I give free lessons to men.
The red wine had a lot to do with it.
If we hadn’t been polishing off the wine Sherry’s boss had given her for Christmas, I probably would never have ended up on “Live with Lola,” telling all. Not that I’m shy or anything, but I usually keep my private stuff to myself—especially when it comes to men.
Delinda, Sherry and I were kicking back at Sherry’s apartment that Friday night, watching a “Boy Toy” segment on “Live with Lola.” Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Tom Cruise—that’s the kind of guy who’d slink out from behind the deep blue curtains and hunker down on Lola’s tiger-striped sofa to look soulfully into her baby blues and divulge all. We loved it. Delinda and I held our glasses high and Sherry poured.
“Just a little for me,” I insisted. “You know how nuts I get on this stuff.”
“Marcie, we’re counting on it, honey,” Sherry said, filling my glass to the brim.
I sighed and settled back. One headache every so often wouldn’t kill me. Besides, I was safe: Delinda and Sherry were my best friends.
The show started and our chatter stopped. Lola made her entrance, moving like warm taffy in her pink stiletto slings. Her platinum hair caught the lights as she gave a coquettish wave to the audience. They went wild, lots of whistles and hoots.
“They just love her,” Delinda said.
“She’s our girl!” Sherry settled down on the floor.
Yep, that Lola was something, all right. Her pink silk shirt was unbuttoned just enough to reveal a tantalizing bit of cleavage. Turquoise tights hugged her shapely legs and what you could see of her firm, taut backside under that shirt. As the camera dallied on her, she slipped off her heart-shaped sunglasses and smiled, then sank onto the couch. She draped an arm across the back, her long pink fingernails tracing one of the tiger stripes.
“Today, as always, we’re going to tell all,” Lola purred. “Only difference is, today the men of your dreams are going to do the telling. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it, if you know what I mean.” Her laugh was throaty and suggestive. The audience went wild.
“She’s something,” I said. “She takes on the world, with no apologies. Lola calls the shots, all right.”
“Here’s to Lola!” Sherry lifted her glass. “She’s got what we all want—sex appeal and freedom!”
Well, the parade of hot men began and they were to die for: biceps and devil-may-care smiles, thighs straining at snug jeans, hair that fell over mischievous eyes. They were devilish and dangerous, and that’s what we’d tuned in to see—eye candy. We weren’t at all disappointed.
Lola played them like a twelve-string guitar. She leaned forward with her questions, as if to catch every word of their response. How did they manage to keep their eyes on her face and not on her low cut-shirt? She batted those long lashes, smiled in adoration, and occasionally put a hand on her Boy Toy’s arm, giving just a gentle squeeze.
“Hmm. Wonder what his wife will think of that,” I murmured, holding out my glass as Sherry opened the second bottle of wine.
Lola was brash and beautiful, sexy and secure. At least, that’s what I thought back then.
The hour went too fast, and we were glued to the screen until the very end.
“Wasn’t that something?” Lola asked her audience as the eye candy left the set. She fanned herself with one hand as if to get her temperature back to normal. Then she leaned toward the camera and cocked an eyebrow.
“Okay, ladies, these fellows are sex symbols, no doubt about it. But I think a lot of you out there have your own opinions about what’s hot and what’s not. We want you to call in and tell us some of your own ‘rules’. Throw out the book! Be crazy. We’re looking for ballsy women who can speak out.”
A phone number flashed across the screen. I yawned, fighting the wine to keep awake. Maybe Sherry would make coffee.
“I’d start with first dates,” Delinda said, giggling, obviously feeling a little happy herself. “If you’re hitting it off and he tries to kiss you, it should be wet and warm, not the pursed lip, grandpa kiss!”
“You’ve got a point,” I mumbled sleepily.
“On that first date, you have to watch body language,” Sherry pointed out, always the more analytical one. “If he talks about his ex and starts to crouch just a little as if he’s protecting himself, then he’s not over her.”
“Run for the hills!” Delinda chimed in.
“Agreed.” I curled up on the sofa. It was hard getting my words out with my tongue so thick.
“And just what would your rule be?” Sherry needled me. She knew I was getting stupid and she loved it when I let my guard down.
I held up one finger. “Never go to bed with a guy on the first date.”
Delinda and Sherry burst into wild laughter. “Right,” said Sherry. “Unless he’s Shane McCullough.”
