That First Spark
I brushed my hair one last time before checking my watch. Maya and Lucas are fifteen minutes late. It was Friday night, and I have to ditch homework for a date I don't want to go on. I might like Lucas, but I don't want to fall for him. He's obviously not interested. But for some reason, I wanted to impress him, too. I put on my favorite turquoise print dress paired with my sparkly black vest and wore my gold strappy sandals. But my outfit needed something. I searched through my drawers, trying to find a good accessory when I found something small and shiny. It was my lucky pin. I hesitated for a minute before attaching it to my dress. It was not for luck; it was for fashion.
I walk into my living room, where Farkle was nervously waiting for Maya's arrival. He put on a blue button-down and a nice pair of dark trousers. He even found some cologne in his dad's room. He might've overdone it, but he looks great.
"Do you think Maya ditched me?" Farkle asks frantically.
"Of course not," I half-lie. I wanted to believe this wasn't a prank, but at the same time, I do believe.
Farkle pulls out the rose bouquet he got for Maya and started counting the flowers. I think it was a sweet—yet unnecessary—gesture.
Suddenly, my dad walks into the room.
"Hey, where are you going so dressed up?" he asks.
"We're going on a date," I answer.
"I didn't know you two were into each other," Dad replies.
"NO!" Farkle and I screech at the same time. Dad jumped back a little.
"No," I repeat. "It's a double date. Farkle is going with Maya and I'm going with Lucas."
"Who are they?" he asks.
"Just some kids from school," I say vaguely. If he knew Maya's reputation, his heart rate will go through the roof.
Once he left, the doorbell rang.
"See?" I say. "What did I tell you? They came."
I open the door and there they were. But while Farkle and I were all dressed up, Maya and Lucas were wearing jeans and beat-up leather jackets. My cheeks redden as I realized I was over-dressed.
"Hey," Lucas says. He pretended he didn't notice my fancy outfit but I could tell he did.
Maya was more honest than Lucas, however. "Did you think we were going somewhere fancy?"
"Kinda," I say. "We can go change."
"You know what?" Maya says, "Doesn't matter."
"I got you flowers," Farkle says.
"Um, thank you," Maya responds, taking the roses and stuffing them in her jacket.
This was getting too awkward.
"So where are we going?" I ask, anxious to break the ice.
"You'll see," Lucas says and we walk outside.
I expected to take the bus but instead, there were two motorcycles parked on my lawn.
"What? Did you think we had expensive cars?" Maya asks.
"I just didn't know you two owned motorcycles," I say breathlessly. I never rode a motorcycle before.
"We don't," Lucas says. "These are from Brandon's brother's garage. We 'borrowed' them."
Lucas handed me a helmet and I wrapped my arms around him when we sat down. Maya had to drive so Farkle's arms were around her. It looked a little odd but Farkle didn't mind sitting in the girl seat. Deep in my gut, I could already tell this date was on its way to disaster.
I was so dizzy after the motorcycle ride that I almost barfed in front of the restaurant. Maya and Lucas drove us to a little bakery with a pretty sign on the front that read Susanna's, a place where I have never stepped foot in. The red brick building was decorated in an old-fashioned way. The inside was like a cozy home, filled with comfy couches to relax on and patio-like tables. A few mahogany bookcases lined the back wall, filled with books that you could buy so it was a bakery/coffee house/bookstore. The air smelled like cookies and the glass display case up front was filled with heavenly sweets and pastries. And strangely, there were random drawings hung on the walls, displayed like an art gallery. Most of them were adequate, but some were really professional.
"There are free sketchbooks you can draw in and if they like your work, you get to hang it," Maya explains as she caught me staring. "I love this place, it's so quaint."
I almost expected Maya to be into seedy, ghetto restaurant but that's the thing I love about Maya, she surprises you every day.
We took our seats and ordered a few muffins. Now came the tough part, actually talking. I shove my hand into my pocket, feeling the delicate bracelet I put in there, the bracelet Maya lost a long time ago in seventh grade, the one that I picked up and kept. I wanted to give it to her; I waited so long to give it to her. What's stopping me? It's just a bracelet, it wasn't even expensive, just a cheap charm bracelet from Claire's. But for some reason, I couldn't let it go.
