Beauty and the Bachelor

By: Naima Simone

Much to Charlene Blake’s disappointment.

Glancing down at her slim, simple gold watch, she noted the time—nine fifteen p.m. The doors of the youth center would have been bolted fifteen minutes ago for the lock-in.

She smiled.

Yolanda and Melinda Evans, the no-nonsense sisters who ran the Maya Angelou Girls’ Youth Center in Brighton, would have their hands full tonight and tomorrow morning with the twenty twelve- to fourteen-year-old girls expected to attend the sleepover. A heavy bank of wistfulness rolled through her. She should be there with the sisters and the teens. She’d been just as excited about the lock-in as the children who were her heart, her passion. They accepted and loved her unconditionally. They didn’t see Sydney, the pampered socialite daughter of Jason Blake. They didn’t see an unlimited bank account, an entrance into Boston society, or a wormhole into her father’s good graces…or business deals. The girls at the center saw her. Sydney, who helped with their homework and offered them a listening ear and nonjudgmental heart. Sydney, who wasn’t afraid to get sweaty in a game of kickball or join an impromptu Just Dance 4 competition. Sydney, who told them how beautiful they were and believed every one of them was destined for greatness.

But while her volunteer work mentoring teens was fulfilling to her, to her parents, it didn’t compare to organizing a tea, sitting on the beautification committee…or purchasing a bachelor. And when duty called—or rather, her parents’ duties called—Sydney was required to answer.

The noose of family loyalty, obligations, and responsibility tightened around her throat, and she sipped from her glass, hoping to ease the rope burn.

With a sigh, she lowered to her satin-upholstered seat, her parents appearing moments later.

Applause erupted, and the level of animated conversation rose as the night’s MC stepped up to the microphone once more. Somehow she doubted the enthusiasm was due to iPads in classrooms.

“Without further ado, let’s bring on the bachelors!” the woman proclaimed. Moments later, a tall, slim man in an immaculate black tuxedo sauntered onto the stage. Even though a white mask hid his face from hairline to chin, he oozed confidence from every pore. Not that his self-assuredness was a surprise. Though she didn’t recognize him, she assumed he was most likely very aware of his desirability to the women packed into the room—after all, a requirement of every bachelor was at least a six-figure income.

Cynicism, thy name is Sydney.

“Our first bachelor of the evening may call Boston home, but the world is his office. As a financier, he’s visited the white sands of Dubai, the wild cliffs of western Ireland, and the old-world beauty of his favorite city, Rome. The three adjectives that best describe him are driven, stubborn, and wildly romantic.”

Appreciative laughter rippled through the crowd. The MC smiled and continued reading off her card. “Though he’s never married, the woman he falls for will be spontaneous, independent, and have a wicked sense of humor. The woman who snags him tonight will enjoy dinner on a rooftop…in Rome.” She waited for the exclamations to abate to a dull roar before continuing. “Dinner will be followed by a midnight walk in one of the city’s famous squares and a shopping spree the next day before flying back home. Doesn’t this sound divine? Let’s open the bidding at twenty thousand.” She nodded, beaming as she pointed at someone on the floor. “We have twenty thousand. What about twenty-one? Twenty-one. Twenty-two?”

And so the furious bidding began. Many paddle flicks later, bachelor number one went for seventy thousand dollars to a woman old enough to be his grandmother. For his sake, please let her have bought him for her granddaughter, or even her daughter. Otherwise… Sydney shuddered.

Bachelors two and three raised thirty and forty thousand dollars, respectively—they didn’t offer dinner reservations in Italy—and as number four strolled off the stage after going for a respectable fifty thousand, Sydney zoned back in.

Tyler was bachelor number five. And in case she’d somehow forgotten, her mother’s tap on her thigh was a not-so-subtle reminder.

“And bachelor number five,” the hostess announced seconds before Tyler emerged from the wing. He strode out to the center of the stage and paused, his hands in the pockets of his tuxedo slacks. The stance accentuated the flatness of his stomach and the width of his chest. Maybe it was the spotlight or maybe that he stood on the wide stage alone with nothing to detract from him, but his six-foot frame seemed taller somehow. Under the stark black jacket his shoulders appeared wider…more powerful.

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