Baggage Claim

Baggage Claim

by David E. Talbert


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According to the women in Montana Moore's family, you're not a lady until you marry and not a woman until you have birthed at least two children. At age thirty-five, Montana is neither and her prospects are meager. Her mother is working on husband number five, and her baby sister, Sheree, has just announced her engagement to a promising future doctor. Pledging to keep herself from being the oldest and the only woman in her entire family never to wed, Montana embarks on a thirty-day, thirty-thousand-mile expedition to charm a potential suitor into becoming her fiancé.

Whom will she choose? Damon Diesel, a P. Diddy wannabe; Reverend Curtis P. Merewether, pastor of Greater House of Deliverance, Tabernacle of Praise, Worship, and Miracles; pompous attorney-turned-councilman Langston Jefferson Battle III; or Quinton Jamison, a multimillionaire who's twenty years her senior?

Outrageously funny...witty and charming, Baggage Claim is a divine literary debut from award-winning playwright David E. Talbert.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743247191
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 03/22/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

David E. Talbert is an award-winning playwright, filmmaker, and bestselling author. His plays, novels, and films include First Sunday, What My Husband Doesn't Know, Love on the Dotted Line, and Suddenly Single. David lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Lyn, and their newborn son, Elias.

Robin Eller is a narrator, actress, singer, and dance educator. She has appeared on stage, in films, and on such television programs as The Bernie Mac Show, The Bold and the Beautiful, and General Hospital.

Read an Excerpt


Being a flight attendant for the last thirteen years, and looking for Mr. Right for almost as long, there are two things I know a lot about: men and baggage. Given the amount of time and travel spent with both, I've come to the conclusion that there are five kinds of men, like there are five kinds of baggage.

First, there's the overnight bag kind of man. Great for the pick-up-and-go kind of girl. Spontaneous. Alive. Convenient. Never makes a plan because he never has a plan and expects you to drop whatever your plans are at a moment's notice. Most of the time you do, because you can always count on having a good time (or at the very least, some good sex). Problem is, Overnight Bag Man is not very practical. Eventually you're going to need more room for the stuff you've picked up along the way. You'll want him to handle more, but he can't — even if he wants to — because he simply doesn't have the capacity.

Then there's the garment bag kind of man. He's accustomed to the finer things in life. Handsome. Articulate. Well groomed. Went to the best schools, eats at the fanciest restaurants, and drives only European cars. Garment Bag Man often hangs framed pictures, articles, and certificates around his house that highlight his favorite person: himself. When it rains, he runs inside for cover. He sleeps with a scarf, and spends more time in the mirror primping than you do. Though Garment Bag Man is extremely fashionable, he isn't too sturdy. He can't cope with the hard knocks, the potholes, or the crash landings that life inevitably brings. At the first sign of wear, or the first rip or tear, Garment Bag Man falls completely apart.

Next is the executive bag kind of man. Briefcase Man. He's the hard-edged, box-shaped piece of luggage that you could drop from a ten-story building and it wouldn't break. Structured. Firm. The kind of man that is unwavering. Willing to fight for or even die for what he believes in. The only problem with Briefcase Man is that he can only fit what he can fit. You must conform to him. He cannot and will not conform to you. It's either his way or the highway, and if it's the highway you chose, he is more than gentlemanly enough to drop you off at the nearest on-ramp.

There's also the classic duffel bag kind of man. Loose fitting. Unstructured. Unfocused and usually arrives unannounced. Not part of the original set, but picked up along the way as needed. Willing to do whatever, whenever, and to whomever as long as it leads him to that which he seeks. Duffel Bag Man will always try to fit more into his schedule than is humanly possible. He thinks he has more game than Michael Jordan, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Bonds put together, and that his game can get him anything he wants and take him anywhere he desires. Because he wasn't part of the original set in the first place, he is easily replaced and quickly forgotten.

