Little Miss Perfect
By M.E. Carter
I knock on the door and take a good look around as I wait. Coming to Deborah’s house
uninvited and unannounced is a gamble. She’s so very set in her ways, there is a good possibility she’ll turn me away. Or, more likely, she’ll get flustered and slam the door in my face.
Extreme panic seems to be the way it goes when I surprise Deborah, so my money is on the door slam. But it’s a chance I’m willing to take. When Elena answered her phone, and I heard the hysteria in Deborah’s voice, I knew she needed a friend. Anyone who can panic so loudly it can be heard across the room by someone who isn’t even holding the phone, shouldn’t be left alone. In spite of the strange looks the newlyweds gave me, I offered Elena a reprieve from coming over to be with Deborah and offered to do it instead.
Her house is exactly as I expected. A custom two-story with a red brick exterior, large windows, and a two-car garage. The lawn looks meticulously maintained but doesn’t have the same charm as the uneven lines on my yard. Then again, a yard service probably mowed this baby, not a child.
While it’s only a few minutes from my house, the neighborhood is much more hoity-toity. Not in the actual houses, but in social status. Or so I’ve been told by my next-door neighbors. It kind of reminds me of that time I took Abigail to Florida for vacation and we stayed in a hotel in Orlando. Everyone knows that damn mouse actually lives in Kissimmee, but the prices are so much less expensive when you stay one mile away from the border of the town.
The door slowly opens, and I turn to smile at my newest friend.
“Aputi?” She doesn’t look angry or upset. Just confused as to why I’m here. “Is something
The door hasn’t slammed yet, so I’m pleased to see we’re making progress on the friendship front. Encouraged to continue, I reach my hand out and give her a Tupperware in offering.
Continuing to look perplexed, Deborah takes it from me, inspecting it carefully. “What is this?”
“It’s my world-famous Thai noodles.”
“Thai noodles?” She furrows her brow.
“Yep.” I shove my hands in my pockets and watch as she continues to inspect the bowl, like she’s not sure what to do with it. Has no one ever brought her food before? Actually, probably not. She’s so busy trying to take care of others, I doubt anyone stops to realize she needs a little TLC sometimes too. “They’re not like I normally make them. I had you in mind when I pulled the recipe, so I made sure to get all organic ingredients because I know that’s important to you.
And I tried making the noodles with zucchini instead of pasta. It’s not really my favorite, but it’s not bad. The flavor is all about the sauce anyway.”
She blinks a few times, and I can’t tell what’s running through her mind. It’s sweet that she’s kind of stunned, her mouth open just slightly like her jaw hasn’t started working again after the initial shock of my visit.
“You did this for me?”
My heart beats a little faster and also falls just a bit. I want to show this woman how she
deserves to be treated. I want her to know she has value and importance. It’s so obvious no one has ever taken the time to do that before. As much as I like Elena, I don’t think she realizes Deborah is always the one who is blown off. She’s always treated as a stereotype. But that’s not who she is. She’s so much more than people give her credit for.
“Of course I did. I knew you were having a bad day and figured you could use some healthy
Her eyes close slowly and she takes a deep breath. I know that move. It means she’s
overwhelmed and needs to take a moment to center herself.
I also know she wouldn’t appreciate me knowing that. Deborah doesn’t like people seeing
beneath what she presents, too afraid what’s on the inside won’t be good enough. But she also needs to know I see her. And I’m here to support her.
“You were with Elena when I called, weren’t you?”
I shrug, because what else can I say that will make her any less nervous? Nothing. She’ll either accept my friendship or she won’t. It’s completely up to her. But I really do hope she accepts it.
I also don’t tell her that calling Elena her “wise elder” gave Greg a huge laugh and consequently started them bickering when the call was over. It was all in good fun, but considering Elena is a couple years older than Greg, I think a new nickname may have stuck.
“Well, I appreciate you thinking about me. That doesn’t happen very often.” A look of resolve crosses her face and she smiles. “Would you like to come in? Looks like there’s enough for two in here.” She gently waves the bowl in her hand.
“There was actually enough for four when I made it.” I pat my stomach indicating how full I am.
“That’s how I know it’s good. I don’t think I could eat another bite of it.”
Opening the door wider and stepping aside, Deborah gestures for me to enter. “I’m glad you said that. I actually just finished cleaning up after dinner, but I didn’t want to be rude and not sample your cooking.”
“Save it for tomorrow. That way you don’t have to cook.”
“I might do that. Thank you.”
