Monday, August 23, 2010

''Another Chance'' Cafe...chapter 7

I nearly broke my neck and possibly my leg leaping out of bed the next morning. The big day had arrived which would lead into the big night. I had to follow the schedule for the preparation for tonight in order to allow myself enough time to get everything done and get everything perfect. The night before I had decided that I would take Shea out to eat…here at my apartment. I would attempt to create an edible meal that would hopefully impress her and not poison her at the same time. The menu for the evening consisted of an appetizer of one of those packaged pre-made salads that I would simply put in a bowl and offer a lovely assortment of gourmet dressing that I would pick-up from the market to accompany it. The main menu was an exquisite combination of rigatoni pasta and chicken parmesan covered in a tasteful pasta sauce. Should she desire any dessert, I will pick up two slices of carrot cake and keep them refrigerated just in case. To quench her thirst, a bottle of raspberry lemonade is sitting unopened in my fridge as I speak just yearning to pass over Shea’s majestic lips. How I wish I was that lemonade. If the moment called for it, I also had a bottle of red wine on stand-by. Usually I wouldn’t have a bottle of wine just lying around my kitchen but sometime long ago, I actually did expect to bring a female back home and wanted to be prepared. With that, everything was thought of and accounted for.

I fell into another Shea coma during work imagining how the evening would play out. I tried to imagine every possible scenario where I could potentially make a fool out of myself. I think I covered them all including accidentally tripping on that pesky snag in the floor in the walkway between the kitchen and the dining room. I have taken plenty of tumbles at all wee hours of the morning because of that. Tonight called for extra preparation. No mistakes, no foul-ups. I’m not known for being the smoothest guy around but I was sure going to try tonight while at the same time remaining to be myself. Pretending to be something or someone I’m not never worked out for me so I decided to cut it out after the last time. Maybe being myself actually contributed to what happened, I still don’t know.

Snapping back into being awake again, I realized it was nearly time to go home. Setting a seven o’ clock date time didn’t leave me much time now that I decided to cook for her. But I was going to make it work, I was determined. Four o’ clock came and I sprinted out of the building to my car and drove like I was a NASCAR driver to the market to retrieve what I needed. Luckily I already chicken cutlets at home which I smartly left out this morning so they could defrost. I’m a genius, I know. I raced into the market, grabbed what I needed, checked out and dove back into my car. Fastest…shopping trip…ever. When I got home, I stormed inside and immediately went into the kitchen to begin creating my masterpiece. I felt like an artist. Carefully combining ingredients and making sure the heat on the stove was at just the right temperature so my meal wouldn’t be ruined. Normally I’m not a very good cook, but if I could help it, this woman will think that a chef was pulled straight off of the Food Network to prepare her meal.

It was around five when I placed the chicken parmesan in the oven to begin to cook. I then started on heating up the pasta sauce which splattered all over the stove when I poured it in the pot. I think it’s trying to tell you something Patrick…turn down the heat! Ok, got it. I had already cooked the rigatoni and it came out magnificently. I emptied the packaged salad into a salad bowl and put it in the fridge to keep fresh. I could already begin to smell my chicken cooking. The aroma was filling my apartment. My neighbors must be shocked to smell the scent of cooked food actually coming from my apartment this time. As everything was falling into place, it still felt like something was missing. The meal was not completely complete. Garlic bread! You can’t have a semi-gourmet first date meal with chicken parmesan, pasta and no garlic bread. What is wrong with me? I turned off the stove and oven, grabbed my keys and hurled myself out the door to return to the market. I careened around the corner at top speed as I approached it and slammed on my brakes screeching into a parking spot. I ran to the freshly baked bread section of the store and found the absolute greatest roll of garlic bread that anyone has ever seen in the history of garlic bread. Flying through the check out aisle and back into my car, I peeled out of the parking lot and returned back home.