And last is the trunk kind of man. Rugged. Weather-proof. Well traveled. A self-made man. The kind of man that's been through a lot and has seen a lot. Carries a lot of stuff, a lot of history: an ex-wife, a dead wife, or a tribe of spoiled and dependent children. Usually older and worn but never tired or torn. An international kind of man. Listens to a lot of jazz. Watches very little television. Always smells good. A self-made man who marches to the beat of his own drum and has little interest in new band members wishing to play a tune of their own

Now, the perfect man is like the perfect set of luggage — strong, stylish, durable, and dependable. Adjustable, fit to travel, and fit to suit whatever the need at whatever the time. Full of compartments. So many that just when you think you've figured him out, and you've seen all there is to see, he surprises you with a hidden nook or a forbidden cranny.

Unfortunately, I haven't quite managed to find the perfect set of luggage or the perfect man. Only individual pieces. And not even matching ones. Just a bunch of random sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Never the right pieces for the right purposes for the right predicaments. In fact, I've accumulated so much baggage from my past relationships, I'm starting to think that it's not a man that I need, it's a skycap.

Copyright © 2003 by Uncle Dave, Inc.

Chapter Five

Wednesday December 4th

Engagement Party Countdown:

20 days, 13 hours to "E-Day"

It was a beautiful late autumn morning. Vibrant shades of golden orange leaves covered the trees outside my window. The sun's piercing rays shone through the glass, bounced off my hardwood floors, ricocheted off my hanging mirror, and finally found its way to my face. My eyes squinted as the pouring light illuminated the room.

A week had passed since my disastrous ordeal with Graham and the double blow of finding out about Sheree's engagement and ensuing party. I had fully digested my Thanksgiving meal but I had not yet fully digested Graham. Thoughts of him still lingered, haunting my body like bad beef. Tired of feeling bad, I was determined that this day would be the first day of the rest of my life.

This would be a day free of yesterday's grief, devoid of yesterday's Graham. Today I would focus on my healing. The key to healing was admitting your pain and taking responsibility for your own actions. Focusing on your own personal role in creating your pain, not on the perpetrator of your pain. Now, it's not like I'm some expert on putting the emotional pieces of one's life back together, but I heard about the process on Oprah. And since her show is the infallible, undeniable, unadulterated gospel of pain and suffering, I figured it's at least worth trying.

Slowly, I lifted my cozy cotton sheets and fluffy down comforter, hopped out of bed, stood in front of the mirror atop my grandmother's refurbished wood dresser and with the courage of an alcoholic at an AA meeting, I admitted my pain.

"I, Montana Moore, am in pain."

So far so good.

"I'm in pain from being too trustworthy, too giving."

I'm pretty good at this.

"I'm in pain for believing that Graham was God's ebony angel and not the low-down, good-for-nothing, snake in the grass, cousin of Satan that he turned out to be!!"


I had obviously strayed from my path. That was anger, not healing.

"I'm supposed to be focusing on the part I played. Dealing with my issues. Right, Muggly?"


Okay, here goes again. I took a minute to roll my neck from side to side and shrug my shoulders. Then I planted my feet firmly on the ground, gritted my teeth, and once again admitted my pain.

"I, Montana Moore, am in pain. Pain from allowing myself to believe that being married was the single most important event in a woman's life. I am in pain from believing that being single, successful, and a good person wasn't enough. As a result, I allowed myself — " Taking a deep breath, I continued.

"I allowed myself to — " Taking another deep breath, noticing Muggly in the corner with her paw over her eyes.

"I allowed myself to be blinded by the conniving, deceitful, treacherous ways of a low-down, black bastard, good-for-nothing, slimy slithering face full of dirt, low to the ground, reptile snake in the grass!!!! I hate him! I hate him! I hate him! I HATE HIM!!!!"

