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
"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
"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
"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
He chuckled, shaking the ice in the
glass. "I keep asking myself that. It's a great place to pick up
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,
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
"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
"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