FINDING MR. WRIGHT

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Submitted Date 12/22/2018
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Finding Mr. Wright

“I just don't know about this, Cassie,” Jess Hunter said to her best friend. “I mean, it's bad enough meeting losers and freaks online. I'm not sure I really want to think about meeting them face-to-face.” They were at an outdoor cafe' having their usual Saturday lunch between bouts of shopping.


 

Cassie crossed her shapely tan legs at the ankles and watched appreciatively as their waiter smiled at her, obviously approving of her move. Cassie smiled back. Jess sighed and rolled her eyes.


 

“How do you do that?” Jess asked.


 

“Do what?” Cassie asked. Surely she knew exactly what Jess meant.


 

“Don't be coy. You crossed your legs and that waiter almost dropped his tray. “You wouldn't ever have to resort to speed-dating.”


 

Cassie laughed. “Think again. I've done it several times actually. I've met several great friends that way.”


 

“Yeah, friends with benefits, I'll bet,” Jess said.


 

“Don't be mean. I've told you it's all attitude. I'm no more attractive than you. I just have a different attitude.”


 

“Whatever,” Jess said, a little more peevishly than she meant to sound. “So give me the details for this speed-dating thing, and I'll think about it.”


 

Cassie dug around in her over-sized leather bag, produced a postcard and slapped it on the table in front of Jess. Jess took another sip of her tea and reached for the card.


 

“I can tell by the look on your face, you're gonna back out. Do you really want to just give up so easily?”


 

“Easily? I've tried every online dating app known to man – or woman! I've had some dates, but no one clicks. Maybe it's me,” Jess said.


 

“It isn't you, honey,” Cassie said, reaching across the table to grasp Jess' hand. “You just haven't found the right one. I think you're just bummed because you're birthday is coming up. The big 29.”


 

“It doesn't help,” Jess admitted.


 

Cassie stood and pushed her chair under the table. “Come on. We're going to find you a killer outfit, and I'm going to get you an appointment with my stylist. He will make you feel like a new woman. My treat.”


 


 


 

Jess looked at herself in the full-length mirror, turning one way, then another. She liked the dress, but it wasn't something she would normally wear. It was black and fitted, showing every curve in the way it clung to her hips and thighs. The shoes set it off, Three-inch heels. She just wasn't sure this was such a good idea. These were strictly sit-down shoes because she couldn't imagine walking in them. She walked like a five-year-old playing dress-up. Sighing, she turned her attention to her new hairstyle.


 

Her chestnut hair had been styled in an elaborate up-do. It was pretty and sophisticated. But it wasn't her. None of this was her. It was Cassie's and the stylist's idea of what she should be.


 

“Screw this,” she said, flinging off the shoes and wiggling out of the black sheath. “I could've pulled a stocking over my body, and it would have the same effect,” she said to her reflection. Once she was out of the dress and heels, she started taking down her hair. But instead of falling about her shoulders in the loose waves she expected, it stood straight out like a fright wig.


 

She couldn't help laughing at her reflection, but part of her was on the edge of tears. If the makeover was such a bad idea, how good an idea could the speed-dating event be?


 

“Damn it,” she said, stomping to her closet. She started pulling out clothing and tossing it onto the bed.

An hour later, she was dressed in a long, floral print sun-dress that she topped with a shimmery silk shawl and flat, gold sandals. She had shampooed her hair and styled it in long, loose waves that hung to the middle of her back. Jess looked at her reflection with approval. She nodded and said, “That's much better.”


 


 


 


 

The extra time she had taken to undo her makeover had caused her to run later than she had planned. It didn't stop her, however, from stopping at the little bar that she remembered was near the speed-dating event. A drink would help steady her nerves. Maybe it might even help her enjoy the ordeal. Despite all of Cassie's moral support an her own self-talk, she still couldn't help but think of this whole event as just that – an ordeal.


 

She instructed the taxi driver to let her out in front of the bar. Inside, the bar was small but cozy, with its brick walls, antique brass fixtures and antique furniture. She took a table near the front door, not wanting to sit at the bar. After the waitress returned with her rum and coke, she settled back and watched the sidewalk through the window. Jess sipped her drink slowly, feeling the alcohol warm her insides and settle her nerves.


 

When she could stall no longer, she paid her tab and headed down the sidewalk to the speed-dating event. She found the check-in and after getting herself registered and squared away, she took time to look about the room. Some of the men weren't at all bad, still she mumbled to herself, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”


 

She spotted a woman who looked like a Las Vegas showgirl and mentally paired her up with a man who appeared to be dressed like a circus ring master, replete with tails and a curling mustache. Turning her attention to another area, she saw a man who should join up with the showgirl and the ring master; he could be the tattooed man. From where she was standing, she couldn't spot an inch of skin that wasn't inked.


 

Jess had to admit to herself that it was every bit as bad as she had imagined it to be. How in the world had Cassie managed to find anyone to befriend, let alone date, in a crowd like this? There was the usual cast of suspects: the goth, the anal accountant, the lady killer with his perfect skin, hair and smile and she wasn't sure, but she thought she spotted someone who could have passed for Dracula.


 

“Dear God,” she said to herself and turned to make her way to the exit, but before she could reach it, the event organizer began his introduction and welcome to all the participants. Jess was about to head to her seat when the most gorgeous man she has ever seen entered the room. Tall, slender but muscular, with piercing blue eyes and jet black hair, he was her idea of the perfect male. He stood still for a moment, surveying the room as if looking for someone in particular. Jess's heart lurched in her chest and began a drum beat that would've made any rock band proud. He was heading straight for her!


 

When he was within a few feet of Jess, he turned on a brilliant smile, and finished her off. If he asked, she would leave with him now and never look back.


