Home > Shopping for Love(8)

Shopping for Love(8)
Author: Renee Carlino


It occurred to me that Caroline’s condo seemed sterile when I was there. But now she’s in the back of my old smelly car after having just eaten a Coronary Bypass. I’m making progress with her.

It’s only after several moments on the road that I wonder if the two of them are going to drop me off and then take Frankie to Caroline’s. I’d have to get another Uber tomorrow to get her. These Cromptons are starting to cost me a lot in Uber charges.

Before I even have a chance to ask, Blake says, “CC, do you want me to take you first or we can take Hayden and Uber to my place and stay there tonight?”

“No, just take me to my place, Blake. I wanna sleep in my own bed. I have to catch up on some work tomorrow.”

“I can Uber from Caroline’s, if you wanna stay there with her?” I offer, though that would mean two trips for me.

Caroline speaks up, “Blake, do you mind running me home first? You can Uber from Hayden’s, right? It’s not that far from your place.” It seemed like she wasn’t offering for him to stay at her condo. Kind of awkward for a young couple in love on a Saturday night to not be sleeping next to each other…But who am I to judge—I’ll be sleeping alone tonight anyway.

“It’s fine,” he says hesitantly. A few seconds pass and we’re at a stoplight. He turns to me and asks, “Is that okay with you?”

I guess he must think it’s weird to be driving another woman’s car. Then, on top of it, to have to drop off his girlfriend and take the other woman home…alone.

“Really, I’ll probably be totally sober by the time we get to Caroline’s. No need to take me.”

“Don’t be crazy,” Blake says. “Better safe than sorry. I don’t mind at all.” He glances over. Dimple, wink, oh my god, he’s going to be the death of me.

“Okay,” I stammer.

At Caroline’s, she bolts to the security gate while Blake and I follow her, lugging her shopping bags and boxes. Inside the condo, she points to her bedroom and says, “Can you leave them in there?”

We follow her orders, and before I leave the bedroom I say, “I’ll meet you back at the car, Blake.” I want to give them a moment to smooch or whatever.

From where the car is parked I can see Caroline’s front door. I wait about ten full minutes before I finally see Blake leave her condo. He turns and pecks her on the cheek. I wonder what they were doing in there. She closes the door before he even gets down the steps.

He jogs to my car. His running form is perfect. I wonder what other physical activities he’s good at…I. Must. Stop. Now.

As he opens the door and sits, he’s already speaking. “Sorry ’bout that. CC asked me to hang up a shower curtain for her.”

“No problem. It must be nice to have a big tall guy around.” Did I just say that out loud?

He ignores the slinky tone in my voice and starts the car, pulling away from Caroline’s building. “I’m rarely ever there. Caroline and I have been together for a long time, and we work together. We see each other almost every day anyway. I asked her to move in together a long time ago, but I think she likes her quiet time. I wish we could both quit working for her dad, find something we both really love doing, and spend more time together just having fun.”

“She doesn’t seem too happy about working there, either. Why don’t you guys quit?”

“Caroline is locked into these ideas that she has to carry on the family business. I don’t know. She’s probably right. I love her, but wish we were more on the same page. I don’t know—I don’t want to bad-mouth her choices. I know she’s in a tough spot when it comes to the company. She’s basically been groomed to take it over.”

“No, of course not,” I say. I feel so bad for Caroline. What must it be like, to feel like your whole life has been planned out for you, without any of your input or desires being taken into consideration? I briefly wonder if I should suggest to Blake that Caroline reevaluate her decision to stay at the company, but the situation is uncomfortable enough. His arm is practically touching mine.

“She’s just used to having a lot of money and she’s afraid her dad will cut her off if she quits,” he adds.

The need to change the subject is strong. I’m not going to get into a crap-talking session with my client’s boyfriend because I think he’s cute. “What was your life like growing up?”

“I grew up poor. That’s basically it. I paid my way through art school with the money I’d made during the Hampton summers. I met Caroline and we stuck it out, even though we went to college in different places. We both went to work for her dad the day after we graduated. When my mom got sick, Caroline’s dad let me take a leave of absence to care for her out at their vacation house in the Hamptons. That was a gift I can’t take for granted.”

I thought he didn’t like talking about it? “I’m really sorry about your mom.”

“Thank you. It’s hard, the grieving, you know? It waxes and wanes.…She was the best…my mom. She had a great sense of humor, just a total bright spot in the world. She was such a down-to-earth and loving woman.”

I get hung up for a moment on the fact that one of the qualities Blake liked most about his mom was her sense of humor. And he thinks I’m funny.

“Turn here,” I say. I notice how effortless everything seems for him. He can drive, hold a conversation, listen to directions, and still look extremely cool doing it all. “Is it hard for you to talk about your mom?”

“No, I love talking about her.” He looks over and smiles.

“Oh, Caroline made it seem like—”

“Honestly, I think Caroline was a little jealous of the relationship I had with my mom. She felt neglected while I was caring for my mom in New York.”

I’m not quite sure what to say. “Well, it seems like Caroline really loves you.”

He nods without looking over. “I love her, too. She’s a good person, but she’s just struggling to find herself. You’ll learn that about her very soon.”

“I think I already have.” I can already see that the way to help Caroline isn’t just going to involve shopping for her and putting together cute outfits. She needs a total lifestyle change if she really wants to be happy. She has to learn how to become her own person, one who will follow her own dreams and passions—and I can help her. Time to put those sociology classes to good use.

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