It’s been almost five weeks since Jordan dumped me, in the same park he first kissed me no less. He really wanted to make it hurt. Mission certainly accomplished.
I haven’t heard anything from him since that night, and his attendance has been slack at best. He’s at school maybe two or three full days a week, usually he leaves before our class together though. The whole school knows we’re done. Word got out a day or two after he ended it, and people keep whispering trying to figure out why and of course to comment that I’m a mess.
Walking to my locker hurts. I know he won’t be there, but I keep hoping and breaking my own heart when he’s not.
I can see his locker from mine, he’s here today, I can see him staring aimlessly at his books. He must feel me staring because he looks up and stares back at me. His whole demeanor changes when he sees me, his shoulders straighten and his eyes become more focused. In my mind I’m begging him to come over and talk to me, but I’m sure if he wanted to talk he would have picked up any of the ten times I called or responded to any number of my texts.
I turn back to my locker before I start crying, I’d done enough that these past weeks. My shaking hands barely manage to get my combination right as I feel him stare at me. My thoughts quickly turn away from the awkward situation when I open my locker and roses fall out. They lay at my feet as I pull out one that managed to stay in my locker.
Everyone is looking at me, I just look over to Jordan. I’m hoping to see him smiling his cocky, proud smile and that he did this, but he looks just as confused as me, if not more. Looking around I don’t see anything but confused faces starting to gossip.
I see a few girls gasp and point before a voice from behind me makes me jump, “Do you like them?”
Turning faster than I thought possible, I see Dominic leaning on the lockers. He looks at the roses around me with a sly smile and his hands in his pockets.
“Did you do this?” I ask, my voice barely above a whisper.
“Well, yeah,” He chuckles, “Who else would...”
We both glance back, him more than me. I can barely see Jordan, but something is different, he’s stiff and looks angry. Dominic draws my attention again.
“I’m sorry about you guys by the way. You deserve better,” He reaches for the rose in my hand, snapping most of the stem off and putting it behind my ear, “Maybe you could let me see if I can give you better?”
“What?” I freeze.
“Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, and I thought-”
“It is?” I hadn’t realized, but now the fact that I won’t be spending Valentine’s Day with Jordan sinks in and my stomach hurts.
“Yeah,” His smile grows, “I was hoping I could maybe take you out, go to a nice dinner, maybe see a flick?”
I stare up at him, nervous as I feel all the eyes on me. I’m hyper aware of the eyes behind me, I can feel Jordan’s gaze. People start whispering and I panic.
The bell rings and people start flooding to class. Dominic takes off after promising to call me later. Before I shut my locker I look back to see where Jordan was, but now he’s gone. With a sigh, I drag myself to class. Working hard to ignore the staring and whispering, I focus on my notes. Math class has been harder without Jordan, but I’m doing a bit better.
I can’t hear what Ms. Morrison is saying as everyone around me whispers. I hear my name come up far too much.
“Do you think he cheated or hit her again and that’s why they broke up?”
“Maybe she wouldn’t put out, or wasn’t any good.”
“He probably just got bored, has Jordan ever dated someone other than her?”
“Did you see what Dominic did earlier? All the roses, it was so sweet. At least he actually cares and won’t hurt her.”
“Jordan’s been a mess, I saw him punch the bathroom wall the other day. She isn’t much better.”
I reach my boiling point. Not even bothering to grab my stuff I storm out of the room, slumping against a nearby row of lockers.
I hear heels clicking not long after, looking next to me I see Ms. Morrison coming to sit next to me.
“What’s going on?” She asks, voice soft and gentle.
“I’m so tired of the staring and the whispers. Why is it anyone’s business who I date or why we break up?”
“It’s not, but that won’t stop them. It’s just part of high school. This will all pass soon, just got to keep your head down. Come on, let’s get back to class.”
I follow her and do as she says, I try to stay under the radar throughout the day. I avoid the cafeteria at lunch, not that I could get lunch, usually Jordan and I shared. So I sit in the library until class starts, dragging myself through the day and then dragging myself through my shift at work. Mr. Marsh is worried, he has been since I told him about Jordan, and he is still as I tell him about Dominic. I refuse to talk about it much, I just focus on restocking until five o’clock.
Dad’s been getting worse, he’s been getting sick and that makes him meaner. Last night he shattered a plate and punched me in the stomach because I wasn’t home on time. It’s already become a nasty bruise.
Climbing in my window I don’t bother with anything. I drop my stuff and go to bed. I want this week to be over, I want the gossip to stop, I want this valentines date to be over, I want things to go back to how they were.
Falling asleep accidentally, the night passes by in a second and I wake up to repeat the slow torture of yesterday. Class after class, hiding at lunch, the only thing different is Dominic slipping a note in my locker saying he’ll pick me up at six, and he has a dress for me. I don’t know how to feel about that, how would he know my size?
