The last week of summer break passes in a blur, and it’s already Saturday again. School starts back up on Monday, and I’m excited. I’ve always looked forward to the first day of school for some reason. Everyone seems so happy to see each other after the summer break, eager to share their stories about how they spent the summer. Some people seem to change drastically in those two months, and some, not so much.
I'm looking forward to seeing my good friend Dane. I want to hear all about his time with the Homes organization. I’d bet he’s changed.
This past week for me, has been the most exciting part of my entire summer, ever since I met Conrad. I haven’t seen him since last Saturday, but we’ve been exchanging messages and phone calls all week. Sometimes, he’ll send me a song lyric, sometimes it’s just a sweet little note, and every time, I find myself grinning like an idiot. We haven’t talked about our age difference again since last weekend. I think it’s something we’re both hesitant to discuss. We know it’s something we might have to talk about again, but for now, we’re just trying to get to know each other first. Maybe once he knows me better, it’ll be a non-issue. At least, I hope so.
We have our first date tonight. I’m going to meet him at his place, and we’ll go from there. He offered to pick me up, but I told him that I haven’t told my parents about him yet and that they would probably be one of our first hurdles in the age battle, not to mention, him showing up on a motorcycle would probably freak them out even more. I do want to tell them, but since we don’t know what this is or where it’s going yet, I’d rather wait until there’s something to tell. I don’t want to get them all riled up if this thing doesn’t last past the first date or two. Maybe Conrad won’t be able to get past the age gap himself and back out after all.
Desiree has ordered me to come over to her house to get ready for the date to ensure I 'look my hot best,' as she says. I am actually relieved for once to have her guidance, since she’s the one who dressed me last weekend, and it obviously got Conrad’s attention. I was fretting over what I was going to wear, but with access to Desiree’s vast wardrobe, I’m no longer worried. I’m standing before her closet, eyeing up the rows and rows of clothing.
“I think you have a serious shopping addiction,” I tell her, running my hands along a stunning red top.
“It’s not an addiction,” she argues, “I just have a taste for the newest trends.”
Des pulls out the red top and holds it against me before throwing it in the maybe pile.
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s it. I’m surprised your dad hasn’t put you on a smaller budget.”
“Nah. Dad says as long as I keep doing well in school and go to college, he can indulge me in this. It’s his idea of positive reinforcement.”
I can’t help but roll my eyes at her.
“You’re so spoiled.”
“Yeah, but hey, I always look so fabulous, and you know you can raid my clothes whenever you want, which you never do, until today apparently.”
“You’re the one who told me to come over.”
“You’re right, I did, didn’t I? But I simply cannot have you showing up to your date in one of your oversized button-ups and converse now, could I?”
“I would have tried a little harder than that,” I argue, mentally going through my options at home.
“Well, now you don’t have to try. Now you can look effortlessly chic,” Desiree rummages through the maybe pile and decides on the red top that I was admiring, “here, I could tell you liked this one. It suits you. I want you to have it.”
I take the shirt from her, not able to contain my smile. I admire the soft, silky fabric of the blouse. However, I notice that the bust line is quite a bit lower than I previously noted.
“Of course. I think I was thinking of you when I bought it anyway. I know you don’t usually wear this color, but you need to expand your color horizons instead of your usual palette of black, white, grey, or blue.”
“Do you think I could even fill it out?” I fret.
“Of course you can Syd. It’s not like you have nothing to work with. What are you, a large B, small C?”
Embarrassed, I cover my chest.
She just laughs at me and swats my hand away.
“Don’t cover it up, flaunt what you got.”
“Well, I don’t want to flaunt it too much. Wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression.”
“And what impression is that?”
Des cocks an eyebrow at me, daring me to elaborate. I sigh in defeat and shake my head.
“Nothing. I just want to look nice for Conrad, that’s all.”
“You’ll look way better than just nice. You’ll look great, so we had better get a move on because it’s already five.”
“The dates not until seven.”
“Exactly. That gives us less than two hours. I know you usually put a good fifteen minutes in, but this is major.”
Once again, she’s got me all dolled up, just like last weekend. I’m wearing my new red blouse that has a V neckline that stops only at my cleavage, so it’s not as revealing as I thought it’d be, along with a pair of dark blue skinny jeans and black leather, knee-high boots, which are luckily not heeled. I told Des that I shouldn’t wear heels in case we go on his bike again, or walk a lot. My hair is in a loose side braid, and I won the battle against too much make up. Des wanted me to wear red lipstick to go with the blouse, but I knew that would be too much for me. I want to look like myself, just a more put-together version of myself.
At Desiree’s coaxing, I had sent Conrad a message to pick me up at her house instead. She had insisted that it’d be more traditional for him to pick me up rather than for me to go to him, I suppose I agree with her logic, and also, I didn’t want to go to his place in case the entire crew was there.
At precisely seven, we hear the telltale rumble of a bike pull up in front of Desiree’s house.
“Impressive, not even a minute late,” Desiree says with a smirk.
My stomach does an excited flip-flop, and I have to stop myself from running out the front door. Instead, I manage to keep a reasonable pace as I walk out the front door and towards Conrad. He’s already off his bike and walking towards me.
“You look beautiful,” he compliments me with a drool-worthy smile.
“So do you,” I blurt.
