The Unexpected Romance

 

The Unexpected Romance
by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2017 Melanie Brown


Marty's friend thought playing a little dress-up at work would be fun.

 


 

“Such a sweet, young thing!”

“Thank you,” I said with a small, nervous smile to the elderly woman as I rang up her grocery bill. She comes into the store about once per week. I’m the only cashier she ever talks to.

“You always ring me up so quickly and with a bright smile. Unlike those sour-pusses on the other checkouts.” She frowned and nodded at the cashier at the register behind me.

She’s usually not quite this chatty. I shrugged, “That’s my motto… service with a smile.” It’s not, but she doesn’t have to know that.

“Such a pretty thing too,” she said as she waited for my friend and current sacker Hartley put the last items back into the basket. “You’d be so pretty if you you’d wear a little make-up. You’d have to beat the boys off with a stick.”

I laughed, “Beating boys with a stick is on my bucket list. Have a good rest of your day, ma’am.” Actually, I went to the principal’s office a few times for doing just that. I can’t stand bullies.

Hartley and I went to school together, from middle school to graduation. We live in the same apartment complex and we usually walk to and from work together. It’s a fairly short walk, but it’s on the edge of a bad neighborhood. But nobody bothers us.

I shook my head as I watched the customer shuffle off with her cart after declining Hartley’s help to roll the cart out to her car. It was a quiet evening and there wasn’t a customer waiting behind for her to check out.

Hartley shook her head as well and looked over at me. “That doesn’t piss you off? Someone calling you a sweet young thing and suggesting you’d be prettier if only you wore make-up?”

I smiled as I shook my head again, this time to get a strand of my long hair that had escaped my pony tail to flip behind my back. “Nah. She thinks she’s being nice and besides. If I let something like that bother me, I’d be in a constant state of being pissed off. Kinda like you.”

Hartley scowled at me, “But you’re not even a girl! She’s assuming your gender.”

I shrugged, “I really don’t care. It’s not a big enough deal to make a stink out of it. I mean I get it. Look at me. I’m really skinny. My hair runs down past the middle of my back. I get falsely mistaken for a girl pretty much daily.”

Hartley laughed, “Yeah. I remember you were always getting hit on by boys back in high school. Even after you told them. I think you secretly like getting hit on by boys.”

We weren’t allowed to sit down while on duty. I leaned forward, resting on my elbows. “Why the hell would you say a thing like that?”

With a sly grin, Hartley said, “Well, you don’t get a haircut. You don’t ever have facial hair.”

Looking indignant, “Well, I like my hair just the way it is. And I can’t just will facial hair to grow. It has to do that on its own.”

Hartley nodded, “Probably.” She glanced at the time displaying on the register. “Thank God we close in thirty minutes.”

I sighed, “Yep. It’s been a slow night. Mr. McLaren isn’t going to be happy with the sales tonight.” Mr. McLaren is our manager. He’s a bit gruff, but at least he’s not an asshole. I sighed again, “And then I get to go back to my apartment and either watch TV, play games or go to bed. And then start all over tomorrow.”

Mr. McLaren stepped out of his cave and blinked around the empty store, “Try to look like you’re awake, people! We still have half an hour. Let’s make it count!”

Steve, one of the sackers laughed and called to Mr. McLaren, “Do you want me to go outside and grab someone off the street and force them to shop?”

His expression didn’t change. Mr. McLaren pointed at Steve, “Now that’s the kind of initiative I want to see more of around here!” He turned around and went back into his office.

Everyone chuckled and glanced again at the clock.

Hartley looked over at me, biting her lower lip, with a little gleam in her eye. “Hey. Want to have some fun tomorrow?”

I just looked at her, expressionless. “I have fun every day. I don’t think I can stand any more fun.”

Hartley’s eyes brightened as she looked over at me. “No seriously. I was thinking of what that woman said. You would be pretty with some make-up. Want to give it a try?”

I straightened back up and looked at her as if she was crazy. “Are you crazy? I’m not wearing make-up. Sheesh.”

Hartley didn’t stop. “I think it’d be fun! I’m curious if anyone would even notice. I mean, you’re already kinda pretty.”

I screwed my face up as if I’d just eaten something distasteful. “Knock it off, Hartley. I’m not pretty and I’m not wearing make-up to entertain you.”

Turning from me, Hartley called out, “Hey Steve! Do you think Marty is pretty?”

Steve turned and gave me a studious look and shrugged. “I’d do him.”

Mr. McLaren had come out to start closing out the cash registers. Without looking up he said, “Nobody is doing anybody on store premises.”

Pointing at Steve, Hartley said, “See? Even Steve thinks you’re pretty!”

I frowned. “Steve’s an idiot.”

Steve said, “That’s what all the girls say.”

“I’m sure Mr. McLaren wouldn’t want one of his male employees to show up wearing make-up,” I admonished Hartley.

Glancing over at me, Mr. McLaren said, “You might want to go with some nail polish too. Have you seen your hands?” He then shivered as he finished closing the cash register out.

Frowning again, “You’re not helping.”

Mr. McLaren chuckled as he moved to the next cash register.

Hartley just grinned. “I think it’d be fun and see? Nobody cares.”

I sighed as I leaned back on my elbows. “Ask me tomorrow. I’m tired.”

*          *          *

“I feel like an idiot,” I said looking unhappy. In fact, I felt like I had a giant neon sign over my head with an arrow flashing.

“Well don’t,” said Hartley sounding annoyed. “You look great. Beautiful in fact.”

“If my father was alive, I’m sure he’d love to hear that,” I said staring at the sidewalk as we continued our way to work.

Hartley looked at me funny. “Your dad isn’t dead.”

I looked over at her, “Well, if he was dead, I’m sure he’d think if he was still alive how much he would like to hear that I’m beautiful.”

Hartley laughed. “That makes no sense. But look at you! Getting your hair out of that pony tail and using the blow dryer to give you more body gave you a gorgeous mane of hair! I know you hated me putting it on you, but the eye liner and mascara really make your eyes pop. It’s an amazing difference. Oddly, it makes you look a couple of years younger as well. And I hardly used any make-up at all.”

I waved my hands, “Was the nail polish really necessary?”

Hartley shrugged, “You heard Mr. McLaren.” She then laughed.

Hartley had come over before lunch for her evil mission. Since we work the evening shift at the store, she had plenty of time to do her worst. I’ve never been more self-conscious in my life. I had to borrow one of her purses because the skinny jeans she brought for me were too tight to use the pockets which weren’t deep enough to hold anything anyway.

She said she was going light on the make-up. But it sure seemed like she was putting a lot on. She told me each item – foundation, blush, eye liner, mascara eye shadow, lipstick. She said next time she’d make more time to do contouring and some other things. I told her there wasn’t going to be a next time.

