I jumped when I heard the first creak of the stairs that led up to my third-floor apartment. It was a pain travelling up those stairs with loads of groceries, but it was ours. A place that my mother and I both worked hard to keep. I didn’t pay bills. My mother believed firmly that it was her job to take care of me, but I helped clean and attempted to cook as often as I could. School work and my part-time job kept me occupied. I liked to stay busy and have goals to strive for. I opened the door to the hallway before Parker even made it to the top. I knew it looked overeager, but truth was, I was terrified. Looking down at my pink flowy top and yoga pants, I swear I expected to see my knees knocking together.
“Hey.” Looking up, I fought back a giggle at the sight of him. He wore a ratty T-shirt and plaid pajama bottoms that looked a little too small. They were high waters and showed the white of his socks. “Like my outfit?” He spun around.
The giggle escaped my lips. “I would have kept on my band T-shirt had I known this is how you were coming over.” I opened the door and motioned him inside.
“Depends. What band?” He quirked up his left eyebrow.
“Maroon 5. I never got to see them in concert, but Ava did and bought me a shirt.”
“Nice. Where should I put these?” Parker held up his hands, the two shopping bags overflowing. “I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I got a bit of every snack food there was. I have chips, chocolate, fruit, just in case you want an apple instead of peanut M & M’s for some unknown reason….” I watched him empty the contents of the bag on the coffee table, how he put the candy in one pile, the chips in another. Everything about him seemed so carefree, yet there were parts that were structured, organized, thoughtful.
“What? Do I have a booger in my nose?” He flared his nostrils in the most ungodly way that allowed me to see straight up his nose.
“Ew, that’s nasty. No booger.” I snickered.
“Ah. I’m handsome, right? It’s the plaid high waters.” He stretched out his long leg, further hiking up the pants. “I knew they’d make you fall for me. My devilish plan succeeded!”
Fall for him? My mind raced with hope and possibility. It was a mishmash of emotions. I didn’t know whether to tell him I had fallen for him since that day in the diner, or to tell him that I hoped we could maybe explore something more between us. My mind, ever so active as it was, frantically searched for a response as he stared at me, a Snickers bar in one hand and a bag of Doritos in the other.
“You’re all right,” I squeaked out. Smooth. Real smooth. After toying with what to say, that’s what I came up with? Ava would have a fit.
“All right? Way to make a man grow a complex.” With a frown, he threw the Snickers and Doritos on the table.
“Oh, I didn’t mean just all right. I didn’t want to sound too eager. Like Parker, I’ve thought about you since I first saw you at the diner. Or that I love the way you’re honest and kind without being fake. And how you’re not just all right, you’re the most superbly handsome man I’ve ever met.” I took a breath and felt my cheeks heat. Well, I’d done it again. Spouted off more than necessary. I’d turned to walk into the kitchen to compose and probably scold myself, when Parker grabbed my arm and spun me around to face him.
“Don’t run. Stay.” His words caressed my body and enveloped me in warmth. The insecurity was still there, but more subtle, masked with the comfort that his hand on me brought.
“I didn’t mean to say all that. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”
He released my arm and sighed. “The only thing that’s made me uncomfortable these past weeks is wanting to be with you and not knowing whether to just say it.” Parker smiled at me. “But I think you feel something, even if a small piece of you. It’s drawn to me. Isn’t it?”
I opened my mouth but nothing came out. He wants to be with me? I nodded.
“Let’s stop pretending that we aren’t interested romantically in each other. I’m not seeing anyone else or interested in dating anyone else, are you?”
“Not at all. I haven’t dated in forever.” I mentally smacked myself. Way to make yourself look cool, Rainey.
“So, what do you say we call this what it is, a date. Our first official date as boyfriend and girlfriend.” Parker held out his hand to me, and I wanted nothing more than to jump up and down. I placed my hand in his; it fit perfectly.
We sat down on my couch, and he kept his hand in mine. Our fingers intertwined and some nonsense show that kept him laughing played in the background. Nothing could make this night more special.