I could smell coffee when I walked in the door, which meant Mom was finally up and around.
“Oh, Honey, I didn't know you'd be home so soon. Is everything alright at work?”
She probably meant: “You didn't get fired did you?”
“Yeah, Mom, everything's fine there. It was just so cold and we weren’t getting many customers, so the boss decided to close up early.”
“Oh, I see, yes it has been pretty chilly for this time of year. Did Karla give you a ride home?”
I didn't feel like getting into a big discussion over meeting a new guy and getting a ride home from him, so I just answered: “Yep, she did. She stopped by for a Coke and I was closing up.” I decided that's all Mom needed to know, for now anyway.
I grabbed an energy drink from the fridge and decided maybe I'd go to my room and look at my homework. I no sooner got into my room and my cell was playing Madonna's Like a Virgin. I hated that tune but Mom had programmed it into my phone as a joke. She was paying my cell bill so I couldn't very well bitch to her about it.
I didn't look right away because I figured it was probably Karla anyway, being nosy about Duncan. But when I sat down at my computer desk and flipped open the phone I saw it was Duncan.
“Hello?” I hoped my voice wasn't cracking with excitement when I answered.
“So the proper etiquette is to wait a while before calling a girl to ask her out. You know, keep her guessing. It's been at least 25 minutes since I dropped you off, so I figure I've kept you guessing long enough. You wanna go out this Wednesday night?”
I loved his sense of humor and said: “Well I'm usually not allowed out in the middle of the week, on a school night, except summer. But it is spring break, so sure, I'd love to go out this Wednesday. What time?”
“How about 9:00, is that too late?”
Since Mom works nights at the hospital, I knew 9:00 would be just fine. She'd be working anyway. So I said: Nine is good. How should I dress?”
He seemed kind of surprised. “What, what do you mean?”
“I mean, will we be going someplace formal, to the beach, to fast food..............or what? I don't want to show up at a fancy place in shorts and a t-shirt.”
He laughed and said: “Dress casually, we'll figure out where to go when we meet. That OK?”
I was a bit disappointed, I was hoping it would be a fancy place. It was almost like he was reading my mind or something. “Heck, wear your prettiest dress, let's go all out and have a romantic dinner. First real date and all.”
I smiled and told him I was looking forward to it then. I was excited, after all, most guys I ever dated took me to fast food because most of them had no money and no job. “This should be interesting,” I thought as I said good-bye.
I decided to start on my homework, spring break or not, I wanted to keep my grades up since I knew I'd be stuck working most of my break. If I wanted to see Duncan I'd have to keep my homework caught up or Mom would forbid me to go out. My social life was pretty much nil now that I had a job anyway. I certainly didn't want it to go down even more because my homework might not be done.
I sat down at the computer and decided to read the local paper online. The latest headlines said”
Another Parolee Comes Up Missing
Yesterday a local parolee's body was found in a secluded wooded area, about two miles from his abandoned car. It hasn't been determined if there was foul play or not.
The article went on to say this was the sixth parolee that had gone missing in four months. It explained that all the parolees were convicted of dealing drugs and some were suspected of even maybe murdering people too.
The article gave me a little shudder, but then they were considered bad people in our city. Maybe their missing was a good thing. They wouldn't be preying on anymore people. In fact, when asked of people on the street and in the comment section, that was exactly what others were saying too.
I was about to start my term paper when my cell phone started playing that Madonna song again. Thinking it might be Duncan forgetting something, I answered it without looking to see who it was. It was Karla.
“So hey, was the ride home creepy in that hearse?”
“No, it wasn't so bad. The seats are soft and very comfortable as a matter of fact.”
“Did it smell like dead corpses?” She has a fascination with the macabre that I'd never noticed before now.
“Nope, it smelled like fruit in there. Like a nice fruity air freshener actually.”
“Weren't those kids all kind of creepy?”
“No, they're just Goths, not so much unusual about that look.”
“Well I've never seen them around school or anything. Don't you find that's kind of odd?”
“No, maybe they just moved here. I didn't talk long to Duncan to know all this stuff yet.”
“Yet, what does that mean? You aren't seriously thinking about seeing him again, are you?”
