"This is just a mess," said Ellie as she stared at the painting.
Tom just scoffed at her comment and said, "No, it isn't! The artist is clearly expressing his anger in this one!" Tom was doing a really good job of trying to make it sound like he knew exactly what he was talking about. But she knew he didn't have a clue.
"My 3-year-old nephew is pretty good with finger paints. I should sell some of his stuff to a gallery. I could make a fortune."
Tom rolled his eyes. "Let's just go look at another one, okay?"
Ellie really wanted to get away from Tom. It wasn't just the painting that was a mess. The whole night had been a mess. She couldn't help but wonder why she ever agreed to go out on this date in the first place. Her sister, Charlene, had introduced Ellie to Tom as a favor to her husband. Apparently Tom and Rick went way back. But that didn't stop Tom from being a pretentious douche.
Ellie's phone started ringing. She sighed with great relief and excused herself from Tom's presence as she opened her phone. "So, how's it going?" asked Charlene on the other end of the line.
"Kind of a disaster," Ellie said quietly, though she knew she was out of Tom's earshot. "Thanks for setting this up, by the way."
"I'm sorry." Charlene was genuinely apologetic. She knew the kind of person that Tom was, but she was trying to keep Rick happy. Ellie understood this and decided to just let it slide.
"It's okay. After tonight, though, I won't be seeing him anymore." Ellie decided she wasn't being emphatic enough. "Like, ever. Clear?"
"You got it. Never ever again. Not even at a barbecue where we invite all our friends. His invitation will conveniently get lost in the mail."
"Good girl." Ellie laughed in spite of her awful night. "I should go. I need to figure out a way to end this as painlessly as possible."
"Have fun!" said Charlene just before Ellie snapped closed her phone.
She returned to where Tom was studying a painting that looked remarkably like a stick figure playing baseball. That thought made Ellie laugh a little to herself, but she wished she hadn't. All her laughter had done was to get Tom's attention. It also gave him the false impression that she was enjoying herself.
As she stood beside him, he put his arm around her shoulders. Her skin crawled just a little bit. Tom began playing with a few strands of Ellie's dark hair that hung down behind her ear. Her skin crawled a lot.
As she subtly tried to move away, Tom followed closely. It was time to lose subtlety. She grabbed his hand and pulled his arm off of her. "Tom, this isn't working out for me."
The look on his face told her that he had no idea this was coming. The look in his eyes was one of absolute shock. To him, the night had been going swimmingly. He had been saying all the right things. He had shown her just how knowledgeable and well-versed he was. And apparently it hadn't impressed her.
"I'm sorry, Tom. I'm just not feeling it." Ellie felt almost sorry for the guy. But she refused to fall for it. "I'll, uh, just get a cab."
She walked away, leaving Tom standing in the middle of the poorly lit gallery. Ellie didn't want to look back, but she couldn't help it. He ran his hand through his over-gelled hair and turned back to the painting. She exited the building and hailed a taxi. The entire ride home, she tried not to feel guilty, but it was a feeling that kept sweeping over her.
When Ellie reached her apartment she poured herself a glass of wine and sat down on her sofa. She kicked off her incredibly uncomfortable shoes and tried to forget about Tom. She tried to forget about the mess of a date. She figured that all she had to do was fall asleep and it would all go away.