It was nights like this Ellie loved most. Everyone huddled together, all snug in their cozy living room. Nothing altogether special, no elaborate plans, just take out and the loves of her life clustered together in the same place at the same time. Well, most of them. One husband and two out of four kids weren’t bad odds when they were scattered to the four winds.
Greer’s surprise appearance coupled with the best news she’d heard all month. A new duty station and it was close. So close that she could come to visit them and vice versa in just a few hours’ drive. Ellie could’ve burst with joy. It’s the best gift she could hope for these days. If she could figure a way to get all her kids within a two-hour radius of her, she’d be in heaven. It wasn’t realistic, so she took what she could get when she got it, and this would do nicely.
Earlier in the day, Ellie and Greer set out early and hit the local farmers’ market, then headed into town for some lunch. They found a cute little Italian bistro with promise.
Ellie perused the wine menu and settled on a nice red, then debated which delectably carb-loaded entrée she would choose. She looked over the top of her menu to see Greer staring at her.
“You’re going to make me ask you, aren’t you?”
“Ask me what?” Ellie donned an air of ignorant innocence and sipped her wine. After all, why would she make it easy for her prying daughter?
“You know what.”
Ellie blinked and suppressed a smirk that fought for real estate on her face.
“You’re insufferable and trying to get anything out of dad is just as bad.” Greer took a swig from her glass. “Now, out with it. How goes the friend search?”
“It’s going, I guess.” Ellie shrugged. “I kinda took a break from searching after the whole swinger story I stumbled on in one of the wives’ pages.”
Greer coughed into her glass, and ruby drops littered her face. She struggled to breathe as she choked on her words. “Swinger’s story?” Was all she could get out and a bit too loudly as the surrounding conversations dimmed a bit at the neighboring tables.
“I didn’t tell you?” Ellie grinned into her glass and quickly regaled Greer with details on her first-night friend searching the wives page back when conspirators coerced her into putting herself out there.
“Naturally, I wasn’t willing to put myself out there that much.” Ellie glanced at her menu as the waiter approached their table, interrupting any further discussion on the subject.
Ellie took her time ordering to Greer’s sheer annoyance, who wanted the waiter to leave posthaste.
Greer rattled off her order and watched as the waiter walked away.
“He’s not bad to look at, is he?”
Greer swung her head back. “What would dad say if he heard you talk about other men that way?”
“Psssh, he’s too young for my tastes,” Ellie said. “I like my men with a few more years on ‘em.”
Greer flushed a beautiful shade of rose across her cheeks. “Geez mom, could ya say that any louder?”
She went on, “Besides, your dad knows I’d be looking for you, not me.”
“You’re the one openly admiring the guy’s backside.”
“No, I’m discretely admiring it. You’re openly admiring that derrière.”
“Am not!” Greer’s flush deepened.
Ellie cocked an eyebrow and met her daughter’s eyes. “You crane your neck any further and you’ll need traction.”
Greer’s eyes widened, “Subject change!” Her voice pitched higher than normal. “After all, we were talking about you.” Geer tapped the side of her mother’s calf playfully under the table.
Ellie clamped her lips together to suppress a laugh before it bubbled to the surface. “If you say so, sweetie.”
“I do. Where were we?”
“We were talking about the swing,” Ellie started.
“Right, right.” Greer interrupted before Ellie finished. “So, what happened after that?”
“I took a couple of days after all that,” Ellie moved on. “One day, an admin created a friend thread.”
“A post that gave wives new to post an opportunity to introduce themselves and maybe find people with things in common.” Ellie sipped her wine as the waiter placed their appetizers on the table. “I swear it felt like I was on a dating app again.”
“Again?” Greer’s brows furrowed as she popped a stuffed mushroom into her mouth. “You online dated?
“Of course, I did. My generation invented online dating. It’s how your father and I met.”
“No way,” Greer said.
“Yes, way. I never told you.”
Greer shook her head.
“I’d tried a few sites but stumbled upon one called Western Match. It was a dating site geared toward people in the western lifestyle. You know, rodeo cowboys, ranchers, that type.” Ellie looked up from her plate and saw Greer nod her head. “Well, I wasn’t much into the western life myself but after all the crappy dates I’d been on as of late I switched things up, and luckily I did a photoshoot with grandpa recently, so I was decked out in western-ish clothes.”
