Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hell of a Day

It's been a hell of a week. One of the administrative assistants was let go and another took a job at another company. What that means for the rest of us is that we have to pick up the slack until someone new is hired. All week I've had to answer phones and work on spreadsheets in addition to my already-demanding job. I come in at 7 AM stayed in the office every evening til at least 7:30. 

After working over sixty hours in one week, I'm burnt out by the halfway through the next week. On Wednesday morning, I wake up to the sound of pots and pans and laughter. Groggily, I sit up and instinctively check my phone. It reads 8:47. I gasp. 

I also have a missed call and three texts. Some are from Abby, and the missed call is from my manager. 

"Shit!" I yelp, and practically leap out of bed. The last time I slept through an alarm was in college. 

I throw on a slightly wrinkled top and yesterday's pants, hoping a blazer and necklace will distract from my makeup-less face. 

As I dash out of my room, I see Emma and DJ making breakfast. They both then and stare at me as I run around looking for my wallet. 

"Where's the fire?" Emma asks lazily. 

"I had to be at work two hours ago," I say, my voice nearing a wail. 

"It's 9 AM," DJ says helpfully. 

"Almost," I correct him. He raises his hands up in the classic "hey sorry" position. For some reason both of them are irritating me. "Have either of you seen my wallet?"

Emma points with a spatula. "Right here."

I grab it and practically run out the door, not saying another word to either of them. 

When I get to the office, I realize I haven't put any deodorant on and there's a massive knot at the back of my head. I'll get some deodorant on my lunch break, I think. 

Everyone is seated in a circle when I walk inside. My stomach drops. I missed a whole meeting? 

Slowly, I make my way over to where Abby sits, trying to be inconspicuous. Of course, Kent, my boss, spots me right away. 

"Ryan," he says crisply. I wince, just a little. I can feel my sweat under my arms and feel a combination of disgust and fear. 

"We were just welcoming our new assistant, Hayley." He tilts his head to a blonde with perfect eyebrows. She looks to be fresh out of college. 

"Hi," I say, trying to look awake and not like I'm two hours late. Hayley smiles back. 

Kent has snuck up on me somehow and he's standing right next to me. Startled, I look up at him, sure he's going to reprimand me. "That means no more answering phone calls for you," he tells me. 

"That's great," I say, still nervous. "That way I can really focus on my job." 

Kent nods, looking thoughtful. "Yes, last week was stressful, wasn't it? You handled it quite well."

I flush a little. "Thank you." 

"I could see everyone starting to burn out a little, though." I nod. The meeting seems to be over; everyone is returning to their desks, and I debate asking what happened this morning. I decide not to. If something vital happened, Kent will tell me. "Don't worry, Ryan. You can come in at your regular time now." Damn. Of course he'd noticed that I was late this morning. I'm even more embarrassed. 

"I never sleep through my alarm," I say in a low voice. "It won't happen again."

"Oh, I know," Kent says idly. "I wasn't reprimanding you. All of my employees need plenty of sleep!" He smiles. "However, Ryan, there will be some changes. As I discussed this morning, I only hired one assistant instead of the two that we lost. That means that not only will Hayley be doing the work of two people, but that everyone else will have to pick up on some of that work as well." 

I swallow. "I understand. So... What will I be doing in addition?"

"I haven't decided yet, but you in particular were excellent with the spread sheets. Speedy and accurate. I'll be sending you more of that kind of work and we'll see how you do. At the end of the week, come to my office and we'll talk about your progress."

And with that, our little chat is over. I don't know how to react. I'm exhausted and the thought that I have to do more work even after an assistant has been hired is hugely disappointing. For the rest of the day I work mostly on spreadsheets and answering emails-- almost no time writing or following trends, which is the kind of work I love. By the end of the day I'm in a daze. 

I'm so lost in my own thoughts that I don't even realize Emma is still there when I get back to the apartment. 

"Hi," she says when she sees me. "Long day at work?"

