“Okay,” he said, as we made our waiter’s day by finally leaving, “in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I was a little wary about this.”
“In the interest of full disclosure,” I replied, “I would say that you were not alone in that feeling.”
As we reached the car, he surprised me by unlocking my door, then holding it open as I climbed in. Nice, I thought, as he walked around to the driver’s side. Very nice.
“So, if this had been a total disaster,” he said as he got in, “I’d tell you I had a great time, then take you home, walk you to your door, and run every stop sign on the way out of your neighborhood.”
“Classy,” I said.
“But,” he went on, “since it wasn’t, I was wondering if you wanted to go to a party with me. Some friends of mine are having a pool thing. You interested?”
I considered my options. So far, it had been a good night. A good date. Nothing had happened that I would regret, or have to think about too much later. It was all going by the book, but for some reason I couldn’t shake what my mother had said to me from my mind. Maybe I did hold the world at arm’s length, and so far it had worked for me. But you just never knew.
“Sure,” I said. “Let’s go.”
“Great.” He smiled, then cranked the engine. As he started to back out, I caught him glancing over at me, and knew, right then, that already things were in motion. It was funny how easy it was to start again, after only three weeks. I’d thought Dexter would affect me more, change me, but here I was with another boy in another car, the cycle starting all over again. Dexter was the different one, the aberration. This was what I was used to, and it was good to be back on a sure footing again.
“Man,” Lissa said, dipping a fry into her ketchup, “it’s like you special-ordered him or something. How is that?”
I smiled, sipping on my Diet Coke. “Just lucky, I guess.”
“He’s totally cute.” Lissa stuffed another fry in her mouth. “God, all the good ones are taken, aren’t they?”
“So does this whining,” Jess asked Lissa, “mean that KaBoom P.J. has a girlfriend?”
“Don’t call him that,” Lissa said sulkily, eating another fry. “And they’ve already broken up once this summer. She hasn’t come to a single event, either.”
“Bitch,” Jess said, and I laughed out loud.
“The point is,” Lissa continued, ignoring us, “that it’s just not fair that I’ve been dumped and now the guy I like is unavailable while Remy gets not only fun band boyfriend but now cute college boyfriend. It’s not right.” She ate another fry. “And, I can’t stop eating. Not that anybody cares, since I’m completely unlovable anyway.”
“Oh, please,” Jess grumbled. “Get out the violin.”
“Fun band boyfriend?” I said.
“Dexter was nice,” she told me, wiping her mouth. “And now you have perfect Paul too. And all I’ve got is an endless supply of KaBoom and the appetite of a truck driver.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a healthy appetite,” Jess told her. “Guys like a few curves.”
“I have curves already,” Lissa replied. “What’s next? Clumps?” Chloe, the thinnest of all of us, snorted at this. “That’s one word for it.”
Lissa sighed, shoving her tray away and wiping her hands on a napkin. “I gotta go. I’m due at the Tri-Country track meet in fifteen minutes. We’re KaBooming the all-state athletes.”
“Well,” Jess said dryly, “be sure to wear protection.”
Lissa made a face. She was over the KaBoom jokes, but they were just too easy.
Back at work, Paul dropped by to see me on his way home from his life-guarding job at the Y. I couldn’t help but notice a couple of bridesmaids waiting for prewedding manicures ogle him a bit as he came in, tanned and smelling like suntan lotion and chlorine.
“Hey,” he said, and I stood up and kissed him, very lightly, because that was about where we were at relationship-wise. It had been a week and a half, and we’d seen each other almost every day: lunches, dinners, a couple of parties. “I know you’re busy tonight, but I just wanted to say hello.”
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello.” He grinned at me. God, he was cute. I kept thinking that if only I’d gone out with him way back when Lola had first tried to set us up, the entire summer would have been different. Totally different.
After all, Paul met just about every criteria on my guy list. He was tall. Good-looking. Had no annoying personal habits. Was older than me but not by more than three years. Was a decent dresser but didn’t shop more than I did. Fell within the acceptable limits in terms of personal hygiene (i.e., aftershave and cologne yes, mousse and fake tan, no). Was smart enough to carry on good conversation but not an eggbert. But the big whammy, the tipping point, was that he was leaving at the end of the summer and we’d already established that we would part as friends and go our separate ways.
Which left me with a nice, cute, courteous guy with his own life and hobbies who liked me, kissed very well, paid for dinner, and had no problem with any of the terms that so many before him had stumbled over. And all this from a blind date. Amazing.
“So I know tonight is girls’ night,” he said as I slid my hands across the counter, over his, “but I wondered what the chances were for getting up with you later?”
“Not good,” I told him. “Only the lamest women bail their girlfriends for a guy. It’s against the code.”
“Ah,” he said, nodding. “Well. It was worth a shot.”
Across the parking lot, I could see the white Truth Squad van pulling up to Flash Camera. Ted parked in the loading zone and hopped out of the driver’s side, slamming the door behind him, then disappeared inside.
“So what are you doing tonight?” I asked Paul. “Boy stuff?”
“Yep,” he said as I looked across at Flash Camera again, watching as Dexter followed Ted back to the van. They were talking animatedly-arguing?-as they hopped in and drove off, running the stop sign that led past Mayor’s Market, toward the main road.
“… some band the guys want to see is playing at that club over by the university.”
“Really,” I said, not exactly listening as the white van pulled out into traffic in front of a station wagon, which let loose with an angry beep.