A Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut

Submitted into Contest #237 in response to: Write about a cynical character who somehow ends up on a blind date.... view prompt

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       Holly and Linda sat on Holly's bed, entertained with their roommate Pam's attempts to pack her Hello Kitty suitcase at the last minute. They were hurling suggestions fast and furious about the clothing she couldn't live without for the weekend. 

          Holly shouted out,” The red cashmere sweater will be great for Valentine's Day and will match the color of your eyes after you've had too many Sangrias.”

         Not to be outdone, Linda said, “You better bring your black peasant shirt. You're such a klutz- it’ll hide the food stains better. “

        Pam made circular laps in their dorm room- grabbing items from the closet, dresser and bathroom. She piled the stuff on the lower half of the bunk bed next to her suitcase. Her pale skin was now beet red from stress and exertion. She threw things in and pulled some out, making spur of the moment executive decisions. Satisfied, Pam pulled the luggage off the bed and onto the floor. The suitcase groaned and refused to be zipped up under protest. Pam looked over at the pair in desperation and asked, “Could someone help me out?”

        Holly rose somewhat reluctantly because she was enjoying the show. She crossed the short distance of the room and obligingly sat right on top of Kitty's pure white placid face. Pam pulled the zippers together quickly, as if she was shutting the cage door of a wild animal. As the pair rose to their feet, Holly said, “It looks like a tornado came through here.”

         The three surveyed the debris field of scattered clothing and personal items across their cluttered room. The crowded quarters were meant to accommodate two people, but they had been tripled up due to a shortage of student housing. When an opening became available in another room, the three decided to keep things the same. They all got breaks on their dorm fees but most importantly, no decision had to be made as to who would be the odd man out. It was infinitely better to deal with less space than emotionally fraught relationship complexities of the three friends. 

       Pam said, “So sorry for the mess, but you can blame Joel. He waited until the last second to ask me out for Valentine's Day tomorrow. I should have told him to screw himself. It's a four hour drive from Albany to The Island, and the only reason I said yes is because Linda was going for the weekend already. Where is Duane taking you anyway? Holly, I'm sorry but this mess will have to wait until I get back Sunday night. “

           Holly said, “No worries. I'm looking forward to having the place all to myself. I’ll have all your crap put away in no time. Since I won't be getting any, maybe save some Valentine's chocolate for me. “

       Pam said, “ Yeah, at the rate you're going, you won't be getting any or getting chocolate either. “

        They all laughed but Pam and Linda exchanged knowing glances. Holly had learned to read them well and she asked, “What's up?”

       Linda changed the subject quickly and said to Holly, “Can you help us with our stuff? We need to be heading out before the evening rush hour. “

       Holly said playfully, “ You're lucky I'm not into all this romantic Valentine's B.S. so I can be your personal servant. Sure, I'll help you. “

       The trio lugged the suitcases and bags to Linda's car in student parking. Holly surveyed the mound in the backseat and said, “You've got enough for a month instead of a weekend. “

          Linda and Pam exchanged glances again and nodded their heads in tacit agreement. 

          Linda asked, “Holly, you know how you get angry quickly but cool off when you have your space?”

         Holly stared at them, not sure where this was going.  Pam got into the passenger seat while Linda continued the conversation outside. 

        Linda said, “Pam and I talked about you not going on a date for six months- since you and Paul broke up. We think you've been moping around after the split and taking John Lennon’s death really hard. You need to get out more. I talked to Duane and he said that a friend of a friend goes to RPI and wants a date for Valentine's Day. His name is Drew and he's picking you up at noon tomorrow.”

       It was Holly's turn to feel the heat rise up in her cheeks in a shade that clashed with her carrot red hair. She was so shocked, it took a minute to digest this information and respond. She sputtered, “You, you had no rr-rright to do that !”

       Linda said, “ The date is set and you can be somewhere else if you decide to stand him up.”

         Holly said, “You're both jerks. My grades have gone way up without relationship hassles. This guy is probably a loser- who wants a blind date on Valentine's Day? Who makes dates at noon? He could be another Son of Sam, some serial killer who takes his marching orders from his neighbor's Black Labrador.”

          Linda continued as she opened the car door with Holly hot on her heels. “He goes to RPI, so at least he has a brain even if he's dangerous. Besides, Son of Sam has been behind bars for a few years, though I'm not sure about the demon dog. Here's Drew's phone number if you need it.” She shoved a small wrinkled scrap of paper into Holly’s hand.

         Holly unfolded the note and read while Linda started the car and started to pull away. 

      The paper only said “Drew. #278 -159.”