"Considering I was two hours late and it's six now, yeah, I'm pretty tired," I reply. I don't mean to be snappy but I can hear how rude it sounds. I try to remedy it. "How are you?"

Emma shrugs. "Same old, same old."

What does that mean? I want to ask. We haven't seen each other in weeks.

"Well, do you work tonight? I could really use a movie night."

Emma shakes her head. "DJ and I are going to dinner."  

I can't stop what comes out next. "So does he live here now or what?"

Emma raises her eyebrows. "Excuse me?"

I shake my head. "Em, I'm sorry. That came out wrong. I'm having a horrible week and I just feel like I haven't seen you in forever. I didn't mean it like that."

"How did you mean it, then?" She asks. "We work different schedules, Ryan. It's not my fault I'm busier now that I have DJ."

"I know," I tell her. "I just miss you."

"Well how do you think I felt when you were with Cam?" Emma challenges me. I'm stumped for a moment. Had I acted how she's acting now? "Besides, you're the one that wanted me to give DJ a chance, and now that we're together, you're suddenly jealous?"

"I'm not jealous!" I burst. "That's not it at all. I just miss you. We don't know anything about each other's lives. I never see you. When I was with Cam, we still saw each other. We still talked. Now it feels like I live alone! You don't even know that I've been on a few dates with a new guy."

Emma shakes her head. "It's always about you," she says quietly. "When have you asked about DJ and I? Do you even know his last name?"

I don't, but I do know that she's been ignoring me. "It's not like you're ever around so I can ask about him," I say. 

"Sorry that I have a life and I'm happy." She picks up her phone, which is lit up and making noise. "I have to go."

"Emma," I say desperately. "I want you to be happy. But I also miss you and want us to be able to talk, and hang out, and see each other for more than two minutes every couple days. That's all."

She doesn't say anything, and in a few seconds is gone, the door closing loudly behind her. I stand, looking at where she was just moments before, not sure what just happened. Have I really been a terrible friend all these weeks? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


There's a first time for everything; I arrive before Bryan does at basil, where we'll have our second date. Usually I'm too nervous to arrive first. There's so much pressure: where do you sit? How do you react when they first walk in? But tonight I'm too tired and distracted by my last encounter with Emma to care. 

I snag a window table even though I'm offered a booth. I'm not usually one to turn a booth down, but tonight I want to people-watch. 

Bryan arrives within five minutes. He's walked too, instead of taking his motorcycle. That must mean he lives close by, I muse. I'm still thinking about Emma and DJ when he walks in, but I plaster a smile on my face when he sees me. 

"Hey!" He's practically beaming. That makes my smile a little more genuine. I can't help it--he looks happy. He really does deserve my full attention, so I push Emma from my mind. For now. 

"You can sit down, you know," I joke. He's still standing. At that, he turns a little pink and quickly sits. 

"Sorry," he apologizes, "I have a lot on my mind. After you called it was a hell of a day." 

I raise my eyebrows. "Same here," I tell him. "But at least we're on the same page. If I'm grumpy or distant, you'll have to forgive me." 

"You don't seem grumpy at all." Nice of h to say. I'm sure my bitchface is going strong, so I try to relax for him. 

"I'm guessing you don't want to talk about work then, huh?"

Bryan shakes his head. "And I'm guessing you don't want to talk about what's wrong either?"

I shake my head and laugh a little. "Not at all," I say. 

He leans in a little. "So, Ryan," he says," what is your most embarrassing memory?"

I have to admit, I'm startled. No one has ever asked me that before. "Well," I say slowly, "probably the day my group of friends in high school went skiing. I'd never been, but was too proud to take an introductory course or even start on the bunny slopes." As I tell the story, the memory came back with strange accuracy, as though I'm reliving the embarrassment. I go into extreme detail, telling him how I was absolutely terrified going on the ski lift and was sure I would fall off. He's already laughing when I tell him how I got off the chair completely unscathed, only to completely wipe out not fifteen feet from the top of the hill. I had to have an emergency snowmobile retrieve me from the hilltop. 