“Ouch! That hurts. That really hurts,” I admitted. “Especially when he never called again.” It still made me sad to remember Shane, the one time I’d broken my own rule for a guy who’d forgotten my telephone number the very next day.
“And then, the size of their feet.” I felt a sudden surge of energy, waved one hand in the air and knocked over a vase of artificial daisies on Sherry’s table. “Absolutely immaterial, my dear Watson. It’s the size of their hands that counts.”
“Really?” Sherry continued to encourage me. “What other pearls of wisdom do you have, Marcie Hansen?”
“Take your time . . . and time is on your side.” I launched into a spirited, if slightly soggy, version of the Stones’ classic song.
“And is there any advice you would give if you were on ‘Live, With Lola!’?” Sherry asked.
“Stop yelling!” I held my head. “Sure. Why not? Always watch how a man eats. You’ll know just how good he is in the sack.” That last word came out sounding like “shack.”
It was at about this point that I noticed Sherry was holding a phone. Her face brightened.
“You do? Hey, great!” she said into the phone. “She’ll be there. Taping in a week. All right!”
At least I thought that’s what she said. It was so warm in that room that I fell asleep.
When I woke up the next day, Sherry’s cat was licking my hand and I was still sprawled out on the sofa. My mouth tasted nasty and my head throbbed as I struggled to sit up. Since the blinds weren’t drawn I shut my eyes against the bright sunlight streaming in through the window. Sherry was singing in the kitchen.
“Time to rise and shine!’ She appeared in the doorway holding a steaming mug of coffee. My stomach turned and I held up one hand in protest.
“Poor baby.” She sat next to me and wrapped my fingers around the mug. “Here you go. This’ll get you going.”
“Well, let’s put it this way: We finished the wine!” She laughed.
My jeans and sweater felt grubby. I needed a shower and a shampoo. Toothpaste wouldn’t have hurt either. I checked my watch.
“Thank goodness I’m not scheduled today. This is the last time I help you two finish off anything,” I moaned. “I feel awful. Did I do anything stupid last night?”
“Well, not stupid. Not really. But you did volunteer for ‘Live, with Lola!’ ”
“I did what?”
Sherry looked sheepish. “Well, we kind of helped you, but you’ll be a great spokeswoman, Marcie! Don’t you see? You can be the voice of experience, helping other women to avoid the common pitfalls of being single.”
“Or I could make a major fool out of myself.”
“Marcie, you’ve dated more than any of us. We always said you should write a book. This is your chance.”
“My chance for what? To become a laughingstock?” I set the mug on the coffee table and dropped my head into my hands.
Sherry was on her feet now, her hands on her hips. “To let men know that they don’t really call the shots and to educate them about the woman’s point of view,”
“Michael is going to love this.” I could just picture the shocked expression on my boyfriend’s face when I told him that I was going to appear on “Live, with Lola!” Michael thought Lola was an exhibitionist and a tramp.
So that’s how it started. The taping was scheduled for the following week. Although the whole thing made me very nervous, I admit that after I thought about it, I was kind of excited. Me—on “Live, with Lola!”
When I told Michael about the upcoming segment, just as I’d expected, he was anything but supportive of me.
“You’re kidding, right?” he asked.
I played with my fork. It was Saturday night and we were in my favorite Italian restaurant for dinner before going to a movie. “Of course I’m not kidding. I think it will be interesting. Educational.”
“She’s a whore.” Michael pushed his wire-rimmed glasses up with one finger and brushed some crumbs of bread off the red tablecloth with his other hand.
“She just does her own thing. What’s wrong with that? Lola doesn’t care what anyone thinks.”
“She’s in it for the money, Marcie. Wake up.” He wound his spaghetti around his fork with precision.
My blood began to boil. “She’s the voice of all of us. She’s liberated.”
“She’s a moron.”
I watched him fold his napkin and thought, Yep—this is why when the lights go off, I don’t get turned on. Sex is way too messy for this man.
Well, it’s a good thing we were seeing a movie that night and didn’t have to talk to each other. It was an action flick and Michael seemed into it. I was seething. I think he got the message. When we got back to my place I quietly said I wasn’t feeling well and he gave a me peck on the cheek and disappeared down the hallway.