"So how long how you two been friends?" Riley asks, finally breaking the awkward silence.
"Ever since first grade," Maya answers. "We bumped into each other during recess. How long have you and Farkle been friends?"
"He gave me a tour of the school on my first day," Riley says.
She nudges me, urging me to say something to my actual date. I've been waiting for this moment since sixth grade and this is all I could do? It's pathetic.
Riley sighs and she continues with her conversation with Maya. They're the only ones talking. Lucas was absentmindedly doodling on his napkin. I simply looked around the room, watching everyone. What charms me the most about this place is that all the people that come in here just sit down and talk. There's no rush or anything, it's like everyone just took the time to relax and bond, if only for a moment before time catches up to them. I glance at the customer art gallery and try to find the nicest picture. The nicest drawing was of a lost little girl, looking abandoned and lonely in a dark, desolate field. It was sad yet beautiful at the same time. And in the corner of the frame was the artist's signature: Maya Hart.
"Did you draw that?" I finally ask, pointing at the framed picture.
Maya looked surprised when she saw where I was pointing. "I didn't know they kept that up," she whispers.
"I didn't know you were an artist," Riley gushes. Even though she was supposed to be talking to Lucas, she seemed to be bonding more with Maya.
"Oh yeah," Lucas says. "She drew that in eighth grade."
"That was a long time ago," Maya quickly interjects. "I'm kinda of an amateur now."
This was the first time I saw her blush. I always thought of her as a fearless, confident girl but now, she looks more like a normal girl with normal insecurities. Somehow, this made me love her even more.
"Let me see you sketch," Riley says, handing Maya a napkin. She used to be afraid of Maya but now, she's more open to her.
"Okay," Maya says, hesitating for a minute. She takes out a pen and starts doodling on the napkin. After two minutes, she holds it up, showing that she drew a table and chair. Despite the subject being plain and ordinary, Maya made it look beautiful and worthy of being looked at.
"It's amazing," I say and Maya smiles at me. She goes back to chatting with Riley and ignores me when our food arrives. I discreetly stuff the napkin into my pocket, right next to Maya's bracelet. I still wanted to give it to her. But I'm just too afraid. I don't know why, Maya is just an ordinary girl. But at the same time, she's not.
After eating at Susanna's, we went on a walk through the park. We kept the motorcycles chained in the parking lot and we decided to take the time to talk. Surprisingly, I was talking more to Riley than my actual date. Even though she's a prissy city girl and I'm a hardcore Texas gal, we have one thing in common: we both hate Missy. Apparently, Missy kept Riley from getting on the cheer team and that meant everything to Riley. I don't like to consider cheerleading a sport but Riley seemed pretty passionate about it. I didn't think it was possible, but I think we're becoming friends.
"Do you miss New York?" Lucas asks Riley. It was the first time he talked to her throughout this entire date.
"All the time," Riley sighs. I lived here in Austin for as long as I can remember (except for my first three years in LA), so I don't know much about moving, but it seemed to be pretty hard for Riley.
"Do you have any friends back home?" Lucas asks.
"There's my BFF Isadora, and a bunch of other people I can ramble on about," Riley says. Every word she said made her sadder and sadder. Strangely, Lucas seemed to be genuinely interested in her old home.
"What can you tell us about your family?" I ask, begging to change the subject. I didn't want Riley to start crying.
"My dad is a college professor at University of Texas and my mom is a lawyer. I have a little brother, Auggie," she says.
She has such a simple, normal family. She doesn't know what it's like to have a father who abandoned you or living in your grandmother's falling-to-pieces apartment.
"That sounds nice," I say.
We keep talking. Farkle tries to start a conversation with me but he flusters up every time. Most girls would want a guy who worships them but I'm not sure I do.
"Are you always so concerned with popularity?" Lucas asks.
"Okay, I admit I have a problem but it's not a bad problem," Riley snaps. "I just want to have friends."
"You're such a stereotype, City Girl," he laughs.
Riley did not take that lightly though. "Just because a girl is pretty doesn't mean she's nothing but pretty!"
