Lila arrived at the Dariburger at 7:45pm wearing straight jeans, a beige cashmere sweater over a white plaid shirt, and black high heels. She had always been taught to be punctual and her father often said to her that if she was ever on time, she was already late. Coming early was always the best way to make a great first impression.
However, at 8:30pm, Lila was still waiting for Kent at the Dariburger. He hadn't shown up and she couldn't imagine why. She looked at her phone to make sure that she hadn't missed a call. There were no calls waiting. Great, I've been stood up. Just when she was about to get up and walk out the door, the door itself opened and Kent stepped into the restaurant. He looked around and when he spotted her, he waved at her and headed in her direction.
"Hey Lila! How are you doing?" He smiled at her and sat down at the table.
"I'm good. Is everything alright with you?"
"Yes, everything is fine," Kent said a bit confused upon hearing the concern in Lila's voice. "Why would you think that something would be wrong?"
"I'm just wondering why you're late," Lila said, trying to keep her voice even. When Kent continued to look confused, Lila clarified the time for him. "It's almost 8:30pm and we agreed to meet up at 8:00pm."
"Oh, I thought that I would just be fashionably late," he said smiling shyly.
"Well, being late has unfortunately gone out of style," Lila snapped.
"Sorry. I didn't know that you were a punctual nut," Kent said with a small laugh.
Lila knew that he was joking, but she couldn't help but feel annoyed. She also felt disappointed since she at least expected Kent to have the courtesy and sensibility to know that punctuality on a first date was important. Nevertheless, Lila tried to not let his tardiness ruin the evening.
"I'm so glad that we were able to meet up tonight," Lila said, trying to sound positive despite her annoyance. "But before we continue, there's something about me that I have to tell you."
"Okay," Kent said slowly, looking at her with uncertainty.
"My name's not Katherine. It's Lila Fowler. My family owns Fowler Enterprise," Lila said slowly, giving Kent time to absorb the information.
"That must mean you're pretty rich, huh?"
Lila was surprised at his blunt statement. "Yes, we're quite rich. In fact, we're the richest family in Sweet Valley," Lila continued brightly, her smile wide. She was proud of her family's status and she wasn't going to be coy about it. Not for Kent or for anyone.
"That's quite a surprise. Thanks for telling me. Are you ready to order? I'm starved. I really hope that they have the cheeseburgers that I really love. They're available as a special only on Tuesdays, but they sell them on Fridays too sometimes." Kent beckoned for the waiter to come over and to give them menus.
He took that...well, she thought resentfully. Almost too well. Lila had expected a little more surprise and amazement on his part since the Fowler fortune was certainly not a topic that you just mentioned briefly before casually moving on to the food selections for dinner.
"I'm starved too," Lila said, forcing a chuckle.
Lila's mother always told her that the first 5 minutes of a date usually do a pretty good job of predicting how the rest of the evening will generally go. Her mother's theory was very quickly validated. Kent talked a great deal about his life, his family and his job and asked only a few questions about her own life. Lila had to fight the urge to stick her fork in her eyes. Not only was the conversation mundane, but Lila could not deny the fact that she didn't feel even remotely drawn to him and her initial annoyance only intensified during the course of the evening. She was just about to throw down her napkin and suggest that they end their boring chit chat and part ways, when Bruce walked in accompanied by his cousin Roger. Bruce took a quick glance at the room and caught Lila's eyes. He nodded his head in acknowledgement and got in the long line, the end of which was close to where their booth was, near the back of the restaurant. Lila bit her lip. She was not going to let Bruce Patman of all people see how unsuitable this "blue-collared' boy was for her. The last thing that she needed was him gloating about how right he was. She immediately reached for Kent's hand, trying to catch bits and pieces of the conversation that he was apparently having with himself.
"That's really interesting," Lila said, trying to sound and look enthralled by his every word.
"Really?" Kent's expression turned to one of absolute delight. "Most people find my stories about my dog Oliver kind of boring," he said laughing nervously. "For a second there, I thought I was boring you to death."
You have no idea, Lila thought. "No, not at all," she said gripping his hand even more tightly. "Your dog sounds...fascinating."
"Thanks," Kent said genuinely. His phone rang and he nervously scrambled to get it.
Lila looked up to find Bruce staring at her. She gave him a small wave and a forced smile. He smiled very broadly in return, laughing as he turned to whisper something to Roger. Lila looked at Kent who was still talking on the phone. Although she plastered a smile on her face, her annoyance resurfaced. Kent apparently didn't have the decency to turn his phone on silent while on a date. Phone disruptions on a date were one of the many things that she absolutely could not stand.
