The scooch and screech of chairs against the scuffed, aging hardwood floors echo throughout the shelves. Students coming and going, reading spines and flipping through pages, the library is lively this Saturday morning. Much to my surprise, I find my stand alone desk isn’t occupied in the Stacks and I’m truly honored. My private island. All alone, it faces a bare brick wall where I’ve etched his name over time with a safety pin from my jacket. I find myself spending more time staring at the brick than any words on a page. Study literature? How when he’s every line of a poem I need? How when he’s a better read than any book I own? I observe, analyze, every freckle, fold, flaw on my demigod. The way the lines crease around his eyes when he laughs, how he uses his whole body as he roars. The way the muscles and veins flex and protrude when he’s building or sculpting, grabbing a hold of me. How smooth his peanut butter skin, the small contrast against mine as we lay side by side. The sounds he makes in his sleep, the way his chest rises and falls as he cuddles up against me while I read. Not any chemistry or philosophy book holds my attention. I hear the campus clock bellow a new hour, jerking me away from my trance. I relax in the stiff seat and open to page 59 in my lit book and try to study authors of the 1940’s. I can study him later.
Pressed. Silently, we stood in his kitchen, the small of my back pressed against his counter. Arctic Monkeys plays from the living room. He breathes down on me, short breaths hitting the left side of my face. He’s stares down at me indifferently. No expression. No hitches in his breathing. His hands at either side of me, pinkies itching to be touched. He grabs my left hand, fingers weak in his strong grip. Slowly, he nibbles each finger tip, one by one, starting from my pinky, working his way to my thumb. Nerves tremble as he now kisses and sucks each tip, never breaking his stare. My lips separate as he does the deed. I envy my fingers getting such attention from such beautiful lips; oh how I’ve fantasized them on my own. The corner of his mouth twitches into a smirk as he concludes sucking on my thumb. His index is gently placed under my chin, guiding me towards the place I’ve always felt I belonged, pursed and tasted, enjoyed and savored. I lick my lips in anticipation, ready for the softest crash landing. A long time coming journey comes to unexpected stop, millimeters from home. He smiles devishly as he shakes his head no, abandoning me. He steps away gradually as my body internally crumbles of defeat. The tease leaves me shell shocked and achey. “Later.” he says before he slips out the door to join the party outside.
She was intoxicated. Intoxicated off the reverb. Intoxicated off the seven tequila shots. Intoxicated off his taste. Screams of joy and laughter fought through the EDM noises as lasers pierced through the smokey air. He was nestled into her neck, smothering himself as he licked and bit at her skin. The vibrations of the bass massaged her back. She stood fixated on the crowd, her nerves tingling down to the tips of her nose, her lips, her toes. How did she end up here? Who was this strange leech attached to her body? “I want to taste you.” He pants into her ear. With no response, he drops to his knees and slides underneath her floor length dress. She felt numb, too drunk to flinch so she just watched the insanity ahead of her. Couples violently shoving their tongues down each other’s throats. Arms and hair flailing through the muggy air. Shots being chased with more shots. Then like thunder building in the clouds, the urge to laugh consumed her. She cackled and hollered, laughing so hard she thought she could stop breathing. The leech blanketed by her skirt never released its hold. Suddenly she inhaled deeply, eyes wide with fright. He stood across the room, staring at her, in disbelief. He didn’t recognize the girl at the other side of the club, sloppy and sweaty. How did he find her? Why was he here?! He turns to retreat, never parting ways with her gaze. Back off the wall, arm extended, she slowly begins to chase after him, knocking the leach to the wet, sticky dance floor. He didn’t need to see her like this. She was a messy, drugged up club girl, a side he had never known, never knew existed until tonight. She whispered, wait, several times to herself as she tried to rush through the crowd to explain. This is only temporary, just a phase. Please don’t judge her. She was so much more than this lifestyle and she knew he knew that. The person he knew her as was now tarnished and she was hoping she would have the chance to fix that. Once she hits the exit, she shouts his name, watching him cross the street. He doesn’t look back. He doesn’t stop.
“And when we pick up class on Monday, we will go over chapter 23 in the textbook so please, try to read the chapter before you go out with your friends. Enjoy your weekend. And please read the chapter!”
