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Romance Happy

“One venti caramel macchiato for Carol.” The barista called out as he sat A paper cup on the counter. A tall, stately woman stepped up to get her coffee, red ringlets framing her photogenic face, swinging to and fro with her stride.

“Thank you.” Her contralto voice caressed the barista’s ear as she reached for her macchiato. A tall gentleman in a cashmere sport coat reached for the same cup. Their fingers touched, sending a tingle up his arm and a faint rosy color to her cheeks. 

“Sorry,” he apologized. “I thought that was mine.” He maintained contact for another second before withdrawing his hand.

“Funny, you don’t strike me as a Carol.” Carol gave him a bright smile, lifting her coffee from the counter and bringing it to her lips. She gave him a quick once-over, noting the full head of wavy brown hair, bright cerulean eyes beneath elegantly arched brows looking her over, and a white smile the equal of many TV personalities. Broad shoulders bulged beneath the light brown sport coat. He exuded an all-business air, in spite of his Snoopy tie.

“One venti caramel macchiato for Harold.” The barista set a second coffee on the counter.

“Thank goodness for that,” Harold laughed, reaching for his own coffee. “I hope I strike you more as a fool than a Carol. And not as a coffee thief.”

Carol blushed, recognizing how easily her name could be mistaken for his in the noisy cafe. “Sorry, but you don’t strike me as a fool, or a thief, either. Although you do look like a thief of hearts.” Carol blushed again, surprising herself with such a forward comment. “It has been more than three years,” she reminded herself.

The two of them turned away from the counter, heading for the only empty table in sight.

“I think you must be the thief,” he chuckled. “You stole my line.” He stopped, allowing her to take the table. “May I share your table?” he asked after she sat. She pointed at the other chair. “Please do. It’s only coffee. I can sit and have coffee, even with a liar.”

“What do you mean?” Harold raised his eyebrows as he sat. “I’m not a liar. Why would you even think that?”

“Because you accused me of stealing your line. There’s no way you were going to say that.”

“Oh, but that’s just what I was going to say.” Harold took a sip of his macchiato. “The truth, the absolute truth is, I cannot lie.”

“Right.” Carol sounded skeptical, taking her own sip of coffee. “Now you’ll be telling me you’re just like George Washington, and you chopped down a cherry tree when you were a child.”

“We both know that’s a myth. Created by his first biographer, Parson Weems.”

“Impressive.” Carol gave Harold another smile. Handsome, fashionable, and well-read. “And I do appreciate your assumption that I knew that was a myth. Even though I’m baffled as to why you would make such an assumption.”

“The Vassar umbrella gave it away. Unless, of course, it’s stolen.”

“It’s not stolen. It’s mine. Pretty observant though, for a man with a glass eye.”

Harold’s eyebrows climbed up to his hairline, opening wider than eyes should be able to open. He formed an astonished ‘O’ with his mouth. Then he smiled.

“Which eye do you think is glass, Carol?”

“Both of them, of course.”

Harold pretended to examine his elegant cane. “Wouldn’t I need a white and red cane if I had two glass eyes?”

“Actually, only 2-8% of people with visual impairment use them.”

“OK, but did you see me feeling for obstacles with my cane? Why would you think I had two glass eyes?” Harold sounded curious, not frustrated or upset. She chuckled.

“If you can’t tell a lie, and you’re not George Washington, you must be Pinnochio. Tell me a lie, and let’s see how much your nose grows.”

“How do you know I’m not Fletcher Reede?”

“From Liar, Liar? The barista called out Harold, not Fletcher or Reede, after you tried to take my coffee.”

“I rest my case, Carol. I’m not Fletcher Reede, I’m not Pinnochio and I’m not George Washington. I cannot tell a lie.”

“Oh, yeah? Then tell me why you couldn’t be Pinnochio.”

“Did I feel like a wooden marionette when our fingers touched?”

Carol gave him a smile and a wink. “I’m not sure. Let me touch your fingers again.” She laid her hand in the middle of the table. She felt another tingle, and pleasant warmth, when he took her hand in his.

“Hopefully I feel like flesh rather than wood. Especially since I’m feeling electricity racing up my arm.”

“Not wooden,” Carol admitted, withdrawing her hand from his. “And that was me feeling electricity, not you.”

Harold smiled. “You felt it, too?”

Carol chose to take the conversation in a different direction. “Everybody can lie, even if it’s only tiny white lies. What about your taxes? Haven’t you lied on those?”

“Never.” Harold shook his head.

“What about when your wife asks if her jeans make her look fat? Surely you lie then.”

“No wife. And I still couldn’t lie.

Carol stood up and did a slow twirl before sitting back down. “Do these pants make me look fat?” Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she waited for his answer.

“No. They make you look fabulous.”

“See? You just lied. These are my fat pants.”

“I didn’t lie,” Harold insisted. “I cannot tell a lie. I can’t even tell a half-truth.”

“Sure you can. It’s not difficult. Tell me your coffee tastes like Peppermint Mocha.”

“I can’t do that. It tastes like a caramel macchiato.”

“Just say the words. You don’t have to mean it. Let me show you.” She took a sip of her coffee. “My coffee tastes like herbal tea.”

“It does?” Harold seemed incredulous.

“No, silly. I was demonstrating the ability to tell a small, white lie. Try it again. Ignore what your coffee actually tastes like, and tell me it tastes like something urine, for example.”