Finally, Kent got off the phone. "That was my brother. He wants me to order a couple of Burgers for him and bring them home." Lila looked at the long line that was now occupying every inch of the restaurant. The place was packed, as it usually was on a Friday night.
"That could probably take a long time," Lila said, trying to smile sweetly. "Maybe you should ask your brother if you can pick up burgers for him some other time. You are, after all, on a date," she said, trying hard to subtly suggest to Kent that he was being rude.
He apparently wasn't taking the hint. "No, I don't think so. He really loves these burgers. It will only take 30 minutes or so. This actually works out great because we can talk more while we wait," Kent said enthusiastically.
Lila resisted the strong urge to slap him. "My parents actually said that they really wanted me home by 10:30pm and it's already 10:10pm. Why don't I just call my chauffeur to come get me?"
"Sure, if that's what you want to do," Kent said in a kind tone, encouragingly.
"Great," Lila said relieved. She called her chauffeur, spent another agonizing 10 minutes with Kent and then eyed the door as soon as she saw a sleek black Limousine pull up.
"Well, there's my ride," she said getting up.
"Great. I'll walk you out," Kent said. As soon as they were outside, Kent spoke again. "This was fun. We should definitely get together soon again," he said.
"Really?" Lila said incredulously. Lila looked inside the Dariburger and could see Bruce stealing glances at them as he waited in line and talked to Roger. "Did you have fun? Because I sure as hell didn't," she said smiling to give any outsider the impression that they were exchanging pleasant good-byes. "I think that it would be best if we didn't see each other again...ever." Lila then hastily got inside her Limousine. Once comfortably inside, she shut the door and let out the huge groan of frustration that she had been holding in all night. "Never again," she muttered under her breath as the Limousine drove away.
Bruce looked outside to where Kent was standing, an expression of confusion and hurt on Kent's face. He turned to Roger.
"I'm going to say hello to someone that I know. You can stay in line." Roger nodded, looking miserably at the long line ahead of them that wasn't moving due to what seemed like an equipment malfunction in the kitchen that was halting everyone's orders. Bruce could hear people in the line muttering angry words about the service.
Bruce walked to the front doors. Holding them open, he called out to Kent. "Kent! Why don't you come on inside and we'll have a little chat. It's chilly," Bruce said matter-of-factly, jerking his head towards the inside of the Dariburger. Kent looked at Bruce and walked towards him.
"Yeah, sure," Kent said despondently, a little distracted. Bruce led the way. They found a seat near the windows close to where Roger was in the line. Bruce caught Roger's eyes so that he knew where they were sitting.
"So, how did your date go?" Bruce leaned back, lazily draping his arm along the top of the booth that they were in. After watching Kent and Lila during the last half of their date, he had a pretty good idea of what Kent's answer would be.
"I thought that it went well, but now I'm not so sure," he said looking outside the window where Lila's limousine had been. "I can't imagine what went wrong."
Bruce laughed quietly and shook his head. "Where do you want me to start?" He leaned forward and showed Kent the fingers on his hand. He pointed to his thumb. "Firstly, you were ridiculously late." Kent gave him a questioning look. "How do I know that? When I arrived, you both were barely halfway through your meal and it was already 9:00pm. I told you she was rich and rich people care a lot about punctuality. If you're on time for something, you're already late. Secondly," he said pointing to the next finger on his hand, "when I was watching you two talk, your mouth was the only one moving and her's was occasionally, when she was trying to suppress a groan of frustration. She was bored to death with how much you talked about yourself. Thirdly, you didn't even try to hold on to her and you just let her take herself home. Women want to know that you matter to them and you pretty much showed her the door."
"But, there's a reason why I couldn't take her home. I had to stay to-" Kent began.
"I don't need to know your reasons. They're probably silly anyway," Bruce said sharply. "Fourthly," he continued, "you answered your phone during the date which is unacceptable unless it's an emergency. Nothing is more annoying than when someone interrupts a date to answer their phone about something that is irrelevant."
From the look on Kent's face, Bruce could easily tell that he was hurt and in shock. "Oh, god, you actually like her, don't you?" Kent was silent, looking down at his hands. Bruce groaned in frustration. "Well, that settles it."
"Settles what?" Kent asked, looking at Bruce with sad puppy dog eyes and that made him sick in the stomach.
"It means that you're absolutely useless to me. The deal is off," Bruce said harshly as he got up from the table to join Roger in the stagnant line nearby. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Kent get up and quickly head out the door.
"That was really cold, even for you, Bruce," Roger said looking at Bruce with a disgusted look on his face and his arms folded across his chest. Bruce rolled his eyes.
