Reads: 66

  As she was hanging up the phone, it rang in her hand. It was Jake again.

“Hi, Audri.”

“Hello.”

 "I've decided to surprise you. i'm going to pick you up and make a day of it.  I hope you don't have a problem going without sleep."

 

  Audri let out a soft, uneasy giggle.  "Uhhhh, I should be OK.  I will be out front.  What time can I expect you?”

 

"In about 45 minutes."

 

He was getting really strange already.  Why ten hours early, no sleep, and wanting a whole day for a first date?  Audri started to regret asking him out.  "OK, I'll be ready." she responded trying to sound nonchalant. "I live at..."

 

Jake spoke over her, cutting her off, "I know where you live, I'm security remember? Bye." He hung up not waiting for her response.

 

  “UUUUUUGGGHH.” She started to shed her clothes on the spot.  If she was going to look decent, she would have to kick it into high gear.

Her apartment was tiny so she didn’t have far to go to reach the shower.  Looking through the hastily hung selection of clothes, Audri sighed.  “I don’t have anything to wear on a date.  I should have gone shopping before asking him out.” She pulled down a pair of dark jeans and a grey and blue argyle v-neck sweater.  “This will have to do.”

She left the closet through the door that led to the bedroom, tossed the clothes on the bed and circled back around to the shower.  Methodically sudsing down from head to toe with Finesse then rinsing took less than five minutes.  Not a very relaxing shower, but she was clean.  She wrapped her hair in one towel and scrubbed herself dry with another.

  She pulled her drier and red Chi iron from under the bathroom sink, plugging them both in.  Straightening would take less time than curling. Audri then opened the mirrored door in front of her and selected Flora lotion and perfume.  Applying it in a similar pattern to the shampoo earlier, she was covered from neck to toe quickly with the lotion.  After a few quick puffs of perfume, she was back in the bedroom throwing on her clothes. 

She had twenty-two minutes.  She hustled back into the bathroom, and started blow drying her hair. “Come on, come on.”  A familiar tone sounded.  It was her phone again. “You have really got to be kidding me.”  She dropped the drier in the sink forgetting to turn it off and ran for the phone hoping it was Jake calling to say he would be taking longer than expected.

“Hello.” Audri answered breathlessly.

“Oh hey, you won’t believe this, but I overestimated my time.  Do you want me to come up?”

 

"Jake, wow, that was quick. No need to come up. I will be down in a minute.  Bye.”Audri slammed down the receiver, why had he lied?  She ran to the bathroom, shut off the drier and pulled both cords from the outlet.  She pulled a brush through her wavy auburn hair a few strokes and strode back into the closet.  She took a pair of black patent spike healed boots from the rack above the rod.

  Moving a little more slowly in the heels, Audri stopped in front of her dresser mirror.  She opened a white case that held her scant collection of make-up.  She ran the eyeliner into her top lash line, coated the lashes with mascara, and smeared on some lightly tinted Burt’s Beeswax onto her lips.  Blinking her green eyes a few times to ensure the mascara wasn’t going to run, she moved toward the living room satisfied with her look.  She swept up her purse from the couch as she headed to the door.

Audri hopped into the elevator and press the “L”.  As the doors parted, she could see Jake sitting on one of the burgundy floral couches in front of the fireplace. 

  “Shall we?" he asked shaking his head from side to side.  "Might I say that you look amazing."

 

Stunned by his compliment, she didn’t answer but allowed him to usher her to the front door.  The doorman tipped his hat at Audri, “Have a nice day, Ma’am.” He nodded and smiled at Jake.

 

  A black Pontiac, 1978 model, with a gaudy firebird painted on the hood was parked next to the curb. Audri started to make a joke about it until she noticed that Jake was guiding her towards it.  Jake must have painstakingly shined the silver rims holding the awkwardly wide tires.  The wheels looked like they cost more than the sporadically rusted and faded chassis. Jake noticed her odd facial expression as she stared at his vehicle.  “I am just starting to restore her.  Isn’t she a beauty?” 

“Uh, yes, she is very nice.” Audri blurted.

  I love those old movies, don’t you?”  Jake asked as he opened the passenger door for her.

“I'm not sure what movies you are referring to." she said as she ducked, lowering herself into the car.

  The floor mats looked new and the dash was so clean that it actually looked wet.

