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A Blind Date for the Holidays

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A straight girl is set up on an unexpected blind date.
70.1k words
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Chapter One

"Well, at least it's a nice place." The words slipped out as I sipped my wine. They weren't particularly loud, but still.

I glanced around quickly and sighed in relief when no one in the restaurant reacted. I guess they were all too busy enjoying their meals to care. Either that or they were so caught up in the holiday season that they didn't notice.

More likely, they were just too tired to react. The combination of Thanksgiving and Black Friday took a lot out of most people. In either case, the whole situation was embarrassing enough without me being caught talking to myself. I was on edge and knew it, but I had good reason.

I was on my first blind date. Well, almost anyway. This Billy guy would have to actually show for it to be official. I still couldn't figure out how I let Janet convince me to let her set me up. She was my former college roommate and my best friend, but still, a blind date? At my age? Twenty-five was way too old to be going on your first blind date!

That's what I told Janet too. Her response? First, she reminded me that I wasn't quite twenty-five yet and then she argued that the opposite was true. My best friend insisted that the older you got the more likely you were to go on a blind date. Her logic made sense, but honestly, the idea of blindly meeting with more and more strangers as the years passed was too depressing to think about.

"Breathe," I said softly to myself, trying to relax by taking another sip from my second glass of wine. My stomach was empty so I needed to pace myself, but the whole situation had me more than a little uncomfortable.

The fact that I was turning twenty-five in a few weeks didn't help. My friends insisted it was still young, but it didn't feel that way to me. I was turning a quarter of a century. Almost a third of my life was gone.

I glanced around the restaurant to try and distract myself from feeling old. The holiday decorations were abundant this time of the year and impossible to ignore. Seeing them felt sort of like a mixed blessing. Thoughts of Christmas helped my mood a little because they reminded me that I was going home soon and would see my family, but they also made me feel lonely.

Thanksgiving was my first big holiday away from home. My family always celebrated together, but they lived across the country now and I'd decided it was too soon to go home after moving here only a few months ago.

It sounded reasonably at the time, but Thanksgiving by yourself in an apartment was not something I'd recommend if you weren't used to it. Can you say depressing?

Not that I regretted moving here. My new job was great. It kept me even busier than I expected, which I liked, but because of that I hadn't really had a chance to make many new friends. I think that was at least part of why I agreed to go on this blind date. It would be so much nicer to have someone in my life right now, especially with my birthday fast approaching.

It didn't help that my two older brothers were married by the time they turned twenty-five. Mom had mentioned the fact more than once in the last few months. I sometimes tried to throw her off by mentioning that my younger brother Sean was graduating college this year and would need to find someone soon, but it seldom worked.

I once tried to explain to her how people were getting married much older these days, but mom didn't understand. She came from a small town where most people married young. She hadn't out and out said it, but I'm pretty sure to her being female, twenty-five and unmarried made you a spinster. Which brought me back to another reason for this blind date. I was getting desperate.

Still, I don't think I would have done it if this Billy guy wasn't a longtime friend of Janet's. My best friend grew up in one of the nearby suburbs before traveling across the country to go to college. She'd planned on coming back after graduating, but found a job too good to pass up.

Janet swore Billy was great. She started trying to set us up as soon as I settled in. I grilled her about him until she admitted that he was a bit odd, but in a good way. I wasn't sure what that meant. I tried to get her to explain, but my friend's answers were vague at best. Janet swore I'd like him if I just gave it a chance. I wasn't so sure.

On the other hand, what could it hurt? I had moved across the country for a new job a few months ago and I didn't know anyone here. Mom and dad were not thrilled when I told them I was going. They were the typical overprotective parents and didn't like the idea of my being alone. Truthfully, neither did I, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Besides, it was time I went out on my own.

I admit, it took some serious soul searching after one very long conversation with Janet for me to finally work up the courage to do it, but I had and I didn't regret it. Well, not most of the time, anyway. I should have gone home for Thanksgiving.

