Monday, October 8, 2018

Chapter 6- Competition


This is my romantic comedy about Byron, a marriage councilor in case you missed it here are links to (Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3 Chapter 4, and Chapter 5).

Chapter 6_Competition

Many men may have wanted a more confident answer to, ‘will you marry me?’ than, ‘sure’, but it was good enough for Byron.

“Great. This is Vegas, do you prefer the Justice of the Peace, drive thru chapel, or wee little chapel on the strip?”

Without a pause, came the confident reply, “St. Marks.”

“St. Marks? A church?”

“Yes, a church.”

“Would a church do a wedding without notice?”

“We are not getting married today.”

Byron was confused; it seemed to be a beautiful day. Of all days, he didn’t see what made this one less worthy than any other. “What’s wrong with today?” This process of finding a bride had already taken several days, and he didn’t care to have it drag on forever.

“Byron, one of the major reasons I’m doing this it to appease my Mother. She will want to be at the wedding.”

“I guess that makes sense.” He contemplated the situation and decided to give in. “Okay, we can do it next week if that works better.”

“Not next week, maybe, six months from now.”

“6 months?” Why would they possibly wait six months!? “Why 6 months?”

 “I don’t want my parents and others to think I’m rushing into it. Plus, we need to plan it.”

“Plan?”

“You really are a novice on this wedding thing.”

“If you really need time to do a few things, I understand. We can wait a month.”

“Three months at a minimum.”

“I’m reasonable 6 weeks.”

“Do you realize how busy we will be if we try to do this in 6 weeks?”

Secretly, he thought this couldn’t take longer than a few minutes of planning but decided to not bring that up right now and instead said, “I love being busy.”

“Okay, six weeks from today it is.”

“Great. Where is this church of yours?”

“Southwest part of town. The pastor will want to meet with us.”

Byron clenched his teeth. He was not going to look forward to that. While he grimaced, she continued. “If we are going to do this in 6 weeks, we had better get photos for the invitation tomorrow.”


“Wait a minute; why would we want photos, or need invitations?”

“Calm down Byron.”  Her tone did not impress Byron, who thought that she should wait at least until they were married before she started talking down to him. “You want to pass this off as the real deal, don’t you? Wouldn’t it be more convincing if you had a picture of me and you on your desk?”

She was right, but that didn’t mean he was going to be happy about it. If he had realized photos would have been part of the deal, he would have thought a bit more about putting that add in the paper. “Okay, so let’s sit down and figure a bit of this out.” So that’s exactly what they did. It was 2:50 before Byron realized it. “Holy cow, it’s almost 3! I need to get over to Paris.”

“Quite the world traveler, huh.”

“No, Paris hotel across the street, for my next…” he didn’t know if he should call it date or interview, so just stuttered out, “appointment.”

“How many of these ‘appointments’ do you have today?” Julie asked.

“She’s the last one.”

“You’re going to meet with her after you proposed to me?”

“Well, at this point, I’m not sure I have much of an option; I can’t stand her up.”

“Just call her.”

“I don’t have her number. Say, why don’t you come with me? I can quickly tell her it’s off and then we can go get rings while we work out all the details.”

“Sounds good. I know it’s probably wrong, but I’m rather anxious to see her.  I mean, what kind of a wacko is willing to get married based on an add in the paper? Besides you and me, of course. What’s her name?”

“Julie.”

“Another nuts Julie.”

“No, you’re nuts Julie. She’s just Julie.”

She gave a bit of glare as they left and headed out the door. “Byron, let me give you a bit of hint, sometimes you should simply laugh and keep your mouth shut.”

He was about to argue that the truth shouldn’t be held back, even when it wasn’t appreciated but he wisely laughed and kept his mouth shut.

There are few walks more famous or more unique than the walk from Bellagio to Paris Casino on the strip in Las Vegas. And while neither mentioned it, both felt a small amount of regret and significant irony that their first walk as an engaged couple would be such a blur. They blurred through the casino, past the beautiful conservatory in the Bellagio, through the magnificent entrance, by the world-famous fountains that currently danced to the sound of Andrea Botticelli and Sarah Brightman singing, “It’s time to say goodbye.” Julie didn’t know if it was symbolic of Byron’s conversation with “just Julie”, or an omen telling her to get out while she could. Once they were out in front of the walkway, the crowds grew dense, and one couldn’t toss a brick in any direction without hitting a street performer dressed as Buzz Lightyear, Darth Vader, or Batman, all ready to be in your next selfie for a small fee. Dashing across the busy street, they entered the Paris Casino. After passing a few slot machines, they entered the elevator that would take them up the 1/3 scale Eiffel tower to the restaurant and his awaiting final appointment.

