Saturday night came fast, almost too fast for Chase.
While he had been excited about the date with Piper, the closer it came, the more nervous he got to the point that he wanted make up some lie to postpone.
But he hadn’t. On shaky knees he had walked up to the door of her apartment, a single red rose in hand, had knocked and sucked the air sharply when she opened.
She looked breathtaking and his shaky knees got weak.
You can do this! PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, CAMERON! he yelled at himself in his mind as she greeted him and invited him inside, standing in her hallway he forced a smile, then labored out a compliment while holding up the rose
“You look ravenous.”
She took the flower, laughed out loud, then said.
“I think you meant ravishing, and thank you! Besides, I am getting to the ravenous point as well so you were right after all about that too.” amused, she giggled, as Chase was blushing.
Great start, he thought, upset at himself about using the wrong adjective when trying to compliment her.
Chase looked around her apartment nervously. He had been almost fine as he was on his way to pick her up, the anticipation of seeing Piper again had taken over and faded the nervousness out, until he arrived at her address and recognized the building as the one Emma lived in. Worse yet, same floor. They were neighbors. Literally. Emma’s door was straight across the hall from Piper’s.
Thanks fate! Screw you, too! Chase thought.
“Tell you a secret, Chase. You are not the only one nervous here. It hit me when I realized a guy I barely know is on his way over to my apartment, he has the address and I am about to get in a car with him to go to have dinner wherever, all that in a town where nobody knows me, no friends, no family. If that is what all the other girls do, I don’t have to wonder about the high crime rates and rapes all the times.”
Her candor and the realization that this probably was, indeed, awkward for both of them relaxed Chase somewhat.
“Well, if it makes you feel better, you know where I work, and I promise not to rape you if you promise not to be some mad serial killer with a solid hatred for all men.”
“Deal! So what is recommendable at the restaurant you are taking me to, Chase?”
“To tell you the truth, I have no idea. Never been. I know it is fancy and expensive, so it must be good.”
“Oh boy. Look Chase, since we hardly know anything about each other, unlike most people, who met somewhere in person and already have a basic idea what each of them is like and enjoys, before they ever go on a date, let’s do this differently. Take me to a place you know and like instead. Something that kinda screams ‘Chase’. Will you do that?”
“Why not go to one of your favorite places? I’d like to get to know you better too.”
“Well, Einstein, do you not realize that this apartment is freshly painted and furnished? I just moved here not even quite two months ago and hit the ground running by spending almost every hour working. I was transferred here from Avalon’s Sunnyvale office. So I have had no time to go out at all, which means unless you want to order in or have something out of a microwave for our dinner date, I won’t be any help at all.”
“Oh. What kind of foods do you like?”
“All of them. Seriously Chase, take me somewhere that means something to you, so I can get a bit of a picture of who you might be. A glimpse at the real you. I don’t care about the restaurant itself, I want to get to know Chase.”
“All right, I know just the place. You may be sorry you suggested that, but it at least is close by, here in San Myshuno. We can pretty much walk there from here, if you are up for it.”
“I am up for it! Lead the way, Monsieur!”
“Avec plaisier, Mademoiselle.”
“Ooh, he knows French. I am impressed.”
“Only be a little impressed. I only know a little. That may well have already been most of it actually.”
They walked over to the restaurant mile in the Spice District, truly just a stone throw away from the building Piper lived in, and with a balmy, pleasant Spring evening it was an enjoyable stroll over, taking in the sights and sounds of the city while knowing neither of them was enjoying the lovely evening alone tonight.
Soon they arrived at a brightly illuminated place, where they were seated quickly.
Glancing over the menu, Piper smiled.
“Color me impressed, Chase. This is a very interesting place indeed.”
“They call it a Mediterranean-Asian fusion. Food’s really good and my parents have been taking my sister and me here since we were little. Every milestone in my life was celebrated right here at that table over there.” Chase pointed.
“That one?” Piper confirmed smiling.
Chase nodded, then Piper waved the waiter over and requested them to be re-seated to that very table. Chase smiled, shaking his head, but said nothing.
Piper smiled at him from across the table and said
“Here’s to bending the odds in our favor. Hopefully this night will be memorable too.”
“Already is …” Chase confirmed. He meant it.
The meal was good, the conversation avid without uncomfortable pauses, they went on a little stroll by the harbor afterwards, before he walked her home. At her door she turned around, smiled at him and Chase felt comfortable enough for the obligatory goodnight kiss, which ended up a lot more intense than anticipated and sent those jolts of electricity through him.