My company didn't give people off for Black Friday. It was the main reason why I'd decided not to go visit my family. I didn't want to request a day off so soon after joining the company. It turned out to be a mistake. The office was empty today with most people taking the day off.

It didn't help that those who did come in spent most of it talking about how much fun they had on Thanksgiving. Honestly, I even found myself getting a little jealous of the ones who complained about their families.

It's not like I hadn't expected the loneliness, but it got to me sometimes. I wasn't used to it. I had one of those close families. I mean, my mother complained when I decided to go to a school a whole three-hour drive away from home. My father didn't seem any happier, but honestly with him at least some of it was the school I chose.

Mom insisted I come home at least once a month and 'popped in' for a visit with my father or one of my brothers frequently enough for Janet to tease me about it. The funny part was that I remembered just how 'brave' I thought I was when I chose my university.

I had an inkling of just how sheltered I was growing up, but not the extent. College had been quite the eye opener. I wasn't remotely prepared for some of what I found at my extremely liberal college. It was so alien to me that I would have been lost without Janet's help.

I was still on the conservative side despite the exposure I received, but I'd learned to accept that the world was a lot bigger and a lot different than what I was brought up to think. Of course, most of the differences didn't matter in my day-to-day life. I was who I was, and although college had changed how I viewed some things, it hadn't changed me, at least not in any significant ways.

That didn't stop me from enjoying the experiences and insights I gained while away at school. I had plenty of great memories. Most of them involved Janet. She was my best friend and I couldn't picture my life without her in it. I think the fact that it had worked out so well was at least partly the reason for me finding the courage to take this job and move away from home.

Unfortunately, it turned out moving across the country for a job was a lot different than going off to school. I liked my coworkers and had even gone out for drinks after work once or twice, but I didn't really connect with any of them.

Maybe it was because unlike in college, everyone here already had their friends, or maybe it was just what it was, but I figured that even if this Billie guy and I just ended up as friends that would be okay. I could use a new friend right about now.

I mean, if there was something more there that would be great, but I hadn't found a guy to hold my attention for more than a couple of months yet and at my age I was starting to think it would never happen. Which sort of brought me back to my original point. How did I let Janet talk me into this?

I suppose going on a blind date might be more fun than spending another night working, binge watching some television show or even worse, sitting through one of those Hallmark Christmas movies that I'd been getting sucked into recently. Then again, maybe not. A lot depended on the guy. He could be a loser or worse, a psycho. That's why these types of set ups were always so stressful. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

In the end, blind dates all came down to a matter of trust. I don't mean trusting the guy since you didn't know him by definition. I mean trusting the person who set you up, and the bottom line was that I trusted Janet. She was my closest friend despite the fact that we were nothing alike. She wouldn't have set me up with someone crazy or a loser.

Besides, worst case, at least I'd have a story to tell my friends and family. They were always pestering me to date more. Mom and dad had been trying to 'help' me find a husband for years now. It was annoying, but I understood. They just wanted me to be happy.

My parents loved being married and having kids. They assumed it was impossible for me to be happy unless I had the same. It's not like I didn't dream of having a family someday, but 'my knight in shining armor' hadn't come along yet so I found other ways to make myself happy. Frankly, by this point I was starting to accept that he might not exist.

It made me a little sad at times, but mostly I'd learned to accept it and focus on my career. As it turns out, I was pretty good at what I did. That made me happy. It frustrated me that my parents couldn't see it. Their constant pushing and setups were getting extremely old by the time I moved away.

To be fair, my parents' machinations worked out well for my older brothers. They were both happily married and I know for a fact that my parents introduced my oldest brother Mike to his wife Tammy. I think mom also had something to do with Paul meeting Cheryl too, but she never admitted it. Tammy was currently pregnant with her their second child. Paul and his wife had just had their first a few months back.

I hated disappointing my parents. On the other hand, even they didn't want me to settle for someone I didn't love. Well, they hadn't so far. I was a little concerned that that might change in a few years.

