Chapter Five

“So, what do you think, Cora?” Anticipation bubbled through my voice.

“So good!” she paused, obviously re-reading a section. “I think it’s your best one yet to be honest!”

I let out a grateful sigh. If my best friend Cora said a blog post was good, it was golden. She was the most honest and appreciated critic of my work.

I had finished and posted my blog late last night and had woken to a barrage of comments. My readers were the reason I loved my work. It was always nice to wake up to great feedback after a long night. Their comments made all the bad dates worth it.

“This is more hits than you’ve gotten in awhile, yeah?” she asked. I could hear her clicking around on her computer over the phone.

“Yeah, I think so” I said, scrolling down the comments. I was glad to see such a positive response to the post. Cora was right, there were more comments and shares than I had received in awhile.

“I guess Bathroom Dude was a big hit! Wait, hold on,” she said as there was a muffling noise from the other end of the phone. I could hear scratching as Cora moved the phone from her face and then bits and pieces from her side conversation.

“Okay, I’m back,” she said again.

“Really, Cora? You’re having a double shot at dinner?” I asked while also slightly covering a laugh.

“Hey don’t eavesdrop! And it’s fine, that stuff barely touches me anyway.”

“You’re insane,” I said as I reached for the post-it note with my login information.

“Me? You’re the one going out on a date your sister set you up on. Where are you going again?” she asked.

“Dinner. Keepin’ it simple,” I said. I opened up the Kindling Dating website and began browsing. My humiliating profile, the chat conversation and the website as a whole seemed much less intimidating now after the success of my last post. Success had an odd medicinal effect. I was too excited about my good post to be anxious about the Kindling Dating website or my upcoming date.

Cora chuckled. “I think it’s awesome. Tell Rosie she has my complete respect.”

“You tell her,” I scoffed.

“Oh, I totally will next time I’m in town,” Cora promised.

“Does that mean you’re coming to town?” I asked hopefully. My tone was equipped with a persuasive attempt in it. Cora lived in Orlando, and although we were in the same state it still required a three and a half hour drive either way, which made coordinating visits rather difficult. I needed to see my best friend much more than I actually got to.

“Not any time soon. Sorry, girl,” she said. “Work has been crazy. I’ve been picking up extra shifts left and right until we can hire somebody new. It sucks.”

“Darn. I was hoping,” I said solemnly.

“Yeah, I know. Me too,” she said. “Now quit changing the subject! I want to know more about this date! Tell me everything.”

I gave an obnoxious sigh into the phone before I began, “Well, his name is Gabe. He’s a business owner.”

“Nice!” she interrupted. “Maybe that means he’ll pay for dinner this time!”

I laughed and started filling out a date request on the website. “A girl can dream.”

“What are you doing?” she asked starkly, “I keep hearing your keys typing. Are you writing another blog or something?”

“No,” I hesitated for an instant, my fingers hovering guiltily over the keys. “I’m actually signing up for another date…”

“Really? Already?” she asked, impressed. “You haven’t even met this guy yet.”

“Yeah I know, I’m…” I began, but trailed off as I looked for the submit button.

“You think things are going to go that well?”

“No, I mean with another guy,” I replied, frowning. Why in the world would I set up a second date with a guy I hadn't even met yet?

“What? Why?” she was genuinely surprised. “This guy sounds like the most promising guy not for your blog that you've had in a long time.”

“Because, Cora. I’m hedging my bets,” I explained.

“Hedging your bets?” she asked. I could hear the displeased expression on her face. She was almost as bad as Rosie.

“Yeah, I need bad dates to fuel my blog. Did you forget that that’s how I pay my bills?”

Cora sighed. “Yeah, I get that Harper,” she said. “But don’t you feel like you should at least give him a chance?”

“I am giving him a chance! We have a date scheduled, don’t we?”

“Well yeah, but you’re already assuming it’s going to go badly.” She sounded disappointed.

“I have experience with these things, Cora,” I said. If I wasn't sitting at my computer, I would have put my hands on my hips.

“I think it’s just wishful thinking for your blog. And I don’t know if that’s healthy…”

I rolled my eyes. “You sound like my sister right now.”

“Well, maybe we both just want you to find someone you actually like,” she said. “You deserve some love in your life.”

“Actually, you sound like my mom,” I decided. “And that’s much worse.”

