Ian Harvey Lawson was surprised. He didn’t think that his last message would have solicited any kind of response out of Mattie since the first attempts hadn’t gotten him anywhere. He was particularly proud of this last attempt, however, and made a mental note to thank Selene for helping him devise the plan. Never did he imagine that it would result in Mattie showing up at his office and dropping a sheet cake on top of his conference table in front of all of his coworkers and boss. He was thankful that he worked with folks who thought the exchange was hilarious and were more than happy to enjoy some cake at his expense.
He worked as a commercial real estate agent. His brokerage, Miller & Associates, was known as a successful group and he was happy to work with his colleagues and did fairly well in his field. That is why Mattie’s intrusion on their meeting regarding the properties they leased to various vendors in the city was not unwelcome. In fact, as a person well loved at the office, his colleagues capitalized on the opportunity and took to teasing him for a few days afterward.
For the remainder of the day, he heard things like, “how bad did it hurt, Lawson?” Or, “Hey, Ian--is your pride going to be okay?” The cajoling was all in good fun so it didn’t bother him much, but he did wonder if he would get another chance at getting to know Mattie.
He was getting ready to head home for the weekend when his office phone rang unexpectedly.
“Hello, this is Ian.”
“Hi Ian, it’s Selene. How did it go? She came back here after dropping off the cake and I haven’t been able to get a word out of her. It’s been three hours.”
“Hey. It....went...as well as I expected.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” he paused, “she dropped the cake off and then stormed out.”
“Did she say anything?”
“Yeah she did. No.”
“Yeah she did or no she didn’t?” Selene asked.
“Yes she did say something. She told me no. Then she left. I’m surprised she showed up at all.”
“I’m sorry, Ian. I thought that filling out the order form like that might have been a good way to get her attention.”
“It did get her attention,” Ian laughed, “I was just hoping that she would agree to getting to know me.” The line was silent for a moment.
“Well, maybe there is another way that we just haven’t considered.”
“Maybe,” Ian mused, “hey, Selene, thanks for calling. I appreciate it. I gotta go. Bye.”
He put the phone away and began packing up to drive home for the weekend. He was looking forward to sitting on his couch in boxers and a t-shirt and enjoying some TV. As soon as his bag was packed and his coat was on, Ian head for his car, murmuring “goodbyes” as he left his office. When he made it to the parking garage, he got in his car, started the engine and put it into drive. As he pulled forward into the street, the song on the radio changed and Diana Ross’s Upside Down flowed through the speakers. Ian’s lips curved up in a small smile as he thought about the day that he ran into Mattie at the supermarket. That song had been playing over the loudspeaker when her cart bumped into his. At the time, he had been embarrassed because he was sure that she caught a glimpse of him singing along to the tune, but it turned out Mattie was too preoccupied with their crash and missed his singing.
His fingers drummed along on his steering wheel as he made his way home to his house. He lived about a thirty minute drive from work and enjoyed living life just outside of the city. His home was situated in a rather rural area and he was lucky enough to be able to afford a three bedroom house with a generous yard that overlooked a river. It was peaceful and brought him solitude after long days in an office building. It was unusual that he would have stopped at a grocery store within the city because of where he lived, but that day introduced him to what he thought might be an awesome opportunity and an even more awesome person. PIty she didn’t seem to feel the same way.
He pulled into his driveway and parked his car. He lightly stretched when he stepped out and walked back to his mailbox to see if anything had been delivered. Looking through it, he found a coupon to a home decor store, a utility bill, and a card from his mom. He opened the last one to find a sweet note written inside a plain greeting card: I miss you, son. Give me a call. Love, Mom. She regularly sent snail mail and cards with each holiday as a way to maintain their relationship. Ian loved this added piece of communication and kept all of her notes stored away in his house.
He stopped at his car to grab his bag and make sure it was locked before turning to the craftsman and walking to the front door. The slate walkway led from the driveway to the steps of a front porch. The house was gray with white detailing and a roof hung over the porch, supported by wide beams. On the left of the front door was a wooden bench that Ian had purchased when he travelled to New Hampshire. It was handmade and crafted out of pine and happened to be the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Above the bench and on the other side of the window his pet cat, Richard, sat staring at him. Just like every day, Richard waited for Ian’s key to go into the lock before standing, stretching, and leaping down from the couch to the floor.
As Ian walked through the front door, Richard mewed loudly and trotted over to welcome him home. The bell on his collar rang lightly when he pushed his body against the legs of his owner, waiting for a scratch behind the ears. When he was satisfied, Richard looked once at Ian and then proceeded to head from the living room to the kitchen. Ian followed from the living room, through the dining room, and then into the kitchen. He found Richard sitting next to his food bowl, licking his paws. Richard’s eyes never left Ian as he watched Ian get the cat food and start to prepare Richard’s dinner.