Mom had taken to trying to set me up with some of her friends' single sons just before I left, but I knew most of them since we were kids and there was nothing there. I refused to let her set me up on a blind date with the few I didn't know because I hated to get her hopes up. Besides, it made me feel desperate...and yet, here I was allowing Janet to do the exact same thing.

To be fair, getting set up on a blind date was a lot less stressful with Janet. She didn't make it sound like she was already planning out my wedding with Billy like my mother did whenever she so much as mentioned a boy. Mom could be quite the trip sometimes.

The frustrating part was that it wasn't like I didn't date back home. It just never worked out. I'd learned long ago not to tell my mother about the guys I was dating because she'd start asking questions and wouldn't stop until I introduced her to whoever it was. At that point, she'd start treating the guy like family which never went well.

It either scared him away or worse, made him difficult to get rid of when I realized he wasn't the one. In fact, I was pretty sure my mother still kept in touch with the last guy I brought home. He was everything she wanted in a son-in-law. Too bad there was no real chemistry between us.

Frankly, I hadn't met a guy I could picture spending the rest of my life with yet. There were a couple of close calls, but sometimes I think that was just wishful thinking. Still, that didn't mean I stopped trying. I hadn't date anyone since moving, but I'd gone on a date with a guy a couple of weeks before I left home.

"No wait." I frowned to myself as I thought about my last date. I remembered we went to dinner and then watched some fireworks. "That was back in July." I was surprised when I did the math. I hadn't been on a date in almost five months? That didn't sound right, but with the move I guess it was possible.

Okay, so maybe I was dating less and less as time went by, but now that my career had taken off, who had the time for it? All the hard work I'd put in was starting to pay off. This new job was exactly what I was looking for. It would give me the experience I needed.

I think in some ways my focus on my career was hardest on my parents, especially mom. She didn't get that I had ambitions outside of meeting the right guy and starting a family. I can still remember her reaction when I told her what I wanted to get a degree in at college. Instead of being excited for me, my mother had frowned and then tried to convince me to become a teacher. She said it would make my life easier once I had kids.

I must have told her a thousand times, especially as I got older and no Prince Charming appeared, that I didn't need a family of my own to be happy. She would just pat my hand and smile at me in that infuriating way of hers before telling me I'd understand once I met the right man.

The last time I got so frustrated that I told her in no uncertain terms that I didn't have the time to waste looking for him and that she'd just have to accept my life for what it was, like I had. Her shock at my outburst was understandable. I seldom lost control and lashed out at my mother, but I did that day.

The worst part was that instead of getting what I was trying to say, mom acted like I was just having a bad day. I'm not sure why, but I found myself apologizing after I'd calmed down. I guess it was just the thing to do to keep the peace. Still, I think that was the moment I decided that I needed some space from my family, at least for a little while.

My father was even worse than mom. I didn't even try to make him understand. It would have been a waste of time. I loved my parents dearly, but there was no arguing that they were both born a generation too late, maybe two. To them, a person couldn't possibly be happy on their own. It drove me crazy.

And yet here I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for a blind date. I groaned to myself and thought, 'Someone, please kill me now!'

"Would you like a refill?"

I was startled from my thoughts. That's when I noticed the waiter standing there smiling at me. I glanced down at my glass and frowned when I saw that it was empty. So much for pacing myself. I shifted my eyes to my cell and checked the time before answering. Fifteen minutes late. It looked like I'd been stood up. I wasn't sure if I was more irritated or relieved.

"Yes, thanks." I decided this whole situation warranted a third glass of wine, but I knew I'd need some food to go with it. "I should be ready to order by the time you return." The waiter nodded, took my empty glass and disappeared.

I opened the menu. I'd already looked it over, but the restaurant had a surprisingly large selection so I perused it one last time just to make sure I didn't miss anything. In the end, I couldn't decide between the Marsala and the Saltimbocca. Both sounded amazing.