 

“Excuse me,” the vision of male perfection said. “Are you by any chance Jess Hunter?”


 

Her mouth was so dry that she was certain she croaked when she replied that she was indeed Jess Hunter. “Oh my, God, are you my speed date?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.


 

The vision laughed and shook his head, “No, sorry. I'm just the deliveryman. You might want this back.”


 

Jess had vaguely noticed that he had been holding something in his hand, close to his side but hadn't paid much attention. As he held it out to her now, she was horrified to realized it was her handbag. She must have left it in the bar! He must think she was a total idiot!


 

She reached for the handbag and took it from him. “Thanks,” she said. “I must have left it at the bar. I needed some liquid courage before coming here.”


 

He laughed again. It managed to sound musical and masculine at the same time. “I can understand that. He took another look around the room. “Still, the crowd doesn't look too bad.”


 

“Yeah, right,” Jess said, laughing in spite of herself. “You mean like the group over there by the window that looks like they're auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, or Cirque du Freak, more likely.”


 

The deliveryman looked in the direction Jess had described and laughed again. “Well, point taken, but they're just a few. There are always a few freaks, as you put it, in every crowd.” He touched Jess on the forearm and looked her directly in the eyes. “I'm sure you'll find someone who is right for you.”


 

The exchange lasted only a few seconds, but it seemed to Jess as if time stopped. Then he withdrew his hand from her arm, and the moment passed.


 

“I have to go,” he said. “Good luck.”


 

Jess just stared at him, as if she hadn't heard what he had said, before regaining her composure. “Thanks again,” she said, “for returning this.” She held up her handbag.


 

He was already walking away and raised his hand in a gesture that was half salute, half goodbye wave.


 

Jess let out a heavy sigh as she watched him disappear through the exit. She looked around and saw that people were starting to make their way to the tables that were set up around the room. She checked her registration papers and found the number of her table. She pulled out one of the chairs and sat down resignedly.


 

Her first candidate walked over and pulled out the other chair. Dear God, it was the ring master she had been making jokes about.


 

“Good evening, my lovely,” he said in a deep baritone.


 

“Hello,” Jess said.


 

“Do you like adventure?” he asked, twirling one end of his ridiculous mustache.


 

“Depends on what kind of adventure,” Jess said cautiously. She hoped her face didn't betray her feelings.


 

“Well, you know,” he said with a disturbing smirk. Jess didn't know and didn't want to know.


 

“I like going new places, meeting new people, hiking, exploring, that kind of thing,” Jess said quickly in an effort to shut him up.


 

“I was thinking more of indoor adventure,” he said, leaning toward her. It took all of Jess's willpower not to push him backward, away from her face.


 

“I don't think we have the same kind of tastes in adventure,” she said, now hoping that her revulsion showed.


 

He stared at her for a long, uncomfortable moment before sitting back against his chair. Jess almost breathed an audible sigh of relief.


 

“Perhaps not,” he said, “but you haven't heard what I have in mind yet,” he said with another smirk.


 

“No, and I really don't want to,” she said. “I believe we're done here.”


 

He stared at her again. Jess actually felt a frisson of fear snake down her spine for a brief moment. What if he lunged at her again?


 

Frowning, he rose slowly from the chair, never breaking eye contact. “Your loss, lady,” he said, shoving the chair under the table and walking away.


 

Jess watched him walk away, wanting to make certain that he didn't turn around and head back in her direction. She made a promise to herself that if the next guy was as repulsive and threatening as the first, she was definitely leaving.


 

She was so busy watching the man she had dubbed “the ring master” walk away that Jess didn't notice her next potential date had taken a seat at the table. What alerted her was the scraping sound his chair made against the table. She turned to face him and watched while he tried to pull his chair out again and re-position it, jostling and shaking the table each time he tried.


 

Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, which he mopped vigorously with a handkerchief that he had produced from his pocket. Jess felt a wave of sympathy mixed with dread. Someone was actually more nervous and tense about this whole speed-dating business than she.


 

“I'm Adam,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake Jess's. She took his hand reluctantly, which of course was sweaty. She fought the urge to dig in her bag for hand sanitizer. If this guy was Adam, she pitied Eve. The human race would have died out before it began. He would have been too nervous to father the next generation.


 

“Jess,” she replied, “how do you do, Adam?” It was painfully obvious he didn't do very well. He released her hand, thankfully, and began digging around in his pockets until he found several note cards.


 

“In case you're wondering, Jessie, what I bring to the table, I've made a few notes of my suitability,” he said.


 

“Jess,” she said, “just Jess.” No, she wasn't wondering. She was beginning to care less with each passing second. She listened, feigning polite interest as he presented several bullet points about his reasons she should date him, most of which seem to center on his being an entrepreneur. According to Adam, he was going to revolutionize the way tax accounting was done. Jess decided to let him talk until he ran out of selling points, trying really hard to stifle several yawns.


 

He was almost finished when the timer buzzed to indicate his speed-date was finished. “But I still have two bullet points left,” he protested.


 

“That's okay,” Jess assured him. “I get the gist. I'm sure you will be a great success, Adam.”


 

That seemed to pacify him. He collected his wadded handkerchief and the note cards, stuffing them into his pockets and stood to go, knocking his chair over in the process. “I hope you choose me,” he said, as he bent to right the chair. “I think we really have some chemistry.”


 

Jess smiled but said nothing. The artist and the geek, she thought to herself. Yeah, great chemistry there. As soon as Adam turned his back to proceed to his next presentation, she dug the hand sanitizer out of her bag and began to apply it vigorously.


 

And so the ordeal continued. Her next speed-date was the Goth she had spotted when she first arrived. She couldn't tell if he was into her or not, between the makeup and the attitude and his mumbling, who knew. Who cared? At least he didn't frighten her the way the “ring master” had.


