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Zoe picked up the small card that had been pushed through the letterbox, she turned it over and squinted in the gloomy light. ‘Singles Speed Dating’ she could make that out as it was ten times bigger than the font used for the rest of the invite. Zoe made her way to the kitchen to put the kettle on and read the rest of the card. It was on Friday, Emma had said she wanted to do something over the weekend, would this do? She checked the time on the oven clock, 10:16, she’d be working. Zoe fished around in her handbag for her mobile, then slung it over the back of the kitchen chair. She text Emma as she made her first cup of the day.
Emma text her back later confirming Friday, it was silly but Zoe felt a bit of a flutter, then she exhaled and thought about Friday. The venue may well be The Hilton, the locals would be the people to attend surely. They are the same whether you stick them into a posh establishment or not, in fact two minutes would be far too long with some of them.
Zoe spent several days wondering what she would say, how could she explain her existence and needs to random strangers in under two minutes, it took her longer to drink a Gin & Tonic! She called her mother and some of her close friends, she wanted a male prospective on the whole mission and called her brother, it took him a while to stop laughing and when he realised she was serious he imparted some helpful tips.
Then came the real test, not the event itself but the wardrobe. Zoe looked down at herself and for the first time in months was happy she hadn’t managed to shift the Holiday weight, it meant at least half her clothes wouldn’t even make it to the flung on the bed pile. Recalling help from her phone Samaritans she muttered the mantra ‘not too short, don’t show too much cleavage, not desperately seeking sequins’… Zoe shortlisted four dresses and pulled the hangers out. ‘I hope people will dress up and I won’t be the only person not in jeans’ she thought to herself. She grabbed the phone and called Emma to make sure she wasn’t wearing any leisure items. Emma convinced Zoe that at these events everyone dresses as if they are there for a New Year Party on the QE2 and besides, it was The Hilton.
The taxi had only just dropped her off and already Zoe felt sick, she clung onto Emma as they ordered their first complimentary drinks at the bar, she had already had half a bottle of wine getting ready. Her head was spinning, she ordered champagne anyway, well it was free!
The night got off to a swift start and every now and then Zoe glanced across at Emma, who seemed to be having a great time. Zoe wasn’t really committed, she didn’t like the look of any of the Speed dates and had found it difficult not to drift off into her fantasy land within the two minutes.
Zoe forced such a level of concentration, pretending she was into them, nodding and making sounds, responding to friendly questions, fooling the men into thinking she was interested. She even pinched the top of her leg to stay present in the moment. She worked so hard at being the perfect speed date, she never noticed the way the Italian Bar Manager was looking at her.
How he wished for just two minutes to change her life forever, if only she hadn’t started drinking the water served on each of the Speed Date tables.