He scanned the store before spotting me, a smile spreading across his face as he waved and I waved back. I hiked my bag back up to my shoulder and brushed a stray hair behind my ear.
“Deep breath,” I told myself. I had no reason to be nervous, we already knew each other…sort of.
“Oh good, you dressed warm.” He said as I finally stood in front of him.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I looked at him wearing a navy blue pullover sweater with a half zipper, light jeans and his Nikes, but without his glasses. “Are we going for a picnic outside?”
He smiled, “No. I didn’t plan on that, but we can next time if you’re up for it.”
“Let’s wait ‘till the weather is a little warmer.”
“Of course.” He replied opening the door for me. The blast of chilly air made me shiver as I stepped outside. He stepped behind me, “I parked around the corner.” He pointed right before heading in that direction. I followed, walking briskly beside him.
He looked me over as we walked, “You look really nice today.”
I smiled, “Thanks. So do you.” We crossed the street and up to a black 2012 Toyota Corolla. He opened my door for me. “Oh, such a gentleman.” I feigned.
“Why of course milady.” He replied, sweeping his arm out and doing a mock bow.
I chuckled as I got into the car. He closed the door and quickly ran over to his side. He started the car and an opera man’s baritone voice blasted through the speakers. I flinched and grabbed my ears as he quickly turned the knob down to a reasonable level. “Sorry.” He apologized.
I looked at him with an eyebrow raised. “Really? You listen to opera?”
“It’s Toreador from Carmen. A classic. You madam just have no taste.”
“I have plenty of taste!” I retorted. “I don’t need to listen to opera for that. I was just surprised is all.”
I crossed my arms and fell back into my seat, staring out the front window. This date was going great so far.
“Well I am full of surprises.” He stated and the pushed a button switching from the cd to radio, Maroon 5 playing.
“We both are. We don’t know anything about each other so of course everything is going to be a surprise.”
He checked the street before pulling into traffic. “I suppose you’re right, but we can always make assumptions, it’s when the other doesn’t live up to that assumption that we are surprised.” He turned right. “You assumed I didn’t listen to opera music.”
“I didn’t assume that. I didn’t know what kind of music you listened to, but I admit it was unexpected as most people don’t listen to it.”
“That is an assumption. Maybe everyone but you listens to it, they just do it in secret.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh yeah, I’m sure that is happening. I think I would catch more people than just you listening then.”
He shrugged, “maybe they are just better at keeping secrets.”
I laughed, “Or maybe I’m just going deaf.”
“Also a possibility.” He smirked.
A few more turns and we pulled in front of a building. I looked up at the building. “An ice rink? It’s freezing outside so you decide to go somewhere that is also cold?”
“It’ll be fun! Besides it’s actually warmer in the building than out here.”
“Still.” I looked down at my Doc Martins.
“What? Do you not know how to skate?” He looked at me quizzically.
“I do. I’m not great, but I can stay up.”
“Then let’s go.”
I grabbed the skates from the counter and sat down to put them on. I tried to remember the last time I had been skating. I think it was for my friend Laura’s sweet 16. So that was 5, or 6 years ago. I hope it came back to me easily. I took a deep breath as I put my shoes in the locker along with my bag. I let the breath go slowly as I closed the locker.
“You ready?” said Max.
I nodded confidently, “Yeah. Let’s do this.”
There were only a few other people out on the ice. Slow day I guess.
I stepped carefully onto the ice. The first couple of minutes I stayed close to the wall, remembering how to keep my balance and move forward.
Max skated by me with ease. He turned at the curve and headed back my way, making it look like the simplest thing on earth. “I thought you said you could skate.” He said, passing and then stopping right behind me.
“I can. It’s just been a while.” I cautiously pushed off from the wall and began skating forward. I leaned a little too far forward and my arms began to swing in circles until I stood up straight and found my balance again. I let out a sigh of relief and began moving forward again.
“Not bad, not bad.” Max said as he skated up beside me going backwards. “Your technique could use a little work though.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, “You think?” My legs became shaky and I reached down out to the ice to brace my fall, but before my hands hit the ice they were instead grabbed by his.
He pulled me back upright. “You okay there?”
I nodded. “I think I’m getting the hang of it again.”
He smiled, “Well then let’s go a little bit faster.”
He started pulling me along the ice with him. My legs started moving faster to keep up with him and any time I’d slip a little he’d pull me right back up. He always seemed to know where the curves of the rink were. We were going so fast it felt like we were flying. I laughed as we zoomed along, the smile fell from my face though as I saw a little girl, probably six years old, step out onto the rink with a chair to help her not fall over, and we were heading right for her. “Look out!” I shouted.
Max looked over his shoulder and quickly pushed me to the side and out of the way. I stumbled and fell promptly on my butt, but was too preoccupied watching Max’s predicament to worry about myself.
He rotated the top half of his body and scooped the girl into his arms while landing safely in the chair. The chair slid for a few feet before hitting a spot in the ice and unceremoniously dumping them onto the rink.
I got up as fast as I could and skated over to them. The girl’s parents were already there and helping her off of him. I looked down at him, “Are you ok?”
“Just had the wind knocked out of me, but otherwise okay.” He sat up on his elbows.
“Do you want to take a break?”
He nodded, “That sounds great.”
I grabbed the wall with one hand and dug my toe-picks into the ice before offering him a hand. He took it and once up we got off the ice.
We sat down at a table to rest. “Do you need some water?”
His lips turned up slightly, “No, just a breather and I’ll be fine.”
“That was pretty awesome.”
His smile became a full one, “Yeah, it would have been perfect if the chair hadn’t fallen over.”
“Well regardless you still get to be the hero.” I beamed.
His face matched mine for about a second but the smile quickly dropped from his face and he lowered his head.
I turned to see who or what could cause such a reaction. All I noticed was a bunch of hockey players getting off the rink. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” His eyes darted back up to the people behind me, “I… I just didn’t think he was going to be here today.”
“Hey Max.” A man in full hockey gear said slamming his hands on the table between us. “Didn’t expect to see you so soon.” He looked at me, “Who’s your little friend here?”
I glanced between the newcomer and Max, stunned into silence. I waited to be introduced.