Stephan Bailey: A Valise of Doubt
“You’ve got this all wrong,” Tim Derr said to his best friend of thirty years, Stephan Bailey who sat next to him on a stool at a tavern in Miami called, 305 Brass. “First and foremost compadre, as a person who has known you the most, and the best wingman that a guy looking for a girl could ask for—it’s not a blind date.”
“Remember when Tara and I went to an all-inclusive in Key West?” Tim asked.
“Of course,” Stephan said.
“Well, we met this Yogi named Shelly who was giving a class on the beach,” Tim said.
Tim explained to Stephan that Shelly was recently divorced and looking to date again. Tim concluded by telling him that she had no kids, only two step-daughters like him who was looking for a good man to meet.
Tara spoke highly of Stephan to Shelly. She emphasized the many common interest they shared. Shelly, whose actual residence was only 13 miles from Stephan, gave Tara her number.
After a few text messages, Stephan called her on a Thursday night. The conversation was light with some humor about the set-up from his friends. They planned a time and he told her that he’d find a restaurant for dinner.
Stephan’s plan was to arrive early at Go-Go Bistro on Lincoln road in Miami Beach. When he saw her in the window waiting, sitting at the table, he was enamored by her sheer beauty. She offered her smile as a hello and he entered the small restaurant.
“You look wonderful tonight,” he told her as he greeted her with a formal kiss on the cheek.
“You as well, thanks,” she responded back with an infectious smile.
Stephan chose the sushi restaurant because she mentioned the types of food she liked. So he knew she would be content in the setting. But the menu was second to her exquisiteness. Her pleasant aura was augmented when she began to thank him for choosing a great place to dine. In his mind she was simply stunning. The waitress arrived to take their order. The menu was unlike the general sushi choices he had known, so he let her choose. As she ordered he gazed at her pleasing brown eyes.
“This menu, for which I only recognize a few items, reminds me of when I was in Mexico and I ordered food that I had never ate,” Stephan said as he held the menu.
“Well, have you ever eaten uni?” she asked.
“No, what is it?” he said.
“It is a sea urchin that I like with a quail egg wrapped in seaweed,” she explained.
“Ok. I will eat anything and I like to try new things,” he said.
For Stephan, his willingness to try new things like uni and more importantly, be on a blind date was unique. He had been divorced and she was the first date that he had since exclusively dating his wife 8 years earlier. As for Shelly, she too was divorced, but for only 4 months. The idea of dating again was not in the foreseeable future, but there she was sitting across from Stephan and feeling comfortable.
They enjoyed miso soup and several types of sushi and sashimi while sipping green tea and getting to know each other. The spectra of dialogue progressed from their ambitious goals, travel, art, music, and personal issues.
They enjoyed uni for dessert and Shelly made a comment to Stephan: “Not too many people would eat this with me, I’m glad you did.”
“You’re welcome Shelly. I am always open to trying new things, and I will eat anything. Thanks for introducing all of these different meals,” Stephan said with a smile.
Afterwards, they took a stroll along the vibrant Lincoln road and stopped to listen to live music. Shelly, who had to teach a class early the next morning, explained to Stephan that she need to make her way back to her car.
“This is my car,” she said with a smile.
“I had a great time tonight. In all sincerity Shelly it has been my pleasure to be with you.”
“I feel the same, thank you,” she said.
Stephan embraced her with both arms and kissed her on the cheek. He released her and she held onto his right hand. “Thank you again Shelly. I want you to know that I want to see you again.”
She smiled and this gave way to his final comments: “You know I like you Shelly. From your worldly knowledge, your ambitions, and the obvious, your infectious smile.
Shelly said thank once more as Stephan leaned in with one more hug. She turned her head slightly and kissed him partly on the lips. Without registration of the potential kiss, he stepped back and bid her farewell as she entered her car. Then, and only then, did he realize a missed opportunity. She drove away and his doubt began to duel his mind: “Oh no, why did I not kiss her? What was I thinking?”
On the street corner parallel to his parked car the pace of his mind was speeding three-fold to his walk. The valise of doubt that was in his possession pushed him back to an uncertainty that had plagued his mind for far too long. The missed opportunity haunted him until he spoke to her the next day. She told him what he feared and forecasted: “I don’t want to rush back in to dating—I’m going to take it slow.”
Stephan Bailey, a man whose collection of stories and subject matters were readily available to romance a woman, was still one page, one closing chapter away from fully expressing his affection.
Writers Weekly, 24 Hour Short Story Contest Winner — Winter 2017:
Stephan Bailey: Everything but an Opportunity (A Valise of Doubt)