Chapter 36: Seeing Stars - Børns
It took over a month, but I finally worked up the nerve to ask Misha out on a date. I wasn’t ready for a sit down dinner date. Intimate conversations were still difficult for me. I asked her to attend a movie with me. She agreed without hesitation. I had to play off how excited I was; I had a reputation to protect.
“This one or this one?” I held up two shirt options.
“Both, actually, layered. The plaid beneath the sweater is both festive for fall and classy. Roll up the sleeves and it’s casual too.” Elle advised from her seat on my bed.
“But it hides –“ I flexed.
“Everyone’s aware of what you’ve got going for you. Show her something few know about. –“ She made a heart with her hands and held it over her chest. “Your heart.”
“You better be right.” I tossed my sweater on my bed beside her. I took the plaid one off the hanger and put it on over my undershirt.
“What movie are you going to see?”
“I don’t know. I let her decide. I hope it’s not a chick flick.” I fastened my buttons.
“What if she does choose one? You’ve got to prepare yourself for that.”
“I’ll try not to complain that much.”
“At all. She’ll think you’re self-centered.”
“You’re always saying I am.”
“Yes, but she doesn’t have to know you are.” She smirked.
I pulled on my sweater and walked over to the mirror to roll up my sleeves.
“Here, let me help you.” She grabbed my arm.
I watched as she rolled them up for me. She didn’t fixate on evenness or perfect creases. It brought a smile to my face.
“How are you?”
Her eyes met mine. My heartbeat picked up because of our close proximity.
“Well.” She smiled and looked down at the job she was doing. “Really well, actually. Art’s great.”
I ground my teeth. “I am sure he is.”
“If things with Misha work out, we can go on a double date.”
“That’s an idea. But you know, that sounds more like a Miles and Iz thing.”
“We have one scheduled for next weekend. I want you to hang out with him too eventually. I think you could be friends.”
“I have nothing against the guy. Can that count?”
“No. You’re really important to me. I’d be weird if you guys were only on non-hatred terms. ”
I swallowed my pride. “Sounds great.”
“You should wear this cologne. It’s my favorite.” She sprayed it in the air, standing at my dresser.
“I’ll take that into consideration.” I mussed my hair with product on my hands.
“When are you picking her up?”
I checked my watch. “Twentyish minutes.”
“I’ll give you the final minutes to prepare. If you think of something you forgot to ask, shoot me a text.” She removed her coat from the back of my desk chair.
“I will be okay. It’s best that I start sorting things out on my own.” I straightened my collar.
“Aw, you’re growing up so fast.” She flipped her hair out of the collar of her jacket.
“Stop patronizing me and go home.”
“Fine.” She approached me and made last minute adjustments on my outfit. “Keep making me proud.” She placed a kiss on my cheek.
“Am I obligated to tell you how it goes?”
“Uh, YEAH. Why else would I invest all of my time into this? I live for the story.”
“Shame on me for thinking it’s because we are friends.”
“I backed off and let Iz and Milo start their relationship on their own.”
“No, you didn’t. You made it known plenty of times that you were aware of their flirtation. You started sitting next to me at meals so that you could force them to sit side by side. You planned their first date for goodness sake.”
“I backed off as much as I could. I got too invested in that one. I didn’t touch Finn and Sami.”
“Because you’re scared of Sami.”
“You only meddle when you know you can get away with it. Iz and Miles are super chill; they are content with anything as long as they’re together. I am still getting used to caring about stuff like this. We’re perfect pawns to you.”
“But that’s why you love me.” She pointed at me, walking backwards to the door.
“You might be right about that.”
“Break a leg.”
“This shouldn’t be performance. You said so. Wish me luck.”
“Good luck.” She corrected. “See you later.”
I spritzed on the cologne I liked best, not wanting to think of Elle while I was on my date. I went over to Milo’s room before heading out.
He was at his desk, watching a video on his laptop and taking notes. I knocked on his open door to get his attention.
“Leaving?” He pushed up his glasses.
“Yes, I thought I would stop by. Where is Adam?”
“Finn’s room. Sami is having him build something.”
“What are you doing?” I sat down on his bed.
He spun in his chair to face me.
“Iz and I need to choreograph our own contemporary dance. I am looking at dance videos and writing down moves we should try. She’s taking a more hands on approach, listening to our song in one of the practice rooms in the dance building and making up moves as she goes along. Nicky’s recording her. We’ll spend tomorrow trying to combine the two.”
“I’m surprised you’re both not in there trying to bang it out.”
“I am not good at improvising; she is. I want to carry my weight and make this a true collaboration. Are you excited about your date with Misha?” He leaned back and crossed his arms.
“I think I am beneath all of this nervousness. Do you have any advice?”
“Dating should not be difficult. If you have to force yourself to remain interested, it’s not supposed to happen.”
“What if there’s a lull in the conversation?”
“Ask her questions about herself and actually listen to her responses.”
“Is that how you made Iz fall for you?”
“I have no clue. You would have to ask her. We were friends one day and the next I was in love with her.”
