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Zoe's First Date with Fate, Page 1

Heather Mar-Gerrison


Zoe’s First Date with Fate

  A short story by

  Heather Mar-Gerrison

  Copyright 2011 Heather Mar-Gerrison

  New Edition for 2013

  Zoe’s First Date with Fate

  Zoe stared at her computer screen. She realised that she was holding her breath as she heard a little ‘ping’ and glanced at the message. Oh My God, he’s emailed again. Twice in the last 24 hours. He has to be serious!

  Zoe had been subscribing to “Lonely Hearts” for the last six months or so. She really hadn’t wanted to resort to internet dating, but most of her friends were either married or in long term relationships and it was kind of boring sitting in night after night eating TV dinners and buying bottles of wine that she was going to have to re-cork (well, she always bought the screw tops these days actually, but still…)

  So she had subscribed to the dating site and had been brutally honest (well – ish) about herself. She’d sent a recent photo that made her boobs look bigger than they really were – but six months on and she still had no takers…not one. It was a little deflating to say the least.

  She was just about to congratulate herself on getting the next six months free for being a saddo with no dates, when this random guy had come along, out of the blue – three days before her 6 month contract was due for renewal and asked her for a date!

  Typical thought Zoe. Couldn’t he have waited another three days?

  The man in question called himself Enrique. Whether or not this was his real name, Zoe had no idea, but she strongly suspected not – for a start it was a particularly exotic name and he’d probably thought it sounded sexier than something normal, like Richard, but also it was a little scary going under your own name and the site offered a user name facility, so she’d felt it was prudent to give herself a user name of Bunny. No special reason to use that particular name; she just didn’t like the idea of using her own name – and Bunny was her aptly named pet rabbit.

  The exotically named Enrique had requested a date that very evening at a small bistro in the village near her home.

  Although she felt it was a little close for comfort, he seemed really nice in his email (but seriously – how was a girl supposed to know really from one email) and his photo showed a man in his late twenties, early thirties maybe, with dark hair and dark brown eyes and a nice smile. Not knock-out gorgeous, but perfectly acceptable.

  Best I’m gonna get, with the way I look, thought Zoe grimacing at herself in the mirror on the back of her wardrobe door. It was full length and reflected a beautiful young woman sat with a laptop on her knee, with long naturally blond, wildly curly hair and big brown eyes. Her skin was lightly tanned through walking to work in the morning summer sunshine. This summer had been a really good one and nearly every day so far had been sunny in the mornings. Zoe wasn’t exactly a sun worshipper, but she enjoyed the stroll in the summer warmth.

  Her critical eye didn’t see the beautiful woman sat there, however; all she could focus on was the small roll of fat around her middle as she sat cross legged on her bed with her laptop open on her knee. She sighed and turned her attention back to her computer screen.

  Feeling a sudden wave of excited panic, she quickly sent back a short email agreeing to meet at seven o’clock before sliding her laptop onto the other side of the bed and padding over to the wardrobe in search of something decent enough to wear.

  Zoe was a firm believer in fate. She had joined the Lonely Hearts website almost exactly six months ago following a disastrous relationship that had ended almost six months before that.

  Not having been out on a date in around a year, she was excited but also very nervous – she kept going over in her head all the details she had put on her dating profile and wondered what exactly had attracted this guy to her.

  She had diligently filled in all her details, giving all her interests, telling a little bit about herself and what she did for a living etcetera, etcetera.

  It had felt like a job interview. She had then spent the next month amending bits when she remembered another film she liked and holiday destinations she had been to.

  Four months on and not one person had shown an interest. Well, charming, she thought, it’s not as if I’m some crusty old lady – I’m only twenty four – surely someone will want me – I’m not that boring…am I? But then from out of the blue had come Enrique’s reply.

  Enrique...he sounded so exotic and exciting. She tried to quell the thought that his picture could be an old one – or even worse (her heart dropped to her stomach) a better looking mate; or that he may not be an IT consultant at all but a serial killer. After all, she reasoned, no one from Lonely Hearts had checked if her picture was really her or if she really was a wedding planner.