 

The Goth was followed by another accountant who wanted to tell her about the statistics of their chances of being compatible, followed by a man whom Jess was convinced would have better luck on that website for farmers and country folk. If he had called her 'Missy' one more time, she would have swatted him.


 

The event organizer returned to the podium and announced that the event was drawing to a close. The next speed-date would be the last. Jess was so happy she could have stood and shouted. Finally, an end to this nightmare was in sight. At least she could tell Cassie she had tried and maybe get some peace. No way was she ever doing this again.


 

Her final speed-date approached the table.


 

“Hello, I'm Luke,” he said, settling himself in the chair. He was quite attractive. A little on the conservative side in his appearance, Jess thought, but still attractive.


 

“Hello, Luke, I'm Jess,” she replied.


 

“It's nice to meet you, Jess. So why don't you tell me about yourself?”


 

That was a change. What? No note cards, stats or mumbling? Jess told him about her work as a photographer and that she also taught photography at the local community college, where her work was currently on display at the faculty art show.


 

“Well, then we have teaching in common,” he said, giving her an easy smile. “Nothing so creative on my end, I'm afraid. I teach English literature.”


 

She listened while he told about his favorite authors, and Jess found herself sharing her own with him. They were still talking when the timer sounded.


 

“It's been delightful,” Luke said, rising to go. “I do hope we get an opportunity to continue our conversation. Goodnight, Jess.”


 

And he walked away. Jess sat thinking about the last conversation. He seemed nice, certainly interesting. But she had had several dates with nice men through the online dating sites, but no chemistry. She didn't really feel any chemistry with Luke either. Maybe it is me, she thought, despite what her friend Cassie said. Maybe I'm looking for someone who doesn't even exist, just a fantasy.


 

The organizer began talking again, intruding on Jess's thoughts. It was time to make their selections and see who among their speed-dates matched. Jess hated to have gone through all this and leave empty-handed, so to speak. She took a deep breath and ticked Luke. Immediately he came back as a match. The rest of the remaining time was spent arranging to meet for coffee the following week before touring her photography exhibit at the college.


 

Jess gathered her paperwork and made sure she didn't leave her handbag behind this time. Out on the street, she hailed a taxi and gave the driver her address. If she were honest, she couldn't say she was really excited about her upcoming date with Luke. Maybe looking forward to talking with him again, the way she would with anyone with whom she shared common interests, but not heart-pounding, blood-racing excited. Was that an unreasonable expectation, she wondered. Maybe chemistry would come later? Maybe she was making too big deal of chemistry in the first place?


 

The cab stopped, and she was surprised to see they were already at her house. She got out and walked to the front window of the taxi. She was so lucky that her purse had been returned at all, but especially lucky that it had been returned by someone who was honest. She thought of the deliveryman, as he had called himself, and realized there was chemistry there, at least on her part. So why didn't she feel that with Luke – or anyone else?


 

She pulled her billfold out and opened it to withdraw the cab fare. A small piece of paper floated to the pavement. It must have been stuffed inside the billfold. She picked it up and paid the cab driver. As he pulled away, she studied the piece of paper. It was actually a business card. There wasn't enough light to make out the name, so she hurried inside the house, anxious to read the card.

Anderson Wright, Architect, the card read in embossed gold lettering, followed by an address and phone number. She turned the card over; handwritten on the back in artistic printing were the words “the deliveryman.”


 

Jess's heart leapt just as it had when he returned her handbag. She wasn't the only one who felt chemistry. He had to have seen the photo on her driver's license and perhaps the one on her faculty I.D., which she much preferred. He had known not only her name, but how she looked! Maybe the night, as disappointing as it had been, wasn't a total loss after all. If she hadn't gone to the speed-dating event, she would have never met the only man with whom she felt – and shared – that chemistry she had been seeking for so long. If she hadn't attended the speed-dating event, she would never have met Mr. Wright.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Finding Mr. Wright


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

“I just don't know about this, Cassie,” Jess Hunter said to her best friend. “I mean, it's bad enough meeting losers and freaks online. I'm not sure I really want to think about meeting them face-to-face.” They were at an outdoor cafe' having their usual Saturday lunch between bouts of shopping.


 

Cassie crossed her shapely tan legs at the ankles and watched appreciatively as their waiter smiled at her, obviously approving of her move. Cassie smiled back. Jess sighed and rolled her eyes.


 

“How do you do that?” Jess asked.


 

“Do what?” Cassie asked. Surely she knew exactly what Jess meant.


 

“Don't be coy. You crossed your legs and that waiter almost dropped his tray. “You wouldn't ever have to resort to speed-dating.”


 

Cassie laughed. “Think again. I've done it several times actually. I've met several great friends that way.”


 

“Yeah, friends with benefits, I'll bet,” Jess said.


 

“Don't be mean. I've told you it's all attitude. I'm no more attractive than you. I just have a different attitude.”


 

“Whatever,” Jess said, a little more peevishly than she meant to sound. “So give me the details for this speed-dating thing, and I'll think about it.”


 

Cassie dug around in her over-sized leather bag, produced a postcard and slapped it on the table in front of Jess. Jess took another sip of her tea and reached for the card.


 

“I can tell by the look on your face, you're gonna back out. Do you really want to just give up so easily?”


 

“Easily? I've tried every online dating app known to man – or woman! I've had some dates, but no one clicks. Maybe it's me,” Jess said.


 

“It isn't you, honey,” Cassie said, reaching across the table to grasp Jess' hand. “You just haven't found the right one. I think you're just bummed because you're birthday is coming up. The big 29.”


 

“It doesn't help,” Jess admitted.


 

Cassie stood and pushed her chair under the table. “Come on. We're going to find you a killer outfit, and I'm going to get you an appointment with my stylist. He will make you feel like a new woman. My treat.”


