I started to move forward, alright. And not in any way I expected. It all happened on an innocent Thursday night.
I happened to be dying.
Not literally, but I was dying for a slushy. It was 8:30pm and I could no longer ignore my need for something cold and sweet. I was just getting ready to run out and get one when my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered it anyway.
I was thrilled when I heard Bill’s voice on the other end.
“Hey Emma,” he said pleasantly as I answered the phone.
“Hey Bill!” I greeted excitedly. Play it cool, Emma.
“How’s the ankle?”
I had totally forgotten about that. “Uuh…it’s good. It’s healed.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear it. Ankles can be tricky, sometimes.”
“Yes, they can.” I rotated my ankle, making sure it really did work.
“So what’s up?” I asked.
“I was wondering if you wanted to go out for dinner next Saturday.”
“Saturday? Hmmm…I gotta think about that.” That sounded like a date.
“Okay,” he said in a puzzled voice.
That obviously wasn’t the answer he expected. But, I had something better in mind. Can someone say slushy run?
“I’m about to get a slushy…you wanna go with me?” I asked cheerfully.
He chuckled in surprise. “What? You need a slushy right now?”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty dire situation. If I don’t get one, I may be a danger to the Baltimore community…Wanna come along?”
“Sure. Can’t have you out there alone,” he teased and played along. “I’ll come pick you up,” he offered generously.
“Well, that’s mighty kind of you,” I said in a corny Southern belle accent.
“Just doin’ my job, ma’am,” he answered in a bad John Wayne impression.
I laughed heartily and soon, his laugh joined with mine. Well, this evening was certainly looking up.
“You really wanna come with me?” I asked, giving him an opportunity to back out.
Wow, I liked that he was up for a spur of the moment get together. I wanted to keep this light and fun. No fussing or 1st date-like anxieties allowed. I was gonna keep it real.
“Full disclosure, Bill. I’m in my sweats and I have no intention of changing.”
“Me, too,” he chuckled in agreement
“Well then, come as you are,” I encouraged flirtatiously.
“You’re my kind of girl, Emma!”
“I aim to please.”
I gave him directions to my house and we said goodbye. I grabbed my purse and waited for him to pull up. I didn’t have to wait long. He must have hauled ass to get my house. A gentleman eager for company…I could definitely deal with that.
He arrived in a stylish GTO red convertible. He rolled into up my driveway and I tried to hold back my excitement. This had fun written all over it.
“Hey good lookin’,” he said and winked at me as I approached his cool ride.
“What’s happenin’ hot stuff?” I shot back in my best impression of the Asian dude in Sixteen Candles.
Bill threw back his head and chuckled loudly. “You‘re funny!”
“I try,” I quipped. “You goin’ somewhere?” I saddled up to the passenger side door.
“Yep, we’re gonna get you a slurpy.”
“You mean a slushy?” I corrected in a teasing voice.
“There’s a difference?” he asked thoughtfully.
“Of course there is…” I started seriously. “A slushy has…” I stalled, trying to think of something clever. But, a slushy and slurpy were almost identical. “Nah…just messin’ with you,” I finished lightheartedly.
He chuckled deeply again, his green eyes lighting up in amusement. I found his laugh sexy and a flash of attraction leapt through me.
He gave me a genuine grin as I hopped into the front seat. He backed out of the driveway, giving me a chance to study him. He appeared fresh from the shower and wore a tight blue t-shirt that showed off his impressive build.
True to his word, he was in dark blue sweats. He was clean and crisp, almost with military precision. His light brown hair was very short with a crew cut on top. The only untamed thing about him was a thick, reddish-brown beard covering his handsome face. What was up with the scruffy facial hair?
“So, what’s with the wild beard?” I asked as we waited at a stoplight. “You trackin’ some bears?” I added in a hillbilly accent.
He chuckled as he put his hand up to his face. “This old thing? It’s driving me crazy. I can’t wait to shave it off, but it’s tradition.”
“What kind of tradition?”
“When you’re in the play-offs, you grow a beard until you win the cup or get sent home. It’s always been that way. The whole team looks like loggers coming down from the mountains.”
“Yeah. It’s kind of scary.”
“I can imagine,” I said, thinking about what Micah would look like with a play-off beard. Don’t worry about it. Let it go. I shook the sexy picture of Micah sporting a beard out of my head.
A tendril of hair flew into my chapstick covered lips, reminding me of the wild bun atop of my head that was threatening to come down at any minute. I suddenly was conscious of the fact that I hadn’t primped or even bothered to look at myself in a mirror for two seconds before this unexpected slushy run.
I was in a pink t-shirt that was too big, one shoulder hanging off, but it was my favorite. I’m pretty sure the grey sweats I was wearing had a hole in them somewhere. My pink flip flops had seen better days. Oh well. This wasn’t a date. It didn’t matter what I wore.
We were strictly friends, going out to enjoy the wonders of a slushy. I appreciated that Bill was humoring my craving. I ignored the delicious way his arm muscles rippled as he turned the corner. I tried not to think about how long it had been since I had sex.
Instead, I concentrated on his beautiful car. The deep roar of the engine spoke of power and speed. The seats were white leather, with red trim. Shiny chrome metal was all over the interior, from the turn signal to the door handles.