“Well as a matter of fact he's asked me out this week.”
“Where you going, to see Saw or something?” She giggled when she said that like she thought it was a big joke.
“Nope, he's taking me to dinner, to someplace fancy he says. I think it'll be nice.”
“Is that creepy girl with the lip ring going too?”
“Nope, just Duncan and I. No one else.”
“Look, I really have to get a start on my homework, fun as this is discussing my taste in guys and all. OK?”
“Well, fine, but call me and tell me all about your date. Promise me?”
“I'll promise you I will think about it. Gee, Karla, I never knew you had such a nosy streak in you.”
She giggled and said goodbye and hung up.
After writing some of my paper on the pros and cons of gun control, I started to get hungry and went downstairs to see what we had for a snack.
“Hey there.” I looked up and saw my sister Rachel sitting at the kitchen table, eating ice cream. Rachel attends the local community college and is two years older than I am. She's usually pretty cool, but since she attends college she sometimes thinks she’s way smarter. She also can act like she's Mom sometimes when it comes to looking out for me.
She doesn't have much of a social life either. It's not that she isn't pretty or anything, because she is. She says that men are a distraction and they are usually only out for 'one thing' in this world. She has decided it's better to get her degree and become established in a good job before she even thinks about dating and marriage. She used to date some in high school, but she was mostly pretty studious and studied a lot in her spare time.
I wasn't anything like her. I'm not as pretty and I have to work a lot harder than she did at keeping my grades up. I do have a social life and I like it that way just fine, usually much to Rachel's disapproval.
“So how’s the ice cream business treating you, Sis?” She asked with a bit of mocking in her voice.
“Hard to tell yet, I've only been there two days and today it was so cold we closed early. Ask me this again in about a month or so. I might have a better idea by then.”
She laughed and went back to eating her ice cream. I decided the ice cream was too much, working around it all day made me lose my appetite for the stuff. I decided to pop some microwave popcorn instead.
“That's not your dinner I hope.” Rachel was asking me. She's studying to be a dietitian so she thinks she knows all about proper nutrition, especially for growing teenage girls, as she likes to put it.
“I'm not that hungry. I just need something light is all.” I replied.
“You aren't going through some fad diet or anything, are you? I'd hate to see you look anorexic. You're skinny enough you know.”
“No, I'm just not real hungry is all.” I hated when she pulled this stuff.
“Well, OK then. Just don't knuckle under to peer pressure. I know Karla can have a big influence on you sometimes.”
Rachel had always made it clear she thought Karla was not a good influence on me. But I liked Karla, I liked that she was popular and included me in her circle of friends. Karla was wild, I suppose but she was also exciting and fun to be with.
I wondered just what Rachel would say about Duncan. I knew I might have to tell her and Mom one day I was dating him, but not right now. I decided I'd wait and see how it went. After all, maybe we would only have one or two dates and he'd dump me, or I'd dump him. So I figured it was best to just not mention Duncan for now. I'll wait and see if we become a steady item. If I have to tell them, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
Wednesday evening came and I had my prettiest outfit laying on the bed. I put on my best perfume, the stuff Rachel gave me for Christmas and got out my prettiest shoes for the big night out on the town with Duncan.
Mom had already left for work and Rachel was out at the local library studying. I did a last minute check of my hair and makeup and looked out the bedroom window. Duncan was here exactly at 8:50, giving us only ten minutes to get to the other side of town, the restaurant district. I wondered why he was cutting it so short and I'd even, by 8:30 worried that he was going to stand me up. Not like I'd never been stood up before, but somehow, with Duncan it really mattered if he showed or not. I had an inner feeling ever since we had met. Like I was compelled to be with him, like I couldn't say no to him about anything. A feeling I loathed and loved at the same time. A feeling that just added to the excitement of being with him.
When I got outside, Duncan came up the walkway to escort me to the hearse. I was stunned by what he was wearing. He had on a suit, but it looked so outdated. I was beginning to wonder if he bought his clothes at the Salvation Army Store or something. I knew it was outdated, but somehow he was able to pull this look off. I don't know how, but he was able to blend this outdated suit with his Goth look just beautifully. We walked to the hearse and he opened the door for me.
