M A X
I had finished my shift for the day, and was planning on getting an early night when my phone rang. I held it to my shoulder, pressing it in place with my cheek as I fished the keys back out of my bag. I’d just locked up, but I still needed to do the shutters.
“Hello?” I answer, slipping the key into the stubborn shutter lock. I had to flick my wrist twice to the left to loosen the mechanisms within the lock to start the loud process of bringing down the shutters. They were ancient, and groaned loudly as they made their way down the store windows painfully slowly.
“Hey, Max? It’s Andy.”
“Hi! Sorry, one second Andy, I’m just locking up.”
Finally the shutters meet the ground, and I tug the key back out of the lock, dropping them into my bag before surveying the store, ensuring it was satisfactorily locked up. I blow my hair out of my eyes before turning my attention back to the phone pressed against my ear.
“I’m here,” I smile, hoping he hasn’t got a damaged eardrum. “How are you?”
“Bored, and feeling spontaneous,” Andy declares with a chuckle. “You work in town, right?”
“Yes,” I reply, stopping still. Where was he going with this? My heart began to pound when his next words confirmed my fears.
“I can come and meet you, if you like? My meeting finished a little later than planned and I thought...well, shall we just meet?”
I open my mouth to respond, trying to think of a reasonable excuse. Surely the fact that I was tired and wanted to crash onto my sofa with a bottle of wine and Matthew Grey Gubler on the television wouldn’t suffice, so instead my brain went for the easiest word in my vocabulary.
Not only did I say yes, I seemed to almost squeal.
Oh, Max, you hopeless fucking sausage.
A cold sweat trickles down my back when Andy cheerfully suggests a bar close to work, and I realise I’m meeting a stranger. I end the call, dialling Charlotte in a blind panic. She doesn’t answer, and I begin to have visions of me ending up in the boot of Andy’s car, chopped into tiny pieces. No one would miss me for days- I didn’t even have a cat to feed. It would only be when I didn’t show for work in three days that someone would maybe raise the alarm, and by then I would be decomposing under a lake somewhere.
I swipe hastily to my text messages, sending one to Charlotte AND Harry, letting them know I was meeting Andy-From-The-Dating-Site and where I was going to be in case I disappeared. My heart began to beat at a normal rate when Harry replied.
Harry: What?! Be careful. Call if you need me.
Harry: Don’t take him home, no matter what. You never know.
Harry: Text me when you are home please, thank you!
I snort with laughter as I push my phone into my bag, my eyes scanning the road before attempting to cross. The street was relatively busy considering everyone had left work around five thirty, and I knew most would be heading home or to a bar. How many of them were going on a first date, with a black t-shirt on that bore the logo on their employer, their hair in a messy loose bun and barely any make-up on?
It’s fine Max, it is just a drink. If you don’t like him, you leave.
The bar was now in sight, causing me to exhale loudly. I had a rule, whereas I never walked into a bar alone. Ever. But this was a first date; what option did I have? I should’ve asked him to wait outside-
I whirl on my heel, my eyes bulging with disbelief when a tall, handsome man jogs down the street towards me. He is well built, and his smile widens when he clocks me gawping at him.
This was not Andy. Andy had a dog, and a sense of humour. He was also single, and looking for love. This guy standing in front of me did not appear to have any issues with attracting women. Soft curls framed his face, which was tanned and flawless. Green eyes glanced over my body with an air of admiration, and I felt a wave of triumph wash over me.
Yes, I am a state, but you still totally checked me out.
“The one and only,” Andy chuckles, an apprehensive smile on his lips. “That sounds really cheesy, I swear it sounded so much better in my head.”
We exchange nervous smiles, before Andy clears his throat.
“Uh, so shall we go into the bar?”
He shoves his hands in his pockets, and smiles at me in such a cute way. Shit, he had dimples.
“Yes,” I grin, waiting for him to lead the way. He insists on opening the door for me, and waving his hand for me to go through first.
What a gentleman.
The bar itself was surprisingly tame for a Friday night, but we have that awkwardness between us that probably would have benefited from being pushed into a dark corner together. I sneak a glance at him as he scans the bar, noticing his strong jaw and thick eyelashes. He turns to me and I try to fix my gaze on a point above his head, making out I was fascinated with the ceiling.
I was a fucking novice.
“What do you want to drink?” Andy asks, his gaze sweeping back over me before smiling again widely.
He certainly looks pleased with himself, I thought.
“Can I just get vodka, lime and soda please?” I ask politely, spotting a booth to my left that was vacant. I loved sitting in booths, something about the soft cushioning just screamed comfort, with the added bonus of privacy. I point at the booth as he nods, and we go our separate ways for a brief moment. I settle down in the booth when he returns, and places a tall glass before me.
