This is my romantic comedy about Byron, a marriage councilor in case you missed it here are links to (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4).
Byron found himself now with both too much time and yet not enough. The entire episode with Jen had taken less than one hour, which meant he had a little over an hour before he was supposed to meet his next date, nuts Julie, at a little panini shop that sat on the other end of the Casino. An hour is a long time to walk around a Casino, especially when one does not gamble, even when accounting for the time he would need to spend in the bathroom trying to get strawberry syrup off his face and clothes, but it was not long enough for him to go home and change his clothes, something he desperately wished he could do. Perhaps the next prospective bride would be Jen’s twin and the horrible stained shirt, tie and pants would turn her off, saving him from needing to call it off and thereby helping him miss the joy of smashed panini in the face. He took some comfort that paninis, by nature, were much less messy when tossed at someone than crepes. The other possibility was that nuts Julie was simply Jen’s third email to him. Yet, if it failed to be Jen’s twin or other alter ego, then what would Nuts Julie think of him showing up to meet her for the first time in a badly stained outfit?
Once in the restroom he did an inventory of how truly bad it was. Wearing his favorite tie had clearly been a mistake and the light blue stripes were now a blotchy purple. The pink shirt better absorbed the syrup but the outline of the stain was clearly visible. His pants were only stained directly in front of his crotch, lucky guy. Lastly, the rose was limp and crusted with dried whipped cream. Trying to remove some only led to the loss of pedals, and he quickly resolved that if he were to have any rose left at all he better leave well enough alone.
Given his state, he desired to limit his time in public as much as possible. Luckily, the empty halls of the Bellagio conference area provided the prefect opportunity and he was able to even enjoy his time, except for the few random souls who wandered by forcing him to find the nearest piece of art so he could stare at the wall and shield his badly stained front view.
At 5 minutes to 1:00 he started the trek to Café Bellagio, his lunch spot. Within minutes he had arrived and the first thing he noticed was a girl with a rose, but two things made him think this was not his date. For one, the rose was pink, and two, she was normal looking. Normal didn’t bother him but after Jen he thought his chances at completely normal was beyond the realm of possibility. When one picks the quality they want most in a spouse the answer is rarely, “normal”, but that is exactly what Byron found himself hoping for most.
The normal girl with the pink rose kept glancing over at him but never got up. He kept watching for a red rose to walk in. After 5 minutes or so she walked over, “Excuse me are you waiting for someone?”
“Yes, I am looking for a Julie.”
“Oh sorry, I didn’t think it was you?”
“You didn’t see the rose?” she said, pointing to the rose.
“You are very perceptive.” She said with a bit of sarcasm, “what’s wrong with pink?” she continued.
“I guess I expected red.”
She paused giving him time to explain himself, but since he didn’t seem to feel obliged to, she continued with the question that to her was the obvious follow up, “why?”
“Didn’t I say, ‘wear a red rose’?”
Both wanted to pull out the email and prove they were correct but, after a pause, realized there was little point, and moved on. Part of the reason Julie decided not to push it was pity for Byron, for a quick glance at his rose made her realize that when it came to quality of roses, he had no moral high ground. “Is yours frosted?” she asked, noticing the white around what was once a red rose.
This forced Byron to look down at his own rose and reminded him that he was indeed not one to criticize. “Yes, it is frosted, with whipped cream.” He let the answer stand and she hardly knew what to say, it was clear she wanted the rest of the story. “I will simply say,” he continued, “my last meeting didn’t go so hot.”
Julie tried not to, but a slight chuckle escaped her. “I’m sorry, but I have to hear this. ” She said pulling up a chair and sitting down. There was something about the way she spoke that calmed Byron and he decided to tell all, sparing no detail. Julie listened attentively right up to where he told of being splatted with Crepe. It was at this moment she interrupted their laughs with, “I am so glad to hear it!”
“Well I’m glad it made you happy, it didn’t warm my heart.”
“No, it’s just that your clothes had me a bit worried. I mean, I was nervous before I saw you that you would weigh 300 lbs. or be unable to dress yourself, and you looked surprisingly normal except for the stains, and I thought, “That’s it, he never changes his clothes, probably hasn’t showered since Queen Elizabeth came to the throne. So, I am happy that it was simply a prospective bride showering you with breakfast.”
“Well, I hope you don’t plan to make a tradition of it.”
“Okay, Mr. Smith,” She mockingly referred to the false name he had given to Jen, “do I get to know your real name?”
“Sure, Lewis. Byron Lewis.”
“That not too bad, I prefer Smith, but what are you going to do.”
“Well, shall we go order?” Byron suggested.
“Do you know if they have any Paleo, Vegan food that matches syrup stains?” They both laughed as they approached the counter to make their selections.
Once they had their food and sat down to eat, Julie asked the first question. “Byron, tell me honestly, why are you doing this? No offense, but it is way beyond weird.”
“I think you called it ‘nuts’ in the email.”
“Exactly, nuts. So why?”
“You can keep a secret?”
“Mums the word.”
“I am a marriage counselor.”
“Oh, I see, people are getting sick of taking advice from a novice. Wait, less than a novice. A novice has at least a little experience, you have none.”
“Thank you. I think you get the idea.”
“So, why not find a girl and get married? Are you secretly gay and don’t want people to know or something?”
“No, that’s not it. I always planned on dating and getting married, but I was busy and being single has been working fine for me. I mean, except for what others think. But I am fine being single and am fine staying single the rest of my life. Well, single, but kind of married, on paper at least. You know, as I outlined in the ad.”
“I totally understand, what is wrong with being single? People think I sit in at night crying or something. Being single works for me too.”
“All right, my turn. Why did you apply to the ad?”
“Two reasons, one, my mother. Someday, I will be sitting over her deathbed, weeping, telling her I love her and she will look into my eyes and say, ‘Are you dating anyone? When are you going to get married?’ I say that, but this isn’t really correct because she will simply refuse to die until I have sworn matrimony. And two, I am so sick of getting set up, and/or having to avoid strange men who want to date me.”
It was her time to play story time and she began to tell all about Larry at her office and the most recent push to get a date to the Garth Brooks concert. She closed with, “I would love for Larry to walk into my office, see a photo of me in my wedding dress, and finally see his mouth open and no words come out. He has offered me his picture about 100 times but if I got one at that moment I might actually keep it. You know maybe we could set him up with Star Jewell.”
He loved the idea. The more she went on the more he felt like this was the girl for him. Truly a perfect match, a win-win. She needed to be married without being married and so did he. So, he decided to put it out there, “I don’t want to rush things, but given what you said, I think this could work.”
“What are you saying?” Julie knew that this may be a simple business decision but she had enough romance in her that she was not going to marry a man whose only proposal consisted of, ‘this could work.’
“I guess, I’m asking you to marry me?”
“Oh, that’s cute… try again.” She said this lovingly but with enough force that he got the gist and with some confidence started out.
“Julie..” then he stopped. “What is your last name?”
“Yup, as you told good old Jen, it’s not that uncommon.”
“Well then, Julie Smith, will you marry me?”
She paused, looked deeply into the eyes of this man she did not know and said the strangest sounding word she’d ever heard herself say, “Sure.”