(it was supposed to be black and white to add to the irony. get it

The Date

5:50

I let out a long sigh after checking my phone for what seemed like the hundredth time in the past five minutes. It wasn’t anything fancy really. Just a beat up flip phone that had been in my family for what I assumed was generations. Playing with it did help with my nervous energy but now I was exhausted. Was he really not going to show up? I checked through my texts again, hoping to see one from him, but alas, there was nothing.

The restaurant that we had chosen was nice enough, not too overdone. It had a modernish rustic kind of feel to it. But most importantly it didn’t require me to wear a dress and that’s really what counted. I’d dressed up in a white crop top with black and white striped flowing pants paired with my favourite choker and sunglasses. The outfit was perfect for a hot summer day, but now as evening quickly approached, a chill began to set in the air.

Fiddling with the neatly folded napkins was a nice way to ignore the pitying glances of those around me. I flipped my phone open again. 6:01. I gritted my teeth. As much as I tried to fight it, I was getting annoyed. Like spit at your feet and flip you off kind of annoyed. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the same kindly waitress who has asked my order twice in the past hour already. This time I was debating on just getting a takeout and taking a cab home.

“Would you like to order now, miss?” A knowing glint was in her eyes. I smiled thinly at her, hands in a death grip around the water glass as I brought it to my lips. “You know what, thank you for asking Theresa, but I think I’ll just leave.” That’s right. I’d been here so long I even knew her name without needing to glance at the silver tag clipped at her chest. “Why don’t you get something to take home first, dear?” she suggested. “It’s on the house.”

This time my smile was genuine. “Thank you,” I said. I knew what I wanted without even looking at the menu. I’d spent my first hour waiting here memorizing it. If they needed a new waitress I was sure I would get the job without even blinking. “I’ll have the chicken fettuccine alfredo, please.” Theresa scribbled it on her notepad then looks up to smile at me. “I’ll be back in a few minutes, you just wait right here.”

“It’s not like I have anything better to do,” I mutter as she walks away. I sighed again, this time at the irony of that statement. Thankfully the wait for my food wasn’t long. Theresa handed me the bag. I thanked her again and rose from my seat hoping to scurry out the door without anyone staring at the miserable girl who’s date didn’t come. It wasn’t working. I could feel hundreds of pairs of eyes on me. My cheeks heated in anger and embarrassment. Perhaps I would use my time while eating to plot how I would make him pay for this. Ignore his texts all week maybe. Or I could post an embarrassing photo of him and tag all our friends. Hmm, so many options.

I was so caught up in my revenge plot that I didn’t even notice the boy who has sunk into the set across from me in the booth giving me an apologetic smile. He shook out his leather jacket and placed it beside him. “Sorry I’m so late, babe, traffic is crazy right now,” he says loudly enough for the whole room to hear. My eyes must be as wide as saucers as I gape at him. “I’m Cal, by the way. Just go with it, yeah? Whoever didn’t bother to show up is a complete dick,” he quietly adds. I force myself to relax for the eyes still watching us. I guess I had to go along with whatever the hell this was. My hand tightened on my bags, prepared to bolt if this stranger was really just a jerk who thought picking on me would be funny. Relax, breathe. “Of course, I understand. But you’re here now and that’s all that counts,” I say smoothly, fighting to keep my voice from shaking. What the hell kind of situation was this? I cursed in my head. Trouble seemed to trail me wherever I went. My response silences the whispers and giggles. The words sounded warm and charming though I felt anything but.

Say something else Mare, the poor fool is just sitting there looking at you. Oh right. “I’m Mare. Mare Barrow,” I introduce myself to this odd stranger. Well odd was one word for him. Another was jaw-dropping. Stunning. Hot. It was unfair how attractive he was with that glossy black hair in a messy bed head kind of style that suited him paired with warm amber eyes that looked like flickering flames when they hit a certain light. He had a nice stubble along his cheeks and chin and was dressed in a casual green sweater and blue jeans with his brown leather jacket. His lips curled into an amused smile when he noticed me checking him out and I blushed furiously. Something about him was oddly familiar and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Don’t be embarrassed about it. If we’re being honest, I was checking you out too,” he says nonchalantly. Under the table I pinched myself just to make sure that I was awake and that this wasn’t some crazy dream. But it wasn’t. This was a crazy reality which was even worse. What’s so bad about being on an unplanned date with a hot guy? a traitorous voice inside my head whispered. Well, I couldn’t argue with that logic. Cal settles into his seat looking strangely relaxed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he put his feet up on the table. He casually sips on some water while I gawk at him. “Well,” he sighs, “I suppose you have some questions.” “Umm, yeah?” I say in an its so obvious tone.

