“What’s a six-letter word for lethargy?” Amy asked, tapping her pen on her bottom lip as she squinted thoughtfully at the folded newspaper in front of her. She’d been working on the crossword puzzle for the last half hour. She’d heard about someone doing the New York Times crossword in ink before, so she’d started doing all of hers in ink, as well, like a personal challenge to prove she was smart enough not to make a mistake. After all, pen was forever.
I thought for a minute. “Torpor.”
“T-O-R…damn, girl. I wish I had your vocabulary,” she mumbled, scribbling the letters into the little blocks.
“And I wish I had your luck with men, but we can’t have everything,” I replied with a smirk.
“Speaking of, I have just the guy for you,” Amy said, looking up from her crossword. She caught my smirk and returned it.
“A setup? Nope,” I said, shaking my head. “Done that. I love you, but no. Besides, I don’t really have time for a relationship right now.”
Amy arched an eyebrow. “Uh huh. Because you’ve got so much going on.” She turned back to the crossword. “You want my luck with men, you have to put yourself out there. That’s what I do.”
I shrugged. “Maybe. But in case you forgot, the last one you set me up didn’t work out so well.”
She looked up sharply from her work. “Hey! He seemed normal. I can’t help it if sometimes a crazy slips through the cracks,” she argued, tucking an errant lock of curly red hair behind her ear. “He was cute, smart, well-dressed, and had a good job. He checked all the boxes.”
I gaped at her. “Yes, but crazy. You just said it. And crazy wasn’t a box I wanted checked.”
“Mad, crazy is a box no one wants checked.” She shook her head and leveled her gaze at me. “But I’m telling you, this one is perfect. And I’ve known him forever, so I know he’s not got a secret box of crazy waiting to explode. Can’t you give him a shot?”
I shook my head again. “No. N-O. Two-letter word for negative.”
Amy stuck her tongue out and went back to her crossword. “Says you. But I’ll change your mind yet, Madison Gates,” she muttered.
“Hmmm?” I asked sweetly.
“I didn’t say anything. I’m just minding my own business, doing this crossword,” she replied, not looking up.
“Uh huh. Let’s keep it that way.”
“Really? Really? You’re going to sit here when it’s wide open like that? What do you need, a written invitation?” I was keenly aware that I was yelling at someone who couldn’t hear me—and that I sounded slightly road-ragey. But really, the guy in front of me was camped out and showed no sign of pulling out into traffic. And I was already running late.
Finally, the car moved and gave me the space I needed to get onto the road. “Thank you,” I muttered sarcastically. I was in no mood for this. I’d woken up with a headache and found that the aspirin bottle was empty, thanks to Amy’s uncanny ability to use things up without throwing away the bottle…or replace the empty toilet paper roll…or toss the tissue box when there were none left. But the headache had just been the beginning in a series of frustrations, the latest of which was the bungling idiot who didn’t know how to drive.
Thankfully, the traffic gods seemed to be smiling on me as I crept onto the highway. All green lights greeted me, and I still hadn’t seen any flashing blue lights in my rearview. Yet.
My luck with the traffic signals ended about five miles into my commute, and I hit the red light notorious for lasting eons without going green. You could practically get out of your car and walk down the street for a cup of coffee before it turned. Not that I’d tested that theory. I huffed a sigh of frustration and leaned my head back against the headrest, closing my eyes for a moment as I tried to locate a small slice of patience that was seemingly absent that morning.
I opened my eyes and checked the time on my phone, catching movement from the truck next to me in my peripheral vision. I looked over and saw a handsome guy about my age looking intently at me, gesturing to roll my passenger side window down.
Following his direction out of curiosity—after all, what if he’d noticed something wrong with my car?—I pressed the button and rolled the window down.
“You’re beautiful!” he yelled out the window, above the roar of his truck’s very loud engine. “Marry me!”
I laughed at the ridiculousness of his words and shook my head. “You’re crazy!” I yelled back, grinning widely.
“Maybe!” He shrugged. “But I think I love you! Marry me!” His grin matched mine, revealing even, white teeth. He really was good-looking, I realized as I locked eyes with him. Close-cut dark blonde hair, neatly trimmed beard that traced out a strong jawline, and dark blue eyes. “Don’t think, just say yes!” he yelled.
The light turned green, and the cars lined up behind us honked impatiently.
“I can’t!” I laughed. “Now drive! The light’s green!”
I waved and pressed the gas, knowing that this moment, as flattering as it was, was absolutely nuts. He probably did that all the time, proposing to random women in traffic. I pulled forward and started to gain speed, and still the truck stayed level with me.
I looked over at truck guy and saw that he was still glancing over, still smiling.
“Marry me!” he repeated, louder to rise above the noise of the road and the engines.
“No!” I shot back with a laugh. I saw my turn ahead and put my blinker on. I threw a smile at my persistent suitor and waved goodbye. He waved back, and when I turned, he kept straight, driving towards whatever destination awaited him while I drove towards work. Amy’s never going to believe this, I thought.
“Thought any more about that setup?” Amy asked when she picked up.
I rolled my eyes. Fortunately, she couldn’t see it through the phone. “No,” I said firmly. “But I did get a marriage proposal on my way to work this morning.” I wondered if she could hear the ridiculous grin that was on my face.
“Say that again?” she said, the puzzlement in her voice carrying over the line.
“Some guy asked me to marry him when we were stopped at a red light,” I said simply.
“I take it you didn’t run off to do it,” she observed.
“Fantastic. I’m having some people over tonight for game night. Good with you?” she asked. I could hear her crunching. Probably on the last of the pita chips. Amy was like a garbage disposal sometimes. I didn’t know where she put it; she had such a tiny frame.
“Fine by me. Anyone I know?” I asked, crossing my fingers that the guest list didn’t include any potential setups.
“Yes and no. You know most people coming, just a couple that you don’t,” she replied cryptically.
“Can’t wait,” I said, rolling my eyes again.
“Hey, Mad! Good you’re home—we waited to start the games until you got here,” Amy said, holding out a glass of red wine to me as I tossed my keys on the kitchen counter and shucked my shoes.
I took the glass and followed her into the living room, where a board game was set up. The couches and floor around the coffee table were occupied by three couples and a single guy, sitting alone with space next to him on the loveseat. He was looking down, studying the rules of the game we were apparently playing.
“Nick is going to be your partner for this one,” Amy said, ushering me towards the guy on the couch, who still hadn’t looked up. “Nick! This is Madison, my roommate. Say hello to your teammate!”
“Hey, Madison—” Nick replied, stopping short as he looked up.
Our eyes locked, and he smiled. Same even, white teeth. Same dark blue eyes. Same hair and beard. Only now, we weren’t separated by traffic.
I smiled back. “Hello, Nick.” I held out my hand to him. He took it in his and kept his gaze locked on mine. “Propose to strange women in traffic often?”
“Never. Do you believe in love at first sight?” he asked, his voice low.
“Maybe,” I said, the smile not leaving my face. “Or maybe it takes second sight.”
Nick’s grin widened. “You know she’s been wanting to set us up, right?” he asked, nodding slightly in Amy’s direction. Fortunately for us, Amy was too immersed in conversation to notice.
I felt my eyebrow arch involuntarily. “Really?” I bit my lip and stifled a laugh. “I’m never going to hear the end of this.”
Nick shook his head. “Nope. Better get used to it. It’s going to be in her speech at the wedding,” he said with a teasing tone.
Another laugh escaped, unbidden. I felt my face flush. “Guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
“Looking forward to it,” Nick said, eyes alight with amusement.
I smiled. “Me, too.”