She also insisted I wear a pair of her skinny jeans and a t-shirt. She said I should wear one of her bras (she has rather small boobs anyway) because it would be visible through the t-shirt and help with the overall image. I declined the offer of panties and wore my own shoes. I thought she was going a bit overboard as this adventure was supposed to just see how I looked with a little make-up.

“I have to say,” I said. “I don’t like the way lipstick feels and tastes. And I don’t like noticing my eye lashes when I blink.”

Hartley laughed. “You’ll get used to it.”

I frowned. “I don’t want to get used to it.”

Hartley shook her head. “I think you look great. Seriously.”

A small gust of wind blew a lot of hair into my face. “I miss my pony tail.”

Hartley just shook her head. “You’ll live. Besides, I love your hair like that. I wish I had your hair.”

I shrugged. “Well, grow it out. I wasn’t born with this.” I tugged on my hair.

Hartley rolled her eyes. “Actually you were, sort of. I’ve tried to grow mine out. It just starts curling and gets frizzy. It becomes a huge bother.”

We walked a little ways in silence.

Grinning, Hartley said, “You should do this every day. We could be girlfriends and go shopping together. You could come over and we’d watch Lifetime movies and cry together. Stuff like that.”

We started crossing the parking lot of the store. “Don’t you do that already with your friends?”

Hartley frowned. “Not really. We do some. But they all have boyfriends now. So they all do ‘couple’ type things.”

I stopped and turned to her. “I know we’ve been good friends for a long time now with nothing romantic between us. But are you saying you’d rather have me as a girlfriend than a boyfriend?”

Hartley shrugged. “Well yeah. I’m attracted to very masculine guys. And I’m sorry Marty. You’re just not very masculine. After all, you were bullied a lot in school.”

We walked the rest of the way across the parking lot in silence. I know I’m not exactly Captain Testosterone but I’ve never really thought of myself as not masculine. I’m a guy after all. True, I was never much into sports and other boys in school, if they weren’t trying to beat me up, would offer to help if I was carrying something heavy and most of my friends were girls. But hey, it’s not like I played with dolls or had imaginary tea parties.

As we entered the grocery store, Mr. McLaren glanced at his watch. Steve looked over at us and said, “Holy crap! Marty, can I have your phone number?”

I scowled at Steve. “Keep it up and the only number you’re going to need is nine one one.”

Steve grinned. “Are you going to beat me up?”

I pointed at Hartley. “No. But she will.”

*          *          *

It had been another slow afternoon. But things started to kick up after seven o’clock. Several women had complimented me about my hair. Men who normally would barely even acknowledge my existence before, smiled at me and said ‘hello’. I have to admit that I was surprised at how differently people reacted to me just because of a little make-up.

Hartley would grin at me every time someone said something to me that they wouldn’t have before. Besides Steve, the other cashiers also gave me compliments. It’s like I just suddenly popped into existence. Mr. McLaren even complimented my nails.

During one of the infrequent lulls with the after five shoppers, Hartley leaned in close to me and whispered with a grin, “Did you see who just came into the store?”

I just shook my head. “I’ve been kinda busy.”

“Paul Clemmons,” said Hartley earnestly.

I looked at her quizzically. “Who?”

She gave my shoulder a light slap. “You know who Paul Clemmons is! You had a crush on him in middle school!”

Looking horrified I said, “I did not! Besides. Same sex crushes at that age aren’t really that uncommon.”

Hartley pointed at me. “Ah ha! You did have a crush on him!”

Scowling, I said, “It wasn’t like I wanted to date him. I just wanted to be around him. But I could never get into his clique. I’m not gay. And he’s the only boy I ever crushed on.”

Hartley took on a far-away look. “He was certainly the crush for almost every girl in school, that’s for sure.”

I was really annoyed that Hartley would bring that up. Yes. I’ll admit to having a crush Paul Clemmons. But it wasn’t in any romantic way. I just wanted to be his friend. It bothered me enough that I checked into same sex crushes on the internet and found that it happens a lot at that age when hormones are just starting to kick in. After a few weeks of not being able to become his friend, I just forgot about it.

I turned around the store to see if I could spot Paul. I finally saw him in the snack aisle getting some chips. He still looked mostly the same as he did in high school. Apparently he still works out as his muscles were still prominent under his t-shirt. Chiseled good looks along with his trademark unkempt hair always a few weeks in need of a haircut. Oddly he had been the captain of the school’s golf team. Hartley was right. Most girls had crushes on him. He didn’t socialize much.

Hartley’s gaze followed him as he walked past to go to another aisle. “Wow. He’s only gotten hotter. It’s been over a year since I last saw him at graduation. Think he’s married by now?”

I shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. Why don’t you go ask him?”

Hartley quickly shook her head. “Oh, no way.”

I laughed. “By the way you’re drooling, I can tell that you’re interested.”

Mr. McLaren walked by. “I don’t pay you people to drool over the customers.” He went back into his office.

Hartley turned away suddenly and whispered, “Oh my God. He’s coming to your check out.”

As Paul set his chips and carton of soda onto the conveyor belt at the cash register, his eyes lingered on me and he flashed a wide grin.

I felt a bit uncomfortable under his stare. “How are you today, sir?” I smiled back at him. I do that to everyone. It’s required.

Paul didn’t take his eyes off me. “I’m doing great. How’s it going?”

“Just fine,” I said as I rang up his items.

“Are you new here?” he said as I told him how much the charge was.

I looked shyly down. Paul was flirting with me. Oh my God. “No. I’ve been here a while.”

He shrugged as he stuck his credit card into the reader. “Well, I don’t come in here that often. I think I’ll start coming more often though.” He gave me a wink. Hartley saw his wink as she grinned at me.

I just wanted him to leave. I couldn’t handle having a guy, especially one that I stupidly had a crush on years ago, flirt with me.

He put his card back into his wallet and moved to return his wallet to his hip pocket. He started to pick up his items that Hartley had so expertly bagged. He hesitated. He turned back to me.

He smiled shyly at me. “Please don’t take offense. But I was wondering if I could call you. My name is Paul.” He held out his hand for a shake. I heard Hartley gasp.

Oh my God. I was heading for a complete nervous breakdown. He thinks I’m a girl and he’s asking me for my phone number. He wants to date me! This was disaster! I had to shut this down. I could just blow him off. But he’d probably try again. I was going to tell him the truth. And then I was going to beat the shinola out of Hartley later.

I gave Paul a nervous smile as I brushed hair from my face. Embarrassed beyond belief, I forced the words from my mouth. “I’m very flattered. I really am. This is very hard to say. It’s really embarrassing. But I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not a girl. I wasn’t trying to fool you or anybody really. This was just a stupid gag Hartley wanted to play to see how people would react to me. I don’t normally wear make-up or dress this way.”

Paul scowled. “Well, you sure fooled me. I feel like a fucking idiot now.” He stared at me more intently and then angrily blurted, “I know you! You’re that sissy from school.” Several people in the store turned to look in my direction.