“Please,” she said, and I could hear her put her glass down. “Just give this guy a chance? I have a good feeling about this one.”

I allowed silence to be my response. All of the women in my life were hoping this would be my Prince Charming and I was the only one sane enough to be cautious. I was just glad I wasn't talking to my Mom, Rosie, and Cora all at the same time. Those were the ingredients for a storm that could wipe out the whole Florida coast.

“What if he’s the perfect guy for you, Harper?” Cora asked after a moment.

I laughed silently to myself. “Cora there is no such thing as a perfect guy,” I said.

After repeating this same conversation with different people I had developed an inventory of preset responses. Why everyone was so certain that this was a ‘perfect match’ was beyond me. “Like I said, putting another date or two in the books is just hedging my bets. If he is the perfect guy, then I can just cancel them.”

“I don’t know, Harper…” Cora trailed off as she spoke.

“And besides, everyone knows you’re my soulmate!” I said with a sort of exaggerated flare.

Cora laughed. “Okay. I am your sole mate,” she agreed. “I have to get some work done. I want to know all the details about the date! And the guy. I want to know everything.”

“Of course!”

“Alright. I’ll talk to you soon. Love you,” she carried the last syllable affectionately.

“Love you too, Cora,” I said and hung up.

I set my phone down on my desk and continued scrolling through my old dating profile on the free website. I wasn't quite ready to test the waters with a second date from the same expensive site. What if the dating algorithm Kindling Dating actually worked? Besides, I didn't want to go through and have to change all of Rosie's hard work.

No, I knew that if I wanted a bad date, I should go with my tried and true method. Free dating site with answers that were actually applicable. If I wanted to meet actual guys, I needed to come up with better answers. Rosie's answers on Kindling Dating were mostly true, but so off the mark as to what men wanted. I had to put what guys were looking for. Not what I actually was.

I clicked to the page with my next top match on my old dating site and began scanning his profile before confirming the date. He looked nice enough. A Miami man named Dave who liked deep-sea fishing and bowling. There was nothing on his profile that screamed warning, but then again, there usually never was. At least not with the sane ones. I had seen enough profiles in my life to know that they’re never exactly as advertised. Even if their personalities were riddled with trouble, most men were at least competent enough to know what to reveal and what not to reveal on a dating profile. This profile was no different. He knew how to disguise his brand of crazy, whatever it was.

The problem was that Rosie and Cora hadn’t seen the hundreds of online dating profiles that I had. I’d seen them all—good and bad—and I knew how they played out. If they consistently saw all the pitiful profiles that I did, they would share the same pessimism. They would understand that the best and most likely scenario would mean more material for my blog. And this one—I continued scrolling through his profile and descriptions—looked like it would make perfect blog fodder.

I clicked the button to send the confirmation. Now I just had to wait for him to reply. I felt like delving into more matches to find more potential blog suitors, but I remembered my conversation with Cora. Maybe she’s right, maybe it’s not the healthiest approach, I thought. But regardless, the success of my recent post was evidence that I was doing something right.

Instead of looking for more matches, I clicked back to Kindling Dating and to the match that Rosie had found. Gabe.

The smile in his picture sure was charming. It was like he was beaming up at me through the computer screen. His smile was piercing and his emerald eyes locked on me as if he were standing two feet away and making eye contact. I felt the urge to smile back.

I knew that it was dangerous to get too smitten with someone’s online profile picture. Lots of people hide behind a good photo, but evidently there was some reason that Kindling Dating thought that we would make a good match. A perfect match, if that was even possible.

Were their algorithms really capable of assembling the perfect fit? The whole concept of a ‘perfect fit’ in general had always seemed cliché to me. Certainly great fits and happy couples existed. I had seen proof of happy marriages between two people that worked great for each other. But they were never between two people as… particular… as myself. They were always between two nice and pleasant people, not a pair of sarcastic realists, whose best friends also happened to be extremely sarcastic.

For a second I paused and chuckled at the idea of marrying Cora. There’s no doubt it would be intensely amusing, but we would drive each other up the wall.

Although isn’t that the whole idea of marriage, I thought. Find someone that you enjoy enough not to kill when they drive you insane?

I caught myself staring off into space, imagining what a perfect marriage would look like, and I made an effort to refocus. There was research that needed to be done.

I started writing my message to Mr. Bowler.

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