The One 

A Holiday With Love Romance

   In a family filled with happily ever afters, ugly duckling Addie has been jilted for the last time. There is no “one” for her, so why keep looking?    

   Marcus, aka The Love Doctor, orchestrates love twenty-two weeks a year on cable. Sure, happily ever afters are a crock, but creating the fantasy makes for must-see TV.       Addie is perfect for his latest venture, a Thanksgiving Day reality show with a "real" woman finding love on live TV. Only one problem, Addie wants nothing to do with the show or him.   

   By disguising his identity to try and convince her to do the show, will he discover that what she's really perfect for is him? 

Excerpt

   For years, Addie had tolerated her mother Clara’s matchmaking. Momma only wanted the best for her. In a family filled with happily ever afters, the best included a husband.

   Every Thanksgiving the entire family gathered to share their tales of romantic bliss. Addie was happy for them knowing her time would come just like it had for everyone else in the family. It had come all right and she was still working through the pain.

   With only twelve days left before that most family of family holidays, she’d devised a plan to prevent a repeat of last year’s fiasco. Only one thing left to do: tell Momma.

   Early that morning, she’d arrived at her parents’ house to break the news, but then lost her nerve. Instead of putting her cards on the proverbial table, she sat at the kitchen table dicing mountains of onions for the Thanksgiving dressing.      

   Over-sized protective goggles kept the onions from making her cry but made her look like a bug. If Momma took the news like Addie suspected, she’d wind up splattered on her momma’s windshield.

   For the third time, Addie presented a full bowl of diced onions for inspection. If they passed, Momma would mix them with celery and green peppers and then add them to one of the four pots of turkey stock simmering on the stove.

Momma scooped onions from the bowl and spread them on a plate. “They’re still too big. Do it right or don’t do it at all.”

   The food processor, which could do it righter than Addie ever could, sat abandoned after only one use. According to Momma, it messed up her dressing’s texture.

   Readjusting her goggles, Addie poured a layer of onions on the cutting board. Like a Ginsu master, she diced the onions even smaller.

   Momma turned on the television. The opening strains of Loving You, by Minnie Ripperton, played.

   It couldn’t be, not on a Saturday. With any luck it was just a commercial. A giant red heart filled the screen. Written across the heart in flowing script: The Love Doctor, Momma’s favorite show. So much for couldn’t be.

   “There’s a marathon today,” Momma said.

   Of course, there was. Momma would watch every minute. Addie was condemned to watch it too.

   The opening credits dissolved. Dressed in a pale blue evening gown, a wannabe actress or trying to be model stood on a beach. In front of her knelt a tuxedoed man holding a single red rose, his declaration to the world that she was the one.

   How could people watch this show? They did the same thing every episode. As the music swelled, her trembling hands would take his offered rose and press it to her bosom. She’d fan her face to keep from crying. Overhead, doves would take flight, his signal to sweep her into his arms and seal their love with a kiss.

   Except that wasn't what happened which compelled Addie to look much longer than the nanosecond she’d intended.      

   The image on the screen froze. Him on bended knee, her gazing down, the couple’s faces were so blurred you couldn’t tell who they were or what they looked like. Odd for a show that built its success on beautiful people and their bogus love connections.

   The scene changed to a doctor’s office. Behind a desk, in silhouette, sat the show’s creator. Addie didn’t know his real name. No one did. Embroidered in red above the breast pocket of his white lab coat was the name the world knew him by: Love Doctor.

   “Still searching for your prince? This Thanksgiving, let me prescribe the man to cure your romantic ills on our special holiday episode: The Ugly Duckling and the Frog Prince. If you’re ready for your forever after love, contact me today.

A web address and eight-hundred number scrolled across the screen. Mercifully, a commercial for hemorrhoid cream stopped the sappiness.

   “You should go on that show,” Momma said. “I bet the Love Doctor could find you the one.”

   Momma had lost her mind. How could the woman who’d seen through every lie Addie had ever tried to tell not see through this mess?

   “There’s no way the Love Doctor could find the one for anybody, especially not me. I want the kind of love you and Daddy and everybody else in the family has, not some made-for-television version of it.”

Ugh, she was doing it again. Tracing the outline of a ring long gone. At least she wasn’t crying. Sixty-one tear free days. To make it to sixty-two, focus on the onions, or the show, or anything except what happened.

   Calling all ugly ducklings flashed across the screen. Who came up with that? “The show’s whole premise is insulting,” she said. “Ugly duckling, really? Granted, I may not be the most beautiful woman in the world, but I’m not ugly, am I?” Her voice trailed off. She’d never asked the question, at least not out loud.