Once back in my masterpiece studio, my kitchen, I opened the package of garlic bread and took a deep smell of the fresh garlic that surrounded it. I cut it into pieces and placed it into the oven with my chicken and turned it and the stove back on. Ok, now everything was perfect. While my greatest work was cooking, I found some candles my mother had given me. At the time, I wondered "why are you giving me candles, Ma?" I’m a guy. Take it from me, mothers always know what they are doing. Thanking her out loud, I placed the candles on the dining room table and returned to the kitchen to find the “good” dishware. I used them to set the table and revisited my meal in the making to make sure everything was progressing nicely. My chicken was nearly done, now turning a nice golden brown. The sauce was beginning to bubble a little and my bread was nice and warm, ready to be buttered.

Seeing that everything was in order, I decided to begin my grooming process. I took out my clothes and placed them on my bed. I entered the bathroom to give myself a quick shave when my phone rang. Assuming it was Shea, I lunged towards it sitting on my couch and looked at the screen. Seriously? You are really going to decide to call me now, when I’m trying to prepare myself for what might hopefully turn out to be a good night? Apparently she was. Maybe she knew somehow that I was talking to another female. Some sort of messed up female intuition. She hasn’t tried to contact me this much since we broke up. All of sudden just when I finally begin to get to know another woman, she pops back up. Why? All I can say is why? But I didn’t want to find out why just then and there, I had a mission to get back to. I let my phone ring out and went back to shaving.

After my shave, I took a quick trip to the kitchen to check on my food. The chicken was done and so was the sauce. I turned the oven off but left the chicken inside in order to keep it warm. I removed the pot of pasta sauce from the heat and stirred it a couple times to check the thickness. Just right. Good. Great. I ran back into the bathroom and jumped in the shower. Five minutes later, I got out, got dressed and got a shock when I looked at the clock. It was twenty minutes to seven and I realized that I hadn’t heard anything from Shea all day long. I began to wonder once again if she changed her mind about all of this. Realized it wasn’t a road that she wanted to travel down with me just yet. I grabbed my phone and called her up. She answered on the very first ring again.

“Hi!” she practically yelled into the phone.

“Hey Shea, what’s up?” I responded.

“I’m great, just waiting for you,” she said.

“Oh really? I hadn’t heard from you, I had a slight feeling maybe you had changed your mind,” I said. I don’t know why I actually said that. I didn’t want her to know that I had had that thought. An overwhelming mist of insecurity suddenly surrounded me and threatened to take my newly found confidence hostage.

“Oh, no. I wouldn’t do that, I’ve been looking forward to tonight ever since you asked me out,” she responded. As quickly as it arose, the mist evaporated and my confidence was in control once again.

“Ok, great. I’m on my way to come get you, are you ready?”

“I sure am, can’t wait. I’ll be here,”

“Ok, see you in a few then,”

“Good, see you soon Patrick,”

“You too”

With that, I hung up and grabbed my keys. I know usually if you are having someone for dinner at your home, you would simply ask them to come to you. But I figured I would try something different. Picking her up and taking her back home despite just being at my place was different and hopefully it would say something positive to her. Hopefully positive and not weird. Suddenly, my phone rang again. I wondered what smart remark Shea would have for me this time. Perhaps something about not driving too fast on my way to come get her. Doesn’t want me to get into a traffic accident because I’m smitten with her. That sounds like something she would say. I took my phone out and I saw that I was wrong again.

Figuring that she would simply keep calling throughout the night, I bit the bullet and answered.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Hi, you are a very difficult person to get in touch with. I’ve been trying for days now. I’ve begin to think that maybe you are avoiding me,” she replied.

Silence stood strong from my side of the phone.

“Patrick, it’s me, Jenalee,” she said.

“I know who it is, how can I help you?” I asked.

“Uh, well, how have you been? I haven’t spoken to you in a little while. I just wondered how you were doing,” she responded.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Ok, that’s great, I’m very glad to hear to that. Happy to know you are ok,” she said. “Listen, I know we agreed that we would only speak to each other if it had to do with business or important matters, but I feel like this is an important matter.”

“What might that be?” I asked.

