Saturday, November 26, 2011

Daria's Dating Dilemma, Part Five

Daria’s Dating Dilemma, Part Five
When we left Daria on October 26th, she was facing arrest and the loss of a potential husband…

Marcus made quick work of the charges pending against Keith and I. He also made sure someone took a look at Keith’s injuries. Thankfully, he’d be sore but not permanently brain damaged. My old college buddy was a sight to behold. A few words like co-defendants, counter suits, and departmental inquiries scared the department into dropping all charges and washing their hands of us.

He also gave my cheeky ex a few words of caution. I probably wouldn’t see Scott for a year at least. Keith’s receptionist picked him up since Marcus had advised us not to leave together. Just in case someone got second thoughts about pressing charges, he’d said. I was surprised to see Keith’s assistant was a sharply dressed man. I shrugged and started walking away after telling him to get better soon.

Shame, I really wanted to show him my full gratitude but all my cop shows told me it was best to follow the advice of your lawyer. 

“Daria, wait.” I paused as Marcus’ words drifted over to me. “Would you like a ride?”

Funny how two people can have parallel trains of thought, but I knew he wasn’t offering the kind of ride I really needed. Then again the thought of walking through town with blood stains on my shirt was embarrassing. I was also sure the handcuffs had given me a lovely rash.

I gripped my handbag and decided. “Sure, Marcus. A ride would be nice.”

He walked with me to his car in the adjacent parking lot. It was a nice sedan, but nothing extravagantly special like I’d expected. I slid carefully into the passenger seat as he held the door open. I remembered my rule about not flashing panties and I also didn’t want to transfer any of the blood on my shirt to the vehicle’s interior.

I buckled up as he slid in beside me and began asking questions. “Are you hungry? Feeling okay? You’ve barely said anything at all.”

I don’t know what washed over me at that particular moment, but all my walls broke down and the dam burst free. That’s right—in the middle of the police parking lot, smeared with blood and drool I, Daria, broke down into a tidal wave of tears. Sobbing, body shaking tears. I clutched my handbag so tightly, my nails scratched the leather.

Marcus’ warm hand sat on my shoulder after he handed me a handkerchief. “Let it out and I’ll take you back to my office. You can get cleaned up and we’ll order some food and catch up.”

“You’d really want me to stay?” I choked out the question between sobs.

“Daria, you are not sitting at home alone tonight. You need a friend now more than ever.” He ignored my tears, my mascara stained cheeks, and all the ugliness that was me as he slid the car into drive and pulled out of the lot.

The car was a manual and he drove it elegantly. My tears subsided as I watched him maneuver the clutch, gas, and stickshift through downtown traffic. I couldn’t see his feet, but I could watch his knees dance under the designer slacks.

“Feeling a little better?” He interrupted my thoughts without taking his eyes off the road.

“Yes,” I answered and studied his profile. Marcus was an interesting mix of Scottish and Arabian. I’d always thought he looked like an awkward tanned Scot, but now that he’d grown into the look. Wow! A highlander with a permanent tan was a yummy to the tenth degree combo.

He turned his intense hazel gaze on me as we sped along the freeway. “What happened with you, Daria? Never saw much of you after college.”

I chuckled weakly. “I didn’t like the alumni things. Mostly old people trying to remember their youth, and it creeped me out a little. Then I got busy working on the career and well, here I am.”

He nodded and shifted his attention back to the road. I noticed the smile on his profile, before his lips started moving. “And that’s working out well for you?”

“Never a dull moment.” The humor of the situation sank in and I chose to laugh. It was either laugh or cry and I’d already done the crying jag. Laughter always made a gal feel better even if she looked like a nutcase.

He laughed along with me. The deep baritone warmed up the interior of the car and made me feel a little better. Marcus seemed to sense the change as soon as I stopped laughing.

“I always loved your laugh. And don’t worry, my office has a studio you can clean up in and my take out menus are there. I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

So why did my head suddenly think Damn? I nodded and lowered the visor, using the mirror to clean up the majority of the makeup mess with a wet wipe from my bag. Marcus was right- I needed a friend most now. I could quell the lust and just have a relaxing take out dinner. Maybe.

We pulled off the freeway and I was startled to see us nearing my neck of the woods. Was his office out here and I just somehow missed it?  The sedan stopped as I looked out at my doorstep, and then I spotted my car in front of the house.

“What, exactly, is going on?” Years of dealing with a stalker added ice to my words.

He held his hands up. “I peeked at your address in the file. A quick call and a tow company brought your car home while we were at the station. My office is about ten minutes from here and I thought you might like to change into your own clothes. I also thought it would give you a way to turn me down.”

There was something in his voice as he uttered the last words. In his own way, Marcus had made the ultimate gesture for me. While I was busy thinking I was with super-stalker or getting dumped on the curb, he was busy thinking I would turn him down. Interesting.

Rule Number 7: Spend a little less time thinking about me and a little more watching the guy.

I took a deep breath. “I would love to join you, but I’m not inviting you in.”

“Understandable. I can wait in the car, make a few calls. Do you still like sweet and sour chicken?” I nodded, surprised he remembered, and hopped out of the car.

