I put Netflix on pause and take my headphones off, listening. Knock knock knock. I hadn’t heard wrong: my roommate, Amy, is knocking on my door. I sigh, desperate for some alone time after the hellish week I’ve had.
“Janie, are you in there?” her voice comes muffled.
“Yep! Come on in!” I call out to her as warmly as I can, putting my strawberry cheesecake aside. I had been just about to dive into the sugary comfort with my comfiest pajamas swaddling my curvy body, but I suppose that moment of pure relaxation will have to wait just a little longer.
“It’s locked!” she says.
“Oh sorry!” I say, and leap off my bed to unlock the door, slightly embarrassed. It’s just that I wanted to shut the world out for a bit, even from Amy whom I adore. The door opens and Amy comes shuffling in, her eyes red and puffy, a comforter draped around her shoulders.
“Oh my gosh, are you okay?” I blurt out. Amy shakes her head tearfully.
“I’ve got a terrible flu,” she says nasally, making me feel sorry for her.
“You poor thing, come and sit down!” and I pat the bed beside me. But she shakes her head again, declining, swaying on the doorstep.
“I don’t want to infect you,” she says and sneezes violently into a tissue she’s holding in her hand. “I just came here to ask you a favor.”
“Sure, what is it?” I say.
“It’s a pretty big favor, actually,” she adds, sniffing. I smile at her; dainty and pretty on her best days, my friend now looks cute and helpless, with her long blonde hair, normally lustrous, now matted and sticking out all over the place.
“What can I do?” I say, truly hoping I can help in some small way.
“I have a date tonight. Obviously, I can’t go.”
“Okay, sure, no problem. You want me to call him for you?”
“No,” Amy shakes her head like it’s filled with cotton. “I want you to go in my place.”
I snort out a laugh, but then instantly realize by the look on my friend’s face that she’s being serious.
“Oh. Wait, how would that even make sense?”
“Well, it’s a double date. A blind date. My friend Hillary – remember I told you about Hillary – she set it up. She’ll be there with her boyfriend Randy, and she’s invited Brent along for me. Or rather, she invited me along for him.”
My heart sinks. Because as much as I love Amy, this is not a favor I’m prepared to carry out for anyone. Not right now, anyway, not when I’m already in my pajamas and ready to sink into a five hour-long Netflix binge session. All I want to do is shut the world out for a bit, not go out into it. Especially not with a group of strangers, and especially not on a date!
“I dunno, Amy,” I groan.
“Please!” she pleads.
“Why don’t you just cancel? Go next week, when you’re better?” I ask with exasperation.
“I thought about that. But I can’t bring myself to. Brent’s an army vet and he just got back from a tour. He’s had a lot to deal with, obviously, and Hillary wants to show him a good time. That’s why I said I’d go along in the first place, you know, so he can have, like, a “normal” night out. Everyone will be so disappointed if Brent has to be all alone. No one likes being a third wheel.”
I sigh, actually contemplating the proposition. But no way. I’m not doing this. It’s a disaster just waiting to happen. But Amy can tell from the look on my face what I’m about to say, and she really puts the pressure on then.
“Janie, please. It’s just a movie, so you won’t even have to talk to him! You’re just standing in for me. That way he won’t feel awkward, and maybe next week I can see him myself.”
“I suspect he knows what you look like?” I ask dubiously.
“Yeah, I think so,” she chirps, sensing victory. “Why?”
I sigh. The reason’s obvious. Amy is the pretty friend. She’s blonde, petite yet also leggy, with a sparkling white smile. Me, on the other hand? I’ve got untameable curly brown hair and fifteen pounds to lose. Okay, I admit it. More like thirty pounds to lose.
“So he’ll be expecting pretty, blonde you, and then I show up?” I laugh disbelievingly. “No. The guy’ll shoot himself in the head before he goes into the theater.”
Amy puts her hands on her hips, brows lowering.
“You know I hate when you talk like this. You have such low self-esteem when it comes to your looks that it’s pretty crazy,” she says. “I’ve told you once and I’ve told you a million times. Your curves are gorgeous. And so is your hair! Do you know how many girls would kill for natural ringlets like yours?”