Twice that following week Sherry, Delinda, and I met to grab a bite after work. I jotted down notes as they listed their hot issues and pet peeves. My stomach was doing a little dance that was somewhere between excitement and terror. Could I really talk about all this stuff on television?
“Michael’s not exactly thrilled about my upcoming television debut. Men just can’t handle us taking matters into our own hands,” I told Sherry one evening when we were checking out the sale racks at the mall. “They think they have to have all the answers, that they’re in charge. How could I have thought this man might be the father of my children?”
Sherry gave me a blank look. “You did?”
“Don’t we all? Don’t we hope that every date we have will turn out to be Mr. Right?”
Shrugging, she grabbed two sweaters and followed me to the fitting room. “Yeah, but Michael? Didn’t you tell me he weighs his food?”
“All right, so he’s an engineer. They’re . . . oh . . . organized. Methodical.”
“Yeah. That, too. So maybe he is a little anal.” Every negative thought I’d ever had about Michael now came back to haunt me.
Well, there were reasons for dating him. He was attractive and had a good job. For some reason, after our Saturday night dates—after which he usually spent the night—I often ended up humming Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Even though Michael didn’t put a helluva lot into it, I still made sure I got something out of it. I had a stressful job as a nurse in an orthopedic unit and I needed some relaxation. Having his strong arms around me felt good.
But maybe I was just kidding myself about the “happily ever after bit.” Maybe all women do that at one point or another.
The days before the show passed quickly. There were moments of total panic when I really thought of calling the producers of “Live, with Lola!” and giving them some excuse as to why I couldn’t be on the show. I was having doubts about it. Even though I’d be representing Sherry’s and Delinda’s views, did I really want to be the one who “told all?”
Sure, I’d been single for thirty-two years and I’d been lucky. I’d dated a lot. But I hadn’t found the man of my dreams, not by a long shot. Although I was a nurse, I avoided dating the docs. They had busy lives, took calls at night, and most of them were married. An affair with a married man had never made sense to me. You always take a chance with any single guy that he might break your heart. Why go looking for trouble with a married man?
I’d been involved with men who still loved their ex wife or ex girlfriend, and I found out that you really can’t change them. You’re better off moving on. Then there are guys with small children who take up more time than I was willing to give. Besides, I wanted to have my own family someday.
So I’d smiled through many dinners and cocktail parties and sat through many plays and concerts with a lot of really nice guys who turned out to be Mr. Wrong.
Casual sex had never been my thing. There’s too much to worry about nowadays. As a nurse, even though my current field was orthopedics, I was well aware of all of the sexually transmitted diseases out there. I wasn’t about to take that kind of risk. The joke “Herpes is forever” isn’t funny in my book.
Then there are the far more serious viruses—like AIDS or all the strains of hepatitis. One of our doctors contracted hepatitis C during surgery. Even though we wore goggles and gloves, somehow he’d gotten it. That was the end of his career and the only bright spot was that he had disability insurance. What would his future be? Maybe a liver transplant somewhere down the road. But for a guy who loved to ski and run, it was pretty much over. He could look forward to increasing fatigue and exhaustion.
He picked up hepatitis C in the OR, but it would be a lot easier to get it from unprotected sex. So many people didn’t even know about it.
So there are limits, rules, and consequences for not knowing the rules. It sure isn’t easy. In fact, being single is a minefield if you’re sexually active.
For what reason did I want to go on television and talk about it? Well, as Sherry and Delinda said, someone had to do it. I told myself I was helping younger women avoid the mistakes I’d made. And, boy, I’d made plenty, but I’d tried to limit my losses.
Meanwhile, the television station had begun to promote the segment. The whole world seemed to know that I was going to be on the show. When I’d dash through the ER on my way to the fifth floor orthopedic unit, even the orderlies would call out, “Whoo, whooo! Marcie’s a star! She’s going to tell all!”
I’d duck my head and punch the button for the elevator. Well, I doubted I’d be Lola’s only guest—and that was a relief. Hopefully the women on the show would band together and offer our opinions as a group.
“Hey, I hear I’m working with a celebrity,” Dr. Nash commented that Monday.
“News sure travels fast around here,” I said. I’d worked with Dr. Nash for over five years and liked his good-natured kidding. “Yep, well, I guess somebody’s got to keep you guys in line.”
“My wife watches that show. I’m not knocking it. It’s just a little . . . controversial.” He began making notations on the chart and I hustled off to answer a patient’s call light.