“What’s your full name?” He purses his lips at that one. I can’t hep but feel slightly suspicious at his reaction. “Okay, you caught me. My real name isn’t Cal, it’s–” he hesitates, silent laughter dancing in eyes. “It’s technically Tiberias Calore the Seventh, but that’s kinda long so people just call me Cal.” He seems nervous while speaking and it take everything I have to not burst out laughing. I didn’t know why his nervousness was so endearing to me. “What about you Miss Barrow? Is that your real full name?” he asks me. Cal rests his chin on his hand while observing me.

“It’s Mare Molly Barrow, but I mostly ignore the middle part,” I confess, shrugging.  "Second question, what are you doing here and why are you helping me?“ He grins at me, waggling a finger. "Nuh uh, that’s two questions.” I roll my eyes. “Well I as going to ask you sooner or later, and may I remind you that you’re the one who jumped in on my non-existent date, so I get to ask the questions here how I like.” Cal doesn’t seem fazed by my response at all, in fact, based on his expression that he approved it. Like he was expecting me to bite back.

“I expect no less from you,” he says, that same infuriating yet adorable mischievous smile plastered on his lips. Goddammit Mare, stop staring at his lips. Once I register his words I feel my face scrunch up in confusion. “Expect?” I repeat, dumbfounded. “Do I know you?” He chuckles at my confused expression. I narrow my eyes at him, hoping to place his face. I knew I recognized him, but from where? He lets me puzzle it out, watching and sipping on his water all the while. A one-night stand perhaps? Nope, I didn’t do those. A friend of a friend maybe who I didn’t remember? “I’ve got nothing,” I finally sigh. 

“We used to go to the same high school,” he shakes his head in mock hurt. “I can’t believe this. You don’t remember me.” He has to be lying. There was no way that I could forget someone that attractive. “When did you graduate?” I ask him, watching carefully for any sign of a lie. “Last year. I was captain of the senior football team,” Cal says, this faraway look in his eyes, like he was reliving it in his mind’s eye. Perhaps he was. A faint flash of a memory flitted across my mind. I was up in the bleachers with Kilorn watching as a game took place below. It was my first time going to such an event, and all I remember was wanting to go home. I didn’t even notice when the captain scored thee winning goal, but I pretended to cheer along with everyone else. I was sophomore when he graduated which is likely the reason I didn’t remember him much, other than that. "How did you recognize me?“ I ask him, suddenly aware of the thought. Was he a stalker or something? Or just really good at remembering people?

He notes my tense posture and his face softens. "You don’t need to be afraid of me, I’m not going to hurt you.” I don’t relax. His jaw clenches and he gives me a strained smile. “How could I forget the girl who spray painted the principals car?”

 My shoulder stiffen in surprise at his words. Ever so slowly my lips part into a smile and I laugh. Cal watches me, smiling as well. It was genuine, soft crooked smile that tugged at my heart. “Oh my god I can’t believe you remember that,” I groan, hiding my face between my hands to conceal the red blush flaring on my cheeks. Slowly, softly, he takes my hands in his and I stare at him. He blushes as well at my struck expression. “Sorry, I just…I think your blush is…” He fumbles with the words, tripping over them. “You look really beautiful and I–” He stops when he sees my wide eyes. “Ugh that came out wrong, sorry–” he says, looking very much like he would love nothing more than to crawl into a hole and stay there. “You don’t need to apologize,” I tell him softly. He smiles hesitantly. “And thank you.”

“I’d always wondered why you did it,” he muses. “That’s what puzzled me about you.” I stare at him in wonder. I had no idea that he’d even knew my name, much less thought about me often. “I’ll tell you if you answer my questions and stop avoiding them,” I say. “Alright,” he agrees. “I came to visit my friend on his first day of work here. I hoped to see him, but I haven’t, which probably means that he’s doing a terrible job at this and I need to yell at him.” “But,” he adds, “I’m sure his boss has that covered.”

“Secondly, I came over here because you looked sad and slightly pissed. Well actually, more pissed than upset,” he laughs. That fades as he turns serious. “But I heard people whispering and…” He looks down, fiddling with something. I had a feeling he was trying to avoid my gaze. “The things they were saying were terrible, so I thought maybe I could help out this girl that they were talking about.” I wasn’t sure I was breathing normally anymore. It caught in my chest and squeezed painfully. I knew people’s opinion shouldn’t matter to me, and it didn’t, but I couldn’t stand the whispers. It reminded me too much of sophomore year when hushed words would follow me wherever I turned. They thought I couldn’t hear them, but they were wrong. Look, it’s the troubled girl who spray painted the principals car, one person would whisper, and another would accompany it. I heard she did it on purpose. Why would someone do that on purpose? Someone would snort. Because they’re stupid and lack a brain, another responded.

