Ginger or Marianne?

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“Please come with us. It’s just lunch.”

“I don’t think so. I appreciate the offer, but I’d feel more comfortable staying at home.”

“Farah, I know how hard it’s been for you. And I know how much you loved Ben. But you can’t stay home all day, every day.”

“Traci? I don’t do that. I’m not home 24/7, and you know that, so please don’t exaggerate in order to get me to do what you want, okay?” her friend said, trying to stay polite.

“You and I have have been best friends since the 4th grade. I know you. And I love you. You’re the sister I never had. I was your Maid of Honor, for crying out…”

She stopped when she realized she’d just brought up the wedding.

“I apologize. Not for caring about you. Just for being insensitive.”

Her friend of well over 25 years knew there was no malice in those words. They were true. Traci Redding had been her Maid of Honor, and yes, she loved her like a sister, too. But Ben Walker had been the love of her life, and when he was taken from her in a moment of senseless rage, a part of her died with him.

It wasn’t that she didn’t need to get out. Farah Cole-Walker, who’d been named after Farrah Fawcett by a father with a not-so-secret crush on the late actress, knew that was true. But it was also true that after letting her best friend set her up twice with two different, ‘really nice guys’ with whom she had nothing in common, she just couldn’t see any reason to do so a third time. Maybe one day. Just not now.

“I’m sorry, Trace. I just can’t.”

Her friend stared at her for a few seconds then said, “Okay. Let’s compromise. I won’t bring Cody and you don’t have to meet Jeff. Just you, me, and my mom. Will that work?”

Farah loved Traci’s mother, Alice Wallace, almost as much as her own daughter did, and she hadn’t seen her for at least two months, and if she also didn’t have to endure another setup, then maybe lunch wouldn’t be so bad.

“If you’re serious, then, okay.”

“Yeah? Really?” Traci asked excitedly.

“Yes. I’ll go.”

Farah finally smiled then said, “But only because I haven’t seen your mom in forever.”

“Ha! Whatever works!” her BFF said, a smug smile of victory on her face; her very pretty face.

Traci (nee Wallace) Redding had been a cheerleader from the 7th grade through the end of high school. She was head cheerleader and homecoming queen their senior year, and she was still beautiful. Farah knew she was also still an attractive woman, even at 37, but Traci was the one woman who had always made her feel plain. It wasn’t her friend’s fault. It was simply a matter of her being so attractive that she sucked all of the oxygen out of every room she walked into.

Traci was a natural blonde who still wore her hair below her shoulders, and even worse, it still looked great on her. She’d been blessed with fair skin, blue eyes, and a perfect smile. She also had a perfect body to go with it and that included two perfectly round, very perky breasts that easily filled a C-cup bra.

Farah, on the other hand, had dark-brown hair that was just below chin length. She wore it parted on one side and nearly always put a small curl in it at the bottom so that it turned inward a little and just a wispy hint of bangs in front. It was perfect for her face which was still pretty but had never been Traci Redding pretty. Which wasn’t just pretty but beautiful.

Her best feature were her eyes, which were green, something that only 2% of the population could claim. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say they were an emerald green that many people mistook for the more common hazel color. Her eyes were the one area where, compared with Traci, Farah was the clear winner.

The one thing she had in common with her longtime friend was a great smile. The difference was that Farah’s came by way of an orthodontist while Traci had been born with a set of bright, white, perfectly-straight teeth.

Physically, Traci was two inches taller, and at 5’10”, very close to the ideal height for most models. At 5’8″, Farah was still slightly above average, but there was a difference here, too. The difference was in weight where Farah weighed almost exactly the same as her friend in spite of being two inches shorter.

That didn’t mean she was overweight, however. Farah easily fit into a size 8 dress, but when she was feeling a little down, the fact that her friend still wore a 6 with ease could make things worse. Lastly, Farah was at best a full B while Traci was…stacked.

When Ben was alive, none of that had mattered. He’d made her feel like the most beautiful woman on earth. And anytime she’d tried comparing herself to Traci, Ben had always found a way to convince his wife that she was the more attractive woman.

“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, honey,” he’d told her many times.

But what she’d loved most of all was hearing how not every man preferred big boobs. Or blondes. Or…Traci.

