Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steven and Tiffany from Grumblings.... by the Author of Paula Takes a Risk, available March 2012

Steven and Tiffany

Steven’s participation in the initial telephone conversation pretty much stopped at “hello.”   Perhaps he is not a phone person. I thought. Very economical with his words. It appeared that he didn’t want to be bothered with the task of conversation. I was placated with a lot of um-hums and oh reallys. It appeared to be a weak attempt at appearing mildly interested. I felt as if I was auditioning. Our conversation was interrupted continually by the beeping of his call-waiting service. I became annoyed with this “please hold” stuff.  Each time he returned to our call there wasn’t an apology, an excuse, or a “where were we?”  Nothing. After about the eighth “could-I-put-you-on-hold…I’m expecting-an-important-call,” I hung up. I couldn’t figure out why he called, if he didn’t have time to talk to me. Was he self-absorbed?  Perhaps he was very important?  Frankly, no one is important enough to be rude.

A short time later the telephone rang again. Without giving it a thought, I answered. It was Steven. He invited me out for dinner on the following Saturday. He explained that he could fit me in at around 8:00 PM. Fit me in?! I don’t think so! I declined the invitation, explaining that I was sure that he was a perfectly nice person, but it appeared that he was just too busy and I prefer not to be “fit in” anywhere and at anytime by anyone. 

“Listen,” Steven said, “I’m really not very good on the phone. Please meet me in person.”

It seemed to be an honest plea, so I thought about it and agreed to meet him at his house.

I arrived and was greeted by Tiffany, Steven’s twelve-year-old daughter. A daughter.  A surprise. Where did he find the time? Steven had not mentioned her during our telephone conversation. Come to think of it, Steven had not mentioned much of anything. Tiffany was an average pre-teen girl. She was just beginning to shed the baby-fat, was suffering through the acne years, and was understandably a little self- conscious.  She kept crossing her arms over what badly needed a training bra. Poor Tiffany had about fifteen pounds of orthodontic appliances in and around her mouth.  Puberty was unkind to her.

Tiffany told me that her daddy had instructed her to entertain me while he finished a business call. The floor show consisted of a half-an-hour watching Tiffany empty and re-fill her purse with various pre-teen items: a velcro wallet containing her school ID and public library card. She also had a key ring that held a multicolored lanyard, a mini video game, a rabbit’s foot, a big plastic thing-a-ma-bob and one lonely house key. For good measure and the all-important-purse-bulk, she added a huge pack of chewing gum, a hairbrush, lip gloss, a pad of paper and an assortment of colorful pens.  Just as she offered to play her newest Miley Cyrus CD for me, Steven emerged.

Handsome would have been the understatement of the year. Chiseled, model-type features, and what promised to be a great body under his Armani suit. Hanging from his belt were two beepers, a smart phone and what appeared to be an electric garage door opening device. I didn’t ask.

When he smiled and warmly introduced himself, I forgave our telephone conversation, and the fact that he had taken almost thirty minutes to come out of his office to greet me. Hell! I almost apologized.

Steven had made reservations at one of the most popular restaurants in the city. “Okay,” he said, clapped his hands together and looked past me to his daughter. Tiffany grabbed her purse. Had I misunderstood? Were we taking his daughter on our first date? I convinced myself to be a good sport. I didn’t say anything about it.

Steven asked if I wouldn’t mind driving my car. His was in the shop. I didn’t say anything about that either.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted by Ginger, the restaurant’s hostess. She spotted Steven and did a sensual neck-stretch, pursed her lips, lowered her eyelids and exhaled with a mild moan. It appeared that she knew Steven…well. He leaned over the hostess podium and whispered something in her ear.She half-heartedly waved at Tiffany. Then she looked at me and made a face that looked like she was smelling garbage. She was a snob-hostess. If asked, she would tell you that she was a highly trained guest placement professional: A customer service coordinator who sincerely believed that the success of the entire food service industry depended on her expertise and cunning in relation to patron positioning. If asked, I would tell you she was a hostess in a restaurant. 

She grasped her grease pencil and began cross-referencing the reservation listing with a seating chart. Planning an offensive attack on a middle-eastern country takes less analysis and consideration. When she located our reservation, she said the customary, “Ah yes, here it is.” With a well-practiced index-finger-follow-me gesture, she led us toward our table. Steven was busy acknowledging other people in the restaurant. Using a controlled head-flick, a combination Hey-there-you-are-finger-point or a “Hey Buddy,” Steven was in his element. Mister Popularity.

Before we sat down, Steven said, “You go ahead. I have to say hello to a few people.” 

Tiffany and I were seated. So far, I had been completely invisible. Even Tiffany stared right through me.

After about twenty minutes, Steven returned. “I apologize for that…some business acquaintances. I’m doing a deal with them … you know … ”

The waiter delivered the menus. “Everything here looks delicious. Doesn’t it Tiff?”  Steven really wasn’t reading the menu. He was scoping the restaurant. He made eye contact with someone across the room and gave him an I’ll-be-there-in-a-minute nod.  “You girls order anything you want. I shouldn’t be long.”

As I watched him walk away, Tiffany looked at me and snickered. I wasn’t a date.  I was a babysitter. I was pissed.

I looked across the room at Steven, who was now enjoying appetizers with his companions. Was I going to take this? Not in this lifetime! Steven’s had made one a major flaw. We came in my car. Who’s the fool now?

There was one small dilemma though. Tiffany. Could I just leave her there?  You bet your ass I could. I grabbed my purse and made my way across the room. Steven didn’t look up until one of his friends nudged him. He looked at my purse, then at the irritate expression on my face and said, “What? You’re leaving?” 

I was amused by his astonishment. “Oh yes! By the way, you may want to check up on your daughter.”

 I turned to leave and Steven jumped up and followed me to the door. When he stopped me, I expected to hear, “I’ll make it up to you” or “Please give me another chance.”  Instead, I heard, “I can’t ignore these people. You’re just going to have to understand.”  

I was amazed.  My mouth dropped open.  “I don’t have to do anything, you asshole! I don’t have to be here. I’m not sure what your plan was but I don’t have to babysit your daughter either.  I’ve got my car and I’m out of here!”  I was pretty proud of myself.  I thought that I had gotten my point across beautifully, perhaps made a life changing impact on Steven.

“Oh.” Steven said stopping me. “Listen, speaking of that, as long as you’re leaving, would you drop Tiffany off at her mother’s house on your way home.”

Tiffany and I ate drive-thru burgers on the way to her mother’s house.

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