“What are you doing tonight?” Jesse asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“It’s a Saturday night,” he pointed out.
“I guess you missed the part where I told you that I am not dating Eric anymore.”
It had almost been a week since Jesse lifted my spirits on the anniversary of my mother’s death, the days after we did everything together. We mucked out one stall after another, he would stay with me as I trained and I gave him a few more horseback riding lessons.
“Well, I was wondering if you would like to go out tonight, maybe for dinner or to watch a movie.”
“Like a date?” I asked.
He shook his head, “No, you can invite Sara if you want.”
“She’s already busy.”
“Okay well are you still free?”
“Am I really your last choice?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “You are my first.”
I smiled, “I’m in. Should I dress in any particular way?”
He shook his head, “Wear whatever you like.”
“Are you okay?” I asked, “You seemed a little down today. Did I do something?”
“You didn’t do anything but put a smile on my face, I’ll tell you tonight.”
I waved him off as I went to go work with Luca some more. I went in a little while later to shower and change. I decided to curl my hair and wear a sundress with hooped earrings.
When Jesse came to pick me up he knocked on the front door, instead of saying hello, he grinned, “Wow. You look great when you are not covered in hay.”
I laughed because I knew he was joking, “Where are you taking me?”
“It’s a surprise,” he said as he opened the car door for me.
Once he got in the car I asked, “So what’s going on?”
“It’s my birthday.”
“Why didn’t you say something earlier? I would have let you take the day off,” I asked.
“Because it is not a big deal, I just didn’t want to be alone tonight.”
“Well, I am glad you asked me out then.”
He took me to a restaurant I’ve never ate at before and we got a table on the patio, “I chose to sit out here so you can see the stars.”
I smiled, “It’s perfect.”
After we took our orders Jesse grabbed my hand from across the table and I accepted his touch, “You deserve to know a little bit about me.”
“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want me to know.”
“I want you to know me,” he said, “So about the time when I freaked out on you about my family, there is more to the story. I haven’t seen them in two years because I don’t want to go back home. There are a lot of bad memories there that I have, especially of Jessica’s death and some other things that are not important, they are just a part of my past that I left behind. I’ve been trying to get my parents to come see me, to move with me but they won’t. They won’t even come visit, so I get frustrated sometimes.”
“You want them to move around with you every time you travel?” I asked.
“No, I want them to move here,” he said, “I like it here, at least for now. I don’t know if I will stay here forever but for now this is the place I would like to call home.”
“Why don’t they want to come visit?” I asked.
“They say they will, but they always end up cancelling. I don’t know what to tell you because I don’t know what there excuses are.”
“It’s your birthday, have they phoned you?”
“My brother did, he wished me a happy birthday and said my parents wish me one too but they didn’t personally say it. My family and I aren’t that close so I don’t usually like talking about them, no matter how much I may miss them sometimes.”
“Alright,” I said, “So let’s not talk about them tonight. It’s your birthday and I think we should only talk about things that make you smile.”
“Then tell me something about you because right now I am mesmerized by how beautiful you are,” he said catching me off guard.
I bit my lip, “I love watching Hockey, I know that may surprise you but I do.”
“Really?” he said, “I didn’t take you to be the sports type of girl.”
“What do you think horseback riding is?” I asked.
“I just never placed horseback riding under sports, I don’t know why.”
I laughed, “Oh and I love eating apples with peanut butter.”
“That sounds gross,” he wrinkled his nose.
Our dishes came shortly after and we both took our time eating.
“I love shoes,” I giggled, “I could spend all day in a shoe store.”
“Don’t all girls like shoes?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “Maybe, if it was up to me I would wear sandals every day.”
“That wouldn’t go well working with horses,” he commented.
“No, but I would be fashionable,” I grinned.
“Can’t argue with you there.”
“Hmm, what else can I tell you?” I thought about it as I watched him take a bite out of his pizza, “Gum. I can chew gum all day.”
He laughed, “What happens when the flavor runs out?”
“Well, it doesn’t. I discovered something. When your gum tastes like nothing, you drink water and the coldness hardens the gum right? So when you start chewing it again, somehow, don’t ask me how, but it gets the flavor back.”
“Are you pulling my leg?”
“I’m actually serious. You should try it one day.”
He laughed, “I am so glad that you were not busy tonight.”
“Me too. So am I doing a good job?”
He nodded, “Yes, you are definitely keeping this smile on my face.”
“Good, because I like your smile,” I blushed.
He winked, “First my eyes, then my smile, what else do you like about me?”
I widened my eyes, “That’s pretty much it actually.”
He pretended to be hurt, “You see this hole in my heart?”
“I put it there right?” I asked.
He nodded, “Yup.”
“Well maybe, just maybe, if you are nice to me, I might just heal it.”
I faced my plate as I felt Jesse’s eyes on me. I brought my eyes to his and for the longest moment neither one of us spoke.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked.
“How am I looking at you?”
“Like you are studying me.”
“I’m just thinking.”
“Nothing bad I hope.”
