Friday, February 20, 2015

Romance novel scene: fair and approximate

     Lately, if I want a good laugh, I read a romance novel. No, I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey, and I doubt I'll see the movie, but I have read, and will sometimes read aloud, books written by Diana Palmer (Will of Steel), Nicholas Sparks (Safe Haven), or J.R. Ward (Lover Eternal), as my partner and friends can attest. I laugh until I cry. It's not the romance that's so goddamn funny, it's the messy prose, the misshapen story, the overblown setting, or the painfully stereotyped characters that keep me reading and guffawing. I want to make it clear that these stories bring me true, B-movie variety, joy. I recommend you try a page or two of any of the books above. 
     So, given the pleasure I derive from these reads, I thought I'd try my hand. I hope this romance novel-style scene makes you chuckle. 
     Imitation meet flattery. Fan fiction: generic romance!

     Tabitha sat in a lacquered booth at the back of the Applebee's waiting for her date, Witt, to arrive. She nervously eyed the front door. Why did I let Stacy talk me into this? I haven't been on a date in forever. Ugh. What kind of name is Witt anyway?
     The waitress came over. "Can I get you something to drink?" She sounded like she was in a rush, frazzled. She took a moment to smooth her apron and primp her hair while Tabitha decided what to order. Tabitha noted that the waitress's neon shirt was almost as bright and tight as the neon lights glaring off the wall in the packed restaurant. 
     "Um, I guess I'll have a beer--a Coors." Tabitha squinted as she looked up at the waitress one more time. The woman had slick makeup and her shirt definitely showed off all her assets. I'll give it to you, girl. You probably make more tips looking like that. 
      "Coors. Coming right up." The waitress bustled away.
     Tabitha frowned and looked down at her own frumpy sweater. She chewed on her mousy, split-end laden hair and thought about her wardrobe choices. Remember Tabitha, you dressed down on purpose for this practically-forced-date. Tabitha told herself that the last thing she wanted was a romantic entanglement. Anyway, at this point in her life, in her mid-thirties, she wouldn't know what to do with romance if it came up and slapped her on the ass!
     Why is this guy interested in me? Tabitha couldn't understand it. She thought back to her conversation with Stacy, who had said this guy, Witt, lived in the neighborhood and had a feeling about Tabitha after meeting her. Yeah, I must have made a big impression. I don't even remember it. Witt told Stacy he wanted to get to know Tabitha better. "No pressure" is what he'd said to Stacy. But what did that mean? And what was this "feeling" business? A feeling? Who has a feeling about someone they've only just met? It took some convincing, but here she was. Tabitha told Stacy that she would meet this mystery man as a favor, but that was it. Just friends. Just dinner. Nothing more! 
     Tabitha had too much going on in her life right now--with work not going well and her aunt being sick. Not to mention that Tabitha had also fallen recently and hit her head, exacerbating an old childhood head trauma. She wasn't thinking clearly. She had some memory loss and was having trouble, more trouble than usual, doing basic calculations at her office job. She was worried about her head, but was trying not to worry too much. She would find out more at the appointment she had made with a specialist tomorrow.
      Tabitha's internal pity-party was cut short when she heard a commotion near the main entrance. A man had entered the restaurant. A really, really big man. Tabitha sat up in her booth to get a better look. Wow! He was out-of-this-world gorgeous. He looked like a cross between The Incredible Hulk and Leonardo DiCaprio. Except he wasn't green. But he was incredible. Tabitha could tell even from the back of the restaurant that he was the biggest, strongest, toughest, most fit man she'd ever seen. One big muscle. The Applebee's looked like it could barely contain him. 
     Tabitha kept watching the man. She couldn't take her eyes off of him. He had sandy-brown hair that had a sexy, tousled-by-the-wind, thing going on. His clothes were nice too. Not too flashy. He wore a fitted, light blue button-down shirt that Tabitha swore, even from this distance, hi-lighted his eyes. He had long legs that fit snugly into the best pair of jeans Tabitha had ever seen. Ugh! Suddenly she felt self-conscious ogling this man just like every other red-blooded American woman in the place. She was relieved when the waitress came over with her beer. 