  That was like another bad joke. A wedding planner of all things and she had to succumb to a lonely hearts website to even get a date! Not exactly a great advert for her business...

  Checking her watch swiftly, Zoe pulled out a selection of outfits and then dumping them on the bed, she headed for the shower.

  Half an hour later she was again checking her appearance in the mirror; only this time she was stood upright and was now wearing her skinny jeans with her favourite ‘going out in’ top. It was black with spaghetti straps that fitted over her boobs perfectly and hung loosely, slightly flared which cleverly hid her stomach. Zoe was convinced she was fat, even though her friends told her she had a wonderfully curvy figure that most women would die for.

  She put on her favourite pink kitten heeled boots and picked up her “Animal” handbag which was also pink with an enormous flower for a clasp. Zoe had what could only be described as unique style. Her black jacket completed the outfit. Zoe’s wild blond curls were pulled bag in a loose ponytail and tied with a large pink ribbon. She grinned at herself and then blew herself a kiss and wished herself luck. She crossed the room and snapped shut the lid of her laptop, failing in her haste to notice the new email marked ‘urgent’ from Enrique. She left with moments to spare...

  *

  Oh, God, please reply. Please reply! Begged Rick silently, glaring at his computer screen (which was really displaying his hotmail account).

  He was having a nightmare of an afternoon. For a start he had been sent on a job that was further away from home than he was comfortable with; given that he was supposed to be meeting a lovely looking woman that evening. Second, everything that could go wrong with the new computer installation had gone wrong and now things had spiralled into a major headache with the program he was working on and it was all hands on deck.

  He had been really looking forward to a nice evening with a very attractive blond he had found on his Lonely Hearts website and had totally thought everything was going to work out just fine; leave at five, time to get dressed, aftershave...the works…only things hadn’t gone to plan and now he was running late – really late! “Story of my life,” he muttered under his breath.

  Rick had only been subscribing for a few days but he had almost immediately found a woman who seemed to have a few things in common with him, and she was still showing as ‘available’ on her account.

  It had been her favourite films that made him sit up and take notice. “Gone in Sixty Seconds” and “Con air” were not your usual female favourites – true they both had Nicholas Cage in them, which could explain everything, but still. She was...intriguing.

  Rick had plunged headlong into asking her for a date without a second thought about what he was doing.

  *

  It had been a while since his long term girlfriend, Juliet, had finished with him. She had accused him of being boring and set in his ways; seriously – how set in my ways can I really be at twenty eight? She had cruelly tol
d him that he had no spontaneity and she couldn’t stand another minute with him.

  Less than a week after she had left, he found out that she had been having an affair with a bloke she worked with for over six months and he had finally left his wife for her. They had moved away together. There was no need to say all those things, he bristled as he remembered. She could have just told me the truth. Pulling himself back to the present, he checked the time again. Oh God! He dragged his hand through his thick dark hair and started to panic anew.

  He was supposed to be meeting Bunny in twenty minutes and he was easily more than half an hour away. He was running ridiculously late and – he sniffed his armpit surreptitiously and pulled a face – he really could have done with a shower too.

  Making a snap decision (I’ll give you no spontaneity, Juliet!) he jumped up and grabbed his jacket.

  “Okay, guys.” He called through to the office where the rest of the team were working. “Let’s wrap it up for today. I’m quite sure you’ve all got lives outside of here, and I sure as hell have – let’s go – we’ll start again in the morning at, what? Seven thirty?”

  The rest of the staff, all agreed quickly and looked at each other gleefully. They all started putting on their coats before he could change his mind – usually outside contractors kept them there all evening!

  Rick left them all to lock up the office and bolted out of the door. He was in the car park in a matter of seconds.

