I’m a loser magnet. Or at least that’s what it feels like as I kick another one of my loser boyfriends to the curb, tossing his box of random things out the door with him.
Take your stupid electric toothbrush with the dead batteries and your gamer headphones that make it impossible to have a conversation with you.
No more guys who look good and talk big, but still live with their mother. No entrepreneurs, because that’s just code for unemployed. And no more moving in with someone after knowing them for a hot second.
This is the new me.
I slam the door, letting out a loud huff of approval as I nod my head. It’s done. It’s over and it won’t happen again, because I’m not dating anyone for a long time. I’ve said these words after almost every breakup and for some reason I just can’t stick to it. It’s not like I’m lonely or desperate to have a boyfriend. It just always feels like the situation presents itself and I hop on board. But this time, no hopping.
The only good thing that came from making a rash decision in a relationship was my move to Napa.
It’s been a little over two years since I landed in this beautiful little area of the country. It’s a place I’d never been to nor did I have any intention of moving here, but my flighty and hard to pin down boyfriend at the time decided we should leave the cold New England winters behind and drive across the country to California. Turns out winters weren’t the only thing he decided to leave behind. He dumped my ass just outside of Vegas for a showgirl with big boobs and ten pounds of makeup on her face.
Our original landing place was supposed to be San Francisco based on a book he read about some guy who takes a road trip and finds himself or some shit. All I needed to find at that moment was a place to live and I knew Vegas was not it.
I might be young and loud, but the lights of the strip made me feel like I was either going to puke or have a seizure. Luckily for me the car was mine and I just kept on driving with little idea of what the hell I was doing.
I wanted something quiet, some place that didn’t feel like it was suffocating me the way that asshole did the entire road trip. Some place that felt open, where I could smell the air and feel the open space around me. I wasn’t going to find that in San Francisco or any other city on the coast of California, so I went inland and landed in Napa.
It was all touristy and quaint and the air was warm, and if I’m being honest, I met a guy. That’s the real reason I stayed, that and the fact that I landed my amazing job at Somerville Winery and Vineyard. I like to believe the guy led me to the job and that was the reason I was destined to meet him. It’s a little bit of bullshit I like to spin to make myself feel better, because he was gone before I even learned the different temperatures wine should be kept at.
I didn’t intend on working in the tasting room at Somerville’s. I knew nothing about wine or anything that could be considered classy by any means. I was twenty-one years old with two grand to my name, a ten year old car and three years of random college classes under my belt. I never could quite pin down a major, let alone pin myself down.
I applied for a waitressing job in their little restaurant that held wonderful smells and smiling people and everything about it felt like the calm and normalcy I so desperately needed. But Lauren, one of the owners, swooped in, all blonde hair and bossy, and put me in charge of the tasting room, despite my protests.
They hadn’t had someone in there in months and she and her sister Ellen were handling it on their own. She had no concerns about me being able to learn the job and put me to work immediately.
Turns out it was exactly where I was supposed to be. It’s social and fun and I never thought I could make a living chatting with people, but that’s exactly what I’m doing.
“You’re a natural,” Lauren had said during my interview. “You’re young and cute and fun, and people will love you. Just wait.”
She ushered me out of her office and into the tasting room, and it was in that moment that I fell in love. No guy I had ever been with ever looked like this or smelled like this or felt like this. This tasting room was my new home.
It was wood and metal and terracotta tile, it felt so industrial but also amazingly welcoming with its smell of wood and grapes and I loved the sound of conversations and the din of people laughing. It was my new home and would be a place I would find solace even when my personal life was a disaster.
It’s the only place I want to be right now.
“I’m done with men!” I announce with flourish, flinging my brown hair over my shoulder, as if this makes it more final when I walk into Lauren and Jack’s office.
Jack’s the first to let out a riotous laugh and Lauren smacks him on the arm, hitting him with a steely glare telling him to shut up.
“Sorry,” he mutters, shrugging his shoulders sheepishly.
“Nah, it’s not like I haven’t said this a million times before, but I swear, this time I mean it.” I toss a fist into the air as if I’m psyching myself up for the new and improved me.
“I’m with you,” Lauren says. “Boys are so much work.” She rolls her eyes dramatically, giving me a wink, while Jack stands there with a mock appalled look on his face.
Lauren and Jack met as kids while his father was working at Somerville’s. They always had this teenage crush, love-hate thing going on and were separated when Jack’s dad returned to Australia after his work at Somerville’s was done. But fate wouldn’t hear of it, or maybe it had more to do with Lauren’s meddling sister Ellen, when Jack walked back into Lauren’s life to fix a machine his father installed all those years ago. They now own and run the vineyard together along with Ellen and they’re currently working on getting their new business venture up and running. They’re moving into cider production after purchasing the land adjacent to Somerville’s that just so happened to be a fully planted apple orchard. They are literally who I aspire to be someday.
They got married here at the vineyard in the most beautiful ceremony I’ve ever seen, and they’ve been living their happily ever after ever since. They are legit relationship goals, and it doesn’t go unnoticed that this playful banter they have going on keeps things light and fun in their relationship. I want what they have, but I’ve clearly been looking in all the wrong places…like bars, the gas station, the Las Vegas strip and even, dare I say it, Tinder. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.