I held up my hands defensively. “Hey. Sissy might be a bit too strong a word. But I totally apologize. I’m so very sorry.”

Looking pissed, Hartley said, “In all fairness, it wasn’t Marty that came on to you.”

Without turning to look at her, I said, “Hartley, don’t help.”

His face bright red, Paul said, “I’m sorry I thought you were a beautiful girl. I feel like such a chump. I won’t be coming back here.” He turned on his heel and stormed out of the store.

Mr. McLaren was standing outside his office, arm folded across his chest. “Well that was entertaining. Don’t lose any more customers unless you want to be unemployed.”

I actually started to cry I was so humiliated. I wanted to crawl under a rock.

Mr. McLaren frowned, “Why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and calm down.” He walked up to take over the cash register.

Hartley took my arm. “Let’s go to the restroom. I have some tissues.”

I just stood there stiffly. “I have black streaks running down my face, don’t I?”

Hartley nodded as she herded me to the women’s restroom. “Yes. Your crying is making your mascara run.”

I sighed loudly. “Perfect.”

*          *          *

“Look I’m sorry,” said Hartley as she finished bagging another customer’s groceries. “How many times do I have to say it? I was wrong. I admit it.”

I sighed. “It’s not your fault Paul decided to flirt with me. He was the only one all day that actually asked for my phone number.”

Steve said from a couple of aisles over, “I asked. In fact, I was wondering…”

Hartley spun around and scowled, “This is a private conversation. Please butt out.”

A buzzing suddenly came from Hartley’s purse. We’re not supposed to use our phone while at work. She picked it up and looked at the caller ID. “Crap! I really have t take this call.” She then ran out of the store.

Steve came over to help me bag another customer’s groceries while Hartley was outside. He looked at me and said seriously, “You really are pretty.”

Angrily, I hissed, “Shut it.”

In a few minutes, Hartley came back into the store and headed straight to Mr. McLaren’s office. She was in there a few minutes. She looked upset when she came and came over to pick up her purse.

“I’m sorry Marty, but a family emergency just came up. I need to go. Sorry. You’ll have to walk home by yourself tonight and probably tomorrow too.” She slung her purse strap over her shoulder and then waved. “Bye.”

I watched her go out the door. “Well that was sudden.”

Steve nodded. “I hope everything’s okay.”

The rest of the evening was pretty busy. I didn’t have time to worry about the debacle from earlier. Hartley texted me to let me know she wouldn’t be back until the day after tomorrow. Nobody was dead, but she needed to stay with her family.

Midnight finally hit and the cashiers and the sackers headed towards the door. It’ll be so great to end this rather horrible day. I couldn’t wait to hit the shower. Instead of staying up to play a game or two, I was so tired I’d probably just go to bed just as soon as I washed this day off.

Steve said as we walked out the door, “Have you reconsidered giving me your phone number?”

I frowned, “Just stop it, Steve. The joke is over. Do you really want to date a guy?”

“I’m lonely, Marty.” Steve outstretched his arms like he wanted to embrace me. “I need you, Marty!”

Horrified, I backed up into Staci, one of the cashiers and almost knocked her over.

Steve roared with laughter. “You should have seen the look on your face! Well, good-night. See you tomorrow.” He then turned and walked away, still chuckling to himself.

I slung my purse strap over my shoulder and muttered, “Asshole.” I turned and started my trek across the parking lot towards my apartment. Everyone else got into their cars.

It was such a beautiful early fall evening that I would have preferred to walk even if I owned a car. It wasn’t too hot or too cool. I shook my head to get my hair to cascade down my back and shoulders. A light breeze caught it and it billowed out. The evening was just perfect.

The street was empty and I was about halfway to my apartment when I gradually became aware of a car going slowly beside me.

“Hey babe!” called someone from the slowly moving car. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”

Oh God. That’s all I need. Hopefully they’ll just drive away in a few moments. I didn’t look over at them. I didn’t say anything. I just shook my head and continued walking.

Again the voice called out to me, “Hey. A fine babe like you shouldn’t be out here all by her lonesome. Come on, sweet cheeks. We’ll give you a lift.”

Just go away, I thought to myself. I shook my head again, still not looking over at them.

They guy then banged three times on the outside of his car door. He shouted, “Girl! We got three rock hard cocks here for you! Come ride with us!”

Now I started to get really worried. This was turning into a very bad situation. My mind raced on trying to decide where I could run to. And could I even outrun three men who weren’t tired from being at work all day? I wondered if that line ever worked with anyone. This time I didn’t even shake my head. I just kept looking straight ahead and walking.

Someone in the car made a comment I couldn’t hear. A moment later the car picked up speed and started moving head of me. Finally! They’re going away from me! But then my heart sunk as I saw the car just move up a short distance, pull over and stop. The car doors flung open and three guys got out. I stopped.

My heart starting pumping. Fear welled up in me quickly. What do I do? They’re all bigger than me. I was scared for my life. I started looking around to see if there were any open doors or a car passing by. I was alone.

The guy who had spoken before unzipped his pants as he approached and pulled out a fully engorged penis. “You listen, bitch! I need this sucked, now!” The other two men unzipped their pants as well and grinned.

One of the other guys tapped the speaker on the shoulder. “Hey dude. She looks pissed. I think she’s likely to bite your dick off instead.”

The first man chuckled. “I think you’re right. Let’s fuck her first, then.” They all grinned toothy grins together as if they had been practicing it. They started to move towards me.

I had to get away. A cold sweat trickled down my back. I’ve never been more scared in my life. Wildly I looked around, trying to see something. Anything. They’re going to rape me! When they find out I’m a guy, they’ll probably kill me. After they rape me. I felt that flush of adrenaline wash over me. Maybe that would give me an edge to sprint away.

I was tightening my muscles to attempt to flee when I noticed them all glance towards the street. I heard a vehicle pull up to the curb beside me and then the sound of a window sliding down.

“Hey Marty! Do you need a lift?”

I looked over and saw dark pickup truck. I couldn’t see inside, but I recognized the voice. It was Paul Clemmons!

I shouted, “Yes! I do!” I turned and bolted to his truck.

The three men started towards me. One yelled, “Hey! That’s my bitch! Get your own!”

Before they could get close to me, I pulled the truck’s door open and leaped inside. Before I could get the door closed, Paul’s truck leapt away from the curb with a loud chirp of tires.

I actually hugged him. “Oh Paul! I’m so glad to see you! Thank God you came by!”

Paul looked back behind him at the three men still standing on the sidewalk. “I’m glad I could help. That was a bad situation back there.”

“Yes it was. No telling what they would have done.” I closed my eyes and leaned back in the passenger seat of the truck. I sighed. “What luck for you to be driving by right then.”

Paul suddenly looked sheepish. “Actually I was hoping to catch up with you before you got home. I know Steve and he told me you always walk this way to your apartment.”

