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She sat alone at a table for two, near the window of a restaurant, down the street from her apartment. Another no show “date”. She had been matched with him on one of the dating sites that kept her distracted from her life, and she agreed to meet him here. An hour later, and a glass and a half of Cabernet, she sat and stared out at the people walking down the street. The couples, holding hands, the small families strolling in the evening sunshine, some pushing children in carriages. They all made her angry and envious. SHE wanted to be one of those people, and as her heart cracked, just a little bit more, she checked her watch again, and sipped from the wine glass.

“Why do I put myself through this torture?” her mind asked her heart. She was a beautiful girl. Stunningly so, with long black, thick hair, an athletic shape and, very rare, amber eyes, that shot embers when she was angry, or became auburn, soft, flickers when she was happy. When she was in love, her eyes shone a brilliant ombre’ , that seemed to merge in a contrast between pale gold and deep chocolate brown.

That shade had not been seen in a very long time. Her eyes reflected her soul and depicted every emotion she carried, as if she wore her heart outside her chest for the world to judge.

She felt almost relieved as she sat and stared at the strangers surrounding her. She didn’t have to muddle through the awkward ‘first date” bullshit again tonight. The “so, what do you like to do”’s and the “what kind of relationship are you looking for?” questions. She felt like she had repeated this banter so many times with a variety of faces, that she versed it all by memory, like a childish play. Then there was the first touch that sent shivers through her, or made her feel weird, like her space was being rudely invaded. Sometimes there would be a kiss, and sometimes she would hookup with him, but nothing seemed to keep them around. The promises to call, the cliche excuses for not calling and ultimately, she was right back where she started.

When she checked her watch, it mocked her by telling her she had now been sitting alone for 90 minutes, and she asked her server for the check. She wiped the possible wine residue from her lips and stood to go to the washroom to have a good cry, before she made an entrance to the busy street outside. She just didn’t understand why this keeps happening to her.

Perhaps she was too forward in her messages to him. Maybe he chose someone prettier to meetup with instead. Either way, she felt that it was her loss, as he seemed to be exactly the type of man she was looking for. His photos showed him as a healthy, muscle bound guy, with piercing blue eyes and a scruffy beard. His dark hair was cut close, as if he was in the military and he had a chiseled jawline. They had never spoken, yet, but she imagined he had a smooth, syrupy voice that he would later seduce her with. She glanced again at his photos on the dating site, while she perched on the bathroom counter and sighed. She could never be sad for what she never had in the first place. Her expected tears did not come, so she went back to her table, and paid her server the twenty two bucks for her wine. At least she felt tipsy now, so she could face the outside world in a bit of a haze.

As she slowly walked home, she was angry at herself for wearing the stupid high heels that made her long legs look muscular. They were pinching her feet, and forcing her to limp slightly. Combined with her two glasses of wine, and no food to eat, she felt as though she appeared drunk, as she cut through the park between her building and the restaurant she left behind.

“Fuck him,” she thought to herself. I can find someone else to meet with. I can find someone else who appreciates the efforts I put into first dates, second dates, and potential relationships. She stomped awkwardly up the concrete stairs and let herself into the security door, and elevator to her 3rd floor suite. Her cat, Tippins, greeted her at the door, as always, with a mew. As she ripped off her annoying “date shoes” the cat rubbed against her legs with a loud purr.

As she slumped down on the edge of her untidy bed, she glanced at her phone to see if he had messaged her with some lame excuse for missing her at the restaurant. Her eyes flamed as she saw no notifications.

“What a dick”, she muttered to herself. Tippins jumped up beside her and she patted his back lovingly. “We don’t need that guy anyhow, do we Tip”, and she pulled her skirt and blouse off, tossing them on the floor among the outfits she had worn all week. She never kept her place tidy or organized, as no one ever visited her.

An 8 by 10 framed image of her mother glared at her as she pulled her sweat pants and a t-shirt on. It sat on her nightstand surrounded by empty coffee cups, makeup brushes, an alarm clock and a pile of dirty, crusted tissues. She glanced at the photo and angrily put it face down so she could not see the look of disappointment on the woman’s face. Laying down on her bed, with her cat beside her, she thought of what her mother would say.

“Another mystery date, Charlie? Really? Maybe you should look elsewhere if you want a real relationship. These online dating things are all bad news. You waste your life with your face in your phone , scrolling for Mr. Right Now,” Her mother always had a “tone” when she spoke to her, and Charlie could hear it, as clear as if her dear mother was in the room watching her sulk.

