Luke couldn’t wait for it to be late enough to call Charlotte. He didn’t know what she did on Sundays and also didn’t want to appear too eager. He managed to hold off until 2:06.
Charlotte had been waiting for three hours and it took all her will power not to answer immediately.
‘Don’t show how eager you are, Char.’ Before hitting the answer button.
“Hi, Char. It’s me. Luke.”
“You didn’t erase my number then.”
“I really enjoyed meeting you last night.”
“I enjoyed talking to you so much that I was wondering if you would like to meet me for a coffee or a drink.”
“Coffee would be nice. So much quieter.”
“Are you doing anything tonight?”
“No, unless it’s meeting you, if that’s what you are asking.”
Luke grinned. This was going so well.
“I’m not even sure what part of town you live in.”
“Central Phoenix girl.”
“Great, I live there too. I’d rather not go to some trendy coffee house. There’s a place on 7th Avenue and Missouri called Sahara.”
“I know exactly where that is. What time would you like to meet?”
“How about 7? Unless you have to get up really early tomorrow and want to make it earlier.”
“No, 7 o’clock is fine. I’ll see you there.”
“Looking forward to it. Bye, Char.”
They both ended their call with very satisfied looks on their faces. Char immediately began to think of what she should wear. She was very fond of a certain skirt and blouse…
“OH Crap! I almost forgot. This is Ugly version time.” Char decided on jeans and a loose fitting t-shirt. Nothing like a t-shirt to turn a man on! Right!
Char arrived 10 minutes early; Luke was leaning against the side of his car, waiting for her.
“Don’t bother getting out of your car.”
“Are they closed?”
“Permanently.” Char noticed a new canopy over the storefront with the words Japanese Eatery emblazoned across it. Luke jerked his thumb south. “Looks like the new Starbucks drove them out of business.”
“Another defeat for the small businessman. What do we do now? I know of another place about a mile and half south of here but I’m not sure they are open.”
“We could just go to Starbucks this time, if that’s ok with you?”
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?”
“Something like that.” He grinned as he got in his vehicle. “I’ll see you in a minute”
They drove 100 yards down the street to the new Four-Bucks.
After they ordered their drinks they found a table by the window.
“Even after all of that, we’re both still early,” Luke grinned. He noticed she was casually dressed, and thought that she somehow looked even nicer than she had dressed up the night before.
“I wasn’t sure if Camelback would be closed or restricted, so I gave myself plenty of time for a detour.”
“I’ll be so glad when the light rail is completed and the delays are finished.”
“Unless you get slowed waiting for it to pass when you’re stopped at Camelback. And frankly, I’m not convinced it won’t turn into the biggest boondoggle in Arizona history.”
“You never know, Char. Working for ASU I’m surprised you aren’t ecstatic; it will certainly make your commute to Tempe from central Phoenix a lot easier.”
“It just the Phoenician in me rearing its ugly head, we’ve never been a place for mass transit. Driving is so much easier. But you’re also right; if it will work and ease pollution, then I’ll support it.”
“Being a homebuilder, I hope these forms of transportation catch on. We keep having to go further and further out to find land to build on. I admit I hate to see the desert shrinking, but people need places to live.”
“Yet you live in central Phoenix,” Char teased
“I grew up down here; I didn’t want to leave,” Luke confessed.
“I totally understand the sentiment. That’s why I have an apartment in the area. I love being in the middle of the Valley. Everything is relatively accessible.”
Their conversation then eased into living in the city and on to other various topics. They moved from subject to subject seamlessly and three hours later were surprised by the time.
“Wow! We’ve been here for three hours already!” Luke exclaimed. “I can’t believe it’s this late.”
“I need to get going,” Char sighed, “I need to go to the grocery store and pick up a few things before I go home.”
“I didn’t mean to keep you out so late. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, Luke. I thoroughly enjoyed the coffee and the conversation.”
“Maybe we could do this again?”
“I’d like that,” she said demurely.
“And maybe even dinner?” Luke pushed his luck.
“That would be lovely.”
“You’d like to have dinner with me?”
“I just said so.”
“Ok, how about Friday night for dinner?” Char grinned in reply. “I’ll call you tomorrow to set up a time and a place.”
“I’m home after 6:00.”
Like a gentleman, Luke walked her to her car and made sure she was safely buckled in, promising to call the next evening. Char drove to the store with a smile on her face, thankful she had thought beforehand to make a grocery list. There was no way she would have remembered anything she needed. All she could concentrate on was the simple fact that Luke was amazing!
Of course Luke called the next day, just after 6:00. They settled on a little Italian place in Moon Valley called Saluté. They also just happened to agree to meet again for coffee on Tuesday. Neither wanted to wait until Friday to see each other again.
The Phoenix Metroplex is home to nearly 3 million people, a large part who are Latino. Many of the population are fluent in Spanish. A quick look through the restaurant section of the yellow pages will reveal a long list of establishments whose names end in “to’s”, “bo’s”, and “ro’s”. Half of the valley seems to run on pinto beans and tortillas. And Arizonians are proud of it.
Like many other ethnic foods, the longer you are exposed to it, the pickier you become. One tends to pick the restaurant solely for one or two dishes on the menu. When the authoress wants chimichangas or stuffed pablano chicken, she heads to Macayo’s. Then there is Ramon’s for bean burros, Manuel’s for chicken tacos, and Tortas El Güero for a great milaneza tortas.
