So Sheila told a silly lie to a coworker that somehow got out of hand and now she has to make it come true or look like a fool. But how can she make an “imaginary friend” come to life? She's determined to actually find him by following a list of “proven” love rules to finding Mr. Right. She enlists her gal pal Denise who also follows what she deems the archaic rules of love. Now bogged down by the many rules and their own misguided views on love, the pair encounters many a misadventure with Maryland’s datable, and not so dateable, pool of men. However, when they meet the men who may change their ideas of love, the women find that the rules didn’t prepare them as well as they thought.
I woke up in a cold sweat then blinked several times as my eyes adjusted to the lack of light. Finally I rested my eyes on my digital clock, which glowed an angry red with 3:58am. Damn! I had to be up in two and half more hours! Yet, recently I kept waking up late at night, many times with bad dreams.
I’ve heard therapists say if you go to sleep with a problem on your mind it’ll haunt you in your dreams or maybe even force you to wake up at night. So what was I, Sheila Jackson, a pretty successful 29 year old attorney at law, fearful of?
Well, it couldn’t be the mega lie I told to a coworker that would make me look like a pathetic cow if it didn’t miraculously come true. Why had I let her just wheel me right in to such foolishness as if I was some wannabe and she the popular cheerleader? If I didn’t figure out what to do I would be the laughing stock at work because there was no doubt that she had spread the word of my tall tale.
Why had I let her get to me yet again? I had a great life why was I so insecure? I lived in a fabulous two bedroom condo in Columbia, Maryland not too far from the local upscale mall, nice car, and had a pretty nice figure for someone who was “allergic” to working out. It was a question I’d asked myself for way too long without receiving an answer and it looked as though tonight would not be any different.
I tossed and turned, struggling to get back to sleep for another thirty minutes and finally drifted back to dreamland. When the alarm screamed at me at 6:30am I opened my eyes in horror at it. Was it really time to get up? Surely this was some sort of nightmare! The cold breeze from my air conditioner touched my skin (didn’t want to sweat my hair out at night into a frizzy mess) and forced me to pull my beige satin comforter tighter to me and I knew that I was truly in the harsh reality of early morning. I got up ten minutes later, after thoughtlessly watching the morning news, for work and was still pissed at the break in my sleep. But I had to breathe deeply and let it go. I had clients to talk to today and I didn’t need a bad attitude.
I huffed as I got ready for the day. My usually flawless nutmeg complexion was experiencing a minor breakout and my make up seemed to only highlight that. Despite my efforts to the contrary, my black medium length bob was frizzy so I had to pull it back into a bun. Since I had not gone to the cleaners or washed clothes in a minute, I had to wear one of my least favorite suits that fitted ill to my size four, 5’7 ½ frame. I’d gotten it as a birthday present from my sister who “mistakenly” got the wrong size for me on a trip to Paris.
I walked to my office waving hellos to my coworkers with a bright smile and searched for my secretary (well, I shared her with two others) but remembered, in disappointment, that she didn’t get into the office until 9am. Sometimes I used her as my sounding board.
I closed the door to my office behind me and flopped into my large brown leather swivel chair yawning and wondering if I would make it through my 10 hour day. The bright sun from the floor to ceiling window behind me, showcasing a part of downtown Washington D.C., did not serve as the mood motivator it usually did.
I loved my job. I worked at Washington and Morrison, a well-respected mid-sized sports and entertainment law firm that represented artist and actors among others, a hard field to get in to. Lucky for me I started working in the firm as a law clerk while I was in law school. I put in a lot of hours and kicked in my creativity to beat out a lot of competition to get a permanent position.
I turned on my computer and then opened my Outlook calendar to shift through a host of emails and scan my daily calendar to focus on what I needed to get accomplish before I left the office. However, my attention couldn’t stay on work for long. I thought back to the events a few days ago and how I ended up needing to find a fix for a stupid lie.
Greg was there. He was always there but this time as an aid to my self destruction. He had come into my office as nonchalant as always. Gregory “Greg” Walters was something out of a GQ magazine at 6’2 with a muscular body, shaved head, was the color of peanut butter and had sparkling hazel eyes. Damn that man was fine. But, nope, Greg was a pit bull in Armani and I would not go down the road of so many sad sisters who fell into those big, bright eyes. I knew him all too well for that.
All right so I’m lying. I had fallen for those eyes a while back but he wasn’t a one woman type of guy and I wasn’t a share a guy type of gal.
