Excerpt - Dreams of Perfection
In deference to the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed . . .” Darcy put the finishing touches on her hair for yet another blind date. This one came with her accountant’s stamp of approval—a recently divorced client of his.
She didn’t generally date divorcees—too much baggage—and she had enough of her own, thank you very much. But she trusted her accountant and his taste in men. After all, who knew men better than another guy—especially a gay guy? That, and he’d been hounding her to at least meet the man.
A quick taxi ride later, she arrived at a coffee shop near the eligible bachelor’s office in the Financial District where they’d arranged to meet. Grabbing a table in the busy establishment, she ordered tea to await the arrival of one Kempton Bell. Kempton. What kind of name was that? she wondered. According to her accountant, Patrick, Kempton had risen quickly through the ranks of an investment firm and had tremendous potential to one day occupy the position of CEO.
A few sips into her iced chai tea latte, a nice looking, physically fit gentleman approached her table. Darcy sat up in her seat. Not bad. Not bad at all. Thank you, Patrick.
“Yes. And you must be Kempton.” She flashed him her warmest smile. “Please, have a seat.” She indicated the seat across the table from her.
He pulled out the chair but before sitting down, he snatched a napkin from the dispenser and dusted off the seat, then handed it to the waitress who’d approached to take his order.
Hmmm. A bit of a neat freak. That, or a germaphobe. Well, at least he wouldn’t bring home any communicable diseases.
“I’ll have a large soy with extra foam, split shot with a half squirt of sugar-free vanilla and a half squirt of sugar-free cinnamon, a half packet of Splenda. Oh, and put that in an extra-large cup and fill the rest with whipped cream with caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on top.”
The waitress looked at him as if he’d just arrived from another planet.
Kempton finally returned his attention to her. He tilted his head in appraisal. “Pretty.”
She smiled at his compliment. “Thank you.”
“Yes, you’ll do quite nicely, but you dress provocatively. Your blouse is cut too low.”
Her smile faded as she glanced down at her scoop-neck blouse to confirm the girls hadn’t popped out to say hello. Nope. Still safely tucked away. Frowning, she said, “I don’t think—”
“And I understand you’re a best-selling author. I’m sure it’s lucrative.”
“Yes, I’m an author, and yes, it’s lucrative, but—”
“Of course, that won’t be necessary once we’re married. I’m quite capable of providing for you and our children. Besides, you won’t have time for that with all the social and charitable commitments you’ll be undertaking as my wife.”
Can you say controlling? Before she could hit him with a pithy reply, he steamrolled ahead.
“Now, let me tell you about myself.” He opened his briefcase and pulled out three files, laying them carefully on the table. “I’m looking for a mate, not a date. I don’t have a lot of time to waste dating, and I understand neither do you, if you want to become pregnant before you’re too old.”
He glanced up, clearly mistaking her expression for awed speechlessness rather than horrified incredulity. He patted her hand. “Oh, don’t worry, I am not opposed to children. I have a strong sex drive, so children are inevitable, but I don’t believe in premarital sex, so marriage is mandatory and soon.”
Aghast, Darcy looked around the coffee shop, expecting her family and friends to storm the table, laughing and teasing, certain this must be a joke.
He gestured to each file in turn. “This is my resume.”
Resume? He did realize this wasn’t a job interview, right?
“These”—he pointed at portrait size photos of happy, smiling, neatly dressed children—“are my three children, Kempton the Third, Angela, and my youngest, Thornton.
“And these”—he picked up a stack of paper— “are letters of recommendation.”
Flabbergasted, and not a little intrigued, Darcy waited for him to continue. After all, she enjoyed a good joke, even if it was on her.
He placed his resume in front of her, which she noted included his salary and net worth. Seven figures—impressive. Next came a description of his home on Long Island and his country club privileges.
Darcy suppressed a giggle, still waiting for the punch line. Let everyone think they’d pulled a good one over on her.
The photos of his children came next. “My oldest is in college. The other two are in boarding school in Connecticut. They’re polite, well-mannered children, and I’m sure you will love them, although they spend most of the time with their mother when they’re home from school, so they won’t be a burden to us at all.”
Feeling as if she were in a scene from an Austen novel reminiscent of Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal, Darcy shifted uncomfortably in her seat, the possibility that this was not a joke quickly becoming crystal clear.
Last but not least, he collected the stack of recommendation letters, but offered an explanation before handing them to her to read. “Six months ago, my ex-wife and I realized our marriage was in trouble, so we spent a weekend in the Hamptons to either end it or save it. After the first night, we decided to end it.”
Gee, I can’t imagine why.
“But, we used what was left of the weekend to write recommendations for one another to facilitate remarriage. This is my ex-wife’s letter of recommendation written in her own hand.”
Stifling the laughter that threatened to bubble to the surface, Darcy took the paper from Kempton, never having read a letter of recommendation from an ex-wife before. The letter began by praising his suitability as a husband and father, and his aptitude as a provider.
Darcy’s eyebrows winged up at the accolades she gave his bedroom performance, using words like “stamina of a stallion” and “endurance of a god.” It was a wonder she gave him up. Biting her lip, she read the two other letters from friends extolling his honesty, loyalty, yada, yada.
Darcy didn’t know whether to burst out laughing or run, so she just sat there quietly, afraid if she did open her mouth, an unladylike snort would escape.
“I’m sure you see that I’m a perfect candidate, and with a few adjustments, you’d make a proper wife for me.” With a few more references as to his need to find a mate, he packed away the file, set his intertwined hands on the table, and rested his case.
Ticking off his psychological disorders: obsessive-compulsion, narcissism, and possibly a touch of sex addiction, Darcy planned the quickest possible exit. She tried in vain to compose her features.
Very quietly she laid some money on the table for her tea, swallowed a chuckle, and said, “Mr. Bell, it has been very, um, entertaining, but . . . Not. In. This. Lifetime. I have not yet reached the level of desperation it would take for me to become your, er, Stepford wife.”
For a moment she feared he was going to blow a gasket. His handsome face turned an unpleasant shade of purple, his eyes bulging, his mouth gaping in shock. Then he grabbed his briefcase and strode to the door, barreling into the UPS man in his haste to leave. He hadn’t even paid for his coffee.
She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so she did both. The pent-up laughter erupted in a series of snorts, giggles, and guffaws, until tears ran down her face. Wiping her face with a napkin, she resolved one thing: no more blind dates.