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Chapter 2

Jade

I’ve been on so many blind dates I should get a free dog. - Wendy Liebman

***

Earings, make-up, clutch bag, dress and shoes, checked. I do the mental check every time I leave the house. My phone vibrates in the back pocket of my jeans and I see a message from an unknown number upon retrieving it.

Unknown: Hi Jade. I’m five minutes out. See you soon. Derrick.

My mom must have given him, Derrick, my number. I shudder, even his name gives me the creeps. I suppose I shouldn’t be too quick to judge, I haven’t even met the guy, but I’m not expecting much due to past experiences where my mom was involved.

I wait outside on the steps and indeed he shows up five minutes later. One point to him for being punctual. He gets out and I take a few minutes to assess him. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought my mother made a date for me with superman. I mean we all know he is not real, but to this guy before me, superman might be real. What on earth was my mother thinking? How am I going to get through this night? We haven’t even spoken a word and I already know I want to stay at home. Derrick is dressed in a white button-up over a blue Superman t-shirt. His hair is styled like the famous superhero and he wears the same thick-framed, modern glasses to finish off the look.

“Hey, Jade. I’m Derrick, but my friends call me Clark. Pleased to meet you.” He gives a nervous giggle and holds out his hand, which I realise is clammy after taking it. “Hey Derrick. Nice to meet you.” I smile and let go, trying to wipe my hand on my jeans, without him noticing it. Eeewww. I wonder where his friend would get that idea. Does he even have friends? He runs around the car and gets into the driver’s seat. “I’ve made a reservation for us at The Fish Bowl, hope that is okay with you.” I am momentarily stunned, due to panic, but quickly recover and find my tongue, “Oh gosh, I’m sorry, didn’t my mother tell you? I’m allergic to fish.” I wait for a response from his side, but he just carries on talking as if my revelation makes no difference. “Okay, yeah. So this place apparently has the best sushi in town. I googled it.” He gives a self appraising nod and continues. “They use only the best imported products and wines.” I look out the window as I realise my mother made a date for me with a guy who knows everything, which makes this whole set-up useless. He could’ve googled his way around the city and I could’ve had a relaxing time at home.

We arrive at The Fish Bowl and I regret not eating at home, as I can’t risk eating here. Maybe I can try a salad or something light and hope for the best.

We are seated next to a beautiful fish tank, displaying an array of tropical fish. Quite disturbing if you think they watch you while you eat their friends. He orders a glass of wine for us both then turns his attention to me when the waiter leaves, “So? My mother tells me you manage some of these big advertising campaigns that you see around the city on the billboards. That must be exciting. Do you travel a lot?” I’m about to answer no when he starts talking about his travels. “I try to go at least once a year.” He pulls out his camera, which I only noticed now and starts showing me the places he has visited with his mother. HIS MOTHER! “This was the time we travelled through Europe for three weeks.” He flipped through the pictures of him and his mother taken at all the popular tourist spots. Berlin Wall, Atomium, and Tivoli Gardens, just to name a few. Luckily the waiter arrives to take our order and I had to stop Derick from ordering a sushi platter big enough to feed an army, “I’ll just have a green salad, please.” He gives me a confused look to which I shrug and answer, “I’m allergic to fish.” It’s as if it’s the first time he hears these words, the shock on his face says it all, “Oh gosh, I am so sorry. Why didn’t you say something?” I felt like I could smack him right there. Maybe if he was less self-absorbed, he would have heard me telling him on our way here when he first made mention of it, but noooo. Instead I smile sweetly, “It’s okay, really. I didn’t want to ruin your experience.” That seems to satisfy him and without further adieu continues to place his order. Not surprised to say the least. Every question directed at me is basically an excuse to talk about himself, so I eventually don’t bother elaborating on anything. It’s not like he would notice anyway. The conversation takes a turn when he removes his glasses, narrows his eyes and looks at me with such interest that one would think I am an unidentified species under the microscope in a scientists lab. “Why is it that a beautiful woman like you, is still single?” I am taken aback by the compliment, I mean who knew he had it in him to notice anyone else besides himself? I shrug, “Well, I guess I haven’t found the right guy yet.” Derrick smiles and I think in his mind it looks dashing and irresistible, but to anyone else, he just looks constipated. “My goal is to have the relationship of Leo and Kate.” The confused look on my face might have indicated that I have NO idea who they are when he continues, “You know, Titanic.” I have to stop myself from laughing. Does he know that Leo died a horrible death and that she continued to live her life having kids with another man? “Yeah, that must be something.” Luckily the food arrives and I silently hope it gives me a few minutes of headspace to myself. To assess the situation and find an out. I get my wish five minutes later when he spilled the sake all over me, the table and the floor. “Shit, I’m sorry. Here let me help you-“ I jump up and with as much self-control as I can muster up, I say, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll just quickly go get myself cleaned up. Accidents happen.” I walk towards the restroom without waiting for an answer. I spent longer in the restroom than what was necessary, but it gave me time to calm down and plan my escape. I return to the table ten minutes later with an excuse that I want to go home. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I think I better get going. It’s been really great hanging out, but I need to get out of these clothes.” Pointing down at my wet jeans and silky top. He places his napkin on the table and gets up, but I indicate for him to sit down, “Don’t worry, I’ll just grab a cab. Please continue with your meal.” He gets up like a gentleman, which he failed miserably at in the course of the night, “Thank you for accompanying me, it was great meeting you. Sorry about all of this. I feel like such an idiot. Hopefully we can hook up sometime when I’m in town again and I can make it up to you.” I shudder at the thought of having to spend another evening with him, but fake a response, “Sure. Let me know when you are in town.” I turn and leave the restaurant with as much dignity as I can muster up, looking the way I do. People are staring while I hang my head low. I take a big gulp of air as I step outside, thinking to myself as I let the air out of my lungs that this was possibly the worst date EVER.

