When I pulled down the box off the shelf in the closet, dust flew all about, forcing out a sneeze. I nearly dropped the box as the sneezing fit continued. I turned toward my best friend since middle school, Ava.
“What’s in that one?“She asked, smacking away the dust particles in the air.
I pulled the lid off and laughed, seeing mementos from my middle school days. Ava’s eyes grew wide as she peered into the box, a huge grin taking over her face.
“Memory lane,” I answered her as I plopped onto the bed, digging through. It didn’t take long before I came across a love note I had written but never delivered.
I cringed, handing it to Ava. She smirked before reading it out loud.
“Luca, I hope I don’t chicken out. If I didn’t, and you’re reading this, then I guess it’s time to let you know that I like you. I was hoping maybe you like me too. I hope you write me back, or you can call me, we also have lunch together. My phone number is below. Like you Lots, Maren 555-7890.”
I shrugged, remembering how shy, clumsy and awkward I was, which is the very reason Luca Santiago never received that letter.
“I can’t believe you never gave it to him,” Ava stated, bringing me out of my thoughts. “I knew he’d never notice me, so I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Now, please help me get the rest of these boxes so we can load up. Thanks for letting me store them at your place until I get settled in the new apartment.”
“No problem, babe. Maybe you should look up Luca, see what he’s up to these days.” She teased.
“I’m sure he has plenty of women if he isn’t married already.”
“Never know.“She sang as we loaded up.
Working as a matchmaker may seem odd for a single woman such as myself, but after setting friends up all through college and seeing those relationships thrive, I felt like I found my niche. If I can’t find love myself, then I can at least help others.
“Maren, your last appointment is here.” Camila, my secretary, buzzed.
“Send him in.”
I stood to greet my new client and watched with bated breath as one of the most gorgeous men I’d ever seen thanked Camila while entering my office. He stood a little over six feet, black hair and ridiculously blue eyes. Something struck me familiar, but I could not quite place it. He wore a solid black shirt with a black suit jacket, jeans, and boots. He was muscular but not overly so. I must have been evident with my ogling because he cleared his throat before smiling.
“Oh, Hello.” I stuttered. I was never so embarrassed. “I’m Maren Scott.” I extended my hand to his. He tilted his head to the side, thinking as he reached out, taking it. I felt an immediate tingle radiate through my body.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Luca Santiago.” He flashed a pearly white smile as I tried to catch my breath. “Your name seems very familiar.” He questioned as I gestured for him to sit. I tried gathering my thoughts as I sat.
“Um, actually.” I fidgeted.
‘Why was I suddenly so nervous?!’ and Why did this beautiful specimen need my services?!
“We went to school together.” I blurted.
“Yes!! I knew it sounded familiar. Maren Scott. You were good friends with Ava Jackson, right?” He sat back in his chair, hand on his knee, oozing confidence.
“Yes, I was and still am. Though now, she goes by Ava Tutter.” I smiled while talking about my best friend.
“Oh well, good on her!” His eyes scanned me up and down, the silence a bit awkward. I shuffled around my desk and grabbed my notepad and pen.
“So, Mr. Santiago...” I began.
“Luca. Call me Luca, please.”
“Luca, how can I help you?” I returned his smile.
“Well,” He rubbed the back of his neck, starting to seem nervous. “I wanted to be matched up.” He stated simply. “My company is hosting Valentine’s day event, and honestly, I don’t want to go alone.” He admitted.
I just sat, staring at him. I could not for the life of me figure out why he would need a matchmaking service. Most of my clients were either older, not the best looking, or timid individuals. Luca was obviously none of those.
“Okay. I get you’d like a date for this event, but I’m assuming you’d like more. We’re not an escort service.” I explained, my words coming out cattier than I intended.
“Oh, no. No... I didn’t mean for it to come out that way. Of course, I’d like something long term, I just. . “Poor Luca seem flustered with my accusations. I felt guilty for snapping, letting my nerves get the best of me. I shook it off and sat up straight, getting back into work mode.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that was your plan. Valentine’s day is just a few weeks away, though, so we should get to work.” I smiled, turning to my computer to pull up a few questionnaires I utilized. Once I located what I was looking for, I retrieved my tablet for Luca to use.
“This is a basic questionnaire I like to use, just to get an idea of your interests and learn more about you, then we can talk more about what type of woman you’re interested in.” I handed him the tablet, and his fingers brushed against my hand. It felt like a bolt of electricity shooting right through me. Luca quickly took the tablet, looking at me as if he felt it too.