I hear my professor faintly say as I daze out the window. He lies closely next to me, his heat radiating onto my left arm. He’s like my own sunbeam; I felt dangerously close and was going to catch aflame. But it was worth the ten degree burns. I stretch my fingers to trace the nearly invisible lines on his skin. Chairs scraped and screeched against the floor as the class was dismissed. He looked upon me intensively, studying. He’s exquisite right here in this moment. Students shuffle and laugh pass my desk. I felt that this philosophy class was such a waste of my life. I spent most of my freshman year avoiding the prerequisite but my advisor finally demised my plan. As much as I try to pay attention, I can’t help but get lost in my thoughts and fantasies. Couldn’t help but get lost in him…
”Dear Prudence…” A new voice faintly disturbs my daydream, “Won’t you come out to play?”
I chuckle, with the song now sound tracking a pair of deep brown eyes gazing into mine. I lean closer to him, yearning for his lips to brush mine.
”Dear Prudence,” the voice is now identified as my confidant’s, “Greet the brand new day.”
He’s fading now, my friend distracting me with a classic Beatle’s song…which is what she usually sings to me when I’m off in my land.
I sigh, “Why must you interrupt me?”
”Because the next class is about to start Prudence.” She sing-songs as I roll my eyes. “Here. I already packed your bag if you haven’t noticed.”
Of course I didn’t notice. She knows who I’m thinking of while I stare out into nothing. The solitary object of my affection and desires. He was someone I hardly knew, someone that I gushed and guffawed over in my chemistry class. We spoke here and there about random things. Once he glanced over my phone and saw that I was listening to Miles Davis while we stood outside the classroom, waiting for our class to begin. He told me about the first time he listened to Miles and I nearly passed out from shear shock. He held the door open for me as I was exiting my favorite sushi place. He smiled and offered to eat with me next time we happened to be there at the same time. He always complimented my Vans collection. When he walked by my desk in class, he would tap me twice on the shoulder. It’s the little things…but that was the extent of our relationship: passing by occurrences. He didn’t have a girlfriend and you never saw him really hanging out with a bunch of girls. His exclusivity seemed so apparent to me but Jane, my Beatle tune toting best friend, didn’t see it. She perceived him to be douchey and antisocial, abrasive because he really didn’t hang around. He had a group of four friends that he stuck to, left campus as soon as he does with classes, and only dealt with his classmates if it was about school work. He wasn’t super popular but also wasn’t casted out.
“Have you seen him yet today?” Jane asks as we trek across campus. We were heading to our favorite hangout, a giant oak tree that casted glorious shade about this time in the afternoon.
“No. I usually don’t see him on Wednesdays, which is weird if I think about it…I mean I’ve seen him in my day dreams…”
“He lives in your day dreams…”
“Yes thank God for my vivid imagination.”
We throw our book bags down along the roots. Jane pulls out her phone and bluetooth speaker to play some City and Colour. The sun rests on me, reminding me of my dream earlier and I fight falling back. Jane doesn’t mind my day dreaming when we’re in class or when I’m alone but I dare not dream about him while we’re having quality b.f.f time. A few of our friends walk by and wave, ask what we’re doing for the weekend and carry on. The weather was beautiful enough to distract kids from the classroom; they gather in groups to talk, toss around a football, and pick up random games of soccer. Jane and I laugh, talk about what we could do Saturday night and dread our schedule for the rest of the day.
“Crap it’s already two? Where did the time go?”
“To the clouds.” I smirk.
“You don’t have class, right?” I shake my head no. “Are you going to stay here?” I nod. “Ok well I will leave you the speaker. I’ll see you when I get done.”
I tingle with excitement as she runs across the grass, shouting after someone that’s in her next class. Now that she’s gone…I nuzzle into the tree’s trunk, letting the wind slip me back into where I want to be.
“Can we stay like this for a while?” He asks faintly. Goosebumps wave up and down my arms, my legs, as I fight back a smile.
“We can do whatever we want. I’ll do whatever you want.” My voice cracks.
He chuckles while he turns his body towards me, propping himself on his arm. I feel small underneath his stare that I try not to blush. We lie on a blanket on the floor of my dorm room. I saw him standing outside of the humanities building, speaking to one of his friends. I grew the courage to ask him to come with me, back to my room, and he actually said yes. Now here we are, just looking at each other, with hesitant breaths and hushed words. What are we hiding from?