Controversial. What did that mean? Probably that guys just didn’t want to hear what we had to say. My appearance was beginning to feel like a noble cause.
I’d arranged to take the day of the taping off. At one-thirty sharp, there I was in the Green Room, which was, for all intents and purposes, a holding tank. Delinda and Sherry sat on either side, trying to distract me. I took deep breaths and tried to envision cool, calm pools of water, but to no avail.
A coffee pot perked invitingly on a side cart, along with hot water for tea. There was no way I was going to risk having to go the bathroom in the middle of the show. I licked my lips and carefully fluffed my hair.
“You look terrific,” Sherry said.
I was wearing a matching purple sweater set and my new black pants. The fact that I worked out three times a week helped me look good in tight pants. I’d picked up my boots, which had a slight heel, on a shopping spree, and they made my legs look extra long.
“Oh, why am I doing this?” I groaned, watching the time tick closer to showtime. “Where are the other women?”
Delinda shot Sherry a look.
“What?” I asked. “What’s up?”
“Marcie, this is just you and some—”
Sherry never got to finish her sentence. The door opened and the three of us whirled around.
His jeans were slung low on his hips, a nice contrast to the broad shoulders that filled out his forest green sweater. As he came through the door he raked one hand through ragged hair that needed a trim. He stripped off a pair of sunglasses and hung them from the front of his sweater.
“I didn’t know this was Boy Toy day, too,” I murmured. Sherry and Delinda looked stricken and gave each other a guilty look. Suddenly I got it. “No. Oh, no—”
The newcomer zeroed in on us. “So, which one of you is the girl?”
“What ‘girl’?” I asked with a touch of sarcasm.
He folded his arms across his chest and bowed slightly. “Sorry. Woman. Which one of you is the woman?” The word “woman” definitely had two syllables.
I crossed my arms and my chin went up. “I am.”
He strolled to the coffee pot and regarded me from gray-green eyes as he poured himself a cup. “You’re the woman who’s going to talk to Lola and me about the boy-girl thing.” He held up a hand. “Sorry, sorry. I mean the male-female thing. Relationships. Whatever—oh, you know.”
I was steaming and this guy was turning up the heat. I shifted my gears fast, going from a one-of-the-girls discussion group mood into an adversarial stance. This guy made it easy.
Just then a woman in a floor-length flowered skirt and a peasant blouse swept in, holding a clipboard. She grabbed a pencil from behind her ear, checked her clipboard, and looked at the three of us expectantly. “Marcie?”
“That’s me.” I raised my hand and then quickly buried it under my arm, feeling like a schoolgirl.
“That would be me.” He waved his coffee cup at her, drained it, then tossed the cup into the waste can.
She smiled. “Terrific! You both look great. Now, if you’ll just follow me . . . ”
In the distance we could hear Lola’s theme song playing. The audience roared. My stomach plummeted but my shoulders squared. Curt was already out the door, following the assistant producer.
“Well, let the games begin,” I murmured to Sherry and Delinda as I passed them.
“You go, girl!” Sherry hissed, giving me a thumbs-up. “Do us proud.”
I stood next to Curt in the wings. We could hear Lola’s voice, husky and suggestive, saying. “Don’t you wonder what goes on in the single woman’s mind today?” A roar went up. “Sure, we all do, don’t we?” More cheers and some foot stomping. “Well, from the many callers we’ve chosen a bright young woman whose experience and wisdom set her apart . . . ”
And just who was Lola talking about? I wondered. Was that me? Panic overcame through me. Just then the assistant opened the curtain and gave me a push. Stiff with fear, I made it across the stage, my smile stretched from cheek to cheek while the crowd welcomed me with applause and whistles. I climbed the steps to the tiger-striped sofa, shook Lola’s hand, and sat down.
A heavy wave of perfume sent my stomach tumbling. Up close, Lola’s makeup was heavy. Her lips were sharply penciled in and mascara clotted on her lashes.
“Welcome, Marcie,” she purred, smiling at the camera instead of at me. “We’re so glad you could come. And now . . . ”
With that, she turned and Curt shouldered his way through the curtain and bounded up the steps. He shook Lola’s hand but she pulled him toward her, planting a kiss right on his cheek. If he was surprised, he recovered pretty quickly. This was a guy who never seemed to have a nervous moment.