     "Thanks," she said, taking a too-fast gulp and spilling some on her pilled up, taupe colored sweater. As she dabbed at the stain with her napkin, the hostess walked down the isle with the gorgeous man and his dog.
     His dog? That's weird. I thought dogs weren't allowed in here. 
    The dog was a Golden retriever wearing a harness. 
     The hostess stopped at a table where a redhead with a boob-job sat alone. The woman turned and looked stunned to see so much gorgeous man in her face. "Hi!" she said.
      Ugh! Am I going to have to watch an episode of the Bold and the Beautiful all night?
     "Hello. I'm Witt." He grinned. "Are you Tabitha?" He extended his huge hand toward the middle of the table. 
     Oh my God! What? Did he say, Tabitha? Tabitha felt faint. She wanted to crawl into a hole. She looked for the nearest exit, but the only way out was past Witt and his dog.
     "My name's Denise, but it can be anything you want--"
     "Oh. I'm sorry. I'm looking for Tabitha--" The dog whined and yanked his owner toward Tabitha.
       This guy can't be Witt.
     The dog came right over to Tabitha's booth and sat down, pulling Witt with him. The hostess was not far behind.
     Ugh. Am I in a dream or a nightmare? Either way, it will be over with soon enough.
     "Tabitha?" Witt asked, turning on a huge smile.
     The dog barked and wagged his tail.
     "Yes, but I'm sure I'm not who you're looking for." She tugged at her baggy sweater.
     "Why don't you let me be the judge."
     "Are you waiting for Witt?" the hostess butted in.
     "Yes," Tabitha said, grudgingly.
    Witt beamed. "That's me. I'm Witt, your blind date, and this is Stanley." Stanley barked and Witt extended his hand nowhere near Tabitha.
     Oh my gosh. He's actually blind! This is not funny! I'm going to kill Stacy for not telling me!
     Stanley barked again.
     Tabitha shook Witt's hand. 
     "Nice to finally meet you," Witt said with a cool chuckle. But he wasn't cool. He was hot. Erotic even.
     Tabitha was speechless. While Witt sat down, struggling to fit his enormous frame and long legs under the table, Tabitha focused on Stanley, the most beautiful, well-behaved dog she'd ever seen. She scratched him behind the ears and he sat down next to her.
     The hostess stood by their table for a minute, probably trying to figure why this guy was on a date with plain-Jane-Tabitha when he could have had anyone in town. She said, "Can I get you anything, Witt?" She rubbed his shoulder, a bit suggestively, Tabitha thought.
     "What are you drinking, Tabitha? Let me guess!" He took a whiff of the air. "Coors?"
     "Um--yeah." Tabitha was astonished.
     "I'll have one of those. I'm not driving tonight," he chuckled. 
     The hostess laughed. "I'll have your waitress bring it over in two shakes." She bumped Witt twice with her ample hip and waited for him to give her some sort of signal that he wanted her to stay, but he didn't.
     Tabitha sat awkwardly across the table from Witt, but unlike the hostess, she was trying to think of a way to let him off the hook and hightail it home. I might still be able to catch Grey's Anatomy. She noticed that Stanley had settled down under the table on her side, there was no room for him on Witt's side. The man is as big as a house! Tabitha took a sip of her beer and steeled herself. "Witt, it was really nice of you to ask me out, but I don't think I'm what you're looking for. I think I'll just finish my beer and then go if it's all the same to you."
     That voice. Witt had been hearing that voice in his dreams. Oh, man. He just wanted to reach across the table right now and put his hand over her neck so he could feel the vibrations of her vocal chords. Man! What a turn on. Tabitha, sweet, Tabitha. But then Witt actually heard what Tabitha had said and he shot his hand out to hers. "Wait a minute. Tabitha, are you trying to leave? Leave a blind man hanging on a blind date?" He laughed at his own joke. But then he turned serious. "Don't go. Not yet. Just talk to me. Let me hear your voice for a little while longer. I've been waiting for this. I'm so happy you said yes to this date."
      Tabitha was quiet across the table. Up close, Witt knew he could be a lot to take in. He was worried he'd been too straight forward. He was about to say some other pansy, pleading thing, when she said, "Are you really blind?"
     Witt threw back his head and laughed. "Yes! Man, you scared me for a second. I thought you were really going to cut and run."
     "I was."
