Valentine's day romance: finding love (page 2)

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-5-

Ding, Dong

 

That must be Mike.Upon opening the door to her apartment, Rebecca was greeted by a bouquet of flowers and Mike on the other end of them. He handed them to her with a smile as he pushed up the bridge of his glasses.I don’t remember him having glasses.

 

“What’s with the glasses?” She asked.

 

“I need them to see,” He said.

 

“HA… Ok… why didn’t you have them on previously?”

 

“Well, I lost a contact last night on my bathroom floor. I had to order more.”

 

“Well come in, let me get these in a vase and then we can go,” Rebecca said as she went into the kitchen with the bouquet of flowers. As she pulled a vase out of the cupboard, she noticed Mike admiring a painting on the wall.

 

“Are you a fan of art?” She asked as she grabbed a knife from a kitchen drawer to cut the stems of the flowers.

 

“I am. Do you ever go to the Rasmum Center?” He said looking over at her from the living room. Rebecca had the faucet on in the kitchen for a moment before turning it off to allow herself to think.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that place.Intrigued she asked, “No, what’s that? A gallery?”

 

“It’s an art gallery over on the west side, they host art shows once a month. They have some really neat pieces down there. We should go sometime.”Ahh… The west side, that’s why I haven’t heard of it, that side of town is dirty. It’s okay for Fredrick’s, but not much more outside of that.

 

He’s already coming off clingy making plans for the future. Ugh… He is the loner type, maybe that’s just their thing. Strike one regardless.Smiling over at him as she put the flowers into the vase, she said, “Yeah, maybe…”Or not.

 

Rebecca put the vase on her kitchen table and they left. As they got onto the freeway she began to grow excited in anticipation of where they were going. Rebecca saw the exit for Harrison Avenue up ahead.Ahh… we are going to Le Coq Au Vin.As the exit passed, she began to wonder more.Hmmm… We are starting to head into the sticks.

 

“Where are we going?” Rebecca asked batting her eyelashes.

 

Smiling over at her, he said, “You’ll have to wait and see.”

 

“You’re not like some kind of serial killer right? We are driving into the sticks and I’m beginning to feel a wee bit nervous.”

 

“You are charming, has anyone ever told you that?” Mike laughed. “I assure you, I have no interest in killing you Rebecca.”

 

After a few more minutes into their drive, Mike pulled off the side of the road down a dirt path. The bumps in the road were nerve racking to Rebecca as the light of the headlights led the way through more trees.Yeah, he’s definitely a serial killer.Within moments, they pulled up to a log cabin.Oh thank goodness!

 

“Is this your cabin?” Rebecca asked leaning forward to look out the windshield. Pulling right up near the door, Mike stopped the car.

 

“Of course it is. Hold on, don’t move,” he said smiling at her.Hmm… what’s he up too?Mike got out of the car and ran around to Rebecca’s side to open the door for her.That’s sweet.Stepping out of the car, she smiled at him.

 

Entering into Mike’s cabin, Rebecca was surprised by how open the layout was. The ceilings ran high and the stairs at the entrance ran up into the kitchen. The dining room overlooked the living room separated by a railing. A crackling fire burned in the fireplace in the living room.

 

“Have a seat,” Mike said motioning to the couch that wrapped around half of the cabin’s living room. As Rebecca took a seat, Mike went upstairs and returned moments later with a glass of wine. “Here you go. I need to go turn the meat. We should be eating in about 45 minutes.” As Rebecca took her glass of wine, she began to wonder what he would be drinking.

 

“Are you drinking wine?” She asked curiously with a smile.

 

“No… I’ll stick to my water and whiskey.” He returned to the kitchen for a moment and then came back downstairs to join Rebecca on the couch.

 

“Would you like a taste?” Mike asked offering her his glass. Rebecca contemplated as she looked at the glass.I’m not a whiskey fan.

 

“It’s a single malt that’s aged for over ten years,” He said.Is he a lush?“I’m not a big drinker, but I like to keep the nice stuff here at the cabin.”The cabin? He has multiple homes?

 

“The cabin? You don’t live here?” Rebecca asked intrigued. She grabbed the glass from his hand and took a sip. It wasn’t harsh at all and had a smooth taste as it slid down her throat and warmed her.

