She was going to be late if she didn’t get off her ass.
Nic dragged herself from the couch and forced herself to take a shower she had no energy for. She didn’t want to shower. She didn’t want to leave the house. The last thing she wanted was to go on a first date. All she wanted was to send a text cancelling the date, then crawl into her bed with her hot water bottle and weep for womankind.
As the warm water ran down her back, she acknowledged the important lesson she’d learnt, don’t listen to an audiobook about how female victims of male sexual assault are never considered credible and how that’s been the case through time immemorial. Let she who has an ear listen.
She’d laid out what she planned to wear for the date that morning, a short colourful dress that fit her like a glove, showing off her curves. She’d laid out a matching pair of strappy heels. Yeah, that was out. She slid into her comfiest skinny jeans and an off-the-shoulder sweater that was warm and made her feel hot. That would have to do.
Nic looked at the time as she pulled up her ride-share app. She was definitely going to be late. She wore flat-heeled boots as she waited for her ride, then sent him a text apologizing for her impending lateness.
She sighed heavily as she tracked the progress of her driver. She really didn’t want to leave the house, and she wanted even less to feign being perky for some man. Ugh.
Daniel scrolled through his phone, not seeing anything on the screen. His day had already been a dumpster fire shit-show and now his date was either running late or standing him up. Either way, she wasn’t there and hadn’t said anything.
He hated being those people glued to their phones while in public. Still, what was he supposed to do as he waited for going on 45 minutes with no word from her? He’d wait for another 15 minutes, then he was out. If she had no respect for other people’s time, he had no interest in becoming further acquainted with her. They’d chatted online, and it had been great. With every message she’d stoked the fires of his interest, and then this? He felt so stupid. He should have known it was too good to be true.
Daniel checked the time. Another ten minutes and then he was out. He looked around the crowded café, trying not to look as pathetic as he felt, and that’s when he locked eyes with her. She had on a pair of faded blue jeans that hugged her curves deliciously and a top that hang off her shoulder, showing off her cleavage and making his breath catch. He looked away as surreptitiously as he could to avoid looking like some kind of creep. Damn, she was hot, he thought as he stood up to greet her. Yeah, he was done being upset about her tardiness. It didn’t matter even a little. Hell, it was more than worth it.
“Hey, Nikita aka Nic, right?” he said, shaking her hand. “How are you doing?”
“I’m okay. I’m so sorry I’m late.” She said, taking a seat opposite him.
“It’s okay. I’m just glad you made it.” Daniel said.
“Me too.” She answered.
The server who’d already approached his table twice before handed both of them menus. Nic gave the server a megawatt smile after placing her order and he was gripped with an irrational bout of jealousy that he fought to push down. She looked happier to see the server than she was to see him. That stung.
Daniel placed his order, feeling his earlier irritation begin to bubble under the surface.
They sat in tense silence after the server left.
“How was your day?” he asked, forcing himself to push away his funky mood.
She looked like she’d just bitten into a bitter, rotten lemon when she answered, “Not good. You?”
“Not good,” he replied with a tiny smile to add some levity to it. She didn’t smile back, her face retaining that pinched look.
This was going to be a long evening.
“I just realized we didn’t talk about work at all. What do you do?” He asked, forcing the words out.
The server returned with their drinks and Nic once again flashed that megawatt smile, thanking her with an enthusiasm she was yet to direct at him. The man who’d waited for her for a solid hour without a word from her.
They engaged in stilted conversation as they waited for the server to return with their meals and this time, even he was flashing her that megawatt smile. That was until he bit into his food to find it closer to cold than warm.
He flagged her down. She was dealing with another table, so it was a few minutes before she came and his food was even colder. Nic gave him a look, eyes narrowed with judgment as she stuffed her mouth with a forkful of pasta. He ignored her and focused on the server who was finally approaching their table.
“You brought me cold food.” He said voice clipped with annoyance he could no longer hide.