The one time she’d tried to prove him wrong, he’d shot her down in a way that made her Ankara travesti never again wonder if he meant it. At least not while he was alive.

He asked her to imagine Traci’s husband Cody, who was as handsome as his wife was beautiful, then to imagine him standing side by side with Ben.

“Who do you find more attractive?” was the question he asked.

Farah hadn’t needed even one second to provide the answer.

“You. Of course,” she’d said immediately.

“But most women would chose Cody, wouldn’t they?” he rightly observed.

“Yes, but I’m not most women,” she replied, feeling good about how she was thinking on her feet.

What she’d just said was the truth. To her, Ben was far more attractive than Cody who was so good looking he seemed almost…plastic…like a Ken doll or something. In contrast, she thought Ben was…yummy. And over the years she’d had girlfriends tell her the same thing.

“And I’m not most men,” he told her with a wink and a smile.

He then took her hands and said, “Listen. It doesn’t matter what every other man on earth thinks—even though I know many of them think like me. What matters is what I think. And I think you are far more attractive than Traci. Okay?”

After that, she’d let her petty jealousies go. But her resolve had slowly faded since the day Ben’s life had been taken during a short-lived incident of road rage that ended with Ben, as well as one of the other drivers, dead, after swerving to avoid a third crazed driver hellbent on running another man off the road.

It all began when the first driver passed the second guy’s car then cut back in right in front of him. Other witnesses said it didn’t appear to be intentional. He just didn’t have the amount of time he thought he had, so he’d had to pull back into the right lane in a hurry. The driver he’d ‘cut off’ took it very personally and went berserk.

He began by tailgating the first car just inches behind it while traveling at well over 60mph in 45mph zone. The first time he had an opening, he whipped out into the left lane, looked over and angrily cursed at the other driver, then pulled back in front of him even more sharply than the way it had happened to him.

The second driver backed off trying to defuse the situation, but the first driver slammed on his brakes causing the second driver to tap the back of his vehicle. From there, the first driver lost his mind. He slowed to 25mph in the four-lane, undivided highway, and as the situation allowed, cars began whizzing by them almost immediately, leaving the second driver nowhere to go except to stay behind him and wait.

At some point, the second driver saw an opening and went for it. He quickly pulled into the left lane and tried to go around. He’d gunned the engine and was going about 45mph or so. As fate would have it, Ben was right behind him by that point. He also tried to go around, having not seen any of the earlier drama, and it was at that time that the first driver whipped his vehicle into the passing lane, hitting the first driver’s passenger door and shoving it into oncoming traffic. Ben swerved so hard to avoid the mess that the sudden change in direction caused the car to flip over and roll. The second roll threw the car into oncoming traffic where it was struck by a large SUV that couldn’t stop.

Farah refused to look at the crime scene photos or even go to the trial where the driver who’d lost it ended up going to prison for 3-5 years for negligent manslaughter, far less than she thought he deserved. Ben was gone, and nothing was going to bring him back.

It was nearly a year before Farah could really function again, and in the last 18 months since then, she was almost back to her old self, but she wasn’t quite ready to really get involved yet. Then again, perhaps it was just the men she’d gone out with. Like the ones Traci had set her up with.

Either way, she had no interest whatsoever in meeting another one of Traci’s ‘hot, single’ friends. He would almost certainly be good looking, but if we were like the others, Farah would have to politely smile and endure the evening as the self-centered hunk endlessly talked about himself and/or his business successes, a huge turnoff and a total bore.

Lonely or not, there was no way she was going to put up with another evening like that.

“So tomorrow at what time and where?” Farah asked.

Knowing Traci’s mother would be there made her gave her a reason to want go, and now that she off the dating hook, she found herself looking forward to getting out again.

As she got ready the following day, Farah wanted to look nice, but wasn’t going to even try and compete with Traci—a lost cause on any given day. Doing so was an exercise in futility because her friend not only had looks, she had money. She never flaunted it, but Cody was a medical doctor and like beauty, money was a fact of life for her.

Ben had provided well for them, and even now she was able to get by on the life insurance money Konya travesti that came from the policy he’d insisted on taking out the year they got married. Farah never bothered arguing with him because it was only a few dollars a month, and more importantly, it made her husband feel like he was ‘doing his duty’. She never once thought she’d ever collect on the policy, but as heartbroken as she’d been, she was still very appreciative of Ben’s forward thinking.

