Jacqueline opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. She replayed the previous evening's events and wondered, yet again, how and why had she gotten into such a ridiculous situation?
She considered herself a relatively average person, attractive with a decent figure; she had good friends; and good health, so what if she disliked men. Of all the men she had met, most had been jerks. Her natural reaction in meeting any man these days was to build a wall of protection---a result of the lies and the hurt caused in past relationships. She sighed, followed by a tiresome groan. God, she actually gave it one more shot last night, which only reconfirmed her opinion. Men are jerks and liars.
She met him on LoveMatch.com. After corresponding with him for over a month, they had agreed to meet at an upscale, somewhat trendy restaurant on Murphy Street in Sunnyvale. His profile had been impressive. A master's degree in counseling, established writer for several popular magazines, and trained in martial arts. Jacqueline's vocation in journalism and her classes in martial arts seemed a definite plus. She had earned her brown belt and was looking forward to obtaining her black belt within the next year.
Jacqueline arrived a few minutes early, was seated, and waited for her "Mr. Right." Twenty minutes later, her "match" showed up, sat down, and introduced himself.
"Name's Henry," he said softly. "You must be Jacqueline."
His gaze made her skin crawl, and she was instantly uncomfortable. He was not the person pictured in his profile. Instead of being fifty and attractive, he was overweight, unkempt, and was closer to sixty. A haze of cigarette smoke seemed to enfold his space; the smell drifted across the table and assaulted her. A singed mustache, ten shades darker than his hair, hung just this side of lopsided, giving his face an unbalanced appearance.
At least he had hair, she thought in disgust. She should have bailed right then and there. He ordered two glasses of wine and, for the next half hour, talked non-stop about himself, making sure she understood how impressive he was while dropping super cheesy lines. Bored, Jacqueline decided it was time to leave when, with a wink and while moistening his lips, Henry pulled his chair closer to Jacqueline's. She could smell his putrid breath mingled with the scent of smoke and wine. He checked the neighboring tables on either side and then leaned closer.
"You know why they call me the whisperer?" He breathed in her ear.
Setting her glass of wine down gently while doing a quick survey for a path to an exit, she leaned back to put distance between them.
"No, Henry, I cannot imagine why."
"Because I can whisper what you need."
Jacqueline stared into Henry's inflamed eyes. Speechless, she had no clue how to respond.
"You know, darlin', these lips won't kiss themselves," he said as he belched.
"Ah, excuse me?" Jacqueline murmured feeling nauseated.
"Oh, yeah, I'm all for the ladies who want to express themselves." A drop of sweat trickled down his forehead. "Good God, you are a looker!" He said, putting his nicotine-stained hand on her knee. "Waiter, call me an ambulance. This here looker's beauty is killing me!"
She wanted to smack that twisted look right off his face and crush those meaty fingers. "Really?" While she strained to achieve her most charming smile, she stood slowly, backed away, and excused herself. "I need to use the powder room."
"Take your time, sugar; I'm right here."
She walked toward the restroom sign, passed the ladies' room, and strode through the kitchen. She exited the restaurant and moved quickly towards her car, simultaneously unlocking the car door with her remote. So intent was Jacqueline on leaving for home that she did not notice the figure following her. As she opened the car door, a hand came from behind, slammed it, and grabbed her wrist. She turned and faced a red, blustering Henry.
He pulled her away from the door then pushed her toward the back of the car. "Just where do you think you're going?" He stammered.
"I'm going home, Henry. Let go of my wrist and get out of my way." She screeched, trying to smack his hand away.
A figure appeared at the kitchen door of the restaurant. "Hey, lady. You okay? This guy bothering you?"
"Yes, he is, and no, I am not ok," Jacqueline hollered.
"You leave her alone. I've already called the police."
"Mind your own business." Henry snarled. He stared at the young man a moment longer, then turned his attention back to Jacqueline. "This little lady and I have business to discuss."
"Let go!" Jacqueline cried. She tried to twist her wrist out of Henry's grasp.
Whoop-whoop-whoop. Flashing red and blue lights appeared. A police car approached with a pulsing wail. The cruiser pulled up alongside Jacqueline's car. A depressed-looking police officer emerged. This call interrupted his first break in a ten-hour shift and a mouthwatering T-bone steak dinner. "Damn," he muttered under his breath as he stood. He adjusted his gun belt to a more comfortable position over his protruding midsection.