“Let me just get that from you,” Ian said reaching for Richard’s bowl. Playfully, he pushed the cat out of the way and as he tumbled down, Richard’s paws darted out trying unsuccessfully to retaliate against Ian. “I’m too quick for you, Rich. Maybe you’ll get me next time.” Richard’s tail twitched derisively and he seemed to communicate a silent “fuck you, Ian,” from his position on the floor. His mood changed abruptly when Ian returned with the bowl full of cat food.
“You’re welcome, buddy,” Ian said as he placed the dish in front of the cat.
Ian stepped into his room to change and get ready to enjoy a quiet evening in. He mostly occupied the first floor of the house. Originally, he had purchased it with the hope of having a family, but the second floor remained uninhabited and was used primarily for storage and the occasional guest. His ex-fiancee hadn’t liked the house and she wasn’t particularly pleased with how far it was from the city. He had purchased it before he was engaged and had hoped that someone would want to share it with him rather than buying something entirely new, but that tactic was not successful. That, along with his ex’s cheating, had been one of many reasons why he was now single.
He was in the middle of pulling on an old t-shirt from college when his phone rang. It was in the living room inside of his bag and when he went to get it, he found Richard laying on his work bag with his paws in the air.
“Move,” Ian demanded. He waited a few seconds before rolling his eyes and petting Richard’s belly. The cat closed his eyes and enjoyed the attention. When he was appeased he rolled back onto his feet and slowly moved off of Ian’s work bag. “You’re a pain in my ass, Richard.” The cat meowed in response.
What’s up, Ian? The words glared up at him from the screen. Do you want to go out tonight? His friend, Derek was always looking to enjoy the weekend and meet up with girls. Ian thought that Derek would have gotten past this phase, but didn’t seem deterred by his age. Neither of them were old. In fact, they were barely past the 30-year-mark, but Derek always wanted to go to the club. It had just never really been Ian’s style to go to the club and get wasted. Sure, it was fun from time to time, but Derek’s lifestyle had him out in the same way almost every week.
What are you thinking? Ian typed back.
Club. maybe city lights. Ian groaned as he read the text message. City Lights was a club about three blocks away from his office. Almost any time he went there, he ended up having to crash at Derek’s because it was too late or he was too drunk to drive home.
Sure. I’ll be at your place by 8.
It was exactly 7:00 pm, so Ian found himself changing quickly into dark jeans, a light blue button down, and dark brown shoes. He pulled a navy sweater over his head and grabbed a leather jacket out of his closet. He threw some overnight items into a duffel bag in case he didn’t get to drive back to his house, gave Richard a pat on the head, and left the house at 7:28 pm. Before pulling out of the driveway, he shot Derek a quick text message asking him to order some food and then head back to the city.
He parked in the garage he used for work and walked to Derek’s apartment so that he wouldn’t have to pay for metered parking. When he got there, he could hear music from outside. Ian sent a text message to let him know that he was waiting and a few minutes later, he saw the happy face of Derek, his best friend from college.
“Hey, man. How are you?”
“I’m good,” Ian moved through the door and toward the elevator, “did you order any food? I’m starving and didn’t get a chance to eat before I left the house.”
“Yeah. I ordered pizza. It got here about ten minutes ago.”
They rode the elevator to the third floor of the building and entered Derek’s apartment, number 304. Music flooded the hallway when the door was opened and Ian was greeted by Derek’s roommate, Chris.
“Hey, Bennett! It’s been a while,” Ian said, dropping his bag and shaking Chris’s hand.
“It has. How are you?”
“I’m good. Busy with work, but good otherwise.”
Derek’s apartment was an open plan and Ian moved to the coffee table and grabbed a slice of pizza out of the box and sat on the couch. Derek leaned over the island in the kitchen and asked, “You want a beer, Ian?”
“No, I’m okay for now,” he took a bite of his pizza and with a mouthful continued, “so who’s the girl, Bennett?”
Chris took a drink of his beer before answering, “You’ve actually met her. Remember the girl I met over the summer? Anna?” Ian nodded and took another bite of pizza. “Well, I proposed and we’re planning a wedding.”
“What? That’s great, man. Congrats,” Ian shook Chris’s hand and gave him a quick hug.
“Yea. It’s been pretty great,” Chris seemed to falter a little before continuing, “except for her sister. She seems like she could be a nice person, but she hasn’t really given me the time of day.”
Ian shuddered at the thought of not getting along with a future in-law. Having to be married to someone and their family seemed like a beautiful thing, but the thought of not liking their family was terrifying. He shook his head and asked, “When do I get to meet her?”
Derek was happy to answer, “Tonight. I wanted this to be a guys’ night out, but Bennett had other plans. Lucky for us, she’s bringing her sister. Up for a little competition, Ian?”