She looked at her phone again. His last message read: Looking forward to tonight. Mailed you the address of the restaurant. x
The words hadn’t changed since the last time she had read them. They wouldn’t change, but the clock was ticking, and she was running out of time. She needed the stress to get ready for a date. Loved it even.
With a towel around her head, she walked naked from the bathroom to her bedroom. In front of the floor length mirror, she stopped and put her hands on her hips. She was just an ordinary girl. Maybe a little curvier than others, but she didn’t mind. Her hourglass figure was an asset to her. Turning left and turning right, she looked at herself. She felt sexy. A good sign for a first date with a man she had never met before. But she liked him from his emails and their calls. She opened her wardrobe and pulled out a pair of black jeans and a blouse. She threw both items on the bed and opened her underwear drawer. It was the right occasion to pull out the lace lingerie, but the question was which colour. Would wearing red underwear send the wrong signals? What if he wouldn’t see it, then she would feel attractive, and it would be her secret? What about the gray or the purple set? Or even the black? She decided to postpone the decision and pulled out bright green socks. It was a quirk, but she liked her colourful socks. She put them on her feet and moved back to the mirror. She hadn’t changed. Still naked, apart from her feet. She wriggled her toes and smiled.
A short look at the alarm clock on her bedside table told her that she had twenty minutes to get dressed, dry her hair, and put on some make-up before she had to go. She opened the other door of her wardrobe and took out a black dress. It had a deep cleavage but wasn’t too slutty. She liked it a lot. Nodding, she pulled out the red set of lingerie and a purple pantyhose. She pulled the socks off her feet again and threw them on the floor. There was no time for being tidy anymore. She wrestled herself inside the delicate pantyhose hoping not to rip it, pulled up the zipper at the back of the dress with many acrobatics and cussing, and took a final look in the mirror. With a content look, she thought: Yes, this is it.
Behind her on her shelf, she grabbed for the Hugo Deep Red and put some of it on her neck and wrists. She loved that fragrance; it was, without a doubt, her favourite. She put her bracelets on her wrist and her necklace with the star around her neck. It was said to keep evil spirits away, and although she didn’t believe in things like that, good spirits were always welcome, and she had no intention challenging the bad ones that day. Next, she debated which watch to wear, but then she grabbed the yellow G-Shock she wore daily. It was an eye catcher, and if the conversation would slow down, she could always bring up the fact that Chris Martin from Coldplay wears the same watch occasionally.
She shook her head, and the towel came loose. She let it drop to the floor and walked to the bathroom. She left the moist towel on the hardwood floor and she didn’t care if it left stains or not.
After spraying herself with deodorant, the next decision was due. Keeping the hair curly or straightening it? Thirteen minutes left and another curse-word. She put a product in her hair and began blow drying it with a brush. It took seven minutes to get it the way she wanted it. It wasn’t perfect, but she was running out of time. She put on a little bit of foundation, rimmed her eyes with black eyeliner and applied some dark brown mascara. Nude lipstick topped her looks. One last stroke of the brush through her hair and she was done, with one minute to spare. And she needed it.
She smoothed her dress against her thighs and sighed. She felt uncomfortable, and her hair and the dress didn’t look good together, and maybe she was overdressed for a casual first date anyway? She went to her bedroom again, and in a frenzy, she undressed, threw the dress and the pantyhose on the overfilled chair in the corner by the window and slipped into the black jeans and blouse she had planned on wearing all along. She couldn’t find her second sock in her haste and took a new pair out of the drawer. When she bent down to put them on her feet, she realised that her pants were too loose and she needed a belt. But where was her belt? I’m going to be late. I hate being late!! Frantically, she searched for the accessory that was supposed to keep her pants up where they belonged, and she finally found it on the pair of jeans at the bottom of the pile of clothes on her chair. Pulling hard, most of the clothes hit the floor, but she had what she needed. Her bedroom looked as if a bomb filled with clothes had exploded. She didn’t have time to tidy up or waste a thought about it.