“Really?” I asked. “Why? I thought you hated me.”

Paul nodded. “I wanted to apologize for being such a jerk. I was worried you might have gotten fired because of me. No. Don’t say anything. I was wrong to get so upset. It was my mistake. You weren’t out to fool me.”

I shook my head. “Look. I didn’t mean to make you look foolish for hitting on me. It’s not like I knew you were going to be in the store. And I’m never dressing as a girl again at work. I don’t wasn’t this to happen again with someone else.”

Paul furrowed his brow. “Oh, please don’t change your life around because of me. Please stay being a pretty girl. You seem very natural.”

Change my life around? I’m sure I told him this was just a gag by Hartley. Until tonight, I never dressed as a girl before. I didn’t see any point in correcting him. It’d probably just embarrass him further.

Pointing out the windshield I said, “Those are my apartments there on the right. You can just drop me off at the curb.”

Paul drove his truck into an empty parking space. “I’ll walk with you. I want to make sure you get there safely.”

I smiled weakly at Paul. “You don’t have to do that. This is a good neighborhood. They have security cameras. I always feel pretty safe here.”

Paul smile as he opened his truck’s door and started to slide out. “I insist.”

I opened my door and sighed. “Okay. Whatever.” As I walked around the front of the truck, I said, “You do remember I’m not a girl, right? I appreciate your offer, but I really don’t need an escort.”

Paul grinned as his eyes fell on me. “Looking at you, that is truly easy to forget. But come on. Allow me this moment of chivalry.”

I laughed. I did my best to do a curtsey. “You are after all, my knight in shining armor tonight.” I started to walk down the sidewalk. “I’m in building fifteen B, right around that corner.” I pointed.

Paul smiled broadly and before I could react, he’d taken my hand. “Lead on, fair damsel.”

We walked in silence, but my mind raced. Why is he holding my hand? It seems he’s taken an interest in me. Why? He knows I’m a guy. Is he gay? Bi? Or is he just reacting to how I look as a girl? It really rattled me. I’ll be glad when I’m finally in my apartment.

“This is it.” We walked up a little path to my apartment door. I opened my purse to dig out my keys. Paul stood close and touched my elbow as I started to unlock the door.

“I’m glad you’re safe, Marti. I wish we could get punks like those three who attacked you off the street.”

“I’m just glad you showed up when you did. My knight in shining armor.” I laughed as I poked him in the chest. I opened the door slightly. “I can’t wait to hit the shower. And then I’ll probably just collapse on my bed. That ordeal completely drained me.”

Paul pushed a piece of paper in my hand. “That’s my number. When you’re ready to go to work tomorrow, please. Call me. I’ll give you a lift there and pick you back up at midnight.”

I looked at the paper. “Paul. Really. You don’t have to do that. I’m okay. I’ve been walking that route for months. Tonight was a fluke.”

“Well, at least until your friend Hartley comes back.” Paul’s expression was so earnest. He actually seemed to be sincerely concerned. “You know I won’t leave until you promise to call me for a ride.”

I grinned. “You know I can take two steps and shut the door and you’ll be standing here by yourself.”

He grinned back. “But you won’t.”

I sighed heavily. “Okay. I’ll call. I have to be at work by four.”

“Great. Thanks!” He smiled. Paul started to turn away and stopped. He turned back to face me. “I saved your life tonight, right?”

I folded my arms across my chest and looked sideways at Paul. “Yes. And I’m grateful.”

Paul took a step towards me and grinned. “So you owe me one.”

A cold bolt ran down my spine. Oh God. Now what? Please don’t ask me for a blow job.

I narrowed my eyes and said with irritation, “I’ll get you a coupon for a free carton of soda.”

Paul’s grin got wider. “I can think of something better. How about I take you to a movie Friday?”

I frowned. “How about no?”

Paul’s smile faded slightly. “It’ll be great. Free movie. Free popcorn. Afterwards we can go to Taco del Rey, my treat.”

I looked sternly at Paul. “Don’t make me hate you.”

Paul flashed me another smile. “Well. Think about it.” He then did something I was not prepared for. He bent down and kissed my forehead. He then turned and walked away into the night, leaving me standing there stunned.

*          *          *

I looked up and down the street trying to spot Hartley. She said she was back. And she’s never been late on waiting for me. All I could see was a car parked by the curb. I stopped walking and frowned.

A girl poked her head out of the car window and waved. “Marty! Come on! Look what I got!”

I blinked and looked again. It was Hartley sitting in the driver’s seat of the car parked by the curb. She’s never had a car before. I walked up to her window.

“Hey Hartley! Where did you get this?”

Smiling broadly, Hartley said, “Get in. I’ll tell you.”

I walked around and got into the car. As I got in, I noticed an odor I can only describe as old. The car was a bit on the grimy side.

Turning to me, Hartley said, “This was my grandpa’s car. That’s the big family stink was about. It seems grandpa breezed through a few red lights, so Dad had the police take grandpa’s license away. He then gave me grandpa’s car.” The car probably needed a ring job with puffs of blue smoke coming from the exhaust.

“At least it’s wheels, huh?” I said as I peered through the dirt encrusted windshield.

Hartley laughed. “Yep! It’s wheels.” She started to move the gear lever from Park to Drive when she stopped. She took off her sunglasses and gave me an incredulous look. “Are you wearing make-up?”

I looked down sheepishly at the car’s floor. “Yeah. I’ve kinda been wearing it every day since that first day.”

Hartley gave me a long look. “Why? You hated make-up.”

I looked over at her. My hair falling across my face. I shrugged. “I guess I changed my mind.”

Hartley shook her head. “I swear. I can’t even be gone two days without everything going to hell.” She put the car in Drive and drove away from the curb into the empty street.

I looked out the passenger side window. “Oh. I need to ask a favor.”

Hartley glanced over at me. “A favor?”

I nodded and looked at my nail polished hands. “I’m going to need your help. I have a date with Paul on Friday.”

Hartley slammed on the car’s brakes in the middle of the street. She turned to me and shouted, “What the fuck?”

*          *          *

“You’re blocking the road.”

“I don’t care!” fumed Hartley. As she took her foot off the brake and we started rolling again, she asked, “Why in hell do you have a date with Paul?”

I shrugged. “It just kinda happened. I told him no at first. And then after he brought me back and forth to work, I started thinking about it.”

“Wait wait,” interrupted Hartley. “He drove you to work and back?”

I nodded. “Well yeah. He thought it’d be safer after I was almost raped by a street gang.”

Hartley turned towards me and exclaimed, “You were what? Raped? How? Where?”

I shivered at the memory. “Three punks there in the worst part of our walk. Paul just happened to show up at the right moment and I got away in his truck. God only knows what would have happened if they’d found out I wasn’t a girl.”

Staring intently out the windshield, Hartley said, “And then he asked you out? Right after rescuing you from rape? Gee. That’s not like taking advantage of your state of mind at all! He took advantage of you while you were stressed! That asshole!”