An old fashioned car radio sat in the middle of the console, belting out Night Ranger’s Sister Christian. Love that song. It reminded me of when I was a kid and life was carefree.
The car was immaculate, just like him. I secretly wondered how Bill did when life got messy. Things in my life were going to get very messy soon, like dirty diapers and snotty kids messy.
We drove to a convenience store a couple of blocks from my house. I got a giant blue raspberry slushy, filling it up to the brim.
Bill settled on a kid’s size…What was the point of that?
“Watching your figure?” I teased lightly as we stood in line to pay.
“Play-off hockey, Emma,” he said seriously.
“Oh yeah. How’s that going?”
‘Not so great. We’re down in the series against New York,” he answered brusquely.
“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”
He nodded solemnly. We didn’t need to talk about anything hockey-related. That was fine with me.
We wandered back out to his hot car and drove to the park near my house. The sun was setting, the park was mostly deserted. We had a perfect view of the state of the art playground. Brightly colored plastic tubes, durable swings and rubber mats abounded throughout the play area. I wondered if I would be spending hours here with my kiddo.
“That is such a cool play area. I wish they had this kind of stuff when I was kid,” I remarked nostalgically.
“Yeah. Remember the crazy hot metal that would scald your skin when you went down the slide?” Bill asked as I swirled my slushy with my straw.
I giggled softly, recalling how common it was to come home with some kind of war wound. “Totally. Those were the wild-west days of the playground. These days, it’s all plastic and child-proofed. These kids won’t have any battle scars from their days on the playground.”
“They’re missin’ out. Nothin’ builds character like surviving a day at the park,” Bill surmised as he fiddled with his drink.
We shared a smile as we slurped our slushies. I was definitely feeling comfortable hanging out with Bill.
So comfortable in fact that I chugged my blue raspberry slushy right there in front of him, like it was my drug of choice.
“Wow, impressive,” Bill praised as he watched me, amused that I gulped down most of my drink.
He didn’t know the half of it. I was serious about eating for two. I could wolf down a couple of burgers without blinking an eye.
Blinding pain ripped through my brain. “Oh crap! Brain freeze!” I pinched the points between my eyebrows, hoping to lessen the agony. “I forgot about that,” I uttered as sharp pain continued to slash through the front part of my head.
“Yeah, brain freeze can kill a good sugar buzz,” Bill sympathized.
“Tell me about it,” I uttered through the agony, wishing it would end soon.
The pain started to fade until it no longer held my brain hostage. Bill wisely slurped his drink a little at a time. He struck me as a cautious guy. I didn’t know what to think about that.
Micah would have raced me in a chugging contest and then kissed me wildly. Stop making comparisons…You’re moving on.
Yes, I was. I switched gears and concentrated on Bill’s cool ride.
“Did you buy this car in this condition or restore it?” I asked, hoping he would distract me from thinking about Micah.
“Well, it was a little bit of both. I found the car and hired someone to restore it. I made the big decisions, like what color to paint it and what kind of stereo it needed,” he said with humor in his husky voice.
“Yeah, that’s a lot of pressure,” I joked. “The red just sings though, doesn’t it?” I praised sincerely.
“Yes, it does. I love this car,” he said wistfully, like the car was the girl of his dreams.
Could a guy who loved his car this much even keep a girlfriend? I needed to find out.
“So what’s a great guy like you still doing single?” I asked, curious as to what he would say.
He took another sip from his banana slushy as he thought about his answer. “I’m guess I’m just waiting for the right girl,”
“Well, what qualities does the right girl have?” I prodded softly.
He thought for a moment. “She’s gotta be sweet, smart, fun…” he trailed off temporarily. “And she has to be sexy…” he added sheepishly and shot me a sideways look.
Not so subtle, was he? I played blissfully ignorant. “Lots of women fit that description.”
“How about with eyes as blue as the ocean?” His gaze met mine unexpectedly.
A sizzle of attraction sparked between us. This slushy run was taking another fun turn.
I smiled brazenly. “Well, that does significantly cut down your choices.”
“Are you one of my choices, Emma?” he asked flirtatiously.
“Maybe,” I answered coyly. Bill didn’t know how complicated my life was right now.
“Alright, I’ll take that,” he replied good-naturedly.
Our chemistry was simmering nicely and I wasn’t sure how I felt about starting something with him. But, it was hard not to get caught up in the magic of this fine summer evening. The air was warm and all of nature seemed to be vibrant and alive as we heard the cicadas sing their nightly song.
We continued to laugh and talk like old friends late into the evening. He dropped me off around midnight and I knew that we were at a crucial part of the evening. He parked in my driveway and turned towards me.
“Emma, I had a great time. Best date in my sweats, hands down.”
Now, it was my turn to laugh. “Yeah, I would give it a solid 8.”
“An 8?! What’s a guy gotta do to get a 10?” he said with a challenge in his eye.
“Hmmm…I’ll have to get back to you,” I replied mysteriously.
“Well, I really enjoyed my evening with you. Thanks for inviting to get a slurpy…I mean a slushy,” he teased playfully.
“I had a good time, too,” I agreed softly.
He brushed an errant hair out of my face. He looked ready to slide across the seat and give me a goodnight kiss. I was definitely curious to find out how Bill’s mouth would feel pressed against mine.