Learning to Love

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Not A Date

By the end of my shift I had absolutely had it with ass hole customers and sarcastic remarks from Heather. She of course had not missed my little disappearing act as she called it. I was about to pour a pot of hot coffee over her head when a familiar voice distracted me.

“Wow, someone looks like they could use a breather.” Adrian said, staring at me wide eyed.

I inhaled deeply, squeezing my eyes shut as I pinched the bridge of my nose. After a second I exhaled and looked up, forcing a smile.

“Huh, this definitely calls for drastic measures.” He said thoughtfully.

I frowned, confused, “What?”

“Ice cream.” He smiled.

I rolled my eyes, “I have to get home.”

“Well, your ride wants ice cream.” He shrugged, “It’ll only be thirty minutes Jess. I’ll get you home, I promise.”

I bit my lip and frowned, “I’ll think about it. I’m still working though.”

“Of course, I have some papers I need to look over anyway.” He grinned before walking away.

After my shift officially ended I walked up to his table, “I have to make a call before I give you an answer.”

“Got to let your babysitter know what’s going on?” He asked playfully.

My heart stopped and I felt my hands go cold, “What?” I squeaked.

“The one you were on the phone with earlier, he babysits you right?” He grinned.

Oh, he meant a babysitter for me.

“Big brother, close enough though.” I forced a choked laugh. “I’ll be right back.”

I had already texted Andrew hours before. It was Balissa's number I now dialed.

“Hey Jess what’s up?” Lysa asked as she answered the phone.

“I just wanted to check in.” I said as Adrian walked out the door and stood mere feet away from me.

“Aaliyah is just fine, when are you getting home? I have a girls night planned, no boys tonight!” She cheered.

“Um, yeah. I wanted to talk to you about that. Adrian is giving me a ride home but he wants to get ice cream on the way.” I admitted.

“Oh. My. God!” She shrieked, “You have a second date!”

“No it’s not…” I started but she cut me off.

“Of course go eat your ice cream. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and I want details when you do get back.” She commanded, “Be back by eight in the morning though please.”

“Lysa!” I felt the blood rushing into my face.

She laughed and I sighed gritting my teeth.

“Balissa, stop. Seriously is…” I hesitated, eying Adrian who seemed to be trying not to laugh. Probably at my horrified response. “You have everything under control?”

“Of course,” I could almost hear her rolling her eyes, “We are eating peanut butter by the bucket.”

“Lysa no peanut butter!” I fought to keep my voice low.

She groaned, suddenly serious, “Okay I’m honestly a little hurt Jess. I promise Aaliyah is just fine. Please, go have fun.”

I sighed, “Okay okay, I’m sorry. Thank you.”

“Of course Jess, bye.” She hung up leaving me feeling guilty.

“Who’s Lysa? She sounds like a character.” Adrian smiled, leading his way to his car.

I paused momentarily taking in the new luxury SUV.

“My brother’s girlfriend. We have been friends forever.” I smiled, “She is.”

“Awe the babysitter’s girlfriend.” He grinned as he slid onto his leather driver’s seat.

“Nope, different brother.”

“Oh right your twin. So just the two brothers in the city or in total.”

“City, six brothers in total.” I lied watching as his eyes bugged.

He grimaced and nodded nervously. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

“I was kidding, I only have two. Andrew is three years older than Simon and I.” I chuckled.

“You know that wasn’t very nice.” He smiled widely, “However if I get to hear you laugh again you have permission to do that a hundred times over.”

I blushed and bit my lip looking down at my hands in my lap. I wanted to ask why he would say that but I didn’t want to be lied to. I also knew I didn’t want the truth. Obviously he wanted something from me. I didn’t know what yet, but I was sure he would be disappointed even if he did get it.

“So do I get to meet these brothers tonight?” He asked, smiling.

“No.” The word came out harsher then Jessica intended, and Adrian’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“I mean, no. Um, Simon is in class and Drew has to work all night. That’s why I needed a ride .” I shrugged.

