Learning to Love

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First Date

Simon had been right. Adrian had stayed in his apartment and the night had passed uneventfully for Aaliyah and I. We ate frozen pizza then snuggled up to watch Mickey Mouse clubhouse before heading to bed.

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling long after Aaliyah had fallen asleep. Andrews news about thanksgiving had not been what I feared. My father wasn’t coming. Not because he hadn’t been invited but because he didn’t want to associate with us.

Part of me was relieved, but I was also angry. I wasn’t angry at him anymore. I was angry at myself for allowing his decisions to hurt me.

The next day, as I prepared for my first official date with Adrian, guilt ate at my stomach. I knew if this continued I would have to tell him about Aaliyah. I already felt as if I had lied to him these last several months.

I was not worried he would hurt her anymore, or hurt me for that matter. I actually felt incredibly safe with him. However, he would want to know about her father. What if he reacted the same way my father did? What if he rejected her because of who her father was?

I didn’t want to lose Adrian. I had grown to rely on his kind, patient, and friendly aura. I looked forward to our talks and didn’t want to lose that. Every day it seemed to get more and more complicated, until I no longer knew how I could even bring it up.

As I walked out the door and headed across the hall Aaliyah laid her hand on my cheek. “Mama.”

“I love you baby. Uncle Sy is watching you today.” I said calmly as I knocked on Simon’s door.

The door opened slowly and Simon beamed at us.

“Hey there baby girl, are you ready to spend some time with your cool uncle?” Sy said excitedly.

Aaliyah beamed at him and pushed away from me.

“Geez thrown to the curb.” I muttered.

“Go get your man.” Simon winked at me.

I frowned at him but bit my tongue. Trying to argue that Adrian wasn’t my anything would be an utter waste of time.

“I should go before he decides to come find me.” I flinched at the idea, but surprised myself that I couldn’t envision it.

Adrian stocking up the stairs angrily searching for me, furious that I was late. It just wasn’t something he would do.

With a resigned sigh I turned and walked determinedly down the hall and to the elevator.

When I got to the parking lot I wasn’t surprised to see Adrian leaning patiently on the hood of his car. He wore black slacks and a light gray button down with long sleeves.

I fidgeted with the hem of my knee length forest green dress, feeling suddenly under dressed. Balissa had done my ash blonde hair in a stylish updo, but I had decided against a bunch of makeup and the heels she had pushed at me. So now, wearing a new pair of black converse, I felt unprepared.

However when I met his eyes there was a mixture of triumph, joy, and a longing I understood all too well. His gaze skimmed down my body and back, before he smiled joyfully at me.

I returned the smile suddenly at ease again. I didn’t know if I would ever understand how he did that. With a single look he made me feel more confident and comfortable then I ever believed possible.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Miller.” His trademark lopsided grin spread teasingly across his face. “Are you ready to go?”

I rolled my eyes but couldn’t help the smile that spread over my own face. “Yes, Mr. Leos, I am.”

He held the door as I slid in the front seat.

“You look stunning today.” He said after we were both in.

I was about to thank him when he turned to me, frowning slightly. My heart skipped a beat as fear gripped at me. Had I offended him? I hadn’t even spoken. Maybe I was supposed to speak.

“Not that you don’t look stunning everyday, you look particularly beautiful today.” He flinched, his frown deepened and a faint blush spread over his face.

I laughed in relief. Of course he wasn’t upset with me. I had never seen him flustered before though. He was normally so confident.

“You look great today as well.” I smiled almost mockingly.

He laughed, facing forward again. “I’m not going to lie. After that first week it took to simply get your name. I didn’t expect you to be picking on me in my car only months later.”

I shrugged, “I guess I’m not as guarded as either of us expected.”

I didn’t like that thought. It made me feel open, exposed, and in danger. I shivered involuntarily pulling my black jacket more tightly around myself.

“Nah, I think it’s more that I underestimated your ability to read people. I think you knew from the start I wasn’t really a threat. I believe if you had felt at all threatened by me I would have never gotten that name.” He smiled calmly.

I liked that thought. I wasn’t sure if I believed it, but it made me feel stronger.

“Thank you.” I smiled at him. He grinned but didn’t turn away from the road.

I watched him and suddenly wanted him to know everything about me. How did I bring up Aaliyah though? Should I?

I decided to wait. I just wanted to enjoy our first date, without adding to the tension.

Adrian pulled up to an empty building no less than 10 stories tall and started to get out. I hesitated, unsure why we were parked in front of such a huge business, especially when it was closed for the day.

He climbed out of the Jeep and rounded the front to open my door.