“So, you going?” he asked me sitting in one of the two chairs in front of my desk.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked. For a guy he could talk and I had to admit sometimes I just tuned some parts out.
Greg shook his head smiling. “Are you going to the entertainment and sports conference? The dinners, the parties, and the discussions,” he repeated, purposely over enunciating his words enough to make me want to slap him.
“The one three months away? Who knows? I’ll figure it out when the time draws near.” I shrugged.
“What’s this I hear about you not going to the banquet?” said a shrill voice that stabbed at my spine. It belonged to Jamie Martin who leaned against my doorway. Jamie was tall, thin, brown eyed, and blond with fake boobs and I‘m sure Botoxed. She was wearing a bright red skirt suit, which made her look like the she-devil she was. I wish I could have booby-trapped the doorway for her. But there was no button to push to get the wench out of my doorway.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t going, don’t get your hopes up,” I replied sweetly.
“Well, you know that it will have the parties of the summer. People in the entertainment business will be there, including actors, athletes, and musicians for the parties. It’ll be like Hollywood!” she cried, giddy.
This year the Entertainment and Sports Conference would be held in D.C. so I had to go. And look my best of course.
“I’ve already picked out my gown. It’s a designer but it was worth every penny. Ted will love it,” she bragged. Ted was her investment banker new boyfriend, who happened to look like Brad Pitt and spoiled her rotten. Yeah, I hated her.
“Are you going Greg?” she asked batting her eyelids. Although, she now had a man, she couldn’t stop flirting with him. It was as if she couldn’t have even one man not show interest in her. But Greg did not have a fever for her flava.
“Yeah. You know me, never one to miss a networking opportunity,” Greg replied, sitting back in my chair, hands crossed behind his head casually.
“Who will you take, Sheila again?” Jamie asked, a smile on her lips. “Or Sheila, are you actually seeing someone now?”
“You know, Jamie, it’s still early yet. We’ll have dates for the banquet. Don’t you worry,” I stated.
“Well you know Sheila, if you’re still single, it’s okay to bring Greg as a friend,” Jamie replied
I steamed. “I’ll find someone to go with, Jamie.”
“Well I’m sure you will find someone to escort you. But Greg’s a good time too so no worries,” she shrugged then turned to leave. “And going alone is no problem either. I‘m sure you‘re used to that anyway.”
I was seeing red and it was not just her suit. “You know Jamie, I actually have been seeing someone and if things go well he’ll be my date to the event,” I replied confidently.
Greg turned his head to me and raised an eyebrow. I hadn’t dated anyone in three months what was I talking about?
Jamie spun around, eyes wide with curiosity. “Oh, really. What’s his name? What does he do?” she asked, leaning against my doorframe again.
I thought fast, of course she would want details. “His name is…. James.” Yeah, James. That was nice and respectable sounding. Greg looked at me with amusement and I tried to ignore his eyes as I thought up a job for “James” that would top investment banker Ted.
So what did he do? Maybe he could be a doctor. I’ve dated doctors before, I could again. Maybe even a plastic surgeon. Then I thought she probably knew all the ones in the area. Another lawyer? No, she’d look him up on a legal search engine. I looked down at the cover of my latest copy of Essence peeking out of my large handbag by my feet. Sean “Diddy” Combs was on the front and I knew who James was.
“He’s a music exec,” I replied seriously.
Greg tried to control his laughter. He probably thought it was a sad day when a grown woman had to make up an imaginary friend but I simply couldn’t let Jamie get the best of me.
Jamie’s eyes glowed with surprise. “What label?”
Label? What the hell? “Uh- Um. He told me. I can’t remember the label….”
“It’s the one Jill Scott’s on, right? I remember you told me that.” Greg smiled.
I tried to cover the look of gratitude and nodded my head in agreement. Jill Scott was neo soul, right up my alley in my musical database. “Yeah, that one. I’ll have to ask him again. He works a lot with neo soul music. He’s a VP and lives in New York.”
“Neo-soul, huh? That’s not really my area.” I was still wondering what was. “Lives in New York? Must be hard, so far away,” she stated, searching my eyes as if looking for a lie.
I shrugged. “Not really. It’s just a three and a half hour drive with no traffic. And he makes enough money where filling up his Mercedes with gas on a regular basis is no problem. Or he flies me to him. I prefer to go see him because I like the access he has. I meet some of his artists and get VIP treatment wherever we go. Next weekend we’re going to New York City for a celebrity party but I can’t remember whose it is. Jay-Z or Diddy, Kanye West? Who knows?” I smiled. It was like I was plugged into a lying machine.
