SPEED DATING • by Jamie Anne Richardson

“I can’t believe you talked me into this,” was the only protest Peggy was allowed before the 10 by 5 started.

“You’ll be fine,” I said. As she walked into the center of the circle with her nametag on her chest, I couldn’t help but feel like my friend was a steak that I was feeding to a den of starving lions.

“For the first-timers out there,” the announcer said, “the rules are simple. Men on the inside of the tables, and women are on the outside. You have five minutes with each date and when the buzzer sounds, men shift to the right. Any questions?”

The room was filled with whispers and nervous giggles as the ladies each took a seat. The men lined up behind their assigned chairs and the moderator set the timer to five minutes.

I sat at a side table as moral support.

“Why aren’t you in there?” a voice asked behind me.

“Who, me?” I asked. “This isn’t my kind of thing.”

“I see,” he said, “too good for speed dating, huh?”

Suddenly the voice processed and I realized this was Doug Mathis, a local radio personality and the founder of 10 by 5.

“I wouldn’t say that,” I defended myself. “I’m just here to support my friend. She just went through a bad breakup.”

“A real friend would be in there helping her weed through the masses, wouldn’t she?” he pushed.

“You’re one to talk,” I laughed. “You’re not married either. Why aren’t you in there?”

I had listened to Doug every morning for the five years I’d lived in the metroplex. The morning team called him Dateless Doug. He was happily single, but he started this speed dating service for people who were looking for love but were tired of boring dates and awkward good-byes.  At the end of the night each person would write down who they were interested in seeing again, and Doug would swap their contact information if a couple had mutual interest.

The service boasted ten love connections in its first two months.

“I gave up on the dating scene years ago,” he confessed. “When you go into a dating relationship where she already knows a lot about you but you know nothing about her, you’re at a definite disadvantage.”

“I guess that’s true, but the whole local celebrity idea is bound to keep your calling card more full than you let on.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I earned that nickname,” he said. “Dateless Doug at your service.” He took a mock bow, and I laughed. “Which one is your friend?”

I pointed to Peggy. “She was my roommate in college and we’ve stuck together ever since. She was in a relationship for a year before he dumped her.”

“Harsh,” he said. “What happened?”

“They started talking about marriage, and I guess he got cold feet.”

“When was this?” he asked.

“About a month ago,” I said. “Why?”

“I have a buddy who just went through that,” he said. “Her name isn’t Peggy, is it?”

I could feel my face flush. “You’re friends with Chris?”

“Guilty as charged,” he said. “He’s actually my roommate.”

“He really broke her heart,” I said.

“I think that’s kinda my fault,” he said as the bell tolled in the background again. “I told him he was too young to be getting too serious.”

“And he listened?” I asked.

“He did, but if it’s any consolation, I realized I was dead wrong. The man cried for weeks.”

“Good,” I said. “So did she. So, is he seeing anyone?”

“No,” he said. “He has assured me that he has no interest.”

“That’s why I dragged her here. I was hoping that at least one of these guys would be a distraction for her.”

I followed Doug’s eyes to where Peggy was sitting. She looked miserable.

“I don’t think that’s working,” he sighed.

“Time for Plan B,” I said. “We need to get the two lovebirds back together. They were both happier then, and I’m not sure how much more of the moping I can tolerate.”

“But if he broke her heart — ” he said defensively.

“No,” I scowled, “You broke her heart. If you hadn’t butted in, they’d probably be on their honeymoon by now.”

He dropped his head. “How do we do it?” he asked.

“Let’s meet for dinner. You bring Doug and I’ll bring Peggy. Surely if we’re both there, they won’t kill each other,” I laughed.

“And of course there’s that added bonus,” he said as the bell rang again.

“What’s that?”

“You get to spend some time with Dateless Doug.” He smiled.

“Ah, yes,” I said. “What will that do to your image?”

“I can’t wait to find out,” he said.

Jamie Anne Richardson is an author, wife, and mother who lives outside of Dallas. See her website to connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

This story is sponsored by
Clarion West Writers Workshop — Apply now through March 1 for 2014’s six-week workshop with Paul Park, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Hiromi Goto, Charlie Jane Anders, and John Crowley, June 22 – August 1 in Seattle.

Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction