Byron headed to the computer. It was two days ago that he had run his ad. Over those two days, he flipped flopped back and forth as to whether it was a bad idea or brilliant. He considered not opening the email account and let the whole thing disappear. The email was set up under a false name, and he figured the FBI could have traced it to him, but no one else could. Ignoring the email would let the entire thing wash over, but he had already taken the next two days off work to filter through emails and interview candidates. And ever more than that, he knew his curiosity was too great not to check the email. He said he wouldn't check the emails for the first day but he would have broken that promise while at work yesterday if he hadn't left the password to this new email at his desk at home.
Now that he was looking up the email, he wondered if anyone wrote him. If they didn't, he would have two days off. He was thinking that he might go visit Mark, his old roommate in San Diego, when the mail box opened and he saw that he had 221 messages. So much for San Diego he thought. Perhaps he should have taken a whole week off.
The first email was from Star Jewell. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one making up names. As soon as he opened up the email a large full body photo of “Star” in a rather revealing Star Trek outfit appeared on his screen. Star Trek was not his thing but he knew it well enough to recognize that she was trying to be Commander Troi from Star Trek generations. There was text below that he didn’t need to read as it became the first to the trash bin.
Natalia Swetlana was the next candidate. “I love be your wife. In America, I be honor you for death.” Byron wasn’t sure if this was Natalia’s poor English or google translator’s poor programming, but either way he wondered how Natalia had found his towns classifieds and how many other foreign brides, anxious for a ticket to America were in the next 219 emails. A foreign bride did offer some advantages, but at some point, even with our immigration system she would eventually make it to America, and then where would she go. No, he would stick to the domestic market.
Bambi Jones, was next in line. With a sigh he began reading, “We don’t need to get married to have a good time.” Delete.
In rapid succession the next 30 emails, fell into the category of either foreign bride or thinly veiled prostitution, and therefore also fell into the trash bin. “I would be interested in your proposal. Let’s meet.” Flipping through the emails as quickly as he had, he had stopped reading names. So, after verifying that, that was indeed all she had sent, no photo, nothing about her, no attachment, simply that she would be interested, he went back and got her name. Jennifer, was this very short-winded writer. Had her email been first it would already be in the trash bin, but the last 30 minutes had changed him. What he would have called lazy and lacking any pertinent data ½ an hour ago was simply not racy, not desperate or solely interested in his citizenship. The more he thought about it, the more he realized if he had responded to his ad, he would have been similarly brief. So, it became the first to avoid a quick demise and he went back to the rest.
The rest went very much the same as the first batch and by the time he had reviewed all 225 (the emails continued to trickle in from all corners of the earth as he reviewed), only three remained, and all three shared Jennifer’s attribute of brevity. The only thing that had been added was one email had started by adding the kind words, “This is nuts but…” The other thing the other two emails shared was a first name, Julie. They became, nuts Julie and regular Julie.
It was a bit depressing that the only ones he could see having any chance of being his bride were the ones he knew absolutely nothing about. What was the likelihood that if he actually knew something about these three that they would still be in the running? But he had made it this far, so the three J’s were to move on to round two. Now, for the first time Byron was forced to ask himself, “What was round two?”
Should he try to get more information with a back and forth on email? Given how skeptical these three were, he quickly saw it turning into a game of, “you tell me first.” The next option was to have them come to his office and simply go for a formal interview, but something told him formal was not the way to go, plus he thought he better avoid his office. Trying to explain this to Ms. Whittaker, his admin assistant would be as comfortable as answering his hygienist question, “So have you been flossing?” He knew she only asked because she knew he hadn’t been. Also, depending on how the interview went he wasn’t sure he would want these women knowing exactly who he was, what he did, and where he worked. “Trust is the foundation of which a good marriage is built.” He had said it thousands of times, and as he could hear himself saying it, he knew his new relationship was on a path to make the leaning tower of Pisa’s substructure appear to be robust.
No, an interview style would not be best. Rather a nice sit-down meal together, three girls, three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, or rather, late breakfast, lunch and early dinner. He didn’t want to be sitting around downtown with nothing to do. But how to be recognized. In 2000 B.C. a Neanderthal was to meet a female Neanderthal at a cave party and wanted to know how he would pick her out. The decision was made that they would each wear a flower, and as safety pins had not been invented, they needed a flower that would attach to their leopard skin Mumu’s easily. It was a toss-up between thistle and rose. And in a decision that would define how single people determine who in the crowd is on equal social ground as to label themselves with plants as willing to meet someone they couldn’t tell from Adam in public, they went with Rose. Historians will debate how society would be different today if they would have chosen thistle but Rose it was. And for Byron, a single red rose it would be. So, this Friday, three times, three restaurants and one rose; he figured they wouldn’t mind if he reused it.
