Carla woke up at noon the next day. The midday light shined in through the blinds covering her bedside window and caused her to fully depart from dreamland. Immediately she checked under the covers to make sure her clothes were still on and then when she found they were sighed in relief.
How did I get home last night? She thought.
She vaguely remembered the feel of someone’s arms around her and a whisper at her ear which she assumed was Ridian.
He must have taken me home when I fell asleep, she thought in understanding. Shit I fell asleep! That’s so embarrassing! He’s going to think I was bored and thought even unconsciousness was better than listening to him speak. Ughhh. Carla buried her head in her hands letting out a verbal groan to match the one in her hand.
Then her own smell reached her nose and she recoiled instantly from the scent of forest, sweat and stale pasta sauce. Pushing back her covers she walked to her bathroom and stripped before hopping in the showers. Her mother always spent Sunday’s at her Hospitals team yacht club trying to get in good with her boss who was twice her age and married. Not that she cared.
After Carla finished showering she checked the time again. It was now 1pm. Mitch had told her to meet him at the anime shelter at 2pm for their date. He had a little sister to pick up from day care at 7:30pm so their date wouldn’t last long. Carla thought it was sort of endearing he had a little sister who he cared so strongly for and took such great care of. Sort of.
She had a feeling if Mitch and her had ever gotten serious she’d be put on the back burner the majority of the time. That was the smallest reason why she was going into this date with the intention of destroying all possibilities for another one. She didn’t even know Mitch that well, let alone like him romantically. Accepting his offer for a date had been a bad decision in every way except that it made Ridian grow the balls to ask her out as well.
As she got dressed she tried to steel herself for the heartbreak she was about to inflict on her boss and tried not to feel to badly about it so that she would man up and just do it. Today the sun was out and the temperature was in the low fifties so it wasn’t that cold. Carla put on a black, knee length skater girl dress with 3/4 sleeves and some gray geometrically patterned stockings and some maroon chunky heel Oxford lace ups.
By the time she put on her cream dress coat it was 1:30pm and she grabbed her keys hurrying out the door. The drive was a mere twenty minutes and she parked in front of the shelter with ten minutes to spare. She walked out her car and tentatively approached the door. She pushed it open and it gave with a slight jangle from the overhanging bells. She almost jumped in surprise at the sight of Danny sitting and waiting for her.
His fur had been brushed and cleaned and he even had a little red Bow tie around his neck. Carla smiled at him but when she reached to give him a pet he turned tail and slowly started walking towards the back room, stopping every now and then to make sure she was following.
Bewildered and curious Carla followed the little pup to the back room and gasped in surprise. It’d been completely transformed. The cages had been pushed to the far right wall and stacked orderly and in the center of the room was a picnic blanket with a cute little woven basket, candles and real champagne in a ice bucket.
And sitting in the center of the picnic blanket was Mitch in a whistle dress shirt and jeans holding another bouquet of flowers but pale pink this time.
Well shit, Carla thought. This might be harder than I thought. She gave him a smile before slowly approaching the blanket, taking off her jacked and gently sitting down on one of the many cushion. She looked around at the set up again. What is it with boys and these picture book creative dinner scenes? A movie would’ve been just as good.
“Hi,” Mitch said shyly.
“Hey,” Carla responded with a small smile. Would now be too early? She thought as she slowly removed her coat, folding it and putting it beside her as she gently lowered herself to the floor. Mitch handed her the flowers and she smiled sniffing them gently before laying them on the floor as well. Just as she was about to open her mouth and break the news gently to Mitch that she wasn’t interested he started to speak.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted out. Carla cocked her head in confusion. He used his hand and gestured to the room around them. “For all of this,“. Carla looked around.
“Why? It’s so nice!” she exclaimed. “You even trained Danny,” she said with a laugh pointing towards the chocolate little puppy who was watching them with friendly eyes from a cushion in the corner. Mitch shook his head in frustration.
“None of this is real,” he said with a defeated sigh. Carla frowned.
“I’m not sure I follow,” she said slowly. She sat up and crossed her legs, adjusting her dress as she did so. Mitch brushed a hand through his short blonde hair and finally looked up making eye contact with Carla; azure blue on emerald green.
“None of this was my idea. My mother saw you one day when you were leaving and thought you were pretty and since I’d always said good things about you she started pressuring me to ask you out. It hit about week three when I couldn’t take it anymore and finally caved. It’s really not fair to you to be on a date with someone who doesn’t even feel strongly about you like I should and I couldn’t keep lying to you I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?” Mitch finished in a hopeful tone.
Carla stared at him blankly. Then she blinked. Then she bit her bottom lip trying to hold it in but it was to no avail because two seconds later to her embarrassment and to Mitch’s shock she bursts out laughing until her eyes watered and she was gasping for air.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped after a good minute and accepting a glass of water from Mitch who now just looked concerned. “It’s just I was about to tell you basically the same thing except minus the parent part. As in I don’t have feelings for you and regret saying yes to the date since its not fair to you, to date someone like that.” Carla finally calmed down smiling slightly at Mitch’s confused look.
