First Date [Short Story]

This is a short story by RLM Cooper. 

George:

She looked nice on the dating site. A little bit mousy, but nice. She had a shy smile. But her lips were closed. I wonder if I should wear the brown jacket or the blue. Mother says the blue looks more professional. Mother! My god. What will Penelope think when she finds out I live with my mother? I’m thirty-eight freaking years old ferchrissake! Maybe I could say my mother lives with me. Yeah. That sounds a little better. Okay, it’s the old family house. But still.

Penelope. That’s an interesting name. First time I ever saw it I thought it was pronounced pen-a-lope. Like cantaloupe. That was dumb. Crikey, I’m sweating! Calm down, George. Just wear the maroon tie with the blue jacket. It will be fine. She doesn’t know you. She doesn’t know you haven’t had a date in what? Forever? Just go. Get a move on.

 

Penelope:

What do you think, Muff? Is the black cut too low? Maybe the green. I don’t want to show everything I haven’t got. Besides, black always looks like you’re going to a funeral. Muff? Meow? Is that all you have to say about this? You should be cheering me on. This is my first date in a long time and this guy looks nice. Well, if his photo is to be believed. Not exactly handsome, but he looks nice. Kind. That’s important, don’t you think? Muff? Yes. Definitely the green. Low heels. Don’t want to seem too tall. Nothing to put him off. Men are weird about things like that. Maybe some light pink lipstick. Not much, though. I don’t want to seem too forward. I don’t want to come off like the Miss Lonelyhearts I actually am. Good grief! I look like a zombie! Mascara! I need some mascara!

Okay, Just go, Penelope! But my hair! Just go! See you later, Muffin! Don’t let any of your low-life friends in the apartment while I’m gone!

 

George:

I guess I’m early. Or maybe she’s late. Stop looking at your watch, George. You look like a fool. How do you act when you have dinner with someone you’ve only seen on an internet website? Are women supposed to be late? Why don’t I know these things? Maybe she isn’t coming. She could have changed her mind. What if she runs out and hails a taxi as soon as she sees me? My photo was one of my best. But maybe her’s was, too. Maybe she won’t be as nice looking as her photo, either. Maybe she will be put off by my size.

I should relax. How long should I wait? The waiter keeps looking this way and rolling his eyes. Is that her? No. Blonde. Penelope’s photo showed brown hair. Are the people at the next table staring at me? Why do people always notice someone who’s alone in a restaurant? Aren’t single people allowed to eat? Maybe that’s why she’s late. Maybe she didn’t want to be sitting here alone. Maybe she’s not coming.

 

Penelope:

Good grief! Stupid taxi driver took the long way around. Like I don’t know the city. So why didn’t I correct him? Argh! Do I even want to do this? There’s still time to back out. No. That would be terrible. To just not show up. Anyway, there’s the restaurant. Italian of all things. I’ve never yet been able to eat Italian without getting it all over me. I’m such a klutz. That will turn him off if nothing else does. Taxi fare twice what it should have been. My own fault though. Won’t happen again. Maybe. Creepers. I’m sweating. This is awful. I should calm down. This is why we are meeting in a public place, Penelope. Everything is going to be all right.

Is that him? Did he just look at me and then past me as though I don’t exist? Story of my life. If that’s him, he’s not exactly Paul Newman. He’s looks kind of ordinary. And pudgy. Oh god. What if he’s some kind of rapist! How many kinds are there, Penelope? And how would you tell? It is him. He waved!

 

George:

That must be her. Brown hair. She’s taller than I thought she would be. Oh! I think she smiled. She’s coming over. Get up and pull out her chair, George. Be a gentleman! Her eyes are green. They looked blue in her photo. Maybe it’s the green dress. Like I would know. Hi! I’m George. Hello. I’m George. Nice to see you. You must be Penelope. I’m George. Of course she’s Penelope. God, I’m so nervous. Should I offer to shake hands? No. The lady always offers her hand first. I read that somewhere. At least the people at the next table can go back to their dinner and stop feeling sorry for the orphan diner. Did the waiter just roll his eyes again?