Feathers from my down pillow filled the air. Screeching meows like sirens echoed through the room, as I continued beating the bed with the pillows until I was covered from head to toe like Frosty the Snowman. But I felt good. I felt really good. Oprah was right. But then again, Oprah is always right. I was laughing, crying, and looking ridiculous all at once, but feeling a lot better. Even Muggly looked refreshed.

I was tired of thinking of Graham, so my thoughts moved to Sheree. It was less than a month before her engagement party. Less than a month before I had to face my disgrace and lose the last tattered strand of my already low self-esteem. Okay, Montana, focus on something else. Focus on something good. Something positive.

My brain scrambled and scrambled like a hard drive seeking a file. stopped. Work! Focus on work. Work is always a good distraction. A quick and good fix. And with a ten-day schedule of all-day cross-country flights ahead of me, I would have more than enough time to shift my focus. So I began packing, stuffing my bag with enough clothes to keep a person warm in a Russian winter. I showered, watered my plants, hugged Muggly, jumped in a cab, and raced to the airport.

Work. Work. Work. Work was my focus. My cure. No mention of Graham, no thoughts of Sheree. That was my new mantra. Over and over I repeated it as I rushed through the airport waving at agents, winking at vendors. No mention of Graham. No thoughts of Sheree. Finally reaching the plane, I exhaled. My will was strong. My resolve impenetrable.

"Sheree is getting what?!! To who?!" Gail exclaimed, almost in shock as she nearly burnt her arm on a pot of coffee.

Okay, so maybe I wasn't as strong as I thought.

"I don't know, I haven't met him yet and I can't remember his name. It was late when she told me."

"When did all this happen?"

"Last weekend, I guess."

"And you ain't never even met the guy?!"


"Flight attendants, prepare your doors for departure" rang through the air, as we were about to begin our ascent. We were on a short hop to Detroit, which was more than enough time for Gail to cheer me up, make me laugh, or at the very least, convince me that her life was in much worse condition than mine. I began my announcements knowing full well she wasn't near ready to let it go.

"Welcome aboard Transcontinental Airlines Flight 606 with non-stop service to Detroit's Metro Airport."

"You can't remember your sister's fiancé's name? How can you not know his name? You're about to be related!" Gail attempted to whisper while covering the intercom.

"Sheree barely knows his name. All she knows is that he drives a car, owns a house, and wants to be an optometrist. And more important, that he's willing to be married. To her."

I removed her hand from the intercom. "All luggage must be properly stowed in the overhead bins or underneath the seat in front of you."

"Montana, I don't mean no disrespect, but your family got issues." She yanked the mic from my hand. "No, ya'll got more than issues," she said with greater attitude than before. "Ya'll got the full years' subscription. Your family shops for husbands like a sale at the mall. A closeout sale. Buy one husband and get one free, taking the extra husband home as a gift for your cousin, auntie, grandmamma...whoever!"

"It's the curse."

"What's the curse?"

"The Moore family curse," I replied as I snatched back the mic. "Our flight time is one hour and fifteen minutes. Thank you for flying Transcontinental Airlines, where we promise to get you there safely or the next flight's on us."

"What the hell is a Moore family curse?" Gail asked as we began serving coffee in the first class cabin.

"Here you go, Mr. Ashley, would you like sugar and cream?" I didn't want my emotional state to interfere with my job.

"What curse?"

"The curse of the Moore family rules."

"What rules?"

"According to my mother, you're not a lady unless you're married on or before your twenty-fifth birthday. And you're not a woman unless you've had at least two kids. And if you're not a lady, and you're not a woman, then you're like Gail, a whore. Mrs. McPherson, would you like cream or sugar with that?"

"Your momma called me a ho? Hold up, hold up, hold up! Montana, I know your momma did not call me a ho?"

"No, Gail, she did not call you a ho. She called you a whore."

"What's the difference?"

"The word 'whore' is in the Bible, the word 'ho' is not."

"Thanks," Gail sarcastically replied. "Now I feel a whole lot better." She stood there, face twisted and arms crossed.

