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Four Bidding For Love (a novel)

Part 20: Kylie's Painful Injury (9/22/12)

     The trepidation of a second date is quite unlike the trepidation of the first, and in its own way, even more harrowing. For while both parties know within the first few moments of their first meeting if there is any spark between them, the second is fraught with a much greater uncertainty.
     In the first date, once each realizes the tinder is damp, both can resign themselves to weathering the last hour of their acquaintance in polite fashion. But if the sparks flew off well-struck stones, then the anxiety of the second date is rapidly raised. Each will want to know if their first meeting lit the kindling of romance, or if the waiting tinder failed to light; for sometimes even the brightest spark fades to ash once the hopeful couple parts.
     Thus it was a special torture for Kylie to stand in front of her small closet, clicking through the hangers; it was bad enough trying to decide what to wear, but the excruciating pain in her right shoulder refused to diminish. The two pain-killers she'd gulped down had chiseled little from the insistent hurt, and she feared that the distraction would render her pale and drawn right when she wanted to be bright and funny. For she'd thought of little else all day but Robin and her fear that their attraction was not as mutual as she hoped.
     For his part, Robin was plagued by this same demon of doubt plus its distant but terrible cousin, guilt; for though he and Kylie had made absolutely no suggestion of even the slightest commitment to one another, it felt like a breach of trust to have set a second date with her and then return home to ravish his sexy, willing neighbor.
     In the aftermath, Alexia had discreetly confided that after having a fibroid removed some years ago, she'd been told getting pregnant was now problematic, so the lack of birth control was not a concern. Though each made the proper noises about their sofa love-fest being a spontaneous combustion which would not be repeated, their attraction was visibly mutual. For though each knew long months of romantic drought made the first rain the sweetest, each also wondered if they'd overlooked the obvious, e.g. their very available neighbor.
     And so Kylie and Robin met in a damp cloud of hesitancy—of second-date doubt, and for him, of guilt; and for her, a very distracting physical hurt.
     It had started after her first serve. Facing Mrs. Quigley, a strong, tanned woman of 30 whom she'd played several times recently, Kylie had put her all into her first serve. Perhaps it was her effort to overcome the gusty wind, or a desire to exact a measure of revenge on the well-toned Mrs. Quigley by finally beating her—but not too badly, lest she alienate her—Kylie hadn't warmed up before loosing her full strength on the serve.
     Something had immediately burned in her shoulder, but rather than stop, she'd played harder, trying to work the stitch out. It had been the wrong strategy, for by the end of their matches her shoulder fairly glowed with pain—and she'd lost anyway to her more experienced opponent.
     Having lost, she was loathe to mention her aching shoulder, as Mrs. Quigley seemed well-placed in local society and might become a valuable contact in the future. But Mrs. Quigley had noticed Kylie's stiffness after the match, and in response to her question Kylie had confessed that her shoulder was now burning fiercely.
     "I know exactly what you need," Mrs. Quigley had said with the confidence of the trust-funded wealthy. "A good careful massage, and I know just who can give you one. His name is Jordan Simon, and he only makes house calls."
     Kylie's alarm at this rather intimate business model was evident, and Mrs. Quigley chuckled. "Don't worry, he's beautifully, sweetly gay." Leaning forward, she added confidentially, "He once admitted that he found the female body somewhat repulsive, which may be why he's so wonderful with women."
     "I don't understand," Kylie had said with a sincere frown, and Mrs. Quigley had beamed at her apparent prudishness. "In overcoming his repulsion, you see, he's more careful."
     Kylie nodded dubiously, and Mrs. Quigley continued. "I had the same problem once, so I know pain-killers don't really work. You need a massage to set it right, and I'll arrange for Simon to come by your place this evening."
     "I'm on a tight budget, and can't really afford any splurges," Kylie protested, and Mrs. Quigley waved off her fiscal concern with a breezy gesture. "It will be my little gift to you. I'll pay for a full body massage, because that really helps soothe you after the treatment."
     Kylie's doubts were all too visible, but Mrs. Quigley would not accept no. "Don't worry, Kylie, he's entirely reliable. Everyone I know is terribly dubious at first, and then afterward they're raving about how wonderful he is. You'll see."
     Fearful of losing her tenuous relationship with this well-connected woman, Kylie turned over her phone number and address, and then went home to take two analgesics, hoping the discomfort in her shoulder would fade and she could cancel the massage in good conscience.
     Now, as she rubbed the aching tendons, she was resigned to trying the massage, for she feared she couldn't sleep if the pain stayed this overbright.
     Her other problem was choosing an outfit. This was always a tricky decision; an informal college-girl facade sent an important message—this second date isn't that important to me—but a slightly sexier presentation sent the equally important message that I just tossed this on and gosh, look how sexy I am.
     Complicating matters, she sensed that neighbor Alexia had more of a draw on Robin than he'd admitted. His throwaway confession of Alexia's sexiness did not persuade Kylie that he was as unmoved as he'd stated. Tossing caution aside, she chose a direct frontal offense: a black pushup bra, augmented by a tight black top with cute fringework on the sleeves and a short matching skirt much like the one she'd seen Alexia wear rather briefly¬ —just before she went to work on the sofa with her client—finished off with open-toed half-heels.
     It had been some time since Kylie had experienced unremitting pain— menstrual cramps were the closest analog—and she debated whether to reveal her injury to Robin or try to mask it. Starting a relationship with artifice is getting off on the wrong foot, she admonished herself; so just tell him. Besides, if he sees me grimacing, he'll think I have some weird facial-tic syndrome.
     Robin was also worrying about his attire, but in a young male-like fashion; which is to say that on the way to the cafe he glanced down at his pinstriped Oxford shirt to make sure none of his burrito lunch had left a visible stain. He always wore a tie during sales calls, but he'd pulled it off in the parking lot; Kylie might think him overly formal, and he already hoped that Kylie would grant him a third date.
     The freshening wind was threatening to bend the rolled movie posters he was delivering, and he could well imagine the ruckus that would ensue should any of the overvalued collectibles be damaged in the transfer. He'd also wondered how he was supposed to test the Acme toaster; what if the cafe didn't have an electrical outlet?
     The aftershocks of yesterday's intoxicating sofa session with Alexia continued to roil his thinking; it would be difficult to return to their friendship as if nothing had happened, when in fact something rather glorious had happened.
     It was poor timing, to say the least, to bed Alexia with cool dispatch and then discard her post-haste for a younger woman. Thank goodness Alexia will be gone for two weeks of housesitting in Sonoma, he mused; if something does develop with Kylie, it won't seem quite so crass.
     There was a certain irony, he thought, in the cause of it all; none of this would have happened if Alexia hadn't won the online auction for this stupid toaster.

Next: The Oh-So-Critical Second Date

To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.

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