Love’s Labours Lost

Things were going well.  She was as chatty as ever, and her smile still went clear to her eyes.  Suavely, I put on my best catch-‘er attitude, proactive but not too assuming, humble yet devilishly charming.  And I said: “I was thinking we could go see a movie this weekend,” and prepared myself for dismay, but hoped for encouragement.

To my great surprise, her face lit up like I had just brought her a dozen roses.  But what she said sent my swelling heart (and ego) crashing down: “Oh, can we see Live Free or Die Hard?!  It’s hilarious, and I’ve seen it, like, three times already, but I love it!”

Not exactly the romantic, just-for-two, cuddle-promoting movie I was thinking of.

But she had said yes, I had to remind myself.  I had another date with her.  That was one more date than her big-city boy had with her, I was certain.  Oh, that guy… Insecurity crept up on me again.  If I could just meet him in person, I’d know what I was up against!  He had a good head for theology, and he obviously liked her.  What else were those 10 comments on her blogs for?  But he was 10 hours away and I was right here.  Yes, I definitely had the advantage.  And she had said yes to a date.

“So, I’ll pick you up on Friday?” I said, suave master once again.

The girl shied and blushed, but said, “Sure.”  I could never understand her blushes, but the way her pink-flushed cheeks lit up the blue of her eyes still had more power than Helen of Troy’s face ever had, I was sure of it.  I still had to ask her if she liked Greek mythology.

“Um, do you know what time the movie’s at?” she asked me, looking down with her chin and up with her eyes like she always did, a display of shyness brought on by her feelings for me, I sure hoped.  But her question caught me off guard.  Reclaiming myself, I said, “No, but I can find out.  How about I call you when I do?”

“Sounds good,” she said, nodding, the light brown wisps of her hair brushing her face becomingly.  I loved her, every bit of her.  Lord, please let her be the one for me, I prayed silently.  But deep inside an echoing voice added, And not him


Friday came.  I was nervous, as always.  Somehow I could never quite shake those initial butterflies when taking a girl on a date.  Perhaps it was because I’d never been on more than three with one girl before, but I preferred to believe it was because I retained the innocence of love despite the world’s callings to perversion.

I got her from her apartment and we made small talk on the way to the dollar theater. Good old dollar theater!  What would I do without you? I thought.  As a poor college student, it had made many a beautiful date possible.  Tonight was particularly beautiful, I thought.  It was September, but the high-desert climate always made for a perfect Indian summer.  I wondered if Clarity loved Indian summers as much as I did.  I knew she was from a similar region, so surely she must have experienced them.  But at the moment the conversation hovered around a day in the life of a college student, a foundation we could both certainly build on.  There would be time to ask, I thought, in later conversations.

The theater wasn’t far; we reached it 10 minutes before the movie’s start, and good thing, too.  The line was out the door.  The dollar theater was one of the town’s best features, especially its proximity to the college.  I saw several people there from CNU, including a few girls I’d been on past dates with, but they were long gone and far away, and most girls I had been on dates with were still friends with me.  I considered that a success.  It was one of the beauties of casual dates, and I mentally thanked the originator of the idea once more.  He had made it possible for me to be with this beautiful girl tonight.

I turned back to her and smiled, noting her behavior.  She looked very natural tonight, not nervous, which was encouraging.  She was looking and smiling at fellow CNUers too, but she didn’t wave.  Shy again–so endearing!  I was born to be with this kind of girl, I thought.  Someone to protect and care for, someone to rely on me and talk to… Just then, her serene expression transformed and halted my daydream.  It became slightly anxious and indecisive, and I saw her nervously go for her purse and start digging for her wallet.  Oh, no, she’s not going to try this again! I thought.  What was it with girls these days?  They didn’t ever allow men to pay for them, to take care of them like we’re supposed to!  “Oh, no, I got this,” I said, stopping her before it became awkward, like last time.  She gave me a half-thankful, half-uncertain expression, but she put her hands down.  The line moved, and as we stepped forward with it, I caught just a hint of a smile on her perfect lips out of the corner of my eye.  Mental nod to myself.  That was how it should be.

As this was only a second date, I knew more than to push physical contact on her, so when we sat down in our seats, I simply let my hands rest in my lap.  She propped up her elbows on the arms of the chair and crossed her legs gracefully.  Her expression and movements again looked natural, and I smiled as I imagined her oh-so-shyly, but coyly moving closer to me as we watched.  It would be just right.

Unfortunately, her mind was apparently not in the same place.  She continued acting natural throughout the entire movie, and her heartfelt laughter was music to my ears the whole night.  But never once did she endeavor to slide closer to me.  I blamed it on the movie choice, but she seemed to really enjoy it.  At one part, she leaned over to me and said, “My mom and I just died laughing at that part!” and her expression was beaming happiness.  I was glad, at least, that she had enjoyed the movie.  And it seemed she had a close relationship with her mom.  Note taken.

Overall, I considered the night a success, if not quite what I was expecting.  But the following days, dark clouds of doubt began to overshadow the perceived success.  It seemed like after that night, something went wrong.  The strangest part was that she didn’t seem any different, at least not outwardly.  Her conversations with me were equally friendly as they had ever been, yet there was just that something more missing in them now.  The tinge of excitement–it was tempered in favor of politeness.  She cooled her behavior toward me, so I responsively cooled mine toward her.  It was always good to wait until the girl was ready, and not push her too much.  Strains of good old Sinatra’s “Nice and easy does it…” floated through my head.

I had no idea what had happened until three months later, that day in the coffee shop.  I invited her to come have coffee with me, more in hopes of getting an idea of what was going on than catching up, but for the purposes of tact, that is what I called it instead.  If something had changed, framing it as a date would only worsen the awkwardness.  So it was just two friends getting coffee and catching up.

It was then she delivered the most crushing monologue that I could ever have experienced.  After all the looks, all the blushes, all the shy turns away, what she said to me sitting there in those coffee shop chairs was: “I’m engaged.”  And it was him.

I must have left the room mentally.  I’m not sure how else I could have remained sitting there in that chair, looking at her, all my hopes crashing around me.  She didn’t look at me.  She looked at her hands, which I had not realized she had kept covered until this moment.  A shiny, sparkling new ring sat there dazzling my dreams right out the windows.

And she knew.  She knew what she was doing.  She knew she was crushing me, but she had put on this show of the casualness, the friendliness, the innocence.  Why?  A question I’ll never have answered.  I could not believe ill of her.  I had watched her too long before I made my move; I had asked about her to too many of her dearest friends.  I knew, beyond doubt, that her heart was golden.  But now there seemed to be a spot on it that I couldn’t comprehend.

I think she faltered out an apology, or maybe I want to believe she did.  I couldn’t comprehend a word she said; it seemed the world was spinning.  It was all too sudden, too shocking, and all I could do was try and stay suave.  Stay easy.  Stay friendly.  Because I’d never been anything more.  It was my fault.  I’d never spoken my heart to her before it was too late.


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Filed under Creative Writing, Fiction

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