Romance Fiction Teens & Young Adult

Timing is a tricky thing when it comes to love. You could meet someone who could be the one when it isn’t the best time or meet someone at the perfect time, but it still doesn’t happen as you'd hoped. I have fallen in love at the most inconvenient moments in my life, but one man who was the right guy at the wrong time always crosses my mind. For the last ten years, I had always hoped I would get to see him again. 

He was tall, tan, and had tattoos that ran up both of his arms that you could see underneath his white button-up. 

The first time he spoke to me, he said, “I like your sweatshirt.” I was wearing a Shepherd University gray crewneck sweatshirt I had stolen from my mom’s closet.

My mom quickly intervened, “You’ve heard of Shepherd?” Shepherd is a small school in West Virginia that my mom attended, so anyone who had heard of it was practically family to her. 

“I actually played baseball there, just graduated a few weeks ago,” he said while still looking at me. 

Not knowing what to say, I turned back to my Shrimp Scampi to hide my face, so he didn’t see my cheeks warm up from his intense stare. I did the math quickly in my head, trying to figure out how old he was, but I was too distracted by the thought of his large arms to care if he was too old for me.

My parents practically interviewed him for the following fifteen minutes, but I sat there quietly, just memorizing his voice. I couldn’t remember what he said exactly. All I took from that conversation was that he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen. The next time we went to Clyde's, my mom requested Bobby to be our waiter. After a few dinners of him waiting on us, he knew my order by heart, and I loved that. I was afraid to say something immature or stupid in front of him, and the fewer words I had to say, the better.

My mom would always comment that he looked at me in a special way like I was the prettiest girl in the room. She said I was the reason we always got excellent service, but I was sure Bobby did those things for all regulars who gave him a great tip after every meal. But she may have been right because he snuck us a chocolate waffle brownie with vanilla ice cream after we finished our meal on most nights, and I did not see any of his other tables getting that.

The one dinner I will never forget, I was seventeen, and it was Valentine's Day. We went to Clyde's to celebrate, and I was happy to see Bobby there because that meant he didn’t have any valentines plans other than work.

He came over and put his hands on the back of the empty chair next to me, “Why isn’t there anyone sitting next to you?” he asked. 

“I don't know, should there be?” I said, shrugging.

“Well, if I weren’t working, I would be happy to take this seat,” he said, smiling before he returned to his tables.

After Valentine’s Day, I didn’t see him for a few weeks. One of his friends who worked at Clyde's told us he broke his ankle playing softball and had to get a desk job while his ankle healed. A few years went by, and there was no sign of him. I would keep my eyes open at grocery stores, the gas station, and even at Shepherd's Homecoming when I attended college there. Still, after a while, I began to believe only existed in those special moments I would replay in my head.

Ten years later, it finally happened. I saw him back in his white button-up shirt. I had to do a double-take when he passed our table because it was like I was transported back in time to the first time I saw him. I felt a thrill of bumps fly up my arms, and sweat began to form on my head. Deja vu filled the air as butterflies filled my stomach.

“Wait, was that…?” my mom said as she examined my face.

“Yup, that was Bobby.”

My mom frantically begins to waive our waitress over. “Hi, yes, sorry to bother you. Is that Bobby?”

“Um yeah, he is our new owner! He just took over a few weeks ago,” the waitress said.

I immediately regretted not showering and changing after my workout. Why, of all days when I was not looking my best, did Bobby have to show back up?

“Oh, would you mind asking him to stop by our table when he gets a chance? He used to wait on us when he first started working here, and he would flirt with my daughter all the time–” 

“Mom! Stop!” I interrupted her from saying any other embarrassing things to the stranger. The waitress smiled, held back her laugh, and walked straight to Bobby. 

I watched him as our waitress pointed over at us. He slowly turned to look at us, and our eyes met for a quick second before I turned away. He had a bit more facial hair and was tanner than I remember, but his eyes were still the same bright blue.

“Still getting a Sprite with the Shrimp Scapi, I see,” he said with a smile that brought out his dimples. 

My mom stood up and wrapped him in a hug.“Bobby! We thought that was you! How have you been? We haven’t seen you since you broke your ankle!”

“Yeah, I have been good! It has been a while, but I am glad to be back where it all started.” 

“Yeah, Congratulations! We heard you are the new owner!” I said with a little bit more enthusiasm than I intended. 

He lifted his arm to scratch his head and said, “Yeah, thanks. My girlfriend wasn’t too enthusiastic about me taking on a new project, but it feels good to be back.” 

I stopped listening after he said the word girlfriend. Of course, Bobby had a girlfriend. I mean, look at him! Why would a beautiful, sweet, muscley man not have a girlfriend? Honestly, I was kind of surprised he isn’t married at this point.