The Marble Hallways were wide, the paintings, not replicas but each original, beautiful, unique and complementary to the surroundings. The hallways of the conference area inside the Bellagio was one of his favorite locations and on Fridays or weekends they rarely had conference going on, which left the vast hallways to himself. As he looked down the 400 feet of the hallway before him completely void of people yet full of the beauty of man’s creation, he wondered if this is how King Louis XVI felt in Versailles. While he had always considered himself well off, he doubted if in a lifetime he would see enough wealth to afford half of what his eyes beheld: the rugs, furnishing, chandeliers, art and endless marble.
While his pessimistic, or maybe realistic side didn’t give him any better chance of this working out than the millions of gamblers whose money had paid for the lavish furnishings that surrounded him, his optimistic, or maybe romantic side was willing to give it a chance, and that is what had led him to choosing a location he loved so much. The next corner would end his solitude for that is where the conference portion of the hotel ended and the day to day traffic of gamblers, diners and hotel patrons began, and shortly after joining the fray he beheld his destination, Bellagio Patisserie, a little French place behind the hotels conservatory, tucked next to one of the largest chocolate fountains in the world. Anyone who has had a desert from, Bellagio Patisserie, will not soon forget it. Each one was an artistic masterpiece. These are the kind of desserts people took pictures of before Facebook and Instagram so degraded the art of food photography.
Finding a seat, he paused and noticed the time, 10:50, ten minutes early was, in his view, perfectly on time. Verifying his rose was in place he began to look for its match. Ten minutes may not seem like a terribly long time but it can become quite drawn out when one is waiting for the women who may become their wife to walk into the picture. Odd looks began to float his way as he tried to focus on each new woman that entered his view, searching each of their persons over to see if somewhere she bore a rose. Specifying where the rose was to be worn has crossed his mind, but he had decided it would be too controlling. Now that he was forced to look over each woman’s person he was convinced that overbearing or not he should have specified and made a mental note that if he was ever randomly meeting potential brides in public for the first time again he would specify the location of where to wear the rose. Through trial and error his technique on how to search for the rose was improving. For one thing, after the second man gave him a glare of death that said, “I wish we were not in public so I could properly disembowel you,” after Byron had finished the rose scan on his significant other, he determined to first check if the women was with someone, and then search for roses.
It was now 11:02, ten minutes had seemed eternally long but he had at least known when that would end, now that the clock had rolled past 11:00 the clocked has actually slowed even further. How long he would wait until he simply gave up crossed his mind when he saw it, a single red rose. She was breathtaking. However, I am forced to pause from our story to explain to the reader that in the English language we don’t always think of words based on their definition. Case in point, breathtaking. Someone can be so amazing beautiful that seeing them for the first time causes the unexpected viewer to forget how one goes about breathing. But being hit by a 350 lbs. line man may also be breathtaking. In this case it was neither beauty or the impact of a 350 lbs. line man, rather simply the shock of seeing her made Byron forget, momentarily how to take in air. So, I repeat, she was breathtaking. She was clearly a student of the history of red roses as a form of greeting, because in homage to the Neanderthal that first begun the tradition, she was dressed in 100% leopard skin. Leopard skin top and skirt, both worn just a bit tighter than most leopards wear it. Byron was reminded of what PG Wodehouse had once said that, it was as if she had been poured into her dress and someone had forgotten to say when. To make the ensemble complete she also touted a small leopard skin purse and had 6-inch heels on with a leopard skin print along the heel. The lip stick was brighter red than the rose and the only thing larger than her augmented top was her hair.
Catching his breath, he quickly realized she had not noticed him yet. If he acted quickly he could hide his rose and avoid a meeting that was sure to be as awkward as her skirt was short. But as his hand moved to the rose, she noticed him, made eye contact, smiled and began heading his way.
As soon as she got within ten feet she opened up with as voice as big as her hair.
“So, you’re my mystery man.”
Byron nodded and reached out his hand to shake hers.
“Shake hands?... I don’t think so.” She said, absolutely bubbling over. She then grabbed Byron pulled him in for a hug, then moving her hands onto the back of his head turned it to her and kissed him square on the lips. Again, breathing stopped. Finally, she released him and as he gasped for air, she said, “That is how you say hello.”
“Well Jennifer.” Byron said, trying to get his bearings.
“Call me Jen, or Honey Boo if you’d rather.” She said as she raised her eyebrows.
“Okay, Jen,” he was going to say nice to meet you but had always been a poor liar, so changed it to, “thanks for coming. My name is Byron.”