The officer tipped his hat towards Jacqueline then noted Henry holding Jacqueline's wrist. "Sir, I suggest you let go of the lady's wrist . . . now."
Henry looked down and released his grip as if a hot poker had hit his hand.
"What's the problem here, folks?"
"I'll tell you what the problem is, officer," Henry bellowed. "This woman here just walked out on a bill that she didn't pay. Dine and dash."
The officer turned to Jacqueline. "Miss, is this true?"
"Officer, I walked out on this man to get away from his sexual drivel and unwanted advances. He ordered me one drink that is still untouched on the table. He followed me out here, grabbed my wrist, and pulled me toward the back of my car."
The police officer turned his attention toward Henry and waited for a reply.
"The woman is a troubled soul officer. I pride myself on treating all women with respect. We were having a delightful conversation, and she ups and disappears, leaving me with an unpaid tab."
"That's a lie," Jacqueline said between clenched teeth. She glanced at the officer's name tag. "Officer Braun. This man is a predator. He should be put in jail and the key thrown away."
"Let's decompress, Miss. I need some names here."
"My name's Jonathan Summers, officer, and I am a well-respected businessman in San Francisco. Surely you've heard of me."
"Wait a minute. You told me your name was Henry Cummings."
"Ma'am, your name."
"Jacqueline Renee," she said, glaring at Henry or Jonathan. "ID's, please."
While Jonathan took his driver's license out of his wallet, Jacqueline searched her purse for the case holding credit cards and her ID. Both handed their identification to the officer, who walked to his cruiser for confirmation. While doing a preliminary check, a young man dressed in a white chef's uniform stepped up.
"Officer, I saw the whole thing. That guy," he said, pointing to Jonathan, "followed her out here, slammed her car door, grabbed her, and pulled her toward the car. I was the one who called the police."
"I'm sure she appreciates your help; it was the right thing to do," Braun said, walking back to Jonathan and Jacqueline.
"So, Jonathan, do you always give your dates a fake name?" He handed Jonathan his driver's license.
"Officer, it's hard being a successful businessman and meeting honest women. I found this one on Love.Match.Com. What kind of a woman do you think gets on these sites? I'll tell you what kind. Ladies who just want a free meal and to fleece you for all you got."
Jacqueline took a step toward the Officer. "I can't believe you are listening to this man and his bullshit."
"Careful how you approach me, Miss," he said, as he held up his hands in a what-did- I-say gesture. He was hungry, tired, and getting agitated.
"What the?" Jacqueline said, flustered as she backed away. "I cannot believe this."
"I'm trying to help you, Miss. A little respect goes a long way when talking to an officer of the law."
"I am merely trying to explain what happened here, and I am respectful of the law. Damn it. Not only is this man lying, he accosted me. What are you going to do about it?"
"You can press charges against Mr. Summers."
Jonathan took out his wallet. "Officer, surely we can come to some resolution of this incident,"
The officer looked at the wallet. "Bribery, Mr. Summers?"
"Of course not, officer. I---, ah, need to pay for the drink I ordered. She needs to pay for her part of the bill."
"I certainly will not," Jacqueline said, turning to Officer Braun. "What type of charges?"
"Assault and Battery."
Jacqueline thought for a moment. "I just want this whole thing over. I'm not pressing charges as long as he leaves, now."
Braun turned to Jonathan. "Be a good guy and go in and pay for the total tab."
Jonathan was about to argue until he saw the officer looking at the large bills in his hand. "Yes, I suppose that would be the best thing to do." He turned and started walking back toward the restaurant.
"Miss Renee, I suggest you be a bit more careful in the future. Try not to put yourself in a situation that might do you harm."
"So officer, are you saying this whole situation is my fault?" Officer Braun sighed. "If there are no charges, we're done here."
"Officer, never underestimate the power of a pissed-off woman. I may be angry and mad, but you know what? I will pull my bootstraps up and move on."
"Evening, Miss Renee." Officer Braun tipped his hat, exhaled, and strode over to his cruiser.
Jacqueline watched him get into his vehicle and drive off. She got in her car, shut the door, and sat staring out the windshield. She started the car, pulled away, and did not try to stop the single tear that slid down her cheek.