After a long, hot shower, I took in my reflection in the mirror. The nose pimples faded to nothing more than slight redness and my light skin began to tan evenly over my body, giving me a healthy glow. I brushed back my short dark hair, placing the blue gel over the surface.
“What do you think, Jared?” I stepped out of the bathroom in only a towel. This was my big night. I had to impress Noelle with the perfect outfit.
“Like a human?”
Jared made it clear that he was asexual and wasn’t going to tell me how I looked every day. It didn’t stop me from asking him though. Even if he acted annoyed by me, I could tell we were becoming friends. Because even when I said something he found to be weird, he would still smile at me or roll his eyes.
“I think you mean incredibly sexy.”
“Yeah, yeah. Stop interrupting me. I’m trying to make reservations for your dinner tonight.” I didn’t know any restaurants so I enlisted Jared to find me something perfect and romantic. He’d been researching places ever since dance classes ended earlier in the afternoon. It had to be in Manhattan and within a ten minute drive of the school.
“Did you find something?”
“Yep, it has your favorite: ravioli in vodka tomato sauce. The tables have candles so I’m sure it’s what you imagined.”
Jared was right…a romantic candlelit dinner in Manhattan described my perfect date night. It didn’t matter that I just met this girl today because she would fall for me by the end of the week.
The restaurant was set, I loved my appearance, and I had no older brother/best friend around to mess with my head. The finishing touches included the perfect pair of dark-wash skinny jeans, a blue button-down shirt and my favorite pair of sneakers. Nothing could ruin my night.
I gave myself an internal pep talk as I found my way to Noelle’s room at the other end of the hall. After taking a deep breath, I found the courage to knock on the door with my red sweaty palms.
“Just a sec,” she called through the door. When she opened the door, my jaw almost hit the floor. Noelle pulled her dark hair back with a sparkly clip. It matched her lilac sundress. She stood a little taller, choosing espadrilles that I swore Melody owned.
“You look beautiful,” I said. I could feel color go to my cheeks.
“Thanks Johan. You look incredible.”
I thought about saying, I know, but decided to say, “Thank you,” instead.
“I made reservations at a great little Italian restaurant uptown. I was thinking we’d get a cab and then if the weather cools down, maybe walk back through Central Park?”
Noelle gave me a soft smile. “I haven’t been to Central Park yet. It sounds perfect, Johan.”
With a few minutes of stepping into the humid evening, I hailed a cab like a pro and opened the door for Noelle. Despite the traffic, the driver wove through cars with ease, finding the restaurant’s small awning in record time. The romantic restaurant welcomed us with a bright-red sign.
We stepped foot to the quiet street on the Upper East Side and got seated at a table near the back. A bright candle highlighted the middle of the table, giving Noelle’s face the perfect glow. Wow, did I do a great job. I even had my mom’s emergency credit card. Nothing like wanting a girlfriend to give this black piece of plastic the workout it deserved.
“What looks good?” Noelle asked.
“I want the ravioli. How about you?”
“I can’t decide between the veal marsala and the spaghetti carbonara.” The veal was WAY more expensive than the spaghetti. My mom might freak if she saw the bill. But I could say I needed a nice meal. Could I try to convince Noelle to get the cheaper option without sounding like a jackass? Potentially.
“I saw that the carbonara here has excellent reviews,” I said. I sounded ancient saying it, but Noelle smiled and when the waiter came to take our order, Noelle chose the carbonara. Since she ordered the cheaper option, I tried to sound impressive by asking for a large bottle of San Pelligrino to split. The sparkling water could almost be wine if I pretended hard enough.
The date was going great! We talked about everything from my terrible brother to all the girls that missed out by turning me down in the past. I could tell Noelle was into it because she nodded along the whole time and said “Wow, that’s crazy!” every time I said something that was, indeed, crazy. As Noelle started to say something, I began to drift off. I was staring at the mosaic tiled floor wondering when the best time would be to kiss her. After a few minutes of contemplating, I decided to just do it. So, I got up from the table, closed my eyes, leaned in, and kissed…our waiter?! Apparently while I was zoning out Noelle had gotten up to use the bathroom and I got up just as the waiter had come to drop off the bill. And to make matters worse, Noelle was on her way back from the bathroom and saw the whole thing! I was just about to go after her when the waiter threatened to punch me if I didn’t leave right away. He pushed me out the door so quickly that he forgot I didn’t pay the bill yet. Oh well, Noelle could have gotten the veal.
Noelle came outside less than a minute before I did. It wasn’t hard to find the girl rushing away as fast as her heeled feet would take her. “Noelle,” I shouted. She didn’t have to say anything, her blank expression told me she was more confused than hurt. I mean, who kisses their waiter? But after a minute of looking into my eyes from across the busy street, she continued walking away from me.
“Noelle, I can explain,” I said.
“I don’t get it,” she said softly. I crossed the street and I ran behind her, trying to keep up as she entered the labyrinth that is Central Park. We had to dodge bikers, runners and kids on those stupid scooters.
“Noelle,” I screamed so loud that people around us were staring. “Please give me another chance. That waiter meant nothing.” Just as I was about to tell her how much she meant to me I got a hard punch right across the face. But it wasn’t from Noelle, a tall slender woman showed up while I was apologizing, looking like she was ready to kill me.
“Why did you punch me?!” I yelled at her.
“Why did you kiss my husband?!” She screamed back at me.
As mad as getting punched in the face made me, I decided to defuse the situation with this random woman. Based on her white shirt, black apron and black pants, she must have been a waitress and saw the kiss firsthand. And followed me through the park…
But she turned away after the punch and slowly made her way back to the restaurant. The good news was that Noelle stayed put and couldn’t stop laughing at me. I didn’t know whether to be relieved that I could talk to her or pissed that she laughed at her handsome date.
“Noelle, please give me another chance?” I asked.
When she finally stopped laughing at me, she gave me a small nod and rolled her eyes.
“Tomorrow night, a do-over?”
“Okay, Johan. Just no more drama.”
“But aren’t you watching a drama on Broadway tomorrow?” I asked her, hoping my joke would land. And I showed off that I remembered something she mentioned at dinner.
“Wow, what a lunkhead,” she said to me.
Since I didn’t know what a lunkhead was, I assumed it was her term for a stud. I could go a whole night without drama, unlike my stupid friends Mike and Tory. I just had to look at who I kissed in the future. I could be a mature adult and plan a second romantic meal. Besides, without paying tonight, I could go to an even fancier restaurant tomorrow.