“I think you’re so beautiful. You make it hard to focus on chem work. I’ve been waiting for a moment like this.”
I smile bashfully. “Yeah I understand what you mean. I’ve had a crush on you for so long. I don’t know what came over me when I asked you to come back to my room but…but I’m glad that I did it. All I’ve ever wanted to do was just spend some time with you.”
We smile and laugh awkwardly. The confessions made the atmosphere thick with tension. What now? Now that it’s out in the universe how we feel about each other, what happens next?
“Can I ask you something?”
He looks towards the floor with a crooked grin, “Uh…,” and shakes his head, “maybe not…”
Without effort, I sit up, my hand suddenly on his shoulder. “What is it?” Please ask the question. But he continues to stare down at the blanket, fiddling with the fabric.
“I was wondering if I…,” he mumbles, “If I could…”
Someone is kicking my foot as I come out of my day dream. Who the hell?! As I snap to, I look up to a familiar face, familiar brown eyes. I gasp loudly, adjusting my back along the trunk.
“Hey there little lady. What were you thinking about?” Bryce asks, smiling down at me, as if he knows it was about him the whole time. “I’ve been calling your name for a while now.”
Out of sheer embarrassment I laugh heartily, afraid that it could be obvious that in some sorcery way he knew my day dream was all about him. “Dude you scared the crap out of me! I don’t know I get tied up in all sorts of things up here,” I jab at my temple. Be cool man, be cool. “How are you? What are you doing up here? You don’t have class do you?” I knew the answer but it was a good distraction from the heat on my face.
“Oh yeah…I don’t uh…I don’t know my friend told me to meet him up here but he’s still in class. I saw you sitting here all alone so I thought maybe I could keep you company for a bit since you know…we really don’t get to talk for too long.”
I beam, pulling up blades of grass around the roots, honored that he would even want to spend more than five minutes next to me. It may not be exactly what I’ve imagined but it was good enough. He sat on the root to the left of me, his heat radiating next to my skin. He is my own personal sunbeam, reflecting light and warmth. He snatches my phone from my lap, flipping through my music. He selects “Rocker” by Miles Davis, a personal favorite of mine, and begins to ask about my day.
You’ll never be him.
It was their fifth date and she still didn’t feel all that comfortable with him. It was hard doing the things she used to do with her ex in a relationship this fresh. So far they kept it simple with coffee dates and a lunch in the park. Today he wanted to do lunch then visit a museum. She lingered behind him, watching him strut as he reached behind him to pull out his cellphone. She wondered what he was doing as she looked at his Vans roll over the pavement.
“Want to look at the menu?” He looks over his shoulder at her, catching her checking him out. He grins, “What are you doing back there?”
“Nothing…” she chuckles, “yeah let me get a look at that menu.”
They were trecking through a small Montrose neighborhood, ducking and dodging low hanging tree branches and bushes that lined the sidewalks. She quickens her pace to walk beside him. She likes that he looks at menus before he ate like her. I mean she does like him, but he’ll never be him. No one will. The dudes before him she couldn’t connect with. No matter where they went or what they did, she couldn’t get past a few weeks with them. This dude is a little different. The brisk air whips around her face. It makes her shiver. Without a moments notice, he pulls her closer to him. She couldn’t resist to smile. Something else she liked about him. She scrolls up and down the menu, gawking at how pricey the plates were.
“Are you sure about this place?”
He laughs lightly. “I knew you were going to ask. It’s fine; get whatever your stomach desires. No price too large today.”
She glares up at him, suspicious as to why he would spend this much money on a lunch. Maybe he is just trying to show off, which is unnecessary. She’s never been that type of girl. And it’s only their fifth date.
“What are you doing dude?” She asks slowly, ready to interrogate.
He shakes his head. “Nothing. I’m just treating you to lunch, no biggie. Don’t make this into a thing.”
You don’t know me.
She continues to glare at him. He cracks up as soon as he catches her glare. It comes from deep in his stomach. She liked the way he laughed. As he tries to catch his breath, they stop in front of a quaint building that technically looked like someone’s home. No name or address on the building. She continues to glare, lips pursed to hold back her own laughter, and he grabs her by the shoulders.
“Look, if you want, we can go somewhere else. Although we’re right here. I mean we’ve walked a few blocks…and it’s a nice day out. I told you not to make anything out of it. But there you are, glaring at me like I’m about to take advantage of you. You’re so silly.”
