Originally posted April 7, 2015
Alex had told Jessica that Bruce was a jokester. Jessica needed someone to make her smile. Whitmore had her so tense—too stiff to laugh for fear that he would accuse her of laughing at him. Bruce would remind her that relationships were about having fun, enjoying each other’s company, not acting as parole officers. She shouldn’t return from a date with a headache, but with cracked ribs from laughing so hard.
“Ah, there’s a smile! I was starting to think something was wrong with me.”
“I come from the bathroom, and you’re stealing my fries.” She swatted his hand from her plate.
“Actually, I thought you pulled the whole, ‘ditch your date through the bathroom window,’ trick on me.” Bruce winked and snatched a fry from her plate, playfully tossing it into his mouth.
Jessica covered her fries and coughed on them.
“Aw man, I haven’t seen that one since middle school!” Bruce said.
Jessica tried to hold back her laugh. She made a sound, the combination of a hiccup and a burp, and immediately covered her mouth in embarrassment.
“Hey,” Bruce said, reaching across the table and pulling down her hands, “don’t do that. Your smile is so beautiful. You should show it off.”
Bruce’s hands were surprisingly soft, as if he had dipped them into melted Shea butter. “Show me that smile.” He brought both of Jessica’s hands to his lips and kissed them.
Jessica could feel her cheeks turning red. Bruce smile broadly, revealing a small gap between his two front teeth. He stood to his feet, pushing back his chair and leaning over the table. Suddenly, Jessica felt her brain vibrating against her skull as thoughts returned to Whitmore and his worrisome phone calls. He would’ve notice by now that she had turned off her phone. Would he simply give up, or would he try to track her down? Whitmore often took desperate measures when he couldn’t locate his women. Layla had done that to him—the ex who made him insecure, paranoid, jealous. Jessica snatched her hands away, drew her head back to avoid Bruce’s advancing kiss, and blurted, “I have a boyfriend!”
Bruce froze. “Oh.” He lowered himself back into his chair. “I’m sorry. Alex . . . she said you were single.” He avoided eye contact with her. He pulled a twenty and a ten from his wallet and held the bills in the air to catch the waiter’s attention. “Keep the change, I don’t need a receipt,” he said to the waiter who quickly stuffed the money into his apron pocket.
Following Bruce’s lead, Jessica gathered her purse from the floor and stood to leave. Another failed blind date. She wanted to cry. Bruce was so refreshing. Could she convince herself that she had chosen right to stand by Whitmore?
“So, do you love him?” Bruce slid his chair under the table.
“I don’t know . . . I guess?”
Bruce smiled and rubbed his chin. “You can’t be with someone you guess you love.” He patted his front pocket to make sure his wallet was there. “You want to string the guy along until you figure it out?”
“Believe me, he’s the one with the noose around my neck.”
“Ah, he’s that type.” Bruce nodded his head. “The bitter boyfriend who’s been friendzoned too many times.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Had a friend like that, once. Always complained about how no girl wanted to give him a chance. The minute he got a girlfriend, he pushed her right to me.”
“You stole your friend’s girl?”
“Hasn’t spoken to me since.” Bruce shook his head. “So, what’s your guy’s problem?”
Jessica shrugged her shoulders. “Well, I guess you can say he’ll drive a woman to cheat.”
“Obviously. You wouldn’t be here if he didn’t.”
“He’s always talking about how his ex slept with three men.”
“Constantly reminding you of the girl who broke his heart to get you to prove that you love him more? Yep. Classic friendzone syndrome. My radio show is all about this. The Girlfriend Whisperer. Alex didn’t tell you?”
“She said you were funny.”
“Ah, just funny.”
Jessica hunched her shoulders and giggled behind her hand, then remembering what Bruce had said, straightened up and put her hands at her side. “So what about you?” she asked. “I pretty much just put you in the friendzone. Are you bitter about it?”
“I have a feeling I won’t stay there long,” Bruce said with a smirk. He touched her chin and ran his thumb along her bottom lip. “Alex has my number. Call me,” he said before walking away.