Tuesday Liz picked up Jane and they headed off for Mexican take-out so they could go to Jane’s and watch American Idol together. They stopped by an old Rally’s that was now a Rolberto’s or something for some fiery fare. The line was slower than normal and it took nearly 10 minutes to reach the window. Liz dutifully handed her debit card in to pay for the food, the smell of Mexican fast food wafting into the car, making them hungrier. The man came back and handed Liz her card and a little clipboard with a receipt for her to sign. Unfortunately, the pen he handed out with the clipboard fell to the ground in the transfer. Elizabeth tried to open the door but she had pulled too close to the drive-through window to get out. She shrugged and dug into her purse to get one of her own, signed the receipt, and gave it back to the person at the window. A minute later, after a long conversation with another person inside, all in Spanish mind you, the guy came back to the open window and asked if Elizabeth could try and get the pen again.
“It’s our last one. The man ahead of you stole the only other pen we had.”
“I’ll see if I can get it,” said Jane. Being the kind soul that she was, she got out of the car and walked around the back to see if she could reach it.
“I can’t get to it. You’ll have to pull forward,” Jane told Elizabeth. Seeing no other option, Elizabeth put the car in gear and slowly rolled forward.
Jane never did that well in math in school, but she did have enough of a grasp of simple geometry to realize, much too late, that the prodigal Bic ballpoint was directly in line with the path of the rear tire of the car. Her hand flew to her mouth as the clear plastic made a rather loud crunching noise under the weight of the automobile. Mechanically, Jane walked over to the remains of the writing implement and picked it up; careful to remove the inner ink cartridge, thinking perhaps they could still use it. Wordlessly she placed the ink interior in one place on the drive-through window and the shattered remains of the outer case and the flattened blue cap next to it. Not knowing what else to do she moved out of the way and motioned for Liz to back up. Jane got in the passenger side as the stunned man handed Elizabeth their order.
“I should have left the poor man one of my pens,” Jane mused.
“Yeah, I was wondering if I should leave one too after I heard the sound of the plastic being crunched. No way in the world you could mend that pen.”
The next moment the two sisters were in hysterics as they drove down the road toward American Idol mindlessness.
Elizabeth was having a hard time knowing what to wear to the basketball game. They weren’t gong to a restaurant before the game, so dressing appropriately to eat wasn’t a factor. She knew the women in her part of the arena were usually decked out in their designer best. She owned her own finery, but unfortunately they were not something a dowdy woman would have enough chutzpah to pull off. Plan B would have to do.
Go with the jersey.
The problem was, which one? Should she wear her Steve Nash, her retro Van Arsdale, or her own from ASU? The ASU one was out. As much as she would love to rub it in William’s face that she played in college, he didn’t need to know that right off, if she could help it.
Nash? Liz loved to watch Nash play – it was a fellow point guard thing. Nash would be good.
Ah, but Dick Van Arsdale, the original Phoenix Sun, now that made a statement! He was before her time, but Liz knew the man was a complete ball player – old school! Plus he grew up balling in Indiana, the Mecca of high school basketball.
It was settled; No. 5 was coming down from the hanger and over her oversized white t-shirt. Old jeans and her high tops from her last season for the Sun Devils completed the ensemble. She had previously washed and allowed her hair to air dry. No makeup, not even her beloved mascara. It was almost like she was getting ready to lace em’ up herself!
She looked wannabe jock now.
The game started at 7 o’clock, but Liz decided to arrive well before then. William had called to tell her he would leave the ticket that morning at will-call so she decided to take the opportunity of arriving early, finding a close free parking spot, and doing a little personal scouting. She loved watching pre-game preparations, a habit from her college days.
Will showed up about 15 minutes before the tip-off. He wasn’t too surprised that Elizabeth beat him to the arena, but he was a bit surprised to see her wearing her retro jersey.
He slipped in beside her.
“Hello, William. When you asked me to the game today, I had no idea the Mavs were the opponents. This really is a treat.”
“Thanks. Interesting attire.”
“You like the Van Arsdale?”
“He is in the ring of honor,” Will said as he pointed to a large mural of the man in question with his name and Number 5 on the concrete ring below the suite level.
“I don’t get a lot of opportunity to wear this thing, and since I can’t compete with what the ‘trophies’ around us are wearing, I thought this was the perfect choice.”
Will silently agreed. There was something about her. Damn, if she didn’t look better than she did the other night.
“Would you like anything to eat or drink before the game?”
“Thanks, I’ll stick with my water.” He looked down at her cup holder and the bottle of water and kicked himself for not noticing. Deciding to leave well enough alone, he sat watching the pre-game festivities.
Elizabeth broke the silence. “These are great seats, William. I could get used to sitting down here.”
“Do you come to the games often?”
“No, I only come when I get free tickets. I think the last time I came was three years ago when EJ brought me.”
“My company owns the season tickets for these seats.”
“I’m not surprised – most of the seats in the lower bowl are corporate holdings. So, who do you think is going to win?”
“I have no idea; Dallas and Phoenix are the top to teams in the West. Any outcome is possible. I hope you weren’t waiting too long for me.”
“Oh, I was, but I didn’t mind. I wanted to watch the teams do their warm ups.”
Will leaned back in his seat. “I always find that rather boring.”
“That is because you don’t know what to look for. You can learn a lot from watching guys stretch and shoot.”
“Like what?” Like a girl would know anything about basketball, even if she did dress-up like a rabid fan on steroids.
She gestured at the court. “Well, if you had been here and watched, you would have seen that Raja Bell took a lot of time stretching his back with the help of the trainers. He’s still not completely rid of his back problem that kept him out recently. And if you watch carefully, you can see where players like Shawn Marion think they are going to get jump shots, they spend a lot of time practicing from those spots. And you can tell the guys who like to drive to the basket because they will end up shooting a lot of weird little underhand scoops shots near the basket.”
“I guess I never bothered to look. But aren’t they afraid they’re giving something away?”
