After a few texts back and forth, Dinah didn’t hear from him again. He was like every other guy who ever ghosted her, except that he was a persistent ghoster.
Until a year later when he texted her, wanting to talk again.
After that, he ghosted her again until the next year.What a letdown. She knew the drill: If a guy didn’t text you for five days after a date, that’s it. He lost interest. And that’s exactly what happened except she had given him two weeks, hoping that the intense chemistry and imaginary fireworks exploding in her ear when he kissed her on the cheek meant something.
She guessed not. As she tapped on his number to delete it, she felt more angry than anything else. What a player.
Dinah didn’t feel a single regret as his number and name disappeared from her phone from what she thought was forever.
“Okay, open up your books to page ninety-five. We are going to go over the specific battles of the Revolutionary War that you need to know for the test. It isn’t easy, so get ready to take notes,” Dinah said as she unscrewed the cap of her dry-erase marker and was getting ready to go through a lengthy and painful review for her fifth graders’ test tomorrow.
Glancing at the clock, she only had 40 minutes to go through this. Taking into account student questions and clarifying any misunderstandings or misconceptions, she had to write definitions and draw visuals on the board fairly quickly before they had to go to lunch.
Damn it. She forgot to silence her phone.
“Sorry, Excuse me,” she said, as she put the marker down and went to click her phone on silent. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she saw she got a message through Facebook Messenger.
No one had sent her a message on Facebook for a couple of years. Actually, she didn’t remember the last time she looked in it or updated anything on her profile. Though curiosity was killing her, she had twenty-something pairs of eyes staring at her, waiting for her to tell them what information they had to waste time this afternoon and night looking over with their parents before either passing or failing the exam tomorrow.
I’ll look at it during my lunch break, she thought.
“Okay, who wants to start off by telling me the pros and cons of the British Army and Continental Army?”
Dinah smiled as more than ten arms shot up, ready to answer.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
“Awesome discussion guys. I know you’ll do great on the test tomorrow,” Dinah said, erasing the mess of writing and drawings she did on the board as her students, two by two, filed out of her classroom.
“See you at one. Have a good lunch.”
The minute the last student walked out the door, Dinah organized her materials- putting out the science teacher manual on her desk for the afternoon’s lesson, grabbed her lunch from the tiny fridge, and took out her phone.
She made sure first to take a huge bite of her chicken caesar salad before even looking at the message. Teachers only got forty minutes to have lunch at the most. And from experience, those forty minutes went by quicker than she would’ve liked. So multi-tasking it was.
As she opened up the Facebook Messenger app, her blood ran cold. There was a definite drop in the pit of her stomach, similar to the falling sensation one feels on a rollercoaster.
After how years he writes to her? And on Facebook of all places. He must have searched for her.
It was the simplest of messages- Hi.
Dinah took a deep breath, her thumb poised over the response box. She couldn’t just not answer, even though that was the best thing to do. He was a jerk who ghosted her and now he contacts her three years? She wasn’t anyone’s second choice; she deserved better than that.
She knew she was going to respond, but say what? Definitely not Hi back or How are you? It’s so good to hear from you.
No, she was going to do what she was good at- give him a piece of her mind. There were many times when someone treated her badly and she was able to voice her feelings and opinions on what they did. Definitely not to their face, but through writing. Maybe she was a coward in that regard, but it was quicker and easier to give them a piece of your mind through texts or emails than through seeing them in person. On the phone, there was a 99% chance that they’ll interrupt. And once they interrupt, she would lose her nerve completely.
But with Dario, there weren't many words that were needed.
Dinah: I have zero interest in talking to you again.
She rolled her eyes. Really?
Dinah: Because you never messaged me back after such a long time.
Dario: Sorry. I got back together with my ex.
Dinah knew she only went on one date with him. It wasn’t a big deal.
It isn’t a big deal. It isn’t a big deal, she thought. You don’t have to get hung up on this.
But her brain wasn’t matching up with her heart. She was hurt. He chose someone else over her, and not just anyone, his ex- a woman who he ended a relationship with because of whatever issues. The fact that he would rather return to a relationship with her than see Dinah again hurt.
She drew a deep breath and took another bite of her salad, trying to see if focusing on her food would calm the sudden drop her stomach took at his words and the prickling sensation she felt all over her arms whenever she experienced disappointment like this.
She couldn’t help it. She quickly typed out her response.
Dinah: So why are you messaging me if you’re with her?
No freakin’ way would she ever be a booty call. What an insult after what she shared with him on their date.
Dario: No, I’m single.
Dinah exhaled and then typed furiously.
Dinah: It doesn’t matter. I texted you twice and you never responded. We were set to go out on a specific date the last time and you bailed.