What the hell is wrong with me?
“You know what you should do, mate?” Jack says. I still love his accent and the way he calls everyone mate. “I was just reading about this dating app that doesn’t use any pictures, so it’s all based on compatibility rather than looks.”
“Jack!” Lauren calls out, smacking him on the arm again. “Have you not listened to anything she’s said?” She shakes her head and mouths the words “I’m sorry” to me, like I’m actually bothered by Jack’s suggestion. I’m not, far from it, because after working with Jack for more than a year now, I know he has the best of intentions. “And anyway, how rude of you to suggest that Penny join an app that has no pictures of the people, like she isn’t absolutely adorable.”
“Take it easy, Lu,” Jack says, his hands held up defensively as he uses his sweet little nickname for her. “I was simply suggesting she join because she is so pretty and maybe this would actually attract a better quality of men.” He’s firm in his words, defending himself and making me feel good in the process. I’ll take the compliment.
“Or maybe it would attract an even worse group,” Lauren laments, wrinkling up her nose in disgust.
“Well, it’s not like I’ve had the best luck on my own. I should have Jack create my profile and vet everyone that comes through,” I joke, but bordering on serious. Maybe he would do better than I could. “But like I said before, no guys. I’m done for a while.”
I flit my hand, brushing off the idea of using a dating app or dating in general. This is a great time to focus on myself and figure out if running the tasting room at Somerville’s is something I see myself doing long-term or if there’s something better out there.
One thing I know is California is where I was meant to live. No more cold New England winters or shoveling snow, and as of right now I can’t see myself ever wanting to leave Somerville’s.
“Well, I gotta get to work,” I announce, even though I’m several hours early for my shift. The grounds here are absolutely beautiful and I love that Lauren, Jack or Ellen don’t think it’s weird that I come in early and wander the property. I swear each day I’m here I find something new I love about it, especially now that the orchard next door has been purchased and the cider production is nearly up and running.
“You’re three hours early,” Lauren says, winking at me. “You going to stroll around and take it all in?” She knows how much I love it here, because not a day goes by that she isn’t doing the exact same thing.
She and Jack were married under her favorite tree, a tree that holds all her childhood memories from growing up at this vineyard. I’ve found her just sitting on the handmade swing that hangs from its branches on a number of occasions. But while she loves the tree and the swing and all the quiet stillness of it being away from the hustle and bustle of tourists, I love the small lake that sits in the middle of the property.
In the mornings when my life feels crazy and whatever guy I’m dating has pushed me over the edge, I sit down by the lake and just relax. It’s like the entire outside world disappears, leaving me with the stillness of the water and just the sounds of nature.
“I’m going to read a book by the lake,” I tell Lauren, smiling at the fact that most people are confined to an office at their job. Most people don’t have the luxury of walking outside and finding some of the most beautiful scenery in all of California.
I live in a tiny apartment above an Italian restaurant in downtown Napa. It’s noisy and touristy and smells like pasta sauce twenty-four hours a day. Somerville’s is my sanctuary.
I tell Lauren and Jack goodbye and just as I’m about to leave their office Tommy Andrews, one of the property maintenance guys, walks by calling into me through the open window.
“Good, you’re here!” he yells. “I need you to grab the delivery that just came in. It’s shit that needs to be stocked in the tasting room.” He’s harsh and bossy and sometimes I just want to flip him off, but it’s also fun to give him shit.
“I don’t start for another three hours,” I call back.
“Then what the hell are you doing here?” he asks, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head at me.
“Not everyone can be as much of a go-getter as you, Tommy!” I yell, giving him a playful smile, but he regards me with an annoyed look.
He storms off, but he also knows I’ll get everything done as soon as my shift starts and we’ve come to this mutual agreement that he can tell me what to do, but I just tend to ignore him.
“You know, he’s single,” Lauren says with hesitation, but still a little more hopeful than I would like.
Jack again hits us with a hearty laugh. “There’s a reason he’s single.”
Jack and Tommy didn’t always get along and I get why. Lauren, Ellen and Tommy have been friends since they were kids. He’s protective of them and saw Jack as someone who was looking to cash in on Lauren’s success. Turns out he couldn’t have been more wrong, and he did eventually apologize to Jack, making things far less tense out here.
“I gotta agree with Jack on this one, Lauren,” I say, even though Tommy is good-looking, pretty hot actually with his muscular body and disheveled dark curly hair, and those striking green eyes. But he’s all work and no play, far too stuffy and demanding. Not my kind of guy by any means, because I no longer have a type.
No guys means no looking.
No guys means no dating apps.
Can I really do this?
Maybe Jack has a point? Maybe I do need to put aside what the person looks like and focus on what they have to offer? Fuck knows I haven’t based any of my past boyfriends on their ability to hold down a conversation. I deserve better than that.
And as I sit down by the lake, I find myself looking up this dating app before my ass has even hit the bench.
What the hell am I doing?