Despite their rush, they approached the front desk at 3:07. “Can I help you?” The greeter behind the front desk, that sat near the entrance to the dining area, said. Looking towards the dining area Byron noticed some of the tables, and spotted a red rose and knew it must be Julie.

“I am here to meet someone.”

“Yes, sir, whom are you here to meet?”

“I think I see her back there, but just a second.” He turned to Julie, “Okay, Julie, you stay here and I’ll go tell her that it’s off.”

“That’s disappointing.” Julie said with a bit of a frown.

“What is?”

“She looks rather like-able.” I kind of wanted to see someone like that Jen you described earlier. Not to mention, it’d be fun to see her throw her plate at you.”

“I hope to be out of here before she has a plate of food to throw. Wish me luck.”

“I’ll be watching.”

The front desk man took him to his seat. When Rick had taken the job as host at the Paris hotel, he had assumed that each night would be full exciting situations, call girls with gangsters, and the like. The thought that a man showing up to meet one woman with another woman in the lobby was something he figured would be about common place as peanut butter and jelly in his youth, and that is saying something given that his last name was Smucker, matching the family business. But in this hope, he was greatly disappointed. Life, even on the strip in Las Vegas, was not as exciting as advertised and while he wanted desperately to have exciting tells of high rollers letting hundred-dollar bills fall from the pockets while a train of show girls followed behind, most of his clients were simply husbands and with their wives coming to a nice meal. Therefore, Byron with one woman waiting at the table and one watching from yonder lobby was of keen interest to him, and while he didn’t know the back story, he was convinced it was about to come out as long as he stayed within ear shot.  “Here you are, Sir.” He said, pulling out the chair across the rose adorned guest.

“Thank you.” Byron said, but it was a lie; he had no desire to take a seat and was not thankful for the host’s action. His plan had been to approach her from one side of the table, tell her he couldn’t stay as he lapped around the table and then put a little breeze in her hair from his draft as he headed back towards the door.  But now with the host holding the chair for him he was rather obliged to take a seat. “Are you Julie?”

She grinned from ear to ear.  “I am, and you must be my mystery man or a secret liaison that is going to drive me in a limo to a secret location where there’s a man behind a desk,”

“Actually,”

Byron tried to stop her thought but she kept going, “Of course, I can’t see him because he’s turned around in a big chair? I turn back to the man that brought me but the door shuts and I am locked in the room with the man in the big chair. Silence sets over us as he allows the fear inside me to grow.  Final when the tension has grown to almost the point of a pressure cooker about to blow he will call out in the single deep syllable, ‘Julie.’”

Byron wanted to point out that ‘Julie’ was two syllables, but the story teller was not allowing interruptions. “The voice will sound vaguely familiar, but could it be? While I am torn with thoughts of the past the voice will continue, ‘Julie, I have searched the world over and now you can finally be mine.’ Then I will be sure and will be running to him. As he spins around in the chair, I will call out, ‘Billy, I knew you would find me. No matter how lonely or far I was, I knew you would come.’” At this point she was so into the story that Byron was fairly sure if he walked out right now she might not notice, and debated doing it. “We then passionately kiss and sink into this large chair which is big, but far too small for both of us, but that is fine with me. And then…” She snapped out of it as she saw Byron and Rick both staring in a bit of shock at her. “So, are you my mystery man?”

“I guess so, who’s Billy?”

“I’d rather not talk about Billy.” She said with a bit of embarrassment.

“Okay.” By this time, he had planned to say that he couldn’t stay but the story of the liaisons, limos and Billy had thrown him off a bit. Trying to think of a good way to transition from, yes, I am the mystery man to, now I need to mysteriously disappear was bothering him but he figured that conversation would be easier without the presences of this very attentive host whom was still standing by his side.  “Thank you again, Rick,” he said, noting the name tag. “That will be all.”
“I would like to introduce you to your waiter. He will be here momentarily.” This was said while standing at perfect attention staring directly forward. Clearly Rick, had no intention of leaving in the immediate future.

