"Shouldn't you be preparing your presentation for that job interview?"
"I am!" I quickly defend, trying my best to cover the laptop screen with my hand as Mikey walks past and sits down on the sofa next to me.
"You're on Facebook!"
"Recent studies have shown that Facebook happens to be incredibly informative!"
"Yes. About people. Not about marketing,"
"The presentation is almost done anyway. I'm taking a break from it,"
Mikey leans over to get a better look at the screen. I instinctively go to hide the screen again, but he's too quick. So instead, I shut my eyes with a grimace and wait for him to shout at me.
"ELLA!" I told you he would. "Are you Facebook stalking Alex?"
OK, so I've been found out. But what's the big deal anyway? Everyone does it nowadays! Facebook is the one-stop-shop for checking someone out before you date them, and if you have the potential to do it, why not???
Yes, it took a while to find the right Alex. Yes, I've looked through all his photos. Yes, I've checked out every girl he's photographed with to see if they're prettier than me. And yes, I've read every single word on his profile over and over again, despite the fact that all I can see are his name, interests and activities. His favourite TV show is Top Gear. I'm going to have to change that!
"I'm not Facebook stalking him!" I lie. "I'm simply reminding myself of what he looks like before I see him tonight,"
"And what about your presentation? Ella, this is serious! You have the opportunity to get your dream job. This interview is incredibly important-" He's about to go on rambling but my phone has interrupted him. "And who's that?"
Honestly, he's just like my mother!
"It's probably Alex!" I go over to my phone and smile at the text, which is strange because all it says is 'How's your day going?'
"I can't let you see him tonight," Mikey rises from the sofa, crosses his arms and starts tapping his foot. "He's clearly too much of a distraction and you have a very important interview tomorrow,"
I feel like a young teenager all over again - like I'm wearing glittery lipgloss I got free in Bliss magazine and standing at the bottom of the stairs whilst my parents tell me I can't go to the party.
"That's highly unfair!" I snap. "You can't tell me what to do!"
"Fine! You can only go if you finish that presentation and rehearse it once with me,"
"Fine!" I respond through gritted teeth. There's no point arguing otherwise he'll wrestle me to the floor until I've given in. He's done it in the middle of Topshop to stop me from buying a dress two sizes too big - I'm pretty sure he'll do it in his own home.
I never thought I'd say this but the presentation is all done and rehearsed. I'm still at Mikey's house getting ready, and for some strange, unknown reason I'm almost done. I started getting ready 15 minutes ago. Either I've abruptly become naturally beautiful, or I've stopped caring about my appearance.
And then I smell it.
Oh bugger! I've sprayed myself with Mikey's aftershave! Quick, where's the Febreeze?!
After a small war in the bathroom trying to de-smell myself, I enter the living area where Mikey is watching TV.
"You look amazing!" he says. "Loving the 'Tickle Me Pink' colour of your top. Much better than the black,"
I look down at the satin, pink top and smooth out a couple of creases before I argue back.
"This isn't Tickle Me Pink. This is Honeysuckle. Tickle Me Pink is a Crayola colour,"
"And how would you know?"
"Oh, I know my crayons, Mikey. I know my crayons," and with that, I leave.
"Wow! You're actually on time," is how Alex greets me just before he buzzes me in through the intercom. In a strange way I'm quite flattered that I've already exceeded his expectations without even properly starting our first date. Even if it is about punctuality.
The door to his flat is already open when I reach his floor, so cautiously I walk in, knocking once.
He emerges in full view with a tea towel, and looks like he's been wrestling with a bear. "I'll be two minutes. Make yourself at home," and he disappears again.
So I take the opportunity to snoop. His flat is 'boy' - that's the only word to describe it. He has all the furniture he needs to have with some ad-hoc ornaments displayed haphazardly around. Clearly gifts from people and he's never known what to do with them. His bookshelf contains only hardbacks; an array of non-fictions that are meant for perusing and not reading, and the second shelf displays one wooden photo frame, with a picture of him and his family on his graduation day. I take it from the shelf and wipe off the thin layer of dust to get a better look at his face. It was only taken a year ago but to me he immediately looks younger - as if these last few months of being a doctor and saving lives have been very difficult on him.
