Going, Going, Gone!

Rating K+ for some language and a hint of an adult relationship. It is based on the Ellowyne canon.

The atmosphere in the small lecture hall crackled with anticipation at the 20th Annual Bachelor Auction, a benefit for the Paws ‘N Claws animal shelter. Attached to the main shelter building was a small theater used for lectures, documentaries, and fundraising. Neema was the first to arrive and saved half a row of seats near the front for her friends. She played on her phone until Prudence and Lizette arrived. Ellowyne was the next to come, and Amber traipsed into the theater last. When she saw all her friends, she bellowed out her favorite greeting. 

“Heifers!” she shouted. The women were delighted and they giggled and mooed. Neema seemed a little reticent to join the response but she went along with it. 

“We must seem like a strange bunch,” Prudence whispered to her. “But trust me, you will never meet a more supportive, caring, and affirming group of friends. I’ve known Ellowyne and Rufus since middle school, and we met Amber and Lizette in high school. We got to know Penn in college. He’s a couple of years older than we are. He served in the Army in Afghanistan and now he’s a Registered Nurse in the ER.” 

Neema inquired, “He sounds interesting. I haven’t had the chance to get to know him yet. By the way, where ARE the guys?”

Just then, Rufus bounded down from backstage. “Hey, Neema! Glad you could join us! I was giving Penn some encouragement before the auction. He thinks he’ll get a higher final bid than I did last year. We’ll see about that!”

“Are you up for auction, Rufus?” she asked. 

“Not this year,” he answered, smiling at Ellowyne. “The guys to be auctioned are supposed to be eligible bachelors, and I’m not single anymore.”

“And we’re going to keep it that way,” Ellowyne said. Neema noticed that Ellowyne was positively glowing when she gazed at Rufus and gave him a kiss on his cheek. 

Amber piped up. “Rufus has been up twice. The first time he was auctioned, I won. He took me to the Cartoon Art Museum, and we ate at In-N-Out.”

Rufus pretended to take umbrage with her comment. “Hey! You enjoyed the Wonder Woman and Supergirl exhibits AND you stole most of my animal-style fries.”

“Truth be told, ladies,” Amber explained. “I had a pleasant afternoon with one of the most eligible bachelor volunteers at Paws ‘N Claws. I bid against three other women—I’m sure you can guess who they were. The date was certainly worth $900.”

Neema noticed Ellowyne rolling her eyes. Was there some sort of history between Amber and Rufus?

Ellowyne remarked, “Last year, shortly before Rufus and I started dating, we all pooled our resources to make a big fat bid for him that would surely win.”

“We had serious competition for him,” Prudence added. “I think there were a couple of aggressive society matrons who wanted him to be their toy boy. Or is it a boy toy?”

“We paid $350 each for the four of us. It was for a great cause,” Lizette added.

Rufus said dramatically, “They say that every man has his price. Mine was $1400. I feel so cheap!” Then he grinned slyly. “But I got to take four gorgeous, amazing women on a date! And I got a goodnight kiss from each one!”

“He took us all to the Wharf and then to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience,” Prudence said. “It’s a great place for a date!”

Lizette asked her friends, “Should we pool our resources again in an attempt to win Penn?”

“Well, I’m not bidding,” Rufus said. “He might be my best friend, but I hang out with him whenever I want. Might watch sports or to a pub for bar food and craft beer. Usually he ‘forgets’ his wallet and I get stuck paying.”

The women laughed. However, no one answered Neema’s question about pooling their money to bid on Penn.

Just then, the lights in the theater dimmed and the women—except for Ellowyne—made sure they had their numbered bid cards ready. The audience, whose enthusiasm was already palpable, was shaken and stirred into an alcohol-free frenzy.  The first handsome gentleman titillated the crowd. He was a chef from a Michelin-starred restaurant, and his name was Freddy Wilde. Neema asked Ellowyne, “Any relation?” Ellowyne shook her head. Prudence placed a bid but someone outbid her, and Freddy went for an even $1000.