“My coffee tastes like ur . . ur . . yours.”

“OK, let’s take a different approach. Tell me you like me.” Carol smiled when she suggested this.

“I like you.”

“See? You can lie.”

“No, I can’t. It’s true - I like you.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“I didn’t propose marriage. I just said I like you.”

“Based on what?”

“You’re intelligent, beautiful, friendly, kind and you like the same flavor of coffee as me.”

“Aha! You don’t know if I’m intelligent or not. That could count as a lie.”

“You went to Vassar. You “got” my reference to Fletcher Reede. I could get lost in your ... Your eyes are gorgeous and look deep. We’re chatting, you let me share your table, and you’re continuing to have a conversation with me, even though you don’t believe me.”

“Why can’t you lie? Tell me that.”

“I don’t know why.”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m an independent. I write.”

“Fiction?”

“Not possible. I write textbooks on math. It’s my fourth career choice.”

“What were the first three?”

“Lawyer, politician, comedian.”

“You must have been a horrible lawyer. They all lie.”

“I’m sure there are . . . I’m sure there are . . . I think some . . . I think some . . . I believe in the probability that one or more lawyers are honest.”

“I’m not even going to ask about your political aspirations. But comedian?”

“Honesty didn’t work. People wanted caricatures of life and famous people. They wanted impressions. They wanted roasts. And ordinary jokes referenced people that didn’t exist, and things that didn’t happen.”

“Do you break out in hives if you lie? Maybe you should try carrying an epi-pen.”

“I can’t lie. I can’t even tell a half-truth.”

“How old are you? How old do you think I am?”

“I’m forty-seven. I’ll be 48 next month. And before I answer your other question, how do you feel about dating an older man?”

“Older than you?”

“Older than you.”

“Age is just a number. It’s more about how compatible we are.”

“I think you’re in your late thirties. Will you go out with me?”

“HA! I caught you in a lie. There’s no way you can believe me to be that young. Or want to go out with me.”

“I can’t lie. You’re a Vassar girl, too well-dressed to still be going to school. So well dressed that you probably have established yourself in your career. So you’re probably not in your twenties. Only the tiniest of crow’s feet around your eyes, adding character. Probably not older than forty. So I believe, and guess, late thirties.”

“Crow’s feet? Really? You must not be able to lie. Would you still want to go out with me if I was married? Are you married?”

“If you were married I wouldn’t want to go out with you. Are you married? I didn’t see a wedding ring or lighter colored flesh where one might have been.”

“No, I’m not married. I was dating a lawyer, one who had no problem lying. Including lying about being faithful to me. I threw him out three years ago.”

“I’m not married; never have been. Most women can’t handle total honesty. So will you go out with me? Even though I think I’m almost ten years older than you?”

“Before I answer that question, taking the chance that you can’t lie, I’m going to ask you a question. What are your intentions regarding me, if we happen to go on a date?”

“I’ll ask you what kind of food you like, what kind of movies you enjoy, and which activities you take pleasure in. If you like the same kinds of food I like, I’ll ask you to a restaurant that serves that kind of food. If you like the same kind of movies I like, I’ll ask you to take in dinner and a movie. If we share an interest in bowling, batting cages, or whatever, I’ll ask you out on a date to play miniature golf, or go to an art museum, or some other common interest for a first date, leaving the movie and dinner for a second date. I’ll hope for a kiss on the first date if it goes well, but I won’t expect one. If we enjoy each other as much as I think we will, I’ll ask you out for several dates. When you seem to be ready, I’ll ask for more. What I ask for will depend on the signals you send me, or what you tell me you want.”

“What if I don’t want to kiss you on the first seven dates?”

“If we both have fun, I’ll continue to ask you out. If our dates are only so-so, I’ll probably slip into the “friend zone” after 4 or 5 kissless dates.”

“I don’t know about those other women, the ones who can’t handle total honesty. But I like it. I’ll give you a first date, two more if the first goes well. When I’m truly convinced you can’t lie, if we are getting along as well as I hope, I’ll take a chance on kissing you then. After that, who knows? And in answer to your questions, I like Italian food and good wine. Romantic comedies and dramas, as long as they are well-written and the acting is good. An action movie once in a while is OK if I’m in the mood. Miniature golf is fun. So is shooting pool or playing darts at a friendly pub. No batting cages yet, and definitely no bowling. Tried it, but it didn't go well.”

“How about miniature golf at Big Al’s tomorrow night?”

“What happened to dinner and a movie?”

“I can’t lie. I told you if had common interest in a fun activity, I would ask you out on a date to do that first. If that went well, I said I would save dinner and a movie for the second date.”

“What if I like you, and ask you out before you ask me out?”

“Fair is fair. I have no problem with that.”

Carol raised her coffee cup in a toast. “Sold.” They touched cups, sipped, then Harold had a little more to say.

“I will need your address so I know where to pick you up at six-thirty. Or at least your phone number.”

“What if I ask for yours instead? Maybe I’ll pick you up. Or cancel.”

Harold pulled out a business card. His face was on one side of the card, along with a quadratic equation. The other side provided his contact information. Carol noticed that he lived in the Pearl District, a swank section of downtown Portland, Oregon. She gave him her own business card, with an address in  Raleigh Hills. Her best-selling novel, Among the Stars, graced one side of the card.

“You can’t tell a lie, and I lie for a living.” Carol laughed. “Should be interesting.”

January 12, 2021 00:24

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