Home > Dark Redemption(4)

Dark Redemption(4)
Author: Charlotte Byrd

I slip out into the waiting room and call him.

Again, my phone goes directly to voice mail.

"Hey, it's me.” I clear my throat. “I found out that you paid the hospital bill again and thank you so much. I just want to talk to you about how mad I got…And I don't know…. I'm sorry about that, but please give me a call back… It's Jacqueline."

My voice message is disconnected with thoughts, beginning and ending different places. I know that, but that's where I am right now.

I regret not organizing the statement in a more cohesive way, but I hope he understands. When I return to her room and crack the door, she’s fast asleep.

Back at the Marriott, I fill the hot tub and slip off my clothes. There's a little bottle of bubbles in the corner and I empty it and slide under the water, feeling the slickness of the soap on my skin.

I miss him.

I miss his touch.

I miss his lips on mine.

I miss taking all of those walks and talking about who we are.

I shared more of my life with Dante than I have with people whom I have known for a long time. He was just that easy to open up to.

I suddenly feel angry with myself, angry for pulling away from him, for pushing him away.

Of course, he shouldn't have lied, but I should have talked to him more.

I should have been in better control of my anger. The truth is that he gave me one of the greatest gifts that anyone has ever given me: he saved my mother's life.

And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

 

 

4

 

 

Dante

 

 

After I leave for Chicago, Jacqueline doesn't call me for a little bit and I assume that it's over. I have said my peace. I have apologized. There's not much else I can do.

When I get to the windy city, gusts come off the lake and tear all around me, chilling me to the bone. I stay in a five-star hotel with the view of the lake. My room is on such a high floor that I feel the entire building sway.

The following morning I have another interview with another CEO, another technology startup, and this one was recommended by an eager investor. Usually I don't do meetings like this, but it intrigued me. It's a dating app for people looking for long-term relationships.

Having never used any dating app before, I check out a few of its big competitors: Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Hinge, and Bumble. I swipe through all the options and the women start to feel like a buffet of choices.

My thoughts again return to Jacqueline. When is she going to stop haunting me? Probably when she finds out the truth. The only problem is that when she discovers that, I’ll lose her forever.

The following morning, I get up early, go on a run despite the wind chilland the gusts that make me practically airborne like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

After three miles of pure torture, I surrender and run the other two miles on a treadmill in the comfort of a temperature-controlled gym. Sufficiently drenched in sweat, I head upstairs and jump into the shower. Again, Jacqueline pops into my head: the smoothness of her skin, the voluptuousness of her hips, the perkiness of her breasts. I lose myself in the memories of her curves.

 

 

I arrive to the appointment on time. I say hello to the security staff downstairs, show them my ID, ride up the elevator and introduce myself to the receptionist.

She shows me to another long conference room with a view of a huge skyline and the lake and offers me a cup of coffee, which I accept. A few minutes later, a petite woman with a tailored suit comes in holding a laptop.

"I'm Meredith Gains," she says, extending her hand.

"Hi, nice to meet you,” I say, genuinely surprised by how young she looks.

"Thanks for taking the time to come."

She has a pleasant smile and shiny lustrous blonde hair. After a little bit of chitchat about the weather and my trip to Chicago, Meredith dives right into the numbers.

She pulls them up on a big screen and walks through her presentation deck.

“I started the company five years ago when I was having trouble finding suitable men,” she says. "I found the entire online dating experience to be like a cattle call.”

Intrigued, I open my notebook.

“Everyone was out there to hook up, but I was looking for someone like me, who was my age, in my income bracket who was looking for a long-term relationship. I wanted to have children, but not right away. I wanted to travel. I wanted someone who had an interesting job and who was passionate about his career. And I also wanted to be the one in control of deciding whether I wanted them to see my picture or not.”

“Sounds like a tall order for a lot of men,” I say.

“It’s a tall order only for boys, not men,” Meredith corrects me and I can’t help but chuckle.

“When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to build it myself.”

"I really like the interface,” I say, going through the app on my phone.

"It's easy to scroll through, but instead of a profile picture, the first focus is on who the person is,” Meredith explains. “Each person is offered a space for a tagline that you can infuse a little bit of humor in or not. A place for accomplishments, such as degrees and career aspirations, goals, interests.”

I nod, scrolling through the profiles.

“With pictures, it’s all about looks,” Meredith says. “But in long-term relationships, it’s about friendship and love and passion. But people get so hung up on looks that they ignore the other things that can make their life very fulfilling.”

That’s quite a conclusion to draw for someone who is so good looking, I think to myself.

“This way there could be a little bit more forgiveness for people who do not look like supermodels or Hollywood actors, which I think tends to be the case with almost everyone."

"I couldn't agree more.” I nod with approval.

"We have over ten million daily users already and we're growing everyday. People are just finding out about us. We're focused in the Midwest, but we have had a number of big marketing campaigns in Seattle, New York, LA, Miami, and we'd love to expand to smaller cities as well. People want to date people who are in their geographic area, so it's very important that we enroll as many people as possible."

"And what is your payment structure?"

"Well, the site is initially free to use, but in order to contact anyone, you do have to sign up. There's a free trial and after that it is $19.99 a month."

"Wow, that seems a little steep,” I say, hearing something that gives me pause for the first time in this presentation.

"That's on purpose. We really only want to enroll people who are serious about finding someone,” Meredith says.

"And what happens when they do…find someone? Don't they leave?"

"Yes, they do, but that's why we're expanding all the time. We've been through several rounds of investment and we’re growing."

"And what's your end play here?” I ask.

"Well, as with any startup, the eventual goal is to sell to a larger company, but I don't want to do that."

I sit back in my chair. I'm a little bit surprised.

 

She’s right. We do not like to hear CEOs saying that they will never sell because the whole point of investing is that the company sells to a bigger player in the market and we all cash out big.

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