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There were two restaurants in the hotel lobby. One was formal and the other was more of a sports bar that served munchies and burgers. We headed for the sports bar.
Alden found a high top by the window that overlooked the bay and we sat down. A waiter came by. Alden ordered a draft. I ordered water. The waiter walked off to get our drinks. I pretended to look at the view outside of the window, but I was really watching Alden's reflection on the glass and trying to figure out what to say to him.
"Ginger, I was glad that you called and asked me to come get you. It means a lot that you trusted me enough to do that."
I turned and looked into Alden's eyes. I didn't see sarcasm. He looked handsome and happy and I felt so foolish. "I must admit that I really don't remember making that phone call. I'm sorry." I turned back to the window.
"Hey, look at me." I faced him and tried to smile. "You don't ever have to tell me that you're sorry. We're friends and friends help each other like that. Got it?"
"Friends? We don't even know each other, not really. I'm a teacher going through a personal crisis and you're a writer looking for a story. I seem to be providing you with a pretty wild one." I could feel tears gathering in my eyes. I blinked to try and hold them back, but it didn't work very well.
Alden placed his hands on top of mine and squeezed. "You're more than that. I'm more than that. You're a wonderful, intelligent, witty, brave woman who doesn't realize how much she has to offer. I'm just the guy with dumb luck that managed to be in the right place at the right time and got to meet you. I'm not here because I want to write your story. I'm here because I want to know your story. I want to know you. I think you‘re someone pretty special."
He stared at me with his beautiful blue eyes and perfect smile and waited for me to reply. I couldn’t reply though. I was too mesmerized by his face and the fact that this beautiful, perfect man wanted to know me.
The waiter returned with our drinks and a basket of popcorn. We both ordered cheeseburgers with fries and the waiter left again.
Alden took a drink of his beer and then placed his glass on the table and laughed. "You know, there's a part of me that can't believe you didn't order a Margarita."
My body shuddered at the thought. "I think I'm good with the water."
"Are you ready to talk about what happened to you?"
"Not really. Any chance you'll forget any of this ever happened?"
"No, but if you'll solve the mystery of the missing shoe. I promise not to ask anymore questions about it."
I took a deep breath and started talking before I lost my nerve. "Well, when I got to Kyle's place they made me take off my shoes and leave them by the door. Then they made me wash my make-up off before I could actually enter their home. I talked with Kyle and he told me all about how he met his wife and how wonderful she is and how they home school their kids because the public schools are so dreadful.
His wife accused me of having an affair with him because, apparently, he does that a lot. His kids were like evil little robots that called me horrible names and no one even tried to stop them.
Once I had taken enough of the abuse I walked out, but Kyle got on the elevator with me and said some even more horrible things. So, I kicked him and then I threw my shoe at him.
After that, I found the bar and started drinking. My memory gets fuzzy at this point."
The waiter brought our burgers and more water for me. Alden ordered another draft.
"I should go kick that guy's ass." Alden said with real anger in his voice.
"There's no need for that. I'm sure he still has an ice pack resting on his front side. If you know what I mean."
"Ouch!" Alden laughed.
We both ate our dinner in silence for a few minutes. Finally I couldn't wait any longer and spoke up. "Alden, will you please tell me about the phone call I made to you? For the life of me, I can't remember calling you and it‘s been years since I‘ve drunk dialed anyone."
Alden looked up from his dinner and smiled. He wiped his mouth with his napkin then placed it on the table and smiled again. "You were very happy when you called. You asked if I missed you and when I said that I did you put the bartender on the line to give me directions to the place. He said that he thought I should come quickly because you were practically inhaling his Margaritas. Of course, that was after you went behind the bar and gave him a lesson in how to make a good one because you apparently didn't like the first six he had made for you."
I covered my face with my hands and took a deep breath. "I don't think I want to know the rest of this story."
"It's not as bad as you may think. When I arrived, you were sitting at the bar between two guys. You introduced me as Prince Charming and said that they were Skipper and Gilligan. Apparently, you had a whole Gilligan's Island theme going on."
I couldn't help but laugh. "Wow, I almost wish I could remember that."
"Oh, it gets better! The bartender was a big, tattooed, bald headed guy named Mary Ann."
"Now him, I think I remember." I laughed.
"You didn't want to leave right away so I talked you into moving to a table with me. You hobbled over in your one shoe and managed to get there without falling down. You tried to tell me what happened to the other shoe, but I couldn't keep up because you kept getting your sports confused. The analogy was completely lost on me, but you cracked up laughing every time you told the story. And you must have told it to me ten times."
"Oh Alden, I'm so sorry! You must have wanted to slap me!"
"No, you're a cute drunk. You didn't get upset until I tried to kiss you."
"You tried to kiss me?" I was horrified! How could I not remember that?
"Yeah, we were talking and I was calling you Cinderella because of the whole shoe thing and the fact that you were calling me Prince Charming. You were drunk and I shouldn't have tried to kiss you, but you were just so funny and so cute that I couldn't help it. You pushed me away and started crying. I called a taxi and brought you back to the hotel."
"I am so sorry. You didn't deserve that. Can you forgive me?" I looked at him and silently prayed that he could and would forgive me.
"I'm the one who should be asking for forgiveness. I didn't know what you had gone through. The last thing you needed was for someone to hit on you."
The waiter showed up and cleared our plates. He left the bill and I signed for dinner. I looked at Alden, unsure of what to do next.