Sherry really didn’t feel like going to Michelle’s barbecue party, especially since Joel Mallet was going to be there. He called her “Glamor Puss” which drove her crazy.
What was wrong with a woman taking pride in her appearance? So what if she liked being fashionable and bought designer clothes? She could afford it. She liked being glamorous. It was a far cry from when she was in high school. Then, she liked to wear jeans and sneakers but that changed when she went to university and saw how glamorous most of the girls were. She decided that she wanted to look like them and little by little she morphed from regular jeans and sneakers to designer jeans and high heel boots. And that make over stuck on her.
Now, she stood in front of her wardrobe, trying to decide what she was going to wear to the barbecue. She hated barbecues because of the smoke. Whenever she went to one, she had to wash her hair and toss her clothes in the laundry as soon as she got home. She tried to get out of going to this one but Michelle wouldn’t hear of it. “Everyone is going to be there,” she told her last night when they spoke on the phone. “Joel is going to be there.”
The mere mention of Joel’s name set Sherry’s teeth on edge and got her pulse racing. “He’s the reason why I don’t want to come,” she said.
“You can’t fool me, Sherry, I know that you have a thing for him. He’s a very attractive man and if I weren’t married…”
Sherry’s mouth tightened. “Michelle, you may find him attractive but I don’t.” Even as she said it, she knew she wasn’t being honest. She hated to admit it but she was extremely attracted to Joel and whenever she saw him or thought about him, she got butterflies in her stomach.
“You can deny it all you want, my friend, but you and I both know that you have a thing for him. Now, I’ve asked people to bring a side dish. You can bring a pasta salad, fruit salad, green salads or potato salad.”
“I’ll bring a Watermelon fruit salad.” She wanted to ask what Joel was taking.
“Sounds great. Joel’s bringing his amazing Baked Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges.”
“I don’t care what he’s bringing.” I’m going to make sure I have a few of those Potato wedges.
“I’m sure you don’t,” Michelle replied, sounding amused. “I’ll see you tomorrow at five.”
“Goodnight, Michelle.” She hung up the phone. For the rest of the night she thought of nothing else except the barbecue and Joel. She wondered if he was going to show up alone or with a date. I don’t care either way.
And now here she stood, trying to figure out what she was going to wear. Finally, she settled for a three quartered red sleeved top and denim Capri pants with red open toe sandals. This was the most casual outfit she had that would work for a barbecue. She slid the door shut and left the bedroom. It was time to make the salad.
As she prepared it, her mind drifted to Joel. Was he in the kitchen whipping up his amazing potato wedges? Again she wondered if he was going to be alone or with someone. As far as she knew, he didn’t have a girlfriend or Michelle would have told her so. However, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t show up with a date.
The thought of him showing up with another woman made her jealous. I don’t want to be jealous. I don’t want to feel anything for this man but he gets under my skin. Whenever we see each other, he always manages to say or do something that really irritates me but all I can think about is how good he looks and what it would be like to…She shook her head, refusing to finish the thought, especially when she felt her traitorous body respond. She finished making the salad and put it in the fridge until she was ready to leave.
Joel stood on the beach, gazing out at the sea. A slight breeze ruffled his hair. Hands in pockets, back to the house, he thought about Sherry. He was really looking forward to seeing her. When Michelle called him this morning to tell him that Sherry was coming to the barbecue, he was very relieved. He was afraid that she wouldn’t come.
After he finished speaking to Michelle, he made up his mind that he was going to ask Sherry out. He knew she didn’t have a boyfriend and he wasn’t in a relationship either. The first time he set eyes on her three years ago, he wanted her as he had never wanted a woman before. He wasn’t sure how she felt about him. He knew that she didn’t like it when he called her “Glamor Puss” but he hadn’t meant it in a bad way. It was just his way of saying that she was a very stylish woman.
He glanced at his watch. It was ten minutes to five. Sherry was going to arrive shortly. He had asked Michelle let him know when she arrived. After they finished eating and everyone else was busy socializing, he was going to invite Sherry to go for a walk on the beach with him. When the moment felt right, he would ask her to go out with him. He hoped and prayed that she wouldn’t turn him down. He was crazy about her.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you,” Michelle said when Sherry went into the kitchen. After they hugged, she took the bowl with the fruit salad. “Let me put this in the fridge and then I’ll take you out to where everyone is, except Joel.”
Sherry stiffened. “Isn’t he here?” Bitter disappointment filled her, almost crushing her. What a complete letdown. On the drive over, she had been looking forward to seeing him.
Michelle closed the fridge door and turned to face her. “Yes, Joel’s here but he’s on the beach.”
Relief washed over Sherry like a tidal wave. And then, she couldn’t help but ask, “Did-did he come alone or…?”
“He came alone. Now, let’s go out to the back and I’ll introduce you to the new faces.”
“Are you sure I can’t help you with anything?”
“No, thanks, Honey. You’re a guest. Besides, Nancy and Helen are helping me. You remember them, don’t you?” Nancy was Michelle’s sister-in-law and Helen was a co-worker. She met them both last year at Michelle’s fiftieth birthday bash.