“Can anyone possibly have anything bad to say about you?”
“You’d be surprised,” I commented.
“I promise I am not thinking anything bad.”
“Care to share what you are thinking then?”
“I am just thinking about how things work. I mean, when you least expect something to happen it does. I never once thought I would meet someone like you when I came here.”
“Someone like me?” I asked.
“Yeah, someone like you.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said honestly, “That is what I am thinking about, I am trying to figure it out. This was never in my plans. I’m a traveler; I don’t like to stay in one place.”
“Sometimes plans need to be broken, or maybe changed,” I said.
“Do you think that’s a good thing?”
“I like to think it is,” I said, “Otherwise I would always be depressed.”
He nodded, “Would you give something up to follow your dreams?”
I thought about it, “I think it depends on what I would have to give up.”
“What wouldn’t you give up for let’s say training since I know that is your pride and joy?”
“That’s a hard question Jesse. Training is what I do, it’s what I am good at, it’s who I am but it’s not my life. At the same time if I gave it up, I might be unhappy.”
“Hypothetically speaking though,” he said, “Would you give up watching television?”
“Without a doubt,” I said, “Okay, hypothetically speaking, I would give everything up for training except for three things.”
“Faith, family,” I looked up, “and love.”
He smiled, “Love?”
“Well, once I find it,” I played with my fork.
“What is your greatest fear?” he asked.
“I have two but my first is getting sick,” I said.
“Everyone gets sick.”
“I mean getting cancer like my mother,” I looked up at him and saw sadness in his eyes, “I think about it a lot actually. It’s bound to happen at some point, it’s genetic. I just hope I’ve had enough time to live my life.”
“Just because it’s genetic doesn’t mean you are going to get it.”
“I know but I’d rather get it than have my children get it someday.”
“Your children?” he asked, “You’re twenty one and you are already thinking about children?”
“I’m a girl, we think about having kids when we are teenagers,” I sighed, “You’re twenty seven as of, today, shouldn’t you be thinking about it too?”
“I didn’t say I haven’t.”
“No, you didn’t,” I agreed.
He reached over and put his hand on top of mine, “Selfishly speaking, I would rather it be you to not get cancer.”
I smiled, “I get scared sometimes when I think of it. My mom died when she was thirty eight but she had cancer for five years before that. Technically you could get it at any time but I don’t know.”
He squeezed my hand, “Okay, don’t think about that. You are healthy and young and beautiful so you should not worry about what may never happen.”
I smirked as he said I was beautiful, “What is your worst fear?”
He thought about it, “Losing the people that I love.”
I nodded, “Your family?”
“Them included,” he said without elaborating.
“Well, as a friend speaking because I can’t speak for your family, you won’t lose me, unless you royally do something that causes me not to trust you,” I grinned, “But I think we have a pretty good understanding of each other already.”
“So what is your second?”
I sighed, “Falling in love.”
“Why is that a fear?”
“Being in love with someone gives them the power to hurt you.”
“I guess you have a point,” he agreed, “But anyone can hurt you.”
“I know. It would just hurt more coming from someone you really love.”
“But you have fallen in love before…”
“That’s why I’m fearful of giving love another shot, I don’t want a repeat of my last relationship.”
“Well any guy would be crazy not to treat you well.”
“Sometimes it’s not a matter of treating one well, it’s about whether or not they share the same mentality, share the same beliefs and want the same things.”
“Like I said, anyone would be crazy to do anything that would break your heart, especially because it’s so pure.”
I tried not to laugh, “I’m no saint.”
“I never said you were,” he pointed out, “I just think you deserve someone who will make you happy, someone who will take care of you.”
I looked into his green eyes, “I think everyone deserves that.”
He nodded as he looked at his watch, “Are you ready to go?”
I pulled out my wallet but he stopped me as he paid the bill.
As we walked out hand in hand I kissed him on the cheek, “Thank you.”
“It’s the least I could do.”
I shook my head, “What are you talking about? You’ve done so much for me without even knowing it.”
“Do you want ice cream?”
“It’s your birthday, do you?”
He nodded, “I can never say no to ice cream.”
“Okay but let it be my treat please? It’s your birthday and I want to at least get you that.”
He nodded, “Okay, I think I can let you do that.”
We walked to the little ice cream parlor and got the ice cream to go. We sat on the bench outside the shop as we continued to talk and ask random questions.
“Favourite colour?” he asked.
“Orange for me,” he commented.
As we walked back to the truck, which was one of the two cars in the parking lot he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me into his arms.
“Dance with me?”
“There’s no music,” I said.
He turned his truck on and turned the radio on low, “Now there’s music.”
I wrapped my arms around his neck as we began to go around in small slow circles, “At least I am sober this time.”
He let out a laugh, “At least Eric is not here to dance with you first.”
“I did ask you to dance with me first you know?”
“I know and I’ve regretted saying no ever since.”