Dario: I never ducked you. I just wasn’t over my ex and we rekindled our relationship. Things like that happen.
Dinah: I get that, but you should’ve responded anyway and not leave me hanging. That was rude. Ducking?
Dario: Yeah, like ducking something. Avoiding you.
Dinah: You not responding is avoiding me.
Dario: So I guess you want to talk now?
Dinah: Why do you guess that?
Dario: Because you’re talking to me now.
Dinah: I’m talking to you to give you a piece of my mind and to see what happened.
Dario: Well, I liked talking to you.
Dinah: Well, you should’ve pursued that and not let me go. I’m a pretty awesome person and you messed that up.
Dario: Like I said, I got back together with my ex. I still wasn’t over her but we are done for sure.
Dinah: I wish you would’ve told me you weren't over her even before our date, then I wouldn't have wasted my time.
Dario: I didn’t realize I wasn’t. I really thought I was over her. I’d still like to talk if that’s cool.
Dinah put down the phone in frustration and finished eating her salad, vowing she wouldn’t look at her phone anymore until after work was done. He didn’t even deserve all the responses she was giving him. And honestly, she didn’t know what she was going to do.
The bell rang. Lizzie put away her lunchbag and turned her science manual to the proper lesson for the day. She pushed any thoughts of Dario out of her mind as she wrote Plant Life Cycle on the board.
On the walk over to her car, dragging her huge rolling crate of papers to grade at home, her thoughts turned back to Dario’s message. Should she give him another chance? Maybe he really meant what he said and he realized that she was too good to let go. Maybe he wanted to start all over again. How many countless romances did she read where the hero or heroine made a huge mistake, choosing someone else who wasn’t worthy of their time to finally realize that the hero or heroine was who they should've picked all along?
There were two classic novels that flashed in Dinah’s mind- Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen was the master of writing about people who realized their mistakes and took steps to fix it. Maybe in a twenty-first century guy’s way, that’s what he was doing, just like Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennett, and Anne Elliott.
“Ugh,” she groaned as her crate toppled over to the side as the elevated sidewalk ended. It happened every day without fail, and every day without fail, Dinah said she would be on the look out for it. As she rearranged her crate to continue on to her car, she berated herself as well for overthinking this whole Dario situation.
They went out on one freakin’ date. He didn’t follow up like countless other guys did, and now he just wanted to talk to her. Maybe she should give him a chance. What if she didn’t and he did turn out to be someone that was going to be important in her life? What if the intense feelings she felt after their date were justified?
Ok, she thought, just talk to him. Don’t make a big deal about it. Feel him out. If he continues to be a jerk or if he does the disappearing act again, block him.
Once she opened the trunk of her car to deposit the crate, she slid into the driver’s seat and took out her phone and opened up Messenger.
No new messages from him. She guessed he was still waiting for her response. She still had a few questions to ask him, but there was no way that she was going to give the okay for them to officially talk to start over again so soon.
Dinah: How did you find me on FB?
Dario: I looked up your first name. Not many Dinahs in Miami.
So he actually searched for her. That confirmation made her feel somewhat good, that he thought of her and took the actual time to search and find her. She wrinkled her brows. Something wasn’t adding up.
Dinah: Why didn't you just send a message on my cell?
Dario: I don’t have your number anymore.
Dinah: Uh… how?
Dario: I got a new phone.
From then on, Dinah and Dario texted every day. She didn’t have to say yes or no to talking to him, she just did through her actions.
But just texting wasn’t enough for her. She wanted to meet him again. Dinah didn’t know why he delayed in asking her. So one night, right before she was going to call it a night and go to sleep, she took the big leap.
Dinah: So… are we going to hang out soon?
Dario: Well, when do you want to?
Dinah: Maybe this Saturday?
Dario: Sure, Where to?
Dinah: Maybe we can try something new… like hanging out on the beach?
Dario: South Beach or on the actual beach?
Dinah: The actual beach… maybe Key Biscayne? It’ll be cool to just walk on the sand. I’m tired of just going out to eat.
Dario: Ok. Sounds cool.
She furrowed her brows in doubt. He was being too blasé about this. A tinge of frustration coursed through her.
Dinah: You do plan on actually showing up, right?
Dario: Why wouldn’t I?
Dinah: Because you stood me up last time.
Dario: When did I stand you up?
Dinah: When we planned to go to Starbucks.
Dario: I never confirmed.
Dinah’s mouth dropped open and she held the phone in her hands as she jumped off the bed, her thumbs moving furiously on the screen.
Dinah: What? I gave you a place and date. I asked you the day of and you said yes. I asked you two times and you never responded.
