Love in All the Right Places

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“It’s not just the money. It’s the prestige, too. I mean, why go to all that time and expense if there aren’t some really great perks, right? Sure, a lot of lawyers make good money, but no one really likes lawyers. But who ever heard a doctor joke? People love doctors and for good reason.” He smiled at her then said, “And I’m not talking about driving a nice car or…” He pulled on the lapels of his very expensive suit and continued, “Nice clothes. Those are just a couple of those perks of the job I’m talking about. You know, like being able to afford to travel or having a great home on the water.”

He looked at her plate and said, “You’ve barely touched your meal. Do you want me to send it back?”

Before she could respond, he was snapping his fingers and calling for their server. “Over here! Yes, you. Come over here!”

The young woman walked quickly toward him and asked how she could help. “The salmon isn’t right. Take it back and have them send out another piece.”

“Right away, sir,” the young girl said as she reached for the woman’s plated.

“It’s fine, really,” she said to the girl. “I’m just not all that hungry.”

“Nonsense! We paid good money to eat here, we should at least get the food done the way we want. Take it back,” he said again.

The girl reached for the plate again and the woman gave in and let her take it. When she came back a few minutes later, the man didn’t even thank her. All he said was, “You can’t let people walk on you like that, Paige. You gotta stand up for yourself.”

She smiled politely and forced herself to take a bite.

As the man she was with continued to ramble on—about himself—she noticed a younger man at a table behind them who caught her eye and smiled. He nodded at the man she was with and shook his head. She was barely able to suppress a laugh and managed to keep it to a smile.

“What’s funny about a kidney transplant? You work at a kidney center, right? I don’t see anything funny about that.”

“I wasn’t smiling at that,” she said quietly. The younger man held up a hand and opened and closed it rapidly pretending it was talking and she immediately understood he was mocking her date who kept going on and on about his profession, his home, his money, and his many possessions.

The server came back to get their plates and said, “Can I get you some dessert or maybe a cup of coffee?”

The younger man saw her start to speak then get cut off by her pretentious date. “No thanks. We’ve had enough of this place. Just bring me the check, sweetheart.”

When she brought it, the doctor said, “Okay, what do you say we get out of here?”

“No,” the woman said.

“What? What do you mean ‘no’? We’re leaving.”

“No, you’re leaving. I’m staying.”

“Okay. Fine. Tell me, just how do you plan to get home?” he asked snidely as he stood up.

“I’m not sure. Walk? Hitchhike? Call a cab? Anything that doesn’t involve spending more time with you works for me,” she said directly without sounding angry.

“Are you serious? You get asked out by a successful doctor and you act like this? Wow. Good luck ever finding someone like me.”

“Thank you for dinner,” she said. “Both bites were delicious. But I want coffee and a piece of their pecan pie which you decided for me I didn’t want or need.”

The younger man smiled at and got the server’s attention as this was going on.

“Fine. Suit yourself. Walk home. It’s your loss,” he said as he threw ten bucks on the table for her dessert and walked away.

A few seconds later, the same young lady brought her a slice of pie and a cup of coffee.

“Where did this come from?” she asked totally surprised.

The girl pointed to the younger man who smiled and raised his hand. He spoke just loudly enough for her to hear. “I don’t try and tell women I date what they want or don’t want. Especially the ones who are both beautiful and intelligent.”

The woman laughed politely and said, “Would you care to join me?”

He left his plate which he’d pretty much finished and sat down across from her. “Hi, I’m Kirk Leonard.”

“Good evening, Kirk. I’m Paige Allen who evidently isn’t very intelligent. After all, it appears I just threw away a winning lottery ticket.”

Both of them laughed then Paige thanked him for the coffee and dessert. “This was very nice of you. Thank you, Kirk.”

“My pleasure,” he told her. “Not to be too nosy, but do you have a way home on this dark, chilly Friday night? If not I’m happy to offer you a ride.”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “No offense, but I don’t even know you, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable riding with a stranger.”

“No offense taken,” he said with a smile. “But by the time we finish dessert, we won’t be strangers.”

She laughed again then said, “We? I don’t see any dessert in front of you.”

“You see, that’s all part of my master plan,” he told her very seriously.

“Master plan?” she said before taking a small first bite. “Mmmm. This is amazing!” she said as she chewed. keçiören escort “Sorry. I don’t normally talk with food in my mouth. You were saying?”

“Yes. My master plan. You see, I plan on letting you eat your dessert while I charm you by not talking about myself, not telling you what I do for a living, and not telling you how much I earn.” He saw her smile then said, “And then I’ll order dessert for myself while you tell me all about you. Or…yourself or whatever the correct grammar is supposed to be. Oh, and you can skip the part about how attractive you are. I already have that down pat.”

His nonsense made her laugh forcing her to put a hand over her mouth as she continued eating. “You’re cute but a little too young for my taste,” she told him.

“That’s fine,” he said. “I’m…an acquired taste.” She laughed again before he said, “I tend to grow on people.” She didn’t respond so he said, “You know, like a bad fungus.”

“Oh, my goodness. That was bad!” she said.

“But I made you smile again.”

“That was a pity smile because of your pitiful attempt at humor.”

“Okay, but you’re still smiling,” he pointed out.

“Just how old are you, Kirk?” she asked before taking another tiny bite.

He leaned closer, looked to his left then his right, then said, “Twenty-three.” He paused then added, “And a half. Don’t forget the half.”

Paige covered her mouth again as she laughed and said, “Twenty-three? Do your parents know where you are?”

I looked around again then said, “Yes and no. My mom thinks I went to a Boy Scout meeting, but my dad knows the truth. You won’t tell her, will you?”

She was genuinely laughing and smiling now. Not loudly but she was definitely laughing. “You’re right, you do grow on people.”

“Told you,” he quipped.

“So is this what you consider ‘charming a woman’, Kirk?”

“Not normally, but when she’s as attractive and sophisticated-looking as you, it’s pretty much my only hope.” He leaned her way again and asked, “Why? Is it working?”

“Maybe a little,” she replied. “So what is it you don’t do for a living that you’re not going to tell me about?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” he said sitting up straight. “I just watched you shred a very—no, an extremely successful and clearly very rich doctor. Do you actually think I’m gonna tell you what I do after witnessing that kind of beat down? Were I to say something like floor sweeper, it’d be game over!”

“I promise to be nice…er,” she told him. “I’m a social worker at the Northwest Kidney Center out by the airport. Does that make it any easier for you?”

Kirk stopped smiling and said in an almost hollow-sounding voice, “My sister, Meghan, goes there for dialysis. She’s on the list for a kidney transplant.”

Paige set her fork down and said, “Oh, my goodness. Kirk, I had no idea she’s one of our patients and I’m so sorry. How long has she been listed and how’s she doing?”

“As you know, there roughly 100,000 patients waiting for a kidney. She’s been on the list for four years and she’s up—or down to, depending on you look at it—to number 12,735. Well, as of this morning anyway.”

Paige obviously felt very bad about what she’d said. “Not having a family member on the list, I can’t claim to know what she and your family are going through, but as someone who sees patients in need of a transplant all day, every day, I’m very familiar with the stress, the anxiety, the loss of hope in some cases, and all that goes with it. I feel terrible now for giving you such a hard time.”

Kirk shook his head and told her, “Don’t. You didn’t know and that shouldn’t matter when it comes to people talking to one another for the first time. Having a sense of humor is really important and not just when it comes to matters of life and death. When it comes to being charming, I’d say you’re doing a pretty fantastic job.”

Paige lowered her eyes briefly and said, “Thank you, but I still can’t help but feel bad. If there’s anything I can reasonably do to help, will you please ask me?” Kirk told her he would so Paige said, “Is it possible we could get back to where we were before this very serious, very important matter came up?”

Kirk smiled and told her, “My father and I own an upholstery business and I’ve worked for or with him as long as I can remember.”

“Talk about coincidental. I have a sofa and an oversized chair in serious need of reupholstering. Where’s your business located, Kirk?”

“We’re in Burien just off of…”

Paige pretended to hit herself in the forehead and said, “Leonard’s Upholstery. Duh! I know exactly where it is. In fact, I was in there just last week checking on prices.”

“I’ll beat whatever price my dad quoted you by 10%. After all, we won’t be undersold,” Kirk said in an overly serious tone of voice.

“Oh, my goodness! You’re the boy in the ad with your father!” she said recognizing their slogan.

“That was me ten years ago, but yeah, that was yours truly.”