  Ignoring the feeling of guilt that was threatening to engulf him, for leaving the problem overnight, Rick put his car into gear and roared off down the road, heading towards what he hoped was the motorway.

  Checking his watch for the zillionth time, Rick tapped the steering wheel impatiently. “If only I’d thought to take her mobile number,” he muttered, looking helplessly at the tailback of traffic ahead of him.

  He rummaged in the glove box and pulled out his sat-nav. Plugging it in he tapped the screen to ‘home’. He knew that having dinner just around the corner from where he lived was a bit risky, particularly since she was called Bunny, (he fervently hoped she wasn’t going to have the surname “Boiler”) but he was rather glad of it now. Pulling off the main highway he said to his trusty sat-nav. “Okay baby, let’s go home – fast!”

  *

  “Ouch, ooh dammit!” Zoe felt stupid as tears pricked her eyes. She was sat on the pavement, just around the corner from the restaurant she was supposed to be meeting Enrique in less than five minutes time only she wasn’t going anywhere. She had been texting her friend furiously to let her know where she was going (just in case) and hadn’t seen the uneven slabs.

  Going over on her ankle with her full weight, she landed in an inelegant heap on the pavement. Every time she tried to put her weight back on it, she winced and had to sit back down. This was ridiculous. If only she had asked for Enrique’s mobile phone number. He was going to think she had stood him up. Fresh tears leaked out from her eyes, only they were from sheer frustration this time – one date in six months and she’d screwed it up!

  She was about to text her friend, Ginny, again to ask her to come and fetch her, when she became aware of a car approaching at quite a speed. It seemed to slow the closer it got.

  Great, thought Zoe. Someone always has to see me when I look like a mad bag lady!

  “Are you okay?” The voice that met her ears was like something out of a movie – all deep and sexy and smooth…

  Zoe looked up and felt her jaw drop. She was staring into the eyes of a dark-haired man, with dark brown eyes, leaning out of his car window and looking at her in concern. He seemed vaguely familiar – wow – was he a movie star?

  “Um, well...” Zoe was about to say she was fine when common sense took over, “...actually, no. I think I’ve sprained my ankle – I can’t even stand on it.” Tears threatened again as she explained. She blinked them away furiously.

  “Oh, dear – wait there – let me help you.” Unable to ignore a damsel in distress, even when he was ridiculously late for a date, Rick got out of his car and walked around to where Zoe was sitting, “Do you think you could get to the car, if I help you up?”

  Zoe stared at him. Was he nuts? She wasn’t about to get into the car of a stranger!

  “I promise you, I only want to help!” Holding his hands up and backing up slightly, Rick realised what he’d just said and was mortified that she thought him some kind of pervert.

  Zoe laughed nervously. “Thank you,” she said graciously. “It’s just that not many men are so gallant in my experience!”

  Rick laughed too and she noticed that his eyes crinkled up at the corners. His face, she suddenly realised, she had definitely seen before. Wow, his photo on the net seriously hadn’t done him justice!

  “Enrique?” she asked, incredulously.

  “Bunny?” Rick stared at her. He wondered why he had found her so familiar.

  Zoe blushed crimson as she heard her ridiculous screen name repeated back to her. She laughed nervously, “Actually, it’s Zoe, and I’m so sorry I missed our date!” She indicated towards her swollen ankle in explanation.

  Enrique laughed and shook his head. “No, it’s me who should be apologising to you – I got caught up the worst traffic and I’m still on my way. It’s Rick, by the way, actually my name really is Enrique, but, well – I’m no pop star and I prefer Rick.” He explained, sticking out his hand.

  Zoe grabbed it and shook it heartily. She started to laugh. “I guess we really should have exchanged numbers huh?”

  Rick grinned as he took her other hand and heaved her to her feet. “Yup, guess we should have. How about I take you to the restaurant now and we have that date anyway?”

  Zoe grimaced as she tried to stand. “I honestly don’t think I can – what about a pizza and a bottle of coke instead?” She nodded towards the shop in front of them. They were right outside Alfonso’s Take Away. “I can recommend Alfonso’s!” she added.