Running down the stairs while pulling the belt through the loops, she didn’t waste time to find a matching pair of shoes. She slipped her feet into her cognac coloured boots and buckled the belt then bent down to pull the zipper from her boots. She put on her faux-leather jacket, the long scarf with the stars and grabbed the white tote bag with the red handles. Keys, phone, and off she went. She looked just like any other day, but she felt very different.
In the car, she put on her favourite song and hoped that her deodorant would keep her safe. She was stressed. Excited. And it was hot, which made her sweat. She put the music a little louder and concentrated on the road ahead.
A parking space was easy to find, but calming down her racing heart was another issue. She sat in the car. Two minutes to spare. She looked into the mirror to make sure that her hair looked good. Out of habit, she brushed the lipstick from her lips and wiped the corners of her eyes to get rid of black smudges. Her breath came in erratic pants. She felt like driving home again. But she was also excited to finally meet the man who had promised pasta and the best chocolate mousse in town. She rechecked her phone. No new messages. Which she took as a good sign. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths through her nose and released them through pursed lips. You’ve got this. She told herself when she opened her eyes again. Rubbing her sweaty palms and her thighs, she was finally ready. Go! She whispered when she got out of the car.
She got closer to the restaurant and kept her eyes on the floor. The heels of her boots made a lot of noise on the gravel. Maybe it was just in her head, though, amplified by her nervousness. She raised her head, and there he was. He was biting his thumbnail, looking every bit as nervous as she felt. He looked in the other direction, but it was unmistakably him. She slowed down. How was she supposed to greet him? She readjusted her blouse and ran her hand through the lengths of her hair. Her throat felt dry, and her entire body was trembling. He was taller than she had imagined him to be.
He let his thumb fall from his lips and in slow motion, or so it seemed to her, he turned his head. A bright smile erupted on her face, and he mirrored it. She took a couple more steps towards him, and he joined her. Both their smiles hadn’t faltered. And her nervousness was gone. All she wanted was to be in the presence of this man. Hear his voice, smell him and maybe, even touch him.
They stopped in front of each other. Close. Closer than strangers. She looked up to meet his eyes.
“Hello,” he said. His voice was hoarse.
“Hi,” she answered and felt her cheeks blush. He bent down to kiss her cheek, at that exact moment she turned her head, and his lips landed on her lips. Her eyes went wide, and her heart rate sped up again. His pale cheeks were tinged with a red colour too. He shrugged with a smile. She smiled back. He had nice lips. Smooth. For a while, they stood making small talk about the drive to the restaurant and the weather before he suggested to get inside. He took the lead, and she liked that. A lot. He held the door for her, and she lowered her head.
No one had ever held the door for her. It was cheesy and incredibly cute. It also showed that he was born in a different generation. Ten years of age gap was already making a difference. They walked close to each other, and when they waited to be seated, their arms almost touched. But not quite. They didn’t talk. They just smiled awkwardly.
At their table, he waited until she sat down, and when the waitress suggested an aperitif, she ordered a glass of white wine. He ordered a Perrier, and she blushed again. Right, he had mentioned briefly that he didn’t drink anymore. Not the best start for the evening. She opened the menu and scanned it without seeing the words she read. Under the table, their feet touched. Their eyes met briefly over their menus, but both of them lowered their gazes again. Awkward!
They sat with their menus on the plates, and she began to chuckle.
She: this is surreal, sorry.
He: yes, it is.
He laughed too. There were deep lines around his eyes, telling her that he was no stranger to happiness.
He: It’s hot in here.
He shuffled out of his suit jacket to reveal a pristine white button-down shirt when he put it on the back of his chair. She liked his look a lot. It was casual and not. With his button-down and the black suit-jacket, he wore dark jeans and black Converse shoes. His hair was tied back with a hairband, and only one lock fell on his forehead. He reached for his water, and she noticed his long slender fingers and the blue veins on the back of his pale hands. He took a couple of small sips. It was weird and cute. Under the table, their feet were still touching. Not moving, just resting against each other.
In her usual habit, she put her glasses to her left, and when the waitress came to take their order, she ordered a San Pellegrino and let the wine go back. He rose an eyebrow, but her mind was set.
She: you don’t drink. I don’t need it either.
He nodded with a smile. Apparently, he liked her thoughtfulness.