“I am in....let’s say for lack of a better word “like” with two different guys,” Carla began explaining. “In order for me to choose fairly between them my best friend got the crazy idea to put us in a dating game where after each date I eliminate one and that idea only came to be because they found out about our date which I accepted out of a mixture of panic, pity, and vengefulness to be honest,“. Mitch was starting to look amused himself the more Carla spoke.
“So you are my third date and I already came here with the plan to “eliminate you” and tell you we can’t continue to date since I don’t actually feel anything romantic for you. Who would’ve known you were planning the same thing. That’s why I laughed so hard.” Carla smiled apologetically at a grinning Mitch who looked close to laughter himself.
“That’s fine. It looks like we both jumped into this with no thought so it worked out well in the end didn’t it?” He asked leaning forward to open up the picnic basket. Carla smiled absentmindedly agreeing with him as her eyes zeroed in on the plates of food he was unloading. “Let’s just stay friends and enjoy a good meal yes?” Mitch asked when everything was laid out. Carla nodded her head slowly.
“Yes, lets.” And then she dug in with the fervor of a homeless starving man in a food eating competition with a linebacker for a house.
It was quite a spread they had. At least three bowls of fruit salad. Then there was regular salad. And potato salad. And egg salad sandwiches. Beef kebabs and salmon patties. Fish cakes and three cheese mac and cheese that was absolutely divine. And for desert, cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies baked into brownie form.
“Man, you’re starting to make me rethink my decision,” Carla said around a mouthful of cookie and cheesecake. Mitch laughed at her, taking a bite of the cheesecake himself. Carla swallowed and reached for the bowl of potato salad again. It was some of the best she’d ever had and she couldn’t stop eating it.
“Did you make all this?” Mitch laughed.
“Oh of course not. My culinary skills include coffee and the occasional bagel. This is all catered,” he said gesturing to the remaining food. Carla smiled and pointed at him.
“Smart man. I like you,” she said before munching away on her potato salad. Finally when all the food was gone and Carla thought she was going to bust out of her stockings the sat back on the cushions, Danny asleep against Carla’s leg and their shoulders up against each other.
They talked for the rest of the night, Carla finally starting to know a little more about her colleague besides his amazing coffee skills and love for his animals. He had a little sister and his father passed away from cancer when he was only seven and now his mother was super protective. He also had a crush on a girl on his school; Sarah.
“Maybe you should’ve done all this for her,” Carla said with a wink and a light shoulder shove. Mitch blushed.
“She doesn’t even know I exist. Plus isn’t this too weird? I thought you’d like it since you love animals but other girls might get creeped out,“. Carla laughed at his shyness. It was an endearing side of him she’d never really seen.
“You never know till you try,” Carla said softly. After an hour more she helped him clean up against his protests and once everything was packed away in his car they said goodbye with and awkward hug and smile. When Carla arrived home once again her mother was still out to her relief and she showered before collapsing on her bed, tired from the emotional turmoil she’d experienced the past three days.
“Sooo who are you eliminating?” Sam asked as soon as Carla took a seat at the lunch table. It was Monday morning and time to announce the first person out of their little Dating Competition. Carla sighed looking around at all the eyes on her.
Neither Peter or Ridian looked outwardly worried they would be eliminated if just a little tense. Chris was smirking like he already knew and Sam was just staring at her with wide and expectant eyes. Carla sighed again at the idiocy of the whole thing but knew she couldn’t exactly back out now.
“Mitch,” she muttered before taking a bite of her grilled chicken salad.
“What?” Sam asked scooting a little closer to her on the bench a smug smile on her face since she clearly knew she what she had said and just felt like teasing. Carla roughly placed her fork on the table before turning to Sam and yelling the response in her face.
“Mitch!” she said before turning back to her salad. Ridian visibly relaxed a little and smiled biting into his turkey sandwich while Peter just looked smug while he slurped down his milkshake.
“Thank you,” Sam sang scooting back over to a grinning Chris who wrapped one arm around her waist and wrapped the other hand around a burger. Carla rolled her eyes and aggressively munching her salad.
“So you’ve got two dates this week. One with Peter and One with Ridian. Let’s just keep the order and have Peter go first again say Friday?” Sam said while munching on a fry. Carla nodded her consent eager to just get this whole thing over with and hopefully come out in one piece.
“Lovely idea,” Peter said grinning at Sam with twinkling hazel eyes, his dimples in full bloom. He then turned and winked towards Carla. “See you at seven Juliet.” Carla blushed slightly and smiled shyly just catching the hint of a glare on Ridian’s face before it was gone.
The table resumed its normal chit chat with Peter buried in his phone and Ridian explaining forensics to Chris who Sam was laughing lightly at while Carla watched the two boys in silence. One with stormy gray eyes, full lips, a charming personality and a past she was itching to know about.
Another with soft curly black hair, bright hazel eyes, adorable dimples and the easiest person in the world to talk to. Not to mention an amazing kisser, she thought. Although it doesn’t compare to the way Ridian makes me feel with just touch or glance, she amended looking at him as he gestured excitedly, using his hands to explain the lesson.
I am in wayy over my head, she thought wearily.