“Maybe if you did something with yourself, changed your hair, or lost a few pounds, these things wouldn’t always happen to you”. Her mother was always saying things like that. She never approved of Charlie’s hair, figure or how she looked in general. She reminded her mother too much of her father, who left when Charlie was 8 years old. She was the spitting image of him with the same amber eyes and dark hair. She felt blessed to have his olive skin tone and emotional disposition. She remembered her father as a man who was not afraid to cry, who was always hugging her and always had time to play with his only child. Her mother was the opposite. She was strict, fine boned and light skinned with dark green eyes that seemed to shoot lazer beams, even when she wasn’t angry. She came across like a bitch to her daughter and her acquaintances. Never having many friends, her mother seemed lonely, all the time.

Because her dad left on such emotionally bankrupt terms, her mother cut all ties with him, and would not allow Charlie to see him anymore. Her dad left the country leaving the two of them to fend for themselves. Charlie’s face was a constant reminder of the man who left.

Charlie got up off her bed and glanced at the clock. It was 7 pm and she had handled a full day of work and then almost 2 hours of wasting her time. her stomach moaned with hunger and she trampled through her clothing and other items in her bare feet to her kitchen, finding leftover pizza from the night before in the fridge. She poured another glass of wine from one of her many emergency bottles and choked down the cold pizza.

Through her ceiling she could hear the banging of loud music and she rolled her eyes as she chewed. This had been a regular occurrence over the past 3 weeks when the neighbors overhead had signed their lease agreement. She was instantly annoyed, even though it wasn’t interrupting her busy evening of doing nothing. Still, she thought, it’s totally disrespectful to be so loud and disruptive. What if she had brought a date home? She half giggled to herself as he thought came to her. On her fridge was the number to the landlord of the building and for a fleeting moment, she contemplated calling him to complain. She sipped her wine and came up with a better plan. What the hell, she thought, I’ve got enough wine in me, I can be a bitch.

She slipped on her running shoes and stomped up the two flights of stairs to the floor above. She found the appropriate door number and banged on it with clenched fists as hard as she could. She heard the music stop and footsteps crossing the floor inside. As soon as the door popped open, she stepped backwards. She looked at the floor to avoid confrontation and spewed,” Your music is making me crazy. It’s too loud. Can you shut it off….” she trailed in her thoughts as she looked up and saw an extremely gorgeous set of blue eyes staring back at her, surrounded by a head full of brown hair and the face of a male model. Her heart felt as though it stopped when she looked at him.

“Oh, I am very sorry”, the gorgeous guy looked at her in a peculiar manner. “I was just practicing a guitar solo with some friends. We will keep it quieter”, and he went to close the door.

Charlie didn’t want him to go away, “It’s okay. I was just having a bad night and your music made it worse. It’s so loud! Are you in a band?” She felt like a teenager when she spoke, even though she was in her early 30’s. She couldn’t stop staring at his eyes.

“Yes, just a local bar band. Thank you for the heads up. have a great night,” and he closed the door. She stood there for quite some time, staring at the closed door. She wondered if he meant to be rude or if he was just busy and didn’t want to take time away from his band friends. She turned and went back to her lonely suite.

The next day she woke with a throbbing headache from the cheap wine she drank alone and the lack of nutrition her body endured. She groaned and reached for Tippins as she lay under her blankets , feeling happy it was Saturday. No work today, and she would spend the day shopping. She needed some retail therapy after the shot her ego took yesterday. She poured herself a cup of coffee, popped a couple Tylenol and got dressed. As she opened her door, she was surprised to see a large bouquet of roses perched in a tall glass vase in the hallway. She looked left and right in the hall, to see if she could catch a glimpse of who had left them. No one was there. She shrugged and grasped the vase, looking for a note or card inside as she set them on her small dining table. The only thing the small rectangular card said was “sorry”. She suspected it was the no show from the restaurant and contemplated throwing them in the trash. They were beautiful red and white roses, at least 24 of them, all mixed together. They made her apartment look prettier among the disarray, so she decided to keep them, and threw the card away. She wondered how he knew what number she was in? She told him what building she lived at, but couldn’t remember if she said what floor or number. The security door was easy to get into if someone else let him in. She shook her head, to forget about the logistics, and walked out her door.