He: are you left-handed then?
He waved in the general direction of her rearranged cutlery and his watch and her right wrist.
She: Oh, no. That’s just an old habit. I move my hands a lot when I speak. Just precaution.
She blushed, admitting her clumsiness. He smiled at her.
He: I move my hands a lot too.
He took another couple of small sips of his water.
He: I have a dry throat and sweaty palms. Nervous.
It surprised her. She had no clue why an ordinary girl like her could make a man like him nervous.
She: don’t be. I’m just me.
He: exactly, and you look beautiful tonight. Gorgeous.
For a moment, she forgot how to breathe and how to think. Her eyes met his, searching for the joke in this, but all she found was honesty and sincerity. She had to lower her head to hide her embarrassed. She didn’t take compliments well.
He: look at me!
It was an order, firm but gentle. He knew exactly what she needed and how she needed to be handled. They had talked about it multiple times. She looked up.
He: just telling it as it is.
She: Thank you.
She wished for the food to be served to have something to do. This wasn’t going well. Or maybe it was, and she was too busy thinking herself down to let it happen. She sighed and gave herself an internal pep talk. All the time, his eyes were on her.
She: for how long will you stay in town?
He smiled, and she was saved from more awkwardness when the waitress brought their food. His pasta looked delicious. Hers did too.
He: Bon appetit.
She turned her plate 180°, another quirk and took her fork. His eyes were still on her when he took the cheese and sprinkled his pasta with it.
She shook her head.
She: no thanks. Maybe later.
He put a big bite in his mouth, and his eyes closed. She almost expected him to moan. His mouth was still full when he spoke.
He: this is so good. Wow. How’s yours?
She had been busy watching the sensual way he was eating and felt caught in the act. Her food was good, but nowhere near as fascinating as her company for the evening. She felt bold when she loaded her fork and offered it to him. She had never done this before, but it felt like the right thing to do. He smiled, opened his mouth, and let her feed him. Again he closed his eyes, savouring the different flavours on his tongue.
He: spicy. Very good. Now you.
And he did the same she had done. Red sauce dripped off his fork and into her water glass. She chuckled, he shrugged. She opened her mouth, and her heart began to race. A tingle spread inside her. He took care of her, and she liked it. He tilted his head, awaiting her verdict.
Perfect, she said,
because the evening announced itself to be a success. After this, the conversation became more comfortable. And he had been right; he moved his hands a lot when he spoke. They discussed their beliefs and their faiths, and although she knew she was eccentric in that regard, she didn’t feel judged. In fact, they shared many views. Absentmindedly, she played with her left ring finger. There used to be a ring, but the man she had loved for so many years had never been as close to her mind as the one across the table. Smirking, she realised that this was the first date she had as a grown-up and independent woman. She smiled at him, and their conversation jumped from topic to topic naturally. The more they revealed of themselves, the faster her heart beat in a good way.
She was full. Half of her food was left on her plate, but as much as she didn’t want to waste the food, she couldn’t eat anymore. Her stomach was in knots anyway. Their conversation was filled with laughter but also with serious topics. It was effortless to talk to this man. She felt appreciated and attractive and completely forgot to be self-conscious. He made her feel as if she could be herself without the need to pretend to be more or less than she actually was. It was nice to lower her guards, and inwardly, she felt proud to do all of this without liquid courage clouding her brain. This was all real — her perception of reality anyway. The waitress came to clear the table, and with a simple look into each other’s eyes, they decided to wait before they ordered dessert. Conversation without words was such an intimate thing and rare too, but it was right for them. With the plates out of the way, the table looked large, and they had space for their hands. His pale hand reached out for hers. And there was the familiar embarrassment again. While his hands were pale and hairless, hers were rough and dusted with dark hair. She wasn’t the kind of woman to wear nail polish or to have long nails. She clipped them and kept them neat, but that was all she did to pamper her hands. She wanted to pull back, but he wouldn’t let her.
She: I don’t have beautiful hands. They are too manly.
He took her hands and inspected them, turning them this way and that.
He: they are beautiful. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
He ran a finger along the indentation her wedding band had left behind.
