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The First Date

A widow goes on her first date in more than a year, but her sexy encounter isn’t what she, or her gossipy friends, were expecting.

It’s been two years since her husband died, but it feels like yesterday. The widow pulls off her wedding ring and sets it on her nightstand alongside a stack of cash. She counts the money and counts it again. Am I really going to do this? The white stripe around her ring finger looks soft and vulnerable. She sighs and pats her frizzy, auburn hair. He’s waiting for her in the car, her first date since she met her husband fifteen years ago. She swallows. Hard. She knows it’s time to move on. She thinks back to a self-help article she read: Fake It Until You Feel It. That sounds about right. *** At the party, her friends are alternately full of praise — it’s so nice you met someone — and envy — your date is so handsome. The envy makes her heart clench. Her friends’ husbands are paunchy and careworn from providing for and chasing after children, something it’s less and less likely she will ever have. She’s pouring herself an over-sized glass of wine when Ashley, a soft, pastel blonde with a hard, sour filament running through her soul, grabs her arm. “OMG, your date is stunning. He’s so different from your husband.” Her voice lowers from a sweet soprano to an insinuating alto. “Where did you find him?” The widow flushes and stammers, groping for words. Her date is tall, dark, and well-built, a classic romantic hero straight from central casting. Her husband was a short, blond spark plug with an antic sense of humor. She doesn’t like what Ashley is implying by different. Different is not better, she thinks, when her date appears as if conjured by dark magic. “I’m sorry,” he says, taking the widow firmly by the arm and smiling blandly at Ashley. “I have to steal her away. We’re late for a show, and we’ve already stayed too long.” Arm-in-arm, they leave the party. The widow relaxes into grateful relief. She whispers in her hero’s ear: “Good job, handsome.”

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