I looked over at Hartley. “Well, I did tell him no.”

Hartley frowned severely. “So he kept asking until you submitted?”

“No. He left.”

“But you have a date with him?”

“Yes.”

“How for God’s sake?” Hartley almost spat the words.

I sighed. “Last night when he was taking me home, I got to thinking. What the hell, right? He knows I’m not a girl, so tricking him isn’t an issue. It’s a free movie and free snacks. Taco del Rey has the best burritos in town. And he gets this date out of his system. It’s win win.”

Hartley drove her car into the grocery store parking lot. “He’s obsessed with dating you? For reals?”

As she parked the car, I said, “I wouldn’t say obsessed. Since he came up with the notion of dating a girl who isn’t a girl, he can’t seem to rest until he plays it out.”

Hartley turned off the car’s ignition. “So he’s obsessed.”

I looked at my feet. “Yes.”

*          *          *

Hartley glanced at her phone. “It’s five-thirty now and Paul said he’d be here at six. So I should probably get going.” She looked me up and down. “You look hot, girlfriend. He’s going to love you.”

I rotated around in front of her. “Was all this really necessary? I mean, it’s not like it’s a real date.”

Hartley had arrived fairly early in the morning to begin my transformation. She had me shave my legs and armpits. She washed my hair and added some big curls to it. She went full teen girl on the make-up with heavy eyeliner, smoky eye shadow along with false eyelashes. She used all kinds of make-up to give me cheekbones and smooth my face along with a pink lipstick. My nails matched my lipstick.

I was wearing a tank top with the straps of my black lacy bra exposed. A short denim miniskirt. I was also wearing black lacy panties that Paul was never going to see. Hartley insisted it’d help me feel sexy. My ears aren’t pierced but she found some hoop earrings I could wear. She also suggested I wear several of her large bracelets. And she insisted I wear strappy sandals with three inch heels. She had me wearing them all day to get used to them.

Hartley just stared at me for a moment. “Marti, this is a real date as far as Paul is concerned. I can’t begin to imagine what inspired him to actually ask you out, but think about this. He could have just said, ‘Hey bro. Let’s go to a movie. My treat to make up for being an asshole.’ And then you’d have a bro-date and act all macho and shit. But he didn’t. Marti, he could have asked any girl of dozens out for a date. But he didn’t. He asked you. And if the date goes well, he might suggest going out again. Then the waiting game starts on if he’s actually going to call you. But anyway, he’s your man and you want to look hot for him.”

I frowned. “He’s not ‘my man’. Sheesh.” And I thought that he better not ask for another date.

Hartley grinned. “Well, he’s your man tonight.” She looked at her phone again. “Oh shit. I gotta get. Have fun. I put some condoms in your purse.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “That’s funny. You’re hilarious.”

Hartley laughed as she walked out the door.

I went into the bathroom to check out my look again. My God! Hartley worked some magic for sure. I was hot. I was annoyed and self embarrassed to feel Mr. Happy starting to strain against the gaff Hartley made for me so nothing would suddenly fall out at a bad time. Holy crap! I’m turning myself on!

I left the restroom and sat on the couch. I was really nervous. This was crazy. This was insane. I’m waiting for a guy to show up to take me on a date. Here I was, dressed as a really hot girl, waiting to be picked up by a really hot guy. It didn’t help that I used to have a crush on him either.

I almost fell off the couch I was so wound up when the doorbell rang. My mind raced. He was here! What should I do? Maybe if I hide he’ll go away. The doorbell rang a second time. I took a deep breath and sighed. I stood up and walked nervously to the door. Are girls nervous like this on a first date or just guys dressed as girls? And I didn’t mean first date. Just a date.

I put my hand on the door knob and froze. What the hell am I doing? I shook my head as I mentally slapped myself. Geeze. He’s just a guy. An old school friend… urm well acquaintance anyway. No big deal, right? And me? I’m his date for the night. Ah hell, I thought. Just open the damned door.

I opened the damned door.

And there stood Paul, beaming a radiant smile. He was holding an assorted bouquet of flowers. He gave a low whistle as his eyes roved up and down on me. “Oh wow, Marti. You look great!” It was so embarrassing the way he was staring at me. He pushed the flowers towards me. “I don’t know what your favorite flower is, so I got a variety. Hope that’s okay.”

I hesitated a moment. Nobody has ever brought me flowers before. I wasn’t sure how to react. “Of course! They’re gorgeous.” I took the flowers from him and took the time to sniff them. “Nice! Please come in for a minute while I put these in water.” They always say that in movies when someone is handed flowers, so I guess that’s what you’re supposed to do.

I didn’t have any vases, so I took a pitcher from the cupboard, filled it with water and started to put the flowers in it. “You didn’t have to bring me flowers, Paul. But thank you! They’re beautiful!”

Looking shyly at his hands Paul said, “I’m glad you like them.” I turned to face him and got my first good look at him. I immediately felt over-dressed as he was just wearing a light, collared shirt and jeans. He’d managed to comb his hair and you could really tell he works out.

“You look great too, Paul!” I said sounding a little too excited. There was an awkward pause where I found myself staring stupidly at him. I looked away for a moment and said, “What time does the movie start?”

He kept staring at me. “In about forty minutes. We should probably head out.”

“Let me get my purse and we’ll go!” I walked over to the couch to pick up the purse I’d borrowed from Hartley. This was a little larger than the other purse I’d borrowed. As I bent down to pick it up and started to close it I glanced inside. Along with my apartment keys, my cell phone, some just in case money, a lipstick, a compact, some tissues and a tampon, I saw that Hartley really did put a couple of condoms in my purse. Are they his and hers? It was a joke I’m sure, but I still wanted to throttle her. It was just a movie date. He’s a guy. And so am I. And never the twain shall meet. Or anything else…

“Are you okay?” asked Paul standing by the door.

Smirking, I said, “I’m fine. Let’s go.”

After I locked my door, Paul took my hand and led me through the apartment complex to where he had to park. I still found it amusing that he wanted to hold my hand. It’s romantic, but we’re not being romantic. Is he afraid I’ll run away? I need to stop trying to over-analyze things. I’m sure it’s just what he likes to do when he’s out with a girl. And today that’s me.

I was annoying myself with the clicking of my own heels. I tried to shorten my steps to see if that lessened the sound. Oh great. Now I was mincing. I tried to find a gait in between that would let me keep up with Paul. It was a beautiful late afternoon/ early evening. I’ll just concentrate on that.

As we walked to his truck, Paul kept glancing over at me. “It’s weird. You actually look younger. Like you’re in high school.”

I shrugged. “We only graduated last year.”

Paul shook his head. “I mean like sixteen or seventeen.”

Glancing over at him, I asked, “Is that bad?”

Paul laughed. “Only if we’re having sex later since I’m twenty!”