By the end of the story, Bryan is cracking up. I have to admit, I feel good about myself. I love making people laugh. 

"Wow," he says, still grinning. "Mine pales in comparison."

"Don't think that means you won't have to tell me!" I say. 

With a heaving fake sigh, Bryan tells me how he walked in on his freshman roommate watching porn in the dorm. I gasp as he describes the shock, and how neither of them really looked at each other for the rest of the year. 

"That's mortifying," I say once the story is over. "But at least it wasn't you watching porn."

"I almost wish it had been," he admits. "I felt like the voyeur while he got to act wounded."

After our stories there is a pleasant lull in the conversation as we eat our respective pad Thai. I'm glad for the silence, and even happier that it doesn't make things awkward between us. 

"So I was thinking," Bryan says, swallowing a bite, "that next time we see each other I can take you out on my bike."

I can't help it-- I clap my hands excitedly like a child. "No way! Really?" I'm almost embarrassed at my reaction but too thrilled to care. "Do you mind? Wait! Do you have an extra helmet?"

Bryan laughs at my reaction. "Yes, I do. Safety first for my passengers." 

"I'd love that," I say. "If you couldn't already tell." 

"I thought you would," he says, smiling. "A little bit more adventurous than a dinner date, right?"

"But I love food," I say, deadpan. For a minute he looks surprised, but then realizes I'm joking. 

"We'll get mcdonalds afterward. Good compromise?"

I nod. "Perfect."

When I look outside I'm surprised to see how dark it is. I check my watch: 9:45. "Wow," I say, surprised. "It's late!"

Bryan pulls his phone out of his pocket to check the time. That's another thing I like about him--he kept his phone away throughout the whole dinner. "We're really closing this place down."

As I look around I see it's true. There are only a few other tables still occupied, and most of them are paying their bill. 

"Maybe we should take the hint," Bryan suggests. 

He pays for dinner, like a gentleman, though I offer to split the bill, like a lady. He even offers to walk me home, and this time I accept. 

We don't talk much on the way to my apartment; instead, we point out the gorgeous full moon and comment on how nice of a night it is. Before I know it, we've reached my apartment complex. 

"Well," I say, turning to face Bryan, "I had a lot of fun tonight."

"Me too," he agrees, "and I'll never look at a ski lift the same way again."

I laugh a little. Honestly I'm surprised at how well tonight went. I'd been in a bad mood, and he'd had a bad day as well, but for what reason, I don't know. That could have been a mood killer, but instead we'd been talkative and lighthearted, which is exactly what I needed. 

I realize I've been quiet for a moment, but right as I'm about to open my mouth to say something, Bryan leans in and kisses me. It's a soft kiss, quick and sweet. I can feel him smile when he pulls away. 

"I'll see you soon," he tells me, and it sounds like a promise.  

I smile in the dark. I'm definitely ready for date three. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Growing Apart

After Marie's announcement, I didn't think any more surprises were in store for me that week. I was wrong; lo and behold, come Thursday evening, I had a missed call from Bryan. 

Interesting, I think. A missed call, not a text. I've almost forgotten how to talk on the phone to guys I may be interested in! 

I call him back right after work, as I'm sitting in my car in the parking lot. When he answers, I'd be lying if I said my stomach didn't do a little flip in excitement.

"Hi," I say. "It's Ryan."

"Hey!" I can hear his smile in his voice, and for some reason that calms me. "How was your day?"

"Not terrible. It's over now, so I'm ready to go home and eat!"

Bryan laughs. "That's the best way I can think of to spend the evening." He pauses for a second. "So I was thinking that I'd like to see you again. I had fun meeting you the other night."

While he's talking, I get a little bit of a sinking feeling in my stomach. While I'd liked talking with Bryan, I almost hadn't expected him to contact me again. It's been almost a week since our first date, if you can call it that, and after the first few days I didn't expect him to call. But now that he's on the phone with me, I don't know how to feel. 

