“Great! And don’t sweat the bid today. I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out. We can tackle things in small chunks. I promise.”
I’m not nearly as certain as he is—especially since I now need to scrape together enough money to hire a cutthroat divorce attorney to go after Karl. I don’t say that, though, not when Mikey is so obviously going out of his way to be nice.
“Thanks so much for all your help with this. I appreciate it.”
We say our goodbyes, and just as I’m getting ready to hang up, Mikey adds, “I’m really looking forward to lunch tomorrow.”
“Me too,” I answer absently, my mind already moving on to the next task on my to-do list—which is to find a place to store all the bags in the trash-it pile until the dumpster comes through.
It isn’t until after I’ve already hung up that Mikey’s words hit me in between musings about whether the garage or the back porch would be better to store all the going-to-the-dump bags I’m creating.
But then realization smacks me like a two-by-four, or a wine bottle still half full of merlot, right between the eyes.
Tomorrow at noon? Is it a date?
Because I like you, Mallory.
I’m really looking forward to lunch tomorrow.
Did I just agree to go on a date with my contractor?
I didn’t, right?
I mean, yeah, he was flirting a little, but he’s obviously younger than I am. And obviously hotter than I am. Plus, he knows that I’m broke and living in a junk pile. What exactly screams sexy about that?
I just stand in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by trash bags, with my mouth hanging open and my brain spinning out into pure what-the-fuck panic mode.
How? How did this even happen? One second I was thinking about trash—definitely not a sexy subject—and the next I became a cougar.
I suck in a breath.
I don’t even have anything to wear on a date—and if I did, I don’t actually want to go on a date. I definitely don’t want to go on a date with a younger, gorgeous, smooth-talking contractor who looks like he could strip my panties off as easily as he could strip a piece of wood. Maybe even more easily…
And that’s when I realize I need to hand in my ovaries if that whole thought is a negative.
I pour myself a glass of orange juice and contemplate my dead-as-a-doornail libido. Why am I really upset about an innocent lunch date? If Mikey did suggest stripping my panties off, I should climb him like a tree, right? I sigh. I’m not the least bit interested.
There’s no denying he is h-o-t as hell. And he seems actually nice, too. Is that it? Did Karl break me from finding nice guys attractive?
I dredge up a mental image of my asshole neighbor from last night, my hands brushing against his hard stomach as I unbuckled his belt, and I get a little dizzy.
I sink down into a kitchen chair and plonk my head on the breakfast table. Fuck. I’m attracted to assholes.
In addition to all my new baggage—which is enough for a year-long cruise around the world all by itself—only dickheads do it for me now. Of all the things my failed marriage has left me with, this is by far the cruelest.
And just like that, I sit up and square my shoulders. My ovaries just need an exorcism, that’s all.
I’m going to go on a lunch date with a sexy young contractor. Let him pull out my chair. Make me laugh. Offer me compliments. And if eventually he wants to show me his hammer—I’m going to say yes, please. Pound it harder.
I’m going to do absolutely anything it takes to make Satan get behind me and fucking stay there, because no way am I ever going to end up married to a selfish prick again. I’m going to reclaim my vagina for the side of good, not evil.
I toast the air with my orange juice and giggle. Watch Mikey just want to discuss my home improvements of the nonsexual kind…
Well, either way, that’s tomorrow, and today I need to get busy reclaiming the kitchen for eating.
Three hours later, I finally finish the drawers—who knew a person could hang on to that many takeout menus and bottle caps?—and decide to stop to get something to eat. It’s only eleven or so, but between the hangover and the panic attack, food has been the last thing on my mind this morning.
I toss together a cheese-and-fruit plate—being single means I can eat whatever I want for lunch, and I’m coming to realize the freedom is a glorious thing—when my phone rings. My stomach goes south. The only people who call me these days are my parents, Karl, and Mikey. Right now, I’m not sure who I want to talk to less.
But when I reach over and snag my phone off the counter, it flashes Angela’s name. I texted her yesterday to thank her for recommending Mikey to me, but I didn’t expect to hear back from her—especially since my business isn’t turning out to be nearly as impressive as I was sure she had hoped for her brother-in-law.
Still, maybe Mikey had an epiphany and tagged her to cancel our lunch date, which might be why I sound a little too hyper when I answer the phone. “Hi!”
Angela gives a startled little laugh. “Hi, Mallory. How are you?”
“I’m good, thanks. How are you?” I definitely want to sound upbeat if she’s calling to break my date with Mikey. The last thing I want is for her to feel sorry for me and decide to force him to go anyway.
“I’m good! I’m calling because tonight is the night my bestie is having a Stella and Dot party, and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me?”
Stella & Dot? Am I supposed to know what that means? “Stella and Dot?” I repeat.
“Oh, do they not have S and D in the city?” Angela sounds surprised. “Now you have to come! They make the most gorgeous jewelry.”
That’s when it hits me. It’s a Tupperware party except shiny and pretty. In the city, I went to gallery shows, the Met, jogs in Central Park. Now I’m invited to a home jewelry party. Is there anything more suburban than that?
Is there anything snobbier than you right now?
Inner me is right. It’s hard to knock off some of the Manhattan snottiness, but I of all people know what it’s like to have people judge me and find me lacking. That’s it. I might be back in the burbs, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to act like some kind of city-dwelling snob who never crosses the GW Bridge going west unless forced.
“That would be a totally new experience for me,” I say.
“Exactly. A fun one but not as much as dating a hammer-hauling h-u-n-k,” she says with a loud laugh. “Just say yes, you’ll come to look at jewelry, eat apps, and drink some wine.”