“And you promised you would save me from any ambushes!” I scolded him.
“Sorry I had you sit next to that guy,” Jen said turning to me from the passenger seat. “I thought he looked kind of promising before his girlfriend returned.”
“It’s okay,” I said as I shook my head. “The whole thing is so preposterous, it’s actually kind of funny except for I think I’m developing a complex now. I mean, one time under the mistletoe is a lark. Twice is a coincidence, but three days in a row is a bona fide trend. If it happens tomorrow, things are veering toward spooky.”
The next morning, Bradley stuck his head in my classroom door during my free period and when I waved him in, he perched himself on a corner of my desk and awkwardly folded his arms. Happy for a break from grading vocabulary tests, I pushed the pile of papers away from me and rubbed my eyes.
“What’s up, Bradley? What can I do for you?” I greeted him.
“One of our members on the quiz team flew home early for Christmas. I was hoping I could persuade you to fill in for her next week.”
“I don’t know. When I was playing with you guys, it was fun, but I felt like I was in way over my head. I think I was a liability.”
“Absolutely not,” Bradley shook his vehemently. “I know the pop culture section is tough for you, but you know your literature and word etymologies down cold. And world history and current events too. You’re really smart Eliza.” Bradley suddenly seemed to realize how loud his voice had become and blushed just a little. “It’s next Tuesday night at that café on 3rd street. Listen, I’ll even treat you to the soup and sandwich special if you agree to help us out.”
I leaned back in my swivel chair and regarded Bradley’s hopeful eyes. It could be fun. It was nice to get out and socialize and since my decision to be myself and not run after guys, situations like that were always a little more relaxed and fun. “All right,” I agreed. “You just have to promise not to look too disappointed when I completely botch an answer.”
“No worries,” Bradley said as he rapped his knuckles several times on my desk in a happy rhythm and stood up to go.
“Hey Bradley,” I interrupted as he headed for the door. “Sorry about the mistletoe thing the other day. I shouldn’t have.”
“It’s okay,” he replied, suddenly blushing a startling red. “In fact, I’ve thought maybe I should start carrying some mistletoe in my pocket in case other opportunities don’t present themselves so easily.” He waved his fingers in an odd little too-da-loo gesture and then disappeared.
It left me pondering the consequences of impromptu kissing and wondering if I had just made a date for next Tuesday. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it.
I had hidden out in my classroom all day, hoping to avoid any more strategically placed mistletoe from the fundraiser. Having made it through my workday, I stopped by the gym on the way home. I had skipped several days in a row and with Thanksgiving just past and Christmas and all its festivities fast approaching, I figured my body needed all the maintenance I could provide.
My paranoia caused me to zero in on the mistletoe as soon as I pushed open the double doors. A glitzed up sprig was hanging in the hallway that led to the locker rooms so that just about everybody would need to pass underneath it. Mistletoe in a health club? It’s never safe to assume you’re safe.
Under the mistletoe was a man that I had noticed the last few months. Even though he was probably in his 30’s, he had joined the group of 40 and 50 year olds that regularly used the open court on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Previously, I would have made an excuse to meet him well before now. But with my decision to give dating a rest I had only casually watched him from afar. He was tall and a little on the skinny side. Not that I had a lot to go on, as I had only briefly seen him interact with his basketball buddies, but he seemed both nice and a little geeky. In short: my type.
His buddies had more or less cornered him under the mistletoe and were good-naturedly explaining to the young ladies that they were hoping for a Christmas kiss for their young friend. I saw three ladies pass by. One ignored the group. Another two passed by, one shrugging her shoulder and mouthing sorry, while her friend pointed to her wedding ring. I had only been here a few seconds, but I was starting to feel sorry for him.
If this mistletoe thing is a trend, I thought, I might as well get it over with and take control of the situation instead of stressing out about where the next mistletoe might strike. And the man stuck under the mistletoe wasn’t all that bad looking. Maybe there was something to this tradition. Where else could you simply kiss a stranger with no repercussions? Well, maybe some repercussions. Bradley did come to mind. But this would be quick and helping the poor man out. An act of Christmas charity. Almost.
I determined what I was going to do and walked up to the handful of men.
“Do we have a taker?” asked the pot-bellied friend with the orange headband and a Pink Floyd t-shirt.
“Just trying to help out,” I replied. “I’m Eliza,” I said offering my hand to the entrapped friend.
“Kyle, I’m going to kiss you now and get your friends off your back.”
I made good on my promise and the small pack of friends hurrahed.
“Take care,” I said over my shoulder as I hurried off to change.
When I came out of the locker room a few minutes later, Kyle hopped away from the wall he had been leaning against. Uh, oh, I thought. I’m not sure I wanted this kiss to lead anywhere.
Kyle waved and started walking with me down the hall. “Thanks for saving me back there, Eliza. That took some courage.”
I laughed. “Mistletoe seems to be my lot in life this week. Don’t think anything of it,” I said, walking a little faster.
“What class are you headed to?”
“Zumba. The new instructor is pretty amazing.”
“Do men ever take that class?”
I stopped my speed-walk and looked him over. “Absolutely. If you think you have what it takes.”
“That remains to be seen, but I’m always looking for an excuse to sweat. And, you know, bust a move.”
What Kyle may have lacked in rhythm he made up for with enthusiasm, which is frankly the way I operated as well, so we spent a good session both working out and laughing at each other too.
We stopped by the gym’s juice bar after the Zumba session and spent a little more time getting to know each other. Kyle was easy to talk to. After the last few days, I was starting to reconsider my dating hiatus. Was laughing over smoothies the same as someone knocking on your door? With the exclusion of conceited Geoff, maybe kissing frogs wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was.
Check back tomorrow for part 6 of Mistletoad.