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Contemporary Romance

The Blind Date

Becky pushed her way through the swing doors of the bustling open office she had worked in for the last eight years. Becky, a slim, good-looking woman, about 30 years old, is a proofreader for the renowned ‘Whiz - The Young Persons’ Lifestyle Magazine.’ “Whiz” had just received the Magazine of the Year Award (1982), and Becky, like all those who worked for the magazine, was justifiably proud of the achievement.

In the 1980s, the magazine’s large office was mainly staffed by young, excitable women whose main goals in life were well-paid, exciting careers, and a man! The first voice to reach Becky's ears upon entering the office belonged to Emily. Emily always seems to have a group of work colleagues hanging around her, captivated by her every word. Her primary topic of conversation was her apparent magnetic attraction to all males, a subject she could drone on about endlessly. However, peace usually descended at the arrival of her section head, which prompted Emily to fall silent and shut up finally.

Emily was not one to shy away from boasting about her numerous conquests. Her loud voice usually boomed out over the desks, disregarding the ‘less fortunate girls’ (as Emily called them) who were a perfect study of the diligent hard worker, focussed determinedly on their work goals.

Despite Becky's polite greetings to anyone who made eye contact, she remained on the periphery of Emily’s inner circle. Emily, in turn, had little time or regard for Becky, frequently making snide remarks behind her back about Becky's appearance and her reluctance to divulge personal details. Emily couldn’t fathom how anyone could spend the entire day in the office without discussing intimate aspects of their personal life. Whenever Becky became the target of Emily’s petty comments, the office would erupt into laughter, only settling down when Emily’s boss finally flung open her office door.

‘What is all this noise about?” she demands. “Emily, please remember some people are here to get this month’s magazine prepared - NOT to discuss their sex lives!”

Emily, possibly a few years younger than Becky, wore quite startling makeup for daytime in a city office and her clothes, although not outrageous, were not remotely conservative. Emily possessed a loud “look at me” personality and felt she was a magnet for attractive men. 

As Becky arrives at work one day, there is a louder-than-usual buzz of excitement from Emily and her cohorts. Patty, one of Emily’s colleagues, has arranged a blind date for Emily with Doug's boss, Bruce. Patty cautions Emily to tread carefully, as Bruce was still reeling from a recent breakup. Eager to please Doug, Patty has given Emily a truly glowing recommendation regarding Bruce.

“He’s rich, he’s handsome, he’s single. If Emily plays her cards right, who knows where this date could go?” says Doug, who also sees himself gaining recognition from Bruce if this all works out.

As the days in the office wore on, Emily's excitement over the encroaching blind date slowly began to get out of control and caused significant disruptions. From Becky’s work area, quite a distance from Emily’s workstation, Becky could hear “Rich, rich” in Emily’s loud, dramatic voice. Becky wondered if she would eventually hear anything positive about Bruce other than the contents of his bank account from Emily.  The general excitement and build-up of the blind date went on for several days, and everyone in Whiz was aware of Emily’s pending love fling.

**************

On the day of the date, as Becky walked into the office, she noticed that the office was unusually calm. Whispers circulated among colleagues as Becky made her way to her desk. Instead of the usual shrieking, she was greeted by a series of whispers passed from one work colleague to another.

“Ask her, ask her”, said Patty.

“Whisper, whisper” was all Becky could hear as she walked past the plotting group. 

*******

Becky made her way to her desk, with Emily almost breaking into a run to keep up with her. Standing before Becky’s desk, Emily was now breathless, unlike Becky, who was still calm and collected. Emily attempted to smile ‘winningly’ at Becky, but lack of oxygen almost twisted her face unrecognisably. Pulling in air through her small, delicate, perfectly formed nostrils, Emily panted:  

“Hi Becky, you’re looking terrific today”.

Becky knew immediately that ‘something’ was up. She was the last person that Emily would find attractive.

“Hi Emily, everything OK?”

“Well, no, not really Becky, so I need you to hear me out.” Becky slowly nodded her head and indicated she should continue.  

Emily put an unexpected proposition to Becky:

“Would you stand in for me on the blind date with Bruce, as I have happily and unexpectantly reconciled with my ex-fiancé, Robert?”

Emily hung around Becky’s desk, gently pressuring her and ensuring that Becky felt too awkward to refuse Emily’s request. Feeling pushed and stressed, Becky reluctantly agreed, despite her apprehension and lack of confidence about blind dates.

