She woke up with a smile playing on her lips, a sensation she was thinking she might have to get used to over the course of the next three weeks, especially every day was like yesterday.
Despite the fact that Jessamine was aware that Cassie and Tyler were much more than friends, the two of them hadn’t particularly wanted to advertise this to his parents, so they had played it cool at dinner, ignoring the smirks Jessamine would shoot in their direction every few minutes because she was perfectly aware that the reason they had taken so long to come in from the garage wasn’t because Tyler was helping Cassie find an earring she thought she had lost in the car.
If they were suspicious, Justin and his wife said nothing as the five of them drove to the Peters house for family game night, which was everything that Cassie could have hoped for out of a family bonding experience. There was screaming and arguments and a lot of yelling over each other and not really listening and at when the night came to an end, all Cassie could think was that she’d never felt more at home in her entire life. They didn’t hold anything back or treat her like a guest and she was held to the same standards for charades as the rest of the Flux children, because they truly considered her part of the family.
Tyler had a similar revelation on the drive home, though it terrified him completely. Once again, Cassie was effortlessly melting into his life, getting along with every member of the extended family to the point where she was making plans to go to the Brewer house at some point over break so that Caroline could teach her how to make tiramisu.
Of course, he understood what was happening. He wanted Cassie to feel at home, especially since he knew she felt as though she’d never really had a family of her own, but it was becoming increasingly clear that whether or not they continued whatever it was that they were doing, Cassie would be in his life for a long time to come. So he better make an effort to get to know her as a person a little more, and that was exactly what he decided to do during their date on Saturday afternoon.
He arrived home from his morning swim training to find that his parents were out for the day running errands and his sister had made plans with other friends, just as he’d asked her to do. Cassie’s door was closed when he stepped up onto the second floor, so he assumed she was getting ready and retreated to his own bathroom to wash the ever present stench of chlorine from his body before carefully selecting his outfit of black jeans and a green Arctic Monkeys t-shirt paired with his favorite leather jacket. After slipping his shoes into his desert boots, he stuffed his wallet and phone into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled a black snapback backwards over his still damp mohawk before opening his bedroom door and stepping across the hallway.
Inhaling deeply, he hesitated before he lifted a hand to knock on her door, his lips immediately stretching into a smile when it swung open a few seconds later. “Hey, gorgeous.”
It was his standard greeting for her and he made a mental note to tone it down a bit once he noticed how profusely she blushed because he didn’t want to scare her off on their first date, especially since he was hoping there would be more.
“Hey,” she breathed out softly as she stepped into the hallway, pulling the door shut behind her before reaching down to fiddle nervously with the hem of her lacy white camisole. She’d spent a ridiculous amount of time debating what to wear, only to decide that this date was casual, so she should just wear what she would wear if she were going shopping with Jessamine. Thus, she’d pulled a mint green cardigan over her cami and her favorite knee high riding boots over her jeans and nodded approvingly in the mirror. “Ready to go?”
Nodding towards the stairs, he wondered if it was too early in their date to link his fingers through hers, so to keep from reaching out and doing just that, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans until they arrived at his car, at which point he pulled open the passenger side door to allow her to climb inside before walking around to the driver’s side, wondering why his heart was racing. He’d been on dates before. In fact, he’d been on many dates before, but he’d never been this nervous and he wondered what it meant the he was so afraid of screwing it up.
“Do you go the pier often?” she asked once they were out on the main road, pushing her sunglasses up her nose, wondering if maybe the carnival was his go to first date.
It wasn’t really, though. The only other girl he’d ever gone to the pier with was Lucy because generally speaking, he had never really been concerned about his dates being interactive. His go to was actually the movies because dark theaters meant a lot of making out and although that was something he very much enjoyed doing with Cassie, he also wanted to get to know her better.
He felt as though he knew very little about her, so he was making an effort to fix that. Besides, if their relationship was going to continue and he was going to be seeing quite a lot of her over the next three weeks, then they should probably know something about each other.
“Not really,” he shook his head, his expression unreadable behind his dark sunglasses. “At least, I haven’t been in a while, so it’ll be good to be back. Did you have anything like it where you grew up?”
He was attempting to learn more about her past, which she appreciated, seeing as thus far, their interactions had mostly consisted of underlying sexual tension and making out.
“I didn’t grow up near any bodies of water,” she shook her head. “So no piers. But we had some great outlet malls.”
Laughing, he turned his attention back to the road, pulling off the highway and onto the gravelly side road which led down the pier’s parking lot, in which he promptly parked his SUV and turned off the engine, running around to the passenger side of the car to pull open Cassie’s door before she could object.
“Thanks,” she said quietly, sliding out of the car after unbuckling her seatbelt and waiting for him to lock the vehicle before they began their walk to the ticket booths at the end of the pier.
She reached for wallet once they reached the ticket seller, thinking she could at least offer to pay for her ticket, seeing as she did earn some money working at the on campus bookstore, but Tyler placed his hand on top of hers before she could fully reach inside her purse, smiling at her softly. “I got it. If you want, you can pay next time.”
“Alright,” she blushed, liking that he already wanted there to be a next time, when technically, their first date hadn’t even started yet.
“Can I ask you a serious question?” she said once they were walking along the pier, scanning their eyes over the various carnival games and mentally deciding which ones they wanted to embarrass themselves attempting.
“Mhmm,” he hummed in response instead of speaking words because he was too busy thinking about how her hand was just right there and if he reached out just a little bit, he could lace their fingers together.