How long have you been divorced?
She: two months. He nodded and kept running his fingers over hers.
He: I have a child. Did I ever tell you about that?
It was her time to nod. There was nothing to say, just to listen as his eyes grew distant. He loved his child, it was written on his face, and she was learning to read him like an open book.
“Her mom moved them to Cyprus. I don’t see her often. I’m afraid to become the strange uncle at some point in her life. I only visit twice a year”. He took a deep breath and smiled. “But we Skype and I send her letters and little presents. I was never married.”
She opened her mouth to say something, but the waitress’s timing was awful. He let go of her hands and ordered dessert for her.
He: I told you we’d have chocolate mousse for dessert. It’s my favourite.
She didn’t object. She wasn’t too fond of chocolate, but the way he smiled left her silent. The smile faltered on her face. There. At that exact moment, she realised that she was slipping on a mask again, to be who he wanted her to be. She couldn’t let that happen, not after the kind of evening they had spent together.
She: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.
He: You’ll like it. I promise.
And she believed him. She liked him. She trusted him too. There was just something about him, maybe it was his eyes or maybe the way he talked, maybe it was just his charming ways, but he made her feel good about herself. It was the second time that evening she realised that small fact, and while she was aware that the end of their date was nearing as the waitress set their chocolate mousses in front of them, she didn’t want to see the evening end. He waited for her to taste the sweet dish, and she scooped up a little of the brown mousse. She looked anywhere, but at him, the way he watched her was unsettling. The chocolate on her tongue melted, and he had been right. She moaned and blushed at the prominent display of pleasure.
He smiled victoriously and dug in too.
He: told you so.
The light ribbing had become part of their conversation, and the way their sense of humor clicked was another indication that she was falling slowly for the man across the table. Despite having eaten entirely too much, she emptied the dessert, and he hummed in appreciation.
He: you have something on your lip.
She blushed and wanted to reach for her napkin. Moments before it had been on her lap, but now it lay on the floor. He reached across the table and with his thumb, he wiped the chocolate from her lip. She didn’t overthink it and sucked his thumb clean. He chuckled, and she ran her tongue over the pad of his thumb. His eyes widened, and she could only assume the effect this little not so innocent gesture had on him. She smirked when she released him, but she kept his eyes fixed on his.
He coughed when the waitress appeared out of nowhere again.
She: I’ll have an espresso, please and for the gentleman, a mint tea, please.
He looked shocked but didn’t argue.
He: do I have bad breath?
He breathed in his palm and tried to determine why she had ordered a mint tea.
She shrugged: payback for ordering for me.
He laughed out loud, and more curls fell from his hairband. He put them behind his ears, but they sprang right back up.
He: right. I’ll remember that and for the record, don’t make me drink that herbal brew, please. I need coffee, too — even more after dinner.
Without missing a beat, she waved the waitress over and changed the order from tea to coffee. The waitress rolled her eyes but scurried away again.
She: she thinks that I can’t make up my mind. I swear I am not that complicated.
She shook her head, smiling and put her hair over her left shoulder.
“Well, maybe I am very complicated, but she doesn’t know that.”
He laughed out loud again, and she loved the sound. She really didn’t want the evening to end. But when the coffee arrived, he asked for the check. She wondered if she should offer to pay or assume he would pay or maybe she should just pay her half but wasn’t that too fussy? She sighed and watched his delicate fingers as they stirred sugar into his coffee. As always, she drank hers black.
“So,” he said her name and the way he spoke it made the butterflies in her stomach do somersaults. A warmth spread from her heart all the way down to her most intimate place. She was surprised by the impact his voice had on her, but there was no denying. And it was hot in the restaurant.
“I had a great evening.”
He played with her fingers again. An electrical surge went through her. She inhaled shakily. She couldn’t rationalise where the sudden need came from, but at that moment, she would have done everything he could ask of her. And the mood shifted. It became loaded with promises and longing. Want and need were showing in dilated irises. He licked his lips, and she mimicked him. A kiss hung between them. The atmosphere was crackling. Until the waitress interrupted the moment, they had. They broke apart and chuckled like teenagers. He reached for his wallet, and when she wanted to do the same, he glared at her.
