I was heading for the shower when I noticed a message on my answering machine.
"Richard, it's me...Tiffany, where are you? Are you okay? I tried paging you and calling you. I even drove by your place. I'm worried, please call."
Even after a quick shower, I discovered it was after five when I picked up the phone to call Tiffany back and tell her a story I hoped she would believe. My lousy timing intervened and Mitch answered the phone while chewing on something.
"Well if it isn't mister my-life-is-too-important-to-care-about-his-fiancee-or-her-family."
"Is Tiffan -?"
"We're in the middle of dinner."
He hung up. The cigar smoking jerk hung up on me. I pushed redial but no one picked up. He'd probably turned off the ringer. I'm going to have to come up with a good story if I'm going to patch things up with her family. Oh Hell, I'll just tell the truth. At least they'll have to respect me for that, or else Mitch might cancel our golf date. That would be okay too.
I put on a clean sports shirt, tied my hair back and drove over to the Stonebridge home. Tiffany's mom, Andrea, greeted me with an embrace and asked if I was all right. I assured her I was okay and was out practicing for my golf game with her husband next week. At least that part wasn't a lie. She kissed me on the cheek and escorted me into the family room. I was relieved that at least one other Stonebridge liked me. I read somewhere that a girl's mother is the best indicator of how your wife will look at that age. If Andrea was any indication, then I had nothing to worry about. When Tiffany saw me, she ran over and threw her arms around me. While she hugged me, I watched Mrs. Stonebridge say something in Mitch's ear. He glanced over at me, shook his head and turned back to watching the ball game.
"Where were you all afternoon?" Tiffany asked as I took her hand and led her back down the hall where her parents couldn't hear us. "I was getting a few golf pointers for my game with your Dado next Friday." There wasn't any need to tell her who my golf instructor was.
"Eww." Tiffany scrunched up her face in a most unattractive, whiny sort of expression. "I hate golf. Why would anyone want to hit a little ball and chase it around for hours?" There must be something Tiffany liked to do that I wasn't aware of. "Sand gets in your shoes. Have you ever tried hitting the ball after it lands in one of those sand trap thingies? And I don't even want to talk about trying to get your ball back after it lands in one of the stupid ponds they always have on golf courses." With a finger to my lips, I whispered, "Please don't let your Dado know I was practicing. You know how he gets."
"He took me golfing once. That's probably why I hate it, he takes it too seriously... I don't want to talk about golf anymore." Tiffany placed her arms around my neck, "You smell good, did you just take a shower?"
"Sure, I didn't think you'd want to hug me if I was all sweaty." I hope that was as innocent as it sounded, or was I feeling guilty for spending the afternoon with another woman?
She picked some lint off my shirt and pouted that I could've at least called her. Meanwhile, Andrea asked if I'd eaten yet. When I shook my head, the two Stonebridge women took my arms and escorted me into the kitchen.
"So..." Tiffany asked, "Where'd you go to practice?"
I tried to be as vague as I could. "There's a driving range a couple miles from the truckstop." I turned to her mother, "I was trying to make this a surprise. I didn't think everyone was going to worry because I had a Saturday afternoon to myself."
Tiffany hugged my arm while her mother set a massive roast beef sandwich in front of me. It was a work of art. Thick crusty sourdough bread, beautifully garnished with fresh basil, tomatoes and hollandaise sauce. I may have to include this on my restaurant menu.
"We need to sit down and set a date for the wedding pretty soon. - I was thinking of a Christmas theme." She looked back at Andrea, "That sounds romantic, What do you think Richard?"
I counted the months remaining on my fingers, "That gives us about two hundred days. It might work."
"Can you come down next Saturday morning when we shoot the TV ads?" She pouted. "The camera crew always has a great catered lunch."
"I can't do Saturday morning - I've got an important interview with some people about... the possibility of a chef's job in L.A."
"Really?" Andrea asked, "Is it a restaurant or hotel?"
"I don't want to say anything yet - I might jinx it."
Tiffany took my hand, "I just thought that since you proposed to me - we should spend more time together."
"I love you... but I have a lot of stuff to do. I work all week, Saturday is the only day I have free to take care of it." I took another big bite from the sandwich, hoping that would save me from having to lie any further.
"Good luck sweetie." Tiffany leaned over and licked a spot of mayo off my lip. "I'll pray for you."
That's great. Like I'm not feeling guilty about this already, Tiffany's dragged God into the mix.
"I'll have to spend some time this week polishing up my resume for my interview, so you won't see too much of me." I took another big bite of my sandwich and chewed for a few moments before I said, "I'm doing this for our future Tiffany. After I get a chef's position we can spend a lot of time together."
Andrea looked up from the sink, "Tiffany, we'll be in Tampa with Julie until Wednesday."