Sherry nodded and then followed Michelle out to the back of the house where the other guests were. After making some introductions to the people she didn’t know, Michelle made sure she was comfortable before disappearing into the house. Sherry sat next to Joan who shared a similar taste in fashion.
Joel turned around just in time to see Michelle step on to the landing and wave at him. Grinning, he waved back and began walking toward the house, his heartbeat accelerating with each step. Before heading to where the guests were, he would pop his head in the kitchen. He could tell from the way Michelle waved at him that she had something interesting to tell him.
He went to the kitchen and waited patiently until Michelle and he were alone. “So, what did you want to tell me?” he asked.
Michelle’s eyes were dancing with excitement. “You should have seen her face when she thought you hadn’t come,” she gushed. “Joel, I’m telling you, Sherry’s into you. She was never able to fool me when it came to how she feels about you.”
“So you think I stand a chance with her?”
“Absolutely! Now go out there and say hello to her. I made sure that there’s an empty seat next to her. Go!”
He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you,” he said before he quickly walked away, leaving her staring after him with a big smile on her face.
Sherry was talking to Joan about an upcoming fashion show which would raise funds for charity when she saw Joel. Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly and when he sat down next to her, she could hardly think. She turned to look at him and their eyes met. Swallowing hard, she mumbled, “Hi.”
His eyes were restless on her face. “Hi,” he replied tautly. She looked stunning. The red top flattered her coloring and the Capri pants hugged her long, shapely legs. Her hair was swept on, adding to her elegance. Compared to her, he felt a bit under dressed in the light grey tee shirt and black jeans.
Even in casual dress, he looked incredibly sexy and she couldn’t stop staring. “I—I thought you hadn’t come,” she heard herself say.
“I couldn’t stay away knowing that you were going to be here,” he told her. “I came because of you, Sherry.”
She noticed that he was different and hadn’t called her by the nickname she hated. What had changed? This new side to him made him even more irresistible. The expression on his face made her knees weak and she opened her mouth to say tell him that she was glad to see him when Michelle announced that the food was ready and invited everyone to help themselves.
Sherry got up and walked over to the table with Joel close beside her. She picked up a plate and handed it to him before picking up one for herself. There was so much food and everything looked so good. She helped herself to the green salad, the barbecue chicken, cold slaw, Joel’s potato wedges and some fried rice.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked her as they left the buffet table.
She nodded. “Yes, I would like some Cranberry Juice, please.”
They went over to the table where the drinks were and poured some into a plastic cup and handed it to her. He poured himself some Ginger ale and they went back to their chairs. He waited until she was seated before he sat down.
The aroma of the barbecue didn’t bother her. Perhaps it was because they were close to the sea or she was too busy hoping that he wouldn’t notice that her hand trembled slightly when she lifted the fork to her mouth. She hoped that the food wouldn’t fall back into her plate or that she got something stuck in her teeth. Eating in front of him made her nervous and self-conscious. Then, he started to talk to her and after a while, she began to relax.
His potato wedges were absolutely delicious and in no time they were gone from her plate. She saw his lips twitch. “I guess I don’t have ask if you enjoyed them,” he said.
After they finished their first helping of food, he went and got two veggie burgers. She really enjoyed hers. For dessert, she had the Grilled pineapple with sorbet while he opted for the fruit salad she made. It pleased her when she saw that he liked it.
“Excuse me,” she said when she finished having the dessert.
When she got up and took up her handbag, he looked a bit alarmed. “You’re not leaving now, are you?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m just going to freshen up,” she told him and saw him relax. She took up the dirty plates and carried them with her. Ten minutes later, she rejoined him.
He stood up. “Let’s go for a walk on the beach,” he suggested.
She left her handbag in the chair and followed him into the house. They went through the front and down the steps leading to the beach. When they got to the bottom, she stopped to remove her sandals and felt even smaller next to him. Her toes curled into the soft sand. She loved the feel of the sun on her face and the smell of the sea. They walked along the beach on the dry sand for a while until the house was no longer visible.
Then, Joel stopped and turned to face her, his expression tense as he stared down into her upturned face. “Sherry, first I want you to know that when I called you “Glamor Puss, I wasn’t doing it to upset you. It was just my way of saying that you are a very glamorous woman.”
“I thought you were teasing me because of the way I dress,” she said.
“I’m sorry if it came across that way. That wasn’t my intention at all.”
“How come you didn’t call me that today?”
“I know you don’t like it so I decided today that I would stop.”
“Sherry, I have something very important to say to you.”
Her heart was racing now. “Yes?”
“I’m crazy about you. I don’t know how you feel about me but I’m really hoping that you would consider going out with me.”
She swallowed hard. “I don’t know what to say except—”
He looked away, a muscle throbbing in his cheek. “You don’t have to decide right now.”
She stepped closer to him. “What I was going to say was I don’t know what to say except yes.”
His head snapped back and he stared at her. “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “Yes, I’m sure.”
Groaning, he pulled her into his arms, making her gasp and his head swooped down.
Dropping her sandals in the sand, she put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. As they exchanged fiery kisses, she thought how true the saying, “If you can’t get someone off your mind, maybe they’re supposed to be there. Remember: ‘The mind can recognize what the heart is trying to deny.’” After fighting it for three years, she was finally surrendering to the love which burned inside her.