            Holly's yell fell on deaf ears of the occupants of the car. She shouted, “ The phone number is missing a digit !”. The two just smiled and waved good-bye. Holly stormed through the frosty air back to her dorm room. She slammed the old wooden door shut with such force that the sound reverberated down the hallway. She kicked Pam's strewn clothes on the floor as she waded back to her bed. She pulled the dog print comforter over her entire body, closed her eyes and tried to cool off.

       As she began to calm down, Holly allowed herself to think about Paul. The breakup was painful, as he had been her first serious boyfriend. They both decided to live on campus at State University of New York @ Albany after high school. Their friends joked that they were joined at the hip. Paul got a job as lifeguard at The Great Escape for the summer after their freshman year ended. Holly described their split in one sentence. “Paul got lots of practice in resuscitation because he did so much mouth-to-mouth on his blonde co-worker.” He followed her to college at Oswego when summer ended. 

       Holly moved to the downtown campus in the fall for a change of scenery and was bunked with Linda and Pam. She rebuffed anyone who asked her out. Her feelings were still raw. 

      Holly's thoughts of Paul disappeared as she emerged from the coverlet and gazed at her posters on the wall. Her favorite was of “The Beatles “ in their early days- bright faces full of youth, hope and promise. There was also one of John and Yoko and another of the movie “Yellow Submarine.” John held a special place in her heart because he was the intellectual Beatle and sang the lead most often. Holly was devastated when he was shot a few months ago. She was just starting to come out of her funk.

         Pam and Linda liked the newer music of Bruce Springsteen, Blondie and Michael Jackson. The wall space was covered with their images. Holly's anger was now gone and she put the radio on while tidying up Pam's belongings. She thought, “They meant well even if they were misguided. I'll hit the library or cafeteria before Drew arrives because I don't want to be here. That settles it.”

       Her mood had improved and she was now ravenous. She bounded down the hall to the cafeteria and loaded her red plastic tray with salad, grilled cheese and tomato soup. There was a deserted table in the far corner that she claimed. Half her dinner was gone before she looked up. She thought, “I should have kept my head down.” 

       The cafeteria was filled with couples and they all seemed to be in highly charged romantic moods. There were varying levels of personal displays of affection and Holly lost her appetite. She wondered, “How many people did Paul and I gross out?,” as she went back to the room. 

          Holly made a few phone calls, did laundry and attempted to study. The blind date dilemma kept popping into her brain and the idea started to generate a little stirring and excitement. She wondered what he was like and gradually abandoned her books. Holly went to the closet and started pulling out her favorites, just as Pam had. She had accumulated a small pile on her bed when she raced to the bathroom to experiment with her two favorite hairstyles. When her look was perfected, Holly surveyed the clothing mess and straightened up the room for the second time in a day. As she drifted off to sleep, her decision was an open question. 

       She woke up multiple times during the night- someone blasting Springsteen or rowdy partiers staggering back to their rooms. Holly hoped a good night's sleep would give her clarity, but it didn't. She ate just a granola bar for breakfast as her stomach was jittery and started to get ready at 10:30 just in case she decided to go through with the date. 

        Holly chose the fruit scented body wash and perfume rather than the floral, thinking it was more appropriate for Valentine's Day. By some miracle, her long red hair fell just right and her green eyes looked more brilliant from lack of sleep. The fuzzy pink sweater brought out a soft glow from her skin. She looked at the clock and saw that she had a fifteen minute escape window to flee the scene. 

         As the clock's hands converged nearer to noon, jitters set in. Holly's knee began to shake and butterflies flew in her stomach. She was rooted to the spot like a deer in the headlights. The only out was if Drew was a no- show. There was a gentle rap on the door and the image of Poe's Raven jumped into her brain. Her jelly legs propelled her to the sound and she opened the barrier. Drew was here.

         His tall frame filled the doorway and Holly was far from disappointed. He had dark features with dove-gray eyes. Drew resembled Poe without the mustache and had an intriguing crescent-shaped scar on his left cheek. He carried a bouquet of daisies, her favorite, in his left hand. “Holly?,” he asked. 

        Holly looked at her date and panic took hold. She was unable to control her tongue and said, “ I'm sorry, but I'm Pam. Holly had an emergency at home and asked me to send her apologies. I'll let her know you were here.”

        Drew didn't display anger but looked disappointed. He nodded as his face fell and wordlessly handed Holly the daisies before he started back down the hall. Holly closed the door and asked herself, “What the hell is wrong with me?” Self recrimination and guilt set in as she looked at the cheerful flowers. After fifteen minutes, Holly decided she couldn't stand her own company. She was starving but didn't want to see the romantic couples in the cafeteria. She threw on her coat in a huff and walked at a brisk pace to the tavern on Western Avenue a block away. When she paused inside while she waited for her eyes to adjust from the bright light outdoors, a male voice called out to her, ”Hey, Pam ! “ Of course, it was Drew. 

