For the Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week, Tobie challenged me with "No, this can't be happening. It's too early!" and I challenged Caroline with "Overdrawn".
I had to keep him away from Caroline. I always did. It had been a long time for me, and this one seemed like a catch. I just had to somehow keep him from seeing her too soon, and keep him from making the obvious choice. .
When Alyssa's cousin moved in two towns away from me, I couldn't say no. He passed all the standard tests- attractive enough, not visibly crazy, dresses nice, smells okay. We had a coffee, then a dinner the next weekend, then another, and we seemed to have a rapport. Tonight, he got some theater tickets, with the end of the evening left deliberately left vague.
I had planned it all out, home from work at 6, then upstairs to change and dress, then downstairs at 7:30 so I could meet him in the driveway before he got to the front door at 8. The only thing I absolutely did not want was to bring him inside to be introduced around. He knew I still lived at home until I finished school- I had been clear about that part. And my parents were my parents- embarrassing and awkward, but nothing we couldn't laugh about in our seats before the play. It was Caroline I had to keep away from.
Caroline was my 19 year old sister, and she was gorgeous. That's not the fake praise of a person who loves her sister, but instead it's an honest to God observation. Sure, we looked alike, and when pressed, I might admit I'm not terrible looking. But I was the rough draft- Caroline was the paper you handed in. Men rode their bicycles into utility poles when she walked by, and I lost more boyfriends than I could count, either mentally or physically, when they got a look at her. She was otherworldly, a goddess carved from stone and made of silk, and everyone knew it.
I was walking back and forth in front of my mirror, tiny little mincing steps to make sure I could walk in my ensemble and that I hadn't left anything uneven or off kilter, when I heard my mother's voice, intentionally loud, probably for my benefit, "Why, David! We didn't expect you until 8 or so!"
I froze, and my heart stopped.
"I know, and I'm sorry. I left early to make sure I could find your house, and it turns out it was much easier than I thought."
My mother laughed, a high, fake sound. "That's fine. Come on in! Kelly will be right down."
I heard him step inside. I prayed Caroline was in the kitchen, or in the back yard, or on the phone. I looked myself over one final time, figuring this will have to do. I grabbed my purse and headed for the stairs.
"So what do you do, David?"
"I'm an insurance adjuster," he said. "Not the most popular industry right now."
"But someone has to do it."
"Very true," he said. "I'm glad you see it that way."
They took a couple of steps inside. "This is my other daughter, Caroline," she said.
"Hi," Caroline said.
It's all over, I thought. She never meant to, but something happened when they saw her. She may never touch them, but I lose them just the same.
"Hello," he said.
"So how did you meet our Kelly?," my mother interjected.
I gritted my teeth. God, Mom, stop it. I could picture his eyes roaming over Caroline, her long legs, her carelessly tossed hair, her pouty lips.
"She's my cousin's friend."
"Aha. How about that? Kelly's father worked with my brother Jack! Good things often happen that way."
"Indeed," he said. Jesus, I thought. I was making my way down the stairs, treading as carefully as I could.
"Have you known each other long?"
"A month or so," he said. "I've only been in town 6 weeks. I was transferred from Fresno."
"How nice for you! I'm so happy you two met!" So you can get this one out of my hair, she probably wanted to add.
My shoes emerged into view. "There she is!" my mother said, relieved. "Have fun, you two!" I took a long look at Caroline, who was back to watching Jeopardy and checking her phone. I looked at David, who was looking at me. I let a deep breath out.
We said our pleasantries, and we left. My shoes crunched on the gravel walkway.
"So that's them," I said.
"They're sweet," he said.
"What did you think of Caroline?," I said.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, she has...a way of becoming the center of attention, let's say."
David opened the passenger door of his car, holding it open for me. His belt buckle gleamed faintly where a streetlight hit it. It was starting to rain a little bit. "She is a pretty girl," he mused slowly. "But I'm not holding the door for her."
I got in the car.