His laughter has finally subsided. She liked that he could see through her silliness. She also liked his caramel skin. In the sunlight, it glows, making him look majestic. Along with that smile, he dazzled. He runs his thumb along her jawline, knowing it would make her blush. No he wasn’t him but he made her feel good. She thought that she would never get that feeling again from someone. She liked that about him.
“Okay,” she sighs, “let’s go inside and see if it’s worth the money yeah?”
He smiles. “Good.”
He starts up the walkway and she follows behind him, watching him saunter up to the door. He glances back at her again, enjoying the fact that she watches him walk. And she does it so entitivley. What is she thinking about while she does that, he wonders.
The lunch was magnificent, which she wasn’t expecting by the looks of the place. Where in the hell was the kitchen that produced these amazing plates in this tiny home? They were full to the brim and were questioning should they even bother walking back to the car, let alone walking the museum. He ordered more drinks and offered her desert.
“Dude really? You honestly think that I could eat another bite of anything? I’m about to struggle with this glass of wine.”
“Hey I just wanted to throw it out there. They had a slice of cake that caught my eye…thought maybe you’d want to share. So how are you feeling about the museum?”
She takes a sip from her glass. “I don’t know. Can we not sit her for a moment and just chill? Oh and if you’re really about the cake order it. We can take our time…”
Shortly, a chunk of carrot cake appeared before them. With a sly smirk, he announces, “I already ordered it.”
They laugh as they reach for the desert forks that the waitress placed in front of them. He wasn’t like him, no. He could lie back and converse. And they had lovely conversations. They could talk about anything and he held such useless knowledge that she didn’t know about that she stayed intrigued. Between nibbles, bites and sips, they learned more about each other. Simple things like favorite colors, if they had one artist or musician they could be friends with who, personal goals, and argued about who the better boy band was. She always found herself beyond pleased with their conversations. She watched the way his mouth moved with certain words, how he would smile when she asked him a question he wasn’t expecting, how he gazed upon her when she spoke of something she cared about. God you’re not him…could you be better than him? But it was too soon for her to think about that. This was only date five…no telling what could happen within the next few weeks. They might not even make it to date six or seven. Just stop and enjoy the now.
She took the fork to the plate to get the leftover icing and bits of cake. He smacked her hand as it went towards her mouth but she never lost her grip.
“Hey! Who said you could have the last bit of the cake?!”
She giggled as she licked the cream cheese icing away from her lips. “Oh you wanted that?”
“That’s my favorite part.” He smacked her hand again.
“Ow! Hey!” She smacked his hand in return. “You ate most of the cake anyways.”
“But you were too full remember?”
“Hence why I ate the scraps.”
“Along with little bites here and there.”
“You did say share.”
He went to smack her hand again but she moved it in time for him to miss. Soon they were in a full slap hand battle. They giggled and yelped as they smacked each others hands. It went on for about a minute before he was out of breath from laughter. Soon the waiteress came around the corner with the bill, as if she was done with their cute banter. She reached for her wallet but he stopped her. She then remembered he said that lunch was on him. Maybe she will buy him some drinks later. After he settled the check, he grabbed her hand to help her stand and escorted her out of the tiny restaurant with a gleeful smile. He was thoroughly enjoying her company and wasn’t afraid to show it. He wore his smile like a badge of honor.
Once they approached The Menil, their atmosphere changed to more calm, relaxed. They walked towards the entrance side by side, his fingers gently tangling themselves into hers. Her fingertips tingled in excitement. The day that began mostly groggy turned into sunshine and beauty, the crisp wind still flowing through her hair. They decided to do a roundabout around the building. It made her think of him, all the times they just circled the building in the summer, talking and admiring each other. She rubs her right arm in comfort, thinking about what he could be doing right now in this moment. She missed him like crazy but he kept pushing her to do other things with other people. All he wanted for her was to live her life without him. She really tried but in most cases, she bailed, not ready. She hated for it being that way and no matter how hard she tried to fight, the ex kept her attention. She rubbed her arm in rememberance. And before she could fall in anymore, he swoops her up in a strong embrace. Sometimes she wondered if he could read her that well or if she was showing too much face.