“You pretended to be a cowgirl?”
“I did no such thing. Grandpa asked us to dress as western as we could. The family photo was for marketing purposes. They gave me a cowboy hat and had me sit on the horse.”
Greer snorted. “Grandpa made you guys do stuff like that.”
“You should know, you were there. How do you not remember this?”
Greer shrugged her shoulders.
“Anyway, the photographer took shots of me on the horse, and I used that as my profile picture on the dating site,” Ellie said. “To this day, your father insists I catfished him.”
“It sounds to me like ya kinda did.”
“I did not. I was upfront about all that in my profile description.” Ellie moved her hands aside as the waiter placed her entrée in front of her. “All that means is that he never read it. He only looked at my picture and that’s on him.”
Greer leaned toward the table and inhaled her lobster ravioli. “Seriously?”
“True story.” Ellie twirled her Fettuccine con Funghi with a fork and spoon.
“That’s funny. I’m going to give dad so much crap for that.”
“Be my guest.” Ellie savored the flavors as they dance and mingled across her tongue. “But we got off topic again.”
Greer nodded, not taking her eyes off her plate.
“Well, I got a few likes, some comments, but I don’t know what it is about this place. It’s like everyone’s excited to make friends online, but as soon as you mention meeting up in real life, they ghost you.” She took a sip of wine. “Hell, one lady was all for it. We set a time to meet. We picked a place and everything. Morning of our coffee date I message her a half hour before to confirm. She looked at my message and then blocked me. No response, no nothing.”
“What the hell? That’s weird.”
“It is, but I found out later it was a blessing in disguise. It turns out I missed the crazy train with that one. So, I’m not too broke up about it.” Ellie giggled as she picked up the decanter and poured herself more wine.
“Then what’d you do?” Greer asked.
“After a few more tries with similar results, I changed tactics, and I went on a search for book clubs in the area.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea. You love books.”
“I thought so too. It was surprisingly hard to find them. There aren’t many around, but I found two and joined both. I figured I’d get a feel for each and decide which one I liked better,” Ellie said.
“How’d that go?”
“Eh, not so good.” Ellie swirled the last of her pasta and popped it in her mouth.
Greer sipped her wine as she waited for Ellie.
“Locals ran the first one, and it was a bit odd for my liking. They read several chapters and met every Saturday morning.” She leaned back in her chair and rubbed her full belly. It ached from eating all the food, but it was too good not to finish.
“Oh, I sense strike one Mamacita. You’re not a morning person. Especially on weekends.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” Ellie chuckled. “Their next meeting was a few days from when I started, so I said I’d go to see how the meetings run, get a vibe of the group. That sort of thing.” She swirled her wine, lifted the glass to her nose, and inhaled.
Greer dipped her spoon in her chocolate mousse.
“Saturday rolls around. I’m on my way to the coffeehouse and my phone pings like crazy. Turns out everyone backed out except the guy. He showed. It seems they all work together and I’m the odd one out. No ties to the town and all that. It was weird. We sat, we chatted, he messaged his girlfriend and I message your father. We drank our coffee and made hasty exits. It was weird, my first coffee date with another man since I met your father.”
Greer cackled. “What did dad say?”
“He thought it was hilarious, too.” She shook her head. “I attended a few more meetings. It wasn’t for me and said my goodbyes.”
“What about the other one?”
“That one’s full of military wives and I didn’t fit in there either. I gave it a few meetings but had a real Stepford Wives vibe I couldn’t shake. And it met on Sundays. It was very PG. Anything time I swore they’d glance at each other and the whole thing was unleaded.
“Ew, no Booze and it’s on a Sunday?”
“Any other prospects?”
“There’s only one.”
“I’m starting one.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Greer said.
“I’m glad you agree. It’s gonna be great. It’ll be equal parts books and booze.”
“Sounds like my kind of book club. Do ya have a name in mind?” Greer asked.
“Yep. I know exactly what I’m going to call it,” Ellie said.
“It’s a name that should attract the right personalities.”
“It’s simple and clear. I’m gonna call it Boozy Bibliophiles.”