Sunday morning, at 10:59, I woke up a few seconds before my alarm started going off. While this is really neat, I hate when it happens. I’m a firm believer in the theory that my body could’ve used those extra seconds of sleep. I rolled over and picked up my phone from the nightstand, checking for voicemails.
There were none, but there was a text message from Casey. It read, “u suk. u shud b here. -rach” I wondered exactly how drunk Rachel had been when she snagged Casey’s phone to send a grammatical nightmare. It actually made me smile. I saved the message, just so I could show it to Lenny later and gloat a little. Then I dialed Diane’s number.
“Hmmmllo?” It sounded as if she could’ve used a few extra seconds of sleep herself.
“I woke you up, didn’t I?” I felt a little bad. “I can call you back in a couple hours.”
“Hmmm? No,” Diane mumbled. “No, I was awake. Promise.”
“Really? So you just sound like this because you’ve been drinking?”
“No, I’m up.” Her voice was clearing up a little. “Yes, you woke me up, Ben. I stayed up late unpacking boxes.”
“You’re a very industrious woman,” I said. “Now go back to sleep, and call me when you wake up. We’ll figure out dinner then.”
“No, I’m up. Really,” Diane said. “And I’ve already figured out dinner. I’m taking you to Sugarbaker’s”
Sugarbaker’s is one of the most upscale restaurants in town. I’d never been there, but I imagined it would be rather pricey.
“That’s a little high-class for a first date, don’t you think?” I laughed.
“Well, technically, you could say it was our fourth,” Diane answered. “The salsa club, the burger joint, and moving can all count as dates.”
“Really?” I asked. “Are you one of those women who keeps track of two-week anniversaries of minor events, too?”
“That depends on what you consider to be a minor event, I guess,” Dianed giggled. “But even if I do, I’m not going to expect you to do the same. Anyway, I’m taking you to Sugarbaker’s, and I’m going to pay, and you’re going to have fun.”
“Ok, what if we pretended like I’ve never been to Sugarbaker’s for a moment,” I said.
“Then I would advise you to wear the suit you wore to the job fair, and that shirt and tie, if it’s clean.” I could hear her smiling through her voice.
“I might’ve been about to ask a hundred questions besides that one, you know?” I tried to sound offended.
“But that’s the one you were going to ask, isn’t it?”
“Maybe,” I confessed.
“Good,” Diane said. “Pick me up at six. We have reservations for seven o’clock.”
“Ok. Go back to sleep, now. I’ll see you at six.”
“Mmmm… sleep,” Diane murmured. “See you at six.”
I hung up and called Casey’s number, but it went straight to voicemail. I left her a quick message reveling in the fact that I was awake before noon, asking her how drunk Rachel was when she text messaged me, and telling her to call me back if she wanted the scoop on any of the girls I was seeing.
I hung up, scrolled down to Mary’s number in my phone book, and hesitated. As excited as I had been last night, I couldn’t discount what Casey had told me. I did tend to fall for people very quickly, and it usually ended poorly. Besides, talking with Diane had reminded me that Mary wasn’t the only girl who I enjoyed being around. Instead of calling Mary, I went to the name above her and dialed Lenny. He picked up on the second ring.
“What the hell are you doing awake?” Lenny asked. “Are you just getting home from your date last night?”
“Do you think I wear my heart on my sleeve?”
“Wow, a serious, coherent question from Stuckey before noon,” Lenny said. “You want an honest answer?”
“If I didn’t want an honest answer, I wouldn’t have asked.”
“Yeah, I think you’re a big ball of love that’s bursting at the seams, and you’re quick to rupture when you find a girl you like,” Lenny said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Stuck, but it means you let your guard down too early, too many times.”
“Brutal,” I said. “But I guess I’d give an answer the same way.”
“So you’re asking because you’re already in love with the corporate babe? Or maybe the laughing girl?”
“I think both,” I answered. “I’m going to try and get them together and go for the three-way.”
“That’s hot,” Lenny laughed. “But I don’t believe you. What’s really going on?”
I filled Lenny in on both dates, leaving nothing out, and closed by telling him I wanted to see both of them again.
“That’s a tough call, Stuck,” Lenny said. “But you don’t have to decide today. Neither one of them is pressuring you for monogamy right now, so this is all in your mind. You’re narrowing your focus on one girl too quickly.”
“But I don’t have time to date a million women, Lenny,” I grumbled. “I don’t even have time for two. So how am I supposed to juggle these two and keep up the experiment?”
“You can be pretty stupid sometimes, you know? You have two women that you really like dating, and you’re wondering how that’s going to affect you meeting more?” Lenny sighed. “Just date these two until you make up your mind, or until your mind is made up for you. You don’t need the experiment right now.”
“I guess you’re right,” I agreed.
“Of course I’m right,” Lenny said. “Now get showered and dressed. Let’s grab some Mexican food. I’ll be over in 20 minutes.”
Complying with Lenny’s demands, I was showered and dressed within ten minutes. While waiting on him to come over, I logged in to my blog and pounded out the details, more or less, of my previous couple of days. I was just finishing up when Lenny was ringing the doorbell.
Over Mexican food, our conversation briefly hovered around sports and then came right back to women.
“So Sugarbaker’s, huh?” Lenny asked around the last bite of his taco. While both of us have decent manners when it matters, Lenny and I are close enough that we can cast them aside when it’s just us.