"Maybe we could go out to basil?" He suggests. Basil is an amazing Thai place, and I can feel my mouth start to water. 

"That sounds amazing," I hear myself say. 

"I can pick you up," he offers. 

"Actually, I'd rather walk. It's a beautiful night." I may have met Bryan in person last week, but he still could be a serial killer or a weirdo. Second dates are still all about solo transportation. 

Bryan doesn't seem bothered. "Sounds good. I'll see you at 7:30?"

"7:30," I repeat. 

We hang up, and I try not to think about it the whole way home. I'm hoping Emma will be at the apartment so I can talk with her about it. We haven't seen each other for more than a few minutes in weeks--our schedules usually don't match up, and she's been with DJ a lot recently. I do miss her, though, and sometimes it feels like I'm living alone. 

I don't get my wish. The apartment is empty and eerily quiet. Emma left the light on in our shared bathroom, and I walk in. Her makeup, as usual, is strewn all over the counter. We have limited space, so I barely have room for my toothbrush. This used to bother me, back when Emma and I were roommates in college, but now looking at her blush covering the counter with pink powder makes me ache. I miss my best friend. 

Turning off the light in our bathroom, I go to my room and half-heartedly pick out an outfit. A dress, because it's an easy choice and I know it looks good on me. I don't even put it on--I just flop face-first on my bed. 

This second date has been weighing on my mind a little. How am I supposed to start dating again if I still think about Cam sometimes? A few first dates wouldn't kill me, because who doesn't like knowing they're attractive? But what if this thing with Bryan becomes more than just a few dates? I'm not sure if I'm ready for any kind of commitment. 

Then again, maybe I'm being stupid. I can't torture myself by thinking so far in the future. Who knows! Maybe Bryan will stand me up tonight. Maybe we'll have horrible conversation and the first date was a fluke. I can't plan out what will happen, so I might as well suck it up and go. It's not like I have Emma to hang out with right, anyway, I think sullenly. 

I don't even know her work schedule anymore. The thought saddens me, since I used to know every nuance in her schedule. 

Just as I think that, the door to my apartment opens. I sit up quickly; it's Emma! 

I practically jump out of bed and rush to the front door. It's Emma all right. She sees me and grins. 

"Where's the fire?"

I laugh. I feel like I should hug her. "I'm just excited! I haven't seen you in days!"

"I know!" Emma runs her fingers through her hair, and I notice she's cut it. It's subtle, but I'm shocked I didn't notice it earlier. 

"When did you get your hair cut?" I ask.

She shrugs. "Just a few days ago. It was just a trim, but it feels so short!"

I feel guilty for not noticing, but then I remember that I haven't seen her in days. "It looks great," I tell her. Suddenly I'm inspired. "Hey, I technically have a date tonight, but it's no big deal and I can probably just reschedule. We could grab some takeout and watch movies tonight if you--" Before I can finish my sentence, the front door opens again. I know who it is before I see him. 

"Ready?" DJ's smiling face pokes through the door. He spots me. "Oh hey Ryan." 

I force a grin. "Hey. Date night?"

Emma's walking to her bedroom. "Yeah!" She shouts from her closet. She emerges a few seconds later in a new outfit. I recognize the necklace she's wearing as mine, but don't say anything. Emma turns to me. "DJ and I have already had this planned. Let's hang out this weekend though! I feel like I haven't seen you in ages!"

And with that flippant statement, she's out the door. I barely saw her for three minutes. For some reason, this whole situation makes me want to cry. It shouldn't be a big deal. We're both busy, and I can't expect to spend every waking minute with Emma. Still, it feels a little like rejection. 

I let myself be hurt for a few minutes, and then I straighten up and change into my dress. I have a date tonight, too. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Secret's Out

Kolby and I sit across from one another, neither of us touching the appetizer we ordered. The soft pretzels with special dipping sauces were supposed to calm our stomachs and our nerves, but instead I feel nauseas just looking at the food. I can tell by the way that she's ripping at her napkin that Kolby feels the same way. 

