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SS34: “The Pleasure Of Your Company”
September 24th, 6:32 p.m.
Another perfectly normal, fair, 70° Wednesday very slowly bid its adieu to the setting sun. Autumn had officially arrived twenty-four hours before, and was politely trying to indicate to summer that it must now be off. Summer, however, was not a season which took particularly kindly to dismissal. Yet here in the midwest, most folks preferred hot weather over the notorious cold, and too were dismayed to see summer pack its proverbial bags. If only they had the means, many would highly consider uprooting for a new start in a much warmer climate. Of course, then were there also the individuals who greatly enjoyed and appreciated the cold, who may have been fewer in number, but just as adamant in terms of their preference.
Underway right now at the Redmond Recreation Center, at 6780 Five Flags Road, was meeting four of the center’s semi-annual social club class. It was essentially a semester of weekly seminars in which an instructor—whose name was Dr. Kathleen Huxley, Ph. D. (“Kathleen, call me, please…or Kathy; no fancy titles necessary”)—lectured students on the finer points of effective socializing. It was a paid event—though the fees were very modest and affordable—and similar to traditional curricular schooling in that it began just after Labor Day, and the students were technically given homework, tests and grades, though they were more abstract and subjective than would be those of regular organized education. More really than an academic course, it was a service for individuals who lacked skill or tact in relating to others, grappled with low self-esteem or loneliness and/or wished to make some friends, or simply found some leisure time on their hands and put it to use to meet new people.
Kathleen made it clear from the beginning that only civil exchanging would be allowed and tolerated. The mantra was the borrowed adage discouraging from saying anything had one nothing nice to say. There was to be no judging, mocking, jeering or other rude and disruptive behavior, or the offender would be asked to leave. Fortunately, it was a code with which virtually no one had a problem, the youngest students in class nowhere under 20. Besides which, everyone in the room was rather intimidated by any sort of confrontation. Luckily, one thing on which the class would enlighten them was peaceful, polite ways to resolve altercations.
Two attendees who had struck up an embryonic friendship upon meeting number one took their regular seats in the second row beside each other, Alexandra Philomene and Isaac Martin. On the class’ very first meeting September 3rd, Alexandra had been running late and got in a few minutes tardy. Tardiness wasn’t a big deal to Kathleen or to the other facilitators of the event, but Alexandra was disappointed in herself, and nevertheless had to bear the somewhat awkward moment of unwanted attention as she located and maneuvered around seats to one of the last unoccupied, which happened to be next to Isaac. Isaac felt bad for her, so he whispered that she was welcome to share his page of notes he’d taken down so far, if she so desired. It was a rare moment of kindness actually rather foreign to Alex, so she worked up a tiny smile and thanked him.
Following roll call and introductions, Kathleen filled the class in on some basics and fundamentals of behavior, psychology and human interaction. She asked for some volunteers to play out some exercises, and then had them group up and work the same setups and variations thereof. In and around the lectures, exercises and play scenarios, Alex and Isaac snuck more snippets of chitchat back and forth. Ninety minutes later, after the first class, they had walked outside together.
Three weeks earlier
September 3rd, 8:04 p.m.
“Well, that was pretty interesting, huh?” asked Isaac as they stepped outside. “Oh my gosh, beautiful evening, isn’t it?”
“Well, I guess…” agreed Alexandra. “…If you like beautiful evenings.”
“My car’s over here,” pointed Isaac. “Y’know, if you wanted to, you could…walk me over, or…or I could walk you to yours.”
Alexandra shrugged. “Why not.”
When they reached his car, a bit of inspiration struck.
“Actually, you know, if this doesn’t sound too…whatever,” he gestured, “I don’t really have anything else to do tonight. I wasn’t sure if you, uh…if you wanted to, maybe…” Shrug. “…Go get something to eat or something, chat some more, I dunno…”
“…Oh, gosh,” said Alex. “I’m not too sure, uh…I’m not really looking for someone to date right now.”
“Oh, no, it wouldn’t be a date,” said Isaac. “Just as friends. I mean, I think Kathleen would be proud of us. And I can always use more friends and activities in my life. Sometimes I feel like if I spend one more night just goofing güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri around alone at home, I’ll go nuts.”
