“The heart of my art is the reality I infuse into my pieces. But enough about my passion . . . speaking of which . . . let me make a toast.” Ben raises his wine glass and continues, “Here’s to two souls brought together by Cousin Gail.” He smiles across to his date, Molly.
Molly clinks her glass against his and says, “Three months ago when I moved to this city, I knew nothing about its night life. Now, I know what a great menu Andre’s has, so I’ll definitely be coming back here. Thanks for the awesome dinner. I’m so glad I listened to Gail because I’m having a really nice time with you, Ben. ”
“You’re too kind. I hope I didn’t bore you too much about all that talk about my artwork.”
“I appreciate anyone who has that much passion about anything. I’m in Finance where even the people I work with are as dry as the numbers I look at all day. I have bills to pay and I’m still in search of a passion. I admire anyone who finds something that makes a difference in their life. The only difference my job is making is subtracting my college debt. Plain and simple.” She pauses and drinks some more. “Excuse me for a minute. “ Molly gets up to go to the restroom.
As she fixes her hair in front of the mirror, she suddenly feels embarrassed for spouting off like someone who has nothing going on in her life. It’s the alcohol talking, and I don’t care, she thinks. She realizes she’s been feeling lonely and friendless since moving from her hometown. She goes back out to join Ben.
“Let’s drink to Gail,” Ben proposes when Molly sits back down.
After they finish their drinks, she says, “Just so you know, I don’t usually go out on blind dates. I only said yes because Gail is my best friend. And by the way, I’m glad I did. It’s just so funny how between texting and emailing, Gail was able to arrange us to meet. I miss her, I wish she lived here too.”
Ben leans forward. “As long as you maintain contact, you’ll always be friends. Gail told you how close her mom and my mom were, right? Neither had siblings, so they adopted each other as sisters and pretty much dubbed me and Gail as cousins. When Dad got transferred to Asia right after we finished eighth grade, my Mom drilled into me the importance of keeping in touch with friends and relatives. So every year, I send Christmas wishes to friends and family. I’m glad I did too because when I came back to the States, they were there to support me. I move around quite a bit. It’s always about where the job is.”
“Got that right. You go where the money is.” Molly sighs.
“Hey listen, I hope you don’t think I’m being too forward, but I’d really like you to come to my place and check out my sculptures.” Ben flags down their server. Molly thinks why not. He’s Gail’s cousin after all even if not by blood. She also feels a connection with him, so she accepts his invitation.
Ben drives outside the city. He explains, “I have a studio unit in a sketchy neighborhood, but it’s affordable and close to work. I bought this little house out in the country to get away from all that noise, as well as work on my art in peace. I get my inspiration from the city though.”
They enter the house and Ben flicks on the switch. Molly sees an old woman carrying a paper bag in one corner of the living room. From another corner is a young man with a stethoscope around his neck and a clipboard resting on one arm. “Wow, I’ve never seen so many lifelike sculptures. You’re so talented.” She walks over to where a little girl is tying a shoe. Molly bends down to inspect her.
“Please don’t touch.” Ben is by her side. “I’m still debating with myself whether I’ll ever be ready to show off my creations.”
Molly stands up and feels her head spin. “Whoa, I drank more than I usually do. I might not be good company after all. Maybe I should go home . . .”
“No worries,” Ben takes her arm and leads her back to one of the bedrooms. “Come on over here and rest.” He turns on the light and she sees an S-shaped loveseat with a male figure sitting on one end with his head swiveled toward the other seat, where Ben is guiding her. “Let’s park you here.” He gently folds her lap because she’s starting to feel stiff and unable to move. Instantly, she realizes her folly. Her tongue seems stuck in her mouth. With the diminishing sensations she’s feeling, the last recognizable touch is Ben turning her head toward the still figure before her. A handsome man stares at her with eyes that look frightened.
Ben kisses her forehead. “I’ll be right back.”
True to his word, he returns and she sees him using an eyedropper to put a few drops of liquid on the eyes of the young man staring at her. “Oops, where are my manners? Molly, meet Jack. You might say he’s your real blind date.” He chuckles. “Sorry about the pun. After his eyes whiten, I’m going to paint them green to match his shirt.” He turns toward her and proceeds to put drops in her eyes, too. “And you, my beautiful Molly, so perfect for my piece. I will paint yours blue to bring out the aquamarine in your dress. Utter synchronicity. I’m calling this piece ‘My Valentine.’ Happy Valentine’s Day!”