In a flash, I saw how it would be. This was going to be a pitched battle between two opponents the producers thought they’d chosen carefully, except they didn’t know that the woman they’d heard that night had been drunk out of her mind.
Nevertheless, I’d just make the best of it. I smiled at Curt, whom Lola had angled between us. The lights were hot and blinding. Maybe that was a blessing. I really couldn’t see the people in the audience, just hear them. They were restless and raring to go.
“Now, Marcie.” Lola leaned toward me and her little teeth looked very sharp, like a Chihuahua’s. “Just what would you say is the biggest challenge in the singles’ dating scene today?”
I took a deep breath. “Well, Lola, I think we all want to meet quality people. Men who have some depth to them . . . ”
Lola held up her hands. “Oh, but there are so many. Where does one start?”
Was that a smirk on Curt’s face? I went on. “Lots of places. The personal ads. The Internet. Your friends.”
Lola nodded as if I’d just said something profound. “Interesting. What about work?”
“Dating men you work with can have professional complications.”
“Oh, I see.” Then she turned to Curt. “How about you, Curt? Where do you go when you want to meet that special someone?”
He leaned back and chuckled, his voice throaty and confident. The hair rose on the back of my neck. “Never a problem, Lola.”
Hah! Right, I thought. He probably picks up any hoochie he can charm off a bar stool!
“I’ll bet that’s not hard for you, is it?” Lola rested a hand on his arm.
Now suddenly it was being made to look like I had to beat the bushes for my dates, but women just fell into Curt’s lap. I felt perspiration trickle down between my shoulder blades.
“And when you’re on that date?” Lola’s penciled brows lifted. She swiveled over to me, almost with regret. Clearly she’d rather spend the hour focusing on Curt. “What is the major—?” She held up both hands as if she were forming a ball of pie dough. “—The major problem that keeps men and woman from truly coming together? Keeps them from understanding each other?”
I was thinking that one over when Curt jumped right in. “Women practically want a ring on the first date. They want to know how much money you’ve got in the bank and if you’re playing the field or looking for a serious relationship, because they sure are.”
I crossed my legs and sat back. Curt’s eyes shifted to my legs. “You know, Lola, I think the biggest problem with men is that they want intimacy on the first date,” I said as innocently as possible. “No prelude. They want to know on the first date just how sexual you’re prepared to be—and how soon.”
Curt cut in, his eyes flashing. “Hey, come on, Marcie. We like a little warmth, that’s all.”
“Oh, I don’t think so, Curt! I think men want more than ‘warmth’. They want to know right off the bat just how much you like sex and how much of it they can get from you without any commitment.”
Was that an incriminating blush working its way up Curt’s neck?
Lola was beaming. “What about that, Curt?”
He shook his head, giving me an almost pitying look. “Well, I don’t know who Marcie’s been dating, but I don’t know any guys who are insensitive enough to demand sex on the first date.”
My laugh was more of a bark. “Did I say that? I think I said that men want to know when and how much they’re going to get.”
Lola gasped. “You certainly don’t mince words, Marcie. Isn’t she great, folks?”
The crowd roared and the blood rushed to my head.
“I think Marcie may have misunderstood me,” Curt said, his good-natured smile tightening. “While men may certainly find a woman desirable, they aren’t coarse enough to think they’ll go to bed with her on the first date. I think most men want to get to know a woman first. Find out if she has any, well—depth, as Marcie so aptly put it.”
Well, he’d caught me off guard. He almost sounded sincere.
“And how long would that ‘getting to know each other’ period take?” Lola asked.
Curt and I regarded each other as if we were about to start bidding at a poker table.
“Six dates,” I said with certainty.
Curt laughed. “Oh, sure, make a guy wait that long.” The crowed roared again.
I tossed my head impatiently. “I think that by that time a couple knows if they want to explore their relationship further.”
“Well, men don’t necessarily like to have sex with every woman they go out with,” he said defensively. “We have scruples. We have standards. Hey—any guys out there? Would you agree?”
A male chorus went up. I tensed, sputtering, “Not every man has those standards.”
“Well, I suppose you never become intimate with a man just to have some company, just to make it though the night? Women never do that, do they?”
“Of course we do!” I blurted out before I could think. “But usually there’s some kind of exclusivity. Definitely that’s within a monogamous relationship.” What had I said? I cleared my throat to gather my thoughts.