"Oh, please." Roger's expression didn't change. "What did you want me to do? Sugarcoat the whole situation? Sometimes harsh words get the point across much more effectively than nice ones."
"So, I guess that means that you're dropping the whole 'Revenge on Lila' plan, right?" Roger's tone was hopeful.
"Yes...for now. The servant boy is useless to me." Bruce paused. "He's actually in love with her. How someone- anyone- can love that woman, I'll never understand. I should've seen the evidence of his feelings from a mile away. I'm going to have to find someone else or think of an entirely new plan," Bruce said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully and staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. Roger let out a sigh of exasperation.
"You know, you've spent half your life trying to get back at Lila. Your antagonistic relationship with her is probably the longest relationship you've had with a girl. I thought that the next generation was suppose to correct the mistakes of the previous one. You both are no better than your parents. Instead of stopping this feud, you're perpetuating and aggravating it. Don't you think it's time to give it up?"
"This thing we have between the two of us is not my fault," Bruce insisted seriously. "Every time I make things even and try to fix things, she tips the scales again, forcing me to reestablish the equilibrium."
"Right," Roger said slowly in a tone that indicated that he didn't believe Bruce at all. "I think you both take some kind of perverse thrill in torturing each other." Roger than paused and looked at Bruce thoughtfully. "Are you sure you don't like her even a tiny bit? You must if you're willing to put so much effort into hating her and scheming against her. She must mean something to you if you give her so much of your time."
Bruce groaned out loud in frustration and look angrily at his cousin. "You honestly think I do what I do to her because I'm motivated by affection or attraction?" He tried to keep his voice even, but his efforts were in vain. "I'm motivated by hatred towards her and her family and everything that they stand for! You would do us all a favor if you were to actually remember that too every now and then. Our adversarial relationship with the Fowlers is as much apart of our legacy as our money and traditions are. God, I can't believe how many times I've had to tell you that! You're a Patman, Roger! You need to start acting like one," Bruce said harshly and loudly.
"Sorry," Roger said quietly with a frown on his face. "So, you said that the guy actually likes her," Roger said, desperate to change the topic of the conversation.
"Yes, he does. It was quite obvious," Bruce said rubbing his temple, wondering where this conversation was going. Kent might as well be a non-person to him now. Why did Roger want to keep talking about him?
"You could help the guy out. Help him to get the girl of his dreams."
Bruce laughed out loud, catching the attention of the people around them. He looked incredulously at Roger, as if he was waiting for some sign that Roger was joking.
"You're joking, right? Please tell me you're joking. You've seen him and you heard our conversation. He's hopeless. Lila has impossibly high standards and that guy doesn't even come close to meeting them. I'm not going to waste my time helping him."
"I just feel bad for him and he seems like a nice guy. He just needs some help," Roger said empathetically.
"You feel bad for everyone, Roger. It's so annoying. If you can't stand to see him unhappy, then why don't you make him your charity case."
"Because, you know Lila better than anyone. You know her world- you live in it," Roger said pointedly.
"You have a very cold heart, Bruce," Roger said sadly when Bruce continued to not answer. Bruce closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He absolutely hated how uncomfortable his cousin could make him feel sometimes. "Tell you what," Roger continued pressing the issue, "if you can hook them up with each other, I'll give you my position on the executive board at Patman Corporations." Bruce turned around sharply to look at Roger, an expression of surprise and disbelief on his face. A few months ago, when Bruce's grandfather had arrived in town for his annual visit, he had put both boys through some tough questions and tasks in order to decide which one of them was most suitable for a board member position in the family's company. He felt that the time was right for either Bruce or Roger to learn more about Patman Corporations and to be more involved in running the company by helping to make executive decisions. After all, his grandfather had said, one of them would be CEO someday and would have to make thousands of such decisions every day. One bad decision could bring the company crashing down, putting to shame the efforts of the last 10 generations of Patmans.
"You shouldn't do that. That position is nothing to joke about. Why would you do that?"
"Because I want to see if your heart is really as cold as it appears to be," Roger said in a seemingly offhanded manner, shrugging his shoulders. Bruce noticed the seriousness in his tone.
Bruce rolled his eyes and after thinking about it for a bit, he outstretched his hand and shook Roger's. "You got yourself a deal. How long do I have?"
"You have until the Fowler's annual spring ball. The objective is to get her to ask him to the ball and for them to go together as an official couple. Think you can handle that?"
"Of course I can," he said confidently, giving his cousin a wide smile.
Roger raised his eyebrows in curiosity. "I thought you said that Kent was hopeless."
"Not if he has me. Don't get too comfortable in your office seat. Your board position is mine."