"Gail, this is not about you. This is about my stupid family and their stupid rules. Hello, Dr. Julion. Cream or sugar today?"

"I can't believe your mother called me a ho."


"It's the same thing!" she shouted, startling the first class passengers.

"Gail, let it go," I whispered, attempting to calm her down. "You know how crazy my mother is. And besides, she's called you a lot worse."

"Than a whore?!"

"Gail, it doesn't matter. What matters is that in less than a month my sister is having an engagement party where the whole family shows up and showers the bride-to-be with gifts and well wishes. It's a pre-reception party so just in case you don't make it to the final wedding date, you know, like if the groom-to-be pulls out, then you will have at least gained points toward being exempt from the curse. There's an addendum to the rules. Three engagement parties equal one wedding."

"I have never ever been called a whore. I've been called a slut, tramp, even a trollop. But a whore? A whore?"

"Gail, what am I gonna do?" I said, ignoring her rant. "If I show up at that party without a man I'll be the laughingstock of the entire family. Professor Previtt, would you like one sugar or two with your coffee today?"

"Two, please."

"Just get you a fiancé to bring to the party."


"That's the only thing I can see that will solve your problems. But then again, given your luck with men it'll probably be easier to hit the — "



"That's it!"

"What's it?"

"That's it!"

"What's it?!"

Nodding my head, affirming my thoughts. "I'm getting engaged in less than thirty days. Yep, that's it! I've made up my mind. Three weeks from now, I, Montana Christina Moore, will announce my engagement to my family and the entire unwed world."

"Engagement, to who? Graham?" Sam asked gleefully, catching the tail end of the conversation. "So the weekend went well, yes?"

"No," I responded, sadly shaking my head. "Graham had a prior commitment."

"To who?"

"His wife."

"Okay," he replied, looking perplexed. "Then who, pray tell, are you getting engaged to in three weeks?" he continued, flashing his award-winning smile, as he was now even more intent to know.

"She don't even know herself," Gail said, slightly irritated.

"I'm sorry," Sam replied, turning to Gail. "When did the horse learn how to talk?"

"Sam, I swear, don't start with me today. I'm not in the mood," she answered, cutting her eyes.

"Hello!" Sam said with his hand on his hip. "Montana, how are you getting engaged in three weeks if you don't know who the hell you're getting engaged to? And more importantly, why the rush?"

"'Cause of some stupid rules," Gail retorted. "Rules that her momma's momma's momma came up with that's jacked up all the women in her family, as you can see." Cutting her eyes at me. "In her family, you're not a lady until you're married on or before your twenty-fifth birthday. And you're not a woman unless you've had at least two kids, and according to her mother, if you're not a lady, and you're not a woman, you're — "

"A whore," Sam added.

"Right," Gail countered.

"Like you," Sam said. Gail's eyes, ears, and nose matched the color of her fire-red hair as she stood there boiling, rocking, gripping her hands, and seething with rage.

"I am not a whore."

"That's right, Gail, keep on saying it to yourself over and over until you start believing it. And don't forget this one: 'I like myself. I'm a good person. I matter.'"

"Look here, you flying flaming air fairy, I am not a whore!"

"Gail, please, your legs are like the neighborhood liquor store: conveniently located and open all night." He then turned to me all emotional, hugging me tight. "Montana, I feel so bad for you. This is just like the movie Funny Girl. You're Fanny Brice." I was thrown, thinking the movie had a happy ending. "Mr. Arnstein based their whole relationship on the outcome of a poker game and when he lost the game, they lost each other. See, Montana, love is your poker game, and heartache your dealer. Up until now, heartache has dealt you a handful of jokers, poking fun at your expense. But the dealer will soon change, heartache will be replaced with happiness, and your hand will be full of kings with aces riding on horses, strutting for life, galloping for love. Montana Moore, your king will soon come along, and your fate won't be in the hands of the dealer, for in your heart you will possess the entire deck, a royal flush of truth, love, happiness, and commitment." He pulled me close, squeezing me tight. In his words I found comfort.

