The Attraction Hypothesis

Shannon Sue Dunlap

Observation: My handsome neighbor spoke to me for the first time when I wore a red dress.
Question: Did the color of my clothes attract him?
Hypothesis: If I wear red again, he will ask me on a date.

The monochromatic apartment hallway stretched in front of Elinor. No sign of her neighbor. She tapped a foot as she lingered at her front door.

Strange. The subject always returns from walking his dog at six p.m. sharp.

He was very punctual. It was one of the many things she liked about him. Along with his cobalt blue eyes. Unfussy fashion sense. And friendly smile.

She checked her outfit. Venetian red silk blouse. Swishy skirt, heels, and purse in the same shade. Even her subtle perfume was dubbed Scarlet Haze.

Was it overkill?


In order to test her hypothesis, she must fully commit to the experiment. They’d passed in the hallway for two months with only smiles and polite nods exchanged. But last Tuesday, he’d spoken first. And the only different variable she could pinpoint was her vibrant red dress. Very atypical. Her absent-minded nature often left her wearing her lab coat home from work.

The elevator dinged, and a good-natured bark sounded from inside. Elinor retreated into her apartment and closed the door. The meeting should appear coincidental. The subject couldn’t realize he was part of an experiment. She counted to ten and exited, closing the door and pausing with her hand on the knob.

Gorgeous guy-next-door crouched near his apartment wearing jeans and a t-shirt, petting his golden retriever’s floppy ears. He straightened as she appeared.

His eyes swept her before speaking. “Evening, neighbor.”



How could her voice sound over-eager and breathless all in one go?

Dial it back a bit.

She cleared her throat. “My name is Elinor.”

His cobalt blue eyes sparkled. “Does anyone call you Ellie?”

“A few. My sister. Childhood friends. People who know and love me best.”

Was that too much information? Did I scare him away?

He nodded but said nothing. Awkwardness hovered like an emulsion in a poorly mixed solution. Her fingers tapped a rapid beat on the door knob.

Oh, no! Are we oil and water? An incompatible pair?

“Forgive me.” He held out a hand. “We’ve lived on the same floor for months, and I should have introduced myself sooner. I’m Sean.”

Elinor walked his way. His long, lean fingers closed around hers, making her heart ignite like a Bunsen burner.

“Hello, Sean.” She pointed to the dog nudging her leg with his soft snout. “And who is this lovely fellow?”

“Rover.” He laughed. “Not very original, I know.”

“Hello, Rover.” Elinor bent to give the creamy yellow head a pat.

“You’re all dressed up.” Sean beckoned to her outfit. “Going somewhere special?”

“I thought I’d try a new place for dinner. I’m always eating at home. It gets old.”

He cringed. “I know what you mean.”

Be casual. Don’t appear aggressive.

She locked her hands behind her back. “There’s a new grille on the corner with outdoor tables. I’ll let you know if it’s any good.”

He smiled. “Mind if I tag along now?”

“Not a bit.” Elinor gave the canine’s head another pat. “You can even bring Rover.”

“Hang on.” Sean unlocked his apartment, led the dog inside, and unhooked his leash. “Sorry, boy. It’s just me and Ellie tonight. You can go with us next time.”

Next time?

Elinor glanced down and smoothed a wrinkle from her skirt.

These clothes were worth every penny.

He returned and they headed for the elevators.

She laughed. “I hope I didn’t offend Rover, but I’m glad you decided to come.”

They walked side-by-side, an electrified six inches separating them.

He nodded. “I confess I’ve been wanting to ask you on a date for a while, but you always seemed”—he pulled at the collar of his t-shirt—“forgive me, a little unapproachable in your lab coat. I never was a left-brainer, and I worried we might not click.”

Ah. The color white was a turn-off. Perfectly logical. Many see it as cold and clinical.

Elinor laughed again. “I work in a lab as a color scientist, and I often forget to take my uniform off.”

“A color scientist?” His eyes widened. “I’ve never heard of that field.”

“I’ll explain it over dinner. So relieved you’re joining me. It’s no fun eating alone. I guess my red dress made me more approachable.”

They stopped in front of the elevator doors, and she pressed the button.

He cast an appreciative glance at her outfit. “Is it red?”

She turned to him. “Venetian red, to be exact. Renaissance painters favored this tint, and it’s popular in the car industry. A warm, earthy shade.”

“I wouldn’t know.” He grinned. “I’m color blind.”

“You’re—” Elinor froze. Stumped. “C-color blind?”

“Yes.” His brow wrinkled. “Is that a problem? Considering your job, I imagine you’re very passionate about colors.”

“It’s not that. I just…” She searched her brain for a feasible explanation.

I did not plan for this extraneous variable.

He rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t need to know the color. You’re beautiful in anything. Even the lab coat. I hope this won’t be a roadblock to our having dinner.”

Her cheeks heated. Could he even see the pink tinge?

“No!” Elinor reached out and touched his elbow. “No problem. No roadblock. I’d love to have dinner with you.”

The shade on his cheeks matched her own as the corners of his mouth lifted. “Let’s paint the town red.”

Experiment Results: My hypothesis proved incorrect. The color of my clothes did not attract the subject. He suffers from protanopia and lacks the ability to differentiate between certain hues. I offered to loan him my extensive knowledge on the subject, and he agreed with enthusiasm. The variables appear favorable for a lifetime partnership.

Shannon Dunlap
Shannon Sue Dunlap lives in hot and humid Texas where she drew inspiration for her upcoming RomCom “Lone Star Sweetheart” which releases in May. She loves God, traveling, chocolate, and singing obscure songs from Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals.

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