“Oh, sorry about that.” She answered.
“Can you just warm it for me?” He asked.
“Yes. Certainly.” She answered, taking away the plate. “Sorry about that.”
He looked up to find Nic giving him another in her series of judgmental looks.
“What was I supposed to do? Eat cold food?” He finally asked.
“There’s no way it was cold.” She answered.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You’re definitely a bigger authority on the food I tasted than I am.”
She rolled her eyes at him, then went back to her pasta that looked so delicious he wanted to change his order, which did nothing for his rising irritation levels.
The server came back with his demonstrably hot food, including his coleslaw. “Can you please wait a minute?” He asked.
He touched the coleslaw with his index finger to confirm his suspicion. “Are you serious? Did you seriously warm everything, including the salad?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. It slipped my mind.” She said. “Let me…”
“Do you just not want to serve us or what?”
“That’s not it. I’m sorry. I’ll get you a replacement side of coleslaw.”
He shook his head and refused to acknowledge her concession as she walked away. He felt Nic’s eyes on him and looked up to find her shaking her head at him in what appeared to be disbelief and derision.
“Are you seriously going to act like I don’t have a case here?”
“It’s crazy busy, and it’s just salad. She’s likely been on her feet for hours being ordered around by inconsiderate people. It’s not that serious.”
He ignored the inconsiderate jab. “I sympathize with her, I do, but it is that serious. Requiring my food to be hot is not asking for too much. If I’m paying, I’m going to get value for my money. ”
“Are you always so money-obsessed?” she asked before forking more delicious-looking pasta into her mouth.
“Are you always so irrational and blind to reason?” he asked before spearing some steak into his own mouth.
They chewed in a silent, staring contest. The server arrived with the side of coleslaw, lay it next to him, and left with a murmured apology.
This date was as good as done, he decided as he sliced into his steak. The least he could do was enjoy his meal as much as he could.
Nic finished her pasta, regretting the company even more. Her pasta had been delicious, but the company had only served to dampen what would otherwise have been a five-star culinary experience.
Men. She fought the impulse to roll her eyes. She’d already done that once this evening. That was her on-date eye-rolling quota.
She flagged the server with a huge smile on her face. “The pasta was delicious, thanks. Can we get two bills, please?” She asked.
The server matched her smile, then rushed off to acquiesce.
Daniel gave her a questioning look.
“I wouldn’t want you to stress out about not getting value for your money.” She answered.
“Wow, concern. It’s good to see you can manage something beyond judgment.”
“Yeah, here’s hoping you learn something.”
The server arrived with their bills. Nic paid hers, then stood up and gave him some kind of mock salute in lieu of words before turning and leaving.
Daniel watched Nic leave, regret and annoyance battling for supremacy inside him.
God, she was so damn beautiful, and he’d blown it with her. How had things gone downhill so fast? Their online chats had been great, and he’d taken it for granted that their date would just go well. Boy, had he been wrong?
Oh, fuck, he’d have to tell his friends how he’d blown it. He wanted to slam his head on the table repeatedly at the thought of having to recount the events of this evening anywhere.
Three days after the date
Nic was fortifying her defences in preparation for the likelihood of bumping into Daniel. She was at the birthday party of the mutual friend who had introduced them to each other, so the likelihood that he’d show up was sky high.
The sounds of children laughing and playing all around her were a pleasant distraction. All the colour and joy offered a wonderful reprieve from a world she increasingly viewed as filled with sorrow and pain. Period. This was reminding her that life and living while sorrowful and agonizing also had joy and laughter and colour and warmth.
God, she needed that reminder; she thought with a smile as she watched children pet the super reluctant yet long-suffering house cat.
Nic turned to find Daniel smiling at her. “Poor cat.”
“Yeah, that cat is going through the most today.” She answered with a tiny accompanying smile.
“Can I talk to you for a minute, outside?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she answered.