Paige smiled and turned etlik escort her head slightly as she looked at him.

“What? Did I spill mustard on my chin? What are you looking at?”

“It’s working,” she said with a smile.

“Oh, that’s…wonderful,” Kirk replied. “But um, what is it exactly that’s working?”

“Your charm. It isn’t great or anything, mind you. I’ve seen much better before. In fact, it’s not even really good, truth be told. But it is working. You really are growing on me.”

“Oh, that,” he said becoming serious again. “Yeah, you might want to get that checked before it spreads.”

Paige laughed again then told him, “I guess I could trust you to take me home—now that I’m pretty sure you’re not a serial killer or anything.”

“Who me? Nah, I just knock ’em off one at a time,” he said matter of factly.

“I doubt don’t that,” she replied. “You’re cute enough to um…’knock off’ a lot of girls so that doesn’t surprise me at all.”

The way she smiled at him emboldened him so he said, “Thank you for finally admitting the obvious. I was beginning to think you might need glasses or something.” She made a bit of a face which didn’t slow Kirk down in the least. “I mean, I realized how attractive you are the first time I saw you and had you asked me, I’d have admitted it immediately.”

“I admitted you’re kind of cute.” She smiled then said, “I’m also willing to admit I don’t have the best track record when it comes to dating.”

Paige sighed then said, “Tonight is an excellent case in point. I don’t know what it is, but I have this uncanny ability to pick one loser after the other. I’m a reasonably intelligent, very well-educated woman, so it seems it shouldn’t be so hard to find a really decent guy.” She paused then added, “But experience tells me it is. Or maybe I’m just making it more difficult than it needs to be.”

“Maybe you’re just looking for love in all the wrong the places,” Kirk offered.

“Perhaps,” she said forced to concede he might be right. “I work around a lot of doctors so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go out with them when they ask. Maybe I just haven’t met the right one yet.”

“Sometimes we have to widen the net a little.”

“Oh, I see. So that I can catch the much-younger…reasonably cute…upholsterer?” she said in a humorous way that told him it wasn’t meant to be mean.

“Right. Or even the floor sweeper or the guy who leans on his shovel on those road projects where no one ever seems to be working. Or…”

“Okay, you’ve made your point. But I still don’t see anything wrong with doctors in general.”

“Me, either. I mean, I’d consider asking one out,” he said feigning smugness. “Well, if she was cute enough, of course.”

“Ugh! If I still had my salad plate I’d throw a piece of lettuce at you!” she said feigning disgust.

“How’s the pie, by the way?”

“Oh, the pie! I completely forgot.” She cut off a piece with her fork and held it out for him. “Here, see for yourself.”

Both Paige and Kirk had to stand up slightly to make it work, but he leaned over the table and let her feed it to him. He tried not to laugh at the way she held her hand under his chin in case some of it fell or dribbled out of his mouth the way his mother’d done when he was very young.

“Mmmm. That is good,” he said as he looked for the server to get her attention.

He watched Paige take another bite then said, “You know we just shared silverware.” She lowered her head slightly, raised her eyebrows and looked at him. “No, this is serious. There’s an Indian legend here in Washington that says once two people share the same fork, they’re forever bonded by an invisible force.”

“Right. I believe the English translation is ‘wishful thinking’. Or maybe…Bee Ess.”

Kirk couldn’t help but laugh as the server came order to take his order. “So tonight’s rather unpleasant turn of events aside, is there someone special in your life, Paige?”

“I’m tempted to say something cutesy like ‘my parents’, but I’ll be nice this one time and just tell the truth. No, there’s no one special in my life. How about you?”

“Me, either. But I just graduated from college last year so I’m not exactly worried.”

Paige cut her eyes at him and said, “Unlike someone…my age who’s biological clock is ticking away, right?”

“I didn’t say that,” Kirk said holding his hands up in a kind of ‘I surrender pose.’ “I mean, if I was going to say something like that I’d have said it’s ‘hammering so loudly you can’t hear yourself think.'”

Paige tore off a piece of pie crust and threw it at him. “So much for that charm of yours…buddy,” she said pretending to be deeply offended.

“I’m not going to ask your age—for several reasons, my health chief among them—but I will say that no matter what it might be, you’re an incredibly beautiful…and charming…woman.”

Paige’s expression softened as she said, “Thank you, Kirk. That was very nice to hear. Sometimes I feel anything but beautiful.”