 


 


 

Jess looked at herself in the full-length mirror, turning one way, then another. She liked the dress, but it wasn't something she would normally wear. It was black and fitted, showing every curve in the way it clung to her hips and thighs. The shoes set it off, Three-inch heels. She just wasn't sure this was such a good idea. These were strictly sit-down shoes because she couldn't imagine walking in them. She walked like a five-year-old playing dress-up. Sighing, she turned her attention to her new hairstyle.


 

Her chestnut hair had been styled in an elaborate up-do. It was pretty and sophisticated. But it wasn't her. None of this was her. It was Cassie's and the stylist's idea of what she should be.


 

“Screw this,” she said, flinging off the shoes and wiggling out of the black sheath. “I could've pulled a stocking over my body, and it would have the same effect,” she said to her reflection. Once she was out of the dress and heels, she started taking down her hair. But instead of falling about her shoulders in the loose waves she expected, it stood straight out like a fright wig.


 

She couldn't help laughing at her reflection, but part of her was on the edge of tears. If the makeover was such a bad idea, how good an idea could the speed-dating event be?


 

“Damn it,” she said, stomping to her closet. She started pulling out clothing and tossing it onto the bed.

An hour later, she was dressed in a long, floral print sun-dress that she topped with a shimmery silk shawl and flat, gold sandals. She had shampooed her hair and styled it in long, loose waves that hung to the middle of her back. Jess looked at her reflection with approval. She nodded and said, “That's much better.”


 


 


 


 

The extra time she had taken to undo her makeover had caused her to run later than she had planned. It didn't stop her, however, from stopping at the little bar that she remembered was near the speed-dating event. A drink would help steady her nerves. Maybe it might even help her enjoy the ordeal. Despite all of Cassie's moral support an her own self-talk, she still couldn't help but think of this whole event as just that – an ordeal.


 

She instructed the taxi driver to let her out in front of the bar. Inside, the bar was small but cozy, with its brick walls, antique brass fixtures and antique furniture. She took a table near the front door, not wanting to sit at the bar. After the waitress returned with her rum and coke, she settled back and watched the sidewalk through the window. Jess sipped her drink slowly, feeling the alcohol warm her insides and settle her nerves.


 

When she could stall no longer, she paid her tab and headed down the sidewalk to the speed-dating event. She found the check-in and after getting herself registered and squared away, she took time to look about the room. Some of the men weren't at all bad, still she mumbled to herself, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”


 

She spotted a woman who looked like a Las Vegas showgirl and mentally paired her up with a man who appeared to be dressed like a circus ring master, replete with tails and a curling mustache. Turning her attention to another area, she saw a man who should join up with the showgirl and the ring master; he could be the tattooed man. From where she was standing, she couldn't spot an inch of skin that wasn't inked.


 

Jess had to admit to herself that it was every bit as bad as she had imagined it to be. How in the world had Cassie managed to find anyone to befriend, let alone date, in a crowd like this? There was the usual cast of suspects: the goth, the anal accountant, the lady killer with his perfect skin, hair and smile and she wasn't sure, but she thought she spotted someone who could have passed for Dracula.


 

“Dear God,” she said to herself and turned to make her way to the exit, but before she could reach it, the event organizer began his introduction and welcome to all the participants. Jess was about to head to her seat when the most gorgeous man she has ever seen entered the room. Tall, slender but muscular, with piercing blue eyes and jet black hair, he was her idea of the perfect male. He stood still for a moment, surveying the room as if looking for someone in particular. Jess's heart lurched in her chest and began a drum beat that would've made any rock band proud. He was heading straight for her!


 

When he was within a few feet of Jess, he turned on a brilliant smile, and finished her off. If he asked, she would leave with him now and never look back.


 

“Excuse me,” the vision of male perfection said. “Are you by any chance Jess Hunter?”


 

Her mouth was so dry that she was certain she croaked when she replied that she was indeed Jess Hunter. “Oh my, God, are you my speed date?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.


 

The vision laughed and shook his head, “No, sorry. I'm just the deliveryman. You might want this back.”


 

Jess had vaguely noticed that he had been holding something in his hand, close to his side but hadn't paid much attention. As he held it out to her now, she was horrified to realized it was her handbag. She must have left it in the bar! He must think she was a total idiot!


 

She reached for the handbag and took it from him. “Thanks,” she said. “I must have left it at the bar. I needed some liquid courage before coming here.”


 

He laughed again. It managed to sound musical and masculine at the same time. “I can understand that. He took another look around the room. “Still, the crowd doesn't look too bad.”


 

“Yeah, right,” Jess said, laughing in spite of herself. “You mean like the group over there by the window that looks like they're auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, or Cirque du Freak, more likely.”


 

The deliveryman looked in the direction Jess had described and laughed again. “Well, point taken, but they're just a few. There are always a few freaks, as you put it, in every crowd.” He touched Jess on the forearm and looked her directly in the eyes. “I'm sure you'll find someone who is right for you.”


 

The exchange lasted only a few seconds, but it seemed to Jess as if time stopped. Then he withdrew his hand from her arm, and the moment passed.


 

“I have to go,” he said. “Good luck.”


 

Jess just stared at him, as if she hadn't heard what he had said, before regaining her composure. “Thanks again,” she said, “for returning this.” She held up her handbag.


 

He was already walking away and raised his hand in a gesture that was half salute, half goodbye wave.


 

Jess let out a heavy sigh as she watched him disappear through the exit. She looked around and saw that people were starting to make their way to the tables that were set up around the room. She checked her registration papers and found the number of her table. She pulled out one of the chairs and sat down resignedly.


 

Her first candidate walked over and pulled out the other chair. Dear God, it was the ring master she had been making jokes about.