Byron looked back towards the lobby and saw Julie watching his poor performance. “So, there is no limo or man behind the desk, but I do need…”

He was about to say, ‘to go’ but Julie again interrupted, “Actually that is really good. When I answered this thing, I thought, ‘I bet that this guy is 400 lbs. or like 75’ or something, but you look great. I mean, you could loose a few pounds, but who couldn’t? But overall, you are like an 8, okay maybe a 7. Not that looks are everything, mind you but it is nice to enjoy that person you need to wake up to every morning.  I remember, I used to wake up every morning and look at my dog. And I would say you are a bit of an…”

Byron had let this go on long enough, “Listen, Julie, I can’t stay. Something has come up and I have to go.” Boy, did that feel good. He had done it. He scooted his chair back as the beginning of his leaving motion.

“Oh, no! Did someone die?” Julie asked in shock and seriousness.

He had hoped that would be the end of it but now tried to force the point without having to elaborate. “No, nothing that serious but I do have to leave. I am so sorry you came all this way, but I must go.” Byron again continued his motions of leaving, almost forgetting the host he was about to run into.

“Okay, I understand.” Byron was so relieved to be done with that.  “So, when do you want to reschedule?”

Reschedule? Oh no, she wasn’t getting it. Byron had always thought finding people to date would be hard, now he saw why he never started, it wasn’t finding people that was hard. It was getting rid of them that was hard. He didn’t know what to say but decided to be honest without any elaboration. At some point, one might expect him to realize that strategy didn’t seem to be working, but none the less, he stuck to it. “Julie, there is no need to reschedule.” There was no intention for the words to come off harsh but as soon as they left his mouth he could tell that is exactly how it came off.

Tears began to well up in Julie’s eyes. “Wait a minute.” Byron halted in place half standing and only inches from the still frozen host whose only movement was the edge of his lips that couldn’t help but begin to smile. Exasperation filled her voice, “You send me an email saying you want to meet me, because you need a wife, practically proposing to me, and then I drive clear across town fighting the crazy traffic through the strip and you take one look at me and say it’s over. Clearly, you think looks are nice too, but mine aren’t nice enough for you, and you can’t even take the time to inconvenience yourself enough to sit down and eat with me, you’re no better than Billy.”

Byron decided to ignore the reference to Billy and tried to plead his case on other points. “It’s not your looks Julie.”

“What then? What has come up? Why don’t you want to reschedule?”

What he had been avoiding from the get go, the truth, now seemed his only solution. “I decided on another girl and didn’t have time to cancel, so I thought I’d better let you know rather than leave you hanging.”

“You decided before you even met me? That doesn’t seem very fair.”

Byron was not sure what to say. Fairness had not been on his mind when he had proposed to Julie, and in his defense, he kind of thought past case law may be in his favor in this regard.  He was not being a master of jurisprudence but he did know that all is fair in love and war. And while his case may be a stretch to be called love he thought a jury would buy it. However, how to articulate this at that moment didn’t come readily to him, he was just wondering what would Billy do? When she saved him the trouble by continuing, “Well fine. Can I at least get my dinner? You did drag me all this way.”

“Um…I um…” Byron stammered when unsure of what to do, “see, it turns out that she’s out front, and I should really…”

“She is here? Great! I would like to meet her. Have her come on back.”

Byron had been in counseling long enough to know that this was a bad idea, but before he could decline, the ever-attentive host, Rick, said, “I will get her,” and was off with more alacrity than he had ever performed any task to date in his life.

Seconds later, there they all were: Julie, Julie, Byron, and of course, the ever-specious host, Rick. Julie, Byron’s first date, spoke as she approached. “So, Byron, we have decided to stay.”

Julie #2 jumped in, which was good, because Byron did not know what to say, “Byron was good enough to at least provide me dinner, given that I came all this way and I so wanted to meet you.”

“Oh, good… this should be nice.” Julie said, half under her breath, as she grabbed a chair which allowed Byron to sit as well.

Again, silence fell on the group and it was the silence’s presence that made the presence of the host, still standing at attention stand out. Byron was not happy with the growing number at the table and decided he better get rid of someone, unfortunately, for the host he was the easiest target. “Can we all get a glass of water?”

“No, I’ll have a glass of your Haynes Old Block, Pinot Noir. Actually, go ahead and bring us a bottle.” Julie #2 said with a smile.

Byron knew that divorce was expensive; he regularly said so as an incentive for couples to continue with his services. He was now worried that he was about to get a taste of how expensive break ups could be.