“These guys are so thoroughly scouted that it doesn’t matter. Dirk Nowitzki can practice driving to his right all he wants; everyone knows he prefers going left.”
Will needed to do some serious re-thinking about the woman sitting next to him. She obviously knew her NBA stuff, even though she claimed she rarely attended any games. Her comments during the game only reinforced the idea.
“Come on Amaré, get a body on him!”
“For God’s sake Boris, don’t let him have the baseline!”
“Come on ref, if I took that many steps I’d be five pounds lighter!”
“What – no blood, no foul?”
“Hey, Nowitzki! I would say you play like a girl, but you don’t deserve the compliment!”
Will started laughing at the last one.
“What?” Liz asked, wondering what was so funny.
Will shook his head. “You have passion for the game, I’ll give you that.”
“Once it’s in your system, you never really lose it,” she grinned. Now it was time for Will to be left wondering about a comment.
At half time, one of the Suns announcers came walking up the steps and stopped the row before theirs. “Liz Bennet, is that you?”
“Hey EJ, didn’t recognize me?” She gave him a warning look that said, ‘I’ll explain later’. Will was completely confused.
“Not easily. I guess it’s because you aren’t wearing my jersey.”
Elizabeth laughed. “That’s because I’m not crazy enough to wear a signed, game-used jersey to a game! Don’t worry, it’s framed and hanging in my office. And behind glass, too, so it doesn’t stick up the place!”
“Nice to see I’m still appreciated, Lizard-breath. Look, I know you have a regular job, but I’d love to have you come help out at my summer basketball camp.”
“You know I would, but it’s normally the week before or during the sales meeting, and I just can’t get away then.”
“That’s why I asked; it’s been moved up a couple of weeks.”
Liz thought about it. “That might be doable, but I still have this little thing called a job.”
EJ laughed. “How about I call John and see if I can get him to let you come on company time? I’ll make him a corporate sponsor or something.”
Liz laughed. “Go ahead! I’d love to do it.”
“It’d be just like old times, and the girls could use a role model. Nothing like local girl makes it big to feed the dreams.”
“I never made it ‘big’, as you well know.”
“You would have had things worked out differently, and we both know it. ‘You coulda been a contender,’” He said in his best Marlon Brando.
“Stick with your day job, Eddie.”
“Aren’t you going to introduce me?” He gestured to the man with the puzzled expression next to her.
Liz turned. “Oh, William.” She grinned and did the honors. “Eddie, this is William Darcy. William, I think you know who Eddie is.”
“Nice to meet you William. You take care of Liz here. I’m sure you know how special she is.” Eddie said as he shook Will’s hand
“So I’m learning. Nice to meet you.”
“I gotta run. Nice seeing you, Liz. I’ll have my people call.”
After he left, Will looked in awe at Elizabeth. “You worked at EJ’s basketball camps?”
“Sure, while I was playing in college.”
Will blinked. “But that means that you were really good!”
“I’m not the best judge of how good I was.”
“But you played in college!”
“Yeah, but lots of woman play sports in college.”
“You’re the first one I’ve ever known. Where did you go?”
“I stayed home and played for Arizona State. I liked Coach Thorne and it was a good fit academically for me.”
Liz snorted, “Point, obviously! I’m not tall enough to play anywhere else. EJ asked me to help out at his camp a couple of summers. It was a lot of fun, but then I got my MBA and I had a job waiting for me so I had to give that up.”
The surprises just kept on coming. “You have an MBA?”
“Jane said so the other night.”
Will shook his head. “She just said you had a degree in math and business; she didn’t say you had an MBA.” He knew that he wouldn’t have forgotten something like that.
“Well, I red-shirted my junior year after I tore up my right knee in summer workouts. I was bored and took extra classes to finish my Bachelor’s on time. I entered grad school for my ‘senior year’ – that is, my fifth year – and in the first game of the season I tore up my left knee. ASU petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year, and it was granted. I was able to finish up my MBA that last year.”
“Wow, not many people get a sixth year of eligibility.”
She waved it off. “It means you have had the bad luck of two very serious injuries. I’m no different. I played my last year, but I wasn’t the same as before. I lost a step. I was a starter before all the injuries but I ended up coming off the bench and playing about eight minutes a game that last year.”
“Didn’t you get discouraged?”
“Sure! It was tough not being able to play the way I used to play, but I stuck it out. I’m glad I did. I learned a lot about myself, and the meaning of team.”
“I can see you know the game well. Ever considered coaching?”
“I did for awhile. Just between you and me, though, after six years in the program I was ready for a change. I didn’t want to teach, so I knew that if I wanted to coach, it would be at the collegiate level. That’s a hard road to travel. Pay sucks when you first start out. Like I said, I had a job waiting and I was ready to do something different. I’m happy with what I do and I couldn’t imagine leaving Phoenix right now. I would have to move to pursue coaching.”
Will was impressed. Who was this woman?
The Suns had lead at the half by 7 points but the Mavs stormed back to take a 15-point lead into the 4th quarter. Suns fans began to lose hope; the Suns closed the gap, but with only 32.7 seconds left the Mavs had taken a 6-point lead. A Nash lay up closed it to within 4 points with 22.1 seconds left. A quick foul sent Josh Howard to the line where he made 1 out of 2 shots; Dallas lead by 5 with 18.9 seconds to go. Nash then was fouled on a three-point shot attempt, and calmly made all three to cut the lead to 2 with 14.4 seconds remaining.
Liz was really into the end of the game, cheering and cringing with everyone else. When Nowitzki was fouled and missed the first foul shot, she and Will cheered with everyone else. The Suns could send the game into overtime with a 3!