“What are you gonna do if swimming doesn’t work out?”
His eyebrows lifted upwards in surprise, as did his gaze as he slowed his pace beside her, his lack of immediate response making her blush and causing her to backtrack a bit.
“Sorry, that came out sounding kinda harsh,” she stammered out. “I meant, someday, you’re probably gonna stop swimming competitively, so is there something that you’ve always wanted to do when that day comes?”
“It’s alright, I know what you meant,” he laughed quietly, reaching up to adjust his snapback over his hair as he pondered the answer.
It was actually a really good question, and not one that anyone had ever asked him before, but one he had spent quite a bit of time contemplating recently. Of course, he knew competitive swimming wouldn’t last forever. At some point, his body would no longer be able to handle the rigorous training, but he did plan on still doing laps for fun. That being said, it was entirely possible that he would have to find a way to occupy his time in the more immediate future. Because it was entirely possible that he wouldn’t make the Olympic training team and although he might make a college team, it wouldn’t quite be the same.
The truth was that he had absolutely no idea what he would do if the Olympics were no longer an option. He had other hobbies besides swimming, but he had spent so much of his life focused on being in the pool that he hadn’t ever bothered to develop skills elsewhere, so when it came to going to college, he still had absolutely no idea what he would study.
“I dunno,” he admitted, lifting his shoulders in a shrug. “Maybe I’ll study what you study.”
That was a roundabout way of asking what it was that she studied, because, horribly enough, he still had no idea.
“Computer science?” she lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “Really?”
That actually didn’t sound appealing to him in the slightest, but he still contemplated agreeing for a split second before finally shaking his head and crinkling his nose sheepishly. “No, on second thought, probably not.”
Laughing lightly, she smiled so wide that her eyes crinkled. “If it makes you feel any better, when I first started college, I had no idea what I wanted either. You’ll figure it out.”
That statement actually did make him feel better because despite the fact that she had forced him to think about what he would do without swimming, he was glad that she wasn’t lecturing him about how he needed to get his life together. He figured he was still young and had so much to learn, that it made absolutely no sense for him to choose one path to take at this point in his life.
“Alright, Cassandra Thompson,” he said seriously when they came to the end of the pier and had a chance to browse all of the various carnival games. “Which of these games do you want me to beat you at first?”
Pressing her lips together to hold in a laugh, she crossed her arms over her chest and quirked one eyebrow upwards. “Someone’s cocky. What makes you think you’re gonna beat me?”
“I am an athlete,” he pointed out, enjoying the friendly banter.
“Alright,” she nodded in agreement, seeing his point. “How about we make this interesting, then? Whoever wins the least amount of games has to buy whoever wins the most the food of their choice?”
For a moment, she had thought about betting something more risqué, but the fact that she was even making a bet at all was a walk on the wild side for her, so she decided not push herself too far.
“Deal,” he stuck out his hand for her to shake and she slid her palm against his and pumped once, both of their expressions serious. “Let’s do this.”
They worked their way down the pier systematically, going one booth at a time and cheering each other on as they played the carnival games. They were well matched in terms of accuracy, so much so that they ended up completely forgetting that there was even a bet at all. Laughing as they traded off between games, they would tease each other and make cocky remarks as the other person played and make easy conversation as they walked between booths.
Tyler learned about how Cassie had chosen to go into computer science because she always loved programming and often spent her downtime creating websites that she never used or moving artwork on the screen with codes. He watched the way her expression lit and her eyes filled with excitement as she talked about the projects she got to do in class and how she couldn’t wait to be able to apply what she learned in the real world and besides thinking that she was incredibly beautiful, inside and out, he ended up hoping that he one day found something or someone who made him feel that way as well.
He confessed to her that he had absolutely no idea whether he would make the Olympic team, but he was doing his best to make everyone, including himself, proud. In the meantime, he’d perfected three new pasta recipes and was on the verge of conquering a forth and declared that when he did, he would make sure to cook it for her.
In the end, they lost track of who actually won the most games, so they bought each other food and stepped into the line for the ferris wheel, Cassie happily picking at her bright pink fairy floss while Tyler licked his strawberry ice cream cone.
“Now it’s my turn to ask you a serious question,” Tyler said once their sweet treats had been devoured and they were sitting in one of swinging chairs on the ferris wheel, waiting for the ride to begin.
“I’m intrigued,” Cassie smiled softly. Thus far, she thought the date had gone better than she could have imagined. There had been virtually no awkward silences and she felt completely comfortable around Tyler, completely relaxed and free to be herself. It was nice to not have to constantly worry that she wasn’t making a good impression, because Tyler was completely nonjudgmental and seemed to embrace all parts of her, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with her point of view. It was amazing, actually, that they could be so entirely different in terms of interests and personality and still seem to mesh together so well.
He shifted in the scooped seat so that his torso was facing her more fully, his arm lying casually behind her. “What’s your policy on kissing on the first date?”
In order for her to answer that question she’d have to admit that she’d only ever been in the position where she’d even wanted to kiss someone at the end of a date about three times, which wasn’t really enough experience to have a usual policy on the matter, so she ended up blushing profusely, but gained enough courage to lean into him just a little and drop her gaze to his lips. “I guess you’ll have to kiss me and find out.”
Not needing to be told twice, he cupped her cheek with his free hand and pressed his lips firmly to hers, smiling against her mouth as he kissed her softly and thinking that he definitely wanted about five hundred repeats of this entire night.