Evalina scrutinized her appearance in the floor-length mirror. She ran her hands down her thighs to smooth out the wrinkles in her linen shorts, took a quarter turn, and crooked her neck.
Turning back, she pinched each side of her sleeveless V-neck sweater between her thumbs and index fingers and adjusted it upward ever so slightly. Sliding her feet into black flats, she sighed.
“This is as good as it’s going to get,” she whispered. Picking up her keys, she headed out the door, trying to ignore her gurgling stomach that signaled nervousness and excitement.
As she drove through the streets, she couldn’t shake the sense of déjà vu. She had been here before. Many times in fact. So many, that she didn’t have high hopes for this evening. Devon was handsome, kind, successful, independent, funny, and intelligent. It was easy to be with him. The early dates had gone well, and the couple had much in common. The enjoyed indie movies, walks at the lake, beer, wine, baseball games, and 80s video games.
But the last time they were together, everything changed.
“Let me cook you dinner next weekend,” Devon offered as they sat together in his car, knowing that it was late, but neither quite ready to say good night. “What’s your favorite meal?”
Panic threatened to choke her response. An offer for a homemade dinner was universal dating code for “I want to take this to the next level.” Was she ready for that? She liked Devon well enough, but …
“I don’t really have one,” Evalina blurted out. She cringed inside. She knew how odd that sounded, but it was the truth. And after her last relationship, she vowed to be herself, always. No more trying to change to please someone. Stick to your guns, she told herself.
“Everybody has a favorite meal,” Devon laughed in disbelief.
“Well, I’m not everyone and I really don’t have a favorite meal.” Evalina felt her defenses coming to her rescue, building a wall as quickly as they could. “I like most foods. Except mushrooms. Definitely not mushrooms. They smell like dirty feet.”
Devon laughed again and shook his head. “Ok. No mushrooms. Ever. And I still want to fix you dinner next weekend, even if you won’t give me any more to go on than that you don’t like mushrooms.”
“You’re a smart guy. You’ll figure something out.” Evalina smiled.
And now, here she was. About to enter Devon’s house for what could be a make it or break it meal.
She slowly stretched her right index finger out to ring the bell, but before she could make contact with the button, the door swung open.
“Hey! Right on time!” Devon beamed. “You look great! Come on in. Make yourself comfortable, and I’ll get you a glass of wine.”
Wine, Evalina thought to herself. Red=steak. White=pasta with alfredo sauce or chicken.
As she sat down on the leather sofa, Devon came out of the kitchen with a glass of red wine. Steak, she thought. Let me guess, asparagus and French dinner rolls. Why was she acting like this? Nerves. Fear. Keep it up, she told herself, and this most surely would be the last date she and Devon shared. Give the guy a chance.
“Hermanhoff 2001 Chambourcin. Have you had it before?”
“No, but I love Hermanhoff wine. Have you been to Herman for Octoberfest? It’s a fun time.”
“That’s one place I haven’t been yet, Hermann, Missouri. I’ve only heard great things about it. Maybe we could take a day trip this fall.”
“Maybe,” Evalina smiled and sniffed the wine in her glass. She could tell by that one whiff that she was going to enjoy this glass.
“I’ll be right back. Dinner’s just about ready.” Devon disappeared into the kitchen, and Evalina heard the outside door open and close.
She took a small sip of the Chambourcin, letting it rest for just a few seconds before swilling and swallowing. Not too dry; not too sweet, Perfect. Still, she found herself thinking how rude it was that Devon hadn’t asked her how she liked her steak. That means it’s either going to be mooing on the plate or as tough as leather.
She heard the door open and close again, and the clink of a plate on the kitchen counter. Oddly, she realized that the smell wafting from the kitchen wasn’t steak. But what was it? The odor seemed familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it.
“Dinner is served,” Devon grinned, peeking around the corner. “Come on in.”
Cautiously, Evalina rose from the sofa and prepared herself. Poker face, she told herself, whatever is in that kitchen, keep a poker face.
Turning the corner, she stopped.
Hot dogs, sauerkraut, horseradish, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
Evalina looked at Devon, then back at the table.
What had she gotten herself into?