The host wished to protest but could see the manager headed their way and a line back at the front door, so, as much as he wished to see this play out, he was forced to depart.

As soon as he left, #2 started in. Looking to Julie #1, she said, “It’s good to meet you. What’s your name?”

“Julie.”

“Well, isn’t that nice. It seems our friend Byron here has a thing for Julies. See, I’m named Julie as well.”

“I know,” #1 admitted.

“You know. So, what else did Byron tell you about me.”

“That was it.” Julie said in all honesty.

Byron was a bit defensive at this point. After all, when one is running a, ‘find a bride’ advertisement scheme, one doesn’t like others to assume you are careless with others privacy. “What else could I tell her, that is all I knew.”

“That’s true,” #2 pounced, “but it was enough to know you wanted her over me. You must have loved her name more. Oh wait, it’s the same name.”

Byron was getting happier by the second that he hadn’t picked #2 and now tried to defuse the situation. “I know you are upset, but let’s try to stay calm.”

“Okay,” She took a deep breath, “I can stay calm. So, when is the big day.”

Byron didn’t want to answer but decided they couldn’t sit in silence, so they might as well answer her question. “We’re looking at 6 weeks from now.”

It is amazing how our tone can express so much more than our words. Byron had stated a brief factual sentence but how he said it and how he looked at Julie, that is #1, is what told #2 that 6 weeks was not what Byron had in mind, and he wished for a much quicker engagement. This is the exact chink in the armor that #2 had been hoping would show forth, but before she could exploit it, the waiter showed up with water and her very pricey bottle of wine.

“What can I get for you?”

Byron was ready and quickly ordered the cheapest meal on the menu, hoping to minimize the damage. Julie #1 followed suite with a similarly priced item. Byron’s admiration for this woman was growing. Then came #2, and much to his surprise she said, “I’ll have the same.” Byron sat relived maybe the damage would not be as bad as he thought.

“Why wait?” She began to go for the weakness. “What’s wrong with today?” #2 asked as the waiter walked away.

Byron wanted to jump up and say, “Exactly what I said,” but what can only be considered a miracle he thought for a moment before he spoke, and then saving his engagement he said, “we feel it would be good to wait, to invite our families and do other important marriage things.”

This was 100% right answer but 0% believable. #2 could tell she was heading in the right vain, and pressed further. “You know I wouldn’t need to wait for my family to come.”

No one responded. “So, did you guys talk turkey?” While turkey was consumed at his earlier lunch, he was fairly confident that was not what #2 was talking about, but he wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Everyone present had a confused look on their face except Rick; he had come back and was again standing by the side of the table, his expression was void of confusion, it rather bore as smile as he knew he had come at exactly the right moment. “I mean did Julie agree to the $600 a month that you had in your add?”

The question seemed personal and inappropriate, but then again, there was nothing appropriate or normal about their entire situation. “We have not discussed that yet.” Byron admitted.

“What if she wants more?” #2 asked.

Byron now noted the smiling host by his side. “What are you doing here?” he said rather abruptly.

“I came by to ensure that everything is meeting your satisfaction.” Came the reply in perfect composure.

Byron was about to tell him to, ‘take a hike,’ but #1 spoke up and said to #2, “Have you forgotten that I am right here. Not that it is any of your business, but I don’t plan to ask for more.”

#2 looked right at Byron and said, “I’ll take half.”

Byron couldn’t believe this. It was absurd and ridiculous, but suddenly he paused, forgetting about Rick, he wondered if he wasn’t being too hasty. Either women he would rarely see, and #2 was willing to marry today as he wished and for half price. Not only that, she probably wouldn’t require him to sit for photos. For a moment he thought about breaking off his engagement with #1, but only for a moment. After all, a jerk is still a jerk, even at half price.

“Listen Julie.” He said to #2. This looking directly at #2. “This is not a debate, I’m to go marry Julie.” Then realizing this may not be as clear sit it should be, he clarified, “this Julie.” He pointed to make sure everyone understood. And the turning to Rick said, “We will pay for the food now and take ours to go.”

Julie #1 was impressed, Byron may not be a knight in shining armor, but a man smart enough to stand up and run when needed might live longer anyway. With victory on his mind he stood taking Julie’s hand. “We will pay at the front desk.” He told Rick.

But before the victory went to far to his head, #2 turned to Rick and said, “Before you ring him up, you might want to note that I’ll be changing my order to the filet minion and lobster tail.”





No comments:

Post a Comment