Title: Eat Your Heart Out
Author: Shirley Goldberg
Genre: Romantic Women’s Fiction
When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Time for the BFF advice squad, starting with Dana's staunchest ally, Alex—hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire. But when the after-hours smooching goes nowhere, she wonders why this grown man won't make up his mind.
Alex Bethany's new lifestyle gives him the confidence to try online dating. What he craves is a family of his own until a life-altering surprise rocks his world. He knows he's sending Dana mixed messages. Alex panics when he thinks he's blown his chance with his special person. From appetizers to the main course will these two cooking buddies make it to dessert?
Funny and bittersweet, Dana and Alex's story will have you rooting for them.
Bora Bora on Chapel Street was the best after work spot for people watching and enjoying beer on a splendid afternoon. The kiss of the afternoon sun urged me closer to drowsy and relaxed. It had been a while since Alex and I had been out together.
“Look. On the other side.” I gestured with my chin. My mean girls, poised to cross the street against the light, a trio of teenettes, primped and pouty and aware of their power. I widened my eyes and slipped down my sunglasses, nudged Alex, who wasn’t paying attention, with my elbow.
“Your ten o’clock.” I could almost smell their perfumed perfection from a block away. “I’ll bet they ignore us. If they come this way.”
The Snotties headed down the street to our left, but I had no doubt we’d been sighted. Mr. Bethany and Ms. Narvana. Together.
“You will when our whole school finds out.”
“Enough shop talk, Ms. Narvana. Don’t be an alarmist.” Alex chin-jabbed in the direction of two twenty-somethings crossing the street. “See that couple? She hates it when he sneaks a late-night smoke in the kitchen, wearing nothing but his argyles and tighty-whities.”
I leaned closer, breathed in his faint piney scent. “Yeah, he hates it when she catches him smoking en flagrante.”
Alex made a face that gave him a bedraggled look. “En flagrante, huh? You revised my story. I’ll let it go this time because you added clever details.” Using his radio announcer voice. “And she used foreign words.” He had trouble keeping a straight face.
After Alex escorted me to that fabulous dinner at Union League and kissed me, we’d spent a few weeks waving hellos across the corridor. Two or three cancelled planning sessions later, it was clear he was backing off.
Until today when he asked if I wanted to go for a beer. So now, I needed to warm up to him. Again.
As it turned out, warming to Alex was all too easy. This likability irritated me.
“Give me a target,” I told him.
“Your three o’clock.”
Two women walking, chatting and laughing. “Former lovers,” I said.
Alex raised his eyebrows and wiggled them, the classic bad actor, and I almost burst out laughing.
“May I change the subject?” Alex asked. I shrugged, and he continued. “I read about this study. On happiness. Questions as part of the census. People were asked how happy they were, on a scale of one to ten, with the town, its facilities, the police department. They even had feeling questions.”
“Your point, Mr. Bethany?”
He stared ahead. “The little things in life are the true happy moments.”
“Like taking a beach walk before dinner. Sam dropping by unannounced. Role playing with you. Little things.”
“Are you saying I’m one of the little things?”
I wanted to tell him he was endlessly entertaining and non-judgmental. Refreshing. Hooked by Alex in the brief time we’d worked together, ad-dict-dict-dicted to picking his brain. He broke through my reserve, loosened my joints, especially my funny bone joint, so I laughed more and eased up on the analyzing.
“You’re not one of the little things,” I said without a hint of a tease.
He tapped my hand with a forefinger. “Sorry I cancelled our planning sessions. Made myself scarce.”
“I see,” I said, seeing nothing. My mouth erupted before my brain could stop it. “You’ve been doing the old back-off, and that’s really crappy of you. I’m your friend, in spite of the mixed messages you’ve been sending.” Those kisses weren’t supposed to be signals that he was about to back off.
Several moments of silence as he stared ahead, his face unreadable. I exhaled, unsure of what to say. “I was nervous that night. Trying to figure out why you’d unexpectedly asked me to a grand dinner at Union League. It was romantic. I was confused.” I stopped and turned toward him. “You can’t make up your mind, can you?” The sullen edge in my voice surprised me. No one likes to be jerked around.
He shrugged, an irritating gesture of avoidance. Interesting. My funny bone joint wasn’t appreciating Alex at this moment, not a bit. “So, here’s the deal, Mr. Bethany. No more kissing. We’re friends, and friends don’t kiss, not the way you kissed me.” I softened my voice. “Agreed?”
“Sorry.” He had a furtive look as if he wanted to say more.
“Forget it. Lecture over,” I said.
“You’re right, though. I shouldn’t have—”
“See that guy?” I interrupted, shifting my gaze from Alex to a hefty young man across the street. Dark wavy hair, hands in pockets, he stood at the curb looking in our direction. “Overweight, thinking about his next snack. Wants to lose poundage but can’t seem to get it together to—”
“Let’s not do this now,” Alex said, scowling. “I’m not in the mood.” His expression was a peculiar mixture of distaste and—was it embarrassment?
“You started it.” I jabbed him again with an elbow.”
“That’s Josh,” Alex blurted.
“My son, Josh. The overweight young man coming toward us.”
The heat of humiliation crept up my neck. “That was unforgivable, me of all people.”
“Let me introduce you,” Alex said and added in a softer voice, “Don’t beat yourself up over this.” He waved. Josh smiled and came over. “Dana, right?”
“Josh, this is my friend, Dana.”
“Hi, my dad’s told me about you.” Josh took a seat.
“Glad to meet you, finally. I love meeting new people.” An inquiring look directed at me. “Are we having dinner here?”
“I don’t know, haven’t thought about it. Shall we?” Alex looked at me.
“Great,” Josh said, his enthusiasm infectious. “I’m happy we can share a meal. A way of bonding in most societies. How did you and my dad meet?”
Like father, like son. A charmer. “We work together. I certainly find myself bonding big time across the table over a meal,” I said. “Beer helps.”
“I’m a very outgoing individual,” Josh announced, opening his menu, elbows on the table. “Let the festivities begin.”
Alex and I looked at each other.
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If money were no object and we weren’t in a pandemic, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
I would go to Heraklion, Crete. I lived there for eleven years and I miss our days on the beach and going to restaurants in out of the way villages in the mountains.
Why is your featured book a must-read this spring?
Two foodies, Dana and Alex, banter, sauté and tiptoe around each other. Except for the occasional smooch. Not ready to go from friends to lovers? A must read to find out if practice make perfect.
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Runs April 1 – 30, 2021.
Drawing will be held on May 3, 2021.
Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look at living single and dating in mid life. Shirley is the author of two rom coms. Eat Your Heart Out and Middle Ageish, both in the series Starting Over. Shirley’s friends nag her to tell them which stories are true in her novels. Her characters believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.
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