***

The next morning walking through the doors of my office building I see Amy waiting for me. She looks like a child on Christmas morning when I walk in her direction to sit down at the table in the cafeteria. “Morning sunshine! Please tell me all about last night. I am dying to hear how it went.” I slump down in the chair and take a big sip of the coffee she ordered and place it in front of me.

“It was a disaster to say the least. He showed up dressed like Superman — white button-up over a blue Superman T-shirt, Clark Kent hair, glasses — and took me out for sushi...though I told him on our way there that I was allergic to fish. At dinner, he spilt sake all over me. He also pulled out his digital camera to show me photos of the trip to Europe he had taken with his mother five years ago. To top this off, he told me his goal is to have a relationship like Leo and Kate in Titanic.” Amy is laughing very unlady like, “You have the worst luck ever. I can’t deal. How even?” I take another sip of my coffee, “Just ask my mom, apparently she knows just how to pick them.” I get up, gather my things and head for the elevator to get to my office. Once seated, I switch on my PC and stare with shock at my screen as my emails download. One name stands out as if it is highlighted in pink and sprinkled with some glitter.

From: Aiden Lang

To: Jade Conway

Subject: Onyx Project

Dear Ms. Conway

I was informed that you are currently working on the Onyx project. Would it be possible to schedule an appointment to discuss this project? I have some questions relating to the account.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Aiden Lang

Assistant Account Manager

My hands start shaking. Why would he want to see me? Why can’t he talk to Mr. Sullivan? He is after all my manager. I am sure Mr Sullivan can tell him everything he needs to know and then some. I briskly push my chair back and walk to Mr Sullivan’s office, I knock once and enter on command. “Morning sir, do you have a minute?” Mr Sullivan is in his late forties and as dull as dishwater with nerdy specs that frame his mousy face. It still amazes me that he got the job, coming across this awkward. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when he was interviewed. “Morning, Ms Conway. Something I can help you with?” I try to form the right words without making it sound like I am reluctant to engage, but at the same time I want him to feel important enough to go in my place, “I received an email from Mr. Lang, the new Assistant Account Manager and was wondering if it would not be better if you attended the meeting. Your knowledge on this account is so much better than mine and I’m just scared I might not be able to answer all the questions he might have.” I see the wheel starting to turn inside his brain and just as I’m about to give myself a pat on the back for my genius idea, he shits on my parade with, “I think this is a great way for you to get the necessary exposure. The project is in the beginning stages and will allow you the opportunity to be part of it from start to finish. You have my permission to take it from here. I look forward to seeing how you grow.” I gape like a goldfish, trying to get myself out of this situation, but my mind comes up empty. “Is there anything else Ms Conway? If not, I have a report due in an hour and would like to finish it.” I smile half-heartedly, “No, that is all. Thank you for your time and the opportunity sir. I will try not to disappoint you.” I leave the office and close the door behind me. This is just effing great, I seem to have a knack for making things worse. Instead of just keeping my mouth shut and attend ONE meeting, I now have the whole project on my hands.

I sit down and stare at the screen, better to get this over and done with as soon as possible. I hit reply:

From: Jade Conway

To: Aiden Lang

Subject: RE: Onyx Project

Dear Mr. Lang

Thank you for your email.

I can avail myself tomorrow at 10:00 am. Let me know if this is convenient for you.

Kind regards,

Jade Conway

Project Assistant

I receive a response almost immediately. He clearly does not have enough work.

From: Aiden Lang

To: Jade Conway

Subject: RE: Onyx Project

Dear Ms. Conway

That is perfect. See you at 10:00am.

Kind regards,

Aiden Lang

Assistant Account Manager

I start gathering all the information I think I would need to avoid looking like a fool. I don’t even know what it is that he needs to discuss exactly. I will just take all the files I have to the meeting, that should do the job. Damn it, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. The events from two nights ago are still fresh in my mind. My inner diva is on a high from excitement, a sentiment I don’t share with her at all. I won’t be able to get any shut-eye tonight at all. As if keeping me from a peaceful night’s sleep the other night wasn’t enough, now I have to go through another night without it. Round two here we come.

I pack up my things and switch off my PC when the day comes to an end. My stomach is still in a knot thinking of the meeting tomorrow. I will pour myself a stiff drink when I get home, hopefully that will loosen up the knots and tense muscles. If only I could do that tomorrow before the meeting, then everything will be great.

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