 

Penelope:

He seems nice. At least he looks nice. Neat. I guess he’s not a rapist. As if there is some kind of rapist profile that goes by looks. He actually pulled out my chair for me. Now what do I do? Do I say “thank you”? At least he isn’t staring at my non-existing boobs. He seems to be able to find my face. One mark in the “okay” column for him.

Oh good! Here are the menus. Wow, this waiter seems like a real snoot. But at least I can concentrate on what to order before I completely lose it. Best not to order the most expensive thing. Or am I expected to pay for my own on this kind of date? I wish I had a clue. Aren’t people supposed to work these things out ahead of time? Great. He’s having spaghetti. I’ll have ravioli. Less messy. Wine? He wants to know if I want wine. Should I be drinking with some guy I just met on the internet? I guess one glass of wine shouldn’t hurt, though. Unless he’s a rapist or something. Chianti. I’ll have chianti. Don’t have to get sloshed. Save that for later, when he brushes me off and I’m back at home with Muffin.

 

George:

She seemed interested when I told her I was a computer programmer. Well, duh. It was on the internet dating site, George. Of course she wasn’t surprised. But she did nod and smile when I told her I like football even if she doesn’t. That’s a shame, though. Would be nice to have that in common. Wonder why she never shows her teeth when she smiles. Maybe it’s a woman thing. Am I smiling too much? Not enough? Thank god for the chianti.

 

Penelope:

Good grief. He’s a football fan. I don’t know the first thing about football. I don’t hate it or anything. I just don’t know anything about it. Can’t talk about it. Can’t say the first sensible thing. All I did was smile and nod like an idiot. Diagnosis confirmed. He already knows I work at a bank. I guess that’s why he didn’t ask me about it. What could be more boring? But just the same. Why do guys never ask women what they do for a living, or about their accomplishments? All they ever do is talk about themselves. Maybe they don’t think it’s possible women could actually have any accomplishments. I’ve done lots of stuff. But they never ask.

 

George:

Now what do I talk about? She’s so quiet. I can’t think. Maybe I should ask her if she likes to go fishing or ice skating or something. No. That’s pretty dumb. Imagine me on ice skates. Would need the fire department standing by with paramedics. Should I tell her I live with my mother? God, no, George! Save it for later. If there is a later. She probably already thinks this whole date is a mistake. A big waste of her time. I wish I was as sure of myself as my friend Roger. Forget it. I’m not Roger. I’m George. Overweight. Clumsy. Maybe this whole computer dating idea is a mistake. Wouldn’t it be better to just meet in a grocery store or standing in line for a movie or something? She’s awfully quiet. She probably thinks I’m the goofball of the century.

 

Penelope:

Oh thank heavens! The food is here. Now we can stop silently looking around like we are lost. Maybe I can get the ravioli eaten without ending up looking like a Christmas tree with red sauce all over this green dress. I’ll tell him I was once arrested. It’s an amusing story even if it did happen a long time ago. And it’s something safe to talk about. I guess. Or is it? What’s safe to talk about with someone you don’t even know? I guess it can’t hurt. At least it will break the silence. And if he thinks I’m some kind of radical, oh well. I do have a life. Such as it is. Muffin loves me.

 

George:

Arrested! Hahaha. That’s pretty funny. During a protest march. Even better. At least she seems to have some personality. She actually smiled. And showed her teeth. Jeez, there’s a gap between her front teeth. But her story was pretty funny. I better not tell her about the time I was arrested. It’s too stupid. After all, I was only ten years old. Oh what the hell. She will probably never want to see me again after tonight anyway. Might as well tell her. It’s something safe to talk about.

 

Penelope:

He was arrested, too! How funny! But he was just a kid. The police only did it to scare him. Pretty funny story, though. He laughed at my story. Maybe we are on the same page politically. That would be a good sign. I guess. Not that it matters. We’re not getting married. We’re just having dinner. A date. A first date. I wonder what he thinks of me. Just because he laughed at my story doesn’t mean anything. Maybe he thinks I’m an idiot. Or homely. I’m not exactly a movie star. Oh what the hell, Penelope. Just relax, eat your dinner, and when it’s time to go, tell him you’ve had a nice time, and don’t worry about it.

