Never Go Back
WHOEVER SAID SPEED DATING WAS the way to get back into the dating world, had never tried it. I shook my head, as the man who’d just told me that he “didn’t wanna be gay no more and was gonna try this woman thang,” left my table.
I glanced at my watch, then pinched the bridge of my nose and frowned. Only forty minutes had passed since the first loser took his place in front of me. And in my head, I cursed my best friend, Melody, for roping me into this tragedy of an evening.
“You need to get out, Janay. Your divorce has been final for over a year. How long are you going to hold a torch for the man who left you and his little girl to be a father to someone else’s kid?” Melody had baited me, knowing the minute she brought my only child, Shayna, into the conversation, I’d be open to whatever she suggested. My silence encouraged her to continue. “I really think you should sign up for the church’s speed dating event next Friday. It’s a safe way to get back into the flow of dating. And at least all the men will have some kind of relationship with God. That’s a good start, right?”
I wanted to ignore her, but I couldn’t. My parents were celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary in two weeks and I was determined to show up with a date. There was no way I was giving my entitled older sister one more opportunity to taunt me with another failure. And not having a date for the party would be as big a failure as my divorce.
Since childhood, my sister delighted in pointing out how “perfect” she was. How she’d married a cardiologist and I married a line worker at Ford Motor Company. How she was back in her size eight designer jeans just weeks after giving birth three times, and it took me two years to drop down to a size fourteen after having my daughter. She was able to live the country club lifestyle of a doctor’s wife. I was tied to my desk, computer, and headset, taking calls from pissed off customers, forty-plus hours a week. And my paycheck always managed to run out a few days before the next one. My spirit ached when my parents’ hearts enlarged with pride at the mention of Alisa, yet they were embarrassed to admit they had another daughter. So, no, I could not, and would not, show up to my parents’ dinner alone. I’d rather pretend I was sick with the flu than show up without a man.
Even though the first eight speed daters included a recovering alcoholic, a biker who arrived in his leather vest and chaps, and a man who said his relationship with his baby mama was “complicated,” I had to persevere. All I needed was one guy who was presentable that I could take to my parents’ party.
The bell rang, indicating the ninth round of dates was starting. Plastering a smile across my face, I looked up as the next man approached my table. What I didn’t expect to see was the six-foot three-inch chocolate brown Adonis smiling down at me.
“Hello, I’m Archer,” he said, his voice a deep baritone.
Feeling heat warm my cheeks, I managed to squeak out, “Hi, I – I’m Janay.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Janay.” He shook my hand, then unbuttoned his suit jacket so he could be comfortable as he sat.
I cleared my throat and willed my thoughts to return to a pure state. “Tell me about yourself, Archer.”
He flashed thirty-two pearly whites that would illuminate a dark room. “Well, I’m thirty-six. Divorced for four years. I’m a single father of two sons, Jalen and Ian, ages eleven and nine. And I’m a sales director for a major pharmaceutical company.”
I did my best to hide my excitement, but my toothy grin was betraying me. “Tell me about your divorce,” I prompted.
He shrugged. “There isn’t much to tell. My ex decided she didn’t want to be a wife and mother anymore. I did what I could to convince her to stay. But in the end, if a person wants to leave you have to let them.” He leaned forward, his light brown eyes twinkling in the glow of the candlelight on our table. “How about you? What’s your story?”
I took a sip of my ice water and thought about the night my ex walked out on our family. I’d begged and pleaded and thrown myself in front of the door. And he’d stepped over me like I was trash, jumped into his Ford Fusion, and sped away. I drew in a deep breath and took my time releasing it. “My husband left his family over a year ago. He remarried before the ink dried on our divorce papers. He calls our seven- year-old daughter on her birthday and holidays, but doesn’t make an effort to do anything more.”
Archer reached across the table and covered my hand with his. I was unprepared for the jolt of electricity that shot through my body. “I’m hoping his loss is my gain.”
I looked down at our hands and then into his eyes. How was it that a stranger showed me more tenderness in the span of a few minutes, than my husband did for most of our marriage? I bit my bottom lip. “Is this your way of saying you’d like to get to know me better?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” he said, his gaze never wavering from mine.
“Sounds good to me,” I said, and silently offered up a thank you to my bestie for making me do this wonderful speed dating.