Will Eat for Free

“I don’t know how you do it.” Chelsea admired, rolling her eyes at her roommate.

“It’s not easy,” Julia began, leaning into the mirror to fix her mascara. “I go to the gym every day, sometimes twice a day. I primp before each class to make sure I look flawless. I actually do my studying so I sound smart, should he want someone sophisticated, and I seem genuine and sincere until I don’t call them back.”

“But if you only go on one date, why do you have to go to the gym all the time. You don’t plan on luring him in with your body — ” Chelsea wondered.

“I go to the gym because that’s where the guys are — a lot of the good ones anyway. They see me looking all hot on that treadmill and we get talking and I walk out with a date,” Julia gloated before uncapping her lipstain.

“And all this just for free food,” Chelsea marveled.

“Hey, I’ll do whatever it takes to cut costs. I have student loans, rent, car insurance. One free meal is one less expense I have to wiggle into my non-existent budget. Could you hand me those bobby pins, please?”

“Why don’t you just do what those people on those couponing shows do? One less trip to the gym a week and you could be clipping your way to practically free food the way that they shop. Pennies for a month worth of groceries.”

“And risk getting Carpal Tunnel with all that cutting? No, thanks,” Julia rejected. “Besides, it’s just too much work. At least the way I do it, I get in better shape, have better grades, always look good, and get a few extra bucks in my pocket. Clipping coupons only gets you a little extra pocket change.”

Julia pushed past her roommate to her dresser to find a decent pair of earrings. Chelsea slowly followed, still bewildered at Julia’s behavior.

“I still can’t believe he’s not even picking you up? How lame,” Chelsea criticized.

“He said he would, except the restaurant is right by his work,” explained Julia. “It’s easier for him just to walk. Plus he’s ‘environmentally friendly’ and doesn’t want to leave a bigger ‘carbon footprint’ just to pick me up. It’s whatever — “

***

“You told her what?” Jason had no other words to express how in awe he was of his best friend.

“She looks like an upscale girl. I thought she would cancel if I told her that I didn’t have a car,” Gabe explained, spotting Jason as he benched.

“You’re going to try to start this relationship off with a lie? That’s so unlike you, man,” Jason replied.

“I just don’t want to disappoint her. Like I said, she looks like money. Unless I come up with an excuse for every reason why I’m cheap, she might not think I can afford her. Which I probably can’t, but if she doesn’t know that, she might like me enough not to care — eventually,” Gabe hoped.

“I still don’t know if you’ll get away with it,” Jason warned, sitting up after his last rep. “I mean the whole wallet faking thing? You want to know why girls like her have money?” Gabe shook his head. “Because they’re cheap. The dress she’ll wear she probably got on sale, she uses the school gym because membership is free with tuition. She’ll never pay full price for anything, and the gentleman always pays at the end of the date.” Gabe let Jason’s explanation sink in for a moment.

“Yeah, but girls also like to show off their money. That’s why they’ll buy a dress on sale, but they’ll wear it everywhere because it looks expensive. If I say that I left my wallet at home or something of the sort, she’ll probably throw the money on the table like it’s chump change, just to show off,” he defended. Jason rolled his eyes.

“Well, if you want this to go smoothly, you’d better go hit the showers. If you work ‘right across from the restaurant,’ you have no excuse to be late.”

***

“So, how did it go?” were the first words out of Chelsea’s mouth when she answered the phone.

“Chels, I need your help,” Julia replied in a panic.

“That well, huh?” was Chelsea’s sarcastic response.

“He left his wallet at home. Can you believe it?”

“And let me guess, you forgot yours, too,” Chelsea joked, relishing the thought that Julia’s master plan had for once failed her.

“Are you kidding? I never pay for food on a date! Of course I left my wallet at home!” she exclaimed. “And now neither of us can pay and I’m sitting in the girl’s room contemplating escape!”

“And leave the poor guy to face possible charges? Can there be charges? I’ve never been in your situation so I wouldn’t know,” Chelsea answered, her voice cracking in laughter. “He’s not the only one who ate. Why should he be the only one to pay up?”

“Because the gentleman always pays — ” Julia moped.

***

“Jason, I need your help,” Gabe begged.

“Let me guess, she’s cheap like you? The dress was not only on sale, but on clearance, she clips coupons and has almost no spare change, and now neither of you can pay for dinner?” asked Jason, a slight chuckle in his voice.

“Actually, I don’t know how cheap she is, we didn’t exactly get to talking about money. But the check came and I patted my pockets, told her I just realized I left my wallet at work and I wouldn’t be able to get it until Monday, and this look came across her face and she told me she didn’t even bring hers!” Gabe explained.

“Dude, I told you this was going to backfire on you. What do you want me to do” Jason asked.

“I think she’s going to sneak off. She went to the ‘ladies room.’ She’s probably crawling out of the bathroom window right now. I hope she rips that clearance dress — ” he ranted. “Which leaves me paying. Could you possibly bring one of my credit cards? I’m getting pretty close to the limit, but I think I should still be able to pick up the tab.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” came Julia’s voice as she came back to the table. Gabe told Jason he would call back and hung up the phone. “I just got off the phone with my roommate and she’s bringing my wallet. I overheard that last little bit — Is money really that tight for you?” she wondered.

“Yeah — sorry, I should have told you right off. I wasn’t planning on paying tonight. I just wanted to impress you without having to shell out a crap ton of — what’s so funny?”

Julia tried to suppress snickers to let Gabe finish his confession, with little success. The irony was just too much for her.

“A lot of times I go on dates specifically for free food,” she explained through bits of laughter. “I mean, that’s usually how it starts. I try to look like an appealing girl to get asked out and on the first date, I actually try to have a good time. I let the gentleman foot the bill, and if I actually like them I’ll answer the phone when they call back later.”

“Wow — we both came here expecting free food — it’s a match made in heaven,” Gabe chuckled, then stopped thinking it might be a little too soon for that joke. But a smile grew on Julia’s face.

“Maybe it is.”


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