“Wow, that was quick,” I observe, thanking him for the drink.
“The girl behind the bar looked bored,” he drawled, leaning forward to gaze at me unnervingly. “You are beautiful, Max.”
‘You’re beautiful, Maxie.’ The memory of Cain whispering those exact words to me only a week prior made me sit upright, forcing a smile as I did.
“Thank you. Not too bad yourself,” I reply as he swallows.
“It’s good to finally meet you,” he says, running a hand through his mop of unruly curls. “I know we have spoken on the phone, but I just thought- I wanted to meet you. I’m glad you came.”
“Me too. This isn’t how I would normally dress for a first date,” I confess, waving a hand at my clothes.
“It isn’t?” Andy teases, and I find myself rolling my eyes.
“No, usually I’d wear the Disney Pyjamas.”
He laughs then, and there’s a slightly awkward pause, which we both try to end at the same time.
“So,” I say, sipping my vodka.
“Soooo,” Andy exhales, lifting his eyebrows as he clasps his hands together.
We laugh at ourselves then, and the atmosphere seems to relax.
“You like reading,” he states, tilting his head with interest. “What else do you do with yourself?”
I feel like I’m at a job interview then, and I panic.
“I have always wanted to learn a foreign language, but I honestly can’t string a sentence together in any other language, so I gave up,” I prattle on, and he nods accordingly. “I wish I could say I was sporty, but I’m not.”
I realise I have done extremely well at sounding like a useless lump, and rack my brains to think of anything spectacular or mediocrely interesting that I can offer, when my mind draws a blank.
“I’m actually pretty boring,” I say quietly, lifting my drink to my lips once more just so I don’t speak.
“Films? Box sets?” he presses, an amused smile on his lips. I squirm in my chair, licking my lips when he laughs. “I’m kidding. It’s cool.”
“Thank God, my mind went completely blank. I have only just finished watching Penny Dreadful too.”
The conversation begins to flow a little easier then, and Andy gets up to get us another drink, refusing my offer to pay. I use the opportunity to check my phone, and see fourteen missed calls from Charlotte, all within the space of five minutes of one another. I sent her a text, telling her all was well, and that Andy seemed normal.
Charlotte: Is he hot?
Max: Yes, and cute too :)
Andy returns, an air of sandalwood and spice circulating around him as he does. He smells good. His sleeves are rolled up, and I find myself gazing hungrily at his forearms which are tanned and veiny. I had a thing for veins in forearms, hence the gawp on my face.
“I can’t stay long,” Andy says apologetically. “I have to get back for Benny.”
“Oh yes, your poor dog, he must be waiting for you! No, that’s fine, we can go now if you need to-” I babble, reaching for my drink as he sits back in his chair, a look of wonder on his face.
“You’re really nice, Max. Beautiful and lovely.”
I flush then, lacing my fingers together. I just wasn’t used to the compliments.
“Benny won’t mind if I sit here with you for another half an hour or so. Infact, he would be elated if he knew,” he joked.
“Is he desperate for you to settle down?” I laugh, my churning with nerves.
How am I still nervous? It’s something about the way he looks at me.
He is doing it again now, the emerald green gaze seems to be searching mine, before he laughs softly, glancing away.
“It’s been a while, let’s just say.”
I decide not to press, but then he asks me the same question.
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “I have been single a while now, but I think I need to start dating again, you know?”
Andy leans forward then, nodding as his gaze falls to my lips.
“Do you want to then?” he asks, the words barely audible. The poor guy must be as nervous as I am.
“Sorry, do I want to- what?” I frown, enjoying the way he clasps his hands together, as though gearing himself up from something.
“Want to start dating? Because I want to see the Disney pyjamas,” he says, trying to keep a straight face. I’m distracted by the way his eyes keep scanning my face, as though he is unable to believe I am real.
“Ha, ha,” I scoff, finishing my drink.His fingertips brush against my elbow then, and I look up at him with wide eyes.
“I’m serious,” he smiles, biting his bottom lip.
Oh fuck, he is cute.
“Are you free tomorrow night? I’d love to take you for dinner.”
My brain overrides my mouth again, and I agree to go on another date with Andy. He looks like he has won the lottery, and I feel strangely similar. I feel at ease in his company, and he is very attractive. Maybe he will take me to a French restaurant and challenge me to eat snails or something equally absurd- the man will have a flaw, of that I’m positive.
He is a true gentleman, ordering me a cab and paying for it upfront on his uber account. I feel almost giddy when he lifts my hand to his lips, brushing them against the skin softly.
“Until tomorrow, Max.”
“Goodnight,” I whisper, sliding into the car before letting him close it behind me.
Max: Charlotte! Success! Date number two tomorrow night :)
Charlotte: WHAT?! Call me when you get in!
I fully intended to.