For some reason, The Menil was like a library, influencing you to whisper or to be silent. So they don’t speak as they voyage through the galleries, sheepishly smiling at each other and grazing each other as they past. She stood and watched him gaze upon a piece she was familiar with and wondered what he was thinking. She took in his stature and height, admiring his build. He stood at 6’4, not too skinny but not too muscular, long and thickish. He turned to the piece on the adjacent wall; her eyes follow. She wondered if she could really fall for someone without always comparing them to her past. It was an inner battle that she was constantly fighting. Never intentional…just hard to know something else. Eventually, he pulled himself from his thoughts from the art on the walls, feeling her eyes studying him. He wiggles his fingers down by his left side, anticipating hers. Soon, they’re about his and they navigate to the next room. She meekly blushes as he looks down upon her with admiration. He could voyage a museum with her for days on end.
Was it possible to already like someone like this so soon? The things she was doing to his body, to his heart was so new to him that it felt damn near imaginary. As if he was dreaming or high. He was swelling up with infatuation and lust, any tiny touch could make him burst. That’s why he hasn’t kissed her yet. He knew once he did, he would explode into a blue cloud of magic. She made him feel dizzy on what love could feel like. It was all too brand new. He never knew a girl could make him feel this good.
They jammed Sugarcult’s first album on the way back to her car. Not wanting to embarrass herself after such a nice outing, she just hummed along, proving that she knew this album like the back of her hand. He kept looking over to her, impressed that she even remembered this album let alone the band. He swells up even more. There’s a slight awkward moment once he’s pulled up behind her car. She unfastened her seatbelt and turns towards him, getting ready to hug him good bye. Arms ready, he wants to turn and kiss her on the cheek. She goes in, thanking him for the day. The timing is off and he ends up kissing her ear. She jumps to the unexpected attempt and ends up head butting him. They both his in pain.
“Jeeeeesus. Sorry about that..” She runs the side of her head. “Did you mean to kiss my ear?”
Flushed, he mumbles, “No I was trying to kiss your cheek. Sorry…shitty timing…”
The pain subsides and she’s cracking up. He was still too embarrassed to find the humor in what happened. She notices and grabs him by the chin.
“Hey it’s ok. Look,” she turns his head slightly to the right and places a gentle kiss upon his cheek. “See how easy that is.” She smiles, stifling a snicker. He can’t hide behind his red cheeks any longer. He looks down at his lap, trying to escape the light behind her eyes but she doesn’t allow it. She lifts his head, making him stay eye to eye with her. Suddenly, tension was building in the car, making the air dense. A smile played about her lips as she inched closer to his mouth. “And this will be just as easy…” And with not with the slightest bit of hesitation, she kisses him. And he doesn’t explode into a blue cloud.
“It would only be a fling – she wasn’t about to break up the happy home…”
It would only be a fling – she wasn’t about to break up the happy home. She knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she noticed his ring, hand wrapped around a beer bottle. She was bored; her friends left her sitting at the bar all alone. They told her to come out then bailed due to work early in the morning. Besides, she needed some entertainment. And he was entertaining her back. His grey lumberjack beard made her fantasize about pulling it in a dark alleyway as they made out. He seemed way out of her league. Dressed like a GQ model, he couldn’t be someone’s dad and/or husband. He had a level of sophistication about him…like a CEO or owner of a kickstart that soared within a couple of weeks. Maybe it was just the three piece, slim cut tailored suit he wore. She admired him as he took a swig from the Shiner bottle, little drops of beer still about his lips. She licked her own in anticipation. She knew going to a lounge in town would get her more sophisticated men, some that could be in shit marriages or just recently divorced. Or her favorite: the husbands who have permission to go outside of their marriage. She figured with her new found age, she needed a new group of men to be interested in.
“How old are you anyway?” A quizzitive brow asked her.
“How old do you think I am?” She usually hates such a dumb and corny line but again, she was bored. He smirked either in humor or annoyance.
“Don’t you hate when people respond with that question?”
She scoffs out of slight embarrassment, “Of course. I was just being funny,” she swirls the ice around in her empty glass, “I’m thirty. A fresh thirty years…like my birthday was last week. Celebrating a little later than I wanted.”
“How come?” Beer bottle back at his lips.
“Didn’t want to turn thirty. I was living in a state of denial.” She shrugs, remembering her day of tears and loneliness. Her friends and family were begging her to escape her apartment, that turning thirty wasn’t the beginning of the end but in her mind, it was the worst.
