“How?” asked Liz interestedly.
Hugh eyed her critically. “Maybe change your make-up a little? Start wearing something dressier?”
When he saw Liz frown, he hastened to add, “Nothing wrong with you as you are, of course. In fact, I quite like your style. You look like a studious, stylish, young woman, with an understated elegance. But by ramping it up a little, you’ll be subtly hinting to Whitman that my so-called ‘attentions’ are having a tiny effect on you on a subliminal level. I mean, think about it. Which one of us doesn’t come a little alive at a little extra attention? Not when it’s creepy. But when it’s respectful, surely, it’s a little flattering to us all? Your changed appearance will tell him all of that without employing words.”
Liz gave him a tiny nod. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” she asked him, curiosity writ large on her face.
Hugh grinned, “Match-making? Not ordinarily, no. But you remind me a little of me. You know, a little clueless. And much too busy with work to think about your personal life really hard. I figure you could do with a helping hand. Since they won’t let me work here, I might as well be of some use.”
Liz smiled, “Right. Anything else I need to do?”
“Well, there is this other thing that came to my mind. You know, I think he’s far more likely to ask you out if he sorta has to rescue you again from my clutches. As in, you being all helpless and then grateful should be just the impetus he needs to get the guts to actually make a date with you? Are you following me?”
Liz eyed him without expression, “I think so. In short, I act all overcome and ever-so-sweetly grateful. So that in turn, his male ego is sufficiently boosted and he’ll feel good enough about himself to ask me out?”
Missing the gentle irony of her words, Hugh nodded enthusiastically, “That’s exactly it.”
Liz sighed. “I don’t know about this, Hugh. This doesn’t sound like the kind of asking-out I had in mind. I mean, if he has to be pushed and prodded like cattle, what’s the point, really? This should be way more natural. Besides, I stopped being the wide-eyed, simpering, cutesy, little woman a long time ago, if I ever was one. If that’s what he wants, and say, I do manage to act that way for a day, what about after? When he expects me to keep massaging his ego and being all giggly around him and never confronting real issues?”
Hugh nodded. He had to give Liz marks for authenticity, he thought. The woman in front of him was transparent and upfront. He had a feeling he would never have to worry about her pulling a Savannah on him. If before he’d felt Whitman didn’t quite deserve her, now he was doubly sure.
Liz went on, “The way we’re going about it sounds horribly contrived and, frankly, just weird. I’m more inclined to think, what’s the worst that’ll happen if instead of all of this plotting, I get over my own fear and ask him out? I mean, if I’m going to be bold enough for all this circus, I might as well be a bit bolder and do the actual asking out.”
Hugh looked at her in surprise and growing admiration, “You’d do that, Liz? Knowing there’s the remote chance that he’ll say ‘no’? Won’t that crush you?”
Liz considered, “I probably would’ve never thought about asking him out first. But this whole charade makes me feel like maybe that is the better, classier, more honest option, you know?”
Hugh nodded, “And if he says ‘no’?”
Liz looked stricken. “I want to say I’ll walk away gracefully and my confidence won’t take a deep dive. But I don’t really know, do I? I’ve never done anything like this in my life. What’ll probably happen is that I’ll take a million years’ long sick leave and never turn up at the hospital again. It’s very close-knit here. People are bound to find out. I’m reclusive on the best of days. Suddenly being thrust into the limelight, and for all the wrong reasons, is like one of my nightmare scenarios.”
Hugh looked thoughtful, then shook his head, “Something tells me you’ll survive, Liz. You’re far stronger than you give yourself credit for. And I agree, it does feel more your style to ask him outright rather than employ all of this intrigue.” He looked at her, “I’m beginning to think you might be on to something. Ask him, Liz. The worst he can say is ‘No’. And if he does, you can finally move on and find the one.”
But Liz felt a little deflated. “I’ve never rushed into anything, Hugh. I’ll have a think about this.”
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew