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Sara shivered with nervous excitement as they settled into the middle of the dock and fixed their eyes on the stars above them. This was her favorite spot, her secret hideaway that she always felt would connect her with her perfect match. A few weeks after moving into this apartment complex she wandered through the gate behind  the pool and found a rickety wooden staircase leading to a small floating dock with a scattering of fluorescent kayaks tethered to it. The dock was rarely occupied and it was hidden from view of the walking trails above it that followed the river cutting through the city. The river was wide and still enough at this point to be dubbed a lake and that’s how everyone referred to it. 


Sara met this one at a downtown gathering of young professionals who care about the environment almost as much as they like drinking beer. He had a charming smile and quick wit that made her knees go soft. His perfectly tousled hair and golden-tan skin looked like he’d just finished a modeling shoot. She didn’t think he would go for someone like her with her pale skin, beauty-school haircut, and thrift-store wardrobe, but when the event ended and he invited her to get drinks after, she jumped on the opportunity. A few hours later the bars were about to close but the conversation was too good to call it a night. Sara suggested they share some wine on her dock. “You have a dock?” he asked in amused surprise. “Well, it’s not mine, but it’s a great spot on the lake connected to my complex that I use for star gazing sometimes. Want to check it out?” 


This was Sara’s way of bringing guys home without actually bringing them home. She always imagined perfect nights of pointing out constellations and sharing soul-connecting conversation late into the night that would be the start to her fairy tale romance. 


This vision more or less came to fruition with this environmentalist guy that night, but after she followed up with a “thanks for a fun night!” text the next day he ghosted. Never responded and never reached out to her again. She avoided that group’s future events and looked for another scene that might have a better match for her. 


Six weeks later she was enjoying some karaoke with her roommates at the bar near their apartment. The stale air reeked of old beer and peanut shells, but the lively atmosphere made up for it. When she approached the bar to order another drink the guy next to her complimented her song choice for her last performance. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” was always a crowd-pleaser. She remembered his startlingly good performance of “Amarillo by Morning” and returned the compliment. They exchanged some small talk as the off-key singing bounced off the faded walls around them and Sara finished her drink at the bar rather than returning to her table. They continued talking while her roommates nodded and lifted their eyebrows at her behind his back. It seemed they approved and were encouraging her to get his number. When the bartender yelled “last call” he asked if she knew of anything else to do in the area. She looked up at the man towering over her with his chiseled jaw and said she knew of a place. Fifteen minutes later they were on the dock sharing a bottle of wine Sara grabbed from her apartment. She noticed his pours were about double the size of hers and he downed them too quickly to actually enjoy the taste. He then pulled a flask out of his boot and seemed more focused on getting wasted than actually enjoying their conversation. Soon after the drinks were gone he attempted to drive himself home but she ultimately convinced him to get a rideshare. So much for that one. 


Sara had some decent-but-not-too-memorable dates over the next few months but she decided to just head home on her own after them. The dock was special and should be reserved for only those who had the potential to be the one. She also spent that time rekindling her love of watercolor painting and she had more energy at work than ever before. Most evenings were spent either with a paintbrush in hand or in the living room making dinner and swapping stories with her roommates. She also found more time to get out on the trail and enjoy the weather as it blossomed into spring. Fresh air always helped lighten the burden of her loneliness. 


And then she met someone new. She never expected to meet a guy at the gym, especially since it was one of the few places where she didn’t wear makeup. But this guy seemed to have the same schedule as her and they’d often bump into each other between the free weights and water fountain. He had an athletic build but didn’t show it off, and his dimples were complemented by his soft brown eyes. They started exchanging gym banter over the whirring of cardio machines and clanging of dropped weight stacks. One day he admitted that he had just moved there a few months ago and was still learning the best spots for food and drinks around town. Would she be willing to show him around that weekend? They swapped numbers and met up at Sara’s favorite dive bar on Friday night. The rest of the night flew by and Sara started to feel that hopeful tingle under her skin that maybe this one could be her match. She avoided taking him to her dock after the first three dates just to make sure he wasn’t a dud, but after the fourth date, that’s where they ended up. 


They rested on the dry splintering wood as tiny waves sloshed beneath them. She was pleasantly surprised when he quickly identified Taurus in the sky, in addition to Orion. They shared their dreams and fears under those stars, and she pictured them doing this for years into the future. They continued to date over the next two months and Sara could feel herself falling for him. Her roommates delighted in the details of their dates, his romantic gestures, and how much they had in common. She actually felt herself glowing when she thought about him and her cheeks always ached after their dates from smiling and laughing so much. 


Then her roommate showed her the bad news. She had been on a dating app when someone’s photo popped up that looked familiar. Sara saw the photo and the “last active” timestamp and a cold sweat pricked the back of her neck while her pulse throbbed in her wrists. She had grown up believing heartbreak would be felt in the chest, where the actual organ sits, but it’s actually felt in the wrists. Like the blood rushing to the area is screaming for a dagger to just end this whole mess and relieve the body of this misery. Could their connection really have just been in her head? Why would he feel the need to go on other dates and meet other women? What did she do wrong? She cried herself to sleep that night, swimming in utter defeat and heartbreak. The next day he asked her to a movie but she responded that she was sick. She wasn’t up for discussing the issue since she was pretty certain how it would turn out. He never contacted her again and she adjusted her gym schedule.


A few months later Sara found herself on the dock again. She had a collection of vibrant wildflowers she had gathered along the trail she walked that evening and a playlist lined up of her favorite songs ready on her phone. The steam of the sticky summer air was fading into the trees above her and she savored the buttery smoothness of her wine. She looked up and her eyes sparkled as she immediately recognized Cygnus and Aquila. The search for her perfect match could wait. For now, she was enough.


May 01, 2020 21:09

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1 comment

Hadley C
02:17 May 07, 2020

Your imagery is very well done. I felt like I was on the dock looking up at the stars! Maybe work on weeding out some of the cliches in the plot. I would have liked to see Sara meet men who weren't so predictable.

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