Most everyone had just gotten back from the beach and looked it. The moms were trying to corral the kids and get them changed out of sandy swimsuits and bathed. Lisa came chasing after Skyler, her naked two year old escape artist. I ran interference and grabbed him before he ran out the front door and flashed the neighbors. As I held him close he reached up and grabbed my hair. “Pretty,” he said as he grabbed hold of a lock and pulled. So much for my artfully messy bun. It was just plain messy now. I returned Skyler to his grateful handler. I blindly tried to restore my hair as I entered the kitchen to see if I could help with dinner.
John was pulling marinated steaks and hamburger patties out of the fridge. His sunburn was already apparent on his bare shoulders. It looked like my mom was trying to pull a green salad together while my dad was loading the table with a variety of deli salads and an assortment of paper plates and plastic cutlery.
“Can I help?”
My mom looked up from where she was spinning the lettuce. She had on the same muumuu that had been her beach uniform since we were kids. “Don’t you look nice, Jessie!”
John peeked in the patio door from where he was now manning the grill and checked out my outfit. A white silhouette from where his sunglasses had been highlighted his red face. He smirked. “I guess you decided not to run away from dinner then?”
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression, do you my dear?” my mother answered for me. “Here, come finish the salad for me. There’s some tomatoes and other veggies in the fridge. And find the croutons and salad dressing for me. I think they got put away in one of the cupboards when we unpacked.” She grabbed my dad and swept by me on her way to help with the grandkids.
I took up my post while trying to ignore John. He came in to chat while I sliced up the tomatoes.
“So why the change of heart, Sis? I do have to give you props for cleaning up well.”
“I’m just trying to, you know, do credit to the family. Represent well.”
John cocked an eyebrow at me. “You do remember this is not necessarily a date for you, right? He’s coming as my friend.”
Our family didn’t usually tiptoe around things. I decided I might as well come clean. “Actually I did sneak a peek at his facebook profile and he is certifiably hot. I’m not going to put up a fight if you decide to set us up.”
“You’re stalking now? Good grief, Jessie. The man is more than eye candy. Are you going to embarrass me tonight?”
“How is looking out for my future embarrassing?” I said heatedly, my voice rising. “Can you blame me after our visit from the three stooges for lunch and Mom’s meltdown?” I was unconsciously motioning with my knife for emphasis. “Ryan Ritter may be the best looking specimen of a man I get to feast my eyes on in the near future and I’m not going to pass up an opportunity to strut my stuff.”
John’s eye caught something over my shoulder.
I turned around to see Ryan Ritter in the flesh filling up the patio door. He was easily 6 foot 4 and was sporting khakis, a polo shirt and dark tousled hair. A wide, sheepish grin spread across his face. It was obvious that he had overheard our conversation. “Knock, knock,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I tried the front door, but I don’t think anyone could hear me so I thought I’d wander around back.”
John motioned for him to come in and shook his hand, offering him a kitchen stool. “This is my little sister, Jessie. Jessie, this is Ryan Ritter, my work colleague.” I reached out my hand to shake his, hoping my blush wasn’t as red as the tomatoes I was chopping. Ryan looked at my proffered hand with a strange expression on his face. I looked down to see I was still holding the knife, now pointed rather threateningly at Ryan’s groin. I dropped the knife with a clatter on the cutting board. How is it even humanly possible to forget you’re holding a knife? I gave what I hoped was a friendly wave instead.
“Jessie, I trust you can entertain our guest while I round up the rest of my family. Ryan, if you could keep an eye on the grill for the next few minutes, I’d appreciate it,” John called as he headed into the living room.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, indeed.
Should I acknowledge what Ryan had just heard or should I play it cool and pretend I was not completely mortified?
It was Ryan who broke the awkward silence. “Actually,” he started, clearing his throat, “John’s been talking you up since we started working together about a year ago. I have to admit to the tiniest bit of cyber spying myself.” He was blushing. I was starting to think Ryan might be a little shy. I had to say it added to the allure.
“I hope you didn’t uncover anything too scary,” I replied, feeling much more relaxed.
“Well, I’m here aren’t I?” Ryan said, looking me straight in the eye with a half grin. Then again, maybe not too shy.
Dinner was looking to be decidedly more delicious than lunch had been.
Check back tomorrow to see how the date goes!