Sami stood in front of the mirror in her bra and panties trying to figure out a way to cancel on Carlos without hurting his feelings. There was no way in hell she could go on a date with him.
Being his friend was easy. He was kind, sweet, and had a great sense of humor. She sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her stomach. She had to cancel. And soon. He was due to pick her up in less than two hours. She flopped back on her bed.
What had she been thinking to say yes? She put her arm over her eyes and pressed until she saw white spots. She wasn’t ready to date. Just the other day she’d accidentally checked the married box on an online survey. Sami stretched and reached for the phone she’d tossed onto the bed after she’d gotten out of the shower. She was going to cancel. She’d tell him she was sick.
She coughed, experimentally, into the silence of the room. Did that sound fake? Maybe she’d say that she hadn’t been able to find childcare. The risk there, of course, was that he’d offer to come over and what would she say when he showed up and she didn’t have the kids?
She dropped her hand, still clutching the phone, and stared at the ceiling.
Carlos wasn’t just nice, he was hot. The kind of hot even her younger self would have admired from a distance before focusing her attention on a more attainable man. Like Franklin. She groaned. She was not ready to date. She picked up her phone again. Texting seemed rude. She chewed her lip and studied the screen saver with its three smiling faces staring back at her. She didn’t think she’d be able to handle the disappointment in his voice when she canceled.
She’d handle it worse if there wasn’t any disappointment, she admitted to herself.
She started as the phone in her hand rang. Sighing, she answered.
“You’re not going to cancel on him.”
“I’m serious, Sami. You are not going to cancel on him.”
“I wasn’t,” she hedged.
“I’m not ready to date,” Sami whispered.
Sami stared at the ceiling, willing the moisture in her eyes away. “Jessa,” her voice broke, “what if it’s awful?”
“Oh sweetie,” Jessa’s voice poured over her like warm honey. “It’s Carlos. You’ll have fun.”
“What if it isn’t awful?” Sami’s voice broke. She willed herself not to cry and run her mascara.
“A not awful date isn’t a bad thing,” Jessa said gently. “You’re allowed to date. You’re allowed to be happy.”
“I know,” Sami said. She was quiet for a moment before adding, “I don’t know what to wear.” She sat up on the bed and stared into her closet, knowing she’d sealed her fate. Any cold feet she might had were being held to the fire.
“Wear something comfortable. Put on some make-up. Curl your hair. It’s Carlos. He’s seen you at your worst,” Jessa reminded her.
Two months ago, Carlos had dropped off Tylenol for the kids after his shift, staying when he’d realized she was running a fever as well. “It’s Carlos, Jess. Carlos.”
Jessa laughed. “What are you worried about, then?”
“I hadn’t ever thought of him as anything but a friend.”
“Really?” Jessa drawled.
Sami felt the heat rise in her face. “Well, usually,” she mumbled.
Jessa laughed. “Get dressed, Sami. And for God’s sake, don’t cancel on the poor guy.”
“I won’t,” Sami promised, hanging up the phone. Taking a deep breath, she stood and went to her closet. Being married to a gay man may not have been good for her self esteem, but her wardrobe had certainly benefited. She dug through her clothes until she found what she was looking for. Pulling it out, she held it in front of her and looked in the mirror. The white tag still dangled from the sleeve.
Franklin had bought it for her the last Christmas they’d been together. She’d taken one look at the silky fabric and burst into tears, knowing the size on the tag would never fit over hips and belly still rounded from her last pregnancy. Franklin had handed her a membership card for the gym and told her she needed to stop letting herself go. She’d never hated him more, but she couldn’t bring herself to throw away the gorgeous dress.
Now, though, two years of too many missed meals and with a pair of Spanx, it might just fit. She took it off the hanger and pulled it over her head. It didn’t float over her body, but slid over her curves before settling in place. She looked in the mirror, turning to the side and sucking in her breath.
The deep blue material turned her eyes cobalt and made her platinum hair shine. The bodice crossed between her breasts and ended at a thick black band before flaring gently to her knees. Dropping to her knees in front of her closet, she dug into the back until she found a dusty shoe box. She pulled out the black velvet heels she’d bought before running after children determined her footwear. She stood, putting them on and taking a black cardigan off its hanger. She looked in the mirror and, for the first time, began to feel a twinge of excitement rather than panic. She didn’t look half bad.
She wasn’t going to curl her hair, but, she decided, the occasion called for perfume. Just a spritz on her wrist before putting on her grandmother’s silver heart pendant and her mother’s diamond stud earrings. She smoothed on her lipstick and stood in front of the mirror again.
She looked, she realized, almost pretty. She smiled. It was only Carlos. How bad could it be?