Bridget and Preston



Twenty-six months ago:

            The bell over the door chimed when three men in suits entered. Bridget gave them a casual glance and told them to sit anywhere as she refilled a coffee cup of one of the regulars. It was mid-afternoon, the lunch rush was ending, and several booths had opened up.
            After handing out menus, placing new silverware and glasses of ice water in front of each of the gentleman, she took her pad out and with a friendly smiled asked, “What can I get you to drink?”         
            She’d barely glanced at them until she looked at each one as they gave her their order. When her eyes met the youngest of the group, her stomach did a summersault. His light brown eyes followed her every move as his hand ran through his wavy blond hair, loosening it from its gel hold. He had a young face, but his suit and clean cut appearance gave the impression of being older. She guessed he was mid-twenties.  
            “Hi,” he said as he stood. She moved out of his way as he pulled off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “I'll have a coke.” He sat back down, but his eyes never left hers.
            "Three Cokes," she repeated.
            Bridget turned to leave, but out of curiosity peeked over her shoulder, catching him still watching her. He smiled just as one of his companions, slapped him on the back causing him to blush. She never thought much of guys in suits. Not just because her never ending crush never wore a suit. She looked over her shoulder at Billy and held back a sigh. 
            She refocused her attention to the suits who she knew were out of her league. She was a waitress with only a high school diploma. Well that’s not completely true she did finish one term of college before she dropped out and intended to go back one day, but it didn't change how inadequate she felt around the "suit types."
            When she brought their order of burgers and fries to the table, he had a napkin tucked in his collar and a boyish grin. She held back a giggle and decided she should rethink her opinion of guys in suits.
            One of the men picked up the files that were scattered on the surface of the table allowing her to place their plates in front of each of them. The other older gentleman mentioned something about finishing up after they eat.
            A couple of hours, several cups of coffee later and a lot of flirting on his part, the men got up to leave. When he brought their ticket to the register, his hand shook as he handed it over along with cash. “Keep the change.” He flashed his boyish grin, and she returned it with a smile.
            “Thanks.” Her smile slowly slipped away when he didn’t retreat. He stood staring at her.
            She noticed him glance at her name tag for the second time. “Bridget, I was hoping to get your number. I’d like to call and ask you out.” He blushed and nervously tapped his fingers on the counter.
            This wasn't the first time a guy had asked her out since she had Katie, but it was the first time she wanted to say yes. Instead of handing over her number like she wanted, she said, "I'm almost twenty with a three-year-old daughter." If he didn't run away screaming, then she would consider it, but most guys her age disappeared at the words “I have a child.”
            He smiled. “If she looks anything like you then you’re in big trouble." With a wink, he said, "S[G1] o about that number…”
            She bit her lower lip to keep from smiling and shook her head. “I don’t know you. I don’t even know your name.”
            “Right. I'm Preston Reed.” He wiped his hand on his slacks before offering his hand. “I hoped we'd get to know each other on our date.”
            “Still... I’m sorry, no.” As badly as she wanted to say yes, she didn't trust herself. She thought Phillip was a great guy and look what happened. Her opinion couldn’t be trusted.
            “No problem Bridget. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He gave one last smile before leaving.
            Late afternoon the next day, he came back, this time wearing jeans and t-shirt. His hair was a sexy wavy mess. It looked good on him and made him appear younger than the first time she saw him.
            Once again, he flirted and chatted with her every time she stopped at his table. On her break, she checked on Katie, who was in Billy’s office “helping” him with his orders before taking a seat across from Preston. He was sweet, and everything in her was telling her that he was a good guy, but she was still hesitant to go out with him. Phillip had been her whole dating history, and she couldn't imagine why anyone would want to go out with her. Plus, she wasn’t sure if she were ready to try again even if the guy sitting across from her made it impossible not to smile.
            Just as she stood to go back to work, he reached for her hand and held it. “Bridget, I'm not ready to give up yet. Would you consider going out with me?”
            She shook her head no right as her daughter wearing her favorite princess costume including a tiara, came running up to her. "Mama. Billy said to help you."
            When Bridget looked over her shoulder at Billy, she noticed him watching them with an intense stare. She thought it strange that he would send Katie over, but just as she was about to ask her to help fill up a pitcher with water, Preston scooted out of his seat and knelt down to talk to Katie. "Hi. I'm Preston, and you are?"
            “I'm Katie.” She gave him one of her best smiles and shook his hand.
            "It's a pleasure to meet you, Princess Katie." She giggled as her smile grew.
            He earned kudos points for that.
            After a few minutes, he was able to attain valuable information like Katie's favorite movie, Princess, color, and animal. Considering how shy her daughter was, it took her back to see her so open with this guy. Still. She wasn't ready to say yes.
            Once Katie ran off to help Diane, he sat back in his seat. “So, it’s still a no?”
            She reluctantly nodded and mumbled a “Yeah.”
            He nodded and tapped his fingers on the table. "I'm going to be out of town for work for at least a month, but don't think I've given up. I like you, Bridget."
            She was beginning to like him too.
           