I inwardly cringe as I feel my face heat up, and hear him chuckle.
“I try to look presentable, but you’ve got me beat by a long run,” he says.
“So, what’s the plan?” I ask, trying to dispel the awkwardness.
I try not to stare at him for too long, but I can’t help it. He looks so good in his black jeans, dark blue button-up, and a leather jacket. His hair is in perfect disarray, and he makes it even better by running a hand through it. I feel my knees go slightly weak every time he does that.
“Well, I thought we’d grab dinner and take it from there- see where the night takes us. I hope that’s all right?"
“Sounds good to me,” I agree, trying to sound cool, but I can hear the excitement in my voice.
Conrad leads me to his bike and hands me the same helmet that I wore last time he took me for a ride.
“Sorry about the bike, I guess it might mess up your hair,” he says, sounding apologetic as he throws his leg over the seat.
“Don’t be sorry, this is way more fun,” I tell him, hopping onto the bike behind him, happy that I get to wrap my arms around him once again.
“Glad to hear that. Okay, Syd, hold on tight.”
He starts the bike, and I feel it rumble underneath me. The sound resonates throughout my entire body, and I feel that new excitement again. Bravely, I rest my chin on his shoulder as we take off down the dark street. The smell of his cologne and leather mixed together makes my heart start to beat faster, and my arms wrap around him even tighter.
After taking what was clearly the long way, we end up at a romantic little Italian restaurant in town called La Mia Fantasia. I’ve walked by it a million times, but never went in. He gives the Maitre d’ his name, and we are led to a semi-private booth in the corner.
“I hope you like Italian. If not, we can go someplace else,” he says as we slide into the booth.
“No, I love Italian food,” I tell him as we are handed menus.
“What can I get you two to drink? A bottle of wine, perhaps?” The waiter asks us.
“I’ll pass on the wine,” Conrad tells him, glancing at me, “Driving. Syd, please order whatever you like.”
“Of course,” the waiter nods in understanding and turns to me.
“I’ll just have an iced tea,” I tell him.
Even though he isn’t drinking because he’s driving, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks it’s strange to be on a date with someone who can’t legally order herself an alcoholic beverage. I almost want to ask him but decide not to, afraid to bring up a touchy subject. I want him to get to know me better so that maybe it won’t be an issue later.
“I’ll have the same,” Conrad says.
The waiter nods again and leaves us to peruse the menu.
It’s quiet between us for a little while. I’m not sure of what to say, and Conrad seems to be deep in thought. Except for our thoughts on the menu, neither of us says much more until our orders are taken, and the waiter rushes off to put them through. Finally, Conrad speaks up.
“You’re so quiet.”
“I guess I’m just nervous,” I admit.
“Nervous? Why is that?”
Conrad moves in closer to me in the booth and places his arm across the back of the seat behind me.
“I haven’t been on a lot of dates.”
“How is that possible?” he asks, sounding genuinely surprised.
“I mean, I’ve been on a couple here and there, but they’ve never gone any farther than one or two dates.”
“So, you’re nervous about this date because you think it’ll go further?”
The way his voice lowers when he says this, only amplifies my nerves.
“I uh- I guess I was hoping…”
My voice trails off.
“Relax, Sydney. You know, you’re adorable when you’re nervous. If it helps you relax, then know that I’m hoping you’ll let me take you out far more than one or two times, okay?”
“I guess I’m nervous because I’m afraid you won’t want to take me out more than that,” I tell him; I might as well put it out there.
“Why wouldn’t I want to?”
“The age difference. I’m waiting for the moment you realize I’m too young for you and bail.”
“You think I would do that?”
“Well, I don’t really know Conrad. I want to believe that you wouldn’t, but we just met, and there’s a lot I don’t know about you. I know for most people, it would be a deal-breaker.”
Conrad just stares at me for a minute; I think to consider what I’ve said.
“To be honest with you Syd, usually, it would be for me too. However, as I said before, there’s something about you, and I want to know more."
“I’m just your average eighteen year old,” I say with a shrug.
Shut up, Sydney! What are you trying to do, talk him out of this?
“No, I don’t think so,” he says with a small shake of his head.
“What makes you think so?” I challenge him.
“I find that I like how you seem so sweet and shy, but then suddenly you’ll surprise me by being completely open and honest. I think that you think you shouldn’t say anything, but you say it anyway. You probably don’t think so, but I think you are braver than you know.”
“I guess I’m trying to be anyway. I’ve kind of been living in my own little bubble for a long time, and I’m eager to see what’s outside that bubble,” I tell him.
“I’d like to show you what’s outside your bubble if you’ll let me.”
“You have my full permission to do that,” I say, rather flirtatiously, feeling the nervousness fading away.
“What would you like to see first?” he says, lowering his voice, and dropping his arm from the booth to my shoulders.
I turn my head to look at him, and he’s looking right back at me. His dark eyes burn into mine, and I feel a thrill run up my spine. I want him to kiss me again, so I try to convey that by leaning into him. Fortunately, he picks up my signal, and he begins to lean in. Unfortunately, the waiter chooses that precise moment to show up with our food, just as Conrad’s lips are an inch from mine.
“I guess I’ll just have to show you later,” he murmurs with a mischievous and sinfully sexy grin.