 

“Good evening, my lovely,” he said in a deep baritone.


 

“Hello,” Jess said.


 

“Do you like adventure?” he asked, twirling one end of his ridiculous mustache.


 

“Depends on what kind of adventure,” Jess said cautiously. She hoped her face didn't betray her feelings.


 

“Well, you know,” he said with a disturbing smirk. Jess didn't know and didn't want to know.


 

“I like going new places, meeting new people, hiking, exploring, that kind of thing,” Jess said quickly in an effort to shut him up.


 

“I was thinking more of indoor adventure,” he said, leaning toward her. It took all of Jess's willpower not to push him backward, away from her face.


 

“I don't think we have the same kind of tastes in adventure,” she said, now hoping that her revulsion showed.


 

He stared at her for a long, uncomfortable moment before sitting back against his chair. Jess almost breathed an audible sigh of relief.


 

“Perhaps not,” he said, “but you haven't heard what I have in mind yet,” he said with another smirk.


 

“No, and I really don't want to,” she said. “I believe we're done here.”


 

He stared at her again. Jess actually felt a frisson of fear snake down her spine for a brief moment. What if he lunged at her again?


 

Frowning, he rose slowly from the chair, never breaking eye contact. “Your loss, lady,” he said, shoving the chair under the table and walking away.


 

Jess watched him walk away, wanting to make certain that he didn't turn around and head back in her direction. She made a promise to herself that if the next guy was as repulsive and threatening as the first, she was definitely leaving.


 

She was so busy watching the man she had dubbed “the ring master” walk away that Jess didn't notice her next potential date had taken a seat at the table. What alerted her was the scraping sound his chair made against the table. She turned to face him and watched while he tried to pull his chair out again and re-position it, jostling and shaking the table each time he tried.


 

Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, which he mopped vigorously with a handkerchief that he had produced from his pocket. Jess felt a wave of sympathy mixed with dread. Someone was actually more nervous and tense about this whole speed-dating business than she.


 

“I'm Adam,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake Jess's. She took his hand reluctantly, which of course was sweaty. She fought the urge to dig in her bag for hand sanitizer. If this guy was Adam, she pitied Eve. The human race would have died out before it began. He would have been too nervous to father the next generation.


 

“Jess,” she replied, “how do you do, Adam?” It was painfully obvious he didn't do very well. He released her hand, thankfully, and began digging around in his pockets until he found several note cards.


 

“In case you're wondering, Jessie, what I bring to the table, I've made a few notes of my suitability,” he said.


 

“Jess,” she said, “just Jess.” No, she wasn't wondering. She was beginning to care less with each passing second. She listened, feigning polite interest as he presented several bullet points about his reasons she should date him, most of which seem to center on his being an entrepreneur. According to Adam, he was going to revolutionize the way tax accounting was done. Jess decided to let him talk until he ran out of selling points, trying really hard to stifle several yawns.


 

He was almost finished when the timer buzzed to indicate his speed-date was finished. “But I still have two bullet points left,” he protested.


 

“That's okay,” Jess assured him. “I get the gist. I'm sure you will be a great success, Adam.”


 

That seemed to pacify him. He collected his wadded handkerchief and the note cards, stuffing them into his pockets and stood to go, knocking his chair over in the process. “I hope you choose me,” he said, as he bent to right the chair. “I think we really have some chemistry.”


 

Jess smiled but said nothing. The artist and the geek, she thought to herself. Yeah, great chemistry there. As soon as Adam turned his back to proceed to his next presentation, she dug the hand sanitizer out of her bag and began to apply it vigorously.


 

And so the ordeal continued. Her next speed-date was the Goth she had spotted when she first arrived. She couldn't tell if he was into her or not, between the makeup and the attitude and his mumbling, who knew. Who cared? At least he didn't frighten her the way the “ring master” had.


 

The Goth was followed by another accountant who wanted to tell her about the statistics of their chances of being compatible, followed by a man whom Jess was convinced would have better luck on that website for farmers and country folk. If he had called her 'Missy' one more time, she would have swatted him.


 

The event organizer returned to the podium and announced that the event was drawing to a close. The next speed-date would be the last. Jess was so happy she could have stood and shouted. Finally, an end to this nightmare was in sight. At least she could tell Cassie she had tried and maybe get some peace. No way was she ever doing this again.


 

Her final speed-date approached the table.


 

“Hello, I'm Luke,” he said, settling himself in the chair. He was quite attractive. A little on the conservative side in his appearance, Jess thought, but still attractive.


 

“Hello, Luke, I'm Jess,” she replied.


 

“It's nice to meet you, Jess. So why don't you tell me about yourself?”


 

That was a change. What? No note cards, stats or mumbling? Jess told him about her work as a photographer and that she also taught photography at the local community college, where her work was currently on display at the faculty art show.


 

“Well, then we have teaching in common,” he said, giving her an easy smile. “Nothing so creative on my end, I'm afraid. I teach English literature.”


 

She listened while he told about his favorite authors, and Jess found herself sharing her own with him. They were still talking when the timer sounded.


 

“It's been delightful,” Luke said, rising to go. “I do hope we get an opportunity to continue our conversation. Goodnight, Jess.”


 

And he walked away. Jess sat thinking about the last conversation. He seemed nice, certainly interesting. But she had had several dates with nice men through the online dating sites, but no chemistry. She didn't really feel any chemistry with Luke either. Maybe it is me, she thought, despite what her friend Cassie said. Maybe I'm looking for someone who doesn't even exist, just a fantasy.


 

The organizer began talking again, intruding on Jess's thoughts. It was time to make their selections and see who among their speed-dates matched. Jess hated to have gone through all this and leave empty-handed, so to speak. She took a deep breath and ticked Luke. Immediately he came back as a match. The rest of the remaining time was spent arranging to meet for coffee the following week before touring her photography exhibit at the college.