Liz grabbed Will’s hand as the Suns inbounded the ball. Steve Nash took a shot for three that was off the mark; the crowd groaned. But then Shawn Marion got the rebound and kicked the ball back to Nash, and the reigning MVP drained his 3-pointer to potentially send the game into overtime. Elizabeth screamed and turned towards Will and threw her arms around him.
He hugged her back. More.
Suddenly they both realized what was going on and released each other simultaneously. They faced forward, still clapping, but looked at each other out of the corner of their eyes.
What had just happened?
Will’s mind was going a mile a minute. There was a lot less of Liz under those clothes than he expected – except for on top. There, there was plenty. Why would she wear such loose fitting clothing? Hadn’t she ever seen What Not to Wear?
The Mavs had one last shot to win the game but missed. The game went into overtime.
Will and Liz were both conscious not to touch each other such a familiar way again. The two teams ended up going into double-overtime with the Suns winning by 2 points. Liz continued to cheer as before, but felt awkward. She had hugged the man and it felt…
Their next quandary – how to get date number 2?
Will waited for the aisle to clear a little before he got up to leave.
“I was going to ask you if you wanted to get a drink after the game, but it’s a bit late and I have to get up earlier than usual,” he said.
Elizabeth wasn’t sure what to make of the comment and feared he wasn’t interested in another date
“Where did you park? I’ll walk you to your car.”
“That isn’t necessary. I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself.”
“For my peace of mind, I’ll make sure you get there. It might be busy out, but its still nighttime and a woman should not be alone down here if it can be helped.”
Liz knew he was right. “I parked a few blocks west of here on Jefferson.”
“At least you picked a busy street.”
“I always do. You are right; this isn’t a place for a woman to be alone on a quiet street.”
They made their way up to the concourse and out onto the plaza, allowing the dwindling masses of people existing the building to pull them in the proper direction. Will was still recovering from the assault on his brain the past three hours. Everything he had thought about Elizabeth Bennet was thrown back in his face. She was obviously intelligent. She must have been some basketball player to get a scholarship offer from a Pac-10 school. She was very confident so the fact that she chose to hide her figure was a mystery to him. Those were curves he had felt.
Face it Will, she intrigues you. If you hadn’t been working off your bet, you would be chomping at the bit to get to know her better.
Will recognized Elizabeth’s car just ahead. They hadn’t spoken on the walk back.
“Elizabeth, thank you for coming to the game tonight. I enjoyed experiencing it with you.”
“It was a great game, I should be the one thanking you.”
“Uhm, can I call you?” He was nervous.
“If you want, sure.” She was relieved.
“I’m driving to LA tomorrow to spend the weekend with my little sister. She has a concert and a recital, I think, and she has asked me to come as moral support.”
“She’s studying music?”
“Yeah, piano and sax at UCLA. I head over a few times a year when she has a big event. This is one of those weekends. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that if I don’t call in the next few days that I had a good reason.”
“I think it’s sweet that you are so supportive of her.”
“I didn’t want to you to get any wrong ideas, I would like to see you again, soon. Oh hell, why don’t we set up something now? How about dinner next weekend?”
“Sure… wait. No, I can’t next week. I’ll be glued to the TV for six days.”
“March Madness! The tourney starts for the men on Thursday and the women on Saturday. ASU women will play on Saturday or Sunday. I have a date with my remote control.”
“Of course, how could I forget?” He felt a bit embarrassed, of course she would be watching games just like most of his male friends. “Now that I know you played, I can understand your addiction. What if we go out to a sports bar? We could eat and watch all the games.”
Elizabeth realized he was being very thoughtful. Another surprise. Who was this guy?
“As long as it’s not Hooters!”
Will laughed. “I wouldn’t take you there. I was thinking of Max’s. Have you ever been there?”
Who hadn’t? It was almost like a sports museum. “Max’s would be fine. What day?”
“Why don’t we meet Saturday. Wait, your Devils could be playing on Saturday; I assume you would prefer to watch them on your own.”
“Definitely, or with a few of my old teammates. Friday night sounds like the better plan. I have your number so I can call if something comes up.”
Will watched her get into her car and waved as she drove away. He turned and walked back to where he had just came from. His car was in the parking structure next to the arena. If you paid the kind of money he did for his seats, you got to park as close as possible.
Liz was still on a high from the game. Wow! That was about as good as they get. It was emotional torture of the most exhilarating kind. It would have been a bummer had the Suns lost.
She hadn’t had that much opportunity to talk to William. They were both really into watching the action on the court, so besides the time before tip-off and at halftime, they had been too busy taking in the game to talk. She was going to have to email EJ to explain her plain appearance, but he’d get a laugh out of it. She thoroughly enjoyed the look on William’s face when he found out about her playing career.
OH SHIT!!! My playing career. My ASU bio!
Elizabeth realized she had made a tremendous error in telling him about her ASU days. She hadn’t looked in the last year or so, but a few years ago her player bio was still online – along with her picture. She hoped it would have been taken down by now, but she didn’t know.
As soon as she got home, she fired up her computer and did something she had never done before; she Googled herself. A half-hour later…
Will was disappointed. He had thought to Google Elizabeth on the way home. He had enough information about her to have a pretty good start. Unfortunately, she had stopped playing a year before any former players’ biographies were still on the web. He did find a couple of action photos still floating around, but when did sports action photos ever make a person look very good? He learned that she had been named 2nd Team All Pac-10 before she injured her knees. There were a few other mentions, but that was all he was able to uncover.
It then occurred to him that if he Googled her, she might do the same to him…
Elizabeth remembered that his firm was working on the Los Arcos project. From there she got the name DDC to go with William Darcy. It was time to find out more about the man. What she learned shocked her.