“I love it.” She jumped in before he could continue. “When I was a little girl I dreamed of marrying a Byron, or was it Brian, no Ryan. But pretty close right, isn’t that amazing!” Byron was not sure how to answer, and luckily why he puzzled on what to say she asked, “Byron what?”
At this moment Byron had two very instantaneous thoughts. The one was that he did not want to tell her his last name. The sooner he found himself under a sign that read, “Exit”, the better and whatever his future brought the less it had to with Ms. Honey Boo the better. His desire that she have any ability to ever find him again, and that is exactly what his last name would give her, was zero. The second thought related to never seeing her again was that now that he was past the ambiance that was Jen, Honey Boo-boo, he had a strange feeling that his wasn’t the first time he had seen her, but how he could have forgotten the encounter was beyond him.
“Hello Byron, you there?” Clearly his thinking was too slow for her. “And people call me a dutz,” She continued.
“Oh, sorry, have we met before? For some reason you look very familiar.”
She was a bit taken a back. “I don’t remember meeting you before, and most people find me impossible to forget.”
“I can see that,” Byron agreed.
“So, Byron what is your last name?”
“Oh…uh…” torn between lying and trying to come up with an excuse he said, “shouldn’t we get to know each…Smith.”
“Jen Smith. It is perfect. I never thought my name would be Jen Smith. I mean, I love it, but what are the chances?” At first Byron thought the question was hypothetical, but the dumb look she continued to give was clearly wanting and answer.
“Actually, relative to other names, quite high, I think.” Figuring he wasn’t going to get out of a meal with Jen he decided they better get started. So, before she could ask another question he said, “Should we get something to eat?”
“Sounds great, do they have Vegan or Paleo diet?”
“I’m not sure, you will have to ask.”
“I can’t stand the thought of using animals for food, except cows, and fish. See, I hate cows and fish don’t really count. But real animals, I love them. That is why I had my purse made with real fur, to always keep animals close to me. And Paleo, I don’t really know what it is, but I read that its really changing the way people diet and I want to get on board.”
Byron decided not to comment and just got up and headed to the counter, glad the place made as you ordered, limiting the conversation that would occur while they waited for their food. After a long conversation between Jen and cashier on whether or not whipped cream was part of the Paleo diet (she decided that it must be once she figured out it was a cow product), they sat down and began to work on their crapes.
As Byron began to eat he began to think of ways of letting her down. On one hand if he asked her questions he could use her answers as an excuse as to why it wouldn’t work. On the other hand, he hated even to ask, thinking that it might only serve to get her hopes up. In the end he thought he better ask her a few questions, otherwise she may start asking him some.
“So, Jen, have you ever been married?”
She smiled and laughed. “Is this a trick question? I read the ad, no previous marriages. And I have not been, as long as you don’t count the annulments, and the law doesn’t count them, so I don’t think it would be for if you did.”
“The annulments?” questioned Byron.
“Well first, turns out you can’t marry your cousin, at least not when I tried. But the next time, on our wedding night I found out he volunteered going to kids’ classes and hospitals and things as a clown, and I was like ‘I don’t think so, I’m not being married to no clown! Beam me up Scotty! I’m out of here!’ I should have asked my nephew how he met him when they set me up.”
Suddenly it hit Byron. It was her reference to “beam me up Scotty.” “You are Star Queen, you sent me two emails?”
She laughed, “No silly, I did not send you an email as Star Queen. My Star Trek loving, alter ego is Star Jewell.”
Byron waited for a minute assuming she would elaborate on why the two emails but since the question was about Star Queen she felt like the issue have been fully addressed, forcing Byron to be more specific.
“Okay, you sent me an email as ‘Star Jewel’. Why did you send me two emails?”
“In case you weren’t into Star Trek. Duh… Looks like it worked.” She said with a wink.
“Star, Jen, Boo-boo” he rattled off before he got to the point, “this isn’t going to work, I’m sorry.”
“You are breaking off our engagement.” She said loud enough that the fellow patrons began to listen.
Byron was not sure what so say but finally came up with, “We are not engaged.”
She opened her mouth in shock and for a moment was speechless, as tears began to drip down her face. It was clear at this moment she was winning this case in the court of public opinion and Byron heard from a table nearby someone mutter, “What a jerk.”
After a few gasps of shock from Jen she finally pulled her strength together and in her most powerful voice said, “Not engaged huh, well that is rich, take this.” A half-eaten crepe with an excessive amount of strawberry syrup and whipped cream smashed into his face and chest and was now dripping onto his pants and the floor as the nearby diners cheered and Jen walked out.
Here is a link to Chapter 5.