***
            It was just a week after her twentieth birthday when he showed up. Her stomach did somersaults. Once again, he came alone but brought a wrapped present and an envelope filled with documents. "Do you have a minute?" He asked. He caught her at a good time; the other waitress had just shown up giving her the first break of the day.  [G2] [G3] 
 Bridget sat across from Preston, her hands folded in her lap as she tried to ignore the nervous energy he seemed to cause.
            “This is my resume. It has all my pertinent information, like where I went to school, my skills, and work history. This is a referral from my boss informing you that I’m a hard worker and have worked at the same job since I got out of college. This is...”
            “We’re not hiring,” she teased. Still not sure why he would show her this, she apologized for interrupting and told him to go on.
            With a gleam in his eye, he went on. “This is the title to my car and the title to my house. I would have brought my credit report, but that seemed a little excessive.”
            She covered her face while holding back a laugh. “You thought that would be excessive?”
 He didn't let her question deter him. "I want you to get to know me. I'm a hard worker, employed, and I don't have debt. My grandfather died leaving me the house and my car is paid off."
            Shaking her head, she closed her eyes and tried to breathe through her laughter. "Preston. I don't even know what to say."
            “Say you’ll go out with me.”
            She drew in a deep breath with the word “yes” on the tip of her tongue, but her fear of getting hurt from agreeing. “I’m still not sure.”
            “What do I need to do?” he asked sincerely. A part of Bridget was relieved that he wasn't giving up. [G5] [G6] If Preston had shown any other signs of being a creeper she would've had Billy deal with him, but he was sweet, and it was good for her ego to have someone interested.[G7] 
            “I haven’t dated in a really long time, since...”
            “You need more time? I can do that. I’m heading out of town again, but this time for a few weeks.”

***
             Two weeks later at 9 AM he stepped inside with bloodshot eyes, a wrinkled suit and tie that hung undone around his neck. A man around the same age, but casually dressed sat next to him at the counter. 
            She smiled shyly at him while she soaked in his appearance. “You look tired for so early in the morning.”
            He gave her a tired grin. “I went from work, straight to the airport and only arrived in Phoenix a few hours ago then drove straight here after picking up my friend. He pointed the man next to him and smiled. “Bridget, I’d like you to meet my best friend since Kindergarten, Lane, this is Bridget, the girl I was telling you about.”
            Lane chuckled and shook her hand. “It's nice to meet you. You have no idea what this guy has done to get me here today so I can vouch for him.”
            Her jaw dropped as she looked back and forth between them. “You’re kidding.”
            They both shook their heads. “Bridget, you underestimate my desire to take you out on a date.”
            “Wow. No pressure. I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed for all the work you've gone through for one date with me. It won't be worth it. I guarantee.”
            “So you’re agreeing to go out with me?”
            “No.”
            “No? Oh man.” He dragged his hands down his tired face.
            A big part of her felt guilty for saying no, but she wasn't joking when she mentioned the pressure.  He was building her up, and she would never be able to live up to what he thought she was. 
            Lane slapped him on the back. “Sorry man.” But he didn’t look sorry. He hid a smile under his hand that covered his mouth.
            “I guess I’ll have to pull out the big guns. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll take the hint.”
            Big guns? He’d done so much already, what else could he do?

***
            A week later, he walked in during the breakfast rush with an older woman on his arm. They took the only open table and waited patiently for her to get to them.
            “I'm sorry about the wait. Can I get you coffee or juice to start?”
            Neither answered right away. The woman smiled as she looked back and forth between her and Preston. “Coffee for both of us and Bridget, I’d like you to meet my mother, Mary.” Preston waved his hand to the woman sitting across from him.
            He brought his mom...
            They shook hands and smiled at each other. “I wish I could stay and talk, but …”
            “No worries honey. We have all day. Literally,” she said as she winked at her son.
            An hour later she was sitting at their table laughing and talking about Preston as if he weren’t there. He sat back with a grin only adding comments when necessary.
            “I'm sorry to do this, but my break is over. I hope to see you again,” she said sincerely to his mother.
            “I hope so too.” Mary excused herself and stepped outside to wait for Preston.
            “Before I go, will you please go on a date with me?” She chewed on her lip while she wrote her phone number on her order pad. She tore it off and handed it to him with a grin. “I’ll see you later.”



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