Characters Lost in the First Chapter

She drove like an autobot. Eyes fixed on the road. Mindless music in a different language played in the background, but she paid no heed to it.

“Duds” he had called them. Not knowing that he had lent the most accurate word to describe himself. “I have met and spoken to many duds before, but not any good ones like you, you know?” He’d said. 

Another one bites the dust, she thought. 

It’s like those characters from the first chapter of a great romance. That little paragraph that describes those relationships past. Characters that get lost somewhere in between words like “There were many before” or “There were those who were decent, but didn’t make it”, sometimes even, “There had been that one guy she met at a café - arranged of course – they had connected like two pieces in a jig-saw puzzle, spoke nonstop for the next three days, and then something led to some other and it had gone kaput.”

Even the really good ones just get a line extra if they’re lucky. Does time spent on it matter? Sometimes! They might make it to a short story like this one.

She’d spent last night indulging in self-pity. Not anymore though; she was all cried out now. Not that there had been many tears. But the frustration lingered.

This wasn’t the same sadness as real break ups brought about. Nowhere close to the intensity of feelings that actual relationships inspired. But a break up of something tending towards a relationship is something as well.


She’d spent a month talking to a guy she’d met through her parents. A month where they’d kept in touch despite of the 11.5-hour time difference. A month, when she’d told herself that this could be the one, ignoring every instinct that told her otherwise – allowing the foolish voices that had gone “It’s too late Jamie” and “Think of your biological clock” running through her head, dominate gut feelings.

A month when she had rationalized away every warning signal, and at some point, told herself that even love wasn’t necessary in a marriage. Just companionship and easy conversation would be enough. Even if the conversations had been eighty percent about him and twenty percent about her.
Okay, to be fair, it wasn’t all that bad. Even if the conversations were majorly about him, he had had a way of making it seem entertaining. Or she had decided to believe that. He was also intelligent enough to sprinkle plenty of facts into discussions. That was a definite positive.

He liked dogs a bit too much. Her friend gave him points for that. She herself was terrified of dogs, and was not amused about his strong belief that he could change her – like no one had ever tried that before! Ha! But she had decided to keep mum about that for the moment, and have that conversation again when they had stronger feelings for each other, and other priorities (like themselves, hopefully!).

He had finally come down to the country on his two-week vacation. The month long chatting had had him generally indicating that they would meet when he came and then they would go into third or fourth gear. He had arrived, at her push (he seemed in no rush) they had met. Her clothes had been a little crumpled, she had been quite late, but they met and dined and had continued good conversations. The mall had provided adequate distractions to keep the topics general. And at the end of two hours, the gears had not shifted at all. He seemed very comfortable just in this state of limbo and non-commitment. When asked about it after, he’d said that it was still too early for him to decide anything?

Did she like him? Physically he wasn’t her type at all. But she was willing to adjust. He’d been chivalrous, which she could always appreciate and give points for (Because one is always keeping score in these things!), he had seemed to listen when she talked and interrupted with his one opinions only occasionally (Ah well) and he seemed sane enough. So over all he passed (Just about) and she was willing to give things a shot. She had been feeling pleasantly open minded right then, you see.   

The second meet, no great progress. When she gave in and asked what next – “There’s a reason I am so old and single.” Came the proud reply. Followed by, “I can’t decide man, it’s too early!” she’d responded with “Fine, what about our parents meeting? Do we just stop it all?” Inside her head, she’d gone “Pfft dude! Some people get married within a couple of months of knowing each other. After falling in love!” with a disclaimer that always followed; “Not that I want to marry him right away!” (also inside her head! - She should have paid better heed to those disclaimers that were always following most decisions about him.)

He’d said no, he was comfortable with where they were and the pace. Where they were, was a non-relationship. Not friends, not a couple, just “potential interests” for more than a month then. That’s an irritating and emotionally exhausting dormant state to be in – especially for more than a week.

A pep-talk from her bestie and her husband had her convinced that guys take more time in deciding. They need parental approval first – many a time. So they all met - the parents and them- even that had gone smoothly. But the parents had been as non-committal as he had been.

He was to leave in three days. He wasn’t man enough to call like he’d said he would. He texted on the day he was leaving. Luckily for her, she was at breakfast and seen the texts an hour late. He had texted saying that he needed more time to decide. He seemed to have waited a couple of minutes, and on receiving no response, he’d said that he wished her the very best. She saw it (an hour late, stomach full and all), didn’t think it warranted a response initially. And knew that her dad would be very disapproving of the simple response (suggestion) that she was itching to give him, so she’d stuck to politically correct non-response.

That had been two days ago.

Did she miss him? Surprisingly no! She’d thought that talking to a guy for more than a month would inspire at least a little bit of attachment, if not affection – but she didn’t.

Did she think of him? Yes.

Did she feel sad? Probably not, but she was emotionally exhausted, and her body might have been misinterpreting it as sadness. Or maybe she was actually sad. She couldn’t tell. Her ego wouldn’t ever accept to that and give him the satisfaction – even if he would never know.

Did she regret it? The time spent – completely! The money- yes *wink” But the end itself? No. Her brain was too busy going “Ha! I told you so!” to the other half, which had rationalized. After all, Chivalry does not a man make!

And hence that frustration. Along with the month of “Oh my, What if!”s and the “Oh no, What if!”s in equal measure.

The day spent indulging in self-pity had helped. Licking wounds so to say. Was it a scratch or deeper? If her current mood was any indication, probably less than a scratch and more of remorse at her silliness in letting things get this far.

As she pulled into the parking lot and reversed into her usual spot she realized these duds inspired much the same emotions that a break up did sometimes. In very mild intensity, like hurt sans the grief. Necessary rite of passage, her friend had reminded her. And from prior experience, she had to agree. There were those that she might have thus grieved – a moment of silence for them.

She shook herself, to get ready for a new day and new beginning. Stepped in, and the first thing she could think was; “Whoa! That new guy looks super cute!”


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