“Lucky bastard.” I stood up.
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” He swiveled to follow me as I walked to his door.
“I have to figure out a way to tell her I will be unable to return to being just her friend if we break up.”
“You want to cut her off completely?” I widened my eyes in shock.
“I often think about building a life with her one day.” He looked down. “I am not strong enough to be around her knowing she will brighten someone else’s life the way she currently does mine.”
“You should just want her to be happy, support her regardless of whom she is with.”
“You don’t think I know that? The way I love her – there is no way to revert back to what we were before. I would never be able to move on if she were in my life.”
“I cannot get over your selfishness right now.”
“At its core, love is egocentric and selfish. You see something beautiful and special; you fight to call it yours for as long as you can and hope your will to do so never fades. The selfless aspect is much larger and surrounds it. You want more for them than they want for themselves.”
“Sal mentioned something to me while I was in Listonenia – we’re too young to be thinking about forever. Maybe you’re taking this thing with Iz too far.”
“There’s no such thing as forever. My eyes are on the future. I know where I’ll be next year, what I’ll study –”
“What are you going to study?”
“I’m double majoring in communication and public policy.”
“That sounds like a lot of work, kind of unlike you.”
“It’ll help me with what I plan to do with my life. It is about time I started working hard.”
“I’m not going to lie, you’re scaring me to death. You are adulting way too hard.”
He cracked a smile. “Don’t worry about what I am doing. You are divulging in my matters to stall. Go pick up Misha and enjoy your date.”
“It’s about time you caught on.”
“I have a lot on my mind; forgive me. Be yourself. You have no reason to be fearful of her.”
I exhaled. “I guess you are right. I will catch you later.” I touched his desk with my fist.
“I will be here. Stop by when you get back.”
“If not, I’ll do it tomorrow.” I waved goodbye.
I was a frequent visitor of Hepburn Hall; it was the senior female dorm. My best friends resided there and it was the site of plenty of parties. Going there for Misha was a different entity all together. I needed to be myself for a person on the outside; I had never done it before. I hoped that she was worth it.
I check my breath, cleared my throat and knocked on the door. She answered, beautiful as ever.
“Hey.” She smiled and gave me a hug.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yes. I hope it’s alright that I refuse to keep boys waiting.” She shut the door behind her.
“Yeah, it’s fine.” I put my hands into my pockets.
“Which movie would you like to see?”
“The new spy film that just came out.”
“Thank goodness! I –“ I stopped myself.
She giggled. “Scared I was going to force you to sit through a romantic comedy?”
“Terrified, but I would’ve done it without complaining.”
“That’s a girl friends activity; far more fun with them. Besides, that’s not how I like to drop relationship hints.”
“How do you do that?” I spared a glance in her direction.
“By talking to the person I am interested in. I sorta doubt you’d care if the beautiful couple fought and made up by kissing in the rain.” She smiled at me.
“I’d spend the whole time wondering why girls think standing in inclement weather is romantic.”
She grinned. “I cannot answer that one for you. I don’t get it either and I love a good chick flick. I’d feel happier making up in front of a warm fireplace. If you want to get deep with it, one could interpret it as a symbol of our burning love.”
Our casual conversation was enjoyable. I found myself smiling each time she spoke. Before for then, I thought Elle was the only woman that could make me do that.
“If you get the tickets, I’ll buy the snacks.” She offered as I pulled out of the parking lot.
“That’s not a fair offer. The ticket price is fixed. The snacks are a variable. I will trade you.”
“If you insist. You have no complaints other than that?”
“Why would I?” I raised an eyebrow.
“You might feel like I’m stepping on your toes.”
“I’m respecting your wishes with my own addendum. I feel like that makes me more of a gentleman than steamrolling over your opinion.”
“Elle told me you were like this. I didn’t really believe her.”
“Yet you still agreed to go out with me?”
“You seemed nice enough to humor.”
“Thanks?” I chuckled.
“I’m sorry. It’s not like you act like this on a daily basis.” She touched her hand to my arm.
“I’m surprised I didn’t scare you away.”
“Me too. Art’s the only area of my life that I welcome risks.”
“What made you take a chance on me?”
“Kidding. I could tell you were nervous when you asked me out. It was cute.”
My cheeks warmed. “That obvious?”
“You said ‘um’ a lot. I’m telling you, it was cute. Very human.”
“You don’t think I act human on a daily basis?”
“It’s like life is a giant game to you and you’re always winning. It’s frustrating because the odds are clearly stacked in your favor.”
“There is plenty you do not know.”
“There’s a rumor that you’re in the closet and overcompensate by womanizing.”
“The truth is I am exclusively interested in women. My overcompensation was because of one. I’ve recently come to realize it was admiration. We’re meant to be good friends, nothing more.” I decided to be honest with her instead of playing it cool.
“It’s Elle, isn’t it?” She asked timidly.