I was happy that this Billy guy chose Italian. It was my favorite. The smells coming out of the kitchen were mouthwatering. He might be a jerk for standing me up, but hopefully he had good taste in restaurants. And who knows? Maybe he had a legitimate reason for not showing, not that it mattered. I'd probably never meet him now. Oh well, such was life.

The waiter brought my refilled wine glass back and placed it in front of me. I closed the menu and lifted the glass to my lips briefly. If the food was half as good as the wine, then this was going to be an amazing meal. I was just about to flip a proverbial coin on which item to order when we were interrupted.

"Trish, right?"

"Yes," I replied tentatively.

"Sorry I'm late, but there was an accident I couldn't get around and I didn't have your cell number to let you know." I listened to the words, but honestly, not much registered after I realized this was my blind date.

"You're Billy?" I asked, still not quite believing. I'm sure my reaction was on the rude side, but I thought I had the right. Sure, Billy was just as good looking as Janet promised. The dark hair and eyes were sexy, or might have been if I were into Billy's type.

"Belinda, but my friends call me Billie," came the reply, along with an apprising look that quickly turned to one of concern. I guess my shock was obvious.

The first clear thought that formed after my befuddled brain started working again was completely inane. I thought, 'Oh, Billie with an ie, not a y.' Thankfully, I didn't voice it out loud. Unfortunately, what finally came out wasn't any better.

I thought of myself as open minded, especially considering my conservative upbringing, but this was too much. At first, I thought it was some sort of twisted joke, but if it was, then Billie clearly wasn't in on it. What was Janet thinking?!

"Um, but you're a girl." The words slipped out and I held back the embarrassed groan that would have followed. On a good note, if there was such a thing in all this, my words helped Billie finally realize why I was so shocked. It was her turn to be surprised.

"She didn't!" Billie snapped rhetorically as she plopped into the chair across from me shaking her head. "You're straight, aren't you?" I nodded somewhat numbly. She clearly wasn't going to take this any better than I did. "I will kill Janet!"

"Get in line," I snorted, suddenly finding the situation somewhat funny. I'm sure all the wine I'd drank helped.

Well, I wanted a blind date story to tell my friends and family. This was definitely that. Not that I'd ever tell my parents about tonight. They'd completely lose it and probably insist I stop being friends with Janet. I loved them dearly, but they weren't the most open-minded people in the world. Not that I'd be forgiving Janet for this any time soon. What was she thinking?

I cringed as a memory from my childhood popped into my head. I was ten when my older cousin Justin came out of the closet. His parents reacted badly. Okay, that's an understatement. They kicked him out of the house. He was only fifteen at the time. My parents' reaction wasn't much better. They talked about him as if he died.

Thankfully, my aunt Ellen and uncle Teddy took Justin in. It caused a rift in the family, but I was happy my cousin didn't end up on the street. It's sad really. I was never close with Justin, but aunt Ellen and uncle Teddy used to be my favorites. I hadn't seen any of them in almost fifteen years.

I'd played with the thought of trying to get in touch with them every so often, especially in my late teens, but by that time they'd moved away. Besides, mom and dad still refused to even talk about them. I guess I could have tracked them down, but if my parents ever found out they would not be happy and I hated disappointing them.

I returned to the present and turned to the waiter who was watching us with far too much interest. "We're going to need a few minutes." He nodded in understanding, having overheard the conversation. Great, a witness. Billie grabbed the guy's arm before he could leave.

"Bring me a single malt scotch, neat." She paused before adding, "Make it a double." The waiter nodded and disappeared wordlessly. Billie and I stared at each other in silence for a few moments once we were alone.

"Well, this is awkward," I eventually sighed.

"You think?" It was Billie's turn to snort. She used one hand to push her long, straight dark hair away from her face. It shined despite the dim light and looked like her natural color.

I wished my own dirty blond hair was that straight. Then again, if I had to choose, I'd pick her eyes over her hair. They were a deep chocolate. My own light brown eyes were unspectacular. Okay, they did have a hint of green to them, but most people never noticed.


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