"What about me?" Gail uttered softly, as she herself was getting emotional. "I want to play poker too. When's happiness gonna deal my hand?"

"Oh, please, Gail," Sam lashed back, "we're having a moment. Don't you have some peanuts to go plant on somebody?"

"Nobody ever thinks of me," she remarked, swelling up with emotion. "Has anyone ever stopped to think that maybe I want to be happy too? First I'm a whore, then I'm a liquor store. I just want to be happy too!"

Seeing Gail at the point of a nervous breakdown, Sam showed compassion for her. "Aw, come on, Gail," he said, reaching out and grabbing her by the arm. "Group hug. Group hug," he exclaimed as we hugged, laughed, cried a little, hugged, laughed, and cried a bit more. Then suddenly, Gail broke from our embrace.

"All right now, that's enough," Gail shouted as she pulled out her mirror and began fixing herself up. "You about to mess up my makeup."

"So, Montana," Sam asked, "what do we do about this engagement party in three weeks?"

"I don't know," I replied, "but I've got to show up with a ring on my finger and a man on my arm. If not, I'll never be able to show up to any more holiday gatherings, baptisms, weddings, or funerals."

"I have an idea! Why don't I go as your date to the engagement party?" Sam gleefully asked.

"She said she needed a man, not Peter Pan," Gail shot back.

"In that case, Gail, why don't you take Montana? If you go without plucking your facial hairs for a week, nobody will ever know the difference," Sam sneered with a villainous grin.

"I'm about sick of you, Sam."


Before the catfight became fully blown, I quickly shifted the focus back to my dilemma. "Guys! Guys! Yoo, hoo! Engagement party? Three weeks? Remember?!"

"Montana, you're right. And I apologize. Gail, apologize."

"For what?"

"For being mannish!"

"You apologize."

"I just did!"

"Guys, guys!"

"I'm sorry, Montana. Gail, I call a truce. Montana needs us right now."

"Truce accepted," Gail replied.

"Montana, if you just have to have a man to show up to your sister's engagement party, then that's simple. I'm sure any man would love to be your escort," Sam said.

"Yeah, especially if you promise to give him some later that night," Gail offered.

"Wrong answer!!!" Sam exclaimed with an irritating high-pitched shrill. "Unlike you, Heidi Fleiss, Montana is no longer prostituting herself for love. Wait, I have an idea. Montana, get your phone book."


"Girl, just do it." Not knowing his plan but trusting his motives, I reached in my purse and pulled it out, only to have it instantly snatched from my hands. "We'll flip through the book and narrow your choices down to one."

"One?!" Gail shouted. "She can't pick just one. She'll need at least ten. A woman's always got to have backup."

"Ten isn't backup, ten is a posse. All right, so we'll pick two, then."

"No, we'll pick eight."

"No, we'll pick four."


"We'll pick five!" I said, figuring it was the happy and most reasonable compromise. Five single, eligible, and available men that are willing to become engaged in three weeks. We started with A.

"Aaron. What about Aaron?" Sam asked.

"Aaron...Aaron is incredible. Well spoken, smart, handsome, but...married with five kids."

"Married?" Gail replied, "Well, why is he still in your phone book? That's a waste of space. He's got a wife and an NBA team." Quickly ripping him out, balling him up, and throwing the page in the trash, we moved on.

"Allan! What's the deal on him?" Sam asked.

"He's very considerate. Always very well put-together. Sends a card on my birthday every year since we met...But, he's gay."

"Oooh, girl," Gail said, ripping out the page. "He gets slam-dunked in the garbage can."

"Give me that page, Gail. Just because he's gay does not mean he's garbage, you Raggedy Ann-headed goat. Allan has potential," Sam added, snatching the page from Gail and smoothing out its wrinkled creases.

"Not for Montana," Gail shot back.

