His stomach was really churning this time. He glanced at his watch...5:57...three more minutes. Heathcliff stood meekly outside Barbara's door, thinking through the events of his last visit. He had worked so hard to achieve an optimal sample date, yet when he spoke with Barbara on the telephone, she hadn't seemed at all pleased. Now he knew why she had been writing in that notepad the entire time. She had obviously taken notes on his faults. While he admired her administrative acumen, he had just assumed she was jotting subpoints to a list of weekly priorities or something. It stung him to recall her comments. She had even critiqued his hair. He wasn't even initially sure what "like Alfalfa" meant, so he had checked out 'Little Rascals' from the library to clarify. It was embarrasing. It frustrated him, too, that she hadn't mentioned it during the trial date, so he could have checked the copy out when they were there for the book discussion he had planned. How much time had he been forced to waste returning to the library the next day? He checked the time again...5:59...one more minute.
Suddenly, the door swung open and Barbara peered up at him. He was disturbed. It wasn't time yet and he hadn't even had the chance to knock.
"Hello Heathcliff," she smiled. "Are you ready to go?".
He stiffened slightly. This was uncomfortable. "I'd like to be ready, buy I've had no time to prepare. You haven't informed me of tonight's activities and...".
She held up a hand and interrupted, "I explained this on the phone. You've got to be a little less organized about romance. I've planned some of the evening myself, and for the rest, we're going to be a little bit spontaneous." Poor man, he looked really miserable. She softened, "Heath, it will be fun, just trust me, okay?". She smiled up at him, and despite his discomfort, he found himself smiling back. It would be all right. After all, he was sure Jeffrey would have told her any pertinent health or schedule information that could cause problems. He would meander out of his comfort zone, just this once.
They walked down the hallway and out to his car. He had reread his telephone conference notes just before his arrival. He seated Barbara mechanically and walked to his own door. He sat, he buckled, he started the car, he paused. He had no idea where to go! Barbara watched him in amusement. She could almost see the listing of his perplexed emotions popping up over his forehead. She stifled a giggle and looked away.
"Heathcliff, our first stop will be my flower shop on the corner of Oak and Vine. You can take this road here to Oak, then turn left. It's only a few blocks from there." He automatically obeyed. For what purpose could they be going there? A sudden thought. He was supposed to initiate conversation. He slowly commented, "I had no idea you owned your own flower shop."
She replied, "Oh yes, I do. Of course, what your date does for a living would be a much better place to start a conversation than your life plan subpoints."
"You're doing better, Heath. Keep trying to make conversation, just keep the gravity out of your statements. Try stating something about your emotions."
"Okay, um, I feel that you must have a lot of deductible expenses to claim in your line of work."
She smirked. "Actually, this one will be your deduction. You're buying me the flowers of my choice, and I'll even give you a receipt." How thoughtful of her. This was, however, a small stab of her hurt feelings at play. Barbara had taken on this venture out of the goodness of her heart, or well, the goodness of Jeffrey's heart. For Heathcliff to be so unfriendly and business-like about their "arrangement" made her feel a little ridiculous. She also wasn't the type of woman who was used to getting a check and receipt from a man at the end of a date.
She had decided afterward to make this next lesson as ridiculously out of Heathcliff's normal realm of activity as she could think up. Her plans after the flower shop included a quick meal at a bawdy barbecue joint, a stop at a nearby Italian Ice stand, which featured over 85 flavors, and last but not least, a ballroom dancing lesson...which ended several minutes after his designated return time. The evening did not disappoint. His second best blue conservative suit was soiled with honey barbecue sauce, it took him a full 17 minutes to process and evaluate all the icy options, and as for the salsa lesson...let us just say that the end of the week would find Heathcliff in front of his television in his pajamas working up a sweat.
Defeat did not sit well with Heathcliff. He took this outing as a direct challenge. It was now his mission to shock Barbara with the realization that he could beat her at her own game. There were advantages to being an organizational mastermind.