“Hey... hi.” His voice was taut with nerves. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry for snapping at you earlier.”
Though he couldn’t see me, I shook my head. “Don’t, I shouldn’t have pried. I’m sorry.”
“No, please. I could’ve handled it better.”
I sighed. “Listen, there’s no sense in dragging this out.
A couple beats of silence passed before either of us spoke again. If it wasn’t for Joseph clearing his throat, I’d have been convinced the line went dead.
“Uh, if you’d like, and I sincerely hope you will, do you think you’d be up for a slice of pizza? Consider it an extension of my apology.”
There was a tinge of humor in his voice.
“I just had dinner about ten minutes ago.”
The disappointment in his voice was evident. “Oh. Well maybe another time then?”
I’m not sure if it was me not wanting him to eat pizza alone or if it was me genuinely wanting to see him, but words left my mouth before I could come to a conclusion.
“I could go for dessert, though. This pizza place- say, do they have cheesecake?”
“The best you’ll ever have,” he said. I could hear the smile in his voice.
“Alright, ya got me. I can meet you somewhere?”
“I’m like two seconds away from your house, also courtesy of Alex.”
“Holy hell, okay but park a couple houses down and remind me to post her address on Craigslist.”
The sound of his laughter reverberating through the speaker made my heart flip.
“See you in a minute,” I said, hanging up.
I was excited, but it didn’t last long before realization hit me: my mom probably wouldn’t let me leave. A good excuse is what I needed, something that could get me out with the least amount of follow-up questions. Then another thing hit me: Alex. She owed me anyhow.
I made a quick run to my mirror and pushed my hair down the center of my back. Sifting through my drawers, my hand landed on a sheer red top that I easily slipped over the black tank I was already wearing. Lastly I pulled on my chucks and left my room trying to contain my giddiness.
“Mom?” I called out halfway down the staircase.
It sounded like she was in the living room and this was good. I would have a much slimmer chance of cracking if I wasn’t speaking directly to her.
“Uh, could I head over to Alex’s for a little?”
“It’s 6:30, what are you guys up to?”
The English project was due the next day so technically I wouldn’t have been lying if I said I needed to go over it a couple more times.
That was a lie. I was definitely lying. I wasn’t going to rehearse, I was going out with Joseph, my very interesting, undeniably attractive new acquaintance.
“Tomorrow is the oral presentation for Mr. Klein and I want to rehearse with Alex one more time to make sure everything is good to go.”
A moment of silence passed. Then another. One more time before she finally answered.
“Be back by no later than 8 o’clock. I mean it.”
“Thanks, Mom!” I scurried down the remaining steps and out of the front door.
Hehe, Sienna- 1 Mom- 0.
The brisk evening air hit my bare arms and face and it felt amazing. I walked one block from my house and that’s when I noticed Joseph standing near his car. He had a huge childlike grin on his face, but when he saw me come into view, he quickly stiffened trying to hide it. It was too late.
I peeled my eyes from his face and took in the view of his car, the famous Lucy I’ve heard so much about. She was a nice sleek red beauty with a very vintage look, like one of the cars you’d see in an old school car show. It fit Joseph’s personality well.
“Hey,” I said with a wave. This was the first time we’d ever been together alone outside of school and I didn’t know what to expect.
“Good evening, Sienna.”
The cool tone of his voice sent chills down my spine.
“Oh, we’re doing a formal thing. Gotcha.” I cleared my throat and started over. “What’s on our itinerary for this evening, Mister Vasquez?”
A slow smirk crossed his face as he answered me. “I’m very glad you asked, Miss...”
“Of course, Miss Martinez. We’ll be dining at Giovanni’s pizzeria tonight. I stumbled upon this gem when I first moved back here.”
“Intriguing. I’ve lived here all my life and have never heard of the establishment.” My hand flew over my heart. “Oh wait- I know why. Because my mother keeps me locked in a chamber where I live out my days gazing out of a lone window. Woe is me!”
Joseph shook his head, chuckling lightly. “Well please, let me show you a good time tonight.”
“I’d be a fool to say no,” I answered with a smile.
On the way to the restaurant, Joseph and I bounced questions off one another and shared little facts about ourselves. Or at least he did the majority of the sharing. It was a combination of me feeling like I was too boring and me being genuinely more interested in him that left me quiet for a good portion of the ride. When we crossed the subject of his car, Joseph only became that much more interesting to me.
“Lucy was a gift from my dad for my sixteenth birthday. I was the happiest kid on the planet and naturally she is the first and only car I’ve ever driven.”
“Wow, that’s pretty awesome. For my sixteenth birthday I got a new bookshelf. I’m pretty sure I was the happiest kid on the planet.”
At that Joseph laughed. “I believe it,” he said, keeping his eyes on the road.
“So was there anything that got you into cars?”
“Nah, I’ve always loved ’em, especially the older models.”
“What type of car is Lucy?”
“She’s a 1970 Mercury XR7 Convertible,” he said, proudly tapping the dashboard.
“I don’t know about cars the way you do, like at all, but Lucy is gorgeous inside and out.”
“She sure is, isn’t she?”