“Yeah,” I nodded. Even though I had seen Diane in an extremely casual situation, the idea of sitting across from her in a high-class restaurant renewed the feelings of intimidation. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet. Why couldn’t we have gone to Olive Garden or Outback?”
“Well, if you went to Outback, you’d load up on cheese fries until you were about to explode, and then you’d order a steak so rare that you’d disgust Dracula himself when you ate it.”
“True.” I grinned. It’s no secret among my friends that I think the cheese fries at Outback Steakhouse are a gift from God. As for the rare steak, that was a running joke between Lenny and myself. I had taken a girl to Outback for a first date once, having no idea that she was a Vegan. I love a rare steak, and the one they brought me had my plate covered with blood by the time I was half way through it. She began her speech about animal rights, and I interrupted her, thanked her for the date, and walked her to her car. Then I went back inside and finished my steak. There wasn’t much reason to call her back after that.
“Sugarbaker’s is an expensive place, man,” Lenny said. “And she said she’s going to pay?”
“That’s what she said, but I’m going to appeal it.” Lenny and I were both raised in the South, and raised with certain beliefs and standards that used to be called traits of a Southern Gentleman. One of those beliefs was that the man is supposed to pay for dates. It may be outdated, but we’re just old-fashioned guys.
“You may want to let her pay,” Lenny grinned. “I went there for prom and it cost me over a hundred.”
“It probably wouldn’t hurt her wallet as much, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with a woman paying for my meal. I mean, what if she expects sex in return?”
“The I guess you man up and pay her back,” Lenny laughed. “I know how much you hate getting naked with hot chicks, and all, but you’d just have to bite the bullet in this situation. If she demands sex, you’ll have to put out.”
“Maybe I’ll just have a salad,” I grinned.
“Then you’ll just be expected to go down on her,” Lenny nodded. “So whatever happened with the answering machine chick?”
“Kara?” I shrugged. “She called earlier this week and said she had plans this weekend, but wanted to get together next weekend. I might call her later today.”
“Call her now.” Lenny pushed his plate away and began rummaging through the complementary chips. “If you put it off, you won’t do it. If you call her now, it might distract you from all this ‘love’ business and allow you to enjoy dating.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to enjoy dating,” I grinned. “It’s like some torturous ritual we have to go through to get sex.”
“If all you wanted was sex, Stuck, you could get it without nearly this much effort,” Lenny laughed. “Now stop stalling and call the answering machine chick.”
“Her name is Kara.”
“Stalling,” Lenny pointed at me. “Call. Now.”
In my mind, I was thinking that my friends had all grown rather bossy over my social life, but I didn’t comment. Instead, I pulled my phone out and dialed Kara’s number. I was hoping that I’d get her machine.
“Hello?” Damn. Someone answered.
“Hi, is this Kara?”
“No, this is Sheryl. Let me get her. Who is this?”
“Ah, the wealthy guy who went to Greece, huh?” Sheryl laughed. “Do you have any rich friends you could set me up with?”
“I might have one or two, but they’re very shallow. You’d have to be totally hot,” I laughed. Lenny couldn’t hear her side of the conversation, but I must’ve given something away by the way I was looking at him. “We rich men like our dates to make us look good.”
“Hello?” Kara must’ve picked up on another line. “She’s hot, Ben. Hook her up!”
“Yeah, hook me up! Bye.” Sheryl was giggling as she hung up her line.
“But first, hook me up,” Kara said. “When are we going out?”
“I was thinking Friday night dinner. Is that good for you?” Lenny gave a thumbs-up at that. I rolled my eyes at his approval.
“And where are you taking me?”
“Are you an Olive Garden girl, or an Outback Steakhouse girl?” I was grinning.
“I think Olive Garden is safer for a first date. I really love my steak and I’d hate to ignore you all through dinner while I had a torrid love affair with my food.”
“Olive Garden it is, then. How’s 8:00 sound? And if Sheryl was serious about me hooking her up, I could probably bring along a friend.”
“Ooooh, a double date!” Sheryl must’ve been right at Kara’s ear, because I heard her whispering “Yes.” “I think she’d be down with that. Is he cute?”
“I’m not the best judge of cuteness, but he was with me the night you and I met.” Lenny gave me a hurt look, as if I should have proclaimed his undeniable cuteness.
“Ok, we’ll both be ready at 7:30,” Kara laughed, and Sheryl giggled in the background. “Oh, and bring a normal car to pick us up. A limo would attract too much attention.”
“I’ll see if I can borrow something from the help,” I smiled.
Kara gave me directions to their apartment, and we both said how we were looking forward to it before hanging up. I smiled at Lenny.
“You have date Friday night,” I said.
“I might’ve had plans.”
“You would’ve cancelled them,” I grinned.
“I would have,” Lenny nodded. “Now call the Chicago girl and tell her how much fun you had.”
I dialed Mary’s number without protest, but it went straight to her voicemail. I left a message saying how I had a great time and would like to see her again this weekend. I hung up and put my phone away with a shrug.
“Now, you need to go home and iron your clothes. You’ve only got five hours to get ready for your date.”
“Whatever would I do without my bossy friends telling me how to live my life?” I grinned.
“Stay home and eat a lot of ramen noodles, I’d wager.” Lenny winked as he picked up the check.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “You’d probably win that bet.”