Rather than a fancy dress like the one she knew Traci would wear, she chose something more appropriate for the early fall weather in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she’d lived her entire life.

Farah laid out a pretty, dark-gray sweater with a black skirt and a pair of black heels. She’d worn it before and knew it looked great with gold earrings and maybe even a necklace. It was overkill for fast food, but Farah knew her friend would insist on going to someplace nice where she might still feel underdressed. Traci would undoubtedly look stunning and turn every head in the room, while Farah could enjoy the safety of relative anonymity while quietly living in her shadow.

“Still…not too bad for 37,” she told herself once she was ready as she turned both ways while looking in the mirror to see if her rear end had somehow grown since the last time she’d looked.

The outfit was slimming, and even though she didn’t have a great ‘rack’, she thought it was…appropriate…and maybe even pretty. Not stunning by any means but not bad, either.

As usual, Farah arrived first and waited in the lobby. As she sat there she realized how differently she viewed the world as a single woman. It wasn’t true, but it felt like everyone else was paired off and part of a couple. With the exception of children, it seemed like every man or woman who came in was with someone she imagined was a spouse, a fiancé, or a date. And as far as she could tell, there was only one adult exception to her rule—her.

But as Traci walked in with her mother, Farah temporarily forgot about being alone and instead felt like she was maybe some kind of a prop in Traci’s world. Her friend was wearing an off-the-shoulder, light-blue dress with 4-inch black heels and most definitely looked amazing. And just as she’d predicted, both men and women turned to look once they became aware of her presence.

After hugging her friend, Farah turned her attention to Traci’s mother who also hugged her and told her how good it was to see her again.

“You too, Alice! And you look so nice!” Farah told her regarding the very pretty, age-appropriate dress the 64-year old woman was wearing.

“Thank you, dear. And may I say, so do you,” Alice told her sincerely.

Alice hooked her arm in Farah’s, and as they followed the hostess to their table, more heads turned to see the gorgeous woman in the beautiful dress with the bare shoulders that were covered in a cascade of long, silky, blonde hair.

It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the inevitable subject of how Farah was doing when Alice politely inquired. She dreaded being asked but understood it was something everyone who cared about her would continue wanting to know for the indefinite future.

“Better,” she told her friend’s mom with a smile that said she meant it.

“I’m so glad. I still can’t imagine how difficult this has been for you.”

“Thank you. And yes, it has. But Traci keeps pushing me to, you know, get back out there.”

Traci put her hand on Farah’s arm and said, “Pushing? I’m not pushing, hon. Didn’t I back off from insisting you meet someone today?”

“Okay, maybe it just feels like she’s pushing me,” Farah told Alice while looking at her daughter.

A young woman came to take their orders, and once she left, Alice insisted on picking up the tab. Farah tried to protest, but the older woman was having none of it.

“Nonsense. It’s the least I can do after not even calling you for so long. I just hope you can forgive me.”

As Farah replied, telling her it hadn’t been all that long, she noticed Traci was smiling at something. Or more likely…someone. Farah turned to look, and when she did, she saw the cause of the smile.

“He’s a little young, don’t you think,” Farah said to her friend who was still smiling back at the younger man bussing tables who was smiling at her.

“I’m only flirting with him to get him to come say hello to you, Fare,” her friend said.

Alice noticed, too, and when she looked, she said to her daughter, “I don’t think he’s looking at you, sweetheart.”

When Traci turned toward her mom to tell him he most certainly was, it was obvious he wasn’t.

Farah turned back and took another look, and he was most definitely still staring. At her. This time he kind of raised his head as a way of acknowledging her, and when he did, she subconsciously smiled back. There was no attempt, and certainly no desire, to flirt with him. He was definitely very attractive, but other than that there was nothing İzmir travesti about him that would have ever caused Farah to even look had Traci not mentioned him.

“Oh, my gosh! You’re right, Mom. He is definitely looking at someone else. Hmmm. Gee, I wonder who that might be?”

Traci pushed her friend’s arm twice very quickly and said, “Go say ‘hi’!”

“Are you…insane?” Farah replied.

“If I was single, I know I would,” her friend said with a smile.

