Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(9)

By: Ingrid Reinke

“Thanks,” I smiled, giving myself an internal pat on the back for the outfit choice.

“It’s so nice to meet someone who actually is as cute as their profile picture. You never know exactly what you’re going to get on these dating sites,” he said, giving me a big smile.

“Right?” I answered. “I always get a little nervous before an actual date. Sometimes the people you meet turn out to be complete weirdoes. Thanks for seeming normal…and obviously being attractive,” I added the last part a bit hesitantly, not knowing if it would seem to aggressive too return his compliment, but deciding to go for it anyways. Apparently it was the right choice, Jonah kept smiling and reached over and squeezed my hand gently.

“I clean up all right,” he said, slowly pulling his hand away and reaching over the bar to hand me a menu. “What do you like to drink? I’m having a nice cabernet, but they have lots of choices,” he said.

I took a minute to give Jonah the once-over. He was well-dressed—wearing a shirt and tie tucked into well-fitted grey pinstripe slacks. The fabric of his pants had a slight sheen that looked expensive, and he had on a pretty nice watch from what I could see. His hair was light brown gently streaked with blonde (highlights?) and longish. It was tousled in a way that made it seem effortless but probably took him a good fifteen minutes of styling and some expensive product to achieve. More importantly, he didn’t seem socially disabled. I decided that I would not have to resort to my emergency bad-online-dating plan of turning around and running out of the door, then blocking him on the dating site.

I ordered a glass of pinot grigio, my staple. Jonah was at the bottom of his glass of cabernet, so he ordered himself another. The conversation flowed very smoothly, and we mostly avoided any awkward pauses. I learned that he grew up in Redmond, Washington, near the Microsoft campus, and had spent some time in Chicago during school. He had a younger brother, and his parents were still together, retired, owned a German shepherd, and still lived in his childhood home. I explained that my parents had divorced when I was nine and were both remarried. I told him about Elin and my younger sister Beverly, but didn’t mention the strained relationship with my drunken, sociopathic father, or the fact that I had not seen or spoken to him in almost three years. I also glossed over the fact that my sudden return home from Orange County and the loss of my lucrative job at the brokerage firm were initiated because my fiancé had slept with a neighbor in our bed while I was out of town. I tried to leave a little of the baggage for the second date.

During the second glass of wine (my second, his third), the flirting was really picking up steam. When I said something mildly funny, he laughed and put his hand on my left knee, then quickly took it away. I thought it was cute. He didn’t seem to be too cheesy or perv-y, plus he was asking quality questions and actually listening to what I said.

When he got up and went to the bathroom I grabbed for my phone and typed out a quick text to my friend Alex: He’s cute! And I think I like him-going well! then I made sure my phone’s ringer was off so I wouldn’t get a conspicuous text back when he returned.

A minute later, Jonah emerged from the men’s room. He approached me quickly and stood behind me, placing his hand on my shoulder. I was surprised by the intimate touch, but it felt nice, comforting. Then he spoke.

“Hey baby! How you dooo-en?” He guffawed loudly, sliding his hand up into my hair and mussing it roughly before he sat back down on his barstool, head tilted to the side, mouth agape in a goofy smile, waiting for my response.

“Uh. Hey there, I’m doing fine, thanks. How was your trip to the bathroom?”

“Fantastic! I hope you want to party tonight, because it’s ON. High-five!” He held up his hand, waiting for me to slap it.

“Yeah.” I slapped his hand a little more lukewarmly then I’d intended to, so I tried to fix it by giving him an encouraging smile. I was feeling a bit trepidatious about Jonah’s sudden personality swing from respectful, romantic first date guy to wild, fraternity party boy, but I tried to remind myself that this was what I’d signed up for when I noticed his profile. While I didn’t really think that we were in “party down” mode, I’d been wrong before, and at least it was obvious that Jonah was having a good time. I made a quick decision to just go with the flow and try to have some fun. “Should we get another drink?” I asked, smiling.

“Most definitely,” Jonah smiled and put his hand back on my knee. “I know! Let’s do some shots! Do you like Jagermeister?”