Short story: The Vanity Affair
Setting: the exclusive Millionaire Deluxe speed dating club for financially endowed men and glamorous ladies.
The room had filled up quickly and a nervous expectancy reigned.
Mrs Hinds, a middle aged smartly dressed woman, caked in make up, grinned wildly and addressed the room full of men and woman.
Most of the woman were conservatively dressed and relatively ordinary looking. The men were wearing suits, some had cowboy attire.
Attached to everyone was a badge with a number.
Dolores was sat next to Thomas, a man considerably smaller than her, her legs crossed suggestively, her eyes devouring him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you to our exclusive agency,” piped up Mrs Hinds, with exaggerated enthusiasm, “I hope you will profit from your time and meet the person of your dreams. You now have two minutes to acquaint yourself with your first potential partner. Good luck everyone, and may love run its true course.”
A small ripple of polite applause broke out.
Dolores gulped a glass of champagne, as conversations began in earnest.
“Ain’t this fine?” she trilled.
Thomas nodded and said with muted enthusiasm, “Yes, quite, it’s quite something.”
“What do you do?” said Dolores excitedly, desperate to get the conversation off on a good footing.
“I have my own shipping business,” replied Thomas, “inherited from my late father. The company has a massive turnover.”
Dolores looked confused: the word turnover had never been part of her limited vocabulary.
“You must be mighty rich, right.”
“You could say that,” replied Thomas, yawning. “And what about you?” he asked, fighting to suppress another yawn.
“I am in the beauty business,” trilled Dolores, “helping the less fortunate become more beautiful.” She laughed at her own observation. “It is so important to look your best, to look beautiful, if possible.”
Thomas nodded gently, his eyes looked heavy and sleep laden, as he tried to keep awake.
“Mama always used to say to me, reminisced Dolores, “Dolores, you are beautiful, you got everything a man could ever dream about in those pretty eyes of yours.” Her eyelashes fluttered.
Thomas was hardly looking at her, his eyes ever closing.
“It’s not easy being such a beauty and my last husband, I was married just the once and only,” briefly she paused for a split second reflectively, “could not live with being such a beauty such as I.” She shook her head, and wagged her finger. “Mama told me, he was not the right man for me, not good enough.”
Thomas did not respond, his head lolled slightly forward.
“Mama said,” pronounced Dolores emphatically, “no man is good enough for her Dolores, no man except one with lots of money and a sumptuous lifestyle, I guess a man of your means knows how to provide for a lady.”
Dolores didn’t notice that she was having this soporific effect on Thomas. She was too busy speaking about herself and admiring herself, as well as glancing at some of the opposition women, to notice.
Dolores’s voice dropped in tone as she continued relentlessly, “Mama passed away recently, God bless her soul, and her dying words were, “Dolores, you find yourself a good man, one who can look after my little girl, my beautiful Dolores.” Dolores looked momentarily sad, but perked up quickly, “I can guarantee I could have any man I this room, one who is brave enough to have me, are you a brave man?”
She did not look at him, he was now fast asleep, blissfully oblivious, to all around him.
Mrs Hinds, the compere, stood up, a disingenuous smile etched on her face, her eyes spread across the room. “OK, folks it’s time to change, mark your cards and move to another table.”
While all in the room began to move and contemplate their second date, Thomas did not get up, but remained stationary while letting out a loud snorting, snoring sound, audible to everybody in the room.
All eyes switched to Dolores and many began to laugh, in a mocking way, with the realization she had managed to send her date to sleep, in the matter of two minutes.
Her face reddened and she looked tearful, unhappy that she was now the talk of the room, the focus of unwanted attention.
Thomas snorted again.
Dolores ran out of the room in tears. Her dignity had been savaged.
Francis H Powell recently published Flight of Destiny, a book of short stories. (Find out more here.)
Born in 1961, in Reading, England, Powell studied Art, receiving a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking. In 1995, he moved to Austria, teaching English as a foreign language while pursuing his varied artistic interests and adding music and writing.
He currently lives in Paris, songwriting, doing concerts, and writing both prose and poetry.