(First, stop right there! Did you read Chapter 2 of our South Boston romance serial novella yet? If not, read this first! )
OLIVIA INTENTIONALLY arrived ten minutes late at Fat Baby. She didn’t want to be first to show to her date with Jimmy. She wanted to find him sitting at a table with a look of anticipation on his face. There was a pretty woman with a severe blond bob and very pink lips standing behind the host station. She was wearing a slightly see-through blouse. She smiled when she saw Olivia.
“Hi!,” she said.
“Hi, I’m suppose to be meeting someone here.”
Olivia quickly scanned the dimly lit restaurant. From the speakers she heard, “God’s Plan” by Drake. It was relatively crowded but no stranger sat alone looking for her.
“Do you have a reservation?” the blond asked.
“I don’t think so.”
The blond stared back at Olivia blankly. Olivia wondered what shade of lipstick the blond was wearing.
“I’ll just grab a seat at the bar.”
She sat on the side where she would be facing the front door. She didn’t want to have to turn around pathetically craning her neck waiting on her date to arrive. She picked up a cocktail menu and blurted out mai tai when the bartender asked her what she wanted to drink. It was the first drink she saw on the menu. She only had mai tais once in her life when she went to Jade Panda with her father about ten years ago. Her father had ordered a round them. She didn’t want to overthink it. “Do I order a beer? Is ordering wine weird at a sushi restaurant?” A mai tai seemed safe.
The bartender – Olivia guessed maybe in his mid-twenties – with very blue eyes and a baseball hat on backwards – placed a black cocktail napkin on the copper bar top and smiled at her.
“One mai tai,” he said. Do you wanna check out a food menu?” he added.
“Uhhhmm…not yet. I’m waiting for someone.”
He place the menu down next to her. “Just in case,” he added. I’m Charlie, by the way.”
“I’m Olivia.” She looked down.
A moment later he put her drink in front of her on the cocktail napkin. “Sorry, no straws unless you want a paper one,” he added.
“No thanks, I hate paper straws.”
She took a sip of the mai tai. It was syrupy sweet and then a blast of the dark rum floater. She coughed a little and took another sip. She pulled out her phone from her butterscotch leather clutch. 7:25pm. He was 25 minutes late. No text.
Please, God, please. Don’t let him stand me up.
She double checked the text from Jimmy.
“I’ll see you at 7. Fat Baby, baby. Looking forward to it.”
The text was casually confident. Like he’d known her for years. She picked up her drink and took a gulp. The light and the dark rums did their job. She could feel a warmth passing through her brain. She felt her body relax.
WHEN OLIVIA was at the Jade Panda, she sat across the table from her father. She hadn’t seen him in over six months. His eyes looked tired underneath his wire rimmed glasses. She could see a hint of bluish circles beneath his eyes. Her parents had been divorced since as long as she could remember. Now that Olivia was an adult, her relationship with him was strained to say the least. Forced and full of effort on both of their parts. They were going through the motions. Making plans to meet for dinner. Or coffee. Or lunch. Plans that would be canceled and rescheduled until they couldn’t avoid the obligatory meeting. This was one of those times. She drank her first mai tai quickly and ordered a second one just as fast. She dipped crab rangoon’s into a porcelain cup full of sweet and sour sauce. Her father talked about golf. His new wife Linda and how gas prices were on the rise. She sipped her cocktail nodding along and sprinkling an occasional “Really?” or an “Oh, wow.” She let the rum numb her brain. After two more mai tais, a pupu platter for two and another story about her father was going to repaint his shed, she said goodbye to him in the parking lot. An awkward hug, false promises of checking in next week, she walked to her Jetta and vomited in the parking lot before driving home.
OLIVIA LOOKED across the bar towards the front door. She spotted Jimmy. Oh, thank God. He was taller than she expected. A presence. He was smiling. He ran his hand through his thick dark hair as he spoke with the blond at the host stand. Blondie was giggling as they chit-chatted casually while Olivia waited at the bar. She could feel heat rising in her cheeks. He would walk over any second now. 7:34.
Olivia watched the interaction between Jimmy and Blondie. There was something there – like they were familiar to one another. Olivia was waiting for him to at least look over at the bar or glance around the restaurant for her. But he never did. The conversation continued. Jimmy leaned over the stand and continued to converse like he wasn’t in a hurry. Like he wasn’t 35 minutes late for a date and someone was waiting for him.
This has got to be some sort to fucking joke. Olivia sucked down the last of her drink. She thought of paying her tab and then dramatically making an exit. But Charlie asked if she wanted another mai tai and yes escaped her lips before she could put her plan into action. She heard Jimmy laugh and say, “I’ll talk to you later” as he sauntered over to Olivia.
“Olivia?” he asked taking the seat next to her at bar. 7:45
She nodded her head. Silent.
“Sorry, I’m late,” he smiled. His tone was warm and sincere and he made eye contact with Olivia. His eyes were dark brown with hazel flecks. His eyebrows were thick and manly but not unruly and distracting.
“It’s okay,” said Olivia and hated herself immediately.
He touched her hand gently and then picked up her cocktail.
“What are you drinking?” he took a sip.
“A mai tai.”
“It’s good. I’ll take one of these and another for Olivia,” Jimmy called to Charlie.
Olivia was going to object to the third drink. She just about consumed two in less than hour. Instead of refusing, she asked Charlie for some water. She would take it slow.
She told herself she would not get drunk and sleep with Jimmy. She tucked this thought into the compartment in her brain that would hopefully kick into gear later when she needed it.
Jimmy and Olivia go through the dance of the first date Q&A. Where are you from? What do you do for work? Do you have any brothers or sisters?
He was from Michigan. He graduated from BU. He worked in sales. He was the youngest of four boys. He enjoyed golfing on the weekends. In other words – Jimmy was a stereotypical bro. Or maybe was a bro in his twenties but remnants of it remained.
Olivia finished her water. Judgement began to cloud the lens through which she looked at Jimmy. She never dated a bro before. Her old boyfriend Paul was more nerdy than anything else. Jimmy was confident and why wouldn’t he be. He looked like Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. And what did he think of her? It was a Tuesday night and she sat there wearing a floral print mid-dress and sassy booties. A once confident wardrobe selection now seemed like a ridiculous choice and she began to make up scenarios in her head of how Jimmy would describe her to his friends.
As if reading her thoughts, Jimmy held her hand in her own. “You look really pretty tonight,” he said sweetly. Olivia smiled. For once in her life, she wanted to be the the girl to walk down the high school hallway with a guy like Jimmy.
“Thank you.” Olivia squeezed his hand.
He tells her a story about how up until he was 12 years-old that his mother made him and his brothers wear matching sweaters for their Christmas card every year. “She was militant about those Christmas cards and it still causes me stress to this day.” He added that he and his brothers eventually formed an alliance against their mother and the card situation. “No one wants to get a Christmas card with awkward and goofy teenagers in matching sweaters on it, right? My poor brother Michael. He was almost 18 in the last Donlan family Christmas card.”
Oliva sipped her mai tai as she drank in his story. He was intoxicating and she could feel her guard slipping away.
“Should we get some dumplings?” he asked. “We should totally get some dumplings, right?” he added sweetly picking up a menu.
“Yes, we should” she answered.
She looked down at her phone and casually slipped it back inside her clutch. One missed call from Paul.
Read Chapter 4