 

Jess gathered her paperwork and made sure she didn't leave her handbag behind this time. Out on the street, she hailed a taxi and gave the driver her address. If she were honest, she couldn't say she was really excited about her upcoming date with Luke. Maybe looking forward to talking with him again, the way she would with anyone with whom she shared common interests, but not heart-pounding, blood-racing excited. Was that an unreasonable expectation, she wondered. Maybe chemistry would come later? Maybe she was making too big deal of chemistry in the first place?


 

The cab stopped, and she was surprised to see they were already at her house. She got out and walked to the front window of the taxi. She was so lucky that her purse had been returned at all, but especially lucky that it had been returned by someone who was honest. She thought of the deliveryman, as he had called himself, and realized there was chemistry there, at least on her part. So why didn't she feel that with Luke – or anyone else?


 

She pulled her billfold out and opened it to withdraw the cab fare. A small piece of paper floated to the pavement. It must have been stuffed inside the billfold. She picked it up and paid the cab driver. As he pulled away, she studied the piece of paper. It was actually a business card. There wasn't enough light to make out the name, so she hurried inside the house, anxious to read the card.

Anderson Wright, Architect, the card read in embossed gold lettering, followed by an address and phone number. She turned the card over; handwritten on the back in artistic printing were the words “the deliveryman.”


 

Jess's heart leapt just as it had when he returned her handbag. She wasn't the only one who felt chemistry. He had to have seen the photo on her driver's license and perhaps the one on her faculty I.D., which she much preferred. He had known not only her name, but how she looked! Maybe the night, as disappointing as it had been, wasn't a total loss after all. If she hadn't gone to the speed-dating event, she would have never met the only man with whom she felt – and shared – that chemistry she had been seeking for so long. If she hadn't attended the speed-dating event, she would never have met Mr. Wright.


 


 


 


 


 

















 

Finding Mr. Wright
























 

“I just don't know about this, Cassie,” Jess Hunter said to her best friend. “I mean, it's bad enough meeting losers and freaks online. I'm not sure I really want to think about meeting them face-to-face.” They were at an outdoor cafe' having their usual Saturday lunch between bouts of shopping.


 

Cassie crossed her shapely tan legs at the ankles and watched appreciatively as their waiter smiled at her, obviously approving of her move. Cassie smiled back. Jess sighed and rolled her eyes.


 

“How do you do that?” Jess asked.


 

“Do what?” Cassie asked. Surely she knew exactly what Jess meant.


 

“Don't be coy. You crossed your legs and that waiter almost dropped his tray. “You wouldn't ever have to resort to speed-dating.”


 

Cassie laughed. “Think again. I've done it several times actually. I've met several great friends that way.”


 

“Yeah, friends with benefits, I'll bet,” Jess said.


 

“Don't be mean. I've told you it's all attitude. I'm no more attractive than you. I just have a different attitude.”


 

“Whatever,” Jess said, a little more peevishly than she meant to sound. “So give me the details for this speed-dating thing, and I'll think about it.”


 

Cassie dug around in her over-sized leather bag, produced a postcard and slapped it on the table in front of Jess. Jess took another sip of her tea and reached for the card.


 

“I can tell by the look on your face, you're gonna back out. Do you really want to just give up so easily?”


 

“Easily? I've tried every online dating app known to man – or woman! I've had some dates, but no one clicks. Maybe it's me,” Jess said.


 

“It isn't you, honey,” Cassie said, reaching across the table to grasp Jess' hand. “You just haven't found the right one. I think you're just bummed because you're birthday is coming up. The big 29.”


 

“It doesn't help,” Jess admitted.


 

Cassie stood and pushed her chair under the table. “Come on. We're going to find you a killer outfit, and I'm going to get you an appointment with my stylist. He will make you feel like a new woman. My treat.”






 

Jess looked at herself in the full-length mirror, turning one way, then another. She liked the dress, but it wasn't something she would normally wear. It was black and fitted, showing every curve in the way it clung to her hips and thighs. The shoes set it off, Three-inch heels. She just wasn't sure this was such a good idea. These were strictly sit-down shoes because she couldn't imagine walking in them. She walked like a five-year-old playing dress-up. Sighing, she turned her attention to her new hairstyle.


 

Her chestnut hair had been styled in an elaborate up-do. It was pretty and sophisticated. But it wasn't her. None of this was her. It was Cassie's and the stylist's idea of what she should be.


 

“Screw this,” she said, flinging off the shoes and wiggling out of the black sheath. “I could've pulled a stocking over my body, and it would have the same effect,” she said to her reflection. Once she was out of the dress and heels, she started taking down her hair. But instead of falling about her shoulders in the loose waves she expected, it stood straight out like a fright wig.


 

She couldn't help laughing at her reflection, but part of her was on the edge of tears. If the makeover was such a bad idea, how good an idea could the speed-dating event be?


 

“Damn it,” she said, stomping to her closet. She started pulling out clothing and tossing it onto the bed.

An hour later, she was dressed in a long, floral print sun-dress that she topped with a shimmery silk shawl and flat, gold sandals. She had shampooed her hair and styled it in long, loose waves that hung to the middle of her back. Jess looked at her reflection with approval. She nodded and said, “That's much better.”








 

The extra time she had taken to undo her makeover had caused her to run later than she had planned. It didn't stop her, however, from stopping at the little bar that she remembered was near the speed-dating event. A drink would help steady her nerves. Maybe it might even help her enjoy the ordeal. Despite all of Cassie's moral support an her own self-talk, she still couldn't help but think of this whole event as just that – an ordeal.