“Then I saw you, and I recognized you. You were sitting there and I thought that whoever didn’t show up was a total ass,” he scoffs. “That ass is my ex, by the way,” I say, tilting my head at him. He flushes. “Sorry for the language.” His brow furrows slightly. “You were meeting your ex?” he asks, confused as to why someone would even do such a thing. “No, but he is now,” I clarify, shrugging. He laughs and that same heart-wrenching grin returned.

“So, I’ve answered your questions. Now it’s your turn to answer mine.”

I nod. Fair enough.

“I did it because for some idiotic reason I wanted to get suspended. Teenage rebellion, I guess,” I joke halfheartedly. The truth was I did know why I did it. That was around the time Tramy had been leaving to follow in Bree’s footsteps and join the military. I had been so angry at everything and everyone. My parents tried to console me at first, but then they would get exasperated, my mother most of all. And that hurt. Everything had come crashing back, my bitterness of being the shadow to my sister, the pretty, sweet talented sister that I could never live up to, the anger of never being seen by my parents as nothing more than nuisance though I knew deep down that it wasn’t true. They loved me in their own way. Only Shade could put up with me, and he was my first friend as well as my older brother.

I’d poured all of that emotion into that stupid action, hoping to get back at my parents somehow, show them that they were right. I was the only the bitter shadow they thought me to be. I struggle to keep the tears in as I explain this all to Cal who patiently listens to me without interrupting. When I finish, he stands up and my heart sinks. He was going to leave, my story had scared him off.

Instead of running off as I expect him to, Cal slowly reaches out to touch my shoulder, his eyes holding a silent question. I nod once and he comes to sit beside me. Cal wraps his arms around me, and I lean on his shoulder, pressing my face into his broad arm. He brushes my hair back from my face and I bite my lip. We stay like that for a while in comfortable silence. I even spot Theresa giving me a wink from across the room, and I try to stifle my laugh.

“I should go now,” I say quietly at last, shattering the silence that had wrapped us both. “What time is it?” He takes out his phone from his pocket and I note that it’s the newest model. Thank goodness I’d asked him first so he wouldn’t see my flip phone that dated back to prehistoric times. “It’s 8:51, he informs me.” I jolt and jump of my seat. Cal’s face contorts in worry. “What is it?” “I was supposed to be home by seven, or at least call my parents,” I explain breathlessly, quickly gathering my things. Don’t panic, don’t panic, I chide myself. I scrambled through my purse for my bus pass, letting out a cry of frustration when I come up empty handed.

“Hey, calm down,” Cal urged. “I’ll give you a ride back, no big deal.” That stills me. “You…you’d drive me home?” He smiles softly. “Of course.” The words sooth me, but only slightly. I didn’t want him to see where I lived. Our sorry excuse of an apartment flashed through my mind. I would have to get him to drop me a couple of blocks ahead then walk the rest of the way. “Thanks, again.” He shrugs. “No problem.”

We head out together. I shiver when a cold gust of wind sweeps across me, and I wrap my arms around myself in an attempt to keep my teeth from chattering. Cal shrugs of his jacket and hands it to me. I stare at it then him. “Aren’t you cold?” I inquire. He shakes his head. “I don’t get cold often strangely enough.” I accept the jacket and put it on.Thankfully it was lined to keep out the cold but thee fit was much too big. I looked like child playing dress up. Cal’s eyes widen when he looks down at me and I suddenly feel self-conscious. “What, what is it?”

He looked slightly dazed. “Nothing’s wrong.” I struggle to cross my arms due to the bulky jacket. “Tell me the truth.” Cal sighs. “You don’t let anything go, do you?” “Nope,” I said, popping the p. "Alright, I was thinking that the jacket looks better on you than it does on me,“ he confesses. Stunned, I don’t say a word. I can only follow him to his car hoping that the darkness would conceal my blush. It was unfair really how flustered he often made me.

My jaw almost drops at the sight of his car. It was gorgeous. Like I’d date it kind of gorgeous. It was a shiny red Volvo trimmed and plated with chrome, shined to perfection. I would bet that it looked even better in daylight. Cal glances at me, enjoying my look of awe. "What are you thinking right now?” he asks. Fine. It was a fair question after all. “I’m thinking that like to date your car,” I tell him. He huffs, amused. “Sorry, but she’s mine.”