Alexandra considered the offer. “Well…I…am running a little short on cash…”
“Oh—that’s cool,” he told her. “‘S on me.”
“A’right, well…guess I could always use a free meal,” she smirked.
They got in their cars and met up at the Fish Bowl, a seafood restaurant by the bay, where Isaac ordered himself flounder with lemon, and Alex got a dish of shrimp sprinkled over a bed of pasta. They had a little trouble getting additional conversation off the ground, but Isaac didn’t want to let the whole night get away without any exchanges.
“So…how’d you like the meeting tonight?” he asked her.
“Well, uh, heh…” She let out a wry chuckle. “Aside from the fact that I got there five minutes late, it was okay. I guess I…learned a few new things…thanks again for sharing your notes with me, Isaac, I appreciate it.”
“Oh, no problem, I was glad for the opportunity to help. And I learned some cool stuff as well.”
“Yeah…” mused Alex, “I was afraid it might be wasted money, so I guess I should make something of it.” She mushed her food with her fork and swirled it around the plate, looking and sounding a bit down. Isaac gazed at her, wondering if something was wrong.
Almost as if reading his mind, Alexandra looked back up at him after another moment. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m…I’m…” She gestured with her hand, playing for time and words. “…There’s something kind of big that’s wrong with me, Isaac. I should explain this before we get to know each other too well. I know this is a big turn-off for most people, but I’m a…just a…pretty negative person, by nature, I’m afraid. And…I just hate it. I hate being like this. Oh—see? See? There I go again: negative.”
Isaac considered commenting that sounded more like a double negative, thereby canceling itself out—after all, hating being negative equaled wishing to be positive, did it not?—but he didn’t. Instead, he went a different way, to try to make her feel better.
“Well, y’know, everyone’s got a little negativity inside them, right? I mean, I’ve had my really bad days too.”
Alex shook her head. “No, this is more than just a few rotten days, Isaac. Y’see, I…”
She paused for dramatic effect.
“…Am the queen…of bad luck. Seriously, that should be my real middle name: Alexandra ‘Bad Luck’ Philomene…Junior.”
She held up a single finger to signal that she wasn’t yet done. “That’s right, I said, ‘Junior.’ Cursed right outta the womb. My crappy luck started on day one. My Mom’s name’s Alexandra, my Dad’s is Dale. Now…if they absolutely had to have a kid named after them, I would’ve been fine with Dale. Okay? I mean, Dale’s a cool name. It can go either way, and besides, Dads name their kids after them; Moms don’t! Who does that?? I’m born, BOOM: Alexandra Junior.”
Isaac nodded. “Well, I’m…sorry you feel embarrassed by that, but I think it’s kinda…cute, actually.”
Alex smirked sourly. “Oh, yes, it’s just darling. Meanwhile, my kid sister, a.k.a. Little Miss Perfect, got the original, unique name: Sasha Anastasia Philomene.”
Isaac raised his eyebrows. “Wow, that’s beautiful.”
Alexandra let out a quiet snort, that reaction being predictable and typical. Nobody ever said her name was beautiful. But then again, she had just told Isaac her sister did in fact have the better, prettier name; why should she expect him to disagree?
Alex’s family surname was Greek, which she actually did feel was very lovely. If only she didn’t have to share it with her sister. Her own middle name was Lorelei, which too struck her as awkward. But whenever she felt envious of her sister, she thought about the fact that both their initials spelled words, making her the name of a well-known mountain chain. And she would much rather be that than her sister, a plant cell fluid which was also another name for a loser. All the same, she hoped he wouldn’t ask her middle name.
She looked back up from her plate to hear Isaac pose his next question.
“So if you don’t mind me asking, Alex Philomene, what’s your middle name?”
She closed her eyes so he couldn’t see her rolling them. She told him flatly.
“Oh, I like that!” he said. “That’s even prettier!”
Her eyes snapped open in surprise. Really?? she thought.
“Absolutely! ‘Lorelei’…’s gorgeous. Great old ’70s Styx song too.”
For the first time, a genuine smile crossed her face. It suddenly became a cozily warm moment for her.
He smiled back. It was very nice to see her teeth.
“Of course. You’re so lucky. I mean, it’s obvious your parents were creative. Then again, I guess I’m lucky too. Isaac Thomas Martin. There may not be a lot you can do with Martin, but now that I think about güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri it, my folks could’ve named me Steve.”
