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That Keshia hadn’t done a facepalm when Tessa turned up at her store was about all.
“You can’t go in your own clothes!”
“Why not? My little black –“
“You’ll be playing a part, so you have to dress up to look the part. What about this one?” Keshia pushed a bunch of hangers out of the way with her elbow, making the clothes rack screech in protest.
An above-knee-length, sleeveless leather dress with a modest boat neckline. In baby pink.
“Can I say ‘mixed message’?” Tessa said glumly, staring at her reflection in the mirror five minutes later.
Keshia sank onto the plush, slightly grubby sofa that Keshia’s Classy Closet offered to exhausted boyfriends and husbands.
“Nothing ‘mixed’ about it,” she said. “You send the man any message he may want to hear. He wants to hear sex ‘n’ leather, you’re there. He wants to hear rosy innocence, you’re there. He wants to hear business casual, you’re there. Remember when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts what her name is, and she says, What do you want it to be?”
Tessa, still skeptical in front of the mirror, turned to glare at her friend through narrowed eyes.
“Look, I know you think I shouldn’t do this, but I have no cho– ”
“Me?” Keshia raised her arms in a gesture of innocence that made the bangles on her wrists jingle.
“Child, I think nothing. You say you have no choice? Then you better make sure he has no choice either. I’m helping you. Now. Pink heels, or black?”
Tessa was staring at the leather-clad image opposite her again.
“I draw the line at pink heels.”
They had been exchanging emails for a week, and Tessa knew that putting off the next step was the act of a chicken. And yet when Stuart – she still didn’t know his last name – suggested they meet for a drink, she hesitated.
Boston02493: How about, as a sign of good faith, I let you choose the place.
A sign of good faith? Tessa felt it was more of a test. It was also too much of a temptation.
Architecta87 : You know the IHOP on Soldiers Field, off the pike?
It was a full minute before he replied.
Boston02493: You’re either kidding, or we’re history.
Architecta87: Sorry ;-) So – anywhere I like?
Boston02493: Don’t forget I mean to spoil you.
Right. Deep breath.
Architecta87: I haven’t been to the Marriott on Long Wharf since they made it over.
Boston02493: The Marriott it is. Sat 20:00.
Architecta87: Yes, sir.
She grinned. So far, this wasn’t hurting. Oh, wait -
Architecta87: Will you be playing with a sugar cube, or how will we –
Luckily her inbox pinged while she was still typing.
Boston02493: Wait in the lobby. I’ll recognize you.
If he didn’t, she’d be wandering around the Marriott hotel looking like a hooker on the make. Huh.
He seemed to think that his zip code spoke more than a thousand photos. It was probably more impressive than his face. He was bound to be – Tessa phrased it warily: unattractive by conventional standards. But then, what did that mean? If he had a sense of humor, wasn’t smelly, creepy or cruel – what did it matter to her if he was short, or overweight, or bald, or just plain ordinary? Heck, ordinary was fine.