“Wow, you look lovely tonight.” Speaking in that beautiful, almost liquid, voice of his.
The way he said it, with a genuine tone to his voice, made my knees feel like they were going to buckle. I was glad I could just sink into the front seat and not have to walk any further.
When he got behind the wheel, I told him he also looked very nice. The suit was like a crushed velvet, and a midnight blue, dark like the night sky. Anyone else would have looked silly in that suit, but it just made him look like a rock star.
“I made reservations at the Blue Moon. I hope that's OK. I probably should have asked you where you wanted to go, but I kind of like surprises and hope you do too.”
I was surprised. The Blue Moon is the fanciest and most expensive restaurant in the city. “Isn't that pretty expensive?” I asked him.
“Don't worry about that. I wanted our first date to be something special. I think you're pretty special, so it's only fitting. Besides, my family has money, we always have. I guess some people might even call it old money. So don't ever worry about the expense.”
Once we got out on the open highway, Duncan floored the gas pedal and we seemed to fly, literally fly. I was glad the windows were as tinted as they were but I could still see the other car lights and city lights streaking by at a pretty fast rate. Strangely enough, even though we were flying low, I didn't feel scared. I only felt safe, like being with Duncan made me feel like nothing could ever hurt me.
We pulled into the parking lot and two valets came running up to the hearse, like they were his personal parking attendants or something. The guy who took the car keys acted like he knew Duncan. “The usual spot, Duncan, just in case you need the car in a hurry and I'm not right here.”
Duncan smiled: “That's fine, Bob, thanks.” With that he handed the valet guy his keys and he took my hand as we walked to the restaurant door.
When we walked in the door, it seemed like everyone was staring at us, or at Duncan anyway. The lady behind the podium smiled like she knew him. “Hi Duncan, do you want the usual table?”
“Yes, that will be just fine.” He answered back. It made me wonder if Duncan brought a lot of girls to this place. I felt a small twinge of jealousy but I quickly got over it as we were escorted to our table.
“The best table in the house, as always.” The lady said. Duncan smiled and the waiter came over quickly and asked what we'd like to drink. “I'll take a Coke.” I said. Duncan said he was fine and the waiter nodded and went to get my drink. I looked around and looked out the big window next to us. The view was breathtaking. We could see almost the entire city from this window. I could see why it was the best table in the house as I took in the view.
“So,” I began. “Are you some kind of space alien?”
Duncan looked puzzled and his eyebrows came together just above his nose in an endearing way. I thought how damned cute he looked when he did that.
“What do you mean, space alien?” He almost had a laughable tone to his voice when he asked me.
“Well people seem to all know you, almost revere you. I just wondered if you have some alien quality about you or something.”
“Oh, you mean like the X-Files kind of thing?” He seemed to be mocking me, but not in a bad or malicious way.
“Well yeah, maybe like the X-Files thing.”
“Yes I'm an alien and the hearse strikes you as a space ship?”
“Yeah, OK so maybe you can shape shift the hearse and make it seem like it's a car.” The minute I said that, it sounded dumb, even to me.
“Nope, not an alien, at least not a space alien anyway.”
I wondered what in hell that meant, 'not a space alien.' But I dropped that question. “Well, a rock star, a celebrity of some sort?”
“Nada, none of the above, sorry to disappoint you. Were you hoping for some mystery here?”
I pondered what he said for a minute and just as I was going to ask more, the waiter asked if we were ready to order.
Duncan looked at me: “Ladies first. Do you know what you want?”
“A burger? Is it OK to order a burger in this fancy place?”
Duncan smiled and said: “Whatever you like. I like a lady who's easy to please. Do you think you can whip up a burger for my date?” He was looking at the waiter and smiling.
“Absolutely, Sir. How do you want that? Medium, rare or well done, Madame?”
“Oh, well done, and some fries too, with gravy?”
“Certainly, Madame, coming right up. And you, Sir, what can I get for you?”
“I'll take a steak, very rare.”
The waiter nodded and wrote on his pad and went to get our food.
“So how come I've never seen you around? Do you go to high school?”
“Well we've been here a long time, we've just never met is all, it's a big city and no, I do not go to high school, not anymore.”