Stepping over the threshold, two things immediately cross my mind. First, I can’t help feeling somewhat victorious that Deborah invited me inside. I honestly figured this would be a drop- and-run kind of deal, but I’m not unhappy about this turn of events. We’ve spent a bit of time getting to know each other on my turf. I’d like to get to know Deborah on hers too.
And second, what a turf it is. The house is just as beautiful and cared for on the inside as it is on the outside. Yet, it doesn’t come across like my grandmother’s house used to—with that museum quality that made me afraid to touch anything for fear I would break something important. No, the plush couches have obviously been vacuumed and fluffed recently, but they also look comfy and inviting. The decorations are mostly pictures of family and friends scattered around the walls and sitting on tops of tables.
And she wasn’t kidding when she said organic, non-toxic cleaners are the way to go. This house is spotless but doesn’t smell like chemicals at all. It smells almost fruity.
Interesting. It’s like I’m getting a peek inside who she really is already.
Following her to the immaculate kitchen, which is so clean there is no indication they ate
already, we make small talk.
“He’s in the shower.”
I’m not being critical. I just expected she would be in there with him. She strikes me as the kind of person who would be terrified of her child drowning during bath time.
She sighs, and it appears to out of resignation. “It’s his latest thing. He claims to be a big boy and wants to do it himself. So, I let him, as long as I get to wash his hair and his back.”
“Wow. I guess you suddenly blink, and they’re grown up, huh?”
“It seems that way. Fortunately, though, he likes to talk about everything and nothing in the shower. So I can keep an ear on him with the monitor.”
Sure enough, she holds up a white walkie-talkie looking device that was sitting next to the
refrigerator. As she turns up the volume just a bit, I hear a child’s voice singing about thigh
bones being connected to knee bones, an oddly appropriate shower song.
“So your Thai noodles are world famous?” she asks as she puts the monitor down, opens the fridge and stashes the bowl away for tomorrow.
“Well, maybe just family famous.”
She hands me a bottle of water she just pulled off the door panel. It’s not the normal store
brand of H2O I always buy. This seems like some fancy stuff. She either has some really
expensive tastes or there is a specific reason she spends more than double what I do. My guess is the brand I’m using is going to kill me at some point, and I just don’t know it yet.
“I’m kind of surprised,” she continues as she grabs two clear glasses out of the cabinets and fills them with ice. “With a name like Aputi, I assumed you were Hawaiian.”
“I am. Born and raised on Oahu. We’re just a family of foodies so we cook anything that’s
Her eyes widen and I can see the fluster beginning. “Oh! I didn’t mean that you can’t eat other foods because you’re Hawaiian. I mean, I don’t think you only eat pineapple and coconuts. I mean… oh my gosh, that sounds so ignorant of me. I can’t believe I said that. It’s like I open my mouth sometimes and words just fall out. I’m so sorry to stereotype you, Aputi.”
I chuckle at how quickly she can take a normal conversation and get so thrown off balance by it.
Plus, I’m not offended at all. “You didn’t. I can see why you’d think that. And for the record, I like pineapple. Pineapples from my home island are the best.”
“But I didn’t have to mention them. That was so inappropriate of me.” How it’s possible, I don’t know, but suddenly her eyes widen even more as another thought crosses her mind.
“And then I didn’t even ask what you wanted to drink. I just assumed you would drink water.” She throws her hands over her eyes. “I don’t know what’s happening to me today.”
Taking two steps towards her, I pull her hands from over her eyes, hoping my touch will calm her anxiety. I know it makes me rest easier, knowing she’s not dealing with this alone. There’s no reason for her to spiral like this. Not around me. “Deborah, stop. You didn’t offend me or hurt my feelings. You didn’t say anything wrong. It’s like when you brought me chicken enchiladas. We’re in Texas, so any pre-judgements weren’t stereotypes, they were just thoughts.”
She groans. “Don’t remind me of the time I accidentally almost killed you.”
Apparently, I’m not making this any better, so I try a different tactic. “You didn’t almost kill me.
And you were right about drinking water. I work in a warehouse all day. I’m always thirsty.”
She looks up at me and takes yet another breath. “Water is a natural cleanser too. It keeps your skin looking younger and more vibrant.”
“See?” I smile at her because no one but Deborah would tell a big, burly man like myself how to keep his skin vibrant. “You’re treating me like a king, and I just got here.”
Nodding a few times, her whole body relaxes until finally she pulls away and turns back to the task at hand. “Thank you, Aputi. I appreciate how you always know the right thing to say. I don’t really have a lot of friends, so it’s helpful.”
I already figured that much, but knowing she trusts me enough to admit it is a good start to this new relationship. I hope I can get her to trust that I like her for who she is, and she doesn’t try to front with me as much as she does everyone else.