 

She instructed the taxi driver to let her out in front of the bar. Inside, the bar was small but cozy, with its brick walls, antique brass fixtures and antique furniture. She took a table near the front door, not wanting to sit at the bar. After the waitress returned with her rum and coke, she settled back and watched the sidewalk through the window. Jess sipped her drink slowly, feeling the alcohol warm her insides and settle her nerves.


 

When she could stall no longer, she paid her tab and headed down the sidewalk to the speed-dating event. She found the check-in and after getting herself registered and squared away, she took time to look about the room. Some of the men weren't at all bad, still she mumbled to herself, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”


 

She spotted a woman who looked like a Las Vegas showgirl and mentally paired her up with a man who appeared to be dressed like a circus ring master, replete with tails and a curling mustache. Turning her attention to another area, she saw a man who should join up with the showgirl and the ring master; he could be the tattooed man. From where she was standing, she couldn't spot an inch of skin that wasn't inked.


 

Jess had to admit to herself that it was every bit as bad as she had imagined it to be. How in the world had Cassie managed to find anyone to befriend, let alone date, in a crowd like this? There was the usual cast of suspects: the goth, the anal accountant, the lady killer with his perfect skin, hair and smile and she wasn't sure, but she thought she spotted someone who could have passed for Dracula.


 

“Dear God,” she said to herself and turned to make her way to the exit, but before she could reach it, the event organizer began his introduction and welcome to all the participants. Jess was about to head to her seat when the most gorgeous man she has ever seen entered the room. Tall, slender but muscular, with piercing blue eyes and jet black hair, he was her idea of the perfect male. He stood still for a moment, surveying the room as if looking for someone in particular. Jess's heart lurched in her chest and began a drum beat that would've made any rock band proud. He was heading straight for her!


 

When he was within a few feet of Jess, he turned on a brilliant smile, and finished her off. If he asked, she would leave with him now and never look back.


 

“Excuse me,” the vision of male perfection said. “Are you by any chance Jess Hunter?”


 

Her mouth was so dry that she was certain she croaked when she replied that she was indeed Jess Hunter. “Oh my, God, are you my speed date?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.


 

The vision laughed and shook his head, “No, sorry. I'm just the deliveryman. You might want this back.”


 

Jess had vaguely noticed that he had been holding something in his hand, close to his side but hadn't paid much attention. As he held it out to her now, she was horrified to realized it was her handbag. She must have left it in the bar! He must think she was a total idiot!


 

She reached for the handbag and took it from him. “Thanks,” she said. “I must have left it at the bar. I needed some liquid courage before coming here.”


 

He laughed again. It managed to sound musical and masculine at the same time. “I can understand that. He took another look around the room. “Still, the crowd doesn't look too bad.”


 

“Yeah, right,” Jess said, laughing in spite of herself. “You mean like the group over there by the window that looks like they're auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, or Cirque du Freak, more likely.”


 

The deliveryman looked in the direction Jess had described and laughed again. “Well, point taken, but they're just a few. There are always a few freaks, as you put it, in every crowd.” He touched Jess on the forearm and looked her directly in the eyes. “I'm sure you'll find someone who is right for you.”


 

The exchange lasted only a few seconds, but it seemed to Jess as if time stopped. Then he withdrew his hand from her arm, and the moment passed.


 

“I have to go,” he said. “Good luck.”


 

Jess just stared at him, as if she hadn't heard what he had said, before regaining her composure. “Thanks again,” she said, “for returning this.” She held up her handbag.


 

He was already walking away and raised his hand in a gesture that was half salute, half goodbye wave.


 

Jess let out a heavy sigh as she watched him disappear through the exit. She looked around and saw that people were starting to make their way to the tables that were set up around the room. She checked her registration papers and found the number of her table. She pulled out one of the chairs and sat down resignedly.


 

Her first candidate walked over and pulled out the other chair. Dear God, it was the ring master she had been making jokes about.


 

“Good evening, my lovely,” he said in a deep baritone.


 

“Hello,” Jess said.


 

“Do you like adventure?” he asked, twirling one end of his ridiculous mustache.


 

“Depends on what kind of adventure,” Jess said cautiously. She hoped her face didn't betray her feelings.


 

“Well, you know,” he said with a disturbing smirk. Jess didn't know and didn't want to know.


 

“I like going new places, meeting new people, hiking, exploring, that kind of thing,” Jess said quickly in an effort to shut him up.


 

“I was thinking more of indoor adventure,” he said, leaning toward her. It took all of Jess's willpower not to push him backward, away from her face.


 

“I don't think we have the same kind of tastes in adventure,” she said, now hoping that her revulsion showed.


 

He stared at her for a long, uncomfortable moment before sitting back against his chair. Jess almost breathed an audible sigh of relief.


 

“Perhaps not,” he said, “but you haven't heard what I have in mind yet,” he said with another smirk.


 

“No, and I really don't want to,” she said. “I believe we're done here.”


 

He stared at her again. Jess actually felt a frisson of fear snake down her spine for a brief moment. What if he lunged at her again?


 

Frowning, he rose slowly from the chair, never breaking eye contact. “Your loss, lady,” he said, shoving the chair under the table and walking away.


 

Jess watched him walk away, wanting to make certain that he didn't turn around and head back in her direction. She made a promise to herself that if the next guy was as repulsive and threatening as the first, she was definitely leaving.


 

She was so busy watching the man she had dubbed “the ring master” walk away that Jess didn't notice her next potential date had taken a seat at the table. What alerted her was the scraping sound his chair made against the table. She turned to face him and watched while he tried to pull his chair out again and re-position it, jostling and shaking the table each time he tried.


 

Beads of sweat stood out on his forehead, which he mopped vigorously with a handkerchief that he had produced from his pocket. Jess felt a wave of sympathy mixed with dread. Someone was actually more nervous and tense about this whole speed-dating business than she.


