Hello, I'm Carolyn Nobody

by

Diana Lee Johnson


 


       

Book Review

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Harry reached out and took possession of Carolynís hand, squeezing it.

"Youíre cute."

The two words were delivered with such a tone of revelation that Carolyn wondered if his glasses had just cleared and he discovered her sitting there.

"Excuse me?"

"No, I mean it. Youíre cute! They told me you were nice, and lonely, and a good cook, but Kevin didnít say you were cute."

"Uh, thank you..." I suppose. Her entire face ached from holding back a physical display of the aggravation she was experiencing.

"Myra says you like to cook."

"Well, yes, I do--"

"Good, you can come down to my house this weekend and cook us a meal. Iíll buy all the groceries, of course. We can make a day of it; plan the menu, go food shopping, and you can cook for me."

Carolyn realized he actually expected her to be enthusiastic about driving seventy-five miles or more, each way, to cook a meal for a stranger just because he would "buy all the groceries" and thought she was "cute."

"I donít think so. Iím busy this weekend."

"Nonsense, you donít work on the weekends. I checked. And you donít have class on the weekend."

"I suppose you checked that, too."

"Of course. I like to know what Iím getting into."

What youíre Ďgetting into?í Well, I can tell you what youíre not Ďgetting into!í Carolyn had just shocked herself with her own thoughts. It was liberating. It would have been downright exhilarating if she could have said it aloud.

"I have other plans, Harry." Realizing her tone had been rather strong, Carolyn spoke more calmly. "I have research to do this weekend for a paper."

"So, you can do the research on Sunday. You can come down early Saturday morning... well, not too early, I rent out the upstairs of my house, and they donít get up too early."

"I canít do the research on Sunday, the library near me isnít open on Sunday."

"Well, there are lots of libraries that are open on Sunday. So you drive a couple of miles. Youíll love my house. Itís over a hundred years old. Iím restoring it, a little at a time. Donít have central heat installed yet, but have a baseboard unit in the bathroom and my bedroom. You wonít freeze this early in the fall."

"I know I wonít freeze, because I canít come." Oh, how she wished she could just say "no," but the habit of sparing othersí feelings was too deeply rooted.

"Sure you can. You can even do your research after work on Friday, then you wonít have to worry about it Saturday. You can write your paper on Sunday, and we can have a good time Saturday. I do all my own housework, except I hate to do dishes. But Iíve installed a dishwasher in the kitchen already, so you wonít have to do dishes either, except maybe the pots and pans. Itís just a cheap dishwasher, so it doesnít clean all that well."

"Thatís lovely, Harry," she tried hard to make her clenched teeth resemble a smile as she spoke, "but I canít make it."

"Weíll see. Weíll talk about it again later in the week. Whatís your paper on?"

"Body language!" Carolyn wrenched her hand from his grasp.

"Oh, hey, well, I can tell you everything you want to know about body language. Lawyers study that kind of thing, you know, for trials."

"I never really thought about it." Carolyn was losing patience. "About how many trials have you represented someone in?"

"Uh, well, I wasnít meaning me, per se, as a trial lawyer, I mean. I said we study that in trial law."

"Oh." She raised a knowing eyebrow and nodded. "Should you be watching for your carpool?" She hoped.

Harry looked at his watch. "Naw, Iíve got twenty-five more minutes. Theyíre very predictable."

Carolynís heart sank. He may have twenty-five more minutes, but she was sure she couldnít last it out.

"So, what do you think youíd like to cook Saturday?"

"Nothing! Harry, I... canít... come." She spoke very slowly and deliberately. "I have other commitments." Carolyn kept her voice low, but stern.

"I know, a paper to write."

"Not just that." She tried to think quickly. "My daughter is coming home from college this weekend. She was never away from home before this school year, and we havenít been together since it started. We miss spending time together."

"Sheíll probably be out with friends Saturday, and youíll just be hanging around the house, bored stiff, when you could be at my place."

Harry grabbed her hand again.

Gus approached the table with a fresh glass of water. He placed himself between Harry and Carolyn as he handed her the water, giving her an excuse to free her hand.

"Can I get you folks anything else?" Gus glared at Harry.

"No--" Harry glared back.

"Iíd like to use the powder room." Carolyn looked to Gus with pleading eyes. "Could you tell me where it is?" Carolyn hoped it was near the exit as she toyed with the idea of making a hasty and impolite retreat by continuing to it instead of the ladiesí room. She was anxious to get home and call Myra to threaten her with bodily harm if she ever tried another "fix-up."

"Itís right back there." Gus nodded toward the back of the room, in the opposite direction of the exit. His apology was written all over his face.

"Thank you." She turned to Harry. "Excuse me a moment, wonít you?"

Harry shrugged and nodded at the same time. He asked Gus for the check and simultaneously downed the last of his drink as Carolyn hurried away.

It was only a brief respite. She used the time to dig a Benedryl out of the bottom of her purse and down it without water. Carolyn knew she couldnít stay in the ladiesí room until his car pool arrived. She drew a deep breath, smoothed the skirt of her suit and opened the door. She now empathized with Marie Antoinette approaching the guillotine. She plastered on a look that could only have passed for a smile to someone as oblivious as Harry.

Before she sat back down, Harry stood up, placed his hand at her back and shuffled her toward the exit.

"Walk me out. My ride will be here soon."

Carolyn looked helplessly toward Gus.

"Iíll walk you to your car before my ride gets here."

"Oh, no, thatís not necessary. I need to slip into the drug store for a few things before I go home." Carolyn realized she didnít even want him to see her car. She didnít want him to know any more about her than he already did. Maybe, as a lawyer, he could even trace her license plates.

"Well then, how about a kiss goodbye?" He grabbed for her.

"I donít think so." She pushed him away.

"Sure, just a harmless kiss."

She wiggled from his awkward grasp. "I donít do things like that in public, Harry."

"Youíll learn."

She glared at him. "I donít want to Ďlearn."

 

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