The next several bachelors were equally attractive. One was a fireman who wore tactical pants, a tight t-shirt, his hat, and a smile. He went for $1200. Another was a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer who wore his form-fitting uniform. He bore a striking resemblance to a young Erik Estrada, so much that his colleagues and even the emcee called him Ponch. The bidding for him was intense. The winning bidder was a woman of a certain age with a spiked, tiger-striped bob haircut and a bad spray tan. Amber bid $900 but was outbid., and Ponch went for $1500. Amber quipped that the woman probably watched CHiPs when it first aired in the 1970s. Then she said, “Maybe I’ll have to speed more often. I wouldn’t mind getting a ticket from him.” She paused. “I would have bid higher but I’m saving my money for Penn.”

Just then, Penn walked onto the stage. Dressed in spandex-blend scrubs that perfectly matched his dark blue eyes and a stethoscope around his neck, he exuded sex appeal and confidence. The emcee introduced him by asking, “Who would like to play doctor with this nurse?” The audience roared. 

Neema put in a $400 bid for Penn, and was promptly bested by the cougar who won Ponch. Amber made a bid of $600. At that point, Neema decided to let Amber and the other woman duke it out in a bidding war. She was a fierce, aggressive sniper on eBay and planned to hold off bidding until the very end. Eventually the sugar mama who won Ponch gave up. But just when Amber was congratulating herself on winning a date with Penn, Neema struck. 

The next few minutes were like a ping pong game. Amber put in a bid for $1000, and Neema bid $1100. Amber bid $1200 but Neema countered to $1300. The two women grappled with each other, increasing their bids by $100 each until Amber offered $2200 and Neema $2300. Amber usually got what she wanted and it was hard for her to give up graciously. Still, she knew that Neema had deep pockets and would continue to outbid her. The auctioneer looked first at Neema and then at Amber and said, “Going once, going twice, gone to Number 86!” And the frenzy was over.

Prudence, Lizette, and a rather glum Amber started bidding on some other bachelors. Prudence had the winning bid for a cute Reiki practitioner, and Lizette won a date with a nerdy marine biologist. Amber bid half-heartly on a guy who designed video games. He was cute enough, kind of geeky, and totally not her type. Maybe he’d  take her to the Cartoon Art Museum. Two years ago, she enjoyed her date there with Rufus, from Wonder Woman to animal fries. But they were friends, nothing more, nothing less. This date was going to be abysmal.

At the end of the auction, the eligible bachelors went over to their respective highest bidders. Ellowyne noticed that the sugar mama won two dates, one with Ponch and another with a handsome paramedic. She whispered to Rufus that the cougar might have one crazy evening in mind, and he chuckled. Then he spied Amber looking glum and disinterested when her date started talking video games. Amber caught Rufus’ eye and mouthed the words “Help me!” so he moseyed over to Amber and her date and began asking about the merits and drawbacks of different gaming platforms. 

Ellowyne then spotted Neema with Penn. He was a garrulous guy and had little trouble engaging with people he didn’t know, but Neema seemed uncomfortable and didn’t have much to say to him. Ellowyne told Penn about what turned into a great gaming debate, and, once he heard someone talk about Nintendo Switch, he excused himself to join the other guys.

“Neema, what’s wrong?” Ellowyne asked. 

Neema sniffled and a tear crept out of her eye. “I guess I did something wrong by bidding so high on Penn. I know last year you all got together to bid for Rufus, and I asked if we were doing that for Penn. But no one said a word.” She pulled a tissue out of her purse and blew her nose. “I guess I shouldn’t have outbid Amber. I don’t know if there’s something going on between her and Penn, but I guess there is and I blundered where I shouldn’t have. I just thought it would be a great way to help the shelter and a nice way to get to know Penn since he is in our group of friends.”

