The Borrowed Boyfriend(6)

By: Ginny Baird

It was definitely medical week. Well, she supposed Carla had connections… The pediatrician sounded promising until she read the next line.

Six kids.

Six? Allison loved children, honestly she did. But she’d hoped to get started on them individually, not by the half dozen! A single dad wasn’t necessarily out, but Allison didn’t think she had the wherewithal to play Sister Maria to a ready-made brood. She couldn’t even sing!

Before she could respond, Carla rapidly typed:

Come on, you loved The Sound of Music.

Allison switched off her phone and laid it facedown on the counter.

“And so it begins…” Allison looked up to see Kate had settled herself in beside Grady on the sofa. “The litany of inappropriate matches for Allison,” Kate continued, “and her poor lovelorn soul.”

“Carla’s just trying to be helpful,” Allison answered dejectedly.

“That was Carla?” Kate gasped. “Isn’t she always the last one to offer choices?”

Allison’s heart sank because it was true. “We’re getting down to the wire, here.”

“That means...there’ve been—”

“Twenty-two of them so far.”

Grady sat up a little straighter. “Wow. Impressive. All these guys want to date you?”

Allison shook her head. “You haven’t seen the guys.”

“What’s wrong with them?” Grady asked.

“Nothing’s really wrong. In fact, I’m betting they’re all great guys…”

“Just not the guys for you?”

Grady had nailed it.

Allison gestured to her phone and frowned. “Everyone thinks I’m lonely…lost. And all my college friends are—”

Grady quirked a smile. “Found?”

Allison laughed in spite of herself. But it was a sad little laugh, not a joyful one.

“If you want to look at it that way. They all claim to be in love. Madly and deeply enamored.” Allison gave a resigned sigh. “They can’t imagine what’s wrong with me because I’m not.”

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Grady said kindly. “Lots of people are not.”

Kate scrutinized him.

“I mean, not in the perfect relationship, or in any relationship at all.”

“I know it’s true,” Allison answered. “But thank you for saying so.” She’d always thought of Grady as brash and insensitive. Perhaps because that’s the way Kate painted him. Now, Allison wondered if Kate’s sweeping portrayal of Grady as a self-focused macho male was entirely accurate.

“So, how does it work, anyway?” Grady asked her. “Do you audition these men by text?”

“Audition? No!” Allison spouted, horrified. “It’s nothing like that!” She didn’t know why Grady’s opinion of her mattered, but Allison didn’t want anyone thinking of her as being that uncaring. Even if there were dating apps that did approximately the same thing, she’d never used them. Allison had never even been on any Internet dating sites. True love couldn’t be reduced to algorithms or simple technology. Matters of the heart were much more complicated than that. At least in Allison’s view they were. She was a believer in fate. When the timing was right, the perfect guy would find her. Or maybe they’d simultaneously find each other.

While Allison used her head in business, when it came to relationships, she was a feeler, not a thinker. Love couldn’t be planned for or analyzed in advance. It just sort of rolled over you like a truck, and when that mother lode hit you, you simply knew it.

That’s what Allison thought it would be like, anyway. She’d never experienced the emotion personally. Sure, she’d dated, and Allison had liked some guys a lot. Contrary to what her college friends thought, Allison had even had a real-life boyfriend or two. But none of them had bowled her over.

“Her friends text Allison the guys’ pictures,” Kate explained to Grady, “and one or two things about them.”

“And then you choose?” Grady turned his eyes on Allison and her heart caught in her throat. Grady made it sound like she was shopping for a new appliance. Allison couldn’t help but feel humiliated. This entire situation made her look inept—incapable of coming up with a passable date for one short week out of the year. Even though it was just Kate and Grady here with her, Allison felt exposed. As if the whole world had seen her in her underwear. Next week was creeping up on her and Allison didn’t have a plan. It was probably too late to take up the guitar and become a singing nun. And in that case, the pediatrician was out. So was the hairy-eared dentist. Allison didn’t even want to think about the guy who liked shoes. She was a wreck.