I met the sax boy almost a week after Wayne and I started to “officially” be together. I was in the same park at the same time, and the boy did not disappoint to appear.
We played in silence for a few hours without stopping. People came and went, some stopped to listen for a few minutes to our improvisations before continuing on their way, and it’d been extremely relaxing, so much so that when it ended, I was a little disappointed. But it got dark and I had my first official date with Wayne to get ready to.
Before I left, however, the boy spoke. He came over to me, looking at me with those starkly light eyes, and said, “Andrew.”
It took me a few moments to realize he introduced himself. “Blair,” I responded, nodding at him in acknowledgment.
He studied me for a little while before speaking once again. “You’re like me.”
This time, I understood immediately what he was talking about. “No,” I said, giving him a blunt gaze. He might be taller than me, but I was superior in this aspect. “You haven’t reached my level yet. Nor you should.”
He pursed his lips. “You have no idea what I’ve been through to make me like this.”
“No,” I said, “but I do know that the fact you’re here, willing to play and improvise with your sax, pouring all your blocked emotions through music, better than I can ever hope to do, is a sign that you’re still redeemable.”
“And you’re not?” he countered, eyes blazing for a moment. Yes, this boy was close to be as emotionally arrested like me, but he was still a kid, a teenager. He had this rebelliousness everyone has when they’re young.
“You have no idea what I’ve been through,” I parroted him.
He nodded, eyes growing grave and hollow again.
Sighing, I flipped my bag onto my shoulder and said, “Go home, boy. Your family must be worried.” Because, unlike people who’d been through what I had with my family, I knew that not all families were this way. Not all of them were self-absorbed and selfish, only caring about secrets and reputation. I could only hope the boy’s family wasn’t like mine.
Looking like he wanted to say something, he seemed to change his mind and said, “See you next week?”
And because I did want to play with him again, I said, “Sure.”
* * *
It was time for my date to arrive.
In the spirit of the good day I had, I decided to pretty up a bit. I left my hair down – not a very common occasion for me – and I put a little make up to darken my cheeks, redden my lips and turn my eyes smoky. I wore a black cocktail dress with a diagonally hem that exposed one of my thighs more than the other, and spaghetti straps. I even put on earrings because I felt like it.
When there was a knock on the door, I gave myself one last once-over in the mirror before going to open it. Wayne stood there, dressed in black trousers and a nice buttoned blue shirt with the sleeves folded to his elbows, emphasizing his biceps. His hair was as dark and tousled as ever, and his silver eyes sparkles when he drank my appearance in. “You look hot,” he said, smirking smugly, as he pulled me through my waist and kissed my neck. “Shall we go?”
“Let me just grab my purse,” I said and fetched it. Then we were out of the apartment building and inside his car.
The drive to wherever went in a comfortable silence. He put some old rock music on, and it was just fine by me. I could handle some Bon Jovi and Nirvana from time to time.
Curious as to where he would take me, I was a little surprised to find that we were at some bistro next to the beach. The bistro was styled like a ship, with tables and seats out on the deck – which was an actual porch above the ground, facing the sea – and the kitchen and everything else inside the cabin. There was also a bar on the other side of the bistro, which I could only sneak-peak when the hostess led Wayne and me to the deck.
Wayne got us the best seats, it seemed. It was right in the pointy edge of the deck, with the best view at the starry night and the dark sea. After we were seated, the hostess brought us menus and lit up a candle in the middle of the table. Then she left us to it and I gave him a look. “You shouldn’t have gone that overboard with the date, you know.”
He grinned and took my hand in his, intertwining our fingers. “It’s been a while since I had a girlfriend. I feel the need to be generous. This is a three Michelin star restaurant.”
“Fancy,” I noted, still trying to take everything with my eyes. “But you know I don’t care much for fancy, don’t you?”
He squeezed my hand, drawing my gaze back to him. “I think you deserve a little spoiling, Cleo.”
Something clenched in my stomach when he said that. Frowning, I looked down at it, trying to decipher why I felt it. Wayne had said stuff like this before and I never reacted to it like that. Weird.
“Well, I suppose I should woman up and just let you do the deed,” I said, grinning up at him.
Chuckling, he let go of my hand and checked the menu. I copied him, trying to decide what to order. I saw they served a yummy-sounding lobster and I frowned at the cost. “Are you going to pay for this dinner?”
“That’s how it usually goes in first dates,” Wayne responded, “the guy’s paying and all that.”
“I know, but the prices are a little over the top,” I said, making sure that he would be paying, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to with these absurd price.