“What about Balissa?” He asked.

“Where exactly are you taking me?” I ignored his question.

“Best ice cream in Seattle.” He said pulling up beside a small building called scoopers.

“Oh really? I have never been here.” I admitted as he opened his door.

I climbed out as he rounded the back of the car. We walked into the shop and up to the counter together.

“What would you like?” He asked, laying his hand on the small of my back.

I flinched slightly before relaxing the warmth and tenderness of his touch.

“Strawberry please.” I said, fighting not to lean into him.

I couldn’t understand what about him made me feel so safe. I forced myself to pull away from his touch.

He nodded, pulling his hand back, “How about you go get us a table? I’ll be right there.”

“I can pay for myself.” I shifted awkwardly.

“What kind of date would this be if I made you pay for yourself.” He winked grinning broadly.

I rolled my eyes but walked away to find a seat. I sat down next to the front windows, and stared out at the slowly darkening sky. It was early August now and the weather, while being decent today, was becoming colder and darker. She made a mental note to up her vitamin D again.

“Here you go.” Adrian said, setting the bowl in front of me.

“Thank you, but I really could have paid.” I said, quietly trying to remind him that we were not dating.

I couldn’t date him, or anyone else for that matter. I was too damaged, more than that I was down right broken beyond repair.

I sighed, glancing around the parlor. It was cute with light pink wall paper and black and white tiles. There was a long L shaped cold case with 30 different flavors of ice cream visible through the glass lid. Ten small square tables were spread out across the rest of the dining area. Each table had a white cover and four comfortable wooden chairs.

“I love this place.” I smiled.

I couldn’t help thinking how much Aaliyah would love it as well. I made a mental note that I would have to bring her here at some point.

“Yeah, it’s great. My mom always brought my siblings and I here when we were kids. Now she loves bringing Lincoln here.” Adrian explained leaning back on two legs like teachers are always telling students not too.

“So it’s a special place to you?” I asked, watching him curiously.

“Well yeah. A lot of my best memories were here.” He rubbed his neck sheepishly as he placed all four legs back on the checkered linoleum.

I took a slow thoughtful bit of my ice cream, deliberately buying time. I wanted to ask if he brought all his girls here but I didn’t want to know the answer. If he had, then there was nothing different or special about this to him, he had had this date before. However, if he hadn’t… well I wasn’t ready to think about what that might imply. My mother used to always say, ‘If you want a future with someone, start by sharing your past.’ I couldn’t share my past though, it was too directly tied to my present, to Aaliyah.

Logically I knew I was severely over protective, to the point of paranoid, but who could really blame me.

“So are you in school or anything?” He asked suddenly.

“Um, not right now. I got my diploma online last year, but I haven’t really thought about college yet.” I admitted.

I was embarrassed. I had been held back five years when I returned, and even working hard year round I had only recently graduated high school. In retrospect graduating at nineteen isn’t as bad as anyone had expected. I had missed 7th through 11th grade, only learning what I could from books I found.

“What do you do?” I asked, changing the subject.

“I’m a law student and I’m currently working an internship at my fathers firm. I’ll take over the firm when he retires.” He beamed.

Adrian seemed honestly pleased with this. I smiled and nodded as he continued to talk about the firm, Changes he’ll make, and a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t really understand. To my surprise I still enjoyed listening. Even if it made little sense to me the excitement in his voice reminded me of Aaliyah’s on Christmas. I couldn’t help but smile back at him.

A while later I stifled a yawn. As I looked at the clock over Adrians head I gasped.

“We have been here for two hours.” I pointed out.

He turned around surprised, then chuckled. “So it would seem.”

He stood up offering me his hand, “Come on, let’s get you home.”

Instinctively, before I even realized what I was doing, I reached out accepting his hand. When I was up I pulled lightly but Adrian just intertwined our fingers squeezing my hand gently. I didn’t try to pull away again. If I was being honest his hand felt strong, warm, and safe wrapped around mine. I didn’t want to let go.

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