He didn’t just work for DDC – he owned it! Darcy Developments Corporation. But it didn’t stop there, DDC was very active in several charities. Habitat for Humanity. The Bridge. Thomas J. Pappas Regional Schools for homeless children. He may be a developer, but he supported housing and education for those in need of a roof over their head…
After seeing what was available online about him and his company, Will knew it was only a matter of time before Elizabeth found out. What would she think of him then? Would she see him as a potential sugar daddy, a shot to land in the society pages, or would she search deeper and discover his passion to help the forgotten ones in their society?
Saluté is a quiet restaurant in a quiet, upscale part of the city know as Moon Valley. It sits in a small shopping center, next to a grocery and a take-and-bake pizza place. There is a Starbucks and a framing store, among other things in the complex. Nothing very impressive to let you know what a gem of a restaurant is housed there. However, the locals know where it is. On a busy night like Friday, don’t even think about trying to get a table without a reservation.
Char had decided that she had better do a better job of uglifying herself for the evening. She had slipped a little for the coffees; she almost looked nice in her t-shirts and jeans. Another trip to “Boutique le Mama Lucas” scored her a few more Betty outfits.
Luke was waiting for her when she arrived. His eyes lit up when he saw her car drive into the lot. He noticed she had dressed up for the evening, though he wasn’t sure he would have picked her outfit; it was much too old for her. He also wondered, for the hundredth time, why she didn’t make more of an effort on her appearance. He doubted it would take her much more time to get ready. He could see she was beautiful. It was as almost as if she was trying to hide it. Maybe she didn’t “feel comfortable” in her skin? She was rather shy and subdued around people, unless she was with him. When they were talking over coffee she seemed as relaxed as he did. Luke hoped that trend would continue over dinner.
“Hi Char, they are ready to seat us. Shall we?” They walked inside but were immediately led back out to the patio. The weather was perfect for eating outdoors, and Char approved of his choice.
She confessed that she had never dined at this place, so Luke helped her select her food for the evening and offered to share from his own plate, so she could taste more of the restaurant’s specialties. She consented to a glass of wine, firmly telling him that one was her limit when she was driving. They shared an appetizer first, falling naturally into a flowing conversation about each other’s childhoods, hobbies, college memories, favorite music and movies, and work. He laughed uproariously when she told him about her date with Bill Collins.
“I promise, I drive better than he does, and my underwear is clean. Want to see?” he said with an exaggerated wink.
She grinned. “Should I ask your mother if she uses bleach on them?”
“Want some Kool-Aid?” He jokingly threatened to call the waitress over to ask for some.
Char loved his sense of humor and the way she felt comfortable with him. He was nothing like the men she had dated in the past. To Char, Luke was a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Dinner was superb, as Luke had promised, and afterwards they shared dessert. Char was much too full to attempt more than a few bites of a divine Hazelnut Torta on her own.
All through the evening Luke had hoped for opportunity to squeeze or even hold her hand, but Char was very careful to keep her hands busy or in her lap. She never laid her arm on the table. He wondered if it was a deeply ingrained habit to not wish to be touched. Maybe she was shy in that way too. This was their second date, wasn’t it? Not too soon to hold hands for a few seconds?
Little did he know how hard she found it to adhere to the no PDA iLaw! rule. She wanted to feel Luke’s skin, even if it were only his hand, on hers. The closest they came was when he placed his hand on the small of her back to guide them to their table this evening. No one would know if she fudged. As much as she was tempted, she was a woman of honor. She would know; it was enough to steel her resolve.
When they had finished and Luke walked her back to her car, she fought the impulse to let her arm dangle next to his. Instead she clutched her purse on one side and held her car keys in the other.
“Thanks for keeping me company tonight, I hate to eat alone.”
“I very much doubt that you lack for company, Luke.”
“None that are as interesting as you. I like spending time getting to know you. I’d like to spend more time getting to know you.”
“Same here,” Char said in a low voice. This was it – Char knew what was coming next. As Luke bent down she turned her head slightly and he kissed her on the cheek. When he drew back she gave him a luminous smile to let him know she was not rejecting him by only offering her cheek to him. It must have worked because he smiled back and wished her goodnight.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Luke vowed.
“I’m counting on it.”
As Char turned right onto 7th street to head home, she left a very satisfied looking Luke standing alone in the parking lot, watching her drive away into the night and deciding how early was too early in the morning to call.
There seemed nothing so tedious as the drive across Interstate 10 from Phoenix to Los Angeles. Six hours – if one drives the speed limit – of little to look forward to other than a pit stop in Blythe and spotting the windmills outside Palm Springs. Will could afford to fly and rent a car, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. Why couldn’t his kid sister have picked another place to attend University? He still remembered her announcement two and a half years ago.
“I want to go away for college, Will, but not too far away.”
“How far is not too far away?”
“UCLA. That’s a school with a good reputation as a whole, but I thought you were leaning towards a more prestigious music school.”
“Will, UCLA does have a good program and I think it’s the perfect fit for me. I want to study piano but I don’t want to give up my sax. Plus, I won’t go to a school that doesn’t have a big-time football program and doesn’t have an excellent marching band. Hey, it could be worse, I could have picked USC!”
Will shuddered, Southern Cal would have been much worse. He could afford to send Kris anywhere, but cheer for USC? He didn’t think he could do it.
Thus a little over 19 months ago he had settled his baby sister into a dorm and tried to let go. One of his first tests came before they even arrived in Westwood.
“I have decided to go by my first name now.”
“I want to be called Georgiana, not Kris. Kris is so… so… unmemorable. Mom and Dad named me Georgiana it’s about time I started to go by it.”