As Emily walks back across the office to her friends, Becky can hear Emily saying:  

“Told you she had nothing to do tonight. She never does. I wonder if the poor man will be disappointed when Becky turns up. Doug has been furiously telling Bruce, or whatever his name is, what a catch I am; unfortunately, he’ll have to spend the evening with Becky”, laughing loudly at her comments. Her colleagues all dutifully joined in the laughter.  

As Emily spread the news of Becky’s substitution, Becky couldn’t help but feel hurt by Emily’s dismissive attitude towards her. Nonetheless, she felt too timid to back out of the date. Becky was not looking forward to this date. Despite being very pretty, she lacked any confidence in herself. Common sense told her that if Patty had suggested Emily would be perfect for Bruce, it was evident that Becky could not possibly be Bruce’s type.

Becky’s nerves peaked as the evening approached, and she had already developed a pounding nervous headache. Becky, usually a lovely woman, quiet and thoughtful of others, had grown into a different Becky - brusque in manner and quite nervy and truly regretting her acquiescence to Emily's request.

.

**********

Becky was escorted to the table where Bruce was waiting. He immediately stood up and smiled encouragingly when she arrived and welcomed her. She was surprised by his charm and demeanour and inwardly groaned.  

“Why the hell does he have to be good-looking? Frankly, I don’t think either of us should be here - he looks as awkward as I do.”

Bruce had reservations about blind dates but found himself pleasantly surprised by Becky’s company.

Over dinner, they shared their apprehensions about the evening, breaking the ice and easing the tension between them. As they conversed, they discovered common ground and enjoyed each other’s company.

Bruce was an attractive man in his early 50s. A few years ago, he split up with his wife when she finally told him she was sleeping with Paul, Bruce’s closest friend. Bruce was frankly more upset about losing Paul than he was at losing Andrea. The marriage had quite honestly turned out to be a mistake from the word go. The divorce was finalised a short while ago, and Doug had used this occasion to get Bruce back on the ‘dating scene’.

Bruce had remained single and very careful about who would be his friend in the future, and with his nose to the grindstone, he worked harder and harder on his burgeoning company. Doug, Patty’s boyfriend, worked for Bruce and longed to see Bruce settled with a girlfriend. He constantly heard about Emily's perceived strengths from Patty and felt that a blind date might be the perfect ‘pick me up’ for his boss, so the date was set up. 

The day of the date dawned. Doug popped into Bruce’s private office and explained that his original blind date was ill. Another girl called Becky would be going on a blind date with him.

‘Oh Bruce, this one is even prettier than Emily. You’ll have a great time.”, opined Doug.

 *******

Despite Bruce’s reservations about blind dates, he had found himself pleasantly surprised by Becky’s company. Doug had described the initial blind date, Emily, as quite loud and confident, a sort of ‘in your face’ personality. Bruce had dreaded it. But looking at the replacement date, this girl seemed the opposite of the description of ‘Emily’.

As the evening drew to a close, Bruce and Becky reflected on their initial misgivings and shared laughter over their awkward start. Bruce admitted he had been nervous about meeting Becky, while Becky confessed her fear of blind dates.

In a moment of honesty, Bruce expressed his desire to see Becky again. Overjoyed, Becky eagerly accepted his invitation for another date on Valentine’s Day.

He laughed delightedly. ’Hey, what is Emily like, my original blind date?’

‘You need to meet her yourself. I would say she is nothing like me in looks or temperament - but you need to judge for yourself.’

‘Becky, if she is nothing like you in looks or temperament, then I have no wish to meet Emily. Seems I am a lucky man to have been dumped.’

***********

Emily was sitting in the office surrounded by her ‘flock’.  

“We had a wonderful evening. I’ve never been so drunk in ages.’ wittered Emily.

‘Is he still handsome?’ asked one.

‘Oh, so handsome. Mmmmm.’ she shrieked with laughter.

“Bet you’re glad you didn’t have to go out with Doug’s boss!” said one of the flock.

‘Oh, can you imagine! Poor old Becky must have had a dreadful night. I should think any man who is pathetic enough to go on a blind date with Becky - well, it says it all!”

Just then, Julie, head of accounts, swung by and looked at Emily and her cohorts doing no work as usual. She stopped and twirled around on the ball of her foot.