I didn’t reply but put my head on his shoulder. I barely noticed when the tempo of the music changed; I barely noticed that we were no longer dancing but standing still. I let out a sigh as I took a step back. Jesse caressed my cheek never removing his eyes off of mine.
“I’m falling in love with you Jesse,” I whispered.
Jesse didn’t say anything, he simply smiled. He then opened the car door for me and drove me home. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. There were two possible reasons as to why Jesse didn’t say anything. Either he didn’t feel the same or he did and didn’t feel it was necessary to say those words or any words at all. I thought he was going to kiss me for a second time, but he didn’t.
Jesse intertwined his fingers through mine as we headed towards the door.
“I had a nice night,” Jesse said.
I couldn’t quite read the expression on his face, “It was marvelous, extraordinary, terrific, all of the above.”
He made me laugh, “Good to know, the last half hour I wasn’t so sure about it.”
He inhaled sharply as he grabbed me into his arms and dipped me bringing me up slowly with his head buried in my neck, and then he whispered, “It’s the best night I’ve spent with anyone since I got here.”
He moved his lips to be near my ear as he went on, “It was the best night I’ve had in a long time.”
“Alright,” I said putting my hands on both sides of his face, “Next time tell me that.”
He nodded, “Okay I will.”
“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”
“Yes,” he said, “Thank you for not letting me spend my birthday alone.”
“You’re welcome,” I said putting my hand on his shoulder, “Anything else?”
He shook his head, “Nope.”
I frowned, “Are you sure?”
He winked, “Is there something in particular you want me to say?”
I shrugged my shoulders, “Maybe.”
“Okay, let me think for a second. I said thank you, I told you what a great night I had, oh,” he pointed, “Did I tell you how beautiful you are?”
I blushed as he placed his hand behind my neck, “Yes you actually did.”
Just as I thought he was going to kiss me he removed his hand, “Oh I did? Okay then, oh I got it, I didn’t tell you how glad I am to be working for you.”
I sighed, “No, you didn’t but…”
“I am glad you like it here but,” I thought about how I should say it, “What about us?”
“What about us?” he looked completely clueless.
I faced the floor trying to think, was it I who was a complete fool to think he was actually interested in me or was he seeing how far he could push my buttons? At this point I didn’t know.
“Nothing,” I shook my head, “I guess, I just thought,” I struggled for words, “Never mind.”
“Are you mad at me?”
I shook my head, “No, maybe I’m mad at myself.”
“Why?” he said grabbing my hand and bringing me to sit on the steps of the porch.
“Maybe I see things in people that aren’t really there.”
“That’s because you try to see the best in people.”
“Sometimes I just end up looking like a fool,” I knew he understood what I was referring to.
“I don’t think so,” he affirmed.
How could he keep holding my hand? Pulling me close? Making it appear as if he was going to kiss me yet didn’t? I was being unfair, it was his birthday and I was making it about me. I quickly put a smile on my face.
“Are you ever lonely?” I asked.
He nodded, “Sometimes, but not now.”
I smiled as I put my hand on his arm, “Sometimes I feel like I’m talking but people don’t really hear me. Then I met you and I feel like you hear me before I even speak, at least most of the times.”
“That’s because I do hear you.”
I lay my head on his shoulder as we watched the stars.
“Jen,” Jesse started.
I looked up at him, our faces inches away from each other. He ran his hand up my arm, all the way to my neck and inched closer. He stopped when we were threads away from each other. I opened my eyes to see his closed so I removed the rest of the distance by placing my lips on his. I took a chance! I brought my hand to be behind his head. It was a romantic kiss, yet it was filled with passion. I could feel Jesse’s lips move in rhythm with mine. It was disrupted however when Jesse pushed me away and stood up, confused as I was, I stood up too.
He stared into my eyes; I could see uncertainty, anticipation, yet a tint of regret. I didn’t know what to say, it suddenly felt like we were strangers. Slowly I turned away and began to walk up the steps. I let out my breath as I couldn’t comprehend why he pulled away after kissing me back. I thought he wanted to kiss me, I thought he was waiting for me, I thought he liked me. He led me on; he made me think I was special, that I was different. That’s what it came down to; he made me believe he liked me!
I kept my back to him as I pulled out my keys, I glimpsed at my watch, 12:30am.
“Jen,” he called out, “Wait.”
Slowly I turned around waiting for him to say something. He walked up to the steps and stopped a couple steps away.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
I shook my head, “No, I am!”
I put the keys in the door as Jesse went on, “Look, you’re beautiful and you’re smart and funny and everything a guy could ever want in a girl. I just…I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” I questioned.
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
“Isn’t that a little cliché?”
“No, yes, maybe,” he was all over the place, “I just.”
“Look, you don’t have to say anything. I know a look of regret when I see one. You don’t need to explain anything.”
I opened the front door and whispered, “I guess I read the signals wrong.”
With that I closed the door. I locked it and I lay my head against the door for the longest time.
I headed to bed shortly after, I wouldn’t cry! I had nothing to cry about, it was my fault. I made a mistake. I should have never have kissed him even if he led me on.