Chapter 1: Deal
“Just two more minutes.” Zoe says to her mom. Though five minutes is more like it. But who’s counting?
That’s what happens when Zoe Claiborne goes on her website, The Bachelorette Blogger. She loses track of time, posting about her ridiculous love life, reading comments about her latest disastrous dating adventures, replying to her devoted followers, commiserating on the mayhem of life as a single woman.
Zoe’s mom, Marcy, leans over her shoulder. “With the amount of time you spend on that blog, you could be missing out on Mister Right.” She reads a line from Zoe’s most recent post. “I was like W-T-F. Why is he trying to kiss me right after he inhaled a bowl of smelly fried onions?” Marcy snickers.
Zoe slaps the lid shut on her laptop.
“You know,” Marcy says, “I, too, have a whizzy machine upstairs called a computer, where I can go online and read your blog.”
“Please don’t. I know that you hate it.” Zoe slides the laptop into her bag. She heads for the front door.
“I don’t hate it. I think there’s a better use of your time than male-bashing.”
“It’s not male-bashing, it’s female-commiserating. It’s not my fault these guys give me so much fodder.”
Zoe opens the door for her mom. A carefree Saturday-afternoon sunlight summons them. The smell of hydrangeas floats lazily from a neighbor’s yard. “And I don’t use any names. It’s all anonymous. Only you, Dad, and my closest friends know I’m the Bachelorette Blogger,” she says proudly.
Marcy frowns. “You’re jaded. I can tell. It’s that blog. It’s feeding the monster. Everyone on there is bitter and angry. It could be contributing to the problem.”
“Idiot guys are the problem. Bad dates are the problem.” Not Zoe. Not the followers of her blog.
“I guess,” Marcy mumbles. She adjusts her hands on the steering wheel, tinkers with the climate control buttons. “My birthday is coming up. I’m going to be sixty-five.” Marcy whistles, which makes Zoe smile. “What I really want for my birthday is to help you find love.”
Zoe groans. “No, Mom.” Her head flops against the headrest. “Can we just not go there?”
“It’s been a little while since I’ve tried to set you up.”
“It doesn’t work. It’s a bad idea. And it’s a terrible birthday present.” If you can even call it that.
Marcy pulls into the strip mall where their favorite Mexican restaurant awaits them. Zoe can smell tortillas and sauteed meat in the air. Her stomach rumbles. She’s starved from her five-mile run that morning.
Marcy shuts off the engine. “Give me a chance to help you find someone. A concerted effort. Not these one-offs like I’ve done in the past. That would be a great birthday present for me.”
Inside the restaurant, the hostess and the sound of a mariachi band welcome them.
“We’ll make a dare,” Marcy says to Zoe. “Give me six months to play matchmaker. If I find someone for you, you give up the blog. If I don’t, then I’ll never play matchmaker again.” The hostess takes them to their table. “But if you don’t want to take the dare, if you’re too chicken, I understand.”
One thing about Zoe Claiborne: She is not a chicken. And a second thing about her: She does not run from dares.
Does she like the idea of her mom playing matchmaker? Hell no.
But the idea of not taking a dare from her mom? She likes that less. And losing a dare from her mom? That. Can’t. Happen. Daughters don’t lose dares from their mothers. That’s not the way of the world. Plus, if Zoe loses, she may have to contend with her mom’s bragging. Zingers could be thrown at any moment, without warning. During holidays. In front of Zoe’s friends. In front of her future boyfriend, spouse, and children. Zoe gasps.
There’s more at stake than just six months of bad matchmaking. A lifetime of bragging rights are on the line. Her reputation as a daughter, a daughter who lost a dare to her mother, is on the line. And last but not least, her beloved blog is on the line.
The hostess stares while mother and daughter square off across the table, squinting like gunslingers in an old Western. The sound of the mariachi band sloughs away. And Zoe can no longer hear the clacking of fresh guacamole being made. Tumbleweed goes by instead of restaurant patrons. Zoe’s got on spurs instead of Steve Maddens. They’re outlaws at the O.K. Corrall or something. And she’s being taken for a yellow-bellied chicken.
Her lip curls. “I’ll take your dare on one condition.”
Marcy tips her chin up.
“I get to blog about it,” Zoe says.
Marcy sucks her teeth, eyes Zoe more, then stretches out her hand. “Deal.”
Zoe shakes on it. “Deal.”
Available next week…
Chapter 2: It Wouldn’t Hurt