“Emily, I didn’t expect to see you in today. I drove past you at the bus stop last night, and I would have stopped but didn’t immediately recognise you. The traffic at that time of night was unforgiving, so I had to keep driving. Were you crying? I am assuming the dinner date - the details of which you had constantly bombarded the office - had not gone well, especially as it was so early to be going home.”  

“No, you must have mistaken me for someone else”, the furious Emily almost shouted.

The main office door opened, and in walked Becky, looking crisp and efficient as usual but frankly younger and prettier than normal. A faint smile played on her lips. Julie glanced at Becky: ‘Wow, you’re looking good. You clearly had a much better evening than poor Emily did.”

Poor Emily. Her facade cracked when Julie told the whole office about her tearful display at a bus stop. Robert had, in fact, wanted to see Emily to tell her that he had met the love of his life and would be marrying before long. Emily was heartbroken but was damned if she was going to tell anyone at the office what had happened. Who would have guessed that bloody Julie would drive past the bus stop and see Emily. Emily, all alone at the bus stop, unable to retain the public persona any longer, a woman racked and broken, her shoulders heaving with bitter sobs.

Emily, the following morning, makeup plastered on, a pretty dress, and red vampire-heeled shoes presented an entirely different woman from the previous night. The nightmare of the Robert date, determinedly forgotten, she made a valiant attempt to belittle Becky's date. However, that, too, backfired, as Becky's confident and cool arrival clearly displayed that her evening had been a positive experience.

“So”, one of Emily’s cohorts challenged Becky, “what was your evening like?”

Becky hesitated, initially longing to say nothing at all, but then changed her mind and said:

“It was good. I enjoyed it. Patty and Emily, I want to thank both of you for setting me up on my first blind date. It was perfect - thanks.”

As Becky basked in the attention of her colleagues, Emily couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. She realised that Becky’s confidence and grace had transformed her into a radiant presence in the office. Emily looked fit to kill.

“Are you seeing him again?” said the sceptical Emily.

“Yep, Valentine’s night, he’s taking me somewhere for dinner. He’s a nice man.”

Emily’s little group began to crowd around Becky, each asking a different question. Emily started pushing her way out of the crowd, but no one seemed to notice as she stood alone in the open office. She peered over to where Becky was now holding court, and as she looked at the happy, smiling Becky, she began to wonder seriously when it was that Becky had become so stunningly attractive.  

February 16, 2024 05:28

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9 comments

Michał Przywara
21:42 Feb 20, 2024

For Becky, there's a lot here about assumptions and how they can lead us astray - and when she took a risk, she learned that truth and profited from it immensely. Likewise for Bruce. For Emily, there's a very different story here, about manufacturing the assumptions others make about us - and how that might backfire. Both good stories, but critique-wise, I wonder if focusing on one or the other would have been stronger. For example, it feels like each time Becky is featured, we dive into a different character who isn't Becky instead. Lik...

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Stevie Burges
10:07 Feb 21, 2024

Thanks for your really helpful review - it is always really welcome.

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Jack Kimball
16:30 Feb 21, 2024

Reminds me of the teleplay, Marty. Marty is based on a 1953 teleplay of the same name, written by American playwright Paddy Chayefsky. Chayefsky expanded his teleplay for the movie, which won an Academy Award for the Best Picture of 1955. It establishes its author, Paddy Chayefsky... as one of the country's foremost dramatic writers. So, from my view Stevie, your creativity is on to something!

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Stevie Burges
09:02 Feb 22, 2024

Honestly, Jack, I don't know what to say - except thanks. I go through so many times telling myself that my stories are truly crap. This is the second time you have said something complimentary - which, to rookie writers, is so helpful and encouraging. Thanks so much.

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Stella Aurelius
14:43 Feb 20, 2024

Stevie, this was brilliant! Great flow and imagery. I'm very happy at Becky finding a possibility for love (and, frankly, a reversal of fates.). Great job!

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Trudy Jas
19:26 Feb 19, 2024

Cheers!

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Danie Holland
00:32 Feb 18, 2024

Yikes, I think we have all met a few Emilys in our time. Here is to the Becky’s who are beautiful without having to tear down others to feel better about themselves!

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Mary Bendickson
08:34 Feb 16, 2024

Karma.

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Stevie Burges
08:41 Feb 16, 2024

Indeed!

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