“Well, this isn’t exactly an easy thing for me to say and I know that I have apologized many times already to you about what happened between us but I really am sorry. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul searching and I realized that the only time that I really did find my soul and myself was when I was with you. I guess what I am trying to say, Patrick, is that…well, I still love you, very much actually,” she said.

“Goodbye,” I responded.

“No, wait Patrick, don’t go just yet, just talk to me for a minute. Please. Don’t you have anything to say about that?” she asked.

“No, not at all, and I can’t talk to you right now, I’m busy,” I responded.

“Can we talk later?”

“There isn’t anything to talk about Jena. We’ve already been through this. We are done and that is how we shall remain, forever.”

“Don’t say that Patrick, you must have some type feelings left in your heart for me. I mean we were together for five years. We were engaged. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve had so many ups and downs and shared so much with one another. Doesn’t any of that mean anything to you anymore?” she asked.

“Not anymore, it doesn’t. I’m over it and would prefer not to revisit the past. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant one for me and I really do not want to live through it again, thanks,” I responded. “Now I have really have to go”

“Wait, wait. Please wait. I really need you back in my life. I love you so much. I think about you all of the time and I regret everything that I ever did to you. I put you though a lot and I wouldn’t ever do that again. I promise,” she said.

“Jena, no ok? No. It’s not going to happen,” I retorted.

“You called me ‘Jena’. There’s something still left in there. I can tell by the way you said my name,” she said.

“What, you mean in anger and frustration?” I asked. “Obviously you can’t tell anything because the way I just said you’re name means I want nothing to do with you at all. Please leave me alone. I’m asking you very nicely. I really got to go,” I said.

“Why the rush to get off of the phone with me?” she asked.

“Because I don’t want to talk to you,” I responded.

“Is there someone else? Is that the reason for your hurry? Another girl?” she asked. “I mean you can tell me, we used to tell each other everything”

“Yeah, I could tell you, but I won’t. It’s my choice, now bye,” I said as I hung up the phone.

I really hope she doesn’t call back. My phone is going to have to spend the evening in my room on silent. Glancing at the clock, to my horror I noticed it was already five after seven. Great, I’m officially late.

I almost fell down the flight of stairs that leads out to the parking lot trying desperately to reach my car. I sped over to Shea’s place. Luckily she didn’t live too far away or I would definitely be screwed. I quickly parked and ran up the stairs to her place. I was moving so fast that I had completely forgotten to get nervous. I was only upset and frustrated because of that phone call and it leading to me being late. I knocked on the door and waited. Quickly I conducted a breath check because I forgot to pop a mint into my mouth to guarantee freshness. After a couple seconds I heard her walking up to the door and held my breath as it slowly swung open. I momentarily found myself speechless as I saw what awaited me on the other side. There she stood. She was wearing a purple blouse that led down to a skirt which stopped a little above her knees and exposed her legs for the first time that I can remember. She wore a matching pair of purple heels which I love to see girls in. Instantly I felt a loss of breath and I also felt stupid at the same time. I felt like she got all dressed up and all I was doing was taking her back to my place. I felt glad that no one else would be able to share in my delight by being able to see her but she also looked like she put in a lot of preparation to look nice for this evening and we weren’t really going anywhere.
“Hey there!” she said.

“Um, hi, you, uh, you look great,” I responded.

“Why thank you, I try,” she said.

“You are very welcome,” I said. “Sorry for the lateness,”

“Oh no, you’re right on time, don’t worry about it,” she replied.

She stepped out of her apartment and pulled the door closed behind her.

“I have a feeling you may be a little disappointed on where we are having dinner tonight,” I told her.

“Why do you think that?” she asked.

“Well you look fabulous, that’s why I think that,” I answered. I could see her blush a little to herself.

“Really? Well, where are we going?” she asked.

“Can’t tell you, it’s a surprise,” I answered.

“Aw man, really? Can I get a hint?” she asked.

“Nope, sorry, no hints, just got to wait and find out for yourself,” I replied.