Wow, she can be sassy!
"I'm sorry," Lucas apologizes. "It was just a joke. You're way more than just pretty."
"At least you're not like She-Beast," I say.
"Who's She-Beast?" Riley asks.
"Missy," Lucas answers. "We have code names for people."
"Who am I?" Farkle asks.
"Doctor Who," Lucas laughs and we all start giggling, even Farkle.
"I guess I'm just 'City Girl,'" Riley says.
"We just use those names to remember people," I blurt out. "You're more than just your nickname."
Riley smiles and we continue our conversation. Although Riley can be a bit stereotypical, she can still be a real girl. She and Lucas started talking more until they began their own little conversation, leaving me with Farkle.
"Maya," Farkle asks, tapping me on the shoulder.
"What?" I say.
"Here," Farkle replies nervously and he hands me a silver charm bracelet that was too small for my wrist. Then I recognize it. It was the bracelet I lost in seventh grade, the one Missy gave me before we split up.
"Why do you have this?" I ask, sounding angry and shocked and touched all at the same time.
"I found it in seventh grade," Farkle confesses. "I always wanted to give it back to you; I just could never find the courage. I kept it in my room, and trust me; I never wanted to sell it or anything."
I wanted to be angry for getting me all worked up in middle school over my lost bracelet, when I realized that the bracelet no longer has any meaning to me anymore. It used to symbolize my friendship with Missy but now, it's just a reminder that she betrayed me. I don't want it anymore. And despite the gesture being a bit stalker and creepy, it was sweet of Farkle to keep it and return it to me. And besides, the bracelet means more to him than me.
"You keep it," I say. "It means more to you than it does to me."
"No way," Farkle protests, "It took three years to finally give it back, you're keeping it!"
He sounds so cute when he's angry. I take the bracelet back and stuff it in my pocket. The bracelet is no longer the symbol of Missy and her backstabbing ways, it was a reminder of Farkle and this date.
After the walk, I gave Riley a ride home. Maya went in another direction to drop off Farkle at his house. I didn't realize how cool Riley is, I just thought of her as another new student, but now, she's really special. I was worried that she would remind me of Missy but Riley's not like that all. She has spirit, compassion, and substance, nothing that Missy had. I know I was getting ahead of myself, this was just the first date, but now things seem different now.
Riley held on tight to me as we sped through the city. Austin is my only home but to Riley, it's a whole new experience. To her, it's a world of possibilities but to me, it's just another city. But we both want to leave this place as fast as we can, even though I have a different reason to go. That's the only thing we have in common.
We finally arrived at Riley's house and she immediately lets go of me once I stop the bike. I already missed her warm touch.
Riley removed her helmet, shaking out her beautiful dark locks. She looked gorgeous all the time, especially now. I looked like a mess, with ripped jeans and a flannel shirt that was slightly too big. We didn't look like a couple at all.
"I had fun," Riley says, looking me straight in the eye. All I wanted to do was look away.
"Thanks," I stutter when I realized that I needed to say something back.
"Do you really think I'm a city girl?" she asks all of a sudden.
"That was just a misjudgment," I answer, ashamed of what I said in the park. I didn't really mean it.
"I misjudged you too," she says. "You're a really thoughtful guy for a bad boy."
"I'm not a bad boy," I protest even though I knew it was true.
"Of course not," Riley teases. "My dad would kill me if he saw me with you."
"Do you want a second date?" I blurt out. I immediately regretted saying that.
Riley looks flustered for a moment and says, "Sure."
I sigh in relief and Riley giggles. A crisp mid-October wind blew past us and it looked like a perfect movie scene for just a moment. I almost thought we were going to kiss when a voice disturbs the silence.
"RILEY!" the voice calls out and I saw her father stand in the threshold, looking outraged.
"Shoot," Riley whispers and she runs away from me. She pushes her dad back into her house and enters in herself. She closes the door but waves to me for a split second before shutting it.
I simply climb back onto the motorcycle and head over to Brandon's house to return it. I certainly did not anticipate returning home and facing my own dad and his wrath. But sometimes, you have to suffer quietly.