F I V E
“So how are you getting to the restaurant?” Claire asks as I continue to look at my new self in the bathroom mirror.
I look like a different person.
My crazy mess of hair was combed back and tamed into a half up half down style which really brought the attention onto my wide eyes. With a little bit of mascara, eyeliner, and a light pinkish eyeshadow, Claire was able to bring life to my once boring face.
I never would’ve been able to do this on my own.
A pair of diamond earrings catch my attention so I grab them and walk out of the bathroom towards Claire.
“I was just going to driven Ken down there. We are only going to that cute Italian restaurant down the street so it’s not that far of a drive,” I say while trying to put the studs in my ear without stabbing myself.
Her eyebrows furrow. “No, no, don’t waste your gas just to drive five minutes away. I’ll just take you there.”
“It’s honestly fine Clai-” she cuts me off by sending a glare my way.
“I’ll take you because I’m the greatest friend in the entire world and this is what my job entails. Making sure you look drop-dead gorgeous and also being your chauffeur.” She counts off her fingers. “I guess I could also pretend to be your lover if that time ever comes but we’ll just save that for the back pocket ideas.” She winks as a devilish smile graces her lips.
“You’re absolutely insane,” I say as I finish putting in my earrings.
Claire’s smile grows bigger. ” That’s usually what the men tell me after five amazing rounds of full-blown, hot, fu-”
I slap my hand over her mouth, my cheeks begin to feel warm.
“I really don’t want to hear about your sex life. I’m proud of you, really I am, but maybe we can save this conversation when I’m not already freaking out.”
She rolls her eyes and pulls my hand away from her lips.
“Fine,” she grumbles and grabs her bag from my bed, “Ya big baby. I never get to have any fun.” She continues talking to herself as we make our way out of the apartment.
I laugh and shake my head.
As we climb into the car we put our seatbelts on and Claire plays the newest album by Taylor Swift. She’s always been a huge T-Swift fan for as long as I’ve known her, so when I heard that she was coming out with a new album I had to do everything in my power to make sure Claire wouldn’t buy it before I got it for her birthday. By the end of her birthday night, I was being hugged to death and my shirt was covered in tears and snot.
I lean my head against the window and watch the other cars go by as we drive down the road. I can’t help but let my mind wander. Hopefully, this night won’t be a big disaster. It would be nice to feel a slice of normality and not have to worry about my past or my family.
I feel a hand wrap around my own in my lap. It squeezes mine for a second and I squeeze back.
Hand in hand we make our way to the restaurant.
“Wow, you look stunning,” Alex says as he walks up to me outside the brightly lit restaurant. My soft hand is taken into his calloused one as he raises it to his lips, laying a soft peck upon its surface. His golden eyes maintain contact with mine.
A blush rises to my cheeks. “T-Thank you. You look very handsome as well.” And he does.
A nice pair of dark washed-out jeans-clad his legs while his torso is adorned with a neatly fresh ironed buttoned-up white shirt and a black leather jacket. I wouldn’t expect him to wear anything else.
A smile tugs at the corner of his lips, displaying, in his own way, his appreciation of the compliment.
My hand is still held in his but I don’t feel as nervous or awkward as I was this morning. I deem this as an improvement. A cold breeze slithers across my exposed back causing an unconscious shiver to rack through my body.
“Oh,” Alex says startled out of the moment we just had, “It’s freezing out here, come, let’s go inside.”
He intertwines our fingers and leads me inside the warm restaurant.
Bread is the first thing that invades my senses, it seems to surround the whole inside of the establishment.
The walls are a warmish yellow, tinted with the shadows of lights hung up on the wall to bring about a feeling of home to the heart. A male waiter comes out and walks us to an empty table in the back. Along the walls are old family photos of brothers, sisters, parents, and family friends.
But one particular picture catches my eye causing me to stop in its wake.
Before me, a grainy black and white picture of a family of five is hung, they stand together in front of what seems like a farm, happiness gracing the fine features of what I can make out of their faces. In the picture, there is a boy, a girl, their parents, and tucked in the warm embrace of their mother is a baby.