That was taken when I graduated from High School in the States," he says.
Oh. I guess he looks younger because he was photographed about 9 years ago. Maybe being a doctor isn't as hard as I thought it was three seconds ago.
"You all look really happy," I smile at the photograph before I place it back on the shelf.
"Yeah, it was a proud moment for them. I had only just found out I'd been accepted to college over here,"
"University," I correct him without even thinking and immediately want to slap myself.
"You're pedantic," he smiles.
We stare at each other from across the room with guilty smiles. I half expect him to charge towards me, take me into his arms and kiss me.
But he doesn't.
Wishful thinking, I guess.
"I tried to make you dinner but I burnt it. You won't believe me now but I'm usually a very good cook. Would you like some wine?" he walks over to the coffee table and pours red wine into two glasses without waiting for my response.
"Actually, I'd prefer some beer," I tell him as he hands over the glass.
"You'll drink it and you'll like it," he starts walking towards the double doors that lead out into the balcony. Once he opens the door, he turns around, "You're supposed to follow me. It's so much less romantic if I'm out there admiring the evening view, and you're in here looking through my photos,"
"It was only one photo! You don't have any others,"
"You argue about everything. Just get out here,"
I do as I'm told and look out at the familiar view of my hometown. His flat is perfectly placed to overlook every important aspect of the town centre. You can see goings-on in the Sainsbury's car park to the left. You can overhear conversations happening down below, and you can even see into other peoples' windows. If I lived in this flat, the balcony would be where I'd spend most of my time. Either the balcony or the lift, because that too was pretty impressive. Each button you pressed had a different jingle.
"Are you cold?" he asks.
"Nope, it's warm tonight. It's been very hot weather for April, don't you think?"
He chortles before he sips his wine. "We're not going to stand here and talk about weather,"
"What? Why not?"
"It's too British. Too formal,"
"Well, I am British. And it's not too formal. Everybody does it,"
"Yes, but not us,"
If I couldn't see his faint smile as he looks ahead, I'd think he was having a go at me. But I can tell he's only playing. It's strange, but this feels nothing like a first date. Unlike the usual nerves that overpower any other emotion when you first go out with someone, tonight I'm completely calm and collected. Absolutely relaxed.
And this worries me.
"Are you nervous?" I ask him. "I mean, did you feel nervous about seeing me?" I know. It's the absolute wrong question to ask on a first date. It's right up there with 'So, are we going on a second date?' and 'Do you want to meet my cat?' But I don't feel wrong for asking it.
"No," he responds straight away. "You being here feels normal,"
Without even realising, I'm smiling and edging closer.
"Although your perfume is putting me off a little. I'm sure I used to have something that smelt similar. Smells masculine,"
"Well, it's because I was with another man before I came to see you," OK, I clearly need to add that to my list of things not to say on a first date, because his face has gone completely serious.
"I'm obviously joking. I'm staying with my friend, Mikey, who by the way is incredibly gay, and I accidentally sprayed myself with his aftershave instead of mine. But usually I smell absolutely divine,"
He starts to laugh. "Oh, divine? Is that so?"
"Yeah!" I say as if it's absolute gospel truth. I've moved even closer now. Our arms are touching and I know that if I turn my head to look at him, he'd kiss me.
He takes the glass of wine off my hand, and along with his, puts them both down on the round, steel table. His hands cup my face before moving down to my neck, and then taking my hands into his. It's a teasing couple of seconds which feel like a couple of hours. But then his lips touch mine, and I have no idea what to think. Because nothing has ever felt like this before.
He pulls his lips away and rests his forehead on mine before kissing me one last time.
"Do you think we're better off as friends?" I realise I'm saying. I didn't even know my mouth had a mind of it's own because I certainly didn't order it to say this. I wait in agony at his response, certain that I've ruined everything.
"You know what," he begins. I take in a deep breath to prepare for the disappointed look. "I think we get on too well to be anything else. Maybe we should hang out and see how things go,"
He kisses me on the cheek and steps back into the flat, "I'll order a pizza. I've recorded 24 if you want to stay and watch it,"
"Yeah, that would be really good," I respond as he leaves me out in the warm darkness.
I smile as I watch on.
This is good.
This is all really good.
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