I stopped and let go of his hand. “What?”

Paul laughed again. “I’m kidding! I’m kidding!”

Frowning, I said, “I certainly hope so!” I took his hand again and we starting walking to his truck.

Paul shrugged and said, “Actually. Since you’re what? Nineteen? It’d be okay.”

I wacked him on the shoulder with my purse. “Will you stop already?”

Paul laughed again. “Okay, okay!”

The rest of the short walk to Paul’s truck, he had a slight, enigmatic smile to some inner thought.

The drive to the mall was mostly quiet. Paul had his truck radio set on a smooth jazz station. As Paul drove, I thought of the insanity of what we were both doing. I looked over at Paul and he looked back at me and smiled. This shit was real. I’m on a date with a man. I’m his date. I’m dressed as a girl. Just plain crazy.

I looked over at Paul as we approached the mall parking lot. I shrugged, “Why Paul? Why the date?”

Paul smiled as he drove his truck into the parking lot and headed towards the theater. “Why not? I mean, I really am trying to make it up for being rude to that beautiful girl who was giving me a sincere confession. And what’s funny, is that when I first saw you, I was reminded of a long ago memory of a girl in middle school that kept trying to get my attention, I guessed for a date. I just blew her off, not because she wasn’t cute, I just really didn’t have time for girls then. And then she went away, never coming close to me again. I was haunted by her though.

“She was so pretty. I even thought about what a date with her would be like when I was out with other girls. I would see her in the halls at school, always at a distance. We never had any classes together. I could never bring myself to talk to her even though I let myself become obsessed with her. But, in high school, I got to be so busy, I kind of forgot about her. I was sure she was around, but I just never noticed her anymore with all the things I had going on in my life. I just forgot her.

“Until I saw you in the store. That face. That hair. That ass! I realized you were that girl that haunted my memories. You were there! Right in front of me. I was talking to you. I had to ask you out. I didn’t want lose out a second time. And when I learned the truth about my idolized, perfect girl, well that was quite a blow.”

Wow. I never had any idea. How could I? He never talked to me. I really didn’t know what to think about Paul basically obsessing over me. I suddenly felt awful about it, but I had no way of knowing how he felt.

Looking down at my hands folded on my lap I said sincerely, “I’m very sorry Paul. I wasn’t trying to get a date back then. I had become obsessed with becoming your friend. I wasn’t trying to fool you then either. I had no idea you thought I was a girl.”

Paul parked his truck and killed the ignition. He laughed and his face slowly brightened. “Well, you certainly can’t get any more star-crossed than that. And so I really felt bad about getting angry with you, after I had thought long and hard about it. It wasn’t your fault I was, well, in love with the girl that I thought you were.”

I felt my face turning red. I couldn’t bring myself to look directly at Paul. “I’m flattered and all, but after learning the truth, why the date?”

He opened the truck’s driver’s side door and shrugged. “Like I said. Why not? You were wearing girl’s clothes and make-up, I figured you probably enjoyed being a girl and here was a chance to exorcise you from my soul by finally having that date and getting you out of my system. It seemed like… well, it seemed like fate.”

I’m going to kill Hartley. I’d never dressed as a girl until that, well, fateful day she dressed me up. He must think I dress like a girl every day. And since I dressed like a girl every day when he was giving me a lift, I can’t really fault him for thinking that. It was so stupid. I was dressing for him to make me easier to deal with when he picked me up. It was just stupid. And now, here I was. His date.

He smiled at me when he took my hand again as we walked towards the mall. It felt different after learning he had obsessed about me. A part of me actually liked that he’d felt that way. The other part of me was ashamed.

I started to get nervous as we approached the crowd that was usually hanging around the movie theater entrance to the mall. The whole mixed bag of groups of boys some groups of girls and groups of couples. I’d walked through that gauntlet of kids many times from high school on and never gave it a thought. Now I actually felt intimidated.

In my short skirt and high heels, I felt vulnerable. It didn’t help that every boy, seriously every one, turned their eyes to me as we approached. Hearing a boy telling his friends, ‘hey check her out’ and they all turn to look made me very uncomfortable since I know just how boys think. The girls checked me out as well.

I felt like an interloper in a foreign land. I felt extremely out of place. It seemed as if everyone was staring at me. I wrapped my arm around Paul’s.

Before we could get to the door to the mall, a girl stepped up to Paul. I remember seeing her from my old school days… ha, old… just last year. I didn’t remember her name though. She had been one of the prettiest girls at school and she knew it.

“Well, hey there Paul,” she cooed. “Haven’t seen you since graduation! Where have you been hiding?”

Paul seemed less than thrilled to be talking to this girl. “Oh hey Jolene. Just working and going to Cornett.” Cornett was the local junior college where a lot of kids went before moving on to a more expensive university.

Jolene turned towards my direction and looked down her nose at me. “Oh Paul. Still fishing in high school for dates?” She squinted at me. “Or is she middle school?” She laughed. “Careful Paulie. Her daddy might not like her dating older men.”

Paul just shrugged. “What can I say?”

Jolene smirked at Paul. “When you get through playing with children, come look me up again. Nice chatting with you again.” She turned and walked away.

I tugged on Paul’s hand. “Did she just call me a child? Why I…”

Paul chuckled and kept a tight grip on my hand. “Don’t let her get to you. She’s a bitch and probably jealous I’m with a girl prettier than she is. Let it go.”

I relaxed. “You’re right.” I mentally slapped myself for allowing myself to get upset. And then I it dawned on me what else Paul had said. “Prettier? Are you crazy? Jolene is gorgeous.”

Paul looked down at me. “You are very pretty. And a lot nicer girl than Jolene will ever be.”

How do I process having a man tell me I’m pretty? I mentally shrugged as I held onto Paul’s arm a bit tighter as we proceeded through the sea of strange faces. I’m sure he’d say that to anyone he was on a date with.

I relaxed a bit more when we finally entered the mall and gotten away from that random crowd of kids. I still felt intimidated being dressed as a girl, even though a quick glance around showed I was dress the same as most other girls. It’s not like I stood out.

Paul frowned. “The line is already getting long and the movie starts soon. We’d better get in line.” With six screens, there was no telling what movie everyone in the line was for. I guess most we going to see the latest installment of the Robot Ninja Warrior movies.

As we approached the end of the line, a boy I remembered from school, with his girlfriend in tow spotted us, grinned and headed our direction.

He bumped knuckles with Paul. “Paul! My man. Haven’t seen you in twelve parsecs. How’s it going?”

Paul smiled at his friend. Sullivan was his last name I think. “Hey Sully. You know. Same shit different day.”

Sully looked me up and down and smiled. He leaned in towards Paul as if he was being confidential. “Still dating high school girls?”

Paul laughed. “Old habits. But so are you.”

Chuckling, Sully said, “But at least I’m in high school. Hey. Are you going to the Robot Ninja movie? You can sit with us.”