"She'll be here any minute," I say quietly. Kolby nods. Both of us have been on edge and not very talkative all night. 

Tonight is the night we'll tell Marie that her ex, Liam, cheated on her. Even though it was my idea to tell her what we knew, I have no idea how to do it. Kolby and I arrived at the meeting place early, in order to plan. Instead, we fed off of each other's nervous energy. How do you tell a close friend something that might break their heart/send them into a spiraling depression/make them question everything about their last relationship? It feels a lot like playing God, and I'm not fond of the power trip. 

Kolby, who is facing the door, widens her eyes. I know Marie has just arrived. 

"Act natural," Kolby hisses out of the corner of her mouth. Normally that would be funny, but not now. 

"Hey guys." Marie smiles brightly. She looks good--her hair is shiny, nails are done, and her outfit is spot on. "Am I late?" 

I shake my head and see Kolby doing the same. Neither of us speaks for a moment, so I clear my throat. 

"We ordered these pretzel things if you went some." Okay, okay, so not the best opening line. Even though Kolby is anxious, she rolls her eyes at me. I can practically hear her saying "Really? That's the best you can do?"

"I love your skirt," I say, and it's true. Marie brightens and sits down next to me. 

"Thank you!" She launches into the story of where she got it, and it's all so strange. She's the bubbly one, and I sit there like a bump on a log, unable to speak. Meanwhile, Kolby looks green. It just isn't fair, I think. Here's Marie, and amazing friend and all-around sweetheart, happily going about her day and I have to ruin it. I bet she's just starting to get over Liam. Maybe she's still seeing that guy she met at the club. And now we have to pull her back into some drama that she doesn't deserve. 

I glance up at Kolby while Marie is still talking. At this point I don't even know what Marie is saying, I'm so wound up, and I feel like a terrible friend. 

"Marie," Kolby interrupts, and I know what she's about to do. "Ryan and I kind of planned this dinner for a reason. We haven't seen you in a while and, well, there's a few things we want to talk to you about."

The smile that was still on Marie's face fades slowly as she looks from Kolby to me. "What is it?" she asks in a low voice. For a moment, she looks stricken. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, no, not at all," I say in what I hope is an assuring voice. Oh God. It really is now or never. And since I was the one who thought all along that Marie should know, I suck in my breath and look at her in the eyes. 

"Marie, a couple months ago I ran into Liam. He was with a woman." Marie's lips tighten a little, but she doesn't say anything. "This was after you broke up. Naturally I was really curious, but I didn't do anything then." I notice as I'm talking that I've grabbed my straw from my water and have bent it completely out of shape. Kolby's napkin is torn to shreds. Neither of us want to do this. 

"Later, I saw him again. With the same girl."

This time Marie speaks up. "So?" She snaps. "I've been seeing other people. So what if he does too?" Through her angry exterior, I can tell she's hurt. 

"Marie, the problem is, he wasn't just seeing her after you two broke up," Kolby says, her voice barely above a whisper. 

At first, Marie looks confused, and then she gets it. Her face drains of all color and she looks stricken. 

So I tell her everything. How I had been talking about their relationship after seeing Liam out with the woman. How he'd overheard me and spilled the beans about his cheating, thinking that I'd already known. What I didn't say is how haunted I was by this information. I knew it would hurt Marie if she found out, but I hadn't anticipated how much keeping the secret would hurt me. 

After everything is out in the open, Marie stares down at the table. She isn't crying, as far as I can tell, but I'm sure she wants to. I grab her hand and hold it quietly.

"I'm so, so sorry, Marie," Kolby says gently. "I wish this didn't have to happen. But Ryan was right. You needed to know."

Marie nods slowly. She hasn't looked at either of us yet. 

"We're here for you no matter what," I say. "If you want to go home and think, that's totally fine. We've got your back. And if you want to talk, we're here too." Kolby nods. 