They chuckled together.
“I know I have a pretty unique name, but that doesn’t always mean it’s good. I mean, yeah, thank God my last name’s not Newton, right?—or Asimov, for that matter—but that doesn’t stop people I meet from saying, ‘Oh, well, hey, how that’s gravity thing comin’?'”
He punctuated this jeering imitation with a mock chuckle, mimicking the folks who found it cute to tease him. Then he added, “But I actually have a brother, too, and he has probably the most common name in the country: John. My parents’ names are Glen and Hallie, so I guess they were going for some sort of alphabetical thing. Y’know, G.H.I.J.”
“Oh…big brother or little brother?”
“Little,” Isaac nodded. “And I wouldn’t say he’s Mr. Perfect—though others might—but I’ve always been pretty jealous of him too.”
Alex’s eyes crinkled and softened as she gazed across the table at him. So he too had a baby sibling, and he too felt envious. She had grown up to find that sibling rivalry was a pretty common phenomenon, but most of her life was spent in the company of fellow human beings who seemed to be the more successful or popular siblings in their families. Perhaps there was a bit of schadenfreude involved, but it felt really nice for once to come across another who was in her same boat, so to speak. It was an unusual, but remarkably effective basis for friendship. She felt an inkling of affectionate simpatico and even a hint of camaraderie with him.
The hands of the clocks in the Fish Bowl traveled their slow, circular patterns as patrons entered, dined, paid their checks and departed. Isaac and Alexandra found satisfaction in taking their time, just becoming better acquainted on more and more discussion, as their plates gradually grew emptier. Their exchanges came much easier and more naturally than either anticipated. And the more conversational cards they played, the more they found in common. Among the mutual traits they unearthed other than a fondness for seafood, they discovered they both had Greek roots, they were both in their early 30s, they both lagged a bit scholastically and performed at best only slightly better than average in school, they both grew up on Far Side and Garfield comics, they were both over four hundred levels through Candy Crush Saga, they had both been in relationships as teenagers but never engaged or married, and were both currently single, and they both enjoyed art more than any other subject in school.
“You know, I really actually like this,” Isaac told her. “I’ll be honest with you, Alex, when I asked if you wanted to get something to eat, I wasn’t sure if you’d believe me when I said I just wanted to be friends. But this is nice: fun and relaxing. I feel like I can just be myself with you. We’re not on a date, so I don’t have to worry about being ‘on my game,’ or impressing you, or anything.
“Oh, but please don’t think I’m trying to work up some way to get out of paying for dinner,” he quickly added. “I promised to take you out and treat you, and I am standing by that promise.”
Alexandra chuckled. “I know what you mean. Eventually it becomes exhausting trying to figure out if the romance is there, or potentially could be, or…” She shook her head. “…Whew. Just so complicated. I agree; this is much easier and more enjoyable.”
By the time the clock rolled around to a quarter to 10:00, they had finally brought dinner to a close. To add to their list of similar traits, they were both too full for dessert right now, and both a little disappointed to see their evening come to an end, but it was a work night, and they did have to get up the next morning. They adjourned back out to their cars with full bellies and smiles on their faces, shook hands, exchanged a tiny, modest hug, and bid one another farewell until next Wednesday.
Following class number two—for which both arrived on time—they weren’t able to go out to dinner together, but they went home and resumed contact online. In and around the following week they exchanged some Instant Message gab consisting of odds and ends that eluded their previous conversations. When the third Wednesday arrived, they had each grown at least fairly excited to meet in person once more. They refrained from speaking on the phone or getting together outside of the social gatherings just yet, though neither was quite 100% certain why. Had either of their minds in fact penetrated to the truth, the realization would have presented itself that they enjoyed the novelty of each other’s presence as friends and didn’t want it to wear off.
After meeting/class number three on the 17th, they did again step out to supper together, to a large, beautiful Italian restaurant called Venizzi’s. By now they’d grown comfy enough together that this time, güvenilir bahis şirketleri Alex not only insisted they go Dutch, but she also offered to drive them. Their friendship continued only to deepen and strengthen. And though still neither of the two of them bore any design upon each other beyond casual companionship, a few subtle signs of flirtation did sneak their way through into the atmosphere.