Paul shook his head. “Thanks, but I’m taking her to see ‘Covered Bridges’.”

Sully’s girlfriend who up until now had looked annoyed, smiled and said, “Oh! I so want to see that! I’ve heard it’s really great.”

With a look of distaste, Sully said, “But that’s a romance movie!”

Paul smiled and inclined his head towards me. “That’s true.” In all honesty, I was hoping we were going to the Robot Ninja movie.

Sully’s girlfriend’s expression changed to one of pleading. “Oh please, baby. Can we go see ‘Covered Bridges’ instead?”

Sully sounded disgusted. “No way!”

Sully’s girlfriend let go of his hand and folded her arms. “Fine!”

Sensing a potential fight coming on, Paul said, “We need to get in line. Good talking to you, Sully.”

Still holding my hand, Paul led me to the end of the line.

While standing in line, two pretty girls walked past us in the mall hallway. They both smiled at Paul. One said, “Oh look! Paul’s taking his daughter to a movie!” They both laughed. Paul just grinned and waved at them as they went by.

Deeply annoyed, I asked, “Do I really look that young?”

Paul shook his head and laughed. “You’re a very sensitive girl, aren’t you? No, you can’t possibly look young enough to be my daughter if I had one. But you really do look like you could pass for a high school girl. Don’t worry about it. I think it’s funny.”

I sighed. “If you say so. You sure know a lot of girls.”

Paul laughed again. “Don’t worry about that either.”

I didn’t show it, but I did feel a pang of disappointment when Paul bought two tickets for ‘Covered Bridges’.

As we got in the snack line, I tiptoed to whisper into Paul’s ear, “I gotta go to the head… I mean the little girl’s room.”

Paul nodded as I let go of his hand and hurried off to the restrooms. I had gone before Paul had picked me up, but I guess all the excitement of being a girl was too much. I hesitated. I almost went into the guy’s restroom. But I was definitely worried about going into the women’s. Other than one occupied stall, there was no one else in the room. I just rushed into the first empty stall and closed the door.

I looked in disgust at the pee spattered seat. I thought about just raising the seat and taking care of my business quickly while standing. But that would be tempting fate too much. And the woman in the stall next to me would probably see one of my feet facing the wrong way for sitting down. I took a wad of toilet paper and wiped the seat as best I could. Do I drop my skirt or pull it up? I had no idea of the proper protocol. From getting ready this afternoon to trying to figure out how to go to the restroom, I never realized just how complicated being a girl was.

I just pulled the skirt up and lowered the gaff Hartley had made for me. I hoped I could get it back in place. I definitely didn’t want Mr. Happy making a sudden appearance. I sat down with a feeling of disgust and wondered if I was still supposed to keep my knees together? Well, nobody could see me.

From the stall next to me, I heard some rustling noise and a frantic, whispered voice. “No no no! Where’s my tampon! Oh shit!”

At first I just sat there finishing my business, deeply annoyed at hearing the word tampon. Then it dawned on me. I pulled my purse around to my lap, opened it and removed the one thing I had no business having. I held it under the wall of the stall. “Here. I have an extra,” I said, deciding I didn’t like holding a tampon.

The woman quickly took the tampon from my grasp. “Oh thank you! Thank you so much!” I heard her tearing off the wrapper.

“You’re welcome,” I said softly as I stood up and quickly put the gaff back into place. I pulled my panties up and smoothed the front of my skirt. I really didn’t want to still be in the restroom when the woman came out. I realize that having periods and using tampons are a way of life for most women, but I really didn’t like being part of the process.

I stood at the sink, washing my hands a little longer than necessary. I looked up at my reflection. I just stood there gaping. I couldn’t believe the beautiful girl staring back at me. I fully understood why all the boys were looking at me. And knowing what they had been thinking, totally disgusted me. I made a quick check of my make-up and then dashed from the restroom when I heard the woman starting to open the stall door and flushing.

Paul was standing near the restrooms holding our snacks when I came out. Looking annoyed he asked, “What is it about restrooms with girls?”

As I took my soda from him, I said, “You don’t want to know.”

The previews had already started when we entered the theater. We stood there a moment until our eyes adjusted and then we walked down the steps to find a good seat. Negotiating steps was not a skill I had learned during my afternoon introduction into wearing high heels. The second step I almost stumbled. I could picture myself being pitched headlong down the steps, soda flying in all directions. I took each step slowly and deliberately. Paul looked impatient when I finally reached the row he was waiting at.

Paul let me enter the row first. I walked to about the middle and sat down. The theater was less than half full, so there were plenty of places to sit. Except for one guy sitting by himself on the very back row, everyone in the theater were couples.

As we got settled and Paul positioned the tub of popcorn so we could both reach it, the movie started with a shot of a covered bridge over a stream, a single tree growing next to it. The movie’s theme music was an orchestra swirl. I took a bite of popcorn thinking that this movie was going to be really boring.

Not very long into the movie, it becomes obvious the plot centered on a love triangle between a society girl who hates her regimented life, an up and coming socialite boy who sees the girl as his ticket to making it with the elite in the town and a simple farm boy who is heart-achingly in love with the girl who at first doesn’t know he exists. I decided I could fall asleep right then and wake up when it was over pretty much knowing how it ends.

And as expected, Paul’s arm mysteriously managed to find its way draped over my shoulders. I didn’t try to pull his arm away. In fact, I had started feeling a bit dreamy being next to Paul. With his arm around me, I no longer felt vulnerable. Paul pulling me closer to him actually made me feel more comfortable in this environment dressed the way I was. I lay my head on his shoulder and snuggled in hoping I could catch a nap.

If I had had an actual breast under my tank-top and bra and could feel it, I probably would have been annoyed at Paul fondling me.

After I had snuggled in a bit closer, I could feel Paul’s face nuzzling my hair. I could feel his breath on the side of my face. I froze. How do I respond to this? The movie was really setting a romantic mood which I had to admit was affecting me a bit. That’s why I snuggled in closer. But I really didn’t expect Paul to react romantically towards me. Did his lips just brush against my cheek?

And then there it was. Without warning, Paul’s lips were pressed against mine. It was a soft, lingering romantic kiss, the kind that warms your heart. Having been lulled into a romantic funk, I didn’t resist at first. It was like Paul knew the exact moment to try to kiss me. And it worked. For a few moments I melted in his arms.

As he sat up straighter, I readjusted my position to sit up more and my hand slipped to his lap. Oh my God! Under his pants I felt a massive hard on. He was completely turned on by me. Me! I suddenly found it hard to breathe. I quickly pulled my hand away. Paul had no business getting a hard on for me. I tried not to show it, but I got a little pissed. Not just at Paul, but me as well. And Hartley for getting me into this.

Paul leaned over to my ear and whispered, “Sorry, babe. You’re just so beautiful, so irresistible…so kissable I just couldn’t help myself.” In other words, he was just being a guy.