The right corner of Jamie’s upper lip twitched and I knew she was pissed. I was starting to feel a little better.
“Damn, can I go with ya’ll?” Greg asked, giving me a playful wide-eyed look.
“Well, Sheila, sounds like you’re doing well for yourself. I suggest you hold on to him. Hopefully he’s still around when we have the banquet. I would love to meet him,” she smiled falsely.
I sighed as I stared blankly at my computer, clearing my mind from the Monday of Lies. I had dug myself a major hole all because I was insure about being single at 29 and even more insure about the prospect that my single status might continue well into my thirties.
The guys just weren’t as plentiful as they used to be. I worked long hours and in an environment where the only eligible guy was one who didn’t want to be tied down and any clients were not to be touched. The bar scene was tired. Men just weren’t around my life anymore. Well there was the cable guy, my mechanic, the maintenance and movers in the building, the security guards but it wasn’t as if any of them were studs in blue collar uniforms, not that I would date a blue collar guy anyway. Times weren’t that hard…yet. I sighed again, God please don’t let times get that hard!
Denise Miller, my closest friend in the whole world, waved her hand wildly when she saw me enter Mist, a lounge in Baltimore City, that Thursday evening. I walked past the front bar in the rectangular shaped club. The floors were dark wood throughout and there were four distinct areas consisting of front and back bar areas, a VIP section near the back bar area and a main dance floor area with tables to the side and a stage on the other side located in the middle of the lounge. The walls were a warm golden color with maroon drapes placed strategically around the room, along with soft lighting and dark purple, maroon and turquoise pillows on the chairs to add to the Mediterranean feeling that the lounge tried to project. I actually could take a pass on the place myself, there was just too many granola types running around for my comfort. You know the type, guys with scruffy faces and long hair, loose shirts and dirty tennis. However, Denise appeared to love the vibe and the feel.
Since it was still early the dance floor was crowded with tables and chairs for the dinner people. Denise got a table close to the stage and looked like she had been holding on to her hunger longer than she planned with a scowl on her face and thrumming of her fingers on the table. I smiled and shook my head as she pointed to her stomach with one hand and made a Pac Man eating shape with her other hand, accompanied by her angry look. I shook my head laughing.
I met Denise our first year of law school. Both quickly disgruntled with our selection of law schools but deciding to stick it out since it was a first tier school. If I were a better friend I would have encouraged her to quit since she quickly ascertained after her first year that she hated law school but I wanted some company down there in hell. She recently gave up practicing to teach full time at a college in Baltimore, Maryland and I knew she loved it.
By the time I sat down at the square white clothed table for two, Denise was already calling over a waiter.
“Thanks sweetie,” I said to her, eyeing the apple martini she got for me.
“No problem,” she replied and then looked up at a waiter who had suddenly appeared. I quickly flipped through my menu as she ordered.
After we made our selections, Denise took a sip of her raspberry martini (they were having a martini drink special). “So, I haven’t spoken to you since the weekend, what’s been going on? ” she asked.
I rolled my eyes and told her about my deceitful week. I wanted to keep that lie to myself (well myself and everyone at work) but she was my friend and maybe she could help me find a way out of this mess.
Denise held her hand over her mouth in shock as the waiter came back with our second round of drinks. “What the hell are you going to do, girl?” she cried.
I shrugged. “Find myself a James I suppose.”
“You got three months. More than enough time. You usually can always find a good-looking guy. Just tell him to act the part for the night,” she said, running a hand through her mass of curly brown hair that hit her shoulders.
“Well I’ve been on a dry spell so it might be a bit difficult.”
Denise humphed. “Dry spell? Yeah right. I’ve been on a dry spell you’ve just been a little thirsty. You’ll find someone I’m sure of it.”
“What about you? Got any options for escorts to Mia’s wedding?”
“The only option I have is what shoes I’m wearing with the dress she’s gonna make us wear,” Denise replied rolling her eyes.
“You have got to get a date!” I cried in horror, hand to my chest.
“For what? It’s not like I’m entering a dance competition. I don’t need a partner.”
“My God, woman, if you go alone all those bitches at the wedding will think you’re pathetic. Besides, you’ll need someone to dance with.”
“I can do the two step by myself,” she replied, bobbing her head to the beat of the jazz rhythms emanating from the band on stage.
I shook my head slowly. “You’re going to end up feeling bad and calling me on the phone to complain. Those girls expect you to be alone. Don’t give them the right.”