     Witt sobered. "Can I tell you something? You've got the most beautiful, solid-melting-to-liquid-metal voice I've ever heard."
     "May I?" Witt reached across the table, found Tabitha's neck, and stroked it. "Say something," he purred.
     Tabitha went still. "What are you doing?" she said with mock outrage.
     Witt knew it was mock because he could feel the heat coming off her neck. "Tell me to take my hand away and I will." He stroked her neck some more, just like he'd imagined doing. But oh, it was so much softer than he had anticipated. When Tabitha didn't pull away he said, "Will you do me a favor? Keep talking? Tell me about yourself. I want to know everything about you."
     "Hmm. How about, I ask the questions," Tabitha said, getting used to Witt's big hand covering her throat.
     He chuckled. Well, what do you know. She's taking the lead. That's a big turn on. "Go ahead!" he said, stroking her chin with his thumb. He wished he could feel more of her soft skin. It was so soft.
     "Hrr, herrm." Tabitha cleared her throat, clearly collecting herself. "How do you know Stacy? You told Stacy you had a feeling about me? From where? What feeling? Why did that feeling lead you to want to go out with me?"
     "I could listen to you talk all day long, Tabitha."
     At that moment Stanley nosed Witt and the waitress arrived with his beer. "Thanks. Hey, Tabitha, are you ready to order? Cause I want to keep talking, but I'm starving."
     "But you haven't even seen the menu yet--I mean--" Tabitha stumbled.
     "Why do you think I asked you out to Applebee's? This place is my jam. I know everything on the menu. And let me tell you, everything is good."
     "Oh. Well, okay. You start and then I'll catch up." 
     "Great. I'll have the spicy chili cheese nachos, make it a double, onion rings, double too, and the classic wings, 30 count. You can skip the celery on that, but double the dipping sauce. For the main course, I'll go light cause I didn't have time for my workout today. Let's see, I'll do the all-in burger, with triple bacon, the steak and riblets combo, and then the shrimp scampi linguine. Oh, and a Pepsi to drink, and you can keep those coming. Thanks." Witt smiled in Tabitha's direction. "Did that buy you some time?"
     Tabitha said, "I'm confused. Did you just order for both of us?"
     "Nope. That was all for me. I have to keep up my strength, in my line of work. But I'm happy to share everything with you, Tabitha." He smiled. Witt knew he had a dazzling smile and he wasn't afraid to use it. Please let it work on Tabitha.
     "Oh, um, I'll just have the oriental chicken salad, thanks." 
     Witt couldn't wait to feel that throat of hers vibrating under his palm again. He was impatient for the waitress to leave, which was new. Normally, he loved attention from the ladies, but since the first time he'd run into Tabitha a week ago, all of his attention was on her, and nothing could pull it away.
     The waitress read back the order. "I'll bring the apps out first.  Do you want me to wait on your salad, sweetie?" she asked Tabitha.
     It felt like an eternity to Witt, but Stanley nosed him, which meant the waitress had finally left. All right. "Back to the important stuff, Tabitha. You were asking some serious questions. And I want to give you some serious answers." Witt smiled.
     Witt reached his hand across the table again and laid it on Tabitha's neck. She immediately pictured them in bed. She imagined his hand lingering on her neck while she was crying out his name during climax. She pulled herself away from the daydreamWhat is wrong with me? What am I thinking? He's just so intense. And interesting. And smart. And super funny, in a cocky, I'm-the-man, sort of way.
     "Tabitha, what are you thinking about? I can feel your heartbeat racing and your temperature rising." He smoothed his index finger over her carotid. 
     "Nothing!" Tabitha shoved Witt's hand away from her neck.
     Witt chuckled. "Tabitha, you're even more amazing than I imagined. Man. I'm about to make a fool of myself, okay? So here goes." Witt took a deep breath. "I recently moved into the neighborhood after a ... huge life change. I've been through a lot in the past five years, and not a lot was getting through to me, but I got a great job here, which is where I met Stacy BTW, and Stan the man is with me, and anyway, I just heard you talking on the phone in your backyard when Stanley and I were taking a walk one day, and your voice just called to me. I didn't mean to listen in or anything, but I heard you being really patient and understanding with someone on the other end of the line, and I thought it was the best thing I'd ever heard. I wanted to meet you. You, this patient, strong, woman with the beautiful voice. I had this feeling about you. An instant connection. And I wanted it to last. I thought, man, I could get used to that in my life. And by some miracle, you and Stacy turned out to be friends. So I knew I had to take a chance. Man, as far as I can tell, the deck is stacked in my favor cause my cards keep coming up Aces."
