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See Me(11)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

“Maybe he just likes his friend. Or maybe he thought that you and his friend would make pretty babies and you might name one after him.”

Despite herself, Maria laughed. “Maybe. But anyway, I don’t think I’m his type. I’m pretty sure he’d be more comfortable with someone…”

When Maria trailed off, Serena finished. “Dumber?”

“I was thinking blonder, like the waitress.”

“Yeah, well, just so you know, that’s always been part of your problem when it comes to guys. You’re too smart. And to guys, that’s kind of intimidating.”

“Not all guys. Luis and I were together for over two years.”

“Were together,” Serena said. “Those are the operative words. And just so you know? He may have been sexy as hell, but Luis was a total loser.”

“He wasn’t that bad.”

“Don’t start getting all nostalgic about the good things about him. It wasn’t like you ever had a future with him and you know it.”

Maria nodded, knowing Serena was right but indulging momentarily in a bit of nostalgia anyway before shutting it down. “Yeah, well, live and learn.”

“I’m just glad you decided to start dating again.”

“I didn’t. Jill and Paul decided for me.”

“Whatever. You need to be…”

While Serena searched for the right words, Maria suggested, “More like you?”

“Why not? Going out, enjoying life, making friends? It beats working all the time.”

“How would you know? You only work a couple of shifts a week.”

“Good point. I’m just making an assumption based on your lack of a social life.”

“Believe it or not, I actually like working.”

“I’ll make sure to put that on your tombstone,” Serena said. “How’s work going, by the way?”

Maria shifted in her seat, wondering how much to say. “It’s all right.”

“You just said you liked it.”

“I do, but…”

“Let me guess… the conference, right? The one you went to with your boss?” When Maria nodded, Serena went on. “Was it as awful as you thought it might be?”

“Not exactly awful, but…”

“Did he hit on you?”

“Sort of,” Maria admitted. “But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.”

“This is the guy who’s married? With three kids?”

“That’s the one.”

“You need to tell him to knock it off. Threaten him with sexual harassment, or whatever.”

“It’s more complicated than that. For now, it’s probably better for me if I just try to ignore it.” When a slight smirk began to play across Serena’s lips, Maria went on. “What?”

“I was just thinking that you really have a way with men. Your old boyfriend cheated on you, your latest date flirts with other girls, and meanwhile, your boss won’t stop hitting on you.”

“Welcome to my world.”

“Of course, it’s not all bad. You met a nice guy last night. The kind of guy who helps a woman in her time of need, despite a raging storm…”

When Maria scowled, Serena laughed and went on. “I really wish I could have seen your face.”

“It wasn’t pretty.”

“And yet here you are, safe and sound,” Serena reminded her. “And I’m happy about that, if only so that you have continued access to my wisdom.”

“You really need to work on your self-esteem issues,” Maria said sourly.

“I know, right? But seriously, I’m glad you moved back to town. These brunches would be deadly if you weren’t here. Having you around gives Mom and Dad someone else to worry about.”

“I’m glad I can be of service to you.”

“I appreciate it. And besides, we’ve had a chance to get to know each other better.”

“We’ve always known each other.”

“You went off to college when I was ten.”

“And I came home almost every weekend, and spent every vacation here.”

“That’s true. You were kind of wimpy like that. For the first couple of years, you were so homesick, you’d cry all weekend.”

“It was hard to be so far from home.”

“Why do you think I go to college here? In that way, I’m almost as smart as you are.”

“You’re smart. You might get a scholarship, remember?”

“I’m not smart like you. But that’s okay. It’ll make it much easier to find a guy in the end – not that I’m interested in anything serious. But listen, if you want, I’d be happy to keep a lookout for you. I meet guys all the time.”

“College guys?”

“Some of them might just like an older woman.”

“You’re insane.”

“I don’t know. I tend to have pretty good taste.”

“Are you referring to Steve?”

“We’re just going out. It’s not serious yet. But he seems like a nice guy. He even volunteers at the Humane Society, doing pet adoptions on Sundays.”

“Do you like him?”

“You mean… like like? Or just like?”

“What? Are we in middle school now?”

Serena laughed. “I’m not sure how I feel yet. But he’s cute, which gives me more time to find out.”

“When do I get to meet him?”

“Well… let’s see where it goes. Because if you’re going to meet him, then Mom and Dad will want to meet him, and then I lose control of the whole situation. No matter what happens after that, he’ll think that I think it’s serious, and unlike you, I’m too young to settle down.”

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