“Mom and Dad were also the ones who called you by your middle name from the day you were born. Every first born girl for five generations has been called Georgiana and they have all gone by their middle names.”
“Well, I’ll introduce myself as Georgiana and no one will ever know the difference. Please, Will, do it for me.”
“OK, just understand that it will take some getting used to. So don’t bite my head off when I forget.”
“Deal! You’re the best big brother a girl named Georgiana could have.”
After a year in the dorm, Kris, er, Georgiana’s grades had earned her the chance to live in her own apartment. Will helped her find a nice two bedroom place and insisted on buying a top of the line sleeper sofa so he could crash there when he came to visit. He also heartily approved of the studious girl, Amanda Annesley, who his sister had asked to be her roommate. The two would keep each other out of too much mischief.
Five hours after he left his midtown home in Phoenix, he parked his car at his sibling’s apartment complex.
Will knocked at the door and when no one answered, took out his key and let himself in.
The place looked pretty good. Will smiled to himself, remembering what his apartment looked like when he was in college. He would have been hard pressed to find enough cleared floor space to lie down on. Georgiana and Amanda didn’t suffer an allergy to housework like he did.
His sister had left a note saying she would be back soon so Will kicked off his shoes and stretched out on the sofa, grabbed the remote and eventually found Sports Center.
That’s how his sister found him 45 minutes later, asleep with ESPN droning in the background. She punched him in the arm and told him to get his lazy arse off the couch.
“I’m hungry and you are taking me out to lunch,” Georgiana promptly informed her groggy brother. Will soon found himself in some trendy eatery, listening to his sister’s plans for them.
“The Band is playing a set tonight at a local club.”
“Has ‘The Band’ come up with a name yet?” Will asked.
“Nope. The best we could come up with is Starving Students Jazz Strumpets and Bruin Babes.”
“I think ‘The Band’ is better at this point too,” Will quipped.
Georgiana and Amanda had started an all-female Jazz combo. They lacked a vocalist, but had been good enough to secure occasional gigs. It was probably for the best that the group didn’t take off. They still needed to concentrate on finishing their degrees, and they really did need a name for their group.
Will knew that his sister enjoyed the change of pace from her piano studies. She worked hard at learning her craft and ‘The Band’ gave her a chance to relax and hone her skills at her other musical love, the saxophone. He was really looking forward to the performance tonight. It would be much more relaxing than the piano recital tomorrow. That was the real reason he had come to LA. This recital was a big deal to Georgiana, and he never considered not coming. Despite the difference in their ages, the Darcy siblings were very close. So close in fact that Georgiana dared question her brother about his social life.
“Will, are you seeing anyone special?” Georgiana asked later that night as they relaxed after the gig at the club.
“Still more of the same? Maybe you should get someone like Charles to set you up with a woman. He couldn’t do any worse than you have lately.”
Georgiana saw her brother actually blush.
“You are seeing someone! Come on and confess, you know you always do in the end.”
“Charles did introduce me to a woman. I took her to the Suns game last night.”
“I caught the highlights. Great game! How did it go with what’s-her-name?”
“Elizabeth. It was certainly different. I discovered she used to play at ASU.”
“How did you find that out?”
“She knows EJ and has worked at his camps in the past.”
“Wow, she doesn’t sound like your normal type. You know, Miss Former Cheerleader.”
“I rather think Elizabeth would cringe if someone asked if she was ever a cheerleader – but then again, maybe not. We did just meet and I hardly know her.”
“But you like her.”
Will frowned. “She’s different from the women I normally see. I’m not sure this is going anywhere.”
“Are you going to ask her out again?”
“I already have. We are having dinner Friday night at Max’s.”
“Why on earth are you taking her to Max’s? That’s not the most romantic place in the world. That’s more likely where you would hang with the guys.”
“She’s really into basketball and the men’s and women’s tournaments start next weekend. It was a compromise on my part.”
“I never thought I would live to see the day when you would be going out with a woman who was a sports fan.”
“One date hardly constitutes ‘going out with’.”
“You are seeing her again, I think it does. What does she look like?”
“Tallish, dark hair.”
“That’s all? Tall with dark hair?”
“She’s… fashion challenged. I wouldn’t call her a beauty but she does have expressive eyes.”
Especially when she is angry.
Georgiana rolled her eyes at her brother’s shallow need to date eye candy women. “This Elizabeth definitely does not sound like your latest string of dates. I hope it does work out and I get a chance to meet her.”
“Like I said, I doubt it’s leading anywhere but I promised Charles I would give it a try for now. Enough about me, are you excited about tomorrow?”
They talked for a little while about the next afternoon’s recital before calling it a night. Georgiana was nervous but excited. It was another step towards earning her degree.
Elizabeth was first to arrive for the Saturday morning debriefing session, a.k.a. breakfast with the girls at Pinky’s Cafe. She knew Char had been on a second date with Luke. Liz was losing ground quickly!
Char laughed as she pulled into the parking lot. She had had dinner with Luke across the street just last night. She touched her cheek where he had kissed her and sighed. Luke was a keeper; she just hoped the bet thing would not come back to bite her.
Once everyone had arrived and after they had ordered their food they got down to business.
“I was noticing just how everything has greened up when I was driving the 7th Street mountain pass today.” Char said dreamily.
“Must have been a good date!” Maria remarked at her sister’s unusually distracted countenance.
“How many times have you seen Luke since last Saturday?” inquired Jane.
“Twice for coffee and then dinner last night at Saluté. I can’t believe I had never been there before, the food was excellent.”
“As was the company, I’m sure.” Maria smirked.
“I do have a confession to make though,” Charlotte hesitated, “Luke tried to kiss me goodnight last night but I turned my cheek in time to deflect it.”