She set out to catch the city train for the mall, and checked her phone again, to see if the mystery man had left any messages. Nope. Nothing. She frowned to herself wondering why he would send such a beautiful apology to her, without saying anything. She twirled her hair between her fingers in contemplation and sent him a quick note.

“Did you send me flowers?’

She left it at that and went to the mall, purchasing some new jeans and t-shirts. As she tried them on, she wondered what it would be like to date someone that she could dress comfortably for, and not suffer through tight skirts or dresses and those damn heels. As she looked in the mirror, she decided the clothes she tried on looked good on her. The jeans made her look slim and the shirts were comfortable and soft. She made her purchases and headed home.

There was still no response on her phone . Her blood felt as though it was boiling. That guy was blatantly ignoring her! Why would you send flowers and then ignore me? She went inside her bedroom ad changed into her new jeans and one of the t shirts. As she was pulling her shirt down over her waist, there was a knock at her door. She peered through the peephole and gasped. She did her best to finger comb through her long messy hair and straightened her top before she pulled the door open. It was the handsome neighbor from upstairs.

Her heart was beating in her throat and she could feel perspiration trickle between her breasts as she looked at him. “Did you get my flowers?” he asked, without saying hello.

Her hand went to her beating chest and she tried to calm her breathing down, “Oh it was you! Thank goodness. I thought I had a creeper on my hands. I did, thank you! They are beautiful.” She smiled at him as her amber eyes turned a copper shade.

“It was the least I could do. Sorry for disturbing you last night”, his cheeks seemed slightly flushed as he spoke. He shuffled his hands in front of him, deciding to clasp them together to keep them from fidgeting. She had closed the door almost entirely behind her to avoid his seeing her messy kitchen and living room.

“No worries at all. I would invite you in, but I’m in the middle of something”, she tried to look at his face when she spoke, but she felt like he was scrutinizing her. She suddenly felt fat and uncomfortable in his presence.

“That’s cool. I just wanted to make sure Mrs. Dunbar down the hall didn’t steal your roses,” he was laughing as he looked down the hall. “I think she has a crush on me”. He winked at her and it caused her throbbing heart to fall into her toes. She struggled to maintain her composure.

“Okay, well thanks again. And, keep that music down or I will come up there again,” she joked. She stepped inside a partially opened door, closing it while he stood watching her. She couldn’t help but grin, realizing that he had done the same to her, the night before. He knocked again.

She cracked open the door, and he handed her a piece of paper with a phone number on it. “You know where I live, so please don’t be a creeper,” he winked again,”but you can text me or call me if you want to have a dinner date or something”. She held the note in her palm, feeling her sweat stick to the tattered paper. She read the number for much too long, looking down at it in disbelief.

“Thanks. Yes, I would love to have dinner with you,” she felt as giddy as a 15 year old groupie when she spoke.

“And, please”, he looked at her straight in the eyes, “nothing too fancy. I love a girl who looks good in a t shirt and jeans”, the smile that crossed his face made her feel warm and jittery. It was genuine and honest. She felt like she was meant to meet this new neighbor of hers.

They said a brief “see you later”, to each other and she closed her door, leaning back against it long enough to allow her weak knees to support her. She looked at her cat who was rubbing against her legs, “well, Tippins, I don’t think this one will be a no show”, she smiled sheepishly and started to clean up her apartment.

As she folded up her laundry and washed dishes, she found the past 24 hours amusing. Had “Mr. No Show” come to the restaurant for their date, she never would have needed to go and ask her neighbor (shit, she forgot to get his name) to be quiet. She never would have received beautiful long stemmed roses and she wouldn’t be planning a dinner date with such a beautiful man.

Maybe, she considered, her mother was right. Dating sites may not be the best way to meet a decent man. They could be right around the corner, or in this case, right above you. You just need to look away from your phone long enough to see real people and have real conversations.

Charlie spent 4 hours scrubbing her bathroom and kitchen, vacuuming, and tidying her space. When she was done, she took a break and sat on the couch to enjoy the view of a tidy home. As she sat, she reached for her phone.

“No, I didn’t” was the message that she read. No explanation. No excuses and no apology. She clicked on his name and deleted his information.

She reached for the tattered piece of paper, and handled it carefully, as if it were a rare gem that she dug from the ground herself. She dialed the number and heard the buzzing of it ringing upstairs.

“Hi”, she smiled as she heard his voice. As she held the phone close to her face, tiny gold flecks and dark chocolate prisms shone in her eyes.

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