I am a big fan of first meetings, or the Meet Cute as they are called in romantic comedies. These often set the tone for the relationship, and tell us a lot about how the couple will interact with one another later in the story. It certainly is for Jak Foster and Arden Templeton. Arden is a college art professor, newly hired at a college in Florida. She meets Jak at a party for new faculty, where they are introduced by mutual friends.
Reed came over, sitting heavily on the arm of Ianna's chair. "Seen Jak yet?"
"No. He promised to be here."
"Just like him to be late as hell, stick around for five seconds and leave."
"That's what happens when you insist that I come to a party like this," a man's voice said behind them. "You know I hate these things. Since I'm not on the faculty, I really don't see why I'm here."
"I told you. President Preston wanted to meet you."
The other man groaned. Arden tried to focus on his face, but couldn't see much since he was almost directly above her. He was just over six feet tall, with rusty brown hair. She thought his eyes might be green, but it was hard to tell in the muted golden outdoor light.
"Jak, this is Arden. Arden, my pal Jak. He hates parties."
"All parties or just this kind?"
"All of them. I'm antisocial," Jak said, smiling down at her. "Pleased to meet you, Miss—?"
"Doctor," Arden corrected. "Templeton," she said carefully, finding her tongue didn't want to work properly. She set her glass down unsteadily, licking her lips. They felt numb. "Doctor Arden Templeton." She touched the tip of her tongue with her fingers. "Oh, damn," she said, holding the appendage. "I can't feel my tongue."
Her friends laughed as she giggled at herself.
"Yuck." She wiped her fingers on the napkin. "No more of that."
"Is that a Charlie special?" the new man asked.
"Yes. I think I'll be drunk for a year. . . ."
"Mind if I have some? I'm thirsty and I don't want to go back inside."
"Sure, if you don't mind sharing germs."
"Baby, there's so much alcohol in this, nothing lives. Including brain cells." He took up the drink, tossing it back like a shooter. He sighed happily, smacking his lips. "Those always taste like more."
"I'll get you one," Reed said. "Go, mingle."
"I'm fine here," Jak said from behind and to Arden's left.
He was just far enough out of her line of vision, that even if she turned her head, she couldn't exactly see him. She had the impression he was well built, muscular and tanned. That was all she could really tell. He smelled good too, or maybe that was the honeysuckle on the fence to his left.
"So, Jak," she said slowly, enunciating carefully. "If you're not one of us, why are you here?"
He chuckled, shaking the ice in the glass. "I keep asking myself that. It's a great place to pick up women?"
Head wobbling slightly, she forced herself to focus on him. "You're kidding, right?"
He paused and his lips twitched, his green eyes twinkling. "Most of the young, attractive ones are married to my best friends. You're not with one of the wonder geeks, are you?"
Reed brought the drink, handing it to him as Ianna dragged him off to dance. Jak drank it much the same way, tossing it down with a jerk of his head.
"Nope. I'm a wonder geek myself. Got my Masters and PhD simultaneously."
"That's a lot of school. How'd you manage?"
"Doubled up on everything."
"Didn't they tell you you were supposed to take when?"
"I had an adviser who didn't pay attention to me. I got a lot of lousy advice, followed by more rotten advice. By the time I realized what was happening to me, it was too late. I graduated with a 3.85, so I don't think I did too badly."
"Oh, hell no. You put smart people to shame." He grinned down at her.
"Can you do me a teeny favor?" She said, trying not to slur as she struggled to hold her fingers half an inch apart.
"Can you stand over here where I can see you? I can't seem to move my head."
Laughing, Jak walked around to face her. At this angle, his features were in shadow, the setting sun behind him. The lights in the yard were dim enough to keep his face concealed. There was a flash of white teeth and a deep chested chuckle. He was wearing a pale brown jacket and pants that moved like linen. His shirt might have been white. No tie, just a hemp macrame necklace with wooden beads.
Arden grinned up at him. "Thanks."
© 2016 Dellani Oakes