“That’s perfectly acceptable, as you well know. However, if he’s already tried to kiss you at this point, you are going to have your hands full keeping his hands off you.” Jane added.
“He’s been a perfect gentleman, he wasn’t upset when I didn’t let him really kiss me.”
“I think Char likes Luke, a lot.” Maria smirked knowingly. “Don’t deny it; we can see how happy you are.”
The ladies laughed at Char’s blushing refusal to deny Maria’s accusation.
“How about you, Liz,” Jane prodded. “Did you and William manage not to argue Thursday?”
“Amazingly enough, we were very civil to each other. I guess once I cooled down after Saturday, I decided that I needed to be more courteous.” The others nodded in approval. “That does not mean that the man doesn’t need a lesson or two about women. Anyway, when we were at the game it came out that I played ball at ASU. I admit I panicked on the way home and went online to look for incriminating pictures of me. Thank heavens there weren’t any. But I did learn some interesting things about William. He owns the company he said he works for and is a constant on the Phoenix social scene. I must have counted at least ten different women on his arm at various galas these past few years in the pictures that I found. He seems to get around way too much.”
“Charles says he is very active in supporting good causes.”
“And beautiful women are a necessary accessory or are they the good causes he is supporting?” Liz snapped.
Jane tried to assuage her sister’s pique. “Liz you do take dates to these kind of things.”
“I suppose so. Anyway, I too have a potential break in iLaw! to report.”
“After one date? I thought you two were still clashing.” Maria teased.
“We do. Be quiet and let me explain. In the dying seconds of the game Steve Nash made a 3-point shot to send it into overtime.”
“I saw that! I was jumping up and down. Perry thought I was over-reacting.”
Well, I kinda got carried away and gave Will a hug. It only lasted a few seconds.”
Though he held on a moment longer than was strictly proper, but there is no way I’m saying that.
“I think it was ‘justifiable celebration’, so that’s certainly not a breach of iLaw!” Maria cried. Jane and Char laughed.
“I agree with Maria, Liz. I know how into a game you can get and I think you would have hugged Charles or Perry or Luke if they had been there.”
“iLaw!” they clicked their water glasses in agreement.
“Are you going to see Will, again?” Jane asked innocently, even though she knew neither had much choice in the matter.
“He said he had to go out of town to visit his sister this weekend so instead we made a date for Friday. We’re gong to meet up to watch the NCAA’s”
“Isn’t that what you did going to the Suns game? I’m not sure it counts towards the date total,” frowned Maria.
“I’m safe. We are going to Max’s and having dinner as well.”
“Oh, Max’s. Yeah, that’s a dinner date. I’m fine with that.” Charlotte and Jane agreed with Maria.
“As I see it. Char has had two dates, Elizabeth has had one.” Jane said to clarify the situation. “After Friday’s date for dinner Liz will be at two. Any plans with Luke between now and then?” she ask Charlotte
Char would have answered but just then her phone rang. “It’s Luke,” she said with an embarrassed look on her face. “Please excuse me.”
She walked outside to take the call, but the ladies could see her and how content she looked. Charlotte made no effort to make the call short.
“If Char has finally found a boyfriend, I might not mind losing this bet.” Elizabeth said thoughtfully.
“Liz hon, don’t fool yourself. You are much too competitive to go down without a fight. My sister may not know that yet, but Jane and I do.”
“Point taken. Do you think I have enough time to spike Char’s food?” Liz laughed at the look on her friend’s face. “JUST KIDDING!”
Liz arrived 15 minutes early for her date with William. She briefly considered that she was early to most everything having to do with this bet with Charlotte business. It must still be a residual from all her years in team sports. Practically every coach had the same rule – you late, you run. It wasn’t grammatically correct, but who would ever argue the point. She quickly learned that those four words were not completely true, it should have been six – you late, you run, a lot!
It had been a good day so far. Char had come down with some sort of virus and was flat on her back at home. After tonight, they would be level on the date score. Liz felt a little ashamed wishing ill health on her friend, but a bet was a bet and Char had had a five-day head start.
She walked into Max’s and spotted a familiar face, Pete was one of the long-term sufferers of the wait-staff.
“Lizzy B! I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Hey Pete, it must have been ages since I was last here.”
“You’re a busy woman now, not as much free time. Come to watch the games tonight?”
“Yeah, I’m meeting someone here for dinner too.”
It shouldn’t be inferred that Elizabeth Bennet had a vision from a higher power at that very moment, but she did have a very wicked thought come to mind, and Pete was the perfect accomplice.
“Just a date. We are just getting to know each other. Say Pete, how would you like to help me out?”
Pete eyed the woman in front of him and saw a familiar mischievousness “Sure,” he replied cautiously, “as long as I won’t get into trouble.”
“You won’t. I promise to make sure my date behaves himself and doesn’t do anything illegal.” Liz explained what she wanted him to do and why. As soon as she promised not to have anything stronger than ice tea, he agreed.
Max’s was the first restaurant/sports bar in the West Valley. It is tucked back off Grand Avenue and you would miss it if you didn’t know where you are going. You can bet on the ponies, enjoy a meal or catch a game on one a TV there. Many sports banquets for local high schools have taken place there. The walls are covered with pictures of past local legends. It was remodeled in 2002 but is still considered a golden oldie, having been around since 1979. In Arizona, that’s a long time.
Liz knew there used to be a signed picture of her someplace around from her senior year in high school state playoffs. Maybe William would spot it. Maybe she would just happen find it and point it out to him.
She went ahead and grabbed a prime table to see several games at once. There was one game she was particularly interested in – the UofA was playing Purdue in New Orleans. Go Boilermakers! She noticed several red and blue clad Arizona Wildcat fans, but not so many as they would outnumber everyone else.