Looking out of the window, I saw we had stopped in front of a cozy looking building. Perched on the roof was a sign that read “Giovanni’s Pizza” lit up in bright red sparkling lights that illuminated the entire block. I couldn’t wait to see the inside.
A wide-smiling, very tall, burly man who I assumed was the owner, greeted us. He recognized Joseph immediately and pulled him in for a hug. “Welcome back, kiddo.” The man had a thick Italian accent that was rather pleasant to listen to.
“It’s always a pleasure,” Joseph responded before resuming his place by my side.
“Who might this beautiful young lady be?”
“Sienna, this is Gio. Gio, this is Sienna. My new friend, and indeed very beautiful date.”
My heart ricocheted in my chest.
“Hi, it’s nice t —”
In the blink of an eye, I was being hugged tightly by what felt like a bear. Boy did Giovanni have a strong grip.
“It’s nice to meet you too. Let me get you two a booth.” We followed Giovanni to a dimly lit spot near the corner of the restaurant and took our seats. Joseph slid in on the opposite side as Gio scooted off to the kitchen.
“If you change your mind, there will be a piping hot pepperoni pie on the table in a bit. More than enough for two.”
“Hm, I bet you can’t say that ten times fast.”
“What?” he asked, confused.
“Piping hot pepperoni pie,” I said, grinning.
“Wanna bet?” he challenged.
“Oh, not at all. I know you won’t be able to do it,” I teased, tapping the table with my fingers.
“Ouch. I thought you’d have a bit more faith in me, but that’s okay. I like proving people wrong. Let me take a sip of my complimentary water before I start.”
I laughed a genuine laugh as Joseph cleared his throat. “You’re a fool.”
“Piping hot pepperoni pie, piping hot pepperoni pie, piping hot pepperoni pie...”
He really did it.
“I have to say, I’m very impressed.”
“What can I say? I’m a man of many talents, Sienna,” he boasted, raising his glass to take another swig of his water.
“Well, you’ll definitely have to show me what else you can do sometime. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two.”
He paused before the glass touched his lips, giving me a pointed look. “Miss Martinez, are you flirting with me?”
My mouth was a loose cannon around this guy. “Uh... no, I uh —”
“Oooh! The pizza’s comin’. I’m starved,” he said as Giovanni came into view with a silver tray in his hands. I was more than thankful for the delicious smelling distraction.
Joseph was not kidding when he said Giovanni’s cheesecake would be the best I’d ever have. He was on his fifth slice of pizza while I was finishing my second piece of cheesecake.
“Haha, I told you it was good.” He laughed, watching me in amusement.
“Mmm. Not good. Amazzimphh,” I said, enjoying the cherry sauce left on my fork. Occasionally I checked my phone just to be on the safe side and it was 7:10. I had to be home by 8, but I was nowhere near ready to go.
“I don’t want this night to end,” I groaned.
“Mom?” he asked, cleaning his face with a napkin.
“Mhm. I’ve got approximately 50 minutes of freedom left.”
“Is there a chance she’d let you stay here a bit longer?”
“That’s the thing. She thinks I’m with Alex right now, preparing for the English presentation tomorrow... I might have fibbed.”
His eyes widened in feigned shock. “I didn’t think you had it in you, Martinez.”
“Usually, I’d like- gag if I tried lying. It’s like my body physically won’t let me be dishonest,” I told him with a shrug.
“Then can I ask you something and get your totally honest answer?” There was a mischievous glint in his eyes.
I nodded slowly. “Yes?”
“On a scale of one to ten oranges.... how handsome am I?”
I didn’t think he’d want to test the theory but I was going to answer him truthfully. Besides, if I didn’t tell him the truth, all he had to do was look at my face.
“A whopping ten oranges. It’s almost unfair.”
Hearing this, Joseph’s right eyebrow lifted in surprise.
“But on another note, I don’t have much time left here and I’m getting a little anxious,” I continued.
He physically shook off my admission, which made my lips quirk up into a tiny half smile.
“You’re right. We need to calm you down. I’ll go pay real quick and then take you somewhere with nothing but open air.”
“No te preocupes, mi mariposa pequeña. (Don’t worry, my little butterfly.) I’ll have you home on time.”
And with that, we were en route to a destination unbeknownst to me. I was nervous to say the least.
“So is this the part where you take me to your underground bunker and hold me captive for twelve years?”
The flit of his eyes was amusing.
“I’m just trying to match your dark humor. I hide dead bodies while you kidnap people. We’d be wonderful together, no?”
He grinned at me in response and muttered something under his breath that I didn’t quite catch. A couple of minutes later, we were driving down a dirt path before pulling over to park. Joseph led me down a narrowing rock trail. It was beginning to get dark, so I clung onto his jacket as he walked in front of me. Just as we were about to reach what I assumed was the final stop, he halted in his tracks and turned to face me.
“Aaand you’re going to kill me now.”
“Enough with your tainted thoughts. Just close your eyes for a second.”
I obeyed and let my eyes adjust to the darkness of my eyelids. That was when I felt Joseph’s warm hand latch onto mine. The touch alone was enough to send a volt of electricity through my veins. I shook, never having felt anything like that before.
Probably mistaking my response for fear, he lightly squeezed my hand and cooed into my ear. “Don’t worry, I’m right here.”