“Was. Liking her became a habit because I had done it for years. I really like you. I don’t go on dates; I’m not versed in romance or the gestures that go along with it, but I want to try for you.” I tightened my grip on the steering wheel, uncomfortable because of how much I shared.
“Really?” She looked over at me.
I gave her my full attention at a stoplight. “Yes. Ask Milo if you don’t believe me. I even asked him for advice before I left to pick you up. “
“That’s a lot of effort for a cover up.” She cracked a smile.
“And as you pointed out before, I don’t put in effort often.”
She nibbled on her bottom lip. “I like you too.”
“Yeah?” I cracked a smile as I resumed driving.
She nodded. “You make me roll my eyes a lot, but I catch myself smiling more.”
“Hey, um, would you be interested in skipping the movie and going to the coffee shop instead?”
“May I ask why you want to change plans?”
“I no longer need a buffer to spend time with you. I think I am doing alright on my own. Correct me if I am wrong.”
“You sound like you were afraid of me.”
“I was, kind of.” I admitted sheepishly. She giggled. “I am new to this. Cut me a little slack!” I added with a smile/
“I’m along for the ride. Just show me a good time.”
I bought the drinks and she handled the pastries at the café. We sat in armchairs with a small table separating us.
“So, where are you from?” She sipped her tea.
“I have two homes. Ohio when I’m with my mom and Maryland when I’m with my dad.”
“Which do you prefer?”
“Parent or place?”
“I love both of them; but I’m really close to my mom. She babies me because I’m the youngest, but I prefer being in Maryland. There’s more to do and I appreciate the freedom my dad grants me. Where are you from?”
“Nevada. No, not Vegas.”
“I take it you get that a lot.” I nursed my hot chocolate.
“All the time. It causes plenty of disappoint me when I tell people I’m from Primm,”
“Where is that exactly?”
“It’s near the California/Nevada state line. It’s really beautiful out there. It’s the reason I picked up a camera.”
“I thought you were a sculptor.”
“I am. Photography is my other passion.”
“What kind of sculptor do you do?”
“My heart lies in landscape sculpture. You make a site-specific work and insert it into the space. I’ve always loved being outdoors.”
“To what extent?”
“Feeling constricted when I’m indoors.”
“Then let’s go.” I scooted off the couch.
“What?” She looked up at me.
“It’s a nice night for strolling around.”
“Okay.” She smiled as she joined me.
We walked down the lantern lit sidewalks, talking, looking into shop windows, and occasionally going into stores. We lost track of time. When stores began to close, we figured it was about time for us to head back to campus.
She adjusted her scarf and wrapped her arms around herself to add to the effectiveness of her jacket. I stripped out of my sweater. I pulled down my flannel shirt that rose.
“I’ll trade you for your scarf.” I offered it to her.
“Are you sure? I –“
“I’m better equipped to handle the cold.”
She unwound her black scarf and draped it across my shoulders. I held her jacket as she put on my sweater.
“Better?” We resumed walking when she was bundled up.
“Much, thank you.” She leaned in close to me.
I put my arm around her. I was pleased to find that it felt right. It was close to 11PM when we returned. I parked behind my dorm and walked her to hers.
“This was fun.” I put my hands into my pockets as we stood outside of her door.
“It was.” She smiled. “We should do it again some time.”
“How about next weekend? You know, um, if you’re not busy.” I rubbed the back of my head with my left hand.
“How about we eat dinner together some time this week instead? I need to make some serious head way on my senior project.”
“I can make that work. Pick a day and get back to me.”
“I will.” She put her hand on my chest, leaned up and lightly touched her lips to mine. “Goodnight.” She settled back down onto her feet, looking up at me.
I put my hand on the side of her face and planted a true kiss on her. When I pulled away from her, she was nibbling on her bottom lip, the corners indicating a smile.
“So the rumor’s true.” She remained in my arms.
“How? I’m not –“
“That you’re a good kisser.” She touched the tip of my nose with her index finger, grinning as I let go of her hip.
“I prefer the term ‘great’, but I guess ‘good’ will suffice.”
“The absolute worst.”
“Amazing.” I couldn’t resist a smile as we playfully argued.
“Fine, I’m keeping your sweater.”
“Then I guess this scarf –“
She tugged on the end of the scarf, quickly unspooling it from my neck. She draped it across her shoulders. “You were saying?”
I gave her a crooked smirk. “Goodnight. I will see you around.”
“You will, possibly wearing my new sweater.” She looked over her shoulder as she turned the knob of her door.
“I’ll be counting on it.”
“As you should be.” She was gone upon the conclusion of her quip.
My hands were in my pockets and I was lost in my thoughts as I shuffled back to my suite.
“Why do you look like that?” Finn looked back at me as he sat on the couch.
“I went on a date. It was great.” I walked by without a care in the world.
“But why is he rhyming? “ I overheard Adam ask.
I walked into Milo’s room without knocking. He was right where I left him hours ago. The only difference was his hand was propping up his head.
“How did it go?” He looked in my direction.
“How do you ask someone to be your girlfriend?” I walked in and shut the door behind me.