"I know, heifer. For me!" Sam responded, stuffing the number in his pocket.

This went on for what seemed an eternity as Sam and Gail cussed, fussed, and pages went ripping and flying in the air. Through the K's they fussed. Through the M's they cussed. Now, through the P's Sam fussed, pulling out a plastic knife and threatening to saw Gail's weave. Through the T's, Gail cussed back, holding two cans of mace pointed at Sam.

Finally we hit Z. Phone book paper was piled to the airplane's ceiling. Exhausted and worn, we poured some wine and toasted to our success. We had chosen five men. From Atlanta to Los Angeles. From Oakland to Philly. From New York to D.C. Five men, all eligible, all single, and most important, men I had previously dated who had hinted at the possibility of a future together.



"Wait," Sam said, stopping Gail and me in mid-celebration.

"What's wrong?"

"Yeah, what's wrong, Sam?"

"Three things. Time, opportunity, and access. Everybody we chose is very busy and their social calendars are full, not to mention, they're spread across the entire country."

"That ain't no problem," Gail offered. "If the mountain won't come to Mohammad, then Mohammad must go to the mountain."

"I can't go chasing after these men. They'll think I'm desperate."

"Montana, you need a husband in three weeks! Hello! If that's not desperate, then what is? A man has too many options to be fooling around chasing a woman. The ratio is already thirteen to one. And that's thirteen to one nine-to-five working, paycheck to paycheck living, public transportation riding kind of man. Don't get one that's got a little something going for him. That's got a house, got some money, or even worse yet, that's got a dream. Don't let him have a little status, a little notoriety. Then you're really in trouble. 'Cause then, it's like a thousand to one. See, you've got to make yourself stand out so that in that thousand, he only sees one."

I was in shock. For once, Gail was saying something that made sense. Standing before me was a new Gail. A sage. A master. Love's Dalai Lama. A spiritual guide to help me navigate through love's uncharted waters. She was my teacher and I was her pupil. Gail had the answers, the solutions, and the cures to my woes.

Like a humble apprentice, I asked the next obvious question. "So, teacher, how do you make yourself the one?" I pensively asked, anxious to soak up her wisdom and insight.

"Hell if I know. Do you see a damn ring on my finger?" Okay, now this was the Gail that I knew.

"You know, Montana, I really hate to say this. I really, really, really hate to say this. But Gail's got a point. Most men want to be hunted, but also need to feel as if they're doing the hunting. Most men want to fight the wars, slay the beasts, and come home blood-drenched, tattered, and torn, falling helpless, unconscious, into the arms of a loving, nurturing woman. You have to make a man feel like he can fly, believe that he is stronger, faster, and wiser than he really is. The woman that learns to appease her man conquers her man." Sam was dissecting the male psyche with Freud-like skill. You go, Sam.

"Look at Samson and Delilah," he continued. "Now, I don't agree with Delilah, but you have to admit she was on to something. Here she was, dating the strongest man in the world. A man that could lift pillars, toss horses, and crush stones with his bare hands. A warrior. A gladiator. But in the presence of Delilah, this mighty soldier was as gentle as a lamb. He became comfortable. And as soon as he became comfortable, he lowered his guard and next thing he knew: snip snip, hair gone. He was conquered. The strongest man in the world will become the weakest man in the world in the arms of the right woman."

"I've got it!! I've got it! I've got it!" Gail screamed, nearly waking any sleeping passengers. "I've got it!"

"Well then, can you share it?!" Sam asked.

"All these guys fly a lot, right?"

"Yeah. And?" I was clueless to where she was going.

"Well, Montana, you are going to 'coincidentally' bump into each of the five men during a flight on their way home. And after you 'coincidentally' bump into these men, because you will be looking incredible, they will each request your company for an evening, which will give you the opportunity to what? Snip snip, hair gone," Gail explained, smiling from ear to ear.