Actually, his hard on bothered me much more than his kiss. What should I do? Slap him? Walk out? Kick him in the nuts?

I decided it was best to just ignore it. I leaned back up against him. “It’s okay.” He smiled at me. I really don’t think he knows I know he has a hard on. I plan to keep it that way. I’m not going to get upset or yell at him for getting turned on by me. Hell, I got turned on by me.

The movie didn’t end the way I expected. The farm boy, in a rage of jealousy tried to kill the socialite boy with a pitchfork and wound up falling from the covered bridge into the river and drowning and the girl got the socialite. So far, nothing about the evening has gone as I thought it would.

As we walked slowly back to Paul’s truck, he asked, “Well. What did you think of the movie?”

I linked my arm with his and looked up at him. “It was good. I liked it. The ending took me by surprise.” Actually, I did like the movie. I don’t think there was so much as one second of CGI in it.

Paul laughed. “Yeah. That surprised me too. Hey. It’s only eight-thirty. Want to get a taco or something?”

“Wasn’t that the plan?” I asked.

Paul nodded. “Just making sure.”

A couple of teen boys ran past us and startled me. They weren’t doing anything other than chasing each other but it made me appreciate having Paul to hang on to.

A few minutes later we were walking into the entrance of Taco del Rey. Paul pointed at the menu. “Order anything you like,”

“Last of the big time spenders?” I asked with a grin.

“You got it.”

After we sat down with our food at a secluded table by the window, Paul just studied me a moment. “You haven’t said anything.”

I was about to take a bite of my burrito. “About what?”

His expression didn’t change. “About being out on a date with a man. With me.”

I chewed thoughtfully for a moment while I considered his question. “Honestly, I enjoyed it. It was different, that’s for sure. Being dressed this way, I was much more comfortable with you there next to me.”

A guy I recognized from school, who graduated before either Paul or me started to walk past us with a very pretty woman with him. She looked to be a couple of years older than him.

Paul smiled and waved at him when he glanced in our direction. He said, “Vic! Hey man, how are you?”

Vic smiled at Paul. “Doing good. Next semester I’m transferring to State.” He then grinned and pointed at the woman he was with. “Have you met my fiancé Nichole? We met at college.”

I just waved. Paul said, “Nice to meet you, Nichole. Vic and I go way back.”

Pointing at me, Vic asked, “Aren’t you going to introduce us to your ah, friend?”

Paul said, “Guys, I’d like you to meet Marti.”

Vic acted like he had a hat to tip. “Nice to meet you, miss.” He studied me a moment and frowned as he looked at Paul. “Man, listen. Seriously. You need to stop trolling the middle schools. You’re going to get into trouble.”

I threw my arms up in the air and shouted, “Oh my God! Really?”

Before Paul could say anything, I put my arm around his neck and looked straight at Vic. “Hey. Daddy said it was okay. Plus he helps me with my homework.”

Both Vic and Nichole looked deeply embarrassed. Vic nodded to Paul, “Remember. I’m not bailing you out. See ya’ ‘round.”

As Vic left the building, I burst out laughing. “Oh my God! That’s so ridiculous! I’m not fifteen or whatever! And it’s not like you’d date me if I was! Right?”

Paul just smiled and said, “No. No of course not. But why did you do that? Now Vic thinks I’m a perv!”

I cradled my head in my hands. I sighed, “Just call him tomorrow and tell him I’m the same age as you. And tell him I’m a boy.”

Paul laughed. “Yeah right! Like I’d do that. I can just imagine what ol’ Vic would say to that.” He suddenly looked at me seriously. “Seriously Marti. You need to stop getting so upset just because someone miss-ages you. You’re acting like a fifteen year old.”

Giggling, I pulled some ice from my drink cup and tossed it at him.

*          *          *

“Honestly Paul. You don’t need to walk with me to my apartment.” I started to open my door on his truck. “I don’t know how many times I’ve walked there.”

Paul shook his head. “I’d feel better if I walked with you. There’re some dark places between those buildings.”

With Paul’s arm around my shoulders and my arm around his waist, we started towards my apartment. It was a gorgeous night. I wished I could see the stars through the glare of the city lights. We walked in silence. I was lost in my own thoughts.

As we came up to my door, I said, “Thank you.”

We stopped on the walkway in front of my door. Paul turned me to face him. “For what?”

I smiled at him. “For tonight! It really was wonderful. Thank you for the movie. Thank you for the dinner. It was just an awesome night.”

Paul grinned at me. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. I had a great time.” He paused a moment. “I’d love to do this again sometime.”

I just grinned back up at him. Was he asking me out again? Seriously? Or was it just standard end of a date thing to say? I enjoyed the evening, but honestly, would I actually say yes to being asked out again? I don’t know. But to be polite, I knew what my answer had to be. Even with me wearing heels, he was still taller than me so I had to look up to look him in the eye. “Sure. I’d love that. I had fun being a pretend girl.” I held out my hand for him to shake it.

He just stared at my hand for a moment before he took a step towards me. He reached up and pushed a strand of hair from my face and then slid his fingers slowly down my cheek. I felt a tingle at his touch. “A real girl deserves a real good night…”

Paul then bent his head towards me as he pulled me closer. And our lips touched. Oh God, I’m kissing a guy again! He pulled me ever closer as his passion heated up. I closed my eyes. Ohh yeah, he’s kissing me! I tried to think of something else until he stopped, but instead I found myself melting. His kiss was like no other I’d ever had. My knees began to weaken. I slid my arms around his neck so I could return his kisses. I was forgetting to breathe. I didn’t want this moment to end. The last time I got tongue with a kiss was a few years ago with my Aunt Zelda whom we no longer visit.

We separated for just a moment. Just long enough for a breath. I sighed, “Oh Paul!” And then my lips found his again. I sucked his tongue into my mouth and moaned deeply. I know it’s insane, but all I wanted was to stand here and be kissed by this man.

Paul pulled back wearing a huge smile, a twinkle in his eye. “Now there’s the girl I knew was in there.” My breathing was heavy and rapid. He stepped back, his hands on my shoulders. “I need to go now. I’ll call you.”

I stood there in front of my door, watching Paul walk away into the darkness, his kiss still on my lips. My voice breathy I said, “Goodnight, Paul.”

I turned and unlocked my door and then I just stood there, one hand on the door knob. I turned and looked back into the darkness. I couldn’t articulate the swirl of emotions I was experiencing.

As I entered my apartment, I smiled remembering what Hartley had said. Now began the wait to see if and when he’d call me back. And honestly, despite the dreamy way I felt at the moment, did I really want him to call me?

I washed my face and then fell immediately to sleep.

*          *          *

I didn’t have to wait long to see if he’d call me back. Saturday, that very next morning, Paul called me to ask if I wanted to grab some lunch.

I smiled slightly and said yes…

*          *          *

The End



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