Daniel turned towards the main door, and Nic followed him out.
“You up for a walk?” he asked, looking up the road. They were in one of those gated estates and the sun was beginning to set, casting a pleasant glow on the paved streets lined with canopied trees.
“Yeah, let’s walk.”
“So, I’m sorry about that date. I was going through some crap thanks to my boss. There was this trip to the Netherlands that I was supposed to go to. My first international trip, my first time outside the country and he takes me off the list and replaces me with some young girl he’s playing with behind his wife’s back. I wasn’t exactly in the best frame of mind. Then you were late and didn’t say anything, so I sat there sure I was getting stood up. It was a bad start all around them.”
Her face fell. “Yeah, about that, I was already home by the time I saw that the text I’d sent you had failed. I sent it as soon as I knew I was going to be late, so I thought you knew the whole time. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, okay, that makes sense. You wouldn’t just leave me hanging.”
“I would never just leave you hanging,” she said, then got serious. “Sorry about your trip. That sucks.”
“It really does. I’d told everybody. My Mom had already told me how God was taking me places. Now I gotta tell her God isn’t taking me anywhere.”
Nic burst out laughing.
“Go ahead, laugh at my pain.” He answered, a huge smile betraying his underlying mirth.
“I’m so sorry.” She answered, still laughing. “I’m not laughing at you. Just… God is not taking you anywhere.”
He cracked at that.
She stopped laughing. “I was having a bad day, too. I started reading a book about how society refuses to believe abused women, instead electing to side with and protect abusers and I was just not in the mood to deal with men.”
He nodded, slowly, then spoke as if he was carefully picking his words. “I can see how. My sister has these phases where she just hates men. She remembers all the ways men have set up society to favour themselves and oppress women, and she just hates men. I feel like the older she gets, the longer the phases last.”
“I was having one of those days.” She said, eyes trained on the road ahead, all mirth gone.
“I’m sorry.” He said, voice low.
They walked in silence before turning around and heading back to the children’s party.
“Hey,” Daniel raised his hand before her to get her to stop walking. It was as if he didn’t want to risk touching her without her consent. She smiled.
“Would you like to go out again?” He asked. He nervously rushed on before she answered. “I like you and I’d like to go out again, even if you’re having one of those days. We’ll go out and you can bitch about how horrible men are and I know it’s true. You’ll get no argument here. I’ll listen if that’s what you need. I’ve had a lot of experience listening. I’d just like to hang out again.”
“I’d like that too.” She answered with a smile.
“Great.” His smile matched her own. “This time I’m getting pasta.” He answered as they resumed walking. “You looked like you were holding yourself back from publicly moaning with pleasure.”
“That’s because I was. So astute.” She answered playfully.
“I am very astute. Did I tell you how hot you were that night?”
“You did not. Tell me now.” She answered with a wink.
“Nic, where to begin?” He started playfully. “Shall I tell of those sexy jeans or that sexy top or the sinful way you eat pasta?”
I Intensely Disliked Him The First Time We Met – I Never Thought I Would End Up Falling In Love With Him Part 1
You’ve Got Mail: An Online Penpals Romance
Table For Two: Sharing A Table With A Stranger Leads To An Unexpected Romance And A Surprise Revelation
I Went On A Date With A Vegetarian Who Asked Me Not To Order Meat
The Beautiful Date With Bad Table Manners
Lonely Eyes: A Searching For Love Romance
Not Even Cabo: Will Their First Vacation Together Also Be Their Last?
From Charming Lying Men To Bad Dates And Heartbreak Here Are Some Singlehood Series Stories You Should Check Out
Bound By Words: Their Professional Relationship As Editor And Writer Started On A Bad Note; Will They Find Common Ground?
She Fell In Love With Her Client And Didn’t Discover His Bad Side Until It Was Too Late
He Takes His Wife For Granted Until The Day Something Bad Happens To His Favourite Couple At The Supermarket