 

“I'm Adam,” he said, reaching out his hand to shake Jess's. She took his hand reluctantly, which of course was sweaty. She fought the urge to dig in her bag for hand sanitizer. If this guy was Adam, she pitied Eve. The human race would have died out before it began. He would have been too nervous to father the next generation.


 

“Jess,” she replied, “how do you do, Adam?” It was painfully obvious he didn't do very well. He released her hand, thankfully, and began digging around in his pockets until he found several note cards.


 

“In case you're wondering, Jessie, what I bring to the table, I've made a few notes of my suitability,” he said.


 

“Jess,” she said, “just Jess.” No, she wasn't wondering. She was beginning to care less with each passing second. She listened, feigning polite interest as he presented several bullet points about his reasons she should date him, most of which seem to center on his being an entrepreneur. According to Adam, he was going to revolutionize the way tax accounting was done. Jess decided to let him talk until he ran out of selling points, trying really hard to stifle several yawns.


 

He was almost finished when the timer buzzed to indicate his speed-date was finished. “But I still have two bullet points left,” he protested.


 

“That's okay,” Jess assured him. “I get the gist. I'm sure you will be a great success, Adam.”


 

That seemed to pacify him. He collected his wadded handkerchief and the note cards, stuffing them into his pockets and stood to go, knocking his chair over in the process. “I hope you choose me,” he said, as he bent to right the chair. “I think we really have some chemistry.”


 

Jess smiled but said nothing. The artist and the geek, she thought to herself. Yeah, great chemistry there. As soon as Adam turned his back to proceed to his next presentation, she dug the hand sanitizer out of her bag and began to apply it vigorously.


 

And so the ordeal continued. Her next speed-date was the Goth she had spotted when she first arrived. She couldn't tell if he was into her or not, between the makeup and the attitude and his mumbling, who knew. Who cared? At least he didn't frighten her the way the “ring master” had.


 

The Goth was followed by another accountant who wanted to tell her about the statistics of their chances of being compatible, followed by a man whom Jess was convinced would have better luck on that website for farmers and country folk. If he had called her 'Missy' one more time, she would have swatted him.


 

The event organizer returned to the podium and announced that the event was drawing to a close. The next speed-date would be the last. Jess was so happy she could have stood and shouted. Finally, an end to this nightmare was in sight. At least she could tell Cassie she had tried and maybe get some peace. No way was she ever doing this again.


 

Her final speed-date approached the table.


 

“Hello, I'm Luke,” he said, settling himself in the chair. He was quite attractive. A little on the conservative side in his appearance, Jess thought, but still attractive.


 

“Hello, Luke, I'm Jess,” she replied.


 

“It's nice to meet you, Jess. So why don't you tell me about yourself?”


 

That was a change. What? No note cards, stats or mumbling? Jess told him about her work as a photographer and that she also taught photography at the local community college, where her work was currently on display at the faculty art show.


 

“Well, then we have teaching in common,” he said, giving her an easy smile. “Nothing so creative on my end, I'm afraid. I teach English literature.”


 

She listened while he told about his favorite authors, and Jess found herself sharing her own with him. They were still talking when the timer sounded.


 

“It's been delightful,” Luke said, rising to go. “I do hope we get an opportunity to continue our conversation. Goodnight, Jess.”


 

And he walked away. Jess sat thinking about the last conversation. He seemed nice, certainly interesting. But she had had several dates with nice men through the online dating sites, but no chemistry. She didn't really feel any chemistry with Luke either. Maybe it is me, she thought, despite what her friend Cassie said. Maybe I'm looking for someone who doesn't even exist, just a fantasy.


 

The organizer began talking again, intruding on Jess's thoughts. It was time to make their selections and see who among their speed-dates matched. Jess hated to have gone through all this and leave empty-handed, so to speak. She took a deep breath and ticked Luke. Immediately he came back as a match. The rest of the remaining time was spent arranging to meet for coffee the following week before touring her photography exhibit at the college.


 

Jess gathered her paperwork and made sure she didn't leave her handbag behind this time. Out on the street, she hailed a taxi and gave the driver her address. If she were honest, she couldn't say she was really excited about her upcoming date with Luke. Maybe looking forward to talking with him again, the way she would with anyone with whom she shared common interests, but not heart-pounding, blood-racing excited. Was that an unreasonable expectation, she wondered. Maybe chemistry would come later? Maybe she was making too big deal of chemistry in the first place?


 

The cab stopped, and she was surprised to see they were already at her house. She got out and walked to the front window of the taxi. She was so lucky that her purse had been returned at all, but especially lucky that it had been returned by someone who was honest. She thought of the deliveryman, as he had called himself, and realized there was chemistry there, at least on her part. So why didn't she feel that with Luke – or anyone else?


 

She pulled her billfold out and opened it to withdraw the cab fare. A small piece of paper floated to the pavement. It must have been stuffed inside the billfold. She picked it up and paid the cab driver. As he pulled away, she studied the piece of paper. It was actually a business card. There wasn't enough light to make out the name, so she hurried inside the house, anxious to read the card.

Anderson Wright, Architect, the card read in embossed gold lettering, followed by an address and phone number. She turned the card over; handwritten on the back in artistic printing were the words “the deliveryman.”


 

Jess's heart leapt just as it had when he returned her handbag. She wasn't the only one who felt chemistry. He had to have seen the photo on her driver's license and perhaps the one on her faculty I.D., which she much preferred. He had known not only her name, but how she looked! Maybe the night, as disappointing as it had been, wasn't a total loss after all. If she hadn't gone to the speed-dating event, she would have never met the only man with whom she felt – and shared – that chemistry she had been seeking for so long. If she hadn't attended the speed-dating event, she would never have met Mr. Wright.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

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