Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: Second Chances
The unmistakable proof was sitting in the big washbasin sink in her kitchen. The same rustic antique relic she’d found and restored a few months ago. He’d actually sent her chrysanthemums. Big, vibrant red blooms he must have somehow discovered were her favorite, because she’d never told him. Hell, Marley hadn’t really told him anything other than her name when they’d been introduced last week during her alma mater’s alumni meet and greet.
She’d honestly thought it was all a joke. Of course she recognized him, Dax was one of the most popular guys in Sig Eps, a fraternity who’d never let her into one of their parties. Oh no, not when she was part of ZBT, the ‘loser’ sorority where she and her other art and drama major friends were sisters of. When they’d had Greek Week, her and her friends were always the butt of everyone’s jokes. They didn’t fit into the mold of all the other fraternities on campus. She wasn’t blonde or petite, prerequisites for all the other groups. No, her and her friends considered themselves a merry band of misfits who were all too happy to be outcasts. At least back in college they’d had each other to fall back on when things got hard, or their self confidence needed bolstering. Now, out in the real world, she felt overexposed and vulnerable to attack.
When Dax started talking to her at the party, she thought it was all a ruse, some new form of Punk’d television show. Never in a million years did she think he was actually serious about asking her out. Yes, she’d grown up over the course of the year since she graduated, lost a few pounds and chopped off her long dingy locks for a short sleek bob, she loved. Even though she looked more adult, professional, she was still just Marley, the girl with paint permanently under her fingernails. For some unknown reason, Dax Walker approached her. She still wasn’t sure if he recognized her from the semester they shared European History together, or the one and only time she came up to the Sig Ep door with her friend Maggie and were turned away by their plebe pledges, Dax and Christian. The fat slur they mumbled as their reason for turning them away still rang clear in Marley’s ears.
“Did you even bother looking at the card he sent?” her roommate Sheila asked, a look of genuine concern creased her brow.
“Yeah, I saw who it was from. Why, was there an April Fools message hidden somewhere too or something more sinister?”
Sheila wandered over and handed her the card, not saying a word. Based on the look she threw her, Marley assumed it was important.
Pulling the card from the tiny envelope, the words hadn’t changed from what she’d read the first time she glanced at the card. “Please reconsider, Dax.” but there was something else in the envelope that Marley had missed. It was a small tag, that looked like it had been ripped off of a piece of clothing. You’re so much more than a number. When she read the seemingly simple sentence, Marley knew Dax remembered his actions from all those years ago, and perhaps he was even remorseful because of it.
On the back of the card was Dax’s phone number. Marley twirled the card between her fingers, debating her next move. Was she ready to forgive him so readily? The other nagging question was far more worrisome, could he actually be trusted?
Sheila was staring at her from the breakfast bar in the kitchen, her eyes steely and all knowing. Sometimes Marley really hated how well she knew her, and her past. They’d been roommates in the sorority house for two of their three years and when they graduated, it only seemed sensible to continue their amicable cohabitation. Days like this though, when Marley prefered to be in her head, working with a brush and canvas she really wished Shelia would just go away and leave her be.
“So… you going to give the poor schlub a call or just assume he’s exactly like you remembered from freshman year?”
Marley’s look must have encouraged Sheila to continue her thought, even though it was the last thing Marley wanted to hear. She was happy in her solitary existence and didn’t need some know-it-all jock telling her she was better than a freaking number. How the hell would he know, being a perfect adonis-like specimen and all. What the fuck did he know about being mocked for your appearance. For not being pretty enough, thin enough or curvy enough. She’d never make everyone happy, so the least she could do was be happy in her own skin, and Marley usually was. At least she was until some handsome man from her past decided to kick all her preconceived notions to the curb.
“Listen, I’m not telling you to hand over your heart on a silver platter, I’m just wondering if you haven’t also changed in five years? The guy obviously was interested in you, and I know based on sitting beside you two all night that you have some sort of chemistry. Just give him a call and see what he has to say. Meet him for a drink and you can come home in an hour if he’s as douchey as you remember. I’m just saying--- for him to hunt down your address and send you a bouquet of some pretty impressive flowers, took a bit of initiative. Shit, if you don’t call him, I just might. I mean, you did see his ass in those jeans right?” With a wink, she grabbed her water off the counter and took off for her room, leaving Marley alone to stew in her thoughts.
Some day’s Marley really wished she could go back to being a petulant toddler and throw her fists on the ground and have a tantrum. Her mind was battling it out with her heart over the decision. It wasn’t just Dax, but every single guy who’d ever made a snide comment, gave her a left-handed compliment or friend when asked about her, could only say, “She’s got a really great personality and is super funny!” No, Marley didn’t want their pity, but she also didn’t want to live in the past. She was different, more confident and accepting in the skin she was in. She was also done being safe and not taking any chances. Being alone, while great for always having control of the remote, was not as fantastic for company, or support, and who was she kidding--- most of all love.
She dragged a finger over the back of her iphone, a gesture meant to calm her quaking nerves, but didn’t do a damn thing. Steeling her resolve, she snatched it off the counter and punched in the numbers from the card she was still holding.
“Um, hi. Dax? This is Marley, we met at the Prescott alumni event?” She cringed at the wobbly sound of her timid introduction.
On the other end of the line she heard a hearty chuckle, “Marley. Thanks so much for calling. Man, you are one tough cookie to track down.”
“Really? I guess I’ve never tried to contact myself.” She was so bad at small talk, and reminded herself that cocktails really did help her with the awkward dialogue she stumbled her way through in everyday life. “Do you still want to meet for that drink?” Marley was softly banging her head on the cupboards cursing under her breath for blurting out the invitation and not even letting him speak.
She heard him laugh again, deep and rumbly and it was a sound she wanted to hear more of. “I’d love to. Thanks for asking. Does tomorrow night work? Unfortunately I have a business dinner I have to attend tonight--”
Cutting him off, Marley accepted and suggested a small but excellent wine bar that was close to her house.
“Great. See you tomorrow.” She was just about to hang up when he called her name.
“Marley-- you know I’m sorry about college, right? I always thought you were really lovely, but got sucked into the fraternity life, and I never had a chance to apologize. I’m not that guy anymore. I just-- just wanted you to know.”
Stunned, she sat holding her phone, unsure of how to respond. “um… thanks. I really appreciate it. That--- that’s really good to know.”
“Okay, just wanted to clear that up before tomorrow. See you then.”
With a whispered “bye” she stood stock still, leaning against the counter, not really able to process what had just happened. It wasn’t until Sheila stepped out of her room and cautiously asked her if everything was okay did Marley realize she was. She really was.
“Yep, perfect. I actually have a date with Dax tomorrow.” Instead of giving her all the details Marley knew Sheila wanted to hear, she turned on her heel and headed for her room to bask in the warm and fuzzy feeling of being wanted. Even if it didn’t last past tomorrow’s date, Marley felt buoyant and alive. It was amazing what a well timed apology could do-- not to mention being told you were pretty by one very attractive man.
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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com