It was the red that drew my eye as soon as I came through the door. I quickly looked away and walked past to a vacant table.
She sat alone, one red stiletto swinging back and forth. Her dress too was red, a figure-hugging, satin confection, its glossy surface emphasizing every roll and bulge. A pretty but plump face was framed by lank hair that hung down to the spaghetti straps, one of which kept sliding sideways. She pulled at it distractedly, her eyes fixed on the door. She was too young to carry off the level of sophistication the dress demanded, even if she had had the figure for it. I cringed for her, a Red Riding Hood probably eagerly awaiting the wolf.
She sipped at her Mai Tai and I ordered an aperitif while I looked over the menu. But I couldn’t stand it any more. I rose, and went to her table.
“Do you mind if I join you?”
Startled, she looked up at me, pushing her hair behind one ear before pulling yet again at the strap.
“Um, well, I was expecting somebody.”
“I’ll be happy to leave when he arrives. I just hate to see a lady sitting by herself.”
She smiled then, an unexpectedly lovely smile, full of a sweetness that did not match the dress.
“Well, sure, I guess I would like that.” She gestured awkwardly at the seat across from her. “I hope he doesn’t mind,” and then the thought struck her, “but he is late, after all.
“Not the right time of the year for a prom date,” I said as I seated myself.
She blushed a bit. “Well, no, I mean yes, I mean, this isn’t a prom date.” She looked at her drink and bit her bottom lip. She held it for a minute. I waited. She struggled a bit. When she looked up, I smiled at her. The warmth of it seemed to loosen something inside her and she blurted out, “I’m on one of those Internet dating services. And I was supposed to meet this guy here tonight, but I guess he isn’t coming.”
“The cad,” I said.
She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“It was very kind of you to come over,” she said. “You know, I wasn’t all that comfortable with meeting somebody I didn’t really know anyway. I mean, there are all kinds of guys on the Internet...”
“Absolutely. You’ve got to watch out. And that young man didn’t even have the discernment to recognize a fine woman when he saw one. His loss, my gain.”
She handed me her heart then in her smile. Poor thing.
Coming late always makes it so much easier.