I looked around the office, trying to control the anxiety building up inside my chest. Just breathe, Jake, I told myself. You’re just here to find out how it works. You haven’t signed anything, haven’t agreed to anything yet.
Whoever designed the office, at least, had been well aware of the anxiety that its visitors might feel. Most of the walls were paneled in dark wood, and a large fountain in the middle of the room sent a small waterfall cascading down amid lush green vegetation. I felt more like I’d accidentally stepped into a spa, or perhaps an upscale massage parlor, rather than a dating service.
I glanced up at my name, and saw a tall, efficient-looking brunette in a tightly tailored navy suit looking back at me. “Yeah,” I said, rising up from the low bench where I’d been sitting and gazing blearily into the stream of falling water. “That’s me.”
She smiled at me, an efficient and businesslike smile that she’d probably practiced a thousand times in the mirror. “Right this way, Mr. Hoffman.”
I followed behind the woman as we headed down a corridor, presumably towards her office. I tried to keep my eyes up, not letting them stray down to her pert little ass, snugly bound in her pencil skirt. I doubted that the employees put themselves into the dating pools.
The woman led me into an office, where I took a seat in front of a large desk as she closed the door. “So, Mr. Hoffman,” she said, slipping back around to sit across from me. “What brings you to Set For Life?”
The question I’d been dreading. I shrugged, trying to look casual. “I guess I just haven’t been having much success on my own in the dating game, and a couple of my buddies raved about this place-”
“Those would be Kyle and Alexis Harris, yes?” the woman interrupted, glancing down at the chart she’d laid on the desk in front of her.
I started. “Uh, yeah, that’s them. How’d you know-”
“We do our research, Mr. Hoffman,” the woman answered me before I’d finished the question. “There’s a reason why we’re able to guarantee that our arranged marriages are successful – we know they’ll work.”
There it was. Arranged marriage. Something that would be considered unthinkable just a couple of decades earlier, now considered commonplace and totally ordinary. And people were choosing it, more and more – I was finally convinced to come in to Set For Life after reading about how their IPO topped five billion.
“So are you, like, my case agent?” I asked.
The woman smiled, and stood up to hold her hand out across the desk to me. “I’m Gena Davis, Mr. Hoffman. And yes, if you choose to employ us, I’ll be the one working with you.”
I took the hand, trying not to grip it too tightly. She felt warm, fragile, like a songbird. “Nice to meet you, Gena. I guess I’m just not fully sold yet.”
“Well, I’ll be happy to help steer you in the right direction,” Gena said. She smiled at me, revealing a perfect row of brilliantly whitened teeth. “I can start off with a number, perhaps – thirty-four percent.”
“That,” Gena replied, still smiling, “is the percentage of single individuals in the United States who are currently using a dating service. Nearly twenty percent of all singles in the US are signed with Set For Life. That’s a lot of potential mates, Mr. Hoffman.”
I nodded – I hadn’t realized that the market was so big. “Right, but it just scares me. Marriage, that is. I mean, it’s forever! What happens if the woman changes, doesn’t stay the same?”
Gena smiled. “Mr. Hoffman, you’re not the same person that you were ten years ago, are you?”
“Well, no, but-”
“Everybody changes, Mr. Hoffman.” She leaned forward, interlacing her fingers on the desk in front of her. “But we find someone who changes along with you, someone who grows as you grow, who will mature in the same way that you mature. We can find someone who’s perfect for you now, but also in the future, many years down the road.”
I opened my mouth, but then closed it. Wow, that did sound perfect. “But I have to pay for this?”
“Only if we succeed, Mr. Hoffman.” Gena’s smile kept on radiating out at me, pure white and almost blinding. “As you know, we do take a tithe from our married members, but we won’t charge you a single cent unless you’re happy. You’ve heard our guarantee.”
Indeed, I had – on the radio, on television, on billboards, from friends. It was part of the reason I was here. “We only charge for happiness,” I repeated.
She nodded. “Now, we’ll have some tests for you, of course, but nothing today. All I need to know is if you’re interested.”
I took a deep breath, and then took the plunge. “Yeah, okay. I’m interested.”
Her smile didn’t waver. “Wonderful, Mr. Hoffman. I can assure you that you’re making the right choice. You won’t find anyone out there who speaks badly of us.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, as I followed Gena’s pert little butt back out to the entrance to the Set For Life office. “Great. Uh, call me when you’ve got a wife for me.”
Gena’s laugh tinkled after me as she held the door open. “Relax, Mr. Hoffman. You’re in for a long life of happiness, now that you’ve signed on with us.” She winked at me as I left. “We guarantee it.”