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"My husband has been kidnapped".
"I'll meet you back here at, say 6?"
"It's a deal! My name's Lisa, by the way. Like you couldn't guess from the name tag!" she added hastily, realizing the silliness of introducing herself when her name was spelled out on her chest. "And you're Angela!"
"Yep, that's me!" I responded, annoyed with myself for not noticing her name tag, and for a moment confused about how she knew who I was. Then, I remembered that she had seen my credit card. "Nice to meet you!" I offered my hand.
"Same here," she replied with a smile, taking my hand. "See you in fifteen minutes!" She ran off down the walkway through Women's Fashions, the hem of her skirt lifted by her motion to show her toned, dainty legs. She was lovely - no other word fit her. Lovely Lisa.
For fifteen minutes, I wandered around the mall. What the hell was I doing? With her sweet face out of view, my thoughts grew clearer, more rational. A devout heterosexual, I had boyfriend after boyfriend since high school, never looking a another woman in this way, even in the showers after P.E. I had nothing against gays - I just never considered that lifestyle. Now, here I was, hitting on another woman. Was I bisexual? Was it just a strong reaction to an extremely beautiful woman? Was I acting out of loneliness? Two weeks had passed in my new apartment, yet it still didn't feel like home. Usually quick to adapt to new environments, I wondered if I would ever grow comfortable in this town.
Should I meet her? I asked myself. Would she even be there, or was her dinner suggestion made out of politeness, a date she had no intention of keeping? Relax, I finally told myself. Let's ride this out, see where it goes. My cat Nubby and cold leftover chicken waited for me at home. Both, I decided, could wait.
Miraculously, Lisa was at the entrance to the store as I walked up, wearing a jacket and carrying her purse. We decided that I would follow her to the restaurant in my car, rather than carpooling and having to backtrack to the mall. She led me deep into town, to a tiny eatery in a near-abandoned strip mall. I questioned the cleanliness of the place, with its dirty concrete exterior, but the inside was tidy, warm, and pleasant.
Following her lead, I tried an milky coconut soup, a salad with poppy seeds and ginger, and phad thai noodles - spicy, and complemented by cool bean sprouts. For dessert, we nibbled at cool bowls of a not-too-sweet red bean ice cream. The food nearly intoxicated me as much as the two Sapporos I allowed myself, but nothing thrilled me as much as the presence of Lisa herself. Sweet, spunky, and smart, she made an excellent conversational partner. Buzzed on the beer, I couldn't help but imagine where else she might make an excellent partner.
She grabbed my upper arm as we left the restaurant. "You can't drive. My place is just a couple blocks away - stay on my couch tonight, and you can get your car in the morning."
I looked around dubiously at the graffiti and ruin. "You sure it's safe?"
Lisa laughed. "Of course! This isn't a bad neighborhood - it's just a little old. You can bring your packages if it'd make you feel better."
We loaded my shopping bags into her trunk, and she took me to her small, but spacious apartment. She made a fire (well, she lit a Duraflame log, but we both decided that in California, where a winter cold of fifty degrees felt unbearable, a Duraflame fire was appropriate), and brought out a bottle of white wine. We slipped of our shoes and sat on the rug in front of the fireplace. My second glass of wine prompted my honesty, as wine tends to do.
"You know, you're really beautiful," I said, propping myself up on a throw pillow and looking her in the face. "I mean it. You really are."
She laughed a pretty laugh, and flipped her hair flirtatiously.