"We can buy you ice cream, if you want!" Kolby suggests. Marie smiles a tiny bit. 

Then she surprises the both of us by laughing. She leans back in her chair and laughs, and at first I think she's crying. But no--she rests her hands on her belly and giggles and the tears that come from her eyes aren't sobs of sadness or shame.

"Marie?" I ask, stunned. 

Marie wipes a tear away and looks at Kolby. 

"I know this is a lot to take in," Kolby says carefully. She's just as confused as I am. 

Marie shakes her head. "This is just so ridiculous. I don't even know what to do with this information."

"I know," Kolby agrees fiercely. "He's a jerk, a real jerk, and you deserve so much more, and I know right now it absolutely blows but we can toilet paper his apartment or something, let the air out of his tires--"

Marie holds her hand up and says "stop." Kolby quiets down mid-rant. Marie sighs. "I have something to tell you, too."

I raise my eyebrows. This meeting is not at all going as planned. 

Marie looks from Kolby to me and says, "I've been avoiding you lately, and it's time you know the truth. I said I was dating people, and it's true. But not that guy I met at the club."

I remember how shady Marie had acted about her dates. I'd thought something was up, but hadn't pushed her about it. 

"So you're dating some other guy? Or lots of people? Nothing wrong with dating a few guys at once," Kolby says. 

Marie smiles a little. "I know. Actually, I did go on a couple dates with that guy from the bars. But it didn't go anywhere, because I started dating someone else."

Kolby claps her hands a little. I grin. So Marie is back on the market! This is great news. 

"Who is it?" Kolby asks, barely able to contain her excitement.

"Her name is Alyssa," Marie says. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dating Distractions

I dab on a little lipstick, careful to stay within the lines of my lips. Once, in an effort to make my lips appear plumper, I'd applied lipstick just slightly outside my lip line. Or so I'd thought. I ended up looking like an even puffier-lipped Angelina Jolie without the killer cheekbones, and everyone noticed. I looked more plastic surgery than glamorous. Needless to say, I've been wary of lipstick ever since. 

But this date with Bryan is the first I've gone on in a while. I'm just as nervous as I am excited. I don't exactly remember the etiquette-- is kissing on the first date okay or weird? Either way, I want to discourage him from kissing me, even if we do hit it off. I'm sure lipstick will do the trick. 

Stepping back a little, I admire myself in the full length mirror. Since it's gotten horribly hot and humid in Columbus, I'm wearing a flowy, bohemian top and cut off jean shorts. Not trying too hard, I suspect. 

I fluff my hair and grab my wristlet. Time to go. 

I purposefully leave a little late so I'm not the first one there. I don't want to look anxious, and even though I studied his picture before I got ready, I don't know if I'll recognize Bryan right away. Id rather let him seek me out. 

The coffee shop is just a short walk from my apartment, so I'm there in five minutes. I straighten my shirt before walking in, and I'm not surprised to feel a ball of nerves starting to form in my stomach. What if this date is a trainwreck?

Walking in, I only see older men, many with graying hair and bad sport coats. The ball of nerves grows and my palms start to sweat. Looking around, I wonder if I'm here before Bryan. Did my plan backfire? Or did I get stood up? 

As casually as possible, I walk to the counter to look at the menu. The clever coffee names don't faze me, and I can't help but glance around. Calm down, calm down, I tell myself over and over. 

"Ryan?" I turn, and the nerves almost completely dissolve when I recognize the face the voice belongs to. He's tall, muscular but not too built, and just as good-looking as the man in the photos. Phew. 

I smile. "That's me." I'm not sure if I should shake his hand, so I clasp the two of mine together. "Did you just get here?" 

"No." He points to a table nestled in the corner. "I'm sitting there. I saw you walk in."

"Oh." I'm still smiling, so I clear my throat. Is this awkward? Is it too soon to be awkward? Maybe my relief was too premature. "What did you get to drink?"

"Nothing," Bryan tells me. "I was waiting for you."

