Authors: Marie Cole
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Friends to Lovers, #New Adult Romance, #Second Chance Romance, #College Romance, #Contemporary Romance
Summer of 1999
I ran downstairs when I heard Kent's old car as it rolled up outside my house and the loud creak that followed after the engine cut off. I exhaled slowly as I heard his knock on our front door, trying to calm myself before I saw him. I didn't want him to think I was stressing over tonight. My big night. I was pretty sure he had something planned for my birthday but I had no idea what it might be.
I opened the door and smiled as my eyes took in his dark t-shirt and jeans, his typical attire. Kent smiled too as he took in my clothes: a black square cut top, a knee length black punk skirt, and black fishnet stockings that disappeared into my well-worn Doc Martens.
The skirt was different from my normal attire as was the makeup, with a smokey eye and pink lip gloss. My hair was up in a large bun, and carefully selected strands of my hair hung in wisps around my face. He gave me a quick hug and then leaned back.
"I heard your door open from a mile away," I laughed as I closed the door behind me. "What is the big plan
year? A secret pool party? All you can eat ice cream?"
For a moment he looked dumb struck. "Big plan? Am I forgetting something? I was just coming by to pick you up for some all night video gaming." He slowly scratched his head. "Oh. Oh, damn," he said softly, his face falling, his eyes full of regret, "I forgot your birthday..."
I rolled my eyes and hit him playfully on his scrawny arm. "You did not. Quit messing around. Where are you taking me?"
He was silent for a moment as his eyes shifted to the ground. He actually had a look of shame on his face. "I uh, well, let's get in the car and we'll go do something."
Shit, did he really forget my birthday? My face fell at the same moment my heart gave a huge squeeze, but I tried to get myself back together before he noticed. The thought that Kent had forgotten my birthday was devastating. He was my best friend and we'd been celebrating this date for years.
"No, we don't have to go anywhere. A night of gaming is exactly what I wanted." I smiled, successfully covering my fear that he'd forgotten my birthday.
"I... I," Kent chewed on his bottom lip as he moved towards the car. When we got closer we both climbed inside. Either he was extremely disappointed in himself or he was a great actor. "I, uh...got a new game. It's two players and it's an open world." The door creaked loudly as he shut it. The car vibrated beneath us as he started down the road.
"So I actually get to play this time? I don't have to just watch you crush the levels of Zelda? Even better." I smiled at him and then leaned forward so I could change the radio to my favorite Top 40 station.
"Yes, you get to play this time. I promise. Even if I get a single player game next time, I'll share." He looked at me and grinned but it didn't make me believe him.
"I know you'll mean to share, but you'll get carried away and I won't get to play. You can't fool me. I'll just sit on your computer and internet chat with hot guys like always."
I always hoped he'd say something about me and hot guys, admit some sort of jealousy, but it never worked. But it didn't stop me from trying.
I glanced around and casually tried to motion over my shoulder as we passed the road that went to his house. Inside my heart was pounding. Where was he taking me? For some reason there was still a little hope in my heart. "You missed your turn..."
Again there was a pause before he shrugged his shoulders. "I know I missed it. I don't have any Mountain Dew or candy at home. We need some Little Debbies for this all nighter!"
I narrowed my gaze, wondering if he was telling the truth, even as my heart was dancing in my chest. Where ever we were going we'd be there soon and I needed to chill out before then. I turned the music up a little when Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" came on.
"Cool," I said before drumming my hands on my lap.
I was singing along, concentrating on the crazy lyrics when Kent pulled into the parking lot of the swankiest Italian restaurant in town. I stopped singing mid-lyric to look at him, my heart doing that thing again.
"Um, I don't think we're going to find Dew or candy or Little Debbies here."
"No, but we're going to find a reservation for two at 6:00pm." He pulled into a parking spot. "Happy Birthday, Elly." That goofy smile that I loved finally showed on his face as he inched his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
I turned and stared at the restaurant, hiding my face from him just in case he caught sight of the tears that were gathering in my eyes. He hadn't forgotten after all. And it wasn't a crappy gift. "Kent, this is too much."
"I bagged groceries all summer so I could bring you to this place. All I heard was how much you wanted to go but how expensive it was. Dinner is on me tonight."
This was too much. Why would he take me some place like this unless... I wiped my sweating palms on my skirt.
"It's not too late to change your mind. This is awesome but--"
But this was like a real date. This was like somewhere you'd take a girlfriend, not a
friend. Was tonight going to be
night? Was he going to tell me how he felt about me on my birthday? That would be so romantic. Inside my gut was wrenching with fear, anticipation, anxiety. Everything was swirling around in my head.
"Nope. Don't wanna hear another word, Elly. We're going. But this doesn't mean you get out of gaming tonight. We're still going to play after we have our fill of expensive food."
I quickly dabbed at the tears in my eyes with my hand and then turned to him, "You are such a bastard for trying to trick me, you know." I smiled, trying to keep it light. Trying not to let it show how grateful I was that he was doing this for me.
"I'd never forget your birthday, Elly." He took an extra moment to look at me as he smiled, and I wondered if he was going to kiss me. Hoping, maybe. But soon he pushed his car door open and got out. My heart fluttered in my chest.
"C'mon before they give our seats away!"
I got out quickly and walked with him inside. I couldn't believe I was finally on a quasi-date with Kent. He had never done anything even remotely close to this before. The past birthdays had been very friendly in nature. Dinner at Bella Noches was like, a
step up from friendly. I kept my fingers crossed and a smile on my lips that tonight was going to be everything I'd been dreaming of for the past four years.
"I have to figure out how I'm going to top this," I said.
"Never gonna happen. This is going to be the most epic birthday you'll ever have!" Kent laughed as he opened the door for me.
I hoped it would. Maybe he was finally going to make his move and kiss me! I thanked him for holding the door and waited for him to lead the way.
He moved towards the hostess podium and lightly drummed his fingers on the edge of it.
"Two for Lyle at six."
The hostess looked at his fingers and then at her reservation sheet.
"Of course, right this way."
She looked at me, finally, and I noticed a little smile on her lips. My cheeks flamed. Did she think it was funny that he was here with me? Or that we were on a date at all? Or that
was on a date at all?
She didn't say anything else as she grabbed the cloth wrapped silverware and leather padded menus and walked away towards our table. We both moved to go after her at the same time and halted. I grinned and then went, leaving Kent in the back in case he wanted to make his escape. Probably after he saw the look the waitress gave me he was going to change his mind. I'd be embarrassed to be with me too. I realized that was silly though, because this wasn't a date...it was a friendship dinner.
Kent took his seat across from me as the hostess handed us our menus. I was only partially relieved that he hadn't run.
"Your waiter will be right with you." She turned around quickly, her long red curls would've whipped someone in the face if they'd been standing too close. The image caused me to giggle.