“So you think it will finally work this time?” Emily asked, sounding unconvinced as her chihuahua Chi-Chi, tugged against his lead impatiently .
“What could go possibly wrong?” Steve replied, attaching the lead to the diamante-encrusted collar of his white poodle Esmeralda. “You’ve asked Sylvie to stop off at Shop-Co to buy pizza for dinner tonight. And I’ve asked Alan to pick up some wine from there too on his way over to my place. They’re bound to bump into each other.”
“It’s been such hard work…trying to get those two together.” Emily observed, struggling, and failing, to control Chi-Chi, who had just spotted some pigeons landing on the grass ahead of them at the park.
“Remember the time we set them both up for spin classes?” He said catching up with her as she walked briskly behind Chi-Chi.
She smiled, remembering that day all too well.
Her friend Sylvie, against all instructions to attend the spin class at the gym, had gone to the sauna instead, where she had met a handsome Italian bodybuilder. While Steve’s mate Alan had ended up in casualty, after he had fallen off the spin bike, and thought he was having a heart attack.
“Not one of our greatest arrangements,” Steve admitted shaking his head. “But she did break up with the Italian after they had that disagreement over Chianti.”
“And Alan got his blood pressure checked.” They both said together, laughing at one of their failed match-making efforts.
“What about the Valentine’s Day Dance?” Emily continued, knowing his reply.
“How can I ever forget it!” Steve replied with a wink. “The invitation had said 'Wear A Fancy Dress', and Alan misread it and wore a fancy dress. I still have nightmares about that clown outfit!” They both giggled together at the memory of that night, attracting the attention of both dogs, who looked up at their owners, who were clearly enjoying a shared moment.
“Same time next week?” Steve asked, already knowing Emily’s reply.
“Of course! Chi-Chi needs his training! But I’ll see you later on tonight. Fingers crossed we've got it right this time.” She replied, crossing her fingers, before speed-walking in the opposite direction, pulled by an impatient Chi-Chi, who had just spotted a tantalizing butterfly fluttering over a Forget-Me-Not filled flowerbed.
Steve shook his head and smiled at the sight of the little chihuahua disappearing along the path, pulling a breathless Emily behind him. He would never get used to Chi-Chi’s crazy antics, but he had begun to enjoy Emily’s company, and always looked forward to their Saturdays at the park. Meanwhile Emily was beginning to wonder if the obedience classes were any use after all. Chi-Chi was only a little dog, but had the beating heart of an unruly Great Dane, and she doubted she could ever get him to behave. He was so unlike Steve’s poodle Esmeralda, who was top of the obedience class, from her perfectly-styled poodle haircut, to the way she daintily stepped ahead of Steve, her pink leather lead just an adornment in his hand.
It had been her friend Sylvie who had first suggested that Emily take Chi-Chi along to the weekly obedience classes. That’s where she had bumped into Steve. He had later told her how lonely it was working from home, so his friend Alan had suggested a dog could be company for him. And as it turned out, Alan knew of a poodle who needed a good home. Emily sometimes caught Steve giving her an encouraging smile, during the obedience classes, but it was only after Chi-Chi tripped him up during a training session, that they had finally got talking. Fortunately for Steve, he hadn’t been badly hurt, only his pride. But after that mishap they had met every week at the obedience classes, sharing sandwiches and coffee at the park café afterwards, while their dogs played on the grass.
And it was on one of those sunny Saturday afternoons, that the first of their match-making plans had taken shape. What if they could get their friends, Sylvie and Alan, together? Emily thought Sylvie was amazing and just couldn’t understand why she was still single. While Steve thought Alan, was such a great guy, but could never find the right woman. But no matter what plans Emily and Steve hatched, something invariably went wrong. This time though would be different. This time they both felt they were on the right track. They would all be sharing dinner that evening at Steve’s flat, so what could possibly go wrong?
But later on that day, as Steve was giving the dining-room a few finishing touches, the phone rang.
“Hi Alan, how are you getting on with that wine?”
“Well that’s why I’m calling. You never guess who I met at Shop-Co?”
“No…who?” Replied Steve nonchalantly, crossing his fingers behind his back.
“The most wonderful girl! If you hadn’t asked me to pick up the wine tonight…”
A smile began to take shape around Steve’s lips, “…Ah Sylvie!”
“No…no that’s not her name…By the way, did you know it’s ‘Singles Night’ at Shop-Co! I bet you knew all along didn’t you and set me up? Anyway, I was looking for some wine and there she was reaching up for a bottle of Chardonnay. She asked if I could get it for her, and when I looked down, I looked into the most amazing chocolate-brown eyes. I thought I could look into those eyes for the rest of my life…!”
