It's a good thing that I'd talked myself out of Fantasy Land after my date with Harris. Emily Post would be proud of the warm, but polite, message I left him the next day thanking him for the lovely evening... but he didn't call the next night. Or the next. Or the next.
(As it happened, I was working late each night, so I wouldn't have gotten the call anyway. I did, however, check my messages. About every 14 minutes.)
So, when my new (and tremendously UN-professional) assistant told me several days later that "some guy who said he's a friend of yours" was on the phone, I flew -- actually took flight -- back to my desk to take the call. I paused a moment to be sure I sounded entirely calm, cool and collected when I answered.
It wasn't Harris.
It was Dan Albom, Mr. College Man that I'd run into (tripped over) at the airport last month. Oh, no!
"Jessica," he said warmly, "How are you?"
Now, Dan is going to ask me out and I can't say that I am dating someone else -- because the someone else I want to be dating isn't polite enough to call me back in enough time to give me an excuse not to date someone I'd otherwise probably go out with.
Or maybe I should go out with Dan -- specifically because Harris didn't call me back?!
Ten voices called out responses in my head, as if the audience of the Rikki Lake Show had taken up residence under my hair.
Rikki Lake's audience had taken up residence under my hair.
"That's not fair to him," screamed the one I listened to. "If you're interested in someone else, you shouldn't get him involved."
I realized, as the audience quieted, that Dan was still talking.
"So does that sound good?" he said, obviously concluding something.
"Dan, I am really sorry," I said sheepishly. "My assistant was, um, buzzing me, and I didn't hear what you said."
"Buzzing you?" he puzzled. "Oh, I asked if you wanted to get lunch when I come into town next week."
Be honest! I thought.
"I would love to, Dan," I said, pausing dramatically, "but, I need to tell you that since I saw you, I've started dating someone. Sort of."
"Jessica, you really weren't listening before. When I asked if you wanted to have lunch, I told you that my girlfriend may or may not be coming with me."
I shrunk to 15 inches high.
"Oh, good," I said, "hopefully they'll be serving foot-in-mouth."
The ice broken, we chatted easily for another 15 minutes.
I was still smiling when I heard my extension ringing repeatedly. Super-assistant must have wandered off again, I fumed. Irritated, I picked up the extension, reminding myself how lucky I was to have any assistant -- even an incompetent one.
"Jessica Shaeffer," I said, in my professional tone.
"You're so businesslike." It was Harris. It's about time, I thought.
Isn't a secretary supposed to make you sound important by screening your calls?
Drat! I thought. What is the point of a secretary if not to make you sound more important by screening your calls?
"I have no excuse for not calling you sooner," he said, without prompting. "I was lobbying at the capitol and got completely backed up. I could have called you, though. I'm sorry. Can I take you out to dinner to make it up?"
Somehow, I found it in my heart to forgive him.
The next night, we went to a restaurant downtown and walked around afterwards, talking easily. He told me about how the area had been revitalized over the last decade or so.
The next day, I met Alison in the garden of a ladies-who-lunch restaurant in Scottsdale.
"I feel like such an idiot the way I waited for him to call," I told her. "But putting aside my schoolgirlish fascination for a moment, something is different in the way I feel about Harris Parker."
"What do you mean -- different?" Alison asked.
I wasn't sure. "When we're together, it flows. I don't feel like I have to try to impress him all the time."
Alison snorted. "Then what's the evening's objective?" she said sarcastically.
"C'mon, this is serious. This is the first time in a long time that I feel that I am actually getting to know someone I am going out with," I said.
I don't feel like I have to try to impress him all the time.
I was relieved to find myself rising above the bizarre insecurities that usually come with social interaction. Was it maturity that allowed me to be more concerned with how I felt about him -- rather than worrying whether or not he liked me?
"Jessie, you're coming off a three-year relationship. You haven't had to get to know anyone in a long time."
Oh, right. Still, it felt different. And, now, it was pretty clear that we were dating, officially. Right?
Alison looked up and furrowed her brows almost imperceptibly. I followed her eyes and saw that Becca -- the nasty blonde who'd failed in her attempt to insult me at the young leadership meeting -- was on her way out of the restaurant.
"Just try to keep your feet somewhere closer to the ground, okay?" Alison said.
"Consider them planted," I nodded.