“Thank you, Chase, for a truly enjoyable night. This was, by far, the best date I have ever been on. You really are a remarkable guy, once you get over your odd inhibitions. Let’s do this again soon, if you want to, of course.” she told him afterwards.
“Oh, I want to. Very much want to.” he smiled, his words purposely a hint to his dorky behavior when they met at the lab, which she caught on to and giggled.
“Good night Chase.”
Both smiling, Chase watched her walk inside, before she closed the door and Chase exhaled staring at it for a while, secretly hoping it would reopen and he’d be invited in to stay. But no such luck. Once it was shut, it remained that way. Not even some faint stirring from behind telling him she may be standing on the other side, feeling just as regretful, confused and sad that it was already over.
After staring at it for a few minutes that felt like hours, he called defeat. He hadn’t been ready to end the night, it had been too nice, now it felt like a movie without a conclusive ending.
Just left hanging in the air wondering if this counted as a good date or not.
Questioning if she really did mean that she enjoyed herself, that she really liked him and wanted to see him again or if she was just complimenting him out the door for good. Maybe her words sounded just a little too well put together, like a very politically correct way to blow him off. She was highly professional and that would be something she would be good at.
Disappointed he turned to walk to the elevator, pushed the button, while pacing up and down the short hallway waiting for the geriatric elevator to make it up to this floor, he glanced at Emma’s door, then back at Piper’s. He could tell Emma was home by the faint sounds of the TV coming from inside and a little light shining from underneath the door.
The elevator seemed to have gotten lost trying to reach this floor, when Chase ran out of patience and the inner tension he felt got the best of him, he hit the wall next to it with his flat hand.
“Oh screw it!” then turned, gently knocked on the door. The OTHER door. Emma’s door.
It was opened not long after, he was pulled inside. No questions were asked, no assumptions made about him being all dressed up.
Emma shut the door behind him and immediately kissed him.
As he was enjoying this, which lead further quickly, with neither of them speaking a single word, he was feeling guilty until he remembered that Piper told him that she had contacted two other guys on that dating site. Who was to say that she wasn’t still shopping around and that she was going on more dates with other men, not just him? Maybe she did invite some other guy – or guys – inside and was too worn out from all that tonight. She did seem quite a bit out of his league, if Chase was honest with himself. Way too mature and composed, while he often still appeared immature like a college boy.
So, until she would signal him that she was interested in more, why should he be living on a hope and a prayer?
So he didn’t. With Emma’s readily available assistance.
The following day, Sunday in the early afternoon, Chase finally couldn’t take it anymore.
“Dad … do you have a moment to talk? About something that stays between us. Just us, not mom, Kiera, grandpa, uncle Eli …” Chase asked his father.
The rest of the family was not home, his dad was dealing with some paperwork, which he had spread across the dining room table.
“Sure! Sounds almost as concerning as that doomsday look on your face. Everything all right, kiddo?” Blake gestured at the chair across from him and Chase sat down.
“Yeah, just … I could use some sound male advice. About girls and dating and … oh, I don’t know.”
“Oh goodie. Sounds big. Shoot, son, I promise you the utmost confidence.” Blake frowned, because in his experience this could really be anything, from simple first heartbreak over an unexpected pregnancy to some potential life and death situation and anything in between.
“Okay. You know the dating thing has been my Achilles heel. To make a long story short, now it has kinda turned into the opposite and worst of all, I am even more confused now than ever before. First I had no girl, and now there are three I like. A lot. Well, two I like a lot that could potentially be more. One pretty much already told me all she wants is … you know … THAT.”
Chase sounded affected, but Blake could now tell what this was really about, that it was pretty much harmless, and felt relieved, without giving the appearance that he wasn’t taking his son’s problems seriously.
“Oh boy! I guess it’s true what they say about silent waters. So you have a girl you just … do it with and nothing else? Well, that’s your thing, kid, just be sure to keep yourself wrapped up where it counts before you get ecstatic with the girl. Assume that is not the one you were all giddy about seeing last night?”
“Oh no! Piper is different. Classy. Very smart. I can just talk and no matter what words I use, she understands and I never have to over-explain anything, she just gets it and does not think I am just showing off. We are totally on the same wavelength on many things. I thought the date went great, but after I walked her home, we kissed, she said a few really nice things, then shut the door. That’s when I started doubting everything, and above all, myself. What if she thought I was boring and immature and that was her way to kick me to the curb? And then I kinda may have gone to the other girl I mentioned to … you know .. work off some of the … ahem … ‘inspiration’ looking at Piper looking stunning all night might have given me …. And now I feel like shit about that, even though Piper and I are not exclusive by any means. She said she wanted to see me again, and I hope she meant it, but … right now, I have nothing to show for. Zero. And it’s making me crazy.”
