Coffee To Go (Chapter One, page 1 of 5)

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"Hi, Mel. How are you?"

"Fine. Now tell me what you want." Melanie knew from the tone of Susan's voice that she was about to ask for something.

"I need a really big favor, Mel. Brian invited four associates over for dinner tonight and one couldn't make it. I need you to come over and fill a chair at the table."

"Susan, are you trying to set me up again?" Ever since Melanie had broken her engagement two months ago, her well-intentioned but misguided sister had kept trying to get her to date again.

"Not this time, Mel. This dinner is really important to Brian. His architect will be here and I could really use your support. I haven't met any of these people before, so they could be sixty and balding for all I know. Please, Mel?"

"Don't whine. If you promise me this isn't a setup, I'll come over."

"I promise. Be here about six-thirty. Love ya! Bye." And she hung up the phone.

Having planned a long hot soak in the tub, Melanie now had to settle for a quick shower. She dressed carefully and applied a light touch of make-up. Her teal blue dress was flattering in its simplicity and she knew it brought out the highlights in her auburn hair. She added a gold choker and drop earrings. Grabbing a small evening bag, she took one last look in the mirror and left her apartment.

As an insurance broker, she was in contact with people on a daily basis, but since her break-up, she had been keeping to herself in her free time. Now she felt a little tremor of excitement at the prospect of meeting others in a social setting.

Tapping lightly on her sister's door, she let herself in. She saw him immediately - and flashed back to that disastrous episode at the local Tim Horton's only days ago. In unison, they both said "You!"

Sensing the sudden tension in the room, Brian came over. "I see you've already met my architect, Russ." Before she could respond, Russ said "We've bumped into each other before, yes."

Being introduced to the other couple gave Melanie a few moments to become composed, but she was dismayed to find herself seated beside Russ at dinner. At least I don't have to look at him, she mused. When he tried to make conversation, she answered in monosyllables or ignored him completely, until finally he leaned over and spoke very quietly into her ear. "Stop sulking and smile. Your attitude is going to spoil this dinner for your sister and Brian, and it is really important to them, so I suggest you shape up."

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