Right then, I knew that it was over between Michael and me. I also knew it didn’t matter. Every woman in the room was applauding. Curt looked a little surprised and then he smiled slowly. By this time Lola had become a silent observer.
“Now, let me get this straight,” Curt said, leaning forward, his arm behind me on the sofa. “So you’d go out with a man who pleased you sexually if there was little hope of a future together, just to satisfy your physical needs?”
“Definitely.” Okay, maybe I was just making a point at the time. His grin widened. I found myself digging in my heels. “As long as the sex is safe. I don’t see any problem with that. And as long as the sex is consensual.”
“Safe sex.” He seemed to be turning the words over his mind as if it were a new philosophical concept.
Briefly I went though some basic facts about sexually transmitted diseases and the dangers they present. It was crisp and short, but by the time I finished Curt was nodding in silence. He didn’t seem at all defensive or dismissive, which a lot of guys would be. No smart comments from him. It didn’t seem as if any of that stuff was new to him.
But Lola was sitting up and taking notice. “Well, ah, Marcie, that’s . . . very interesting. Sounds as if we have a subject for another show, wouldn’t you say?”
I nodded. “Might be a good idea.”
Curt was regarding me silently, like a fencer who was planning his next lunge. But Lola wanted to get back on track. She wanted more bloodletting.
“But today,” Lola continued, “I think the audience would really like to know how you discover if your partner is appropriate for you. How you know you’re compatible.”
“I have all kinds of criteria,” Curt said quickly.
“And I’d just love to hear them!” I shot back.
Each comment seemed to draw us closer together until we were almost nose-to-nose. The musky smell of his cologne, released by the hot lights, teased my senses. But a strange antiseptic smell was laced under that cologne, almost reminiscent of the hospital. Lola was sinking back into the sofa again, nodding as Curt began ticking off his requisites on his fingers.
“She has to be sensitive, kind to animals, her grandmother, and her kid sister. She has to know what to wear in the house and make it minimal, and how to dress on the street—with style.” He was really on a roll and his list surprised me.
Kind to her grandmother?
My turn. “He has to know that a card can say a lot more than a call and that flowers sent to work go a long way.”
Curt just kept coming. “She has to know that a home-cooked meal is a lot better than a French restaurant.”
Lola looked at me and I was ready. “He has to know that fixing a broken screen door can be the sexiest foreplay in the world.” Women applauded wildly.
But the men cheered Curt on and he was ready. “She has to understand that a home-cooked meal is as inviting as perfume—which should be, by the way, understated and subtle.”
Lola blushed. Suddenly she didn’t seem to be there anymore.
“Go, Marcie!” The women in the audience began to chant.
All the ideas Sherry and Delinda and I had talked about came spilling out. “And I never want kitchen appliances for presents, either,” I said, jutting out my chin in a challenge.
“What do you think jewelry stores are for?” Curt shot back with disgust. “How’s this? She has to realize that time with the guys is important and that we all need it.”
“Of course, I agree. And he has to appreciate my friends and know that I might want to take off for a fun weekend with them once in a while.”
By this time Curt’s face was flushed. “She has to know that a black lace negligee is lot nicer to sleep next to than flannel pajamas.” The men howled like alley cats.
“Oh, without a doubt. And he has to borrow my Victoria’s Secret catalogues once in a while so that a surprise package might appear at my door.”
“Agreed!” Curt leaned even closer until I could see the pupils in his green eyes. “She has to wear whatever I give her and not whine about the color not being right. I’ve taken trouble to pick this stuff out.”
“Whine! Men should talk about whining . . . ”
The remarks kept flying fast and thick. When they took commercial breaks Curt and I just rolled right on. The audience encouraged us, and so did Lola. Funny thing was, as we went along it seemed as if we were finding common ground instead of differences. I was wishing Michael and the other men I’d dated had held some of these views. I would have been glad to wear black lace for a guy who came through the door with fresh flowers or dark chocolates—and not just the TV Guide.
By the end of the hour I felt as if I’d run a marathon. The hair around my face was curled in damp tendrils and I was trembling slightly for some reason. Curt looked as if he’d been running right beside me.
Suddenly the closing theme music was playing. Lola was saying good night and the lights came up in the audience and everyone was filing toward the exits. Lola stood up, stretched, and kicked off her heels.
