat. “Alright Cowboy, I’ll give you one hour. You’re going to crash and burn, but it’s going to be fun to watch.”
“Ok,” he said, signaling to the bartender to fill her glass and to bring him one as well. “But I do have a few rules.”
Once again, she laughed out loud. “Rules? You sit down next to me, uninvited, boldly state I’m not only giving you my name and phone number, but also predicting that I will fall in love with you. Then 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 smile 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, attempting to suppress a smile.
“You won't leave because I make 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.”
“You laughed just the same. It’s all that matters at the beginning.”
“So what are these rules?” she asked, enjoying the banter more than she cared to admit to herself. “I’m not saying I‘ll agree, but I am curious as to what your rules are.”
“First, I am required to treat you with respect. I’m not trying to score. I’m trying to prove to you I’m worth your time.”
“And?” she interrupted, knowing that she would have to make payment in kind.
“You have only two rules,” he continued. “The first is you have to give me a fair shake. 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.
“Wait, you could just keep guessing until you get it right. How about I give you three guesses?”
“Okay, that’s fair. I agree to your terms. Deal?” Charlie again offered his hand.
“Deal,” she responded, giving his hand a firm shake.
“Susan? Why the heck would you think my name is Susan?”
“I don’t know. My whole life it’s seemed that every woman named Susan is beautiful. I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Nice try, Cowboy. Not even close. That’s strike one. Care to try for two?” She smiled confidently, taking another sip of her drink. “Let me ask you this. Why me? There is a bar full of young ladies in here. Why are you sitting next to me in a futile attempt to win me over?”
“I’m glad you asked,” he replied with a smile. “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 look at parcels of land to—”
“Is this story going anywhere?” she interrupted.
“I’m getting there. Don’t be so impatient,” he replied. “Geez, I hope you don’t interrupt me on all of our dates.”
“You’re pretty confident for someone who tells pointless stories to strangers in bars.”
“That I am. 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 real estate 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. 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 at her. “Sure, I could have made my way around the bar and talked to a bunch of women, or I could just have come 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 with a smile that gave too much away. “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. “So tell me about high school. What does that have to do with me?”
“Laura? No, my name is not Laura. I’m almost afraid to ask. 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 small 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. I had a choice to make. I could either go through high school lonely or I could choose to think otherwise. From that day forward, I just decided all the girls were in love with me.”
“That’s not endearing. That’s narcissistic.”
“Maybe so, but then again, maybe not. You see, girls are attracted to confidence, and I exude confidence. But that’s not what makes a girl fall in love. To make a girl fall in love, you have to treat her right. No, you have to treat her special. The good news is that’s exactly how my dad treats my mom, so I have 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.”
“Guilty as charged,” Charlie responded with a chuckle. “But 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 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 the first rule. I will treat you with respect. I’m not going to play games with you. Oh and remember—I make you laugh.”
Almost on cue, she laughed again and smiled warmly at him.
“But what 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 crazy person?”
“Nope. If you get up and walk out that door, I’ll do what my dad did for my mom.”
“Uh-oh, I feel another story coming on.”
“Yes, but it’s a good one, I promise. The first time my dad saw my mom, he was working at the counter of a snack bar in a department store. To hear my dad tell it, she acted as if she didn’t even know he was there. The details tend to change over time, but depending on who is telling the story, there were either four or five girls with my mom. According to my dad, one detail is always the same. 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. She declined.”
“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.”
“Where was I, by the way?”
“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 and tell her stories and make her laugh, he never asked for her name. 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. 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. My mom said she always 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. Not sayin’. Just sayin’.”
“That’s quite a story,” she agreed.
“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 conversation,” 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. Even charming people with interesting stories.” And with that, she gave the universal sign for the check to the bartender. After presenting him with her credit card, J.D. handed her the receipt. She quickly scribbled her signature, downed the rest of 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,” said the bartender.
Charlie looked up as the bartender handed him her signed receipt. “Turn it over,” he said.
Charlie flipped the receipt over 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.
And after taking the last sip of his drink, Charlie pulled out his cell phone and began to dial.