Buying the Bride

By: Penny Wylder

“Where are we going now?” he asks.

I point at the hotdog cart in the distance. “Lunch.”

“No, I’m not eating—”

“Live a little,” I tell him.

I’m dragging him now, and I’m laughing because he’s being such a child about it, like trying to force-feed a toddler spinach.

“I would never dream of taking a date to a hotdog cart for our first meal,” he says.

“It’s not a date. This is me thanking you for saving my friend’s dogs, and me from having to tell her I lost them. Don’t be so stubborn.”

He rolls his eyes, but eventually relents. “Two hotdogs, please,” I tell the vendor.

Heath reaches for the wallet in the inside pocket of his jacket, but I stop him. “I’m treating you, remember.”

Letting me pay seems to be the hardest part of this task for him, but eventually I convince him to put his wallet away.

“Man, do women usually have to put this much effort into wooing you?” I ask.

He chuckles at the word ‘wooing.’ I do too. It’s a dumb word, but we both know what I’m getting at.

“I wouldn’t know. I don’t date,” he says.

Of course he doesn’t. If he did, he might actually have found love instead of paying for a fake bride. Sucks for all the women out there. I’m sure there are plenty who would love to get their acrylic nails into a man of his stature.

“Why not? You’re handsome, smart, tall, sexy as hell, a hard worker. Any woman would fall all over themselves to be with you.” I motion to the women around us. As if on cue, a woman jogging nearby is paying too much attention to Heath and not to the trail in front of her. She strips and stumbles forward, but manages to catch herself before she falls. I let out a really un-ladylike snort, and Heath bites his lip to keep from laughing. The girl jogs off, red-faced.

“Poor thing, that’s so embarrassing,” I say. “But it just goes to prove my point. You can have any woman you want. So why don’t you date?”

He’s still smiling when he looks at me, and I have to tuck my heart way, force it down deep inside to protect it. I could fall for a smile like that. He could snatch it right out of my chest and it would be his forever if I’m not careful.

“I’ve dated once or twice, but it’s difficult for women to see beyond my money.”

“Maybe because you don’t open yourself up. You’re so stiff.”

The vendor hands us our hotdogs. I load mine up with a sloppy squiggle of mustard. Heath makes a perfectly straight line on his. I can’t help but giggle.

“What?” he says.

I point at the mess I’ve made, and to his straight line. “I feel like this might be a perfect representation of us.” I put my hotdog on top of his to mess up his mustard line, and now they are equally messy. “There, that’s better,” I say. “Now eat.”

He stares at the hotdog like it’s going to bite him back. After some coaxing on my part, he finally takes a bite and his eyes literally roll in the back of his head. “Good, right?” I say.

“This might actually be the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” he says.

“I can’t believe you’ve never had a hotdog from a cart. Didn’t your dad ever take you to baseball games?”

The delirious euphoria his taste buds had been experiencing is cut short by the mention of his dad. “No. He’s not exactly a baseball kind of man, or a spend-time-with-your-kid kind of man. You’ll understand when you finally meet him.”

I press my lips together. “Great, can’t wait.”

We continue to walk and he eagerly enjoys his hotdog in silence. I’ve barely taken a bite of mine. I’m too busy watching him. It’s weird, but I like watching him eat, the way his jaw flexes, the way he makes these contented little sighs. He glances at the uneaten hotdog in my hand.

“You gonna eat that?” he asks.

I hand it over and smile. “Have at it, buddy.”

We continue to walk and our conversation comes surprisingly easy.

“What kind of name is Sylph?” he asks.

“A Sylph is a mythological spirit of the air.” I shrug. “My mom can get a little earthy sometimes. Probably comes from living on a farm where everything is organic.”

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