“Well how old do you think I am? You may be surprised.”
She was starting to love that silly grin about his mouth the more they talked. Is it wrong I want you to be thirty and single like me? She thought to herself. She giggled.
“How old do I go before you feel insulted?”
“Your cut off is fifty…but only because I often get mistaken for fifty. Apparently grey hair ages you.”
“Ah I see. Well if I have to guess…under fifty…I’ll say you’re…thirty-six…?” She studies him over once more, considering his skin, the lines around his eyes, his hands that laid on the bar.
“Just a smidgen.”
It really doesn’t matter. She’s ok with the end game no matter his age. She was going to ride him til the wheels fall off then leave him with a drunken memory. She was imagining him undressing slowly, showing her that he still had it. That his careless wife at home wasn’t going to appreciate him like this. That she doesn’t like to watch him get undress. That she doesn’t like that once he’s down to his boxer briefs he grabs her tightly by the wrists before shoving his tongue inbetween her lips.
“Bingo.” He points to the bartender and orders another Shiner. “Does that bother you?”
“Thirty-nine? No, no…why the grey beard?”
“I’ve been greying since I was twenty-three. It’s a natural thing. I’m salt and pepper up here,” he points to his perfectly sculpted hair that’s been gelled back, “and here,” points to her future pull toy, “but won’t lie I dye the beard. I tried it once just to see what it would look like and fell in love with it. It gives me a…sort of look.”
So he knows what he’s doing. It’s not necessarily a ploy or gimmick…he just knows it can get him what he wants on occasion. He knows women will stare and wonder and the intrigue will pull them in. It made her wonder how many times has he done this. How many times has he returned late to his home. His wife is an idiot.
“Would you like another gin and tonic?” He points over to the bartender again. Why not, she thinks, I can’t wait to tug on that beard while you pound me.
“Yeah that’s fine. Thank you. Well now that we know how old each other are, where are we doing this? Hotel? My place?”
He choked on the abbrasivness of her question. “Get to the point don’t we?” He takes the napkin is bottle was resting on to cover his coughs.
“Just want to be sure we’re on the same page here. You caught my interest when you sauntered in, tailored and tall, knowing every woman in the room was breaking their necks to see you. And once my friends all dispersed, I saw you point me out by shyly looking over your shoulder towards me. You knew you were about to break every lady’s heart once I sat next to you here. You had just as much as a plan as I did tonight. Fate? I don’t know…maybe I just got lucky. So answer the question: my place or not?”
Around 3:36 a.m., she was awoken to him trying to slip out of her bed. With her being a light sleeper, it was impossible for her one night stands to leave without waking her. If she liked them, she would offer a late night/early morning breakfast at a diner she likes to go to. If not, she would watch them get dress and leave, locking the door once they were out on the street or in their car. But this guy, she liked. And the sex was just like she imagined while they spoke at the bar. It was just what she needed to usher in thirty. He put every piece of the suit back on. Not one wrinkle or piece of out of place as he looked himself over in the mirror. He reaches in his coat pocket for a small container of beard balm. He strokes it over the grey hairs, looks over at her in the mirror and with that goofy grin of his, tugs on it. She laughs.
“Would you like a late dinner? Or early breakfast? Whichever.”
Slipping on his coat he says, “I wish I could but I’m avoiding a ‘Where are you?’ phone call. Thanks for offering. You didn’t have to.”
“It’s part of my system. I liked you. The ones I like I take them out for breakfast.”
They laugh as he walks to her side of the bed. “Thanks for the fun. If you find any loose grey hairs about you know why.” He kisses her slowly. “Maybe I’ll see you around?”
She shrugs. “You never know. I may be in another crowded bar of women begging for your attention.”
“And I may pick you again. You never know.”
“As he opened the car door, there was a loud…”
…cackle. He paused, one foot out the car.
“Sorry dude. Didn’t mean to laugh.”
His friend Jack was an idiot. He needed to remember that. He was about to put his neck on the line for some random chick he met weeks ago at a bookstore. He didn’t need his best friend mocking him. This wasn’t in his nature; he felt awkward as shit.