William slipped into his chair three minutes into the game.
“Hello Elizabeth,” he said following her eyes, “have I missed much?”
“Oh hi, William. Nope, just started.”
“I assume you are cheering for Purdue.”
“What kind of an ASU Alum would I be to pull for the team from Tucson?”
William grinned. “What’s good here?”
“I’m having the Iowa pork tenderloin, but you can pick what you like. Oh, and I’m buying you a beer, so pick something that goes well with it.”
“That’s not necessary, I insist on paying for dinner when I go out with a woman.”
“You can still pay for dinner, I’m just buying you a beer. Happy? YES!” Elizabeth attention was back on the TV screen, “Three-pointer by Purdue.”
William could see that he would have to compete with the ballgame, if you can’t beat em, join em, so he resolved to sit back and enjoy the game. Elizabeth began to dissect what was happening on the court. It was interesting to listen to her explain what each team was trying to achieve with their offensive sets, and how the defenses were adjusting to the offenses. After awhile he lost his self-consciousness about learning something about sports from a woman and really got into the ebb and flow of the contest. Maybe it was the glass of beer – a glass that never seemed to get empty – that allowed him to lose his hesitation.
At halftime of the game, Purdue had forged a slim thee point cushion. Some of the Wildcat fans sang the school fight song a few tables away.
Elizabeth grinned at William. By her count, he had consumed about 2 full glasses of beer. Pete was doing his job to perfection. She jerked her head in the direction of the singing.
“You know, there are alternate words to Bear down, Arizona.”
“Most fight songs are parodied by their rivals. It wouldn’t surprise me if you did know them.”
“Want to hear?”
“Sure,” he drawled, “why not?”
“There are very few words to the original lyrics. Thus the alternative version is very short too. Instead of:
“Bear Down Arizona
Bear Down Red and Blue
Bear Down Arizona
Hit ’em hard.
Let ’em know who’s who
Bear Down Arizona
Bear Down Red and Blue
Go! Go! Wildcats go!
Arizona Bear Down”
“Fall Down, Arizona
Fall Down, Black and Blue
Fall Down, Arizona
For you know
Damn well you’re through
Fall down, Arizona
Fall down, black and blue
Trip! Fall! Drop that ball!
Arizona, Fall Down”
By the end of Liz’s recitation Will was doubled over with laughter. When he became master enough, he excused himself to go to use the men’s room.
Pete came over to clean up their plates, and refilled the beverages.
“Liz, what’s with the get up? You look awful.”
She beamed, “Long story, but its for the benefit of my date.”
“He likes you looking like this?” Elizabeth was sporting a billowing brown polyester peasant blouse with three-quarter sleeves and cinch up tie at her bosom.
“No, that’s the point.”
Pete rolled his eyes, “I’ll never understand women.”
Will came back, still able to walk straight. The second half started back up and Elizabeth had the extreme satisfaction of watching Purdue hang on despite a late game surge by the “Mildcats” to pull away and earn a victory. After the fulltime whistle, William and Elizabeth broke out into another round of Fall Down, Arizona, much to the UofA fans’ annoyance who quickly paid their bill and left.
“That’s one hell of a way to chase off Arizona fans. I shall have to remember that. And I must tell Kris about the Fall Down lyrics.”
“Who’s Kris?” Elizabeth wondered aloud.
“Kris is my little sister, Georgiana. She’s at UCLA.”
“Kris is Georgiana?”
“That’s what I just said. Georgiana is my little sister Kris.”
“I’m a little lost here, is your sister’s name Kris, or is it Georgiana?”
“Both, darling. She went by Kris until she went to college, then she changed to Georgiana?”
“Any particular reason?
“She thought Georgiana was more sophisticated. And it is her first name.”
“And Kris? Where did that name come from?”
“Its short for Kristine. My little sister’s full name is Georgiana Kristine Darcy”
“Ah, now I see.”
“I still slip up and call her Kris instead of Georgiana. Sometimes I do it just to annoy her. Shhhhh, don’t tell her I said that!”
“Your secret is safe with me.”
“Do you want to watch the next game?”
“Sure, but I won’t be as into the play as I was the last game. I love watching the Wildcats lose.”
“I noticed,” Will grinned.
A few minutes later Elizabeth changed topics.
“William, why didn’t you tell me you owned DDC?”
“Oh… you found out about that.” Will seemed a bit stumped. “I guess it’s because I find woman treat me like some hunk of meat when they find that out. I’m worth a lot of money and I just don’t like be judged because of the size of my bank account.”
“What do you like to be judged on?” Elizabeth was intrigued by his answers. The alcohol had certainly loosened his tongue.
“I want to be judged by the content of my character, the quality of my work, the ethics of my business practices,” he paused and then a rakish grin suffused his face. “I want to be known by the seductiveness of my voice, the heat of my kisses, the way my caress drives a woman wild.” He lowered his voice, “Care for a demonstration? You can be the judge yourself.”
“Whoa, William.” Elizabeth was amused at his playfulness. “First of all, this is only our second date. Second of all, we are in public. And finally, I think you’ve had quite a bit to drink.”
“Only a beer or two. Or is it three. I lost count.”
“So have I. I think we should go soon, and I should definitely drive you home.”
“You just want to drive my Viper.” Will pouted.
Liz laughed gaily, “You bet, big boy! What woman could resist. Seriously, you’ve had too much to drink to drive. I’ll get you home and come back for my car. Deal?”
“Deal, let me just have one more for the road and then you can drive a man’s wheels. It has a stick, can you handle a stick.” Will waggled his eyebrows.
“Definitely time to get you home.”