“You aren't a dropout or anything are you?”
He laughed that special laugh again and said: “No, I graduated a long time ago. I'm not a dropout.”
“But you look like you're about 17, like me. So I naturally assumed.”
“Well, never, ever assume anything in this world, Cheryl. Just when we think we have things figured out, we really don't.”
“What does that mean?” I was becoming very curious about the way he answered sometimes. Kind of like riddles and very, very mysterious.
“I'm not 17, I just look young for my age is all.”
“So just how old are you then?” I was curious and I felt like I had to know, now. He was causing my curiosity to rise.
“I'm 26 so that makes me about 9 years your senior. Too old for you to be hanging out with?”
“No, I've always liked older guys. They are usually a lot more mature and respectful than the stupid guys my own age. I've never had much use for their nonsense.”
“Younger guys are nonsensical?” He had a wry little smile when he asked that question.
“Sure, they wear pants to show their underwear and think girls are going to swoon. They also look like they all need a haircut and a good shower. They kind of give me the creeps.”
“And I don't? Give you the creeps that is?”
“No, you are kind of mysterious and I think that's exciting. But no, not any creepy feelings here. Although.” I trailed off after saying that.
“Although what?” He was looking into my eyes when he asked that one.
“I was just going to say that my friend, Karla, the one you met at the ice cream shop, she thought the trench coat was a bit much. She thought it reminded her of the Columbine kids.”
I waited for his reaction, like maybe a look of surprise or something. I searched his face, nothing, no shock and definitely no surprised look.
All of a sudden he leaned forward and said: “Look, those Columbine kids had definite problems. They wanted revenge, which is always going after the innocent which is always a bad thing. But, justice on the other hand, can be a good thing.”
That statement took me by surprise. The statement and the seriousness behind his voice, took me totally off guard. I had no idea what to say after that one.
I decided to lighten up the conversation some. “So, will you be stopping by the ice cream shop more often this summer?” I was hoping it would lighten Duncan's mood.
“Yeah, about that. How come you are working and not having fun with your friends? Do you just like having your own money?”
“Well, I'm trying to get a car of my own and Mom says I have to come up with half the down payment before she'll help me. So I'm stuck working to raise the money.”
“ I might be able to help you out there, if you'd like me to.”
That statement really intrigued me. I was the one leaning forward this time. “You can, how?”
“I just finished working on a 1968 Ford Mustang and it's just sitting in my garage doing nothing. Would you like to drive that, then you won't have to spend all of your summer working.”
Oh my gosh, I thought. Would I? Silly question. I knew immediately my mom and Rachel would be asking me where I got it, meaning I'd have to explain Duncan, but I didn't care. I wanted to see that car.
“Can I look at it first?” I asked.
He laughed out loud, people turned to look at us then. “I offer you a free car and you need to look at it?”
“Do I sound ungrateful by saying that?” I didn't want to sound ungrateful but I did really want to see it.
“No, not at all. How about after dinner then? We can swing by my place and I'll show you. Sound good?”
I agreed, and about then the waiter brought our food. The burger, in the fanciest restaurant in town, tasted so good. It was the best burger I'd ever eaten. I attacked it like I was starving and all through dinner I noticed Duncan hardly ate anything. I tried to brush that aside, even though I found it quite curious.
When we finished eating, the waiter asked Duncan if he'd like a to go box for his dinner. Duncan hadn't eaten anything much, from what I could tell. He seemed to be more interested in watching me eat the whole time. He waved his hand at the waiter and told him no, that's fine. Then Duncan asked me if I'd like to see the dessert cart. I was so stuffed from that huge burger I'd just eaten that I declined. He asked the waiter to bring us the check then.
After paying the check, and leaving what looked like a rather large tip on the table, we walked outside to the parking lot. The hearse was already there, waiting and I also found that to be curious too. But I figured that since Duncan appeared to be a regular at the restaurant, maybe the waiter or someone had called ahead to let them know we were done and needed the car.
Once inside Duncan said: “So if you like the Mustang then you can quit that summer job?”
“I hadn't thought too much about that, but yes, I suppose I can. Except then I'll have to work for gas money.”