“Then rus escort you need to stop hanging out with doctors who are either too blind or too arrogant to see how great you are.”

“Okay, you are once again back in my good graces thanks to your continuing charm offensive,” she said as she took another bite just as Kirk’s pie arrived.

They made small talk about work and college and life in general. Paige was a fellow University of Washington alumnus who had a master’s degree in social work who clearly enjoyed the challenges of her job at the kidney center.

“A bachelor’s was plenty for me. I got mine in business administration, but I have to say I’ve learned more from dad about actually running and administering a business than I did in four years of classroom study.”

“But it’s helpful to have both experience and credentials, right?” Paige offered.

“It certainly can’t hurt,” he agreed. “It’s possible I might want to move into some other business down the road and understanding general principles is always a good thing.”

“Do you not like working with your father?” she asked.

“No, I love working with him. He’s actually my best friend. Well, other than my mom and sister.” Kirk smiled then said, “In fact, after I graduated from college, his gift to me was 30% ownership in the business. That percentage goes up each year until we get to 51-49. Then whenever he finally retires, the business will be mine and for now at least, I can’t see myself selling it. However, the future has a habit of unfolding in ways we don’t often anticipate. My sister never expected to be suffering from kidney failure at 18, but that’s the hand she was dealt. So sometimes we…”

“That’s so true and so unexpected to hear from someone your age.”

“Watching someone you love slipping away right in front of you and being powerless to help can do that to a person,” he told her.

“Life really is short and sometimes it really can be unpredictable and even cruel.”

“It seems tragic to spend it looking for something to make us happy when the answer is often right in front of us,” he said with no hidden agenda.

Paige took his comment differently. “So perhaps the key is to open one’s eyes rather than to keep looking for meaning or even love in all the same…and…wrong places.”

“How else can we be sure we’re not missing something meaningful unless we’re looking…in every place? The universe can indeed be cruel, but it sometimes gives us opportunities. We just have to remember to watch for them.”

Kirk paid for his own dessert and tipped their server before saying, “Shall we?”

He helped Paige with her coat before stepping out into the cold fall air and opened the restaurant and car doors for her. She thanked him and said, “You’re also a gentleman. I like that very much.”

“My parents raised me that way and I do try. It’s not always easy to be a gentleman these days when some women wanted to treated no differently than a man—and not just at work where such things matter. It’s also a lot easier to be a gentleman to a woman who’s a lady. And a beautiful one at that.” He closed her door then went around and got in and started the car.

They got better acquainted on the 20-minute ride to her upscale apartment and the subject of upholstery came up again.

“I’ll be happy to come to your place and pick up your furniture assuming, of course, you’ve already selected your fabric. And I will give you a discount.” He smiled when he said it and Paige smiled back.

“I have some swatches at home and I’ve narrowed it down to two. Give me a couple of days, and I’ll give you a call.”

“Fair enough,” Kirk told her as he pulled in. “I’ll walk you to your door.”

“That’s not necessary,” she said even though he’d already turned off the engine.

“Maybe it isn’t necessary, but it’s the right thing to do. And please don’t open your door. That’s my job.”

Other than a street light in the parking lot, it was very dark and Paige couldn’t see his face too well, but she couldn’t help but smile again.

“If you insist,” she told him finding herself more and more charmed by this attractive, younger man.

He quickly walked around, opened her door, then helped her stand. “Thank you,” she said as he closed it.

He then offered her his arm which she also accepted. He escorted her to her door then waited for her to unlock it.

“I’m glad we met, Paige. I enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you. I’ll look forward to your call,” he told her.

“Same here, Kirk. I could never have imagined meeting someone your age who’s as…” She seemed to be searching for the right word. “Impressive…as you are. I had a really nice time tonight.” She smiled then added, “Well, with you, anyway.”

Kirk laughed at the reference to Dr. Strangelove. “Same here,” he said. “Listen, would you maybe like to try this again sometime only without the whole pompous-doctor-at-the-beginning thing?”

Paige laughed and said, “You know, before we talked, I’d have said ‘no’ without hesitation in spite of your rather handsome exterior.” She smiled then said, “But after getting to know you and giving what you said some thought, maybe I should try looking in some different places.”

“Is that a ‘yes’?” he asked with a smile.

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