Ellowyne thought for a moment if she should tell Neema about Penn’s dating habits. When he first joined the group, he hit on each one of the women. First, he tried to date Ellowyne, but he backed off when he found out how Rufus had been in love with her since middle school. Penn dated Prudence for a little while. They bonded over a mutual love of sports but eventually decided to be friends. Then he dated Lizette. She was so shy and didn’t date very much, and it took some time for her to open up to him. But eventually they decided to be friends as well. And then there was Amber. Sometimes they would go out several times a month but then they ratcheted it down to hanging out just a couple of times. Ellowyne also heard from their friends that Amber and Penn had a friends-with-benefits relationship. One time she asked Rufus to find out from Penn if he and Amber were more than “just friends”. Rufus refused to do that, saying that gentlemen never tell and the best friends of such men would never, ever break a confidence. She decided against telling Neema anything about Penn’s dating history. Ellowyne knew Neema would find out eventually.

“Oh, Honey,” Ellowyne said, as she gave Neema a big hug. “It’s okay. You didn’t know that we all were going to chip in for Penn. I guess we just assumed that we’d do the same thing this time. And Amber, well, she knows she thinks she’s entitled. None of us could stand her until we found out she had participated in children’s pageants. So she can be very competitive, especially for male attention. But you didn’t know that. She’ll be okay. Just give her some time.”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Amber startled Ellowyne and Neema when she joined their conversation. “Ellowyne is right. I’m the entitled only child of wealthy parents. They got me involved in pageants, and I learned I didn’t like losing. Sometimes I’m a bitch. Ellowyne and our other friends keep me grounded. I am sorry for being less than gracious. I hope you have a wonderful time with Penn!”

Lisette furrowed her eyebrows as she was deep in thought. Finally she said, “I have an idea that will make all of us happy. Penn, you keep your date with Neema. And Neema, don’t beat yourself up over this. Have a wonderful time, talking and maybe doing something that will be enjoyable for both of you. Now, Amber, you bid a lot on Penn…”

Rufus interrupted Lizette. “Too much money, in my opinion. You know that he’s never going to let us—to let me—hear the end of it.” And everyone laughed.

Lizette gave Rufus the side eye and continued. “Anyway, Neema, one of us should have told you that we like to pool our money. We had so much fun last year when Rufus took us out, and we kind of figured we’d do the same. But we never let you know. So, I think we should pool our resources and, instead of money, donate  enough volunteer hours so we can “earn” a date with Penn.”

“So you’re suggesting we put in some sweat equity,” Prudence said. “We donate enough hours that would be the equivalent of $2200, which would have been Amber’s bid.”

“That’s a great idea,” Ellowyne squealed. “Rufus and I have helped with pet adoption days and it’s always been enjoyable. We could do that again!”

Neema said effusively, “That does sound like fun. Maybe I need to adopt a cat or dog.”

Prudence whispered to Ellowyne, “Just don’t tell her about Sybil. Your cat needs an exorcism.” 

Amber stated, “So if we’re going to pool our volunteer hours to get to $2200, the three of us would be—yikes—about $700 each.”

Ellowyne and Rufus whispered something to each other, then Ellowyne commented that she and Rufus would be glad to pitch in for Penn as well. “That would decrease the amount owed to $440 each,” Rufus chuckled and quipped, “I can’t believe I’m putting in hours at the shelter to pay to go out with this douche. Don’t forget your wallet this time!”

“This sounds like a lot of fun,” Neema remarked. “Could I possibly get in on this group date? I’ll gladly do whatever is needed at the shelter.”

“What the heck,” Penn said. “I might as well do some volunteer work, too. I mean, I’m the record holder for the most high-priced bachelor in Paws ‘N Claws history, so maybe I can charm people into adopting dogs and cats.” 

Amber noted that, with all seven friends donating time to the shelter, each person would put in the equivalent of $314 for the group date with Penn. “And remember,” she said, smiling at Neema. “It’s all for a good cause!”

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