  “Hey! Me too,” agreed Rick, “It’s a deal, what’s your favourite?”

  “Spicy Beef, with extra jalapenos!” Zoe smiled a little apologetically.

  His jaw dropped, “You’re kidding me, right?” Rick stared at her incredulously.

  Zoe shook her head smiling. “Sorry – no.” She said apologetically. “I have strange tastes in food!”

  “Wow. This has got to be fate!” he grinned at her, his eyes twinkling. “That’s my favourite too!”

  “Fate,” agreed Zoe, as she watched him go to order their meal from her pew on the bench. “Not bad for a first date!”

  He came back within a few minutes with two boxes. “My lady.” He mock bowed and handed her the box.

  Zoe giggled. “Thanks.” She said.

  Rick sat down next to her and groaned with satisfaction as he sank his teeth into his first slice of pizza. “God – that’s fantastic.” He said.

  Zoe nodded her agreement and hoped she wasn’t sitting there with melted cheese all over her chin. “Amazing.” She agreed.

  “So – what’s the deal with Con Air?”

  “Best line in a movie ever.” She shrugged.

  Rick laughed. “Which one – the one about saving the day?”

  She snorted. “Of course.” She said.

  “Yeah – priceless.” He agreed. “And so you’re a wedding planner?”

  She rolled her eyes at that one. “Well, yeah – it seems I can arrange other people’s weddings – just not my own.”

  Rick grinned. “Hey – don’t put yourself down – most people get married for all the wrong reasons anyway – how many of them stay married?”

  She shrugged. “Not many. I’m in partnership with a friend and we have this little competition going to see who will have the most “still married” couples in five years – she’s winning at the moment – all of hers are still together. Two of mine have already split up – it’s all a little depressing really!”

  Rick smiled as he popped his last slice of pizza in his mouth.

 
Zoe glanced at him. He was concentrating on his pizza and she was able to have a really good look at him. He was incredibly handsome. His hair was longer than in his picture. He looked like he’d dashed from work and her heart melted a little – he’d obviously been keen to meet her.

  He must have felt her eyes on him as he turned and smiled warmly at her. “Enjoying your pizza?” he asked.

  “Mm.” She murmured. “You?”

  “Oh, yeah – it’s great – so, can I see you again?”

  Zoe’s heart skipped a beat – he wanted to see her again! This was fantastic – she could totally cancel her subscription to Lonely Hearts! “Yes, that would be great.” She beamed up at him, and was heartily encouraged to find him beaming back at her.

  “I’m really glad I decided to join the Lonely Hearts website this week.” He murmured later on as they were sat in her flat, drinking coffee and watching ‘Con Air.’

  “Me too.” Zoe agreed, “And to think you love this movie almost as much as I do!”

  “Well,” he conceded, “I do like this movie – but it’s not exactly my favourite.”

  Zoe looked up at him quizzically. “What’s your favourite movie then?”

  He laughed and shook his head. “I can’t tell you – you’ll laugh.”

  “I won’t, I promise.” She smiled encouragingly at him.

  He looked back at her with slightly narrowed eyes, weighing up whether or not to tell her. He sighed and shook his head with a rueful little grin on his face, making him look absolutely adorable to Zoe. ““Well – I have to admit to being a little more slushy about my movies than you are.” Rick said. He blushed, “My favourite movie of all time is ‘Love Actually’.”

  Zoe’s jaw dropped. She scooted off the sofa and opened the DVD cabinet. “I’ve got that one too.” She beamed. “Don’t tell me your favourite bit – I want to guess.”

  Rick grinned. She’d never guess. Men weren’t supposed to like the sappy girly bits, but he just couldn’t help it – it was who he was.

  She narrowed her eyes and looked at him. “Okay – I think your favourite bit is Hugh Grant’s character doing his speech and mentioning Harry Potter.”