Home > The Dating Plan (Marriage Game #2)

The Dating Plan (Marriage Game #2)
Author: Sara Desai



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   DAISY Patel had no issues with besotted lovers hiding away in a toilet cubicle for a little covert tongue gymnastics. For the most part, technology conferences were stressful and boring, and if someone could find a little lip loving between networking, speakers, and seminars, she didn’t begrudge them their happiness.

   In this case, however, the gold medal winner of the twist ’n’ tangle in the women’s restroom at the Oakland Convention Center happened to be her ex-boyfriend, Orson Fisk.

   And the woman in his arms was her former boss, Madison Montgomery, CEO of Activize LLC.

   “Ahem.” Her attempt to draw their attention fell on deaf ears. Or maybe they didn’t care. Maybe Orson had been bespelled, and when he was finally released from Madison’s clutches, he would realize he’d made a mistake breaking up with a neurotic software engineer and her pakora-loving pup. Daisy and Max came as a package; dog haters be warned.

   Curiously numb at the sight of her ex wrapped around her old boss like the most tenacious of invasive species—she’d caught a glimpse of them in the mirror before they’d closed the stall door— Daisy slid a quarter into the disposable menstrual product dispenser.

   She’d been under no illusions when Orson had asked her out after they’d met in a Developer Week hack-a-thon in Oakland, California. Clearly he was desperate for a hookup. After all, not many men were interested in a woman who lived by plans and quantifiable results and could do one compile a day in C++ in a POSIX environment with zero errors. They wanted the prom queens, not the class valedictorians; the women who wielded fashion as a weapon, and not a shield. So she’d been thrown off her Manic Pixie Dream Girl game when Orson had called after their one-night stand and asked her out again.

   Thirty-five going on sixty-five, devoid of any body fat, and possessing a wispy goatee, Orson had introduced her to long walks, black coffee, art house films, slow jazz, gourmet cooking, and the benefits of intellectual over physical relationships. They worked in the same field, attended the same conferences, and shared the same interests in the online world. It should have been perfect. And yet she’d never once, in the four weeks they’d been seeing each other—making it the longest relationship in her life—thought of introducing him to her family. Serious relationships were not in a life plan that involved working hard, looking after her dad, and growing old alone in the house where she’d been born.

   Orson tugged on Madison’s blouse, tearing the top button to reveal the secret treasures of a woman seriously lacking in discretion. There was nothing intellectual about his frenzied pawing. If Daisy had known tearing off clothes was one of Orson’s skills, she might have put a ring on it right away. But she’d been plagued with doubt. Why didn’t she feel the flutters in her chest that were supposedly indicative of love? Where were the birds that were supposed to be tweeting around her head? Did she have some kind of chemical imbalance, or was something else wrong? Only when she caught Orson and Madison doing the nasty in Madison’s office late one evening did she finally feel something.


   As she had always suspected, she was meant to be alone.

   Turning the crank as slowly as possible to minimize the decibel level of menstrual product release, she glanced over again at Orson and Madison pawing at each other like horny teenagers. She should make a quick exit before she said something awkward that would make the situation infinitely worse. Her tendency to blurt out whatever was on her mind had gotten her into trouble too many times. She was happiest alone in her cubicle at work, fully immersed in a screen of code, her favorite dance beats playing over her headphones. There was beauty in the simplicity of programming. If something was illogical, it simply wouldn’t work.

   Maybe there was a message here that wasn’t getting through. She assessed the situation as if it were code and came up with: <<Connection Failed>>. It was the story of her life all over again.

   The menstrual pad dropped into the dispenser with a soft thud. Her new boss, Tyler Dawes, CEO of Organicare, only needed one of the competitor’s pads for the demonstration, but what if something went wrong? If they didn’t secure more venture capital funding soon, the company would shut down and all of Organicare’s employees would be out of work.

   It didn’t help that Tyler was a terrible salesman. A professor at Caltech, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, he had become involved in developing sustainable, organic menstrual products after his daughter, Kristina, realized there was a gap in the market. With hard work and millions in venture capital funding, they had built a successful subscription-based, direct-to-consumer business with an app-based product for lifestyle health and wellness. And then everything had gone wrong.

   Daisy pushed another quarter into the slot and yanked on the dial. If Tyler had asked her to pitch with him when he first signed up for the conference, she wouldn’t have been in the restroom at all. Daisy didn’t go into meetings unprepared. Instead of sweating it out as she tried to dispense a pad in silence, she would have been seated in the air-conditioned conference room, sipping homemade chai from her thermos as she mentally rehearsed a demonstration she would have practiced for weeks.

   Still oblivious to her presence, Orson and Madison continued to make out in the toilet stall, shaking the metal walls as they grappled and groaned. The toilet flushed—not once or twice, but three times in quick succession. Daisy hoped it was from an excess of passion and not because they’d had the dodgy seafood at the buffet lunch. She’d told herself to avoid it, but those prawns had been so tempting . . .

   In any event, it was all very disappointing. When she and Orson had been together, he had been an efficient, no-nonsense lover, expressing the satisfactory outcome of their coupling with a whoosh of air followed by glass of Rioja and a deep dive into Aristotle’s science of logic envisioned through the syllogism. There had been no moans or panting, no bras falling on the filthy tiles (thank God!), and no automatic toilets flushing a symphony of germs into the air.

   The second pad dropped out of the machine, followed by another and another. Boxed pads shot out of the machine, hitting Daisy in the chest like bullets. She dropped to a crouch, scrambling to catch them before they touched the floor.

   “Is someone there?” Madison called out.

   Oh the huge manatee. Programmer slang for a catastrophic data failure, or in this case, a malfunctioning menstrual pad machine. Panicking, Daisy grabbed the boxes and bolted out of the restroom.

   “Daisy! I was looking for you.” Salena Auntie, her father’s sister, ambushed her only a few steps from the door.

   “What are you doing here, Auntie-ji?” Chest heaving, she looked over her shoulder to make sure she hadn’t been followed. The last thing she wanted was for Madison and Orson to think she’d been spying on them. Although she’d been devastated by their betrayal, she wasn’t the type of woman who wanted revenge, nor would she ever stoop to begging Orson to take her back. She wasn’t that pathetic. One unfortunate drunk dial had cured her of that.

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