This was going to be the fastest wardrobe change ever. And since we were just friends, no sense on going all out with the look. I threw on my old jeans, a t-shirt from our alma mater, and washed the remaining gunk off my face.

Rule Number 8: ALWAYS wear waterproof mascara or skip it.

I was comfortable and at ease when I settled back into the passenger seat. “So, will we beat the food to your office?”

He revved the engine and grinned, “I love a challenge.”

“No, you’re kidding. You were a racecar driver?” I laughed into my glass of wine and then dug another piece of pineapple from the cardboard container.

“For a little bit,” he grinned and grabbed an eggroll. “I wasn’t winning and winning made the money, so I gave it up and went back to finish law school.”

“It does explain how easily you shifted gears on the way here.”

He paused and his eyes darkened. “You still have a thing for cars I see.”

I lowered my voice, looked around, and whispered dramatically, “It’s our little secret.”

He nodded and poured another glass of wine for each of us. I was laid out on the floor, sprawled on my side with the food on a blanket between us. Not sure how to lay out the room’s furniture to the best eating arrangement, we’d agreed to try the picnic route. The plush of his carpet told me his business was doing well. Thank God the wine was white.

Dinner had mostly been a conversation about college memories, what we were each doing now, and the usual friendly banter. I’d barely noticed as the night crept in. Marcus had been right as usual, the friend route was much better than crying home alone.

“So, what was up with the protest arrest charge in your file?”

I almost snorted wine out my nose. Only by the grace of my manners did I manage to swallow before blurting a loud, “WHAT?”

He merely grinned and leaned against his large desk with one leg propped up. It was the same stance he’d used in baseball. Marcus laughed, “I didn’t have time to read the specifics, but apparently you’re used to inciting riots.”

“It was not a riot. At least, not intentionally.” I stood carefully and plopped into a chair. “You tried race car driving, I tried activism. As my record proves, I’m not good at it.”

Marcus’ rich laughter and the wave of his hand goaded me for more. I sighed and explained how I’d tried to save a forest site home to a bird I liked. The protest I’d arranged had spiraled out of control, mostly owing to the fact that all of the men were there hoping to get laid. When the fight broke out over who would get who, the spectators (IE the foresting companies) thought violence was in the works. I was handcuffed and hauled in before I could cry uncle.

Marcus slapped his hand over his heart in an urge to control his laughter. I snorted unladylike and waved him on. “Go ahead, everyone has a great laugh over it.”

“Did your forest get saved?”

“What?” Odd, no one had ever asked me that after I told the story. They usually called me silly.

“Did your efforts work?”

I grinned and walked up to him, reaching around for the wine bottle before backing away to pour. “In their own way, they did. My efforts made the news and, after the news spread, a more organized and legitimate group took up the cause. The trees are still there.”

He lifted his glass at me with a dangerous look in his eye, one that made my knees weak and my heart pound. His voice was deeper when he spoke, “Then I congratulate your successful protest.”

I blinked at him and then eyed the wine bottle in my hand. How much had he drunk? I was merely buzzed by what I’d consumed. No one had ever congratulated me or called my attempt a success. In a round about way, it was. I stood taller.

“I always liked that about you.” I stumbled toward him.

“What’s that?” He asked, standing straight.

“Your undying supportiveness…” I promptly crashed into his massive chest.

I would like to say I stumbled over my own feet and maybe I did. The truth being the wine was stronger than I thought. The alcohol winked me out in my moment of glory without robbing me of the memory of my downfall. I winced as I shoved the blanket off me and sat up.

Hangovers, the sign that something either went right the night before or…. I looked down at my fully clothed self before I continued the thought. I raised an unsteady hand to my throbbing head. Or a sign that I overindulged and made a fool of myself.

I gathered my things, swiping a bottle of water from the mini fridge on my trip around the office. I paused long enough to take two aspirin and then quickly made my escape. He was my lawyer, I’d have to see him again. But that particular morning I couldn't face Marcus or how he must now view me.

I checked my phone after a few blocks of walking had me feeling better. No messages and it was almost afternoon. As if adding insult to injury, my brain chose that moment to remember poor Keith. The guy had gotten banged up rescuing me and there were no messages on my phone. None.

When I couldn’t sink any lower, I walked into the street sign while staring at the blank screen on my phone. My phone sailed into the intersection and was promptly run over by the biggest delivery truck I’d ever seen in my neighborhood. Serendipity was a bitch.

I sank to my butt and held my head. Keith hated me, Marcus thought I was an idiot, and my only friend in the world would probably never invite me back to his house again. Hell, even my trusty stalker would probably avoid me for a while…

The first raindrop spattered on my nose and I looked skyward. “Really? Really!” I muttered at no one in particular. “The dating Gods hate me…”

Please return for the continuation of Daria’s journey on December 27th, only here on Digital Digest. Want to make the right move with your reading addiction? Check out our ebooks available on the Kindle and Nook or sign up to have each piece delivered straight to your Kindle for hassle-free reading.

~Jennifer Feuerstein~

Copyright © 2011 Jennifer Feuerstein
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

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