What was it with men's facial hair these days? Clara was distracted by the wiry scraggle growing out of her date's chin. Grow a beard or don't. This wasn't a beard, or even a goatee, but it was too big to be a soul patch. (stupid name for facial hair anyway, in Clara's opinion.) She couldn't decide whether she wanted to touch it or shave it off.
Uh-oh. He'd stopped talking. Had he asked a question? She caught his eyes and smiled inanely, waiting for him to speak again.
"Well? I told you my story, what's new with you?" Toby had grown up down the street from Clara, but his family moved away during high school. When her mom learned he'd be back in town, she had immediately called Clara and told her he'd be calling.
"Mom! You gave him my number?"
"Of course not. I gave his mother your number. She gave it to him. Just, be open. That's all I ask. He's an old friend. The least you can do is buy him lunch." Her mom was always trying to set her up with any single man she met. Lunch wasn't just lunch. Clara was wary.
So here she was. On a lunch-date with someone she hadn't seen in a decade. He cleaned up well, that was nice to see. Except for that weird facial hair thing. And lunch was going well. Clara had found him easy to listen to when she paid attention. But what had he just said about his business?
Answering his question, she said, "Oh, I'm good, I'm good. Retail, you know?" She ran a local gift shop in town."Went to college, got a business degree, and when Jan was getting ready to close The Whole Package, I swooped in and took it over."
"No way! Please tell me you kept the name," he said, and somewhere a light twinkled through a few reddish hairs among the brown on his chin.
"Um..." Eyes up. "No. I didn't want my lovely boutique to be mistaken for a gay bar!" They laughed, but Clara suddenly felt guilty about saying that. Was he gay? Had she just insulted him? She quickly explained, "I mean, just because that would be a lot of phone calls to field and redirect. Besides, a 'package' is something that lands on your doorstep. But 'The Perfect Gift' is what everyone wants to buy for their loved ones." Moment saved?
The conversation rolled on, and at the end of lunch, when Clara reached for the check, Toby beat her to it. "No way! On me." He winked. "I'm returning to show everyone how well I'm doing with my fancy city life. It wouldn't do for me to let you pay for me." Then Clara remembered. He had become a slouch in high school, always out for fun. They had played together as little kids, but rarely connected during the first two years of high school, before their move.
She let him pay. As they left, he asked, "Can I call you again later? I'm hanging with the guys tonight, but I'd love to take you out for dinner sometime. Like a real date."
Clara was caught off-guard. A real date? She supposed lunch catching up with a childhood playmate didn't count. Staring at his chin hair again, she nodded. "Sure." She couldn't think of anything cute or witty to add, so she smiled and drew her eyes up to his.
"Great. See you soon!" and he gave a quick hug and a peck on the cheek and got into his car as she walked down the street, musing about the state of men's facial hair these days. If he actually called her, maybe she'd be bold enough to ask what was happening on his chin.
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.