The Introvert's Guide to Online Dating by Emma Hart

CHAPTER ONE – TORI


rule one: be a little extroverted.



“Grandma, you can’t make clay penises,” I hissed, reaching over to stop her molding the clay into a very lopsided replica of male genitalia.

Grandma stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth and expertly batted my hand away. “This was your idea.”

“Yes, but I thought you’d make a bowl or a cup or a vase.” I glanced down at her playing with the clay cock. “Not a penis.”

“We were told to make what we know, and Rosie took the boobs. God knows why. Hers are down by her knees.”

“Better than yours being by your ankles! You tuck them into your socks, you old wench!” Rosie shot back from four tables away.

“All the better to beat you with, you—”

“That’s enough.” Oscar stepped forward with his hands on his hips, his engagement ring glinting on the fourth finger of his left hand. “If you can’t behave, you won’t be taking part in the craft sessions this summer.”

Grandma pouted. “But I’m working so hard.”

“Agatha, your sculpture looks like the owner of the penis needs to visit the doctor.”

Rosie cackled.

I took another look at Grandma’s penis—there’s something I never thought I’d say—and tilted my head. Oscar was not wrong. I knew what she was going for, but I was pretty sure the, uh, head, was way bulgier than it needed to be.

Yeah.

It needed a doctor.

I needed a coffee.

Shaking my head, I told her I’d be right back and escaped the craft room. It was a relatively new addition to the senior home, and had once again left us all wondering where the hell they got all their money from.

I mean, they’d just added twenty chickens.

Who the fuck needed twenty chickens?

And who was cleaning out all these birds?

I started at the sound of a long, loud crow coming from somewhere outside.

“Ah. That’s Colonel Sanders.”

I turned and met Stacy’s eyes. “Who the hell calls a chicken Colonel Sanders?”

The nurse sighed. “The same seniors who have named the hens Margaret Hatcher, Eggatha Christie, Amelia Egghart, and Yolko Ono. Not to mention Princess Laya and Hen Solo. Oh, and there’s also Kelly Cluckson and Hen Stefani.” She paused. “It’s getting a little weird, actually.”

Getting? Getting? It had gotten weird when they’d named a duck Quackie Chan, for the love of God.

I blinked at her. “How the hell did they think up those names?”

“We made the mistake of allowing your grandmother and Mabel on the internet.” She grimaced. “They’re working on names for the others.”

Wonderful.

That’s what White Peak needed.

More punny poultry names.

“Are you all right? Did you need anything?”

“I was just going to search for coffee. The machine in the craft room was empty.”

With a wink, she motioned for me to follow her. She led me toward the staff room and swiped her card before she punched in a six-digit code with lightning-fast fingers. “There’s better coffee in here. I know because I buy it.”

I followed her inside, and she swiftly moved to pour two cups from the pot. After I confirmed how I wanted it, she mixed it, then handed me the steaming mug.

“Thank you,” I said honestly. “I really appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome.” She hugged her own mug. “I’m on break while they all finish their inappropriate clay models.”

“The clay was a terrible idea, in hindsight.”

“Most things are with the elderly. Especially this bunch of the elderly. They were talking about watercolors next week and I dread to think what they’re going to do.”

“I think I’ll be busy next week,” I said slowly. “Thank you for this. I should get back out there before she turns poor Oscar gray before his wedding.”

Stacy laughed, and I slipped away from the staff room and back to the craft room. I paused in the doorway—Grandma was arguing with Rosie again, not that there was any change with that, and everyone around them was shaking their heads at them.

“Oh, give it a rest,” Leonard finally said. “Not only are you making grotesque examples of genitalia, you’re ruining the session for everybody. If you can’t behave, I’ll have to insist that you don’t join us.”