 

“I come here to get away sometimes, but I have a place in the city also.” Rebecca was surprised a pottery teacher at the college could afford multiple dwellings.It’s the first date, I shouldn’t ask about his finances probably…

 

“This is really smooth!” Rebecca said looking at the glass before handing it back to Mike. She noticed a photo album sitting on the coffee table that piqued her interest.Let’s see what he’s all about.Picking it up, she began thumbing through the pages. Each page revealed picture after picture of him and some woman.Is he married? I should have known this was too good to be true.“Uhh… Who’s this woman?”

 

“That would be Rebecca…”

 

“Who’s that?”and why do we have the same name…Rebecca suddenly became uncomfortable.

 

“My wife. She passed away a while back.”

 

“How old are you?”

 

“I’m 29, you?”

 

“I’m 30… How did you wife die… if I may ask?”

 

“Yeah, yeah… its fine,” he said clearing his throat as he set his glass down and shifting his position. “She died from a sudden brain aneurism. The doctor’s said there was nothing we could have done to prevent it. That was 5 years ago.”

 

“That’s horrible…” Rebecca said as she searched for something to say and found nothing.I can’t believe he was married… and his wife is dead. And I have the same name as her... Wow.

 

“It was bad, but I moved on,” Mike said as he took another gulp of his drink. Rebecca looked down at the page she was on. She looked at him smiling with his arm around the other Rebecca at some exotic beach.Moved on?She looked back up at Mike.

 

“You’ve moved on…?” Rebecca asked. Mike nodded. “But… how could you think that when you keep photos of her on your coffee table?”

 

“Just because I moved on doesn’t mean I want to forget she ever existed. She was a part of my life. For the longest time I couldn’t have anything out that reminded me of her. No photos, nothing we bought together, got rid of our vehicles. Everything. But I didn’t start the healing process until I brought everything back out… I didn’t need to forget she existed, I needed to appreciate the time we had together.”

 

“Wow. That’s big of you; I didn’t do that at all when my mother died… I kept everything out and built shrines around my house to remind me of her. Then when I began healing, I got rid of it all.”Why’d I just share that? Ugh… I didn’t need to share that with him. It’s too early.

 

“What happened to your mother?” Mike asked as he shifted in his seat showing interest in what she was saying.See what you created! Ugh!Rebecca could see in his eyes that he had a real interest, she began to feel uncomfortable. She didn’t like talking about her mother with anyone, let alone a perfect stranger.

 

“She passed away a couple years ago from cancer. I don’t really want to talk about it though.” Rebecca quickly scooped up her glass of wine and took a drink.Ugh, I hate this, how intense is this first date? Ah.

 

“Okay. That’s fine, I totally understand.”What? A man who doesn’t push it until I want to snap? Something’s wrong with this guy. He’s too perfect.“Let’s change the topic. How was work today?” Mike asked as he set down his drink and went over to the fireplace to add a new log. Taking a sip of her wine, she smiled.

 

“It was good, I found out I’ll be the lead on this upcoming series next month, which I’m super excited about.”

 

“Where do you work? What’s a lead mean?”

 

“I work for Howard News, it’s an online magazine. The lead is the person who’s in charge of a bunch of articles that get released with each issue. It’s basically a promotion without the pay increase.”

 

“Wow, that’s awesome Rebecca. How long have you worked there?” Mike asked as he returned to the couch after tending to the fire. As he sat, the oven’s timer dinged indicating the food was done.

 

“I’ve been there two years.”

 

“Do you like your boss?” Mike asked.

 

“What?” Rebecca asked.He’s asking me if I like my boss… how does he know about Jonathan?

 

“Your boss, do you like him or her? Like… are they cool to work for?” Mike asked laughing as he got up again. Rebecca nodded quickly. “Dinners done, let’s eat,” Mike said offering his hand to help her off the couch.

-6-

“Enough about me… I’m curious about you Mike. Have you dated since your wife passed?” Rebecca asked as she took a seat at the dining room table.

 

Mike carried two plates of braised duck over to the table and set a plate down in front of Rebecca. “I’ve been on a few dates here and there… Nothing has ever really clicked since Rebecca though.”I swear he’s not over her! I do not want to compete with his dead wife…

 

“Are we clicking?” Rebecca asked as she set her napkin in her lap and picked up her fork. Mike laughed as he looked at her with a smile. Shaking his head, he cleared his throat.

 

“It’s not like I sit here and think to myself – we are totally clicking or - we are totally not clicking …” He appeared to get lost in a thought for a moment before he continued. “Actually… Come to think of it, there were quite a few instances when I knew immediately on previous dates were her and I were not clicking. I actually got up and left once, I just told the girl I just couldn’t do it and blamed it on my wife.” Rebecca laughed as she knew exactly what he was talking about.

 

“I know how it is! I hate that awkwardness you have in a date when someone’s just yapping along and you are constantly thinking about how much longer you have to be on there! The worst part is being a girl!”

 

“No way! Try being a guy and having that awkward moment at the end of the date when she expects a kiss! HA!”

 

“Really? You think that’s tough? Try being the girl and he’s trying to grab at you and kiss you when you have no interest at all? I think us girls have it way tougher… That’s why I leave most first dates.”

 

“What do you mean?” Mike picked up his fork and began to eat his duck. His face didn’t look super thrilled at the taste as it entered his mouth.

 

“Well… For instance, I went on a date last week and I ended it abruptly by dumping his glass of wine into his lap…” Rebecca said with a blush as she held her napkin up to her face to hiding her embarrassment. Mike shook his head laughing with his napkin up to his mouth as he finished his bite of duck.

 

“That’s what I like about you, you are so freaking intense. I don’t get the feeling I’d ever question where you are at emotionally. You aren’t shy about how you feel at all.”He’s talking about the future again… about us… That’s forward, but I like it.Rebecca’s hear fluttered.

 

“I haven’t ever thought about it like that…” Rebecca said tilting her head as she processed what Mike had said. “I just put on this rock hard exterior that I’ve developed from dating all the losers. You know, I’m 30! I’m not getting any younger and I don’t have time to waste on silly boys and incompetent men.” Mike nodded as he took another bite of his duck. Rebecca took her first bite of duck.This is gross… dang it.Rebecca smiled at Mike as she ate her bite of duck. Mike began laughing as he pulled his napkin up from his lap and dropped it onto his plate of duck that was barely eaten.

 

“I’m sorry, I can’t do this…” Mike said.

 

“What?” Rebecca asked panicking.

 

“This food is disgusting!” Mike said as he stood up. He grabbed his plate and then looked up at Rebecca. “You can eat it if you want, but I find it nasty.”

 

“Oh, thank goodness…” Rebecca said with a sigh of relief. “I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t like it either.” Rebecca was relieved he did not like it but became curious what the new plan for dinner was. Mike grabbed her plate and stacked it on his, taking them into kitchen, he placed them into the sink.

 

“How about we head into town and get some pizza… Then we will see where the evening takes us.”

 

“Takes us? You don’t have a plan?”

 

“What kind of guy would I be if I didn’t have a plan?” Mike smiled. “Of course I have a plan. Let’s see where the evenings PLAN takes us.”

 

**

 

Mike and Rebecca took the Trenton exit. “My dad runs a Godfather’s right up here on Finley. Are you cool with going there?”

 

“Your dad? You want me to meet your father on a first date?” Rebecca was taken aback by Mike’s request.Why the heck would he be having me meet his parents? This date just started heading south in a hurry.

 

“Uhh… He’s the owner and yeah, you would probably meet him. It’s not a big deal. I’m not taking you to meet my parents, it’s just good pizza. We can go somewhere else, I know there’s a Fizzo’s up the road a bit further.” Rebecca began to feel bad. He had plans to take her to his Dad’s pizza place and now they weren’t going because she felt awkward.I hate this… ugh.

 

“Yeah. I’d rather not meet your dad.” Rebecca could see what she believed to be disappointment in his eyes. “Don’t be upset. It’s just too soon… You know?” Mike flashed her a smile that was forced.

 

“It’s cool. I understand.” The car fell in silence the last few blocks as they passed Godfather’s and made their way to Fizzo’s. Jumping out of the car before she could, Mike came around and opened the door for her again. She smiled and thought about how sad she had made him about not going to his Dad’s pizza place.

 

“I’m really sorry…” Rebecca said quietly as Mike held open the door to Fizzo’s. He shook his head at her.

 

“It’s fiiinnnneee Rebecca, promise. Just stop talking about it.” Mike grinned touching his hand to the small of her back as the waitress approached them.

 

“Table for two?” The young girl asked. Mike nodded and they followed the waitress to a table.

 

“Can we get a booth?” Rebecca asked looking over at Mike. He nodded.

 

“Sure… hold on just a minute,” the waitress said running off to talk to someone. She returned quickly and led the two of them to a booth towards the back where the lighting was low. Rebecca and Mike took seats on opposite sides and took off their jackets. “Can I get you guys a drink? We have beer, Pepsi products, lemonade…”

 

“I’ll take a water,” Mike said.

 

“I’ll take a strawberry lemonade, with extra lemons and a glass of water on the side,” Rebecca said smiling at the waitress.

 

“Aren’t you just high maintenance,” Mike said with a hearty laugh.

 

“I just know what I like,” Rebecca said smiling at him. She dug through her purse to find her phone; retrieving it she found she had missed a call from Jonathan.That’s strange, I don’t remember it ringing.Looking up at Mike, she decided to call him back.I don’t think he’ll mind.“I missed a call from work. I should probably call them really quick.” With a smile and a nod Mike acknowledged her need to step away.

 

Dialing Jonathan back, Rebecca slipped out of the booth and went outside.

 

“Rebecca,” Jonathan said, answering the phone. She couldn’t help but feel drawn to him as he spoke her name.

 

“What’s going on? Everything okay?” Rebecca asked concerned. Leaning around the corner of Fizzo’s entrance, she could see through the windows and could see Mike at their table.

 

“Yeah… Everything is fine. How was the date?”

 

“Still on it…” Rebecca said annoyed. Her annoyance quickly turned to intrigue that he even cared.Is he checking up on me?“Why’s it matter?” She asked.

 

“Oh. Um. No reason. Just thought you’d be done by now…” His words trailed off. Rebecca saw Mike ordering food.I gotta get in there so he doesn’t screw up our pizza!

 

“I gotta go Jonathan. Tell Stacy hello…” Rebecca ended the call without letting him respond.He’s definitely into me.Rebecca scurried back into Fizzo’s and to her booth with Mike. The waitress started to leave as Rebecca arrived. “Wait!” Rebecca said grabbing the waitress’s arm. “What did he order?”

 

“Rebecca…” He said motioning for her to sit down. “I got peperoni.”

 

“Can you make that half peperoni?” Rebecca asked the waitress. “I just want cheese on my half of the pizza.”

 

“Ok,” The waitress said as she turned and walked away rolling her eyes.

 

“What’s her problem?” Rebecca asked as she sat in the booth. She looked at Mike and felt a spark as their eyes came together.

 

“Who knows,” Mike said. Taking a drink of his water, he continued, “Is everything okay at work?” Rebecca didn’t want to share the fact she has a crush on her boss or the possibility he was interested in her also. So she lied.

 

“Yep. It was a false alarm,” She smiled, but she felt bad immediately.He wouldn’t talk to me again if he knew any of the truth… well… It’s not his business either!Rebecca pushed away the feelings of remorse; she figured it was none of Mike’s business to begin with, they weren’t dating.

 

“Good, good. I have a surprise after we eat,” He said grabbing her hands. He flipped her palms up and laid her hands on the table. He ran a finger softly against the palm of her hand. “Sorry. Is that creepy?”

 

“A little… but it feels nice.” He leaned in under the light of the table and ran his finger up to her wrist and let the finger rest.

 

“You remind me of the human hand…” He said as he guided his finger softly down her wrist and into her center of her palm.

 

“Why’s that?” She said smiling while she enjoyed his touch.

 

“The hand’s skin is strong and durable…” He continued trailing the inside of her palm as he looked up at her, he continued, “But it’s also sensitive.” Chills ran down her spine and she shook pulling her hand away from him with a smile.

 

“You’re kind of strange… but I like that.” She grinned revealing her teeth.I like this guy.Just then, the pizza arrived to the table.