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No Thanks/Amanda, Please

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A young woman sits at the table by herself, staring out the window of the restaurant at the rain. It's rounding eight o'clock and the woman she's supposed to meet for dinner still hasn't shown. Her elbows rest on the table surface and her face rests against the palm of her hand. She hates blind dates. They're always such a let down.

Her long black hair has been pulled into a loose ponytail and her blazer is tossed casually onto the chair next to her, covering a bouquet of daisies and her purse. She wishes she could take out her contacts and put on her glasses, but she forgot them at her desk. She'd rather be at home in her sweat pants, watching the nightly news as she hi-lighted the legal texts she would need later in the week for work.

'No point in wasting time,' she thinks to herself as she pulls out her work tablet of her purse, deciding to finish some memos she needed to write.

She begins to write her name out at the top of the paper, mindlessly scrawling 'From: Penelope' before crossing it out quickly. No, she's not Penelope, she's Penny, now. A new name, a new way of living life. She gives a quick forced smile as she starts to write out her notes, trying not to think of the four years she spent in a private hospital or the reason she was there in the first place. Because she's so much happier now. (Almost) cured of her problem.

Everything about her life has changed—and for the better!—but there's an emptiness inside of her without her obsession. Sometimes she secretly misses the tattoo that used to be on her stomach and a certain fansite that she used to run. The girl that she was growing up is drastically different than who she is today—she's been trained not to talk so loudly, not to demand, to no longer say please at the end of her sentences even though every part of her aches to add the polite word. No, she blends in with regular society now and she puts on a smile to let everyone think she's okay.

It's hard enough that her blind date has the same name as the girl she fell in love with when she was young, not that she blames her well-meaning friends—nobody but her family knew about her past or hospitalisation. Her friends were always insisting that she "get out and meet somebody!" so this evening she's finally doing as they ask and meeting a woman they insisted she will just looove, someone they feel will bring her out of her shell.

"Hi, Penny?"

A sunny and all to familiar voice gets her attention and she looks up, only to see a sweet face that often fills dreams she shouldn't be having.

Penelope stumbles to her feet. "A-a-amanda?"

"It's nice to meet you," the brunette greets cheerfully, pulling Penelope into a quick hug before taking a seat across from her. "Sorry, I'm so late. I got caught up at work and then there was traffic and I lost the phone number I'd been given so I couldn't call you to tell you I was running late…"

"It's no big deal," Penelope replies as she sits back down, still somewhat dumbfounded that she's so close to the woman she once did anything to get close to.

Perhaps her mind has finally snapped and she's imagining the love of her life sitting in front of her. But her voice, her face, they are too beautiful to be hallucinations and Penelope decides she must have died and gone to heaven. Her sweet Amanda…

The actress seems oblivious to who Penelope used to be, enthusiastic in fact. "So I was told you work for a law firm down town. You're a legal aide? I bet that's interesting."

Penelope feels a sudden wave of shyness as she realises she's in the presence of possibly the most amazing person in the world, so she humbly says, "Not really. Just a lot of researching and note writing."

"Yeah, but I bet you get to see a lot of interesting cases. Nothing you can talk about obviously," Amanda adds quickly as she starts to browse over the overpriced menu that the waiter left for her when Penelope arrived forty minutes ago.

"Some are interesting." Penelope's palms are sweating and she wipes them on her trousers. "And you? I was told you do a lot of charity work?"

"Yeah, I asked that you weren't told my day career," Amanda says, her cheeks turning a lovely shade of pink.

Penelope has the sudden urge to shout out how she's seen everything Amanda's ever done, but she bites her tongue—that was part of her former life. "Day career?"

"I do acting," Amanda says modestly with a playful and somewhat embarrassed smile. "I have to admit, it's a little surprising to meet someone who doesn't know who I am."

"You do look familiar," Penelope murmurs.

Amanda laughs and Penelope feels her heart race. The waiter that had been refilling Penelope's water during her wait returns and takes their order—Amanda picks a club sandwich and Penelope is too nervous to eat so she decides on salad. The waiter leaves briefly, only to return with Amanda's drink. The actress grins broadly at Penelope and continues talking.

"I was working on this television show, acting and producing. The pilot didn't get picked up though, so I'm deciding that maybe I should take break? I don't know," she says with a shrug before sipping her iced tea through a straw.

"Comedy?" Penelope asks.

"No. Crime drama. I was supposed to play the daughter of a private detective and we team up to solve crimes when his partner dies. It was called 'Duval & Co: P.I.s' and we wanted it to come out for the fall season. It was a lot of fun to play a serious role and I liked getting to run around the city with a gun."

Penelope tries not to imagine how amazing Amanda would look as a detective. "What does the theme song sound like?"

Amanda raises an eyebrow. "Pardon?"