“You forget that I’m a billionaire, Cleo,” he said, and when I looked up at him, he was smirking. “I can afford the cost.”
“That’s true,” I said, shrugging. “Good. Now I can eat whatever I want and you’ll be paying.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Using me for money and sex? Ouch.”
This time I gave him my own version of evil grin. “I thought you were feeling generous tonight?”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “I didn’t take you for a gold digger.”
I harrumphed, then laughed a little bitterly. “Believe me, I’m not,” I said, leaning my chin on my hands. “But I learned early in life that when people offer you something, be it money or something else, for free, you don’t hesitate; you take it.”
He gave me a calculative look. “Not a lot of women would’ve admitted it so bluntly. The more modest ones wouldn’t even dare thinking it.”
“I’m not modest nor do I have a habit of hiding what I truly think,” I said, shrugging. “I just say it as it is. If you didn’t have money at all to offer me, yet you would still be you, I wouldn’t care much for anything and still go on a date with you, even to Wendy’s or something. But since you’re you, and you got the money, I take it as a beneficial addition.”
“And that’s why I like you,” he grinned, “you’re not on to judge.”
“How can I be?” a snort blurted out of me. “I’m being judged on a daily basis by almost everyone I know.”
“Not by me,” he said, and when I looked at him, his face was dead serious, his eyes locking mine. “Never by me.”
My stomach somersaulted again in that odd way like it did before. I blinked and turned back to my menu, unable to form a response to that.
When the sommelier came to offer us wine, Wayne ordered us a bottle of Chardonnay. After we had the wine glasses filled, the waiter came to take our order. Wayne chose some standard appetizers and settled on a fillet steak with some sort of snobby sauce, while I took the lobster I eyed earlier. When we were left by ourselves again, Wayne gave me an odd look. Frowning, I asked, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I’m trying to read you,” he explained, matching my bluntness with his own. “What are you feeling right now?”
The question made me pause. “I... don’t know,” I said, looking away to the sea. “What am I supposed to feel? What do women feel when they’re on a first date?”
“Usually they are excited,” Wayne said, “men and women alike are nervous and anxious, praying to have the best date ever so they could either get laid or at least meet a great woman.”
“I see,” I said, then tried to read myself. “Well, I guess I feel... good. I’m neither nervous nor anxious, though.”
“That might be because we’ve already been sort of together before,” Wayne said, and when I looked at him, it seemed like his eyes didn’t waver away for a moment. “So what do you feel?”
I decided to tell him. “When you say odd stuff like that you will never judge me and that I deserve spoiling, my stomach is clenching in this weird sort of way. Not like I’m going to be sick, but like in a way that escalates my heartbeats and making me feel like my skin is a little too tight.” My words were jumbled, almost incoherent as I tried to explain myself. But really, there was no way I could explain it well.
Something flashed in his eyes and his face shifted, turning inscrutable. “Let’s have an experiment then,” he said, voice low. Then he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m in love with you.”
For a moment, everything around me stopped, and shock filled my system. Then my heart boomed in my chest, my cheek grew warmer, and my stomach flip-flopped twenty times per second. That made a hysterical laughter build in my throat and come out like a dolphin’s shrieks. “You cannot be in love with me, Wayne.” The idea of it, the concept, was simply just so absurd.
But the he grinned. “I’m not. Not yet. And the experiment was a success.” I stopped laughing, giving him a disbelieving look. “You blushed. It’s the first time I ever saw you blushing like that.”
My hand touched my cheeks, because the concept of blushing was as absurd as the concept of him falling in love with me. Then I felt my cheek grow even hotter, telling me my blush was deepening. My heart didn’t stop racing, either.
“Why am I blushing?” I asked him, my voice a little breathy. “And why does my heart beat so fast?”
“Because, my beautiful Cleo,” he said, grin turning a little soft, “you like me, too.”
I processed the information, then dismissed it with my hand. “Of course I like you,” I told him, “otherwise I wouldn’t be here, on a first date with you, or even agreeing to a relationship.”
“But you don’t just agree to relationships with anyone, do you?”
He had a point. “So I like you,” I said, shrugging. “But I liked some of the men I dated before. I never felt this.”
“Because you didn’t like them like you like me,” he noted, grinning slowly now. “You like me, maybe even a lot. That’s a good thing.”
“Why?” I asked, cocking my head. I straggled to keep up with him tonight.
His grin grew, turning a little soft. That made my body react, flipping again, and my body warmed up as my heart quickened once more. “Because it means that you feel, Cleo.”