       He was sitting at a table kitty-corner from the entrance and beckoned her over. He rose to his feet and asked her to join him. Holly felt conflicting emotions about this second chance but hoped she wouldn't screw up in forgetting she was now Pam. He was nursing a beer and was ready to put in his lunch order. He caught the eye of the waitress and Holly decided that she'd have the same thing as Drew- a cheeseburger, fries and a beer. She made another snap decision to only use Pam's name and not her entire personna. It would be hard enough to keep track of just one lie.

        He was quiet at first, but Holly drew Drew out. He grew up near the Canadian border and went to RPI for computer science. Drew gave thoughtful intelligent answers when Holly peppered him with questions. Holly noticed he seemed more interested in her passions and pursuits than talking about himself- a complete 180 from Paul. He played along when she read his palm and claimed he too was distressed for weeks about John Lennon. 

      An hour and a half flew by in no time as the food, one more round and the tab came. Holly tried to pay her share but Drew slipped the cash to the waitress. Holly felt terrible about keeping up the ruse and thought several times during the meal how she could tell him the truth. The alternative was for her to walk away and leave him none the wiser. 

       Drew brought the matter to a head when he said, “ I've had such a great time hanging out with you and thought you were so beautiful when you opened the door. I hope Holly's emergency wasn't serious and if she'd mind if we went out on a date instead- as long as you're not seeing anyone?”

        Holly couldn't resist before she spilled the beans. She asked, 'Why didn't you ask someone out from RPI and what were your original date plans with Holly?’

          Drew answered, “I hate running into my ex girlfriend all over campus. A little distance is healthier. I planned on taking Holly to the animal shelter where I volunteer and then to a RPI hockey game, if she liked. “

          Holly summoned her courage and blurted out, “ I'm Holly and Pam is in Long Island. “

       Drew looked confused and stared at her hard. 

          Holly continued, speaking quickly to try to explain. “ I went through a bad breakup and haven't dated for six months. My roommate Linda set up the blind date through her boyfriend's friend friend. It was done without my knowledge. Whoever wrote the number down screwed it up and I couldn't call to cancel. The idea of dating filled me with anxiety and I had a panic attack when you knocked on the door. You made a good impression, but I was a jerk and told you I was Pam. I'm sorry for the huge whopper.”

        Drew's face turned red and he silently put on his black ski parka and walked out of the tavern without a word. Holly put her head in her hands and the tears started to fall down her face. The kindly barmaid, who looked like she'd been around the block a few times, asked, “ Are you okay, honey? Did he break up with you? You looked like you were getting along so well. Do you want another beer?”

       Holly shook her head no and said, “I just need a minute.” The waitress patted her shoulder and walked away. A couple of guys at the bar looked her way but she refused to make eye contact. When she grabbed her coat and started to rise, Drew returned to the table and sat down. He stuck out his hand and said, “Hi. I'm Sam.”

           Holly looked confused. Drew said, “I was just pulling your leg to get even. I get really mad but cool down quickly. I’d really like to take you to the game, if you'd consider going. The “Sam” thing was my weird idea of starting over and would be my alias to your false identity of “Pam “. We could be Pam and Sam to fake people out, if we needed to.”

         Holly's face flushed red again with pleasure and she exclaimed, “ I'd love to go ! I just have two questions to ask. Do the dogs at the shelter tell you to murder? Are you the one who wrote down your own phone number wrong?”

        Drew smiled and said, “ No. Yes. “

      The couple burst into laughter as they left the bar. Drew opened his car door for Holly and they talked about nothing and everything on the ride to RPI. Drew gave her a mini tour of the campus before the game and they stopped at the cafeteria for a quick snack. 

         Drew told her he played hockey since he was seven and his mysterious scar was from a stick and not a knife. He toyed with trying out for the team but had a huge course load. Maybe next year with a ton of practice. Holly had never been to a game and enjoyed the fast pace compared to baseball. Drew taught her some finer points of the game- icing, power plays and roughing. Her favorite was the Gordie Howe Hat Trick- a player getting a goal, assist, and fight in the same game. 

            Between the second and third periods, the announcer encouraged everyone on a Valentine's Day date to give their partner a kiss. Drew cupped Holly's face with his hand and she leaned in towards him. Their lips brushed and each felt the electricity between them. When they broke away, both of their faces were red again and they smiled at each other. 

        Drew said, “ Maybe we shouldn't have done that.”

           Holly inquired sharply, “Why is that?”

        Drew asked, “ When does your roommate Pam get back? What does she look like? Maybe we should have waited?”

          Drew smiled at Holly as she gave him a mild jab in his ribcage. He leaned over and kissed her again. 

February 16, 2024 20:55

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1 comment

Alexis Araneta
00:06 Feb 17, 2024

Adorable !! Glad they got together !


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