He: what kind of gentleman would I be if I would let you pay for our dinner or even half of it? Next time it’s your turn. Maybe.
She didn’t argue, but her annoying brain was back. What did ‘maybe’ mean? That there was maybe a chance to a second date? Or he would let her pay, maybe?
He: stop overanalyzing.
He chuckled, and she felt caught again.
She: that’s just part of me.
He: we’ll work on that together.
He put his credit card on the tray with the receipt. And once again, she believed him. There was just something about him that made her feel cared for. It was like coming home. But instead of being bored by the known, he excited and aroused her with his sheer presence.
“So,” he said again. “What are your plans for tonight?”
A panoply of possible answers came to her mind, but she wasn’t bold enough to ask him to go home with her, and she wasn’t daring enough to ask him to go for a walk. She worried her lower lip and was lost for words. “Just say it,” he smiled. On his face was something like hope.
She: I don’t want the evening to end.
A bright smile appeared on his face.
He: Okay. I don’t want it to end either. We could go for a walk. You could show me your city by night?
She beamed at him.
She: I would like that very much.
The inevitable end was pushed back further into the night. He paid and added a generous tip for the waitress. It was just another piece of the puzzle that made this man her perfect match.
He: are you ready to go?
Instead of answering, she shrugged into her jacket and put her scarf around her neck. He waited for her and held out his hand. She looked at it and took it. He walked in front of her, and she followed, looking at their joined hands. And maybe at the curve where his back met his behind.
“I hope you’re enjoying the view,” he chuckled, and she blushed. He hadn’t caught her starring, he was just teasing, but since he was right in his assumption, the embarrassment was back in red spots on her cheeks.
She: very much so, thank you.
He held the door for her again.
He didn’t even conceal the fact that he checked her out from head to toes. There was a gleam in his eyes. They walked on for a couple of paces when he stopped abruptly. She almost stumbled. He took both of her hands in his.
He: I’m glad we finally met in person, and I would really like to kiss you if that is okay.
It was more than okay; it was desired. She stood on tiptoes and let the moment happen. The magic of a first kiss. He pulled her closer and lowered his head. She felt his breath on her skin and his heat coming closer and closer still. His lips were dry and smooth. The kiss was gentle but persistent, and when his hand pulled her closer, she licked his lips. It was just a quick touch of their tongues before their kiss was over. She opened her eyes and looked straight into his. He was smiling again. He put his arms around her and pulled her against him. She fitted his body perfectly. She wrapped her arms around him underneath his jacket and squeezed tightly. He put a kiss on her hair, and they broke apart. It was the natural thing to do. Hand in hand, they strolled through the illuminated streets. They showed each other interesting looking things, and once in a while, they stopped to kiss again. The bells of the cathedral announced midnight in the distance, and she yawned.
“Wouldn’t it be great if this date didn’t need to end?” She mused out loud.
He: it doesn’t have to end. You could come home with me.
As much as she wanted to say yes, she declined his offer. It was too much too soon. The mood shifted to one of regret. A missed opportunity created a distance between them as they walked back to their cars. Inwardly, she scolded herself. She had ruined a perfect date, or that was what her brain was trying to tell her. In front of her car, he turned her in his arms again.
He: Thank you for this perfect evening.
And he kissed her again. They said goodbye, promising to get in touch as soon as they were home. She got in her car and watched him turn away. She cursed and exhaled deeply in the sanctuary of her car. She started the engine, and when she was next to him, with his hunched shoulders and lowered head, she stopped.
She: the night doesn’t have to end like this. Would you like to go on a second date?
He turned to face her.
He: yes. When?
She: Now. Get in; I’ll take you on our second date.
He: are you sure?
Her heart beat too fast again, but she couldn’t stop the smile on her face. The second date with this man who was buckling his seat belt next to her was about to happen. She drove them to her house and saw him blink.
“Home,” she explained, and he grinned. “Are you coming?”
He: not yet, but I am sure I’ll be there in no time.
The suggestiveness of his words made her smile, but it had been exactly what she had wanted to hear — a perfect first date. And the second date would be successful too, she was sure.