Still, I lean against the counter to give her some distance, knowing our friendship is still new.
She busies her hands by pouring water and slicing lemon wedges. She could work at a catering company with how detail-oriented she is.
“I take it today wasn’t good?” I ask, not completely sure I should be approaching the topic with her, but a bigger part of me is convinced she needs to get it off her chest.
She sighs and attaches the wedges on the rim of the glasses. “It’s just happening so fast.” She sounds so dejected. “Apparently, I don’t qualify for alimony, so I don’t know how I’m going to afford the house.”
“You don’t want to look for a job?”
“I don’t really have any skills except organizing and cleaning, and I’m busy doing that in my own home. Plus, Trevor would have to go to daycare, and he’s very susceptible to germs. He gets enough exposure at school. I don’t know how to navigate this predicament.”
“There’s a market for that kind of thing, you know. Organizing and shopping? And you can work around your schedule.”
She leads me into the living room, making sure to bring the monitor with her. Trevor has
broken out into a terrible child-like rendition of “Sexy Back” he’s singing as “Soapy Back”. I
suspect Deborah doesn’t know the real words to this song. She’d probably have a conniption if she did.
Sitting on the couches that are as comfy as they look, she makes sure to face me, but not
before placing two coasters on the table in front of us. Still, it’s a comfort level I haven’t seen from her before this moment.
“I’ve never heard of a work-from-home job that wasn’t a scam before.”
“I actually know a few people who’ve tried some of them. There are things like personal
shopping where you drop groceries at someone’s house. Or one of those stylists for the
clothing box things people order online. You always dress really well. I bet you’d be good at that.”
She smiles shyly at my compliment. “Well, thank you. First impressions are always the most important.”
I don’t tell her the first impression she gave me was when she was denying Trevor the joys of grilled foods.
“I’m serious, Deborah. You should look into something like that. You don’t have to make a ton of money. Just enough to supplement your child support.”
She glances away, her expression changing. I can’t be sure, but it’s almost as if she’s having a realization that she has more skills than she knew.
“I think… maybe there is something I could do. You think I can really do this?”
“Absolutely,” I say with no hesitation. “I have no doubt at all that you’re going to be fine as a
single mom. You’re strong and inventive. You’ll find a way. And if you get stumped, I’ll help you figure it out. That list worked out well, right?”
“It did.” Deborah looks down and wipes the invisible lint off her pants. I suspect she’s trying to avoid looking me in the eye. “How are you so sure? I mean, you don’t really know me, so how do you know I can do all of this?”
Looks like I’m going to have to come clean on how I really see her. She’s nowhere near ready to date, but I’m sure she’ll figure out my interest at some point, and she may not believe that my intentions aren’t nefarious if I’m not totally honest from the beginning.
Taking a quick sip of my extraordinarily tasteless water, and I mean that in the best way
possible, I put my glass down and shift my body at an angle so I can see her better.
“I know you’re right at the beginning of this divorce and anything can happen. He could come back, or drop dead or, hell, there are so many possibilities.”
Her interruption scatters my thoughts as I try to figure out what she’s talking about.
“You said H-E-double-hockey-sticks.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Can Trevor hear us?”
She shakes her head. “No. I just don’t like bad language. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine. I know it’s weird,” she looks embarrassed saying that, “but it just seems disrespectful to me. Not that I think you were being disrespectful because you said it. I mean when other people do it. Oh no,” she groans. “I’m doing it again.”
“No, you’re not.” I laugh. “You’re allowed to have opinions and preferences. I understand.
Language isn’t a big deal to me, more of a bad habit. I can make an effort for you if it’s
something that bothers you so much.”
Deborah bites her bottom lip, but I can see the hint of a smile. If I’m not mistaken, she’s starting to understand why I keep making an effort to see her.
“As I was saying, anything can happen and you are nowhere near ready, but someday, when it’s time, you’re going on a date with me.”
The same lip she was just worrying drops when her jaw opens in shock. “A–a date?”
“But… why me?”
I could answer any number of ways. Because I like it when she gets flustered. Because she has a nice butt. Because the remixed chicken enchiladas are officially my new favorite meal. But that would only be giving her part of the reason. She needs more than that. She needs honesty and truth. She needs swoon-worthy. “Because you aren’t perfect. No one is. But in my eyes, you’re perfect exactly the way you are.”
Her back goes ramrod straight and I can practically see the gears turning in her head. “I think… um….” She clears her throat and stands up. “Can you give me a minute? I need… I’ll be right back.”
Quicker than I can stop her, she disappears through the door into what I assume is her
That didn’t go exactly as planned. Fingers crossed my Thai noodles can change her mind.