Mary and I left the Tub and grabbed dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant. The food was almost as good as the conversation, but not quite, so we did more talking than eating. It was getting close to midnight when we stood up to leave.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to end this date,” I said.
“I’m not going home with you on a first date,” Mary smiled. “Even if the thought doesn’t completely repulse me.”
“My place isn’t that bad, really,” I joked. “But I would’ve suggested your place if that’s what I had in mind. I’m thinking of something more like walking around a bit.”
“I can walk around a bit,” Mary said.
We walked back up towards the Red Tub, passing a few other bars and commenting on the people we saw. At some point, my arm found its way around her shoulder. I’m not sure when it happened, but she didn’t seem to mind it being there. It was a weird experience for me, because I’m usually never this at ease with someone on a first date. It was like we’d been friends for a long time.
“All right, Ben,” Mary said as we were walking through a small alleyway between bars. “So am I going to read about myself in your story tomorrow?”
“Probably not tomorrow,” I answered. “But yes, I’m going to write about this.”
“Just be nice.” Mary stopped walking and turned to face me. “Don’t make a joke about me being stupid or anything.”
“I will write what I feel,” I said. “It’s not something I can control, really. It just sort of comes out. But if you’re worried about finding out that you’re not getting a second date by reading it in the story, stop. I’ve already decided that I like you, and I want to see you again.”
“I like you, too.” Mary smiled, and I was hypnotized by her eyes. My mouth spit out words before I could stop it.
“Do you know that you have the most amazing eyes ever invented by God?” Somewhere in the back of my mind, Nice Ass woke up just enough to tell me that I was a dumbass.
“Thank you.” She smiled wider and her cheeks flushed, but she didn’t look away. I wanted to kiss her more than anything right then.
“I have this rule about not trying for a kiss on the first date,” I whispered.
“That’s a good rule,” she nodded. At that moment, a plane could’ve fallen from the sky, crashed into the building behind me, and I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. My entire universe was focused on those eyes that wouldn’t look away. I don’t even remember my arms sliding around her, or hers around me.
We hugged, and our bodies seemed to fit perfectly together. I held her there, rubbing my cheek against her hair, and then I broke my rule as much as I dared. I kissed the top of her head.
“I’d like to see you again, Mary.”
“Good,” she murmured into my chest. “Call me tomorrow and set it up.”
I nodded, even though she couldn’t see it. I just didn’t want to let her go. We held each other for about a minute longer, and then we turned and walked to the street. I walked her to her car and promised to call her the next day, and then I stood there on the sidewalk watching her drive off until I couldn’t see her car anymore.
On the drive home, I felt like I was about to burst. I had to share in the excitement, so I turned my phone on and called Casey.
“Hey hey!” I could barely hear Casey through all the background music. The repetitive bass beat could only be house music. “This had better not be a booty call!”
“I think I’ve met The One, Case!” Normally, I hate talking on the phone and driving at the same time. Tonight was an exception.
“Hang on a second,” Casey must’ve covered the mouthpiece, but I could still hear her yelling for someone to turn the music down. There was much shuffling noise and finally she came back. “Sorry, I had to walk outside. What did you say?”
“Where are you?” I could easily imagine Casey in the middle of a dance club, yelling at the DJ to turn his music down because she was on the phone.
“I’m at a friend’s house,” she answered. “She’s having a house party. So what did you say? Something about meeting Juan?”
“No, I said I think I’ve met The One.”
“Really?” Casey sounded skeptical. “You don’t believe in all that nonsense about one person for everybody. That’s a lot like Fate, Ben.”
“This one is different, though. It’s like I’d known her my whole life. It was just an amazing date!”
“Well, don’t marry this woman just yet,” Casey warned. “She’s not even out of her current marriage.”
“Huh?” For a moment, I actually couldn’t understand what she was talking about. Then it dawned on me. “Oh, Diane? No, I’m talking about Mary.”
“Ben,” Casey sighed. “You need to guard your heart just a little bit more carefully. I’m a big fan of love at first sight and Fate and all that nonsense, but that only happens in the movies. Don’t throw yourself completely into this after just one date.”
“Ok, maybe she’s not The One,” I conceded. “But I really like being with her.”
“Good for her,” Casey said. “Now you can go home, get some sleep, and get ready for tomorrow, which will be just as full of women ready to steal your heart and then break it.”
“You make it sound so romantic.” I heard a girl’s voice in the background talking to Casey, but I couldn’t make out the words.
“Or,” Casey continued, “you can come over here, get drunk, and dance with me to techno music.”
“Tempting, but I’d have to find the place, and then meet all those new people, and then embarrass myself by dancing in front of them.”
“Oh, you already know most of them,” Casey laughed. “It’s Rachel’s house, and most of the people here work at the Saucer with us.”
“Rachel told you to ask me, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.” Casey answered the question in a way to indicate that Rachel was standing right next to her.
“It’s very tempting, but I’m going to take the first option. Maybe by next weekend I’ll be heartbroken and up for a house party.”
“That’s too bad, but I’ll be sure to invite you along next time.” Casey added, “I want you to keep your head on your shoulders, Teddybear. I don’t’ want anymore of this talk about Juan for at least a month.”
As much as I hate that pet name, I can never really argue with her about it. It’s a pretty accurate description.
“Got it,” I said. “No more Juan. I’ll call you tomorrow and catch you up on all the details.”
“Good,” Casey said. “Now go home and go to bed.”
I said goodbye and then did exactly what she told me to. She’s a very bossy girl.