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Fiction Drama

You can tell yourself your fashionably late but that’s just the voice in your head trying to convince you you’re not just late. As usual. And let’s not forget, you’ll need to leave early tonight because your husband will be at home with his nose to the clock. And he’ll be waiting all night for you to call saying you’re on your way home.


Don’t even think about backing out now. You’re here, aren’t you? You had to claw your way out of the house for just a few hours of you time, so no way in hell are you going to slip back to your car, drive to that Krispy Krems drive through you saw on the way here (not that you can’t stop on your way home later) and sit in a dark parking lot listening to depressing songs while you down that dozen and make up the story you’ll tell him about how tonight went.


That’s it, step across the threshold. Don’t offer an excuse for being late, no one cares. They’re already two drinks in. They’re just happy to be here too, like you, an evening to be a person, your own person, any person you want to be, not only the one you are.


Smile and say hello. Ask them how they’re doing. You don’t have to tell them anything about you, your life, or anything for that matter. No one here knows you. They know your name and that you share a similar interest. Stick to their topics and you’ll be fine.


Remember not to drink too much. You know how you get when you’ve had even the slightest bit too much. You don’t want to go offending these people right out of the gate. You might call it ‘thinning the herd,’ but really it’s called setting yourself up to be lonely. You are here to make friends, and to find a friend you have to be a friend.


Look, over there, sitting at the bar alone. She looks to be about your age and she’s checked her phone twice since you looked. Go sit down and introduce yourself, you never know who she might turn out to be.


A trip to the bathroom isn’t necessary, this is a waste of your time, something you don’t have much of tonight. Your clock it ticking and the pumpkin is already being picked. Get back out there and mingle! Your lipgloss can wait.


Be sure to water down your drink. Yes, coke and whiskey was a good choice, just make sure to eat something. The chair by the woman with the phone she keeps checking is still open. Maybe the two of you could distract each other enough until it’s time to eat.


See? She’s nice. Yes, she’s worried about her husband at home too. He’s not used to being left alone and she’s not used to being gone. You’ve got some things in common. 


She knows the caterer, it’s the same one the committee has chosen for the last three events, all of them have been top-notch. She also knows ‘the story,’ doesn’t her wink remind you of your grandmother? on every committee member. Which could be useful later on, so pay attention.


It’s okay to sit there for a little longer, you need to wait until the line for food is shorter. Both of you can reach three kinds of olives, four kinds of cheese, and two loaves of bread from where you sit and your drink glasses are half full. You’re fine to sit there for a few more minutes.


Listen to her when she leans in to whisper more of her secrets. She’s the reason you’ve come here this evening. You’re surprised by this news, and yet you know it’s true. The words rolling off her tongue are exactly what you need to hear, those goosebumps on your arms prove it.


The food line is shorter now, it’s time for you and your new friend to fill your plates. The food is good like she said. Eat this now and pass on the donuts later, tomorrow you’ll be glad you did. And be sure to top off your drink with a fresh splash of water.


Sit at the table at the front of the room with the three open seats. No, not the one by the window, the one closer to the center where the three women are sitting. Don’t worry, the open chair will be filled soon.


Remember! Pay attention! Do your best to remember these women’s names, get their business cards, and put them into your phone tonight before you leave here. And no matter what date they make to meet again, clear your calendar to be there. You’ll only be sorry if you don’t go.


Don’t check your phone right now. Give your full attention to whoever is speaking, listen to the words they use when they tell their stories. This is important, you’ll see why later. 


Enjoy the strawberry shortcake dessert being served now. You’ve earned it, all those hours in spin class. You look great, and even better now that you’ve relaxed a little. Yes, your phone has buzzed a few times, but the alcohol makes it easier to ignore, doesn’t it? Maybe you don’t have to add so much water to your drink anymore. 


Your laugh is contagious when you feel good. That last joke you told still has your group giggling. If you could gather up your courage, when the ladies around you start to challenge you to take the stage for the impromptu talent show that’s going to happen after everyone else has had three or four drinks, you might just change your life tonight.


How was it up on stage? You struggled there, for a minute at first, but you got rolling quickly and this was a forgiving audience, the perfect place for you to make your debut. It was good you only had the one drink, just enough to loosen you up, but still maintain control. 


Yes, it’s okay to take the woman’s business card. She might have had a little too much to drink tonight, but she’ll remember you tomorrow. Be sure to let her hold on to her hand a little longer, it will keep her from slipping. 


See? That wasn’t so bad of an evening, was it? You stepped way outside of your comfort zone and there’s a better chance of your dreams coming true now.


And, by the way, you weren’t fashionably late. 


You were right on time.

June 23, 2020 00:40

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8 comments

Zilla Babbitt
12:25 Jul 04, 2020

Here for the critique circle :). This was so enjoyable! The telling unfolds beautifully and I love the confident yet somehow insecure protagonist, mirrored in the style of writing. You show why the protagonist wants to remember this night, not tell. Nice. First, I would hint at the character's gender a bit more. The only clue was a mention to lip gloss. There are a few grammar problems but I think they're just typos. Finally, I love the ending, being right on time. However, at the beginning you say you're just trying to convince yourself...

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Nanci Arvizu
20:55 Jul 04, 2020

Thank you, Zilla! The feedback/input from the community has been wonderful, exactly what I need!

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Zilla Babbitt
20:58 Jul 04, 2020

You're welcome!

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Ben Gooley
01:53 Jul 02, 2020

Great story. The second person voice was used to good effect to draw the reader intimately into the awkwardness of the wanted-but-not-wanted social situation.

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Nanci Arvizu
00:13 Jul 03, 2020

Thank you, Ben.

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Nanci Arvizu
19:49 Jun 29, 2020

I'm either way too early to a party, or running late and have to leave early. Don't know what it is about my timing. Either way, this usually puts me in the awkward position of having to catch up or hurry up to get all the socializing done before I need to leave. I am so ready to just BE - in the right place and the right time and just enjoy the moment. AND - DANG IT! So sorry about the typo five words in... *le sigh*...

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Sarah Hiller
20:18 Jun 28, 2020

Nice story. I have terrible social anxiety so it was nice to have a relatable character.

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Nanci Arvizu
19:48 Jun 29, 2020

Thank you Sarah! MEEE TOOOOO!!!!

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