Dream Lover

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“But why? I make really good money. Why would you want to try something so risky and jeopardize our future?” he asked in that quasi-patronizing tone of voice she despised.

“I know you do. You’re very talented. I was just thinking how good it would feel to own my own business,” she replied politely not wanting to start another argument.

“A food truck isn’t exactly a business, sweetheart,” he informed her. “It’s…a hobby. A very expensive hobby; a black hole for cash, as it were. Let’s be honest here, shall we? The truth is, you’d never be able to turn a profit. Have you even thought about what’s involved to just get started? You’ve got to buy the vehicle, repair it, modify it, get it inspected, find suppliers, comply with endless regulations, and build a customer base. And most importantly, you have no experience with that kind of thing.”

He actually patted her on the hand and said, “You need to be realistic.”

Reese Evans had been dating him for a little over a year. After her divorce two years ago, Albert had been the kind of stabilizing force she’d needed in her life. Her marriage had been a rocky, turbulent, free-for-all kind of ride, and when she was in her early 20s it had been a helluva lot of fun. Her ex-husband could never get serious about anything or stick with it. He’d been dead broke when she met him and they were dead broke when she left him. He’d just been so handsome and so much fun to be around and yes, a little bit dangerous, that she’d gone ahead and married him knowing what she was in for.

As the years went by, Reese found living paycheck to paycheck anything but fun. Most of the time, they lived without a paycheck unless one considered occasionally collecting unemployment ‘making money’. Through it all she’d done everything she could to be supportive, but she got little to nothing in return except for empty promises. No, that wasn’t completely true. She had to admit the sex had been nothing short of amazing, but other than that there wasn’t a diamond in the goat’s ass to found no matter how bright a light was shined up in there. It was all nothing but…shit.

During all those years, she’d worked very hard to keep herself in shape, and although they didn’t have the money for the kinds of classes she wanted to take, she did aerobics and yoga at home for the cost of a mat and free music on her radio. And today she still looked incredible and always turned a lot heads anywhere she went.

After getting sick of always being broke, she went to work waiting tables to help out and just before her marriage ended, she found work in a bakery (which was really a pastry shop), and for the first time, Reese felt good about herself.

She kept trying to work on her marriage, but after asking her husband over and over to stick with something—anything—and his refusal to do so, she finally worked up the courage to leave him. It was embarrassing to have to move back in with her mother, but until she could put enough money away for her own place, she really had no other choice.

To her mother’s credit, she never once said, “I told you so” even though she could have done that, and Reese wouldn’t have been able to argue with her. Two years later she was still living at home, and had saved up more money than she ever thought possible. It wasn’t enough for a downpayment on a home, but then she didn’t need a home yet. But she had put away more than enough to buy a food truck, and she had been excited to share her dream with her boyfriend.

Looking back, when Reese met Albert Adams, a buttoned-down, rather staid, almost stoic, assistant bank manager in the city of Renton, Washington, where they both lived, he’d been exactly what she’d needed in her life. He wasn’t gorgeous, but he was a little above-average looking, dressed nicely, spoiled her rotten, and treated her very well with one exception. One very major exception. He made her feel like she was incapable of making a sound decision on her own. The worst part about it had been that most of the time, he’d been right. Reese couldn’t help but think it was a residual effect from having lived with a man who had had one bad idea after the other for over the entire twelve long years of her failed marriage.

But she also knew there were some things she was good at, and having worked as a local pastry chef’s righthand…person…for the last couple of years, she felt very good about her ability to deal with customers and even run a business. The chef had not only taught her an incredible amount about baking in general, he’d also helped her understand the business end of things. She finally had enough money to make her dream a reality, but Albert had just dumped all over it the way he always did.

The chef was an older man of about 45 named Norm, and Reese could tell he thought she was a very attractive woman, and went out of his way to be nice to her. At 35, it was no secret that Reese still was a very attractive woman. Norm had never crossed any lines, but she knew he was more than a little bit interested, and once he’d even bahis firmaları casually mentioned that if she ever got tired of the ‘suit’, his nickname for Albert, he would like nothing more than to be able to take her to dinner somewhere nice.