“Uhm, would you like water or coffee? This usually takes an hour or so to get all the basics covered.” I offered.
“A coffee would be great; black is fine.” He smiled.
I stood, deciding to get the coffee myself to give me a minute to get it together. I took my phone and stepped out. I immediately text Ava to tell her who showed up in my office today.
‘Seriously?! It’s a sign!! You need to tell him about your crush!’ Ava responded. I replied with an eye-roll emoji.
‘Maren! Tell him! He’s looking to be matched up; match him with yourself!’
I ignored Ava’s demand and continued with his coffee, and grabbed myself water on my way back through. I stepped into the office and saw Luca focusing on the tablet, running his hand through his dark hair. His arm flexing under his shirt, and a few tattoos showing as he had now removed his jacket. I started toward him, and before I knew it, I was clumsily falling over my own feet, nearly hitting the ground, but before I could, two arms reached out, grabbing me by the waist and pulling me back as the coffee hit the floor with my water bottle.
“Jesus, you okay?” Luca asked as he helped me stand up.
“Oh my God. Yes, I’m fine. Thank you. I’m so sorry. I haven’t been so clumsy like that in a long time.” I huffed, looking around.
“Since middle school?” Luca teased with an adorable smirk.
“Yeah.” I blushed. I stepped back out of his grasp; it was causing all sorts of butterflies. “Camila, can you grab the mop and a towel?” I called out, waiting for her to return so I could clean up. “I’m so sorry, did I get any on you?” I asked, looking over to Luca, who stood back with a slight smile on his face.
“No, none. I’m good.”
Camila and I were able to get everything cleaned up while Luca finished his questionnaire. We went over his answers, likes, and dislikes relating to women. We discussed the type of woman he saw himself with while I took notes. With that, our meeting was complete.
“It was nice to see you again, Luca. I’ll be in touch with some matches for you; then we can go from there.” I shook his hand, again feeling a jolt of electricity run through my body. If I didn’t know better, I think he felt something too with how he looked at me.
“Thank you, Maren. I look forward to seeing you again.” He smiled. “Seeing who you match me with, that is.” He cleared his throat. I shrugged off his words and returned to my desk, getting to work on matching Luca up.
It didn’t take long before I found several girls who matched well with him; I compiled a list for him, setting it aside before heading home for the evening.
The next morning, I was chatting with Ava while heading into the office.
“I can’t believe you didn’t say anything to him.”
“Ava, we were in middle school, geez.”
“But he’s single, and he came to you, the day after we found that old note! It’s like a cosmic setup; it’s meant to be.” She sighed.
“You’ve lost your mind.” I giggled.
Smiling at Camila as I entered through into my office.
“I have not. I’m a romantic, and I want you to be happy. Call Luca today, and have him come in and TELL him.” She pleaded.
“I’ve got to go; I’ll call you tonight.” I ended the call and huffed as I sat down at my desk.
I spent the morning making calls to other clients and meeting as well. After lunch, I finally called Luca and arranged for him to come in at the end of the day to set up his first set of dates. I made sure to freshen up before he arrived, feeling silly as I did so. I wasn’t going to tell him I had a crush on him in middle school. It felt infantile and juvenile. A part of me hoped he might have felt the same and might mention it himself, though.
“Hey there, how are you?” Luca smiled, sending flutters to my chest, as he entered my office.
“I’m well, thanks for asking. How are you?” I tried to calm my nerves.
“Great. So, how does this work now?”
“I have three women who I feel you match well with; you can choose one or all to go on a date with initially and see who sparks your interest, and then we go from there.”
I pulled out the tablet and pulled up his file, then slowly handed the tablet to him. I observed as he mulled over each profile, his face not giving away his emotions.
“Well?” I finally asked.
“Um, they all look great. I suppose I can meet with each one and see if any sparks fly.” He chuckled nervously. He handed the tablet back to me, and I prepared to set up the dates for Luca, but before I could say another word, he interrupted me. “I haven’t dated in a while; I’m a little rusty. Could we maybe grab dinner here in a bit, and you can fill me in on all the rules of this?” He asked sheepishly.
“Um, well... Yes, I suppose we can do that. Let me contact the girls and get your dates arranged; then we can head out?” I asked, surprised and nervous.
I went over his schedule; then, we arranged three different dates for the next three days. This would give him time to meet the girls and then have time to get to know them before the Valentine’s event. Once we were all set up, he led the way out of the office, heading to dinner. Luca was ever so the gentleman and didn’t seem to have any issues with his dating skill. He opened doors, pulled out my chair, and was polite beyond words. We ate together, talking and laughing about our school days.