“You’re a dick.” He pushed himself out of the passenger seat on to the busy sidewalk. A group of teenage girls rushed past him, giggling. It felt as if everyone in the city knew that he was possibly about to make an ass of himself. A couple looked him over as he stood in front of a resale shop, straightening out his shirt. The young man gave him a head nod, slight encouragement. Peter returned the nod with a grin. Somehow that’s exactly what he needed. He walked into the store. The door chimed loudly as he walked in, putting all the attention onto him. Confidence dropped four points. He panned the store. No customers, just a few employees scattered throughout the racks of merchandise. But he doesn’t see her. He lets out a groan, great now I have to actually speak to someone about her. After few hours of Facebook stalking, he found her and where she works. He hated to admit that that’s how went about tracking her down but wasn’t that the way people did things nowadays? He walked over to men’s section of the store.
Girls loved to be mysterious these days. When they meet a guy that they don’t know if they’ll ever see again, they like to give out as little information as they can. Just a name. Or just a location where you can possibly find them later. So they, as single dudes, have to take to social media and lurk through profiles and friends of friends to find this one mysterious girl. All she gave him was a name and her place of work. He was familiar with her place of work, having shopped here for random button shirts. How could he have not noticed her before?
She was standing in the Science Fiction section of the bargain bookstore, reading spines of vampire books. He was wandering around in the section adjacent to her, trying to find a romance novel to send his mom just because. A new tradition of theirs since he moved away from home. Between glances of reading spines, they kept making eye contact. Few smirks here and there. He thought nothing of it, just someone being polite. It wasn’t until he heard someone say,
“You’re probably the only guy I know my age that camps out in the romance section.”
She stood behind him, tippy toed, looking over his shoulder at the spines.
“Oh. Uh no see…its for my mom. Each month I buy her a new romance novel I think she’d like.”
They sat in an awkward ten second silence, still reading the spines, waiting for something to jump out at them. He was timid to turn and make eye contact with her. Thought it would scare her away.
“This is the one,” she says as she reaches over his shoulder, pulling a book off the shelf a little too his left. He turns to retrieve it from her grip.
“Oh wow. You would pick this.”
She’s placed a romance novel of vampires and death in his hands.
She frowns, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean…you were standing in the sci-fi section for a while. So of course you picked a sci-fi love story. She might like it…I don’t know if she’s ever read about vampires. It’ll be different. Thanks for helping.” He looks at with her with his award winning smile. She couldn’t resist the urge to smile back. She was his.
“It’s no problem. I’m Jenna by the way.”
He was loathing having to ask someone if she was here. Then it would be known that he went out of his way to find her. Then he would just happen to land on creeper status and never get anywhere with her. So it’d be best just to act like a customer, do some shopping, until she comes around. Being the only customer was hard to ignore. The girl behind the register who was reading in her kindle kept peeping at him. Was that her? He really couldn’t remember her face. A friend of hers? Maybe she talked about their meeting. Was he looking suspicious? He kept panning the room over, waiting for her to appear. Is she checking him out? How awkward would that be if her coworker came to flirt with him when she walked into the store. He continued to shuffle through the rack of shirts, palms getting sweaty. It felt like he had been in the stores for hours. He looked out the store window, wondering if Jack was still sitting out there or gone about his day. Low and behold, Jack was standing outside of his car, eating a hot dog, looking back at Peter. A shit eating grin appeared on his face.
“Make your move already dude!” He shouted, pieces of hot dog flying onto the sidewalk. A lady almost got hit. She shoved him.
“Are you finding everything ok?” A familiar voice embraced his ears. Quickly, he looked to the other side of the rack, ignoring Jack’s hooting outside. Jenna stood grinning like a fool, pleased that he finally tracked her down.
The girl at the register with her kindle began to laugh, shaking her head.
“Ah…no…uh…” The jig was up.
“Look I know you shop here. I’ve seen you before the bookstore. That’s why I walked over to you. How’s your mom liking the book?”
He began rubbing his disgusting, wet palms on his jeans. “Uh she says its interesting…to say the least.” It was part of an ultimate plan that he had no clue about. He felt embarrassed but in the end relieved. It took a lot of the pressure off. She stood before him, holding back laughter. He seemed to be the last in on the joke. He didn’t know what else to do but stand in disbelief. She knew of him all along.
“Dude chill. I guess you can say I lured you back here. You’re good. I think you’re super cute. Tell your mom it gets better. So…what kind of button up shirt are we looking for today?”
Finally, he smiled with a light laugh. “Something nice for a first date..”