McKenna seems to consider the question, then answers, “That’s the thing about human communication. We don’t always know. It’s entirely possible she truly has someplace to be. But it’s also possible she needs an out. And . . . wait for it . . . it might mean both.”
I clasp my skull. “My head is spinning now.”
She touches my arm. “I know, right? It’s hieroglyphics sometimes, dating. That’s why I say your best bet is to be honest and straightforward. Forget games. Just ask her out again, and her answer will make it clear. At the end of the day, if a woman wants to see you, she’ll make time for you. And likewise, I’d say that to all women too. Don’t make excuses for him. If he wants to date you, he’ll show up.”
I mime banging a drum. “Truer words. And wait, before I let you go, I have another question I think you’re going to love. Don from Tallahassee wants to know if he should wear sneakers, boots, or boat shoes on an upcoming mini-golf date.”
McKenna’s blue-gold eyes flicker with delight as I tell her more about Don’s outfit options for the upcoming date. She settles on hip sneakers and tells him to save the boots for dinner. “After all, it’s mini golf you’re doing.”
I gesture to my feet. I’m wearing casual loafers. “I swear, I only wear flip-flops to play mini golf.”
“Well, I hope you have nice feet, then, that look good in flip-flops,” she says, a glint in those eyes.
“They’re quite handsome nearly naked, thank you very much.”
The producer calls cut, and we’re done.
Bruce chuckles as he strides over to us. “You two ought to date for real. I’m just saying.”
McKenna double scoffs.
He clasps my shoulder. “Ah, don’t be such a knucklehead.” He turns to McKenna. “I mean, I’m not telling you what to do, Fashion Queen. You’re both grown-ups, and you can make these decisions all by yourselves. But you should consider it. Then it’d be really fun for viewers to throw questions at you.” He steps back and sweeps his hands out like he’s lighting up a marquee. “Picture this: you can answer based on how your dinner-and-a-movie night went. Wouldn’t that be funny?” He nudges me. “Funny sells. Funny helps ratings.”
I’m speechless. I honestly don’t know what to say. I glance at McKenna, and she’s quiet too.
“You don’t have to smooch or be all kissy face. Just go out and grade each other. A dating report card. Now that’s funny!” He holds up his hands in surrender. “Just kidding, just joking. Don’t look so serious.” He nods toward the door. “And speaking of dinner and a movie, the little lady and I have a date tonight.” He sweeps out of the studio, his preposterous idea trailing behind him.
But as I flash back to the way things ended at the taco shop, to Cooper’s comments, to the way I feel when I’m with McKenna, maybe it’s not so preposterous after all.
When he’s gone, McKenna gives me a what was that all about look and pushes out a laugh. “He’s a little overeager.”
Okay, so maybe she thinks it’s preposterous.
I slap on a smile. “Yeah, definitely.”
See? If there was more cooking, she’d say something, right? Isn’t that what she just said on the segment? Or does she want me to say something? But we’re not really dating. That’s already been established—by both of us.
I do my best to put Bruce’s ideas and Cooper’s advice out of my head as we make our way out of the studio, discussing how the partnership is going. I share some early numbers, and she tosses some in my direction too. And this—this is clarity. There is no secret language of dating to decipher when we’re talking numbers.
Everything adds up to business only.
When we reach the door, she smiles again. “This is going well, isn’t it?”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
Except that’s a lie, and I don’t need to run a lie detector test on her to see if she can tell.
She knows it. She reads me. She senses it.
And that’s when I grab hold of Cooper’s advice. That’s when I decide Bruce’s zany idea isn’t so preposterous at all. I’m ready to ask her to cancel the girls’ night out and go out with me instead, when her phone trills.
She fishes around in her purse, grabs it, and says, “Aha! It’s Handy Andy. I need to take this call. See you next time.”
And she walks away.
The wave crests, and I catch it, riding it beautifully to the shore. The surf is fantastic this afternoon, and I could spend hours in the water. Hours enjoying the crash of the swells, the chance to catch a perfect one, and the challenge of not getting pulled too far under.
But I keep thinking about that damn girls’ night out.