“Oh Chase! I didn’t realize you were already quite emotionally invested with Piper. Careful not to get too carried away in either direction too quickly, son. The apple really does not fall far from the pear tree. You may have the intelligence from your mom and grandpa, but I hope you didn’t inherit the dumbassery if it comes to dating and suitable versus unsuitable actions from me.”
“Dad, dating isn’t something genetic, you cannot …”
“Oh, shut up, you smartass! I know that. It’s called a joke. I am dead-serious now when I tell you to tread lightly on that terrain. If that one girl, Piper, really likes you and you her, you HAVE to stop seeing that other girl before you take that further or it will come back and bite you in the ass. But right now there is no need for you to feel bad, if you ask me. Right now you are just testing the waters. Until she lets you know she is truly interested in more with you, I wouldn’t rack my brain too much about that steamy night, kiddo.”
“Oh, you haven’t even heard the full story, dad. It gets more convoluted. That means, worse, basically.” Chase grinned when he explained the word as a tease for his dad, who was a lot more educated than he often let on.
“Aren’t we funny? And by funny I mean you may be looking for your own place soon if you keep that up. Smartassery towards your dear old dad is also not a smart move if you want good advice from him. All joking aside now, how much worse are we talking?”
“Not sure yet. When I went to Zach and Bryce’s housewarming I met a girl. Their neighbor, Kaydence, and she is really pretty, fun, nice … and we hung out all night. We exchanged numbers and she just texted me, wanting to go out tonight to a club. Now I don’t know what to say?”
“Say yes and I will drive you, cos I don’t think I have ever seen you dance since you were about 5 and cannot even imagine what that must look like, you dork.” Blake laughed, earning himself a frown from his son, who was trying to suppress a smile.
“Focus, dad. You can abuse me later. I need real advice now. What do I do?”
“Easy. Go out with her! You said you liked her. You do not have to take the very first girl who gives you the time of day and be celibate before you even know for sure that she is interested to take things further with you. Shop around, as I am sure she does too. See how that Kay measures up. And to be on the safe side, grab a pack of little raincoats for your little downstairs Chase before you leave, so if the Kaydence date tanks, you go see that between-the-sheets-gal to drain some frustration and the night wasn’t wasted.” Blake smirked.
“Dad! Why can’t you be more normal-dad-like sometimes? I am pretty sure grandpa wouldn’t have advised you to go and nail some chick if another date doesn’t go well.”
“No, dad wouldn’t have, but my grandpa would – and has. He is the one who taught me a lot of life’s realities that other dads may just gloss over, among it all that condoms are very important, and they are. And he also taught me that the heart will let you know when you are done playing, you just have to pay attention and listen to it when that time comes.”
“All that advice sounds like something you would come up with.”
“That, my son, is the best compliment you could have ever given me.” Blake was sincere about it and seemed to get nostalgic for a moment, before he grinned at Chase again.
“Look kid. I can see why you came to me with this and not your mom. I know you go to her for all other advice, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, cos my Hailz always knew better how life was supposed to work than I ever will. But the truth is, you very rarely know if someone is ‘the one’ right away. That is movies only, and take it from someone who once made his living trying to sell that kinda snake oil, even in fake that ain’t easy. You and Piper may happen, or you two may not. Maybe that Kay is the girl for you. Or maybe, just maybe, that chick you dance the bedroom mambo with ends up changing her mind and you end up riding off into the sunset with her. Or maybe it will be somebody else. You won’t know until you try, but it does take two and more than one or two dates to figure it out. Significantly more, Chase.
If Piper feels there may be more, you will know before long. If Kay strikes your fancy and you hers, she’ll let you know – in due time. That is all you can be sure of at this point. Anything beyond that would be nothing but speculation and maybe wishful thinking. So, text that girl back and go embarrass yourself on that dance floor, hoping she is too lost in those baby blues of yours to notice you probably look like an monkey with his tail stuck in an electric socket when you try to dance.”
Father and son laughed, which lightened the moods of both.
Chase immediately pulled out his phone, typing a reply to Kaydence.
Blake said nothing, just shook his head, smirking, while returning his attention to the dull, bone-dry paperwork at hand, knowing his son was a great kid and feeling content that he had a hand in that very fact.