“Oh I see…” Steve, collapsed on a nearby chair, and the duster fell to the floor. Esmeralda, hearing the disappointed tone in his voice padded over to his chair, and placed a sympathetic paw on his knee.
“How can I ever thank you?” Alan continued. “If you hadn’t asked me to pick up the wine tonight…well…I would never have met her…and…sorry got to go! She’s waiting for me!…The love of my life!”
The line went dead and Steve turned to Esmeralda, who was looking at him, head on one side, with a puzzled expression. “Can you believe it Esmeralda? Alan’s met the wrong woman! What’s Emily going to say? We’d better go out and get some wine for dinner now that he’s made other plans.” She followed him out of the door. “Come on girl…you never know, we might just get lucky too!”
They walked to Shop-Co and sure enough Alan was right, it was ‘Singles Night.’ The cheerful banner draped across the front of the store, was clearly attracting a lot of hopeful shoppers. While near the entrance a pizza van already had a queue of customers, drawn by the delicious aroma of freshly baked garlic bread and pepperoni pizza that scented the air. But as they got nearer, Esmeralda took a sharp turn to the rear of the building and begin barking and jumping with excitement. “Come on girl, this isn’t like you…Oh hello Emily, what are you doing here?”
Emily was attempting, and failing, to keep Chi-Chi walking in a straight line along the path. But on seeing Esmeralda, he started jumping up and down and barking with excitement.
“Hi Steve! I don’t know what’s got into Chi-Chi, he can’t walk properly to save his life! Oh and The Plan’s failed again, by the way! Sylvie can’t make it.”
Steve could see that Emily was in real danger of falling over, as Chi-Chi busily threaded his lead around her ankles.
“She said she’d overdone it at the gym this morning. So I thought I’d better pick up the pizza for dinner tonight instead. At least Alan will be there.”
“Well guess what!” Steve explained. “He can’t make it either. It turns out he’s just met the love of his life in there, and they’re going out tonight together instead!”
They both began to laugh at the same time.
“Oh dear, another one of our failproof plans has failed again! What are we going to do? There’s no hope!” Emily smiled, giggling at another one of their failed plans. “Maybe we should just give up?”
“Look I’ve an idea,” Steve said as he knelt down on the path to untangled her feet from Chi-Chi’s lead. “We’ve both got to eat tonight. Why don’t we have dinner together anyway? You wait here with the pooches, while I go and order the pizzas and get some wine, what do you like white or red?”
“Red please, that would be lovely! I do admit I am beginning to feel a bit hungry smelling all those pizzas cooking.” Replied Emily stepping out from the now disentangled lead. “Could you pick up some doggy-training treats too? I’ve run out.”
“Yes sure!” He replied standing up and passing her Esmeralda’s lead.
In the next moment something happened that was so totally unexpected, that even Emily and Steve couldn’t account for it. Because for the tiniest of seconds, time literally stood still for them both. And it was in that briefest of moments, as their fingertips touched, that something they would both later refer to as, a moment of magic, passed between them. And for a long, long pause, they remained like that, each hand held captive in the other’s. Seeing each other, as if for the first time.
Meanwhile, Chi-Chi seemed to have undergone a complete personality transformation. He sat down companionably next to Esmeralda, with manners befitting any gentleman. Both dogs looked at each other and nodded, as if in mutual agreement of a job well done. Then, with undisguised fondness, looked up at their love-struck owners. This was a very satisfactory conclusion to their match-making efforts. Maybe now their obedience classes could stop too? They touched noses and wagged their tails in unison.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Shop-Co car park, a mobile phone rang. “Tell me it worked this time?” Sylvie asked, with a hint of exasperation.
“Like a charm!” Alan could not disguise the smugness in his voice.
“Really? Are you sure? I was at the point of giving up. Those obedience classes were going on forever.”
“I know,” he agreed. “It’s been hard work getting those two together. And don’t even remind me about that Valentine’s Day fiasco. I can never see a clown again without thinking of that hideous costume.”
“Yes, that was very brave of you!” Sylvie acknowledged.
“But I’m so pleased for them both.” Alan continued, a dreamy note in his voice, as he watched the love-struck couple from a distance. “They’re absolutely made for each other. Anyone can see that. But you know what, and now you are going to think I’m sounding crazy, but I think those dogs had something to do with it!”
“Oh Alan, you’re such a hopeless, foolish, romantic!” Sylvie replied sighing. “Whatever am I going to do with you? But let’s face it. Some people can be so stubborn!”