“Wow, you spend a lot of time cleaning your car, don’t you?” Audri said as he lowered himself into the driver's seat.

 

“Doesn’t everybody?” Jake said, but he already knew the answer to that.  Her car was only a month old, but by his standards it was already a pigsty.

“Not really.” Audri answered.  “So where are we headed?”

 

“I thought we could cruise up to Chicago and visit the Shedd. "There is a special exhibit on Jellies.  They fascinate me." he paused. cocking his head to the side. "You know, they are so delicate and beautiful, but can be so painful, much like women." A wry grin lit up his face at the joke.

 

“Scientists have been studying them for decades.  Some of the guys at R-tech are working in conjunction with the Shedd right now as a matter of fact.  The aquarium sends over a proportion of each new brood to be grown and studied at our lab."

 

“What does your division do, Audri?”

 

“It is classified so I can’t really say much about it."

 

"I hated biology class.  I only passed it the second time around because we had a hot, young teacher who had a crush on me.  She was gorgeous, like you.  I used to stay late after school and help her clean up the lab." Jake noticed Audri shift in her seat as the corners of her mouth dropped.  “Well, you get the idea.”

 

“I wish I didn’t,” She murmured.

 

His eyes turned serious and he moved his attention to the radio.  Cranking up a station similar to 80's 0n 8, without embarrassment, he sang along to a string of upbeat songs about teenage love, vacations, and rainy days until the Firebird pulled up to the curb in front of the aquarium nearly an hour later.

 

I’ll park and meet you inside.”  He didn’t make a move to get her door for her, so she opened it herself and got out. 

 

  She was relieved to be out of Jake’s car.  It was going to be a lot harder than she imagined to creep Jake out.  His personality was absolutely bizarre, and worse, he seemed to be having a great time.  He hated biology so he said.  Maybe she could use that to turn him off.

 

 

  She stood there ten minutes and thought he must be having a hard time finding a parking spot.  She strolled into the entryway toward the displays.  Verchamp required its students to volunteer at educational facilities as part of their curriculum.  They believed in the philosophy that by immersing their students in science and having them teach others, a student would gain a solid understanding of the topic and retain it.  She, Chris, and a few others chose the Shedd as the locale for their volunteer hours.

  She would act like she was searching for something in her purse until Chris got out of the small bus and headed for the building.  When Chris signed in at the front desk, she would be able to see which area he was going to  work in that day.  She would always sign in to a section near his, so she would bump into him occasionally.  Audri smiled to herself thinking about how he must have known what she was doing but that he never embarrassed her by saying anything.

 

 

"Sorry that took so long, I was on the phone with my mom.  I had to tell her all about you.  I haven’t dated for two years, since my fiance broke off our wedding at the reheasal dinner.”

 

Audri didn’t know what to say to that so she just mumbled, “That’s okay.”

 

“Maybe you can meet her soon.  My mom, I mean, not Sylvia.  She thinks that the research developed at R-tech is being used to speed up the progression of  diseases in people who are on Medicare.  She said the government is trying to off the old people to save a buck.  Far fetched, huh?  She suffers from insomnia and gets crazy ideas by listening to some a.m. station called Watchdog.  She swears that they said R-tech made a treatment to cure paralysis in people who had  been in accidents.  It did something to help their bodies regenerate their nerves at the injury site, but that it could also be used to speed up the growth of diseased tissues if they were not healthy to begin with.  She really didn’t understand the technical parts of the story. Dog said that type of thing happened frequently there.  Then he warned the elderly to beware of any new meds their doctors suggested to treat nervous system problems.  That is just insane, huh?”

 

Jake continued.  “She thinks that most scientists at R-tech are really working on clandestined projects for the government.  When there are new products, she surfs the net on her ipad and tries to come up with all of the ways that it could possibly be used as a weapon.  She has a blog.  I will have to give you the IP for it.  Since you know all about the science behind the research, you could get on there and really mess with her.”  He laughed manically and a bit too loud.  Several tweens turned to gawk.

  Changing the subject, “Are you ready to get tickets?”

  He then started patting all of his pockets.  I forgot my wallet.”

  No problem.”  Audri went to the counter and paid for two tickets. She wasn’t sure if Jake had actually forgotten his wallet or if he was just one heck of an actor.

 


Submitted: November 14, 2020

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