Prompt: Your main character is an anxious 39-year-old woman. The story begins in a stately home. A blind date
is the start of something big. The theme of the story is pride.
“It’s a… uh, nice place here, isn’t it?” Judy sat down in the chair the waiter had pulled out for her. She placed her hands on the table and tried to wring them too much. She didn’t want to show how nervous she was.
“A beautiful spot,” Eric agreed. “The house was built in the 1740s on the instruction of Lord Matheson.”
“I see.” Judy didn’t really know anything about the history of the stately home in whose restaurant they were eating, or who Lord Matheson had been. She wondered how much else Eric knew about it.
“Would sir and madam like to begin with drinks?” the waiter asked.
“Oh, yes, please,” said Eric. “Judy, what would you like?”
“Oh, um… red wine, please.”
Eric scanned the wine list and pointed to one. “A bottle, please.”
“Of course, sir.”
When the waiter was gone, Eric leaned forward toward Judy and it was all she could do to not lean back away from him. She bit her lip.
“So,” he said, “tell me about yourself.”
“Oh, well, there’s not much to tell, really. I work for an insurance company. I have an English major.” She shrugged, not quite making eye contact. “What else do you want to know?”
“Oh, come on, I’m sure there’s plenty more to know. What’s your favourite colour? Favourite holiday destination? What are your hobbies?”
He was asking the questions very quickly and Judy tried to remember them in order. This felt more like a job interview than a date.
“All right. My favourite colour is yellow. I… I don’t really have a favourite holiday destination. I don’t really go anywhere much.”
“That’s a shame. Why not?”
“Well, I… I don’t like going to places I don’t know.”
“You came here today.”
“Well, yes, but I’ve driven past this place before. It’s sort of familiar.” From his expression, Judy was fairly sure that he didn’t buy that reason, true as it was for her. “What about you?” she asked quickly, steering the conversation away from herself. “Where do you go on holidays?”
“Well, I’ve been quite a few places around Europe, recently. I took my daughter to Greece over the summer, for instance.”
“Greece. Lovely.” Judy was trying her hardest not to feel in adequate.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” Eric leaned down and picked up a small bag that he had placed under the table earlier. “I know we don’t know each other yet, but I brought you something.”
“Oh… you didn’t have to do that.” Judy wondered if that was customary, and if she should have brought something to. It was a blind date. Surely gifts weren’t expected?
“Give me your hand,” said Eric, drawing a silver bracelet out of the bag. Judy’s eyes widened. It looked expensive. She drew her hand back, not letting him slip the bracelet over her wrist.
“I’m sorry, Eric, I can’t accept this.”
“Oh, don’t be like that. Please, take it.”
“No, I…” Judy took a deep breath. She hated having to do this. “Look, Eric, I’m sorry, I’m not sure this is going to work.”
“We haven’t even been here that long.”
“No, we haven’t. And you’re already giving me expensive jewellery. I’m sorry, that’s just too fast.”
“Well.” Eric looked as embarrassed as Judy felt. “At least help me drink the wine we’ve already ordered.”
“All right. I’m sorry to be like this.”
“No, it’s… it’s all right. I suppose I should have thought a bit more.”
Thankfully, the wine arrived soon after, and they were able to distract themselves. The waiter did seem a little surprised when Eric informed him they would no longer be staying for lunch, but he didn’t ask questions.
Once they had finished, Judy pulled some money out of her purse and gave it to Eric before he could object. There was no way she was going to let him insist on paying. The wine wasn’t the cheapest, so she was certainly chipping in. As they stood before Eric went to pay, Judy held out her hand.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” she said.
“Better to nip it in the bud than let it quickly turn into something awful, I suppose.”
“Yes. It was nice to meet you, though.”
“You, too, Judy. Good luck.”
With that, Eric moved towards the counter while Judy made her way to the door. When she reached her car, she couldn’t help but sigh in relief. Perhaps now the people who had been trying in vain to set her up with someone would let up.