Completing a dinner at Venizzi’s that stuffed them even fuller than the Fish Bowl and all but knocked them unconscious, Alex and Isaac started making their way back out to her car before inspiration hit yet again, and they mutually decided that they really enjoyed this visit with one another, and weren’t ready to call it a night just yet.
And so, choosing to ignore the fact that it was an identical weeknight, Isaac Martin and Alexandra Philomene sacrificed time and a bit of convenience for the extended pleasure of one another’s company. They waited for the street signal to yield them permission to cross, and followed the sidewalk which led them past an outdoor shopping center that bordered Venizzi’s, isolated only by unparkable pavement, until the winding sidewalk too disappeared, dropping them off behind the shopping center on a footpath which branched into a circle joining itself, forming a lasso around a duck pond.
Alex gave off a chilled shiver, so Isaac took her hand, comfortingly smoothing his thumb over her cool fingers. It felt very nice, and even better, purely unconditional. They telepathically shared the joy in being able to hold hands without it having to mean they were anything more than buddies. They ambled the circular pond path, admiring the regal-looking ducks and geese and the reflections of the moonlight in the rippled water. They made a mental note to bring pieces of bread to throw the next time they came.
They shared a chuckle at the sight of one goose honking and running at its gagglemates, making them panic and scatter. This imp seemed to take gratification in bullying the others. Isaac turned to Alex as they softly laughed together, standing still, hand in hand, beneath the stars. Granted barely enough light to make out her facial features, he took in the side view of her giggling eyes, crinkled nose, smile-framed cheeks and the lips that were making it all happen. After the approximately one and a half times he’d hung out with her in her less than stellar moods, he couldn’t describe the warmth in his heart seeing her appear this happy.
For just a shadow of a moment, he entertained an impure thought that vesselled in. No, he vetoed. Don’t ruin it. I think we can definitely call her a friend by this point, but don’t forget, we’ve still only known her two weeks. Don’t risk messing it up.
He listened to his sensible thoughts, and held off from doing anything inappropriate. Finally, they felt they had spent enough time together this evening, and began to tire out. So Alex took Isaac back to Redmond, and they said goodbye with a fonder, stronger hug.
“Thanks for tonight, Isaac,” said Alex, patting his hand. “I really had a fun time.”
“Thank you, mi amiga,” he replied. “Look forward to next Wednesday.”
“Yep. Maybe talk to ya online in the meantime.”
A new dimension of sorts would be added to Isaac’s and Alex’s friendly relationship on their fourth Wednesday, September 24th. And no later than the following day, their bond would be changed forever.
September 24th, 7:59 p.m.
“Okay!” declared Kathleen with a clap of the hands. “Well, once again, ladies and gents, thank you so much for coming, I hope you took something away from tonight’s meeting, and God bless you all. And as always, if you have any questions, or if you just have the need to talk a bit, you have my contact information, and I will see you once we ring in October! Cheers!”
The majority of members stood to depart. Isaac turned to Alex as they got all their materials together.
“So do you wanna do anything tonight?” he asked.
“Sure, sure,” she replied, looking through her purse to make sure she wasn’t missing anything. “Be honest, I haven’t been real hungry at all today, for some reason—not for ‘real’ food, anyway—but my sweet tooth’s nagging me. Ice cream, maybe?”
“Aha. A woman after my own heart.”
They egressed to the rec center’s gargantuan parking lot and began heading for Alex’s car. But a surprise awaited them on the car parked right beside hers, sitting right on the hood, only detectable under the streetlight in the setting sun.
The 29-year-old redhead sitting on the front of the car hopped down on the ground. “Hi, babe!” she greeted, throwing a hug on her. Alex began to work up the energy to return the hug, but it was already concluded.
“S—…Sasha?…W-what are you doing here?”
“Surprising you, goofball!” Sasha beamed playfully. “How am I doing??”
“Oh, so you’re the famous Sasha! I’m Isaac. Isaac Martin.”
She turned to face him with a smile. “Why, aren’t you too kind!” She gave Isaac a hearty hug, infused already with far more warm, bubbly affection than any physical contact he’d exchanged with Alex. “I don’t know if I’d say ‘famous,’ though…but you can say it!”
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