Dario: Yeah, that means I didn’t confirm.
Dinah: That’s pretty crappy and wrong.
Dario: Things happen. But…did you ever NOT have a good time when we hung out?
Dinah: We only hung out once and that’s not the point. I waited for you to tell me a time and you never did, so how can I trust that you won’t do the same thing now?
Dario: I won’t. Scout’s honor.
Dinah: Were you ever a scout?
Dario: LOL. No, but I promise. I’m going to show up on Saturday.
Dinah: You better, because it will look so shitty if you leave me hanging, especially when I WILL be there waiting.
Dinah placed the phone on her nightstand and ran a hand through her hair. Did she totally mess this up? Was she acting too desperate? She couldn’t help it. She didn’t want a repeat of a few months ago to happen again and if he even thinks of doing that again, she’d block him so quick he wouldn't know what hit him.
No, she acted fine. She was standing her ground. There were moments to be nonchalant and show a too-cool-for-you attitude, but with a guy standing up a girl you had to tell him what was allowed and what wasn’t. This time, she needed to set the date, place, and a specific time and hold him to it.
Dinah: So this is the plan. No excuses. This Saturday at Key Biscayne, seven o’clock. I will be there.
Dario: Ok. I’ll be there too.
Dinah exited the app and plugged in her phone, ready to do her ritual of shutting off the lights in her apartment, brushing her teeth, and getting all snuggly in her bed before letting herself fall into a deep slumber. But as her head hit the pillow and the darkness of the room enveloped her, she thought of how she either made the best decision of her life to meet him, or made the biggest mistake by wasting any time on Dario.
Dinah was true to her word. On Saturday at seven, she was walking down the beach. She loved the feel of the cool sand on her bare feet. She lifted her head up so she could bask in the wonderful breeze that being near the water brought. She briefly stopped to watch the last rays of sunlight disappear beneath the horizon, marveling how magical the mix of yellow, orange, and red appeared in the sky. She swung her sandals back and forth, smiling.
Though any of her friends would think she was stupid for going on a second date to the beach at night, she felt she made a good choice. For if he was to stand her up, at least she’d have seen a sunset that she didn’t see that often at home and also, there was nothing that compared to the sense of belonging and peace she felt being at a beach, whether it be during the day or night.
“Hope I’m not interrupting your thoughts,” a somewhat familiar voice said from right behind her.
Dinah turned around quickly, dropping her shoes as she stood face to face with Dario. She thought she would forget his voice after so many months, but the lower timbre of his tone and the way it made her spine tingle and her heart race made her feel like their first date had been only yesterday.
“Hey,” she said, awarding him with a brilliant smile. Though in her mind she didn’t like what he did before, once he stood right in front of her, any misgivings she had about him melted away.
Dario was just as she remembered him,almost a foot taller than her, with the same piercing eyes and shiny black hair. It was a little longer than when she met him, reaching a little past his ear. She desperately wanted to run her fingers through it. God, she was pathetic. The magnetism that he exuded was something Dinah never experienced before except on their first date.
He closed the space between them to give her a slight peck on the cheek, just like he did many months ago. “It’s nice to finally see you.”
“I was prepared for you not showing up, so I was just basking in the sunset. The beach is one of my favorite places to go,” Dinah rambled. It was her attempt to show a bubbly personality- a peeling of an onion layer that showed that she was more than a pretty face to Dario. It was to show that she had interests and was a deep thinker. Dinah hated and couldn’t admit it to herself, but deep down, she wanted him to fall in love with her. This time, she wanted him to choose her, to actually follow through with letting their interactions progress into something deeper.
“Yeah, I like the beach too. One of my favorite kinds of first dates is to go in the water on the beach,” he said, leading the way down the length of the shoreline.
“For real? You’ve gone on first dates to the beach, as in, meeting for the first time in bathing suits?” she asked, furrowing her brows as she dug her feet deep into the wet sand.
Dario shrugged. “Yeah, why not?”
“I don’t know. It just seems like an odd choice.” Dinah couldn’t imagine how nerve wracking that kind of date would be- because not only would she be stressing about what kind of clothing she would wear to a regular date that could hide any extra flab she had, but worrying how her only bathing suit will look to a guy she just met.
“Well, they turned out okay,” he said, following Dinah’s lead and digging his feet into the sand.
It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him about his past relationships. This was never a topic they touched upon on their last date, but she wasn’t sure if it was too soon. Screw it. She decided to take the plunge. If they were going to continue talking and getting to know each other, this was going to have to come up sometime.
“So, what happened between you and your ex, if you don’t mind me asking?” she asked, looking away from him and focusing on the feel of the wet sand beneath her toes.