“And if I was 40 years younger, so would I,” her mother added.

“Oh, my goodness. You two are…incorrigible!” Farah told them as she stared straight ahead.

“No, we just recognize gorgeous when we see it. Right, Mom?” Traci told her as she looked for the mystery busboy again.

“Well, he’s gone, so I guess we’ll have to make due with just eating lunch today,” Traci announced, after looking for him again as though they were missing out on something important.

But just as they were getting up to leave, a certain very attractive, younger man reappeared with a large gray tub which he sat on the table next to them.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” he said, an amazing smile on his amazing face.

“Well, hello there,” Traci said, an equally big smile on hers.

“I uh, I don’t mean to interrupt, but…”

“Oh, you’re not interrupting. Trust me,” Traci shamelessly said as she reached out and touched his arm similarly to the way she’d touched Farah’s.

Farah saw him glance down and look at the huge, four-carat diamond on her hand. Even so, he smiled politely as he produced three paper flyers.

“I know you’re leaving, but I wanted to invite you to hear our band. We’re performing at The Blue Moon this weekend, and if you three beautiful ladies have some spare time, we’d love to have you stop by.”

He offered them each a flyer, and all of the women accepted one then looked at it.

“I should probably take your dishes now in case the manager comes out. He doesn’t take too kindly to me drumming up my own business on his time.”

“Oh, so…does that mean you’re the drummer?” Traci asked, the smile just as big as it was before.

It was nothing more than a cute play on words, so the handsome busboy’s reply surprised everyone.

“I am.”

“And do you have a name, gorgeous?” she asked.

“It’s Shawn,” he replied as he picked up a couple of empty glasses and placed them in the tub.

Traci was looking at Shawn, and Farah was looking at the flyer. Alice was the only one noticing that Shawn never took his eyes off of Farah, and once she finally set the flyer down, she, too, realized he was looking at her.

“Hi,” Shawn said to her as the other two women also looked her way.

“Hi?” she replied with raised eyebrows as she looked at Traci and then Alice.

“What?” she asked when they only smiled.

“My best friend here is Farah. Like Farrah Fawcett only with one ‘r’,” Traci told Shawn.

“Oh. Um…good to know,” he said his eyes still fixed on Farah with one ‘r’ who was now feeling very uncomfortable.

“She’s single. Just in case you’re wondering,” Traci said in a faux whisper that was more than loud enough for Farah to hear.

“Oh, my…God!” Farah blurted out. “What is wrong with you, Traci?”

“And that would be me. Traci,” she told their busboy.

Sensing Farah’s discomfort, he looked at Alice then asked who the other beautiful woman was.

Traci went to answer when her mother cut her off at the knees.

“I can answer for myself, thank you very much,” she replied rather curtly as she shot her daughter a look Traci’d seen many times before while smiling politely before turning back to Shawn and telling him her name.

“It’s been my pleasure. In all three cases,” he said as he asked if he could start clearing their plates.

“Oh, you can do anything you like…Shawn,” Traci told him as she refused to move back when he reached her way, coming dangerously close to her very large ‘rack’.

Shawn saw Farah shaking her head but didn’t say anything. However, when Farah looked at him again, he did smile at her, and for some reason she couldn’t understand, she looked away so fast it startled her. Hoping Traci didn’t notice, she reached for the flyer again.

“We’ll be there,” Traci said without bothering to even look at her BFF.

“We…what?” Farah said with disbelief as she dropped the flyer.

“I hope you will be,” Shawn said to Farah before looking at the other two women and adding, “All three of you.”

“I’m not much for loud music anymore,” Alice told him apologetically.

Shawn smiled and said, “We’re not too loud, ma’am. No screaming or heavy metal. In fact, we’re a cover band, and we don’t do too many songs that weren’t big hits from the 60s and 70s.”

“The sixties, huh? That’s definitely my era,” Alice said as she reconsidered. “Maybe I will be there.”

“I’d like that,” Shawn said before taking her dishes, too, then looking back at Farah.

“Will you be there, Farah with one ‘r’?” he asked her directly.

She knew it was rude not to look at him, but for some reason she couldn’t. Again, she picked up the flyer and looked at it.

“Carbon. That’s a different kind of name for a band,” Farah mused while staring at the paper.

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