For some reason, the way he says it makes me blush. "Well I'm kind of a plain Jane," I say. "I just want black coffee." 

Bryan orders a cinnamon coffee-- called Cinna, Mon-- and it comes in a mug with the Jamaican flag on it. I can't help but laugh. I'm so busy admiring the cup that I don't realize Bryan has paid for my drink. 

"Oh, man, you really didn't have to do that," I say, surprised. 

He waves his hand. "No big deal. Let's go sit." 

Once we're seated, I ask Bryan how his day has been. With a little laugh and a roll of his eyes, he tells me that it was stressful. He works at a car repair place on the weekends since he's paying off--get this--his own house.

"Wow." I can't help but be impressed. And as he tells me more, I'm in awe. He's an engineer who works for Toyota, which already means he makes a lot of money. He just bought a house and a motorcycle, "which may have been over ambitious," he admits with a shrug. 

"I think it's incredible," I say earnestly. "I've never met someone who owns their own house by twenty five. Well, besides my aunt and uncle, but they got married and had two kids by twenty five." As soon as the words leave my mouth, I regret it. Way to talk about marriage and kids on a first date. "Seriously, that's impressive," I tell Bryan. 

"Thanks!" I can tell he's being serious. "So you're a writer, right?" 

I perk up a little at that. I had mentioned to him that I work in fashion and that my job is a lot of writing and editing, but it was just a quick statement. I'm surprised he remembered. 

"Yeah, I love fashion and art and working, so my job is pretty much perfect for me.l I smile. "It's a lot of work and definitely not as lucrative as engineering, but it's worth it for a job I enjoy most days." 

"That's awesome!" 

Bryan and I spend the next hour talking and sipping our drinks. He even lets me try his, which is delicious and surprisingly mellow. He's not quite as hilarious as Cam--something I can't help but think--but he's a nice guy and he seems humble and sweet. 

I find out he rode his motorcycle to our date and as soon as our drinks are finished, the mugs empty, I ask to see it. 

It's a beauty. I know nothing about motorcycles, but I can tell he takes care of it. The paint is fresh and shiny, and there's not a scratch anywhere. 

"Wow. Safe driver, huh?" 

Bryan smiles shyly. "I guess so." He puts his hands in his pocket and watches me quietly while I circle the bike, admiring it. 

"This is awesome," I declare. "I've always wanted to learn how to drive one of these."

"I bet you could," Bryan says. "A crotxh rocket like this, they're easy to drive. Harleys are heavier but steadier. The weight might be a bit much for you though." He clears his throat. "Sorry. Nerded out a little there."

"No, no, I like it!" I assure him, grinning. I step towards him. "I want to know all this. It's fascinating."

"Maybe I can give you a ride someday," he offers. I'm not sure if it's just politeness driving the statement, or if he wants to see me again.

"I had a great time tonight," I say. 

"Me too," Bryan agrees. "I'll walk you to your car?"

"I walked, actually." I turn down his offer to drive me home. "Maybe next time," I tell him. 

He doesnt try to kiss me--my lipstick trick worked!--but I do get a hug. I catch a whiff of pine, not like a car freshener but real, like trees on a crisp winter morning. For a moment, I want to bury my face closer to him. 

I step back though, and smile back up at him. "Thanks for the coffee, Bryan." 

After I see him drive away, I walk slowly back to my apartment. It's undeniable--I had a good time. Maybe sparks didn't fly and there wasn't any movie-quality chemistry, but that's not always necessary. We hadn't promised to call each other, and I'm not even sure if date two will happen. But even though my mind drifted to Cam every once on a while, it was a good distraction. 

And if I'm being honest, that distraction makes all the scariness and uncertainty of dating again worth it. I wouldn't mind seeing Bryan and his motorcycle again. 

Authors note: Thanks again for being so patient, everyone!! My vacation is over and I'm back to the real world, but it feels good to write again. How has everyone been? Have any of you been to any cool places this summer? I'd love to hear about it! Happy Saturday!!