"And how, pray tell, do you expect her to 'coincidentally' accomplish this near-impossible feat? Should she hang out in the airports masquerading as a homeless woman, then as soon as she spots one of the five men, like Clark Kent, dash into a phone booth and change?"

"No," Gail said, raising her eyebrows. "She won't have to do that, because she'll know in advance when each will be traveling."


"Yeah, how?" At this point, even I was intrigued.

"The Passenger Information List! The same way I find out about my male prospects is the way we'll find out about yours. Since they all have frequent flyer accounts, I'll just get my agent hookup to punch in their names, pull up their frequent flyer numbers, and we'll know the next time they will be flying the friendly skies! Then, we'll swap flights, switch whatever we have to to make sure you are on the flight, and then voilá! Snip snip, hair gone!"

Suddenly, what seemed impossible became almost probable. It was a shot. A long shot, but a shot nonetheless.

"Again, I hate to admit it," Sam begrudgingly added, "I really, really, really hate to admit it, but she's got another good point."

"But I've dated all these guys before and I'm not engaged now. Why would this time be any different?"

"'Cause this time you will be different," Sam said with confidence. "When they see you this time, they won't just see the woman that they remember, looking the way they remember. This time, they'll see a new and improved Montana. Poised. Confident. Self-assured and self-aware. The woman of their dreams. A woman that makes them believe they can fly. And to be different and expect a different outcome, you have to first change your actions. Same actions, same outcome. New actions, new outcome. First thing is — and this might be one of the hardest — when you see these men, all of which you've probably had sex with, under no circumstances, no matter how hard it gets and no matter how hot and bothered you become, will you engage in any sexual activity."

"How about if she just — "


"But what if she just — "


"You mean she can't even — "

"No! No high heels, no hot pants, and no sex!"

Feeling the need to bring my earlier indiscretions to Sam's attention, I offered, "Uh Sam, I hate to tell you this but — "

"Girl, I already know, but read my lips: same actions, same outcome. New actions, new outcome. Consider it a fast. A sex fast. Think of it as your candy machine having a broken quarter slot. The candy will still be fresh, protected, and visible to the naked eye, just temporarily unattainable. It's more intoxicating that way, anyway. We all want what we can't have, agreed?"

First looking at Gail, who was rolling her eyes, then back at Sam. "Agreed."

"Rule number two, no matter how tempting the choices may get, you can't make a decision until after you have spent time with all five. That means you can't do like you usually do — "

"And what's that?"

"Let yourself get all caught up, swept away, let him fill you with a thousand pounds of helium until you're floating at an altitude higher than this airplane. Then, as all of your past men have done, once he sees you floating, he'll pull out a needle and pop a hole in your bubble, sending you spiraling, spiraling, splat! Face cracked, shattered on the ground."

"Thanks, Sam."

"Girl, that hurt me more than it hurt you. No matter how alluring, how exciting, how tempting each one may be, you must keep your two feet firmly planted on the ground and your legs closed in their locked position. Then...if everything goes as planned and with a little luck, in three'll have a husband. So, are you in?" Sam was first to extend his hand like the Three Musketeers. Gail was next, placing her hand on top of Sam's. I sighed for a moment, then slowly, I extended my arm, placing my hand on top of theirs.

"I'm in."

"First thing when we land, we're taking you to get a makeover, 'cause the Mary Poppins look? Hate it!" He scrunched up his face.

"He's right, girl."

"You got to get fly, girlfriend. Attitude has to be fierce, hair has to be whipped, clothes have to be tailored, and scissors have to be sharpened. Why?"

Sam eyed both Gail and me down, flailing his arms, snapping his fingers, "Snip snip, hair gone!"

As the plane made its final decent, I was ready to hit the ground running headfirst into my most daring adventure yet. A three-week, nearly thirty-thousand-mile hunt for a husband. My latest mantra: same actions, same outcome — new actions, new outcome. In other words, snip snip, hair gone.

Copyright © 2003 by Uncle Dave, Inc.

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