“Ok, fair enough, I’ll play along…for now,” she said.

“Thanks, I appreciate your cooperation,” I said. She smiled at me and we walked out to my car and we drove off.

A little while later, we pulled into my complex and I parked in front of my building. I was anticipating her saying something but she remained quiet until I shifted the engine into park. As soon as I turned it off, she asked,

“Where are we?”

“At my place,” I answered with a smile.

“Oh really? Nice, so we’re having dinner here?” she asked.

“Yeah, I figured I’ve seen your apartment so it’s only fitting that you get to see mine,” I replied, still with the same smile on my face.

“Oh, so this is what you meant before. You’re right, I am too overdressed to just simply have dinner at your place,” she said and instantly started laughing. I shot a sarcastic smirk her way and got out of my car. She followed suit and we walked up to my apartment. Once inside I gave her a brief tour of my small home, making sure to keep the stop at my bedroom very short due to the messy state it was in. I quickly turned the lights on and off so she couldn’t get a very good look at it which got a pretty good laugh out of her.

I made sure that my phone was missing in action just in case a possible evening-breaking phone call or text message came through that I really didn’t want to share with Shea. I showed her to the dining room table where I already had everything set up from earlier. By the look on her face, I could tell that she was impressed.

“Everything looks great Patrick, this is very nice,” she told me.

“Thanks, I figured a quiet dinner inside might be nice instead of going out. I really enjoy talking to you and thought this setting would be best for some more of our conversations,” I replied.

“Wow, you are pretty insightful, that makes a ton of sense and I really like the fact that you decided to go this route. Different but unique and very intimate at the same time,” she said.

Woah, she thought it was intimate! Very intimate. I guess I’m doing something right. I lit the candles on the table and dimmed the lights slightly. I could see the flames from the candles reflecting in her eyes as they danced around. I felt like dancing around a little at that moment, but I refrained myself. She might get up and leave if I all of sudden just busted out and started dancing. She smiled to herself a little. I could tell she was really trying to hold it back but a small smile still managed to slip out and spread across her lips. I first brought out the salad along with the assortment of dressings I had and set them on the table. We began to eat and she continued to express her approval of how well I put everything together. After our salad appetizer, we dined on the main course of chicken parmesan, rigatoni, and garlic sauce. Apparently it came out very well because she gave me a thumbs up upon her first bite. We went with the red wine I had over the raspberry lemonade and polished everything off with the carrot cake slices I had waiting in the wings. I was very pleased to see that she liked carrot cake as much I did. It only gave her extra points in my book which was nearly full by now of reasons why I liked her.

After we finished our carrot cake, she offered to stay and help me with the dishes but I declined and told her it wasn’t necessary. Her company was really payment enough. I caught myself staring into her eyes quite a few times while we were eating. I can’t explain it but they are somewhat enchanting. They compliment her already beautiful face so well, it’s nearly impossible to stare. She’s just so pretty. I wonder if she noticed.

She excused herself to the bathroom and I took the opportunity to start clearing the table and putting the dishes away. I was standing beside the dining table when she emerged from the bathroom and walked right up to me. Once again, her scent engulfed me and I was powerless to do anything except look at her. The way she walked, the way she moved, almost gliding across the floor ever so graceful was definitely a sight to see. She stood there smiling up at me for a little while and then gave me a hug and said “Thank You”. I replied with a “you’re welcome” and hugged her back.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked her.

She hesitated a little, looking around as if searching for some excuse to stay and finally turned back to me to reply.

“Um, truthfully not at all, I would love to stay longer and spend more time with you but I have to help a friend do something tomorrow morning and I should probably get some sleep. I’m really sorry, I don’t want to be the one to cut the evening short,” she answered.

“Oh not at all, don’t even worry about it. It’s fine, there will be other times, I’m sure,” I said.

“Oh, are you? You seem pretty confident in your assumption,” she joked.

