“It’s over.” Patricia tossed her phone on the sofa.
Kate and Jenny looked at one another, waiting for their friend to reveal the latest reason why she and Malelough had broken up.
“He just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get me. I don’t know why I called him again.”
“Sex,” Kate said.
“It wasn’t just sex,” Jenny said.
“But that was a big part of it. She can admit it. It’s not like we don’t all have needs.”
Jenny sighed. “Not everything is about sex.”
“Trouble with Rich?”
“No, and we’re not talking about me and Rich. What happened, Patricia?”
“What didn’t happen? He made some wise crack about my weight. I got offended and called him stupid. He lashed out, telling me how many women he fends off every night, and how I should feel lucky he’s still interested in me.”
“Jerk!” Kate said.
“I have to agree,” Jenny said. “I like Malelough, but you guys spend more time fighting than enjoying each other.”
“Your heart doesn’t,” Jenny said, wrapping her arm around Patricia’s shoulders and pulling her close. “I’m sorry.”
“Do we have any ice cream?”
Jenny shook her head. “Ate it all the night Kate went on her date with Brendan.”
“You can hardly call that a date, more like a wrestling match. I swear, I expected to turn around at any moment and see an octopus sitting next to me rather than a pilot.”
“I think we have chocolate. I can make s’mores,” Jenny said.
“It’s too hot. I’m ready for some rain. This is Washington after all, and it’s October,” Kate said.
“Indian Summer,” Patricia said. “I hated ‘em as a kid. So damn hot you just dripped sweat while you slept.”
“We haven’t had rain in over forty days,” Jenny said.
“Reminds me of Noah,” Patricia said, taking a drink of warm water. “Yuck. I need ice.”
“Doesn’t do any good. It melts in minutes.” Kate got up and walked to the bathroom. She rewetted the hand towel she’d draped around her neck. After wringing it out, she placed it back in position. When she returned to the living room, she said, “It’s just like this thing. Two seconds after cooling it off, it’s hot again. We need air conditioning.”
“It’s silly to get air conditioning for the five unbearable days a year,” Jenny said.
“Unless it’s one of those unbearable days,” Patricia said. “We could go for a ride. The car has AC.”
“We could go to Baskin Robbins. The one on Aurora is open twenty-four hours,” Kate said.
They looked at one another and then started collecting sandals and gathering their purses.
When they were in the car, Kate said, “Crank it.”
Jenny slid the AC knob as far as it could go, then did the same with the fan.
“This is heaven,” Patricia said, raising her arms above her head, allowing the cool air to surround her body.
“What time is it?” Jenny asked.
“Twelve-thirty,” Patricia said.
“Are you sure they’re open twenty-four hours?”
“I’m sure. You watch, it’ll be standing room only.”
Patricia headed out of the driveway and began the ten-minute drive. “Hand me my purse.”
“Did you forget something?” Jenny said.
Patricia frowned as she dug around while trying to keep her other hand steady on the steering wheel. “My phone.”
“I think it’s still on the couch.”
“You think Malelough’s going to call?” Kate asked.
“No. I just… I don’t like being out of touch.”
“Liar. You want him to call.”
“I don’t. I’m done with him, for good this time.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it.”
“Nobody asked for your opinion.”
“Well, you’re getting it anyway. Stop settling for guys who treat you badly. Patricia, you’re like a doormat. You’re beautiful, smart, talented, have a great sense of humor—”
“Not the good sense of humor quality. That’s what everyone says when they can’t think of anything else good to say about someone.”
“I’ve got plenty of good things to say about you.”
“So do I,” Jenny said.
“I’m sure Malelough would argue any points you might come up with.”
“Since when do I need another person to tell me what to think? You spend way too much time letting other people influence you. Either you like the guy or you don’t. If you don’t, then ditch him. There are plenty of other men out there,” Kate said.
“What if there aren’t?” Patricia said quietly.
“You don’t really believe that, do you?” Jenny asked.
Patricia shrugged. “I don’t know what I believe anymore. I just feel like I’m wasting my time with the guys I’ve been dating. I want to find someone special and start a life.”
“What have you been living if not a life?” Jenny asked.
“I’ve been waiting, living a half-life, until Mr. Right showed up.”
“But he hasn’t shown up,” Kate said.
“Exactly. If this is it, as good as it gets, well…”
“Well what?” Jenny asked.
“I don’t know. I just can’t do it anymore.”
“Get your hopes up?”
“Yes. How many times am I supposed to believe that this time is going to be different? It’s never different. It’s the exact same thing over and over again.”
“So change something,” Kate said.
“What? If I knew what to do differently, I’d do it.”
“Just pick something. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just do something different. It should change the outcome. If everything you’ve done up to this point has ended in things not working out, then doing something different should change the outcome.”
“She has a point,” Jenny said.
“It’s like that Seinfeld episode where George decides to do the opposite. He says that nothing has ever worked out for him when he orders something-or-other for lunch, so he orders the opposite.”
“What happened?” Patricia asked.
“A woman says she just ordered the same lunch he did and they strike up a conversation. And, get this, he tells her that he doesn’t have a job and lives with his parents.”
“That must have made him really appealing.”
“Normally, he’d have lied about that, but instead, he did just the opposite and told the truth. They ended up having lunch together.”
“So, I should take my dating advice from you and Jerry Seinfeld?”
“What could it hurt? As far as I can tell, you have nowhere to go but up.”
“What should I do if Malelough calls?”
“What would you normally do?” Jenny asked.
“Answer the call.”
“Then don’t. Do the opposite of what feels familiar and comfortable. You know, I think I like this idea, too. It’s sort of what I’ve been doing with Rich.
My first inclination is to be suspicious and find some ulterior motive for the littlest things. I’ve been wrong every stinkin’ time. Now I try not to react first, but to listen instead. It’s hard, but it seems to be working,” Jenny said.
Patricia pulled into the parking lot but couldn’t find a parking space. “They’re packed.”
“Should I just wait for someone to leave?” She kept her foot on the brake while they all searched for an empty spot.
“Looks like it could be a while,” Jenny said.
“Wait! Someone’s pulling out to the left. Go! Go! Go!”
Patricia maneuvered the vehicle around two turns and was about to pull into the empty space when a motorcycle slipped in front of her with a loud roar.
She rolled down her window. “Hey! That was our spot. I had my blinker on.”
The man turned off the cycle and removed his helmet, then turned to face the three women in the car.
“Sorry about that. I’ve got a teenage daughter at home crying her eyes out over some boy. I’ll be in and out before you know it. I’ll save the spot for you.”
They watched as he headed toward the door of the ice cream shop.
“Nice thing to do for his daughter,” Jenny said.
“Yeah, it was.” Patricia’s eyes stayed on the man as he made his way through the door and to the counter. “He has sort of an interesting swagger for a married man.”
“He didn’t say he was married,” Kate said.
“He has a teenage daughter.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s married.”
“Bikers aren’t my type anyway.”
“I thought you were doing the opposite,” Jenny said.
“Ask him out,” Kate said.
“Don’t be silly. I don’t even know the man.”
“That’s why you go on a date, to get to know him.”
Patricia glanced back inside Baskin Robbins. The biker was chatting and laughing with people in line. He had a nice smile and seemed completely relaxed and comfortable. Where does that kind of confidence come from?
He must know how to handle himself in a tough situation. Am I assuming that because he’s a biker?
“What?” Jenny said.
“Your mind is spinning. What are you thinking about?” Jenny asked.
“I know what she’s thinking about,” Kate said. “She’s got her eye on Mr. Biker Man. Someone is bumping themselves right out of their comfort zone. This is going to be fun!”