“Well, it was great to see you guys,” he sighed, “but I am on my way out. Dessert is on the house, but I hope to see you guys next time so we can catch up.”

As he walked away, I realized I would see him again, and it wasn’t just a what-if situation anymore. The timing may not be perfect at the moment, but at least I know where I can see him when I want.

I suggested we resume our weekly Friday dinners at Clyde's to my mom, who was happy to oblige. I wanted to make sure to get some face time with the man I had thought about for years. He had a girlfriend, and I kept reminding myself of that, but he wasn’t married yet. I knew I still had a smidge of a chance to make him feel the same about me, but the trick was I had to do it in front of my mother. Trying to flirt with Bobby was especially hard with my recently single mother, who loved to talk over me.

Every Friday dinner, we got to see him, and we would catch up on what had been happening for the last ten years. We bonded over both graduating from Shepherd University. He told us about how he was diagnosed with Diabetes, which made him ineligible to join the Navy, so he found a new passion, cooking. Bobby also filled us in on his beautiful and talented girlfriend. It was the most intriguing conversation that my mom and I had with him because something seemed to be off, which made me have a bit of hope.

That year my mom and I decided to go to Clyde's on Valentine’s Day since we were both dateless, and I may have suggested it since Bobby would most likely be there. Bobby appeared out of his office after we sat down at our table. At that moment, it made me think of the last Valentine’s Day we were here.

My mom nudged my arm, “He has gotten cuter with age, Ally,” she said, dancing her eyebrows along her forehead while looking over at him at the bar.

I rolled my eyes, “Mother, keep it down. He could be your son.”

She rested her head on her hand, “I wonder if his Dad is single….”

I ignored her as we looked over the menus, even though we would order the same thing we always get. Bobby walked up, placing two margaritas in front of us.

“Good Evening, ladies. I figured you guys wouldn’t mind being my taste testers tonight for our new margarita mix.”

“Hell yeah, I will test anything you need me to test,” my mom said as she picked up her glass, “how is everything going with you, Bobby? Any V-Day plans with your girlfriend?”

“No, we broke up a bit ago,” he nodded, “it was a long time coming, I guess, but I am glad to see you two beautiful women here.”

I sat there sipping on my drink, trying to act as cool as I could without showing my enthusiasm for his news, “Oh man, that sucks. I am sorry.” 

“Well, her loss is our gain,” my mom said before she winked at me.

He smiled and said, “Thanks, that is sweet of you to say. Well, how are the margaritas?” 

I held up my empty glass, “I think I forgot if I liked it or not… may need another one.” 

“Fine, I will get you another to test, and this time I expect a full analysis.”

After finishing my second margarita, I knew this was my time. I was full of liquid courage and saw him at the bar finishing up some orders. I sat across from where he was working and placed my empty glass on the bar.

“So… the margarita,” I slid over my empty glass, “could be better.”

“Oh yeah? They couldn’t have been that bad if you drank both of them,” he said, reaching for my glass.

“I am not one to waste a free drink, but it wasn’t the taste. I think the presentation should be better. Maybe a little song or dance when you deliver them next time?” 

A huge grin crossed his face, “I think I can make that work… but only for you, Ally.” 

After my name left his mouth, I stopped breathing. It was the first time I ever heard him say it. I always assumed he didn’t know my name since he had never asked what it was, and I never said it. 

Before I could respond, he said, “Oh, and also…” he pulled out a little piece of paper from his pocket, “your mom also slipped me this note earlier with your number on it. I assumed you didn’t know about it….”

My mind begins to race with an exit strategy. “Oh my god, I am going to kill her. She is insane and will be put into an assisted living facility soon. You can ignore her, but thank you for the drinks,” I pushed off the stool and began to make my way out the door when a hand grabbed me.

He spun me around, and suddenly, I was inches from the face I had been dreaming about since I was fifteen.

“Wait, I meant that I would like to use this number your mom gave me, but only if you are okay with that….”

I looked around the room, trying to find the hidden camera or someone that would pop out to tell me that moment was all a prank. 

“Ally, can I please use your number to give you a call tomorrow and ask you on a date?”

Before I could string a sentence together, my mom suddenly appeared behind the pillar and said, “Honey, you better say ‘yes,’ or else the last ten years of you waiting on him will have been a waste.”

Bobby let out a chuckle as he looked back at my mom. “Well, in that case,” he said, taking my hand, “I do not want to waste any more of your time… instead, I will ask you out right now,” he took a deep breath, “Ally, will you go on a date with me so I can get to know you and hopefully fall in love with you? I’d rather not wait another ten years to see you again.”

I couldn’t get the word ‘yes’ out at the moment, but thankfully my mom was there to answer for me.

Three years later, at our wedding, I thankfully didn’t need my mother to say “I do” at the altar for me as I married the first love of my life.

July 16, 2022 02:07

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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