 

George:

She seems to be having a nice time, now. Maybe it’s the wine. Maybe it’s my sparkling personality. Ha ha. Like that would ever be true. Still, I kind of like her. She’s not flashy like Roger’s women. Something to be grateful for, anyway. She’s not beautiful. And there’s a gap between her front teeth. But isn’t there a famous model who had a gap between her front teeth? What was her name? Lauren somebody? Anyway. Doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s the wine. Maybe. But she’s kinda pretty. And smart, too. Maybe she’s too smart. I should tell her about my mother. The acid test. If that doesn’t scare her off…

 

Penelope:

Maybe it’s the wine. But, unbelievable! He just told me his mother lives with him. Now that’s just too weird. At his age? But it’s kind. Yeah. Kind. He even said his mom told him to wear the blue suit and I could tell he loves her just from the way he talked. I hope he didn’t take offense when I laughed. He laughed, too, so maybe it’s all right. Besides, it’s getting late and I should go. He will probably never want to see me again, anyway. I’m not exactly Miss Excitement. I’ll use Muffin as an excuse and then get a taxi.

 

George:

She has a cat! I love cats! I think I really like this woman. She has a sense of humor and a serious side, too. She didn’t seem at all judgmental when I told her about my mother. But she’s leaving! Did I do something wrong? Maybe it’s the wine. Maybe I said too much. Or not enough. I should pull out her chair. I’ll pay the bill and walk out with her.

 

Penelope:

Oh my god. He likes cats! How many guys like cats? I wonder if we will ever see each other again. There’s so much we still don’t know about each other. But maybe we wouldn’t like each other if we knew more. That happens. Sometimes. Maybe. But maybe we would. Did I talk too much? Guys can be funny about that kind of thing. Did I laugh too loud? I didn’t even tell him about my trip to Europe last summer. Maybe he likes to travel. I’ll probably never know. He’s not objecting to me leaving. He’s even helping me with my sweater. Oh well. I tried. And maybe it’s for the best. Maybe he really is a rapist. Still… I kinda don’t think so. Don’t build walls, Penelope.

 

George:

When I offered to drive her home she said no. Maybe she’s afraid of me. Do I look like the kind of guy women would be afraid of? Gah! How would I know? Is there some way to tell? But she’s so nice. She’s attractive. Not mousy at all. What made me think she was mousy? I really like her.

 

Penelope:

I’ll tell him I had a nice time and then get a taxi. I think that’s best for a first date. But he seems very sweet. He’s not really all that pudgy when I think about it. He’s more like a big football player or something. Ha! Football! I’d kinda like to see him again. Would be nice to get to know him better. Maybe.

 

George:

She had a nice time! She said it! I wonder if it would be okay if I called her. Oh my god, I’m going to ask her. Glutton for punishment, George. But nothing ventured….

 

Penelope:

He asked to call me! And I gave him my number. Penelope! Are you nuts? You don’t really know this guy! And this was just the first date! So why am I happy about it? I am crazy.

 

George:

She gave me her number! I want to kiss her. Should I dare it?

 

Penelope:

He kissed me on the cheek. A nice, brotherly kiss. He will probably never call. Men always say they’ll call, but then they don’t. Oh well, at least this taxi driver is going to go the direct route or I’m going to hang him from the next light pole. What the heck? Why is my cell buzzing? I told Alice I would call tomorrow and let her know how everything went tonight. Why is she cal– George? My god, he’s actually calling! Already! That’s so sweet!

 

George:

I’m whistling. Me! Whistling! I’m walking down the sidewalk whistling! I’m thirty-eight years old. A guy who lives with his aging mother and I just met a really nice woman. And she wants to see me again! I’m whistling! And I don’t care if the whole world stares at me.


RLM Cooper is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville whose short stories have been published by various online magazines, reviews, and anthologies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a very precocious Tonkinese cat. For links to her other work, please visit her Facebook page or her blog.
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