“Don't worry about gas, I'll see to it that the tank is always full, just let me know when you need anything for it and I'll see that you get it. OK?”
I thought, wow, this was turning out to be a pretty good deal, for me anyway. I nodded my head, yes.
“I'm really surprised you asked me out and not my friend, Karla.” I said as we drove along the streets.
“Oh, now why is that?” I could tell there was a hint of surprise in his voice when he asked me that.
“Well, every time we meet guys, she's the pretty one, the one guys ask out. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind, I've gotten used to it. I'm just happy Karla chose me to be her friend, she's a lot of fun. But she is so much prettier than me.”
“Cheryl, do you really think that looks are everything in this world?”
“Well, yes, at least for girls they seem to be anyway.” I answered and thought it funny especially coming from the cutest guy I'd ever met. Easy for him to say, I thought.
“Well you shouldn't underestimate your worth you know. You're fun, interesting to be with and you keep me on my toes. I really like that. Besides, I already told you I was driving by and wanted to meet you, that's why I stopped. It's not like I really like ice cream even or anything.”
“So you just saw me standing there and stopped?”
“Well, not exactly correct, but sort of.”
“What do you mean, sort of?”
“What would you say if I said I could smell you, and it peaked my curiosity?”
“I'd say I need a better deodorant or I need to lay off the perfume.”
“No, really, nothing like that, I don't think you would totally understand. So let's leave it at I saw you there and stopped.”
I didn't get a chance to say much else. The next thing I knew we were driving up a long and winding driveway, lined with tall trees and very dark. The house was secluded out in the countryside all by itself and it sat up on a steep hill. There were dim lights coming from the house and it looked eerie in the moonlight.
We drove up to a garage and the door opened automatically and then we were going down into an underground garage. We stopped and got out. I looked around, blinking my eyes to get used to the dim light. I could see the forms of what looked like a lot of cars lined up against a back wall.
“It's this way, follow me.” Duncan was making his way to the left of the fleet of cars parked there. He stopped in front of the Mustang. “Here she is, isn't she a beauty?”
I found myself looking at one of the most beautiful cars I'd ever seen. It was a candy apple red and so shiny, even in this dim light the paint shined and sparkled.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It looks flawless, are you sure you want to trust me with it?”
Duncan laughed that wonderful laugh again. He put his arm around me and smiled down at me. “I wouldn't have offered it if I had any doubts.” He handed me the keys. “Go ahead, sit inside, start it up, see if you'll like it or not.”
I was the one laughing now. How could I not like this beautiful car? It was much more car than I'd ever be able to afford. I knew when I sat inside that I'd be the envy of all my friends. I also knew I'd have to explain where it came from, to my mom and to Rachel. I didn't care though, I loved this car so much, I'd have walked through fire to be able to drive it. I also knew that explaining this car and Duncan to my mom might be the equivalent of walking through fire, but I honestly didn't care, I wanted it so badly now.
“Well you can drive it home tonight if you'd like. I'm glad you like her, she's been fun to work on.”
“You sure you won't need it?” I was asking.
“Well as you can see, we are not in need of cars, we have plenty. We're not exactly car poor.” He was grinning and he reached out and hugged me. I hugged him back, and he felt so comfortable, it felt like I belonged here, in his arms. But as good as it felt, I let go and suddenly looked up at Duncan's face. I was a little embarrassed that I had just hugged him so quickly. I searched his face for a hint of surprise at my actions, but I only saw those beautiful eyes and that even more beautiful, smile.
“Well then.” I quickly said. “I guess I'd better be getting home now.”
I knew it was only eleven and not a school night, but decided I might need m sleep and be rested when I had to answer questions tomorrow morning from Mom and Rachel about this new found car I'd be driving.
Duncan looked at me and said: “I can follow you home in the hearse, if you'd like.”
I declined, just in case Rachel was home before me. I didn't relish the notion of explaining Duncan and a car all at once. Even though I knew I'd have to explain him when I explained about where this car came from. He nodded and said he didn't mind, but if I was sure I'd be fine, then he understood. We said good night and I started the car up. All the way home I was smiling over this wonderful car and the fact I could quit that stupid job, even though without that stupid job, I'd probably have never met Duncan at all.