Denise frowned and stopped moving to the music. “Why does being alone have to sound so sad? Do you know Mia forwarded me an email with some sorry ass poem about keeping my head up even though I was single? Whoever wrote that poem should be pushed off a cliff. Like I was depressed to be alone. Does she travel, shop, and party like I do? Does she even have time for hobbies? And if she does she won’t for long, getting married and then having kids. I am in no rush,” Denise said angrily.
I shook my head. “Denise, if you hate her so much why are you in her wedding? I mean, that’s a lot of money to shell out for someone you could care less about.”
“Oh, she’s still my girl from way back, but she’s so delusional. Marriage is not the be all end all. People exist before or without getting married. And then just because you get married doesn’t mean instant happiness. Hell, the statistics on marriage don’t show that. I have no desire to rush to get a divorce.”
“You should still bring an escort. You’ve been to enough weddings alone,” I pushed. “Just think, if you had a gorgeous man on your arms, all those bitches would see that you’re doing just fine on your own. Since nothing else seems to get through to them other than man language.”
Denise raised an eyebrow. “Problem is where can I find a man like that in three months? Can we share James?” she teased.
The waiter appeared with our food and, just like the hungry gals we were, we ate in silence for a good 3 minutes.
Finally I broke the quiet. “Girl, you have no idea how bad the situation is getting. I had another nightmare last night,” I said, slicing my salmon.
“Another one? What was this one about?“ she asked in between chewing her food.
“I choked on a piece of tuna I was eating out of a can, don’t ask me how and why I would dare ever eat tuna or any other type of food out of a can. Anyway, since I was alone no one was there to help me and I died. My last vision was of my cat eating the rest of the tuna, which during my last breath I realized was actually cat food.”
Denise held her fork with a piece of roasted chicken midway to her mouth, a look of extreme pity on her face.
“And Denise, I don’t know whose cat that was. I didn’t own a cat. So I’m dying with a random cat running up through my house! Who knows maybe there were more hidden in the shadows waiting for my pathetic ass to die!”
“Wow, that is some seriously sad shit, Shiela. Ooh, say that three times fast!” she cried, laughing hard.
“Thank you, thank you for the sympathy. A true friend you are.“
“Oh, girl, I’m sorry. Here’s my sympathy face,“ she answered with a pout on her face.
I cut into my salmon and realized it smelled like tuna . I put my fork and knife down. “I just can’t have this anymore. What we need to do is be proactive and find ourselves some descent men.”
“I could care less,” Denise said, covering her mouth as she chewed and moved to the beat of the new song the band was playing.
“We need to get out there,” I stated, ignoring her. “We got a mission and we have work to do. We must find dates to our events. And we only have three months to do it!”
“How, pray tell, do you do that?” Denise asked, taking a sip of her drink.
“I printed this on-line advice list on how to meet your Mr. Right. My secretary recommended it to me. She seems to think I’m having problems sleeping because this steady case of the singles is starting to wear me down. Shake my confidence in my hope that I‘ll get married. I do wear her ear down talking about it,” I said and took out an unfolded sheet of paper from my purse for her to look at. “I’ll forward an email copy to you.”
Denise took the paper and looked it over. “How to Meet Mr. Right.” She raised her head and gave me a cynical look with a raised eyebrow. She lowered her head back down again and quickly scanned the article. “These rules are stupid.”
I took the paper back from her, chin jutted out unashamed. “Hey, we have to start some where. And my secretary said it worked for her cousin, Sharonda.”
“I don’t know Sharonda or the man she’s with. And most of those rules there would only be relevant if this was fifty years ago.”
“This isn’t a game, girl! We just should try it out. The people in the 1950s had it right. There weren’t all these single women running around back then.“
Denise put her hands up in objection. “And God forbid we be allowed to run amok.“
I rolled my eyes. “We have to work this like we’re looking for a job. We have to hit every available form of hook up venue and people we know. I think I have some friends who can hook me up.”
Denise nodded in disinterest and went back to cutting her chicken.
So, our mission would begin. I lifted my water glass (we’d finished our drinks) in a toast. “To mission: Get A Man. Other wise known as G.A.M. We have to have a code operative!”
Denise made a face then raised her glass. “That’s mad corny and I’ll toast to never hearing it again,” she replied, clinking my glass with hers
Maybe Denise pretended she didn’t care but I knew she loved a challenge and she’d participate in my little plan if for nothing more than pure curiosity. But she’d see the light. Love wasn’t bad. It was as necessary as air and I refused to suffocate.