“Damn things are killing my feet.” Her sexy accent had vanished. “Well, I want to thank both of you. Great show. Our ratings should be terrific. Too bad this isn’t sweeps week.”
Then she was gone and Curt and I were left on the sofa. He was regarding me with an unreadable smile.
“Well,” I began, searching for the right words. “This was really very . . . interesting.”
He nodded and his green eyes softened into warm hazel. “I enjoyed meeting you, Marcie. You’ve been, ah . . . educational. And you’re a good sport.”
“Right.” Avoiding his eyes, I swung to my feet and fumbled until I found the opening in the curtain. Delinda and Sherry were standing outside the Green room, beaming.
“What was that all about?” Sherry laughed as she steered me out the door. “I wasn’t sure if you two were going to kill each other or end up in a passionate clinch right there in front of millions of viewers!”
“You’ve got to be kidding! I just said what I felt.” But the truth was, I’d found Curt intriguing. He’d told me things in front of millions of viewers that I’d been wondering about for years.
“You know, Lola really isn’t very pretty,” I mumbled as they bundled me into the back seat of Delinda’s coupe. “She wears too much makeup. It’s all for show.” Then I groaned. “Do you think Michael will ever speak to me again?”
“Nope,” Sherry said.
“That’s good,” I said with relief.
Although I would have liked to stay home in my apartment for the rest of my life, I couldn’t. The next day I drove to the hospital and trudged onto the floor.
I was checking over the charts when Dr. Nash came up behind me.
“I saw the show,” he said.
My shoulders tightened. “You did, huh?” I tensed myself for the kidding that would follow. Had I made an idiot out of myself?
“Yeah, my wife and I agreed that the single world sure is complicated nowadays.” Then he paused. “And you did a lot of people a favor by warning them about the more unpleasant side of sex, the STDs. That was pretty brave, Marcie.”
“You thought so?”
Then he smiled. “And I think you gave old Curt a run for his money.”
Hmm, so it was “old Curt” now, was it? The brotherhood of men.
Other nurses had come up behind him and they broke into applause.
“I think I’m being paged,” I said, hurrying away.
That afternoon there was a new doctor orientation, so I gathered my folders and the laptop and headed for the conference room. While I was setting up the projector the new hires entered the room and sat down behind me. I adjusted the focus, snapped off the lights, and turned.
And there he was. Curt.
“You!” I was unable to hide my surprise. “Curt—”
“Yes. Curt Sandler. ER.” He smiled, leaning forward as if to read my nametag. “Nice to meet you, uh, Marcie.”
The other docs smiled. Were they aware that the two of us had “told all” on television? Even in his white lab coat with his name crisply embroidered on the pocket, Curt still had a disheveled look about him. But then, many ER docs are on the wild side. Their high adrenaline work almost demands it.
Somehow, I made it through that hour. At the end I handed each of them a packet with the necessary paperwork and badges. The other two physicians left, but Curt stayed behind. I thought back to the antiseptic smell I’d detected on him during the show.
“You sure fooled me, Dr. Sandler.”
“Some of the guys who recruited me to come here thought it would be a good way for me to get introduced to the city.” He grinned. “Although I admit, they persuaded me to call after we’d had a few beers one night.”
“Hmm. See, women would never do that.” I chuckled mysteriously.
“I know you have rules, but I’m hoping you’ll break one, Marcie. You are, ‘a woman with depth and substance,’ as we described on the show, and I’d like to learn more about you. And not in front of a howling crowd, either. How about dinner some night this week? I promise I’ll help you work through any ‘professional complications.’ ”
“Well . . . ”
Oh, I was really torn. Sure, the whole experience on “Live, with Lola!” had been embarrassing, but the truth was I liked him. I never dated the guys at work, but the fluttering in my stomach told me just how attracted to him I was. You could have cut the chemistry with a scalpel.
“Sure,” I said, admiring his lack of pretension, and most of all, his refreshing honesty.
Which brings me to another one of my rules—and that’s flexibility. If you’re single, you’ve got to be flexible. Be willing to break one of your rules now and then and follow your heart.
Curt and I both know the rules and seem independent and honest enough to respect each other’s views and negotiate our differences. That’s probably what it really takes in the singles’ world. That . . . and a little black lace now and then!