She’d never thought of him ‘that way’, but as she sat there covered in the aftermath of Albert’s patronizing comments, Norm seemed like another reasonably safe (but better) alternative to the one she was dating now. He, at least, never talked down to her or made her feel childish.

Reese longed to be with someone who would not only provide some level of stability, but someone who would love her the same way she wanted to love a man and who would willingly support her dreams. Norm wasn’t exactly handsome, but he was one of the nicest people she’d ever met, and right about now, that looked very appealing.

She finally looked Albert in the eyes and said, trying not to get angry or emotional, “Realistic, huh? I need to be…realistic? You know very well my marriage was nothing but non-stop chaos, Albert, and I am truly grateful for the stability you’ve given me. I desperately needed the kind of grounding you’ve provided. But I don’t appreciate the way you talk to me like…like I’m some kind of child.”

“Sweetheart. Don’t be so melodramatic,” he said theatrically with that smug smile of his. “You’re not a child. You just need…a little guidance…that’s all.”

“Guidance? I need guidance? What, from someone who’s risen all the way to assistant manager at a local bank after fifteen years of working there?” she said letting the sarcasm spill out. She hated doing that, but lately it had been building up to the point where it was inevitable it would come out, and his last comment was the proverbial straw that had broken the camel’s back.

She had to admit he really was a smart guy at least in terms of formal education and being book smart. He had a degree in finance, and he was also very well read on a wide range of subjects. Along with the things she’d already mentally ticked off, those were the only positives she could come up with.

On the negative side, he was condescending to the point of being haughty, and unlike her former husband, he was at best average in bed. That was yet one more thing Reese had been willing to live with until her life stopped swirling around to the point of feeling seasick, but she was now well beyond that point. She’d had stability in spades, and the last thing she needed was more stability. This level of stability, she knew, was almost as bad as chaos, and when she added in the heavy dose of patronization, she also knew it was no longer worth it.

“I don’t know everything, Albert. In fact, I probably know very few things. Unlike you, I barely graduated from high school. Unlike you, I didn’t have a detailed plan for my life. Unlike you, I’ve had more than my share of self-inflicted problems. But one thing I do know is I’m done with being talked down to by some…some condescending, sanctimonious, supercilious, know-it-all who walks around with a stick up his ass all day!” she told him her voice rising with each word until she was yelling at the top of her lungs by the time she finished.

Every patron in the restaurant heard every word as did most of the staff in the back, all of whom had stopped working to listen in.

“Now Reese. There you go getting all hysterical again,” he said calmly with that plastic smile she’d begun hating a month or two ago. “You just need to jettison this silly…idea of yours and come back down to earth.”

For the first time since she’d met him she felt truly angry. She’d been annoyed with him dozens of times, but she’d never been angry before.

No longer caring where she was or who heard her, she said even louder than before, “No, the only thing I need to jettison is you, you smug, self-righteous…prick!”

Reese grabbed the linen napkin in her lap, stood up, and threw it in his face before picking up her purse and storming out shaking from head to toe. She was so angry she didn’t hear two women start clapping in support on her way out.

As she stood there in the cold night air looking left then right, not knowing which way to go or what to do, it felt like a metaphor for her entire life. She’d gone overboard to the left with her lazy, do-nothing husband and way too far to the right with the ‘suit’.

“Now what?” she asked herself before realizing she was freezing cold and didn’t even have a coat.

“That was quite a performance,” she heard a male voice say from behind her startling her out of her thoughts.

“Please don’t tell me you heard that,” she said as she turned around and saw a tall, very young looking man.

“Um…I think pretty much everyone heard that. Yeah, you see, I was in the back and I heard it loud and clear so…”

“Oh, my goodness. I am so sorry. I’m just so sick of being talked down to like I’m a child or something. Who does that to another person anyway?” she asked.

“Ummm. Control freaks? People who are insecure? Assholes?” kaçak iddaa he suggested rhetorically.

The last one made her laugh, but it came out garbled because she was already shivering.

“Here,” he said pulling off his coat.

“No. I can’t. You don’t even know me, and I definitely don’t know you,” she said even as she thought how warm the coat looked.

“Well, if you told me your name then I’d know you, and you could take my coat,” he said with a smile.