Work is slow, Mr. Marsh let’s me hang around until six. We both turn our attention to the door when we hear the bell above the door.
Dominic is nicely dressed, nice black pants and a white dress shirt. He smiles at us both before handing me a bag.
“This is for you, I’m sorry I forgot to call last night, dad needed me at a work thing and I lost track of time. I hope this is all ok.”
I nod and take the bag. I give Mr. Marsh a small smile, hoping to calm his anger over Dominic’s presence.
I go put on the dress, already knowing I won’t like this. The straps are small, small enough I had to take off my bra, but it’s not noticeable. The fabric has nothing on it as it hugs me tightly. The bottom and the neckline are both perfectly straight. Slipping my clothes in the bag and my flats on my feet I go out to see Dominic.
“You look great,” He gives me a crooked grin as he wraps his arm around my waist.
Mr. Marsh grumbles to himself as he looks at us, he tries to give me a reassuring smile, “Try to have fun, if you need anything kid, call me,” His gaze coldly shifts to Dominic, “You take care of her, alright?”
With a nod, Dominic escorts me out to his car, I hesitate to climb into the small expensive car but he all but shoves me in. His smile while he drives makes my stomach turn, even more so when his hand reaches out for the bare skin above my knee.
This isn’t right. I shouldn’t be here. I should be with... Never mind. I keep forgetting that I don’t mean anything to him anymore.
“Everything ok?” Dominic sounds genuine.
I smile and nod. Let’s just get tonight out of the way, I just want this to be over.
The restaurant is small but full, many of the people are dressed like us in causal elegance. I keep my head down while we’re seated.
“Anything to drink this evening?” The waiter asks, calm and poised.
Before I can open my mouth, Dominic speaks, “Iced tea, unsweetened, for both of us please.”
The waiter gives a curt nod before walking off. Dominic looks at the menu, but I can’t. I keep looking around and hoping no one is looking at me.
Dominic starts trying to make small talk, talking about school and how work is going but I keep my answers short and to the point.
“Look, I know right now must be hard for you. And I really am sorry about you and Jordan, it’s clear you were in deep and he didn’t care. It’s his loss. And I understand that it’s a bit soon to be thinking of starting a new relationship so I really appreciate you giving me a chance here.”
“I... Ummm, I don’t really want to talk about Jordan right now,” Is all I somehow am able to say.
He nods gently as the waiter comes back with our drinks and asks us if we’re ready to order. Once again, Dominic pays me no mind as he speaks.
“I’ll have the wagyu steak, well done, with a side of the Parmesan roasted broccoli,” He closes the menu and nods in my direction, “She’ll have the roasted mushroom quinoa salad with chickpeas.”
I stare at him stunned. Is this normal for a date, him picking for me? He doesn’t know any of the food I like or don’t like.
Handing our menus back, Dominic keeps talking.
“So, my dad has an event in a couple weeks, it’s a big city thing. The richest people in town and from the city will be there to raise money, it’s going to a lot of things, the hospital, the library, cancer research in the city. My parents are going to invite you regardless, given you babysit Em and she’s coming. I’m going on a limb here, but I was hoping maybe you could come with me, like as my date?”
“Uh, I mean... If I’m going to be there for Emily anyway, then sure I guess. Why not?” Why not? Because I know if I don’t that whole night will be hell on earth awkward.
He nods, that same twisted grin making me sick. I feel his hand reaching under the table to touch my leg. I flinch away from his touch but it does little to deter him.
I push through dinner, taking small bites of the food he ordered for me. It’s not bad, on a normal day I’d eat it, but the way he’s been watching me has killed any appetite I had. He seems unfazed by everything and keeps eating. I’m able to convince him I don’t want dessert tonight and he agrees to take me back to my truck.
We stand up, ready to pay the check when a waiter looks at me as he walks past. In an instant, Dominic’s arm wraps tightly, almost painfully around my waist. His hand never leaves me as we drive back to my truck. I’m too nervous to tell him to stop.
He holds my hand as he helps me into my truck. I’m worried he can see up my skirt, but if he does he doesn’t show it. Before going our separate ways, he kisses my hand.
“I had a great time, maybe between now and the fundraiser we can go out a few more times. Drive safely, Rhea.”
I nod and go home without looking back. I know my dad will beat me if he sees the dress I’m in so I climb in my window and quickly and yank myself out of the black fabric. I grab the closest clothes I can find and pull it on. After a second I realize it’s Jordan’s shirt. It still smells like him. I know I should take it off, but right now I need the comfort. I curl up in my bed and fall asleep to the smell of chili powder and chocolate.