“Come on.” Adrian grinned playfully at me.

He seemed to be watching my every move reading my body language like a book.

“What’s in there?” I finally asked.

“It is my dad’s law firm normally, but he helped me set up something special for tonight.” He smiled offering me his hand. “Do you trust me?”

I couldn’t help but remember the last time he had asked that. Automatically I had said no and been concerned of what his reaction would be. Now though I found myself hesitating again as I stared at his hand.

“I…” I trailed off looking back up into his deep brown eyes. “I’m not sure.” I finally admitted, but I did slide my hand into his and allow him to lead me towards the building.

I gasped as we entered the main foyer. The floor was a deep brown hardwood and the ceiling and walls were a very light gray. There was a desk to our left, where a tired looking lady waved as we entered. To the right were four stainless steel elevators. Four columns were evenly spaced throughout the room. Greenery was around their bases and in the corners of the room.

“It’s beautiful.” I breathed uneasily.

“Come on.” He held my hand and led me to one of the elevators, where he dropped my hand.

On the 9th floor the doors open to what was probably the cafeteria/break room. However all the tables were pushed against the walls and stacked to leave a massive open area. Music played quietly over speakers and after a minute I realized it was yellowcard.

“What’s this?” I turned to see Adrian holding out a pair of roller blades.

He shrugged embarrassed. “You said that first day over coffee you used to love skating but you didn’t go anymore. Drew said the crowds made you nervous. So I got some help and set this up. I couldn’t make an ice skating rink but figured this was the next best thing.”

I fought back tears as I stared up at him. Nobody had ever done anything like this for me. I was speechless, or more so than usual at least.

“We could do something else if you would rather.” Adrian rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“No, I love it. Thank you.” I smiled widely, accepting the skates he offered.

I fought the urge to jump on him and wrap my arms around his neck. Instead I slid my hand back into his. It was the first time I had initiated physical contact. A fact that, by his broad smile, did not escape his notice. He took a small step forward so we were only inches apart.

Staring up at him my heart raced as he leaned forward. I looked down and closed my eyes tightly. I flinched, panic gripping my chest as the possible consequences for my actions flashed through my mind.

However a second later I felt him gently kiss my forehead.

“I would never hurt you, Jess.” He comforted me in a strong but quiet voice.

I looked up at him slowly unsure of what to say.

He smiled reassuringly at me before laying his forehead against mine. We stayed like that for a minute as I slowed my breathing trying to match his.

“You okay?” He asked, running his fingers up and down my forearm.

I thought of saying no. The electricity when he touched me was going to make me drop the skates. Instead I nodded, smiling tentatively.

“Good so how are you on skates?” He held up his own pair, questioning.

I smiled innocently, “It’s been a long time, and as you said I did mostly ice skating.”

He raised an eyebrow suspiciously but said, “Well I can help you out.”

He quickly realized I didn’t need the help. Ten minutes in and I had gotten used to the feeling again and everything came back to me. I successfully completed two jumps and was skating loops around Adrian.

“Been a long time my ass.” He laughed as I circled around to skate next to him. “Ouáou eínai katapliktikó.”

“Almost eight years. It’s like riding a bike.” I chuckled, slowing my pace.

“So you must have skated a lot growing up.”

“I started at three. My brother had his birthday at an ice rink. It quickly became my favorite place in the world. My first trainer found me less than a year later.” I smiled at the memory. “By the time I was twelve my trainers had Olympic expectations.”

“Wow. What happened?” He asked, intrigued.

I felt my smile fade as Charlie’s face flashed in my mind.

“Life.” I finally responded, speeding up for another small jump.

“Well, now I have to see you on the ice.” He chuckled as I caught back up to him.

His laugh had a forced edge and his eyes seemed darker and harder than before. I pretended not to notice the change.

The conversation changed to easier topics again and we spent the next hour chatting and skating.

“Are you hungry yet?” Adrian asked after checking his phone with a grin.

“What are you planning, Adrian?” I asked stopping next to him.

“Dinner is ready.” He offered me his hand and we rolled over to the single table out where we had left our shoes.

He led me back downstairs and out of the office. We climbed into the car still talking about nothing in particular.

After a fancy meal at a high end restaurant we pulled up to my apartment complex. It was almost dark and freezing cold.

I was surprised when Adrian turned off the Jeep and got out of the car. I hurried to follow his lead.

“What are you doing?” I asked uncomfortably.

“I forgot my jacket at Simons, I figured I would grab it while I was here.” He shrugged then grabbed my hand again. “Plus it’s rude not to walk a lady to her door.”

Aaliyah was at Simon’s apartment. Shit.

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