    Tabitha was shocked and a little confused. No one had ever spoken to her this way, let alone a virile man up close like this. She came to her senses. "But you don't even know me. And I don't know you." Tabitha sat back and folded her arms across her chest.
     Witt leaned forward as if he felt her distance. "So get to know me. I want to know you. So bad."
     Stanley nosed Witt and Tabitha and then the waitress arrived with a double order of nachos, onion rings, a plate of wings, and a Pepsi.
     Witt pointed at the table and said, "Put the wings at my 3, the rings at my 12, and the nachos at my 9. Thanks. I have a feeling Tabitha might want an onion ring or two, they're delicious."
     The waitress smiled at Tabitha and gave her the thumbs up. 
     Tabitha drained her beer. 
     "Anything else right now?" the waitress asked.
     "Can I have a water?" Tabitha asked.
     "Sure thing, sweetie." 
     "Help yourself," Witt gestured to his multiple plates before he began to eat. 
     Tabitha was prepared to be disgusted, but Witt was not a caveman. He ate slowly, chewed his food, and wiped his mouth repeatedly with a napkin. He did make satisfied grunting noises while eating, but who was Tabitha kidding, so did she. The waitress returned with water and Tabitha decided to indulge in a few onion rings. Witt was right, they were delicious. She smiled to herself.
     "Having a good time? Glad you stayed?" Witt asked between chicken wings. 
     "For the time being. I haven't totally made up my mind. Can I ask you some more questions?"
     "Yes. Absolutely. Shoot."
     "What do you do for a living?"
     "Military. But, I had to kind of retool after my injury."
     "I thought so. You said you work with Stacy... So you're blindness--you haven't always been blind? It happened recently?"
     "Yeah. Two years now. I'll tell you the whole story some day. It's not good dinnertime conversation. It was rough, but Stanley and my brothers helped me get through it, they're still helping me."
     "Your brothers? Do they live in town?"
     "A few." Witt downed his Coors.
     Tabitha watched Witt for another minute. She was amazed at how efficiently he ate. He knew where everything was on the table. He didn't bump into anything or make a mess. The nachos were gone before she knew it and the wings were in a neat pile at his elbow soon after. She noticed that Stanley didn't get any table scraps, which she liked. Who am I kidding, there aren't any table scraps!
     Tabitha realized she felt more comfortable, until she saw the woman with the boob job staring at her. She had a bitchy, disbelieving look on her face, which made Tabitha feel like the woman was right. How am I getting suckered in like this? I'm no beauty queen. Tabitha looked down at her sweater again and realized she must look awful, especially compared to Mr. Perfect across the table. "Why don't you have a girlfriend? It occurs to me that any number of women would love to date you."
     "Whoa." Witt wiped his hands on his napkin and reached across the table for Tabitha's cheek. 
     She jerked back.
     "Tabitha, where's the edge in your voice coming from? What's wrong? You know, even if I wasn't blind, I'm trained to hear changes in emotion--"
     "Can you see at all? You don't even know what I look like. Because if you did--"
     "If I did, I'd be just as into you." Witt gently touched Tabitha's hair. "I told you, I've been through a lot. My priorities weren't always straight, but they're getting there. And you're a part of that. I can't totally explain it. But hearing you brought hope to me. I've walked by your house a million times hoping to hear you, meet you. Your strength, your voice, that stuff's a total turn on. For real. Big time. "
     Tabitha balked and Witt got serious.
     "Do you want to know how turned on I am right now? Reach down between my legs and find out."
     "Witt!" Tabitha was mortified, but immediately turned on herself.
     "I'm sorry, Tabitha, but it's the truth. And I'm not gonna lie to you. I will wait for you, no problem. But I'll want you all the time. That's just me."
     Wow, this guy is big and real and honest. Is he too much for me to handle? Maybe, but I think I want to find out.
     Tabitha took the last onion ring just as their entrees arrived.