He was incredibly easy to talk to and funny to boot. By the end of the night, I found myself wanting more, but I just couldn’t bring myself to confess it. He was also my client; I just felt it would be wrong. I let Luca walk me to my door, where we said our goodbyes. He let his hand linger on the small of my back for some time, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he wanted more as well.
After spilling all the details to Ava and hearing her berate me again for not telling him, I went to bed feeling confused and honestly heartbroken. Tomorrow night he was going on a date with one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met.
The next few days went by; I hadn’t heard from Luca or his dates. We had arranged to be in touch at the end of the week to know how it went and if he was interested in seeing any of them further. On Friday, I was planning to have lunch with Ava, but she had a last-minute obligation turn up, so I sat in my office eating greasy take out alone.
Camila popped in before leaving early for the day as she usually did. “A package just arrived for you.” She held up a small box.
I opened it skeptically as Camila waited. Once I looked inside, I couldn’t help but chuckle.“It’s from Ava, just a joke. I’ll see you Monday.” I told her as she turned to leave.
Inside the box was the letter I had written Luca in middle school, and stuck to it was a sticky note with the words TELL HIM written in black, bold marker. I shook my head at my crazy friend, sitting the letter back in the box on my desk.
“Am I interrupting?” I heard a voice say. I looked up to see Luca standing in my office doorway.
“Oh, no, not at all. Is everything okay?” I asked, surprised to see him.
“Oh, of course. I thought I would pop by to discuss the dates. I’m just a little earlier than we had planned.” He smiled his beautiful smile at me.
“Sure, that’s fine. Have a seat.” As he sat down, I heard the front door open.
“Hang on, Camila left early, so let me see who that is.” I stepped out into the entryway seeing one of the girls Luca was to have gone on a date with.
“Hey, Maren. I was just around the corner and figured I’d stop in instead of calling.”
“Melinda! That’s fine. I’m actually with Luca right now.” I smiled, she looked at me with a face of anger or disappointment. I wasn’t sure.
“He never showed up.” She blurted.
“The date you arranged, he stood me up.” She fumed.
While she was talking, my phone began to ping in my pocket. Pulling it out, I see messages from the other two girls he was set up with, both saying they, too, had been stood up. I was shocked and annoyed; this was my business, and he was making me look bad!
“I’m so sorry, Melinda. I had no idea. Please, accept my apology; I can assure you it will not happen again. I will be in touch then we can go over this further? Right now, I think I need to have a chat with Mr. Santiago in there.”
Melinda accepted the apology and agreed to meet another time. I turned on my heels as quickly as possible and stormed into my office. I stopped in my tracks when I saw Luca holding the box Ava had sent in one hand and the note in another. He turned slowly toward me with the biggest smile on his face. The anger immediately left me, replaced with embarrassment.
“I didn’t go on the dates you arranged for me. I feel terrible for leaving those ladies waiting. I really shouldn’t have done that to them, and I do feel awful for it. I just couldn’t bring myself to go through with it.”
“Why?” I shifted on my feet, confused by his words.
He laughed and shook his head from side to side. “You’re oblivious, aren’t you?”
“I’m confused, I admit.”
“Maren, this letter, you wrote it in middle school?” He asked, holding it up.
“Yea...Yes. I found it a few days ago while moving.” I answered him, chewing on my lip with anxiety.
“I wish you had given it to me.” He smiled as if he were having a flashback. “I couldn’t go on those dates, Maren, because they weren’t you.” He stated, stepping toward me.
“Me?” I questioned, barely above a whisper.
“Yes, Maren. You. I wrote several letters like this myself back in middle school; I didn’t keep them; they ended up in the trash. I was always too scared.” Luca chuckled at himself.“When I came in here, I was shocked to see you, I recognized you right away, but I didn’t want to seem like a stalker or something. After having dinner with you the other night, I just couldn’t stop thinking about you and wondering what if.” With each word, he stepped closer and closer to me. Eventually, I could feel his breath on my face, his breath minty and sweet. His eyes, beautiful blue orbs looking straight into mine. I swallowed the lump in my throat as he reached for my hand.
“Can you arrange a date for me with you?” He smirked. “Even be my Valentine’s date?” He brought my hand up to his lips and lightly kissed my knuckles, sending a shiver down my spine.I couldn’t contain the smile creeping across my face; it was so big it hurt. I giggled at Luca’s words.
“Yes, Luca, I would love that.” I leaned in, whispering. “You know, I’ve liked you lots for a long time.”
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