She looked him up and down twice then said reservedly, “I’m Reese Evans.”

He laughed then told her, “That is just too funny. I’m Darin…Reese,” as he draped the jacket over her shoulders.

“Darin. That’s not a name you hear a lot,” she said as she continued to shiver.

“My dad grew up listening to oldies and Bobby Darin was one of his favorites so…here I am.”

“Thank you, Darin,” she said sincerely.

“You’re not planning on walking are you?” he asked.

“I was thinking about waiting for the bus,” she told him. “It’s a lot cheaper than a taxi and usually less dangerous than hitchhiking.”

Darin laughed again then said, “Usually. But hey, the good news is attractive women have no problem hitchhiking, which sadly, is often the bad news. So…are you really gonna press your luck and ride with a total stranger?”

“I just want to be gone before my boyfriend comes out,” she said looking back at the restaurant.

“From what I heard wouldn’t that be…ex-boyfriend?”

“Oh, right. Yeah, I kinda burned that bridge, didn’t I?” she said making a face.

“Well, unless you’re the type who starts an argument in order to have really great makeup sex,” he said trying to keep a straight force.

“Yeah, right,” she said now being sarcastic herself. “That’d never happen with…the ‘wooden head’ in there.”

“Wooden head? Hmmm. Sounds kinda kinky to me,” Darin told her still managing not to laugh at the innuendo.

“Oh, my gosh. Not that head and not that kind of wood,” she said feeling foolish until he finally laughed.

“You knew that, though, didn’t you?” she said now feeling really foolish.

“I didn’t know it. But it seemed pretty obvious, so…”

“Do you know when the next bus will be by?” she asked hoping it would be soon.

He glanced at his watch and said, “In about 23 minutes give or take.”

“Maybe I will try and thumb it,” she said as she pulled the coat tightly around her.

“I wish you’d reconsider, Reese. Please let me give you a ride. And don’t say you don’t even know me, okay?” he told her smiling at her.

“I know your name, but that’s about it,” she said. “There’s no way I’m getting a car with a total…okay, a near-total stranger.”

The fact that hitchhiking was always with a total stranger seemed to escape her.

“What else would you like to know about me? Let’s see. I’m 6′ 1″ tall, I weigh 180 pounds, I work as an assistant chef at the restaurant you just um…set on fire. What else? I recently graduated from culinary school, and oh, yeah, I’m 21 years old. So now may I take you home?” he said bowing slightly at the waist.

Reese couldn’t help but smile when she heard his age, and when he bowed she laughed.

“You don’t look like a serial killer,” she told him now cold even with the coat on.

“True, but serial killers don’t tend to tell anyone until, you know…”

“I live all the way on the other side of town,” she said thinking that would dissuade him.

“Well, we’re on the south side of Seattle so you live on the north side?”

“Um…I don’t do directions all that well. I live in Renton,” she told him.

Darin tried not to laugh when he realized she lived even further south.

“Come on, I live in Kent so you’re kind of on the way,” he told her.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“You can wait for the bus if you like, but I’m going home so it’s up to you.”

“It’s so cold out here!” she said as she looked around.

“Right, and I would like to get my coat back at some point. And by the way, it’s not gonna get any warmer tonight,” he said with a kind smile.

“Well…okay. I…accept,” she said her teeth nearly chattering. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome. My car’s right over there,” he said pointing to an employee-only area on the side of the restaurant.

As they left the city limits, Darin broke the silence by asking, “Do you mind if I ask about your…former relationship? It’s none of my business, but that was quite an exit.”

“Oh. That. No, not really,” she said with a deep sigh. “As I said, he treated me like a child, and I just got sick of being talked down to, you know?”

“You don’t look like a child to me,” he told her leaning over as though he was ‘looking’ at her.

She smiled weakly then said, “I’m many things, Darin, but a child isn’t one of them.”

She then looked at him the same way and said, “No offense, but speaking of children…how old did you say you are?” she asked smiling back.

“Twenty-one,” he told her again. “Why? kaçak bahis Are you implying I look like a child?”