   Momma sprang from her chair and pulled Addie close. “Of course, you’re not ugly, baby.”

   What else would Momma say? No momma, especially not hers, would call their child ugly.

   In over a hundred years, there had never been a single divorce in her family, not even a separation. There was none of that staying together for the sake of the children either. They’d stayed together because they’d all found the one.

   Maybe she’d finally hit on why she hadn’t. All of her female cousins were drop dead gorgeous. Compared to them, she not only wasn’t in the same ballpark, she wasn’t even in the same state. Why hadn’t she noticed that before?

   “Don’t let what happened make you stop believing in love,” Momma said.

   Addie pulled away and switched off the television. “I believe in love. Love just doesn’t believe in me. I’m through pretending that it does. We need to talk.”

   Momma dumped the onions in the pot and pulled her chair next to Addie’s. “I was wondering when you were going to get around to your real reason for stopping by.”

   Why did this remind her of being back in high school asking permission to go to a college party? Permission Momma never gave by the way. Addie was grown and didn’t need Momma’s permission or blessing. She snatched off her goggles intending to set them on the table. They clattered to the hardwood floor.

   Momma stared at her. “It’s not like you to go around dropping things. What if you’d dropped that knife? You might have cut your foot off.”

   Better to lose a foot than break Momma’s heart. That could neither be helped nor avoided any longer. “I’m not coming to Thanksgiving dinner this year.”

   “Of course, you’re coming. Do you have a date yet?” Momma beamed like a kid opening their first present on Christmas morning. Since she’d been good all year, surely Addie would bring her a son-in-law.

   “I won’t need a date because I won’t be here.”

   Momma’s smile evaporated. Her eyes glistened and probably not because of the onions. “Where will you be?” she asked in a small voice.

   Good question. “Away.”

   Momma sat back. "Away? With who?”

   “Myself. I need time alone to think. People do it all the time."

   "People do. You don't.”

   No argument there. Just because she never had was all the more reason why she should. Living in Fort Lauderdale gave her a lot of options to get out of town: plane, train, even a cruise. Naw, not a cruise. All those people crammed together, carrying who knows what, on a ship registered who knows where, anything could happen.

   Anything beat spending Thanksgiving here. She still teared up just looking at the dining-room table. Worse would be all the hugs and the “poor Addies.” As if last year weren’t enough, she’d look pathetic in front of the whole family, again.

   She wasn’t poor Addie. By any standard she had a great life. Promoted to accounting director. A beautiful condo in Colee Hammock. Loyal friends.

   Being surrounded by her parents and aunts and uncles and cousins while they celebrated their love would make her the object of their pity, a throwback to another era: the old maid.

   “Let it out, baby. It’s gonna be all right.”

   Of course it’d be all right. There’d be so many people in the house on Thanksgiving they’d hardly miss her, and wait a minute, her face was wet. Say goodbye to day sixty-two. She was crying, again.

   Crying over Lamont would never be all right. Neither would refusing to face reality. “Apparently I got a gene the rest of you didn’t. I’m a liar magnet.” Maybe liars were the only men a woman like her could attract. Better to be alone than with a liar.

   “Baby, not all men are liars.”

   “Not all men, just the ones I fall in love with.”

   She wasn’t stupid, so why did she believe their bull every single time. And now the whole family knew.

   “I can’t come, not alone, not after what happened. Once the tributes start, I just don’t think I could hold it together. I’d spoil it for everybody. Maybe next year.”

   Momma’s face lit up. “You’re right. You can’t come by yourself. I’ll ask the nurses at church to find you a nice young man.”

   When it came to Addie’s love life, Momma only heard what she wanted to hear. The last time she’d searched for a future son-in-law amongst a litany of the nurses’ male progeny, age apparently not a consideration since said progeny ranged from boys who still got carded to card-carrying Medicare recipients. Embarrassment drove Addie to change churches.

   “I could get a date. Getting a date’s not the issue.”

   Beyond the kitchen’s swinging door lay the dining room. Family wedding portraits filled three of its walls. The fourth, the one the other three framed, the empty wall, belonged to Addie. By now it should have been filled with pictures of her own family: her husband, her children, maybe even a dog.

   ”You got to let the past go,” Momma said. “If you get thrown off a horse, you have to climb right back on it."

   Love wasn’t a horse. It was a bucking bronco that she couldn’t break. “If the horse keeps throwing you off, at some point you have to have sense enough to quit getting on it. Besides, that horse did more than throw me off. It trampled me in front of everybody.”

   "That's because Lamont wasn't the right man for you. When you find the one, you'll know."

That empty wall clarified everything. "That's just it. There is no one for me.”