"The theme song. A good show can't be without a good theme song," Penelope explains.

"I don't know. We didn't give the pilot one because, well, we weren't sure if it would get picked up and it would have been a waste of money to hire someone to write a theme for something that would never get shown…"

The waiter returns with their food and Amanda apologises for eating with such large bites, but she skipped lunch and she's STARV|NG. Penelope thinks she looks beautiful.

"I'm sorry," Amanda says between bites. "I talk too much about myself."

Penelope shakes her head. "No, you're enthusiastic about what you do and I like to listen."

"You sure?"

Penelope offers a shy smile. "Absolutely."

"I want to listen to you, though," Amanda insists. "Tell me about yourself."

Penelope suddenly has no idea what to say about herself, so she restricts herself to three words as she picks at her salad with her fork. "Workaholic, Libra, motorcyclist."

Amanda's eyes get wide. "You ride a motorcycle?"

"Ever since I was young. I got my learner's permit at fourteen." She pauses and then asks, "Do you like motorcycles?"

"I've never been on one! Well, never been on one that wasn't on a movie set." Amanda's eyes glimmer and she gives Penelope a playful grin. "You'll have to give me a ride sometime."

"We'd have to find you a helmet." Penelope wonders if the brunette can see that she's beginning to blush. "You'd be my first passenger."

"I'd need a leather jacket," Amanda muses, her fingertip playing lightly around the lip of her glass of iced tea.

"Trousers. You can't ride in a skirt." Penelope knows her blush is obvious now—she's picturing Amanda wearing a skirt as she sits behind her on her motorcycle, her smooth thighs on the outside of hers—but she quickly shakes those thoughts away and says, "Well, you could but you probably wouldn't find it very comfortable. You know, with the weather how it is."

"We'll have to pick some time it's nice out," Amanda agrees.

They continue eating, Penelope finally managing a few bites of cucumber and croutons. They're silent for a few minutes before she remembers the flowers she'd bought and brought for the other woman.

She passes the bouquet across the table. "I forgot—I brought these for you."

"Flowers?" Amanda gasps, looking very delighted. "They're so bright! I love them! Thank you!"

Penelope nods and nervously begins to pick at her salad again—she has no idea what to talk about with someone so talented and amazing without coming across as crazy. Amanda clears her throat and Penelope looks up to see she looks somewhat nervous herself.

"You've been so quiet. I'm boring you, aren't I?" she asks.

Penelope's eyes widen and she shakes her head fervently. "No! No, I'm sorry. I just… This is all very surreal to me. You're a movie star—you shouldn't be out on blind dates."

Amanda seems to relax again and she shrugs apologetically. "I can't meet normal people. They get so caught up in what I do and I can't be myself, you know?"

"Why wouldn't they want you to be yourself? You're perfect," Penelope blurts out before she can stop herself.

"That's generous," Amanda says with a laugh. "I'm definitely not perfect."

Penelope would beg to differ, but now is not the time nor place for that passionate argument. "If you're taking a break from acting, what will you do?"

"Save puppies?" Amanda giggles. "Actually, I took law in college. That's kind of why I was interested in meeting you. Thought maybe I could find out more about what legal types do."

Penelope must have looked startled at the response and Amanda quickly takes her hand and apologises. "Oh, I'm just joking! I'm sorry."

Penelope's heart is about to beat out of her chest and she manages a flustered, "No, it's okay."

Amanda's smile fades as she looks down at her watch. "Damn! I have to go!" They stand up and Penelope starts to grab her wallet, but Amanda stops her, pulling two twenties out her purse and tossing them on the tabletop. "No, let me pay—I made you wait."

Penelope follows the love of her life out of the restaurant; the front of the building has a large canopy out front to shield them from the downpour. Penelope leans out to the street and tries to hail a taxi.

Amanda looks somewhat disappointed. "Oh, I thought maybe I'd get to see your motorcycle."

Penelope shakes her head. "No, I came by cab."

"So…about a second date," Amanda starts as Penelope continues trying to wave down a cab.

"You'll need to lose the skirt." Penelope's face burns red and she quickly corrects herself. "I mean, you'll have to wear pants."

Amanda grins. "I can lose the skirt."

Penelope pulls one of her business cards out of her purse and quickly scrawls her cellphone number on the back before handing it over. "Call me whenever you get a free day."

"We'll tour the city on your bike and have a picnic lunch!" Amanda says enthusiastically and Penelope's heart skips a beat as she nods.

A cab pulls up the curb, causing the two women to jump back from the splashing of the tires in the rainwater running through the gutters.

"Bye, Penny," Amanda says before opening the cab door for her, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.

Penelope blushes. "Bye, Amanda,"

As the cab pulls away from the restaurant, Amanda waving to her and clasping the bouquet, Penelope smiles and begins to hum the theme song to a show she used to love…