He wasn’t offended. In fact, he knew he had what many described as a baby face, and the blond hair didn’t help. Making matters worse, he only needed to shave once a week, but did so every other day still hoping to spur the kind of growth he’d heard shaving regularly induced. He had even less hair on his chest and only the lightest of hair on his legs. And he got carded everywhere he went and suspected that wouldn’t change for the next several years at least. His friends told him he’d probably still be getting carded when he went on Medicare and he had to admit they were probably right.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” she told him.

“What would you say?” he asked with a perfect smile.

“You do have a kind of…boyish charm to you,” she began. “And you’re obviously a very nice guy. Oh, and I couldn’t help but notice you’re also…very tall.”

“So you’re saying I look like a very tall child?” he asked still smiling.

“I also didn’t say that,” she pointed out.

She looked at him again then said, “You remind me a little of my ex-husband.”

“Oh, wow. I’m not sure how to take that,” Darin said.

“I meant it as a compliment. He was…very handsome in that boyish kind of way when he was your age.”

“Ah, how we’re getting somewhere,” he said. “So what you’re really saying is—I’m handsome, right?”

Reese saw the way he smiled at her, and it made her laugh.

“I didn’t exactly say that, either,” she said emphasizing ‘either’.

“No, but you implied it, and that’s good enough for me,” he told her still smiling.

“Let me put it this way. When you were born, I was in high school,” she said but in a very polite way.

“Oh, so you started high school when you were seven?” he said very seriously.

Reese tried not to laugh but couldn’t help herself.

“No, smart aleck, I was 14. So while you have definitely grown up, I just don’t look at guys your age ‘like that’.”

“I see. And I’m assuming the um…wooden head…was close to your age and you mentioned an ex-husband who was also probably around your same age, and yet here you are riding home with me. Perhaps you should reconsider who you look at…like that,” he said in such a sweet way it kind of touched her.

“I didn’t say I never looked, I only said I didn’t look…like that,” she said trying to draw a distinction. “Besides, I can’t think of anyone your age who’d look back so it’s pretty much a mute point anyway, right?”

Darin almost corrected her, but decided not to tell her the correct word was ‘moot’ because it was well, a moot point.

“Some of us do,” he told her being serious for the first time.

Reese realized he was serious and wasn’t sure how to respond.

“My turn is just up there on the left,” she said avoiding his comment.

He didn’t push it, and they drove along in silence for a while before he asked, “May I ask what you do, Reese?”

“Oh, I’m an assistant to a pastry chef,” she told him. “It’s not exactly glamorous, but I really enjoy it. In fact, I’d love to have a food cart of my own some day. I know I probably couldn’t get by just selling pastries, but that’s kind of my dream, and my ex-boyfriend just crapped all over it tonight.”

She looked over at him then said, “That’s the real reason I broke up with him. I can put up with a whole lot, but if a guy can’t support me, then…I’m done.”

“I get it. And I like your dream, by the way. I love baking and cooking, and I’d like to be my own boss someday. That would be a kind of ‘two-fer’ as far as my own dreams are concerned. It really surprised me when I found out how much I enjoy cooking because as a kid, my whole life had been sports.”

He looked over at her and said, “Don’t even think about making an age-related joke.”

Reese laughed again and when he turned toward her the light from a street lamp briefly illuminated his face and she had to admit he really was a very handsome young man.

“Me? Why, I would never do any such thing!” she said feigning incredulity.

She smiled then said, “Besides, if I did say something about your age, I’m the one who’d be afraid of the kind of zinger you’d throw back at me about mine so, no, I have no intention of saying anything about your…relative youth.”

“What do you enjoy baking the most?” he asked turning the conversation back to work.

“I came up with my own recipe for raspberry scones, and the pastry chef, Norm, lets me sell them as my own. He gets a small percentage, but most of the profit is mine,” she told him. “I guess that’s my favorite, although I love learning how to make anything.”

“Very nice,” he told her. “There’s nothing like a fresh scone with a cup of hot coffee or ice cold milk.”

“Are you old enough to drink coffee?” she said unable to resist.

“Oh, okay. So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?” he said now pretending to be deeply hurt.

“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” she confessed.

“Well, see if I ever give you a ride home again—granny!” he told her trying not to laugh.

“Granny? Granny? You are so lucky you’re driving right now!” she said just as playfully.

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