Disclaimer: My formatting is off today for some reason I can't fix. Sorry if it's hard to read. Will fix soon.
Maggie threw back a slug of whiskey as she stared at her dark reflection in the window over the kitchen sink. The blackness outside showed her face clearly. Her brown hair was pulled back neatly, except for the thick bangs that she now regretted. What little makeup she wore was neat, even if her skin was blotchy underneath it. Her plain ivory blouse showed a splash of color with a green and yellow bow tied at the neck.
Fine. She always looked "fine", never fashionable. Her eyebrows knitted in consternation as she pulled faces at the dark face staring back at her. Finally her mouth turned down in a disgusted grimace as she tsk'ed at herself.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" She punctuated each word with a head shake. Maggie wished she hadn't agreed to be set-up with her co-worker's boyfriend's friend. Why did she ever say yes?
At 35, Maggie now understood she'd be single for life. It wasn't so bad, but she didn't like the pity she got from her married or partnered friends. That was the real reason she'd agreed to this.
One last look in the mirror, then she shook her head and turned away. She'd never be a great beauty. That was an established fact. She knew it as well as she knew she'd be single for life. It wasn't that Maggie was unattractive. Her average looks could have used a little splash, that was all. And confidence. When Maggie walked down a hall, or stood in line, or sat in a meeting, her body was slumped in on itself as if she was trying to hide behind the air. And on the off-chance that she made eye contact with someone, her brown eyes looked hunted and cautious.
Tonight she was to meet Gary in the bar-lounge attached to one of the nice restaurants in town. Drinks first, so they could decide about dinner before committing. That was at Maggie's request. There was nothing worse than committing to a meal and being stuck at a table with someone who was clearly anxious to leave.
Pulling on a shapeless canvas jacket, Maggie locked the door behind her. She had a lovely slim figure, if she'd ever let anyone see it, but her baggy, pleated khakis coupled with that oversized coat did not flatter.
Which was fine.
She wasn't trying to show off a "hot bod."
Gary was supposed to choose a table in the lounge and would bring a purple balloon to show her where he was seated. It was no surprise to those orchestrating this set-up that Maggie was uncomfortable at the idea of arriving first and hanging out in a lounge waiting, so Gary agreed to go early.
Maggie walked past the glass windows of the lounge, slumping into her coat as the butterflies in her gut grew more active. Mentally, she was ready for rejection. You get used to it. Even so, she hesitated at the heavy door. Glancing at her watch, she nodded to see she was exactly on time. It was now or never. She drew in one long breath and blew it out.
Maggie's hunted eyes scanned the tables from the doorway. There were two tables with individual men seated at them, and neither table had a purple balloon hovering above. She turned and left. Walking past all the windows as she headed back home, all she saw was her reflection. She couldn't see the popped purple balloon sitting on the last table she passed.
Thank you for visiting my #AtoZChallenge! My theme is "Audience Participation" (read about it, here)
and now it is your turn. All month, I will write daily flash fiction
based on suggestions from your comments. Suggest anything: a word, a
scenario, a possible character, a location... Suggestions don't have to
coincide with any letter of the alphabet. I will fit it where I can.
Have fun, but keep it clean!
Today's post was inspired by Liz A.'s suggestion "popped purple balloon", left in a comment on The Arrival (here). (Sorry Liz, I just re-read and noticed by your punctuation that "student with" was part of your suggestion. That's a totally different story! Maybe I'll write that one later.)
WITH APOLOGIES: During the first week of this challenge, I have a house guest. I am already taking time out each day to read comments and write a fresh post daily. I will reply to comments as I read them, but please forgive me for not visiting your blog until next week. I will have time to visit the blog of every commenter when my house is empty again.