 "Who said it was a she?“ I counter playfully. "I fixed her myself. I think I would know,” he responds with a wide smile. “Ugh, gross!” I exclaim, smacking him in the chest. I can feel his laugh reverberate in his chest, and I pull my hand away after I realize that it’s been there too long. He catches it deftly and links his fingers with mine. I inhale sharply. He doesn’t pull away once we settle into our seats and neither do I. He asks for my address and I instruct him where to go seeing as he wasn’t familiar with the area. We pass through the tall buildings which slowly level out to townhouses. I knew that they formed the border that separated my side of town from the nice part of the city

“Turn here,” I point. He obliges and we pass through the neat row of houses. 227, one of them reads. “This is it,” I say, hoping he won’t notice the lie. The house was close enough to the edge that it wouldn’t be a long walk on this chilly night. I begin to shrug off the jacket when Cal stops me. “Keep it. As I said, it looks much better on you anyway.” I stare at him in disbelief, the jacket still hanging loosely around my elbows. He fixes it so that it rests on my shoulders and fastens a few of the buttons. I sit there and study him as he works.

“It was nice talking with you,” I say, slightly breathless at his proximity. He looks up and stills as well, suddenly realizing the same thing. The moment felt suspended as if hanging by thread that could fray and snap at any time. I couldn’t think of anything except how beautiful his eyes were. They reminded me of warmth, of autumn. I wasn’t entirely sure he was breathing anymore as he touched my cheek lightly. With his other hand, he raises my own to his lips and presses a kiss to the back. “It was nice talking to you too,” he whispers.

As I start to pull away, he keeps a gentle grip on my hand and I turn back around. “Yes?” I ask him, just as unwilling to let go. “I–” he stutters. “I have one more question for you that I forgot to ask earlier.”

“What is it?”

“I was wondering,” he says softly,  "if you would like to go on a real, actually planned date with me.“

I knew I didn’t even need to think about it. I was sure of my answer.

I smile at him, broad and without restraint. "Yes, I would love to go on a planned date with you.”

He lets out a relieved laugh. “Good.” Cal looks at me almost shyly. “I’ve never been on an actual date.” I pat his hand reassuringly. “You’ll do great, I’m sure of it.” “I hope so,” he replies.

“Just show up in that car and you’re set.”

He laughs again. “Noted.”

We exchange our numbers and I’m careful to keep my phone hidden but he spots it anyway. "Don’t be embarrassed. If it’s any consolation, I think it’s pretty cool. They don’t even make them like that anymore.” I roll my eyes fondly. “Of course. Only a dork like you would notice that.”

“I confess, I am a bit of a nerd,” he smiles teasingly and my heart flutters.

“Goodbye, Mare.“

"Goodbye, Cal.”

As I walk the rest of the way home I can’t stop the infectious grin that worms its way onto my face. My heart felt light like I would float away at any moment. Is this what you were supposed to feel like after a date? I’d never felt that way with my ex. Internally I sigh at the thought of having to break up with him. I’d do it in person. I could do that much.

 When I finally get home, mom and dad sigh in relief when I find them at the kitchen table with Gisa. “Where have you been?” She demands. Sometimes I felt like she was more like a mother than my actual mom was. “Calm down. My date wasn’t showing up and I bumped into an old friend from high school and we lost track of time–”

“What do you mean lost track of time,” my dad growls. I sigh heavily. “Calm down dad it wasn’t like that. We just talked.” “That’s what they all say,” he mutters under his breath

.“We’re glad you’re home, darling. Next time, please give us a warning,” mom says tiredly.“I know, I know. Sorry mom,” I sigh again.“Next time?” Gisa huffs. “There will be no next time young lady. Now go to your room.” I crack a small smile at her adult behavior. “Alright, fine,” I concede. 

“Wait, where’s Shade?” I ask them. Mom and dad glance at each other while Gisa plays with her hair. “He went out to look for you,” she explains. “We– we thought that something had happened and–” I hold up a hand and she stops speaking. “I got it. Seeing as I’m not dead, you should probably call him and tell him that I’m home.”

Mom jumps to her feet. “Of course, how could I forget.” She practically trips over himself to get to our old home phone. I leave them to it and go to my room. Once I shut the door, I climb into my bed, inhaling the smoky scent of the jacket. It smelled just like him, and I lie there with a stupid grin at the thought of seeing him again.

It was only a matter of time.

***

@tiberiaschooseme, @stars-above-luna, @calmareforever, @queeniriscygnet, @didmavenkillyou–metoo, @littlelightningirl, @universegamer, @emotionscanhurt, @chaoslaborantin, @maudthebookeater, @redqueenfandom

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