His name was Stuart McAllister and he was the best boyfriend Evelyn could have ever wanted.
Their romance started over a lunch in early June. He, of course, was not actually present. Instead, Clarice Millicent from the office down the hall was present. Clarice Millicent was quite loud and had a lot of hair and smelled of slightly molding roses. Clarice Millicent was insistent that she had two first names and must be addressed by both of them at all times. Clarice Millicent did not like that Evelyn had been single for the six months that they had known each other, and was determined to change this.
“My second cousin,” said Clarice Millicent. “He has a respectable job and a nice personality.”
“No,” said Evelyn, “I’m afraid I cannot.”
“Why not?” asked Clarice Millicent, with the expression of somebody who is getting ready to swat a fly that is very large and very juicy.
Evelyn remembered the last guy with a respectable job and a nice personality. He had told her all about his respectable job, in great detail, in wonderful detail, in excruciating detail. If she recalled correctly, it had something to do with paper clips. As for his nice personality, she hoped for his sake that his home contained no mirrors. To top off a perfect evening, he had driven her home and demanded a less-than-respectable job.
“I’m seeing someone,” Evelyn blurted out frantically.
“Oh?” said Clarice Millicent, with the expression of somebody who has just lunged unsuccessfully for a fly, tripped over an inconvenient pile of old rain boots, and hurled the fly swatter into a nearby fern.
“Yes. I’m seeing someone. He’s very nice. I don’t need to be set up anymore, Clarice Millicent.”
“Well now, dear, tell me about him. Tell me all about him.”
So Evelyn did.
Stuart McAllister was tall, stocky, slightly greying. Handsome, of course, but in a mild, inoffensive way. He had lovely eyes. “Green,” said Evelyn, “but sometimes hazel, and the way they look at you, simply penetrating.”
“Oh my,” said Clarice Millicent, along with the three other clucking hens she had called over to hear all about Evelyn’s new boyfriend. Finally, young Evelyn, such a pretty girl, perhaps a little plain, perhaps could stand to lose a few pounds, but she still ought to have a man, thought Clarice Millicent charitably.
“He’s shy,” said Evelyn. “I had to approach him.” In truth, Evelyn was not the sort of person who would have the nerve to approach any man, but she thought that perhaps she might like to be.
“You go, girl,” said one of the hens awkwardly.
“The strong, silent type, I’m sure,” said Clarice Millicent. “Let me tell you something about that type, ladies. They come alive when it counts, if you know what I mean.” Clarice Millicent winked and snorted and elbowed Evelyn in a most unladylike manner. “Don’t they?”
“Clarice Millicent!” exclaimed Evelyn, feigning shock, but secretly trying not to giggle. “I assure you that Stuart is a perfect gentleman.”
Clarice Millicent looked disappointed.
“So when were you gonna tell us, huh?”
“How did you-” But Evelyn wasn’t surprised that somehow her girlfriends had learned about her new man. This sort of thing had a way of happening, once you told anything to Clarice Millicent.
“When do we get to meet him?”
Stuart McAllister, unfortunately, lived some distance away. Nearly an hour and a half, if the traffic was kind, and when is traffic ever kind? Of course, Evelyn’s friends would understand why it might be some time before they met him. Of course, it made perfect sense that since they couldn’t see each other as often as more geographically blessed couples, they would rather spend that precious time with each other.
Thus, there were many weekends when Evelyn was unavailable for a girls’ night out. If one were to drive by her home, the curtains would be closed. Sometimes the house would be dark, though if one squinted one could catch one room lit up behind the blinds, surely because Evelyn was gone for the night, out with her perfect man, and left a light on as a decoy for burglars. As one does.
The crucial meeting was planned for mid-July. They would have dinner, Evelyn and her closest pals and her wonderful boyfriend, with whom things were beginning to look serious.
“I only met his friends last weekend,” defended Evelyn. “It’s so hard when we have so little time together. I think about him all week; I actually miss him.” And she did; and she did.
But as it happened, Evelyn had a splitting headache on the day of the dinner and had to cancel. The timing was terribly unfortunate. Stuart, of course, kindly nursed Evelyn back to health, and never complained. “It’s hard to appreciate anything when you’re feeling ill,” explained Evelyn, “but I’ve never appreciated him more. It’s just so comforting to know that someone cares about you.”
Her friends and colleagues noted that Evelyn really did seem happier than ever. The change in her was remarkable. She was quite obviously a woman in love. Whoever this Stuart person was, he seemed to be good for her.
Evelyn was invited to a party one muggy Friday night. She watched dully over the rim of her glass as a man in the corner smiled at her.
“Where’s your boyfriend, Evelyn?” A figure blocked her view and she jerked back to attention.
“Oh, he couldn’t make it down this weekend, he had to attend a conference for work.”
“That’s a shame, we’d have loved to meet him. What does he do?”
“He’s in banking, something or other to do with investments.” Evelyn twirled her hair and put on her best vacant look. “To tell the truth, I never paid that much attention to the details.”
“Oh, of course,” laughed the figure, who Evelyn now recognized as a work acquaintance.
The man in the corner was now chatting with a friend of hers. They both looked in her direction and grinned. Evelyn could imagine the conversation. “Your friend… is she single?” And of course, Evelyn was not. She had her perfect man. The best boyfriend she could ask for. It was so much easier this way. No set-ups, no pressure, no pity, none of that flipping of the stomach when she met somebody and wondered where things might go next. Stuart would never leave her. Stuart would never disappoint her. Stuart would never say a word out of place.
The breakup happened in late August.
Evelyn knew it was coming, and pondered what the cause could be. Would he cheat on her? No, that was implausible, given everything she knew about him. Terminal illness? That only happened in the movies. Car crash? Well, really now, enough of this, she didn’t want him to die. Perhaps they would just grow apart. But then they would need to remain friends, and she didn’t want to remain friends, that would be a messy thing to maintain.
In the end, Stuart McAllister opted to take a job overseas, starting immediately. Luckily, his ex-wife lived very near his new workplace, so at least there would be a familiar face to greet him.
“You never said he was divorced.”
“Didn’t I? It was a really long time ago. They’re still on good terms, it was amicable.”
“Oh, honey,” said Clarice Millicent, “I reckon he’s going to get back with his ex. That’s how it always goes. Those shy types, they go for what’s comfortable, even if he doesn’t care for her.”
“Can we-” Evelyn’s voice broke. “Can we maybe stop talking about this for now?”
Clarice Millicent and her gaggle of hens crowded around Evelyn with comforting clucks. To her astonishment, Evelyn found herself crying. She knew it was time for things between herself and Stuart to end, but she would honestly miss him. Nobody had ever loved her the way Stuart had. Perhaps nobody would ever love her the way Stuart had.
“It’s all right, dear.”
“You’ll find somebody new.”
“Just think about all the bad things about him. I know he wasn’t perfect. Think about all the awful things that you won’t miss.”
Evelyn managed a smile through her tears. “You’re right, you know.” If there was anything she had learned from her summer romance, it was that the perfect boyfriend simply does not exist.