Dario quickly glanced at her before looking on ahead.
“She turned crazy and destroyed my house.”
Dinah stopped in her tracks. “What?” She turned to face him and any reservations she had about asking him about relationship stuff so soon melted away with the shock of his information.
He raised his brows and shook his head, letting out a deep breath. “ Yeah, completely nuts. She accused me of things and turned over my bookcases, tv set, couch. I couldn’t stay there so I’m living with my mom. I haven’t lived with my parents in over ten years.”
“So wait a minute, she kicked you out of her home?”
“Basically. She said she wasn’t leaving because she had no place to go. So her and her son are living in my house now. But I’ve got a court case coming up to get her evicted.”
“How old is her son?” Dinah asked.
In her experience, she found that guys usually tended to avoid dating women with kids already. Extra baggage, they said. Dinah couldn’t help feeling a bit upset that he chose to date this woman over her. But then she remembered that he had a previous relationship and she knew more than anyone that love is blind. Dinah was totally the person to love blindly, no matter how many faults they had. So she pushed her disappointment and looked on the bright side- he was spending time with her now. Maybe he was appreciating and realized what a mistake he made. So a good thing to do would be to support and comfort him.
“He’s thirteen…fourteen,” Dario said.
“And they are both living in your house,” Dinah stated.
“Yep, but I’ll have them evicted soon. The court date is next month and I’ve got everything set. I can’t believe I have to go to court with her over this. It’s so embarrassing. She is so embarrassing. Why doesn’t she just leave?” Dario stretched his arms and looked up towards the sky in frustration.
“Is the house partly hers?”
“Nope. It’s all mine. I bought it before her and everything is in my name so there really is no legal reason for her to stay there, which is why I’m going to win that court case,” he said.
“Maybe she’s not leaving because she still loves you,” Dinah offered.
He shrugged. “Maybe so but she’s the one that destroyed my home over something that is so stupid and that she heard from other people. She’s crazy; not stable at all.”
She sighed, bending her knees to touch the cool water with her hands. “ Whatever caused her to ruin your house shows that she really cared deeply for you. I feel sorry for her that she had to express her feelings like that.”
“Ha. Don’t feel sorry for her. She loves to one up me and cause as much destruction and misery as humanly possible.” His hands clenched into fists.
Dinah looked up at him and pressed her lips together in a thin line. Maybe she shouldn’t have asked him about his ex. He seemed to be so passionate talking about her, his voice showing frustration, stretching his arms, tense hands… it made Dinah ask a question that she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer to.
“Are you over her?”
Dario bent down to meet Dinah’s gaze. He brushed his finger against her cheek. “ I am so over her. I can’t wait to finally be free of her and spend more time with someone who is ten times better than her.”
She took a deep breath at his words, especially the last ones, because she knew their implication. But before she could think about it any further or even respond, he pulled her to him, their lips locking in a kiss that quickly deepened.
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders until there was no space left between them. Dinah’s lips tingled and heat pooled between her legs. Dario quickly deepened the kiss and Dinah followed his lead. Her mind went blank and all rational thought went out the window as she let pure instinct take over.
The logic and reasoning of if this was appropriate so soon in their reconnection went out the window. Oh, screw it. She’d never been kissed like this. And right now, the only one she’d ever want to kiss her like this was Dario. She had no idea how long they were locked in that embrace, unable to keep their hands off each other. She let out a little moan as Dario opened her mouth with his tongue. Her whole body seemed to shake as his tongue moved with hers.
But an icy shiver ran down her back when she felt one hand sliding up to touch her breast. She pushed him away gently and dropped her gaze to the wet sand. Her index finger slowly traced circles on the floor and she focused all her thoughts on steadying her breathing.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice coming out as breathless as hers.
“Yeah,” she shook her head. “I’m not ready for that.”
“It’s fine. I got ahead of myself.” He placed his hand on top of her roaming finger, stilling it. “Do you want to keep walking? My ass is getting wet.”
Dinah laughed, feeling relief at his words. Other guys would call her a tease for stopping things from going any further- say she was playing games for responding but then stopping all of a sudden. But obviously Dario wasn’t like that. He respected her; he respected her decision.
She grinned. “Yeah, me too. I didn’t even notice until now, actually.’
“But it was a good not- noticing, right?” he asked as they got up off the ground and continued walking.
“Yeah, it was. It was a really good not-noticing,” she said, glancing up at him.
That moment…the moment he didn’t push or make her feel bad about stopping their intense makeout session was the moment she knew he wasn’t like the others. It was the moment that she made a conscious decision to fall in love with him.
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