A feeling of nostalgia hits me like a rock bringing tears to my eyes. I wonder how my parents and siblings are doing? Do they think about me as often as I think about them? Maybe if I call them again they’ll answer and ask me to come back home. I would do anything just to hear my mother’s voice again, devoid of all disappointment, and call me her Dani-Bear once more.
A thumb swiping against my cheek startles me out of my thoughts.
I look up and find the source to be Alex towering over me wiping away the lone tear streaking down my cheek. One look into my red-rimmed eyes has him pulling me towards his body, wrapping me in his warm embrace.
“What happened?” he asks quietly, his warm breath caressing my neck as he speaks. “You were right behind me and when I turned around you were gone.”
He pulls back just a bit to look into my eyes searching for an answer.
I open and close my mouth like a gaping fish and drop my eyes from his intense stare. I can’t tell him about my family problems, that’s too much of a weight to unload on a first date.
No, this isn’t a date.
I mean I may be standing here in a lovely gown, with a gorgeous looking man, standing in what is considered a somewhat wonderful restaurant, but that doesn’t make this a date.
Alex lifts my chin with his thumb and index finger, forcing my eyes to connect with his again.
“How about we do this, I go and order us a nice bottle of red wine and you sit, eat some delicious food, and relax. We don’t have to talk about what’s bugging you unless you want to.” How has no one snatched this man up yet? He’s definitely a lady’s man.
“That sounds wonderful actually. Thank you,” I say genuinely.
“Nothing I won’t do for the most gorgeous girl in the room.” And with a hand on the small of my back, he leads me towards our table.
“And that’s how I got this scar on my eyebrow. I call it my battle scar,” he says with a small laugh.
Dinner was better than I could’ve ever imagined.
We laughed, we told jokes, sometimes we’d dive into some serious topics but it was light and enjoyable.
Alex just has this aura about him that calms my chaotic mind.
After he paid the bill, which I passionately disagreed with, we decided to take a walk as the warm summer breeze was just right for a stroll. So here we are, a few steps away from my apartment, retelling old childhood memories that have us laughing until tears roll down our cheeks.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Thank you for this Alex, for taking me out and making me feel...special.” We stand at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to my flat, standing underneath the light, gazing into each other’s eyes.
“Glad I had the privilege to take such an amazing woman out for dinner.”
I blush. “Well I don’t really know about amazing. When I was younger I used to be able to lick my elbow so I guess that was... pretty... cool,” my words slowly trail off as Alex begins to snicker.
I narrow my eyes at him and put my hands on my hips, trying to look intimidating.
“I will have you know that I gained an enormous amount of street cred because of that,” I point at him, “It has gained me respect up until this day. Well actually it ended the day I slipped on milk in the cafeteria and stained my white shirt in spaghetti sauce, but you get what I’m trying to say. I used to be amazing, not really anymore. Am I rambling? I think I might be-”
Alex grabs my still pointing finger and lightly pulls it, forcing me to step closer to him.
“You make a very compelling argument. You are more amazing than I thought you were twenty seconds ago, so thanks for proving me right.” He looks between my eyes and my lips.
The distance between us shrinks. He’s going to kiss me.
My breath probably smells like garlic from the bread we had. Would he notice if I stopped to take a quick breath mint? No, just close your eyes Dani, everything will be fine.
I pucker my lips and lean in a bit, waiting for Alex to cease the distance and meet me halfway.
His soft lips kiss me, but not where I was hoping he would. My cheek tingles from where his skin is pressed against mine.
He lingers just a bit before backing away. My face is on fire as embarrassment courses through me.
Amusement twinkles in his eyes, “Goodnight Dani,” he says to me before walking away, probably back to the restaurant to get his car.
“Goodnight,” I whisper into the darkened night.
Why am I such an embarrassment?
Yikes I wonder what family problems Dani has that makes her breakdown in a restaurant. Talk about super awkward. Good thing she has that hunk of Alexander as arm candy.
I know this is still pretty short, I’ll go back and add more soon. Next chapter is going to be pretty crazy so be patient.
Hope you enjoyed your time in Joker’s Basement!