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The Reunion

(You can listen to this piece on S2E37 of the podcast)

Chandra switched off her car engine and checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror. Ruby red felt cliché for the first date, but she blossomed as soon as she glimpsed the bright hue on her bow-shaped puckers. She was early for her blind date, so Chandra practiced her facial expressions in the mirror. Listening face. Intrigued face. Laughing face. Hysterically laughing face. Well, maybe she’d save the hysterical laughter for the second date—if there was a second date. At thirty-seven, she’d been through the awkward high school dates and college hookups and mid-twenties night-club search. She’s had two serious relationships—one ending amicably at 25 and the other brokenheartedly at 33. She’s been introduced to purportedly good guys who in the end weren’t looking for anything serious. She’d been pursued by creepy colleagues about whom she’d spent time in HR. And she’d gone on several first dates spawned by dating app matches that all eventually fizzled out either on her end or the guy’s. Chandra had met men at networking events and kid’s birthday parties and mixers for young professionals. And no connection, absolutely no one she’d hedged her bets on, had made it down the aisle with her thus far. About this time last year, Chandra would have said she’d given up on love. That she needed to focus on the other aspects of her life in full spring instead of trying to revive this winter season of romance she was experiencing.

Until now. Because her best friend— fresh off a conference with fellow young business owners in the DMV area— swore she’d found Chandra’s soulmate. Called her everyday about the guy. Sung his praises in emoji-filled texts about how she’d have little babies with this guy and live happily ever after if only she’d agree to one blind date. Chandra’s best friend never shared his name or the name of his business exactly, just that he was “such a sweet and sensitive and ambitious guy.”

Tired of being harassed nonstop, Chandra rose from her bed and drove two towns over for Saturday morning brunch with a guy so well vetted by her best friend, that she claimed he checked every single box. With this encouragement, Chandra replaced her impenetrable stucco wall of doubt for a more welcoming wood fence. This blind date was her unlatching the gate’s door.

Josh stood and smiled as she approached their table: his right was dimple deep, his brown eyes were deep, and apparently his manners were deeply ingrained as he handed her a bouquet of calla lilies. Chandra craned her neck skyward—he was tall, too!— and thanked him graciously for the flowers before settling into the seat he offered her.

Chandra’s heart thudded in her chest, trying to think of the lines she’d rehearsed, but Josh quickly rushed in with a compliment on her yellow and blue dress before teasing her that he might have to end the date now if she was a Michigan fan—he grew up in Ohio—and they both laughed easy like they teased in this way often.

Soon enough, Chandra’s face morphed into listening mode as he told her about his non-profit work. His expression clearly communicated that he, too, had an interested face as she told him about life in the corporate world. And they both laughed. Yes, Chandra even pulled out her hysterically laughing face without even trying. She liked Josh. And she could tell he liked her, too.

“Brunch is over, but we can keep the party going if you’d like,” Josh said, slipping his credit card to the waitress.

Chandra nodded. “I’d like that,” she replied, unable to hide her grin.

“I guess you and I are a hit like a bat to a mitt,” Josh said chuckling, pushing his chair back to stand.

“Like a… bat to a mitt?” Chandra said. She hadn’t practiced her confused face, but it made its appearance, nonetheless.

“Yeah, corny line my grannie likes to say,” Josh said, shaking his head with bemusement. He stood, but Chandra stayed seated.

“My grandma says the same thing,” she mused. “Odd… wait, did you say you grew up in Ohio?”

“Yeah, my whole family on my dad’s side. My mom’s family is from Florida, though, some small town outside of Miami. Browns? Brownsfield?”

“Brownsville,” Chandra gasped, shooting to her feet and causing Josh to step back in surprise. “Her last name isn’t Reeves is it?”

“No… wait, actually, that’s her maiden name,” Josh said, narrowing his eyes. “You know the Reeves family?”

“What’s her name, Josh?” Chandra said, looking desperately into his eyes now. “What is your grannie’s whole name.”

“Mattie Jo Thomas, formerly Mattie Jo Reeves,” he said crossing his muscular arms across his chest. “Wait, are you saying…”

“We’re cousins,” Chandra said, her voice shaking, her whole body shaking. “Your grannie and my grandma are sisters.”

Josh considered this for a few seconds before shrugging it off, but Chandra felt nearly ill with regret.

“And you two never even met before?” her best friend exclaimed after Chandra told her the story later that evening.

“No, never.”

Blowing out a long whistle, her best friend gave her a sympathetic cluck of the tongue before proclaiming, “Well, that was one heck of a family reunion.”

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