I twirl my fork in the last of the green speckled angel hair pesto as I listen to Chase tell me about growing up in a small town with his parents; a surprise considering his current employment and financial status.
Our smaller dates were focused on our present lives, likes, and dislikes. Chase likes art and supporting the arts, running, shopping at farmers markets, and watching movies. He dislikes vanilla ice cream, snakes (of the slithering and two-legged variety), and snow.
“Dad is a barber and Mom is a teacher. They saved as much as they could to help me pay for college and I worked through high school at our local market. I had a part-time job in college, too.”
“And you went into investment banking,” I add.
He shrugs with a smile. “It’s a gift.”
“You get along well with your parents?”
“Very well.” He pushes his empty plate to the left.
The corners of my mouth turn down slightly.
“You don’t get along well with yours?” he asks.
“We fight a lot. They call me now and then for money, which I refuse to give them.”
“Are they retired?”
“Disability. They have enough to live on. They just paid off the mortgage, but they aren’t always responsible with what they have. They probably think I have more money than I do because of the few designer clothes and accessories I have. I bought everything on sales at outlet stores or found a good deal online.
“I was lucky to get a scholarship for college.” I push my empty plate to my right.
“And that’s where you met Robin.”
“Yeah,” I let out a small laugh. “We’ve been best friends since.”
I pick up the wine glass by the delicate stem between my fingers and bring it to my lips. The chilled Sancerre is crisp on my tongue and I let it sit a moment before swallowing.
Fingers brush the back of my hand.
“You’re distracted,” Chase states, laying his hand over mine.
I set the glass down and turn my head to him. “I’m sorry.” I wrap my free hand around my upper arm and twist my wrist so our palms touch. “Robin just blindsided me tonight. That’s all.”
He curls his fingers around my hand and presses lightly. “I’d say he did more than that.”
I gaze into his brilliant aquamarine eyes. “He told me he loves me.”
“He brought over a movie and takeout to tell you he loves you?” he chuckles.
“He said it after I told him I was going out with you tonight.”
He leans against the back of his chair and runs his thumb along the back of my hand. “Do you love him?”
“No.” I shake my head. “Not like that. He’s my best friend.”
He lets out a breath and his shoulders drop. “Music to my ears.” He grins.
I pause a breath, “I think I really hurt him.”
“Let him cool off tonight and call him tomorrow. This is our first big date. Is it too much to ask to have you to myself for the next few hours?”
“I’m sorry,” I apologize again.
“Don’t be sorry.” He leans in and skims his lips over my temple. “He’s your best friend. Of course you’re going to worry.”
The corners of my mouth lift up. “Thanks.”
“Now, how about dessert? I know you have a sweet tooth.”
“Do we have time?”
“All the time in the world.”
I snicker. “You know what I meant.”
“I know. And if you want dessert, we’ll get dessert even if we are late.”
“And miss a second of Pagliacci?” I say in mock horror as a server removes our dinner plates. “We can have dessert after.”
“It’s a date.” He winks.
We walk to the theater next door with our fingers woven together and take our seats. He keeps his hand in mine throughout the performance and runs his thumb across the back of my hand each time I tear up.
We stop at Cuppa Joe, the coffee shop next to gallery that I manage for local artist, Trevor Banks. It is two blocks from my apartment in an urban area of the city with two-lane roads, trees lining the sidewalks, row housing, small businesses, lots of artists, interesting architecture, and brightly painted doors. We share a plain cheesecake and sip on coffee in big mugs while we talk about Trevor’s paintings.
“Is there anywhere else I can take you tonight?” he asks as we approach his car, a silver BMW Z4.
“This is the first time we’ve spent more than an hour together. I’m enjoying our night and I don’t want it to end.”
Heat rises in my cheeks and I smile shyly. He spins me around and presses me against the car. His fingers trail down the stray hairs framing my face then cradles my jaw with his hand. My breathing quickens.
He inches his face closer to mine and I can feel his warm breath spread across my skin as he exhales. His lips brush tentatively against mine. Our lips slowly explore each other at first, then I open up and run my tongue across his, tasting the tangy cheesecake and bold coffee we just had. Our tongues twist around each other and I slip my hands inside his suit jacket and around his waist, tugging him closer.
We lose ourselves until a small raggedy dog pounces on his leg.
A young male hipster tugs on the other end of the leash. “Sorry,” he says embarrassed.
We both look over at him, still wrapped up in each other.
“No problem,” Chase says politely with a kind smile.
We start in a fit of giggles after he passes.
Chase pulls my head into him and I snuggle close. I catch the faint aroma of his perfectly balanced cologne. Not too spicy. Not too woodsy. Not too floral. Not too herby. Just right. I can feel his tightened cheek against my head. He is smiling and it makes me do the same.
“Awkward first kiss out of the way,” he jokes.
“I wouldn’t call that awkward,” I say , leaning back and place my hands on his lapels.
“It was magic.” He beams.
“Are you getting sappy on me?” I tease.
“I’m a hopeless romantic, Lara,” he informs me more seriously. “I hope that’s okay with you.”
“More than okay.”
He reluctantly takes me home, leaving me with a lingering kiss at my door and completely lost inside my head. I close the door behind me feeling as if I am floating with the clouds.
The kitchen lights light up on their own from the back of the apartment and I let out a bloodcurdling scream.
©Debi Smith, 2014