“Well I’m not trying to sound conceited or anything but all I’m saying is I would like to see you again, hopefully more than once and should you feel the same way then there shouldn’t be anything stopping us from hanging out another time or two,” I responded.

“Hmmm, very well put. I agree and I’m looking forward to those times,” she said.

“Great, ready?” I asked again.

“Yeah, we can go now,” she replied with a sarcastic sad expression upon her face.

We walked outside, got in my car and I took her home. When we got to her door, she started fumbling with her keys again like she did the day we went to the market together. Finally, she got her door open and turned to face me.

“Well thank you again Patrick for a really lovely evening. The food was fantastic and I loved your company. I didn’t mean that joke earlier when I said I was too overdressed for simply dinner at your place. You just being around is good enough for me and I really enjoyed myself,” she said.

I really wasn’t expecting her to say anything along those lines. It seemed as if I actually did good and she was very pleased. I began to feel that small bit of confidence grow inside of me again. It felt really good. Not to just hear nice things about myself but to also know that she enjoyed her time with me. That was all the gratitude I needed from her.

“You are very welcome young lady, it was my honor and privilege and I can’t wait until the next time either,” I replied.

Then came the arrival of that awkward moment. The goodbye at the end of the evening. I had already made up my mind that I still wasn’t going to try to kiss her. I didn’t know how she felt about the “kissing situation” and I wasn’t about to push it. We kind of just grinned at each other for a moment and then embraced in another hug. Once embraced with her, I figured I would try to kiss her on the cheek seeing how I haven’t really shown any physical signs of affection towards her yet. When we pulled out of the hug, I aimed for her cheek but caught her lips instead. I was surprised. But I was in heaven and didn’t care. We kissed for a good 4 or 5 seconds before parting and saying one final goodnight.

Needless to say my trip home consisted of a smile even bigger than the one I had when she kissed me on the cheek. I didn’t even attempt to remove it. I let it shine on display like a merit badge I had earned. I felt like a little kid again. We had kissed, we had actually kissed. Furthermore, it wasn’t simply a little peck, it was a KISS. Her lips felt like silk and cotton all rolled up together. They were tasty, very tasty. I began to wipe off the lip gloss or Vaseline or chapstick, whatever it was that her lips left on mine. I almost wanted to leave it there but I had to keep some kind of manly dignity. It was perfect, the evening was perfect, she was perfect, life was perfect right now and I didn’t want that feeling to end.

I got home and didn’t even bother to finish cleaning up. I was still basking in what had just happened. Usually I would be on my “don’t fall in love” emotion right about now but I didn’t care. She kissed me, so obviously she really liked me. Whatever happened next would simply develop on its own because I surely wasn’t going to push anything. We kissed; I replayed the event over and over in my mind for about ten more minutes before I remembered I left my phone to spend the night alone. I went to retrieve it and saw I had a text message. I opened it up and guess who it was from; Shea. She wrote:

I wanted to thank you yet again Patrick
Tonight was absolutely wonderful
I haven’t had an evening like this in a very long time and I owe it all to you
You looked rather handsome tonight and your meal was the best
I had a lot of fun and look forward to doing it again soon
Also, I’m glad you kissed me most of all
I could tell you were nervous about it as was I but I’m very happy it happened
It was very nice, very nice indeed
Talk to you soon, goodnight

The smile on my face grew even wider and felt as if it would become a permanent expression on it. I wrote her back admitting that I was nervous about kissing her but I was very glad it happened too. I also said I enjoyed the evening very much as well and wished it could have lasted longer then ended the message with a “sweet dreams”. I think I like her, I mean like a lot. But I suppose we’ll see how everything turns out. I brushed my teeth and went straight to bed with no doubt that my dreams would be filled with memories of the evening and the first kiss that we shared. Good luck to me getting her out of my head for the next couple of days. More like weeks. I saved her text message to me so I could recount what she said anytime I wanted to as well to keep it as proof that the night actually happened and I wasn’t in fact already dreaming. I don’t know what’s going to happen between us but I really like where it’s going so far.

To be continued…

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