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As I open the door to the coffee shop, the blast of air conditioning is a welcome change from the hot Phoenix sunshine, but it can’t save me from my sister’s voice on the other end of the phone.
“Keith Overton asked about you.”
I sigh. Of course, the one thing my sister wants to talk about is my love life. “The same Keith Overton who used to call me ‘Christine with the extra fifteen?’”
“Oh, come on. He only said that because he liked you.”
“Call me crazy, sis, but I prefer men who don’t insult me.”
There’s an audible sigh. “Well, some people are beginning to wonder if you prefer men at all.”
“Are you kidding me?” My voice comes out way too loudly, and every head in the café turns to look at me. A blush rises to my cheeks and I look down at the floor and lower my voice. “I’m not a lesbian. Even if I were, it’s nobody’s business. Why the hell does anyone in that town care about who I’m dating?”
“You know people here,” she says in that sickly sweet voice that she uses to tell me to ‘be nice.’ “We all just want to see you settled down and happy.”
I grind my teeth together. I don’t know how many times I’ve had this conversation with my family, and every time I do, it’s like it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s like I’m speaking an alien language or something. “Hold on, Catherine.” I’ve reached the front of the line. “I’ll take the biggest iced coffee you’ve got.”
I move to the side and take a deep breath, preparing myself. “Catherine, I’m not sure why no one believes me when I say this, but I am happy. I’m much happier here in Phoenix than I would be in Aguila. I don’t want to ‘settle down.’ So chill, okay?”
There’s that sigh again. “We’re not city people, Christine. You’ll see soon enough. You’ll be right back here with your family.”
“Aguila is ninety minutes from here. It’s not like I moved across the country. And no, I don’t think I will be seeing that anytime soon.” And even if I did, I wouldn’t be going back for pricks like Keith. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a date or done…anything else, but still, I’m not that desperate.
“Oh, you will.” The smug certainty in her voice is enough to make me punch a wall. “And that’s what I told Keith. He wants to have dinner with you when you get back into town.”
The barista calls my name and I grab my cup of iced coffee with my mouth hanging open. “You told Keith I would have dinner with him?”
“Of course. He’s a nice man, and he’s better than any of those city men that will use you and leave you.”
“I swear to God, Catherine. This needs to stop. I’m not going to dinner with Keith. I am not moving back. I am not—”
“Come on, Christine,” she cuts me off. “We both know that you’re not going to get many other offers. So you should pay attention to the ones who might actually want you.”
My mouth drops open, and even though I’ve already drawn more than enough attention to myself, my voice rises. “Excuse me?”
Catherine laughs, and my stomach drops. Chills run over my body, and I feel like I’m shrinking. “Well you’re not exactly the kind of person to turn a lot of heads. So I’m just trying to look out for you. If you go out with Keith, you might actually have a chance of not ending up alone.”
I swallow, trying to think of something to say. She’s right, men aren’t exactly lining up at my door. But Keith Overton? Not exactly my dream of Prince Charming. But do I have other options? Catherine is still talking, something about how Keith has really made something of himself since high school.
Turning, I’m ready to get out of this coffee shop before everyone in here knows my life story, and slam into another body. A tall, hard body, who’s holding hot coffee. The top of his drink pops off at the same time that mine does and we’re both soaking in liquid caffeine. My mouth is open again, my shirt suddenly soaked through. “Catherine, I have to go I just spilled my coffee.”