He wringed his fingers together and looked at the ground. “I ain’t much of a dancer. I’m more of a watcher.”
“Come on,” I said, holding my hand out toward him. “It will be fun.”
Sam hesitated for a while longer before he reached out and took my hand. We walked to the dance floor and I watched as his nerves built up more and more. His stare was trained on his tennis shoes and I could see him counting his steps in his head.
“Eye contact helps,” I offered. He didn’t comment. He just kept counting, as his face got more and more flushed with nerves. “You know what, I could really go for some water,” I said. Sam’s eyes met mine and he gave me a smirk.
“I can get some for you,” he said, thankful that he wouldn’t have to dance anymore. I returned to my seat, and when he came back with the water, he handed it to me and sat. “This is nice, isn’t it?”
He cleared his throat and pointed out to someone else on the dance floor. “That over there is Susie. I guess she was the hot dog eating champion for years at the town fair. And over there is—”
“What about you, Sam? Tell me something about you.”
There was hesitation in his eyes before he blinked and shrugged his shoulders. “There’s not much to me.”
“I’m sure that’s a lie,” I offered. “Why are you working at the café if your dad offered you a full time spot at his business?” He studied my face, and I stared at his. His eyes were so handsome, but I could tell he was uncomfortable for some reason.
He broke the eye contact. “My dad wants me to take over the family business, but it’s not what I want.”
“What do you want to do?”
“Be a chef,” he said. “I figured working at the café would be a start to learning a bit more about it until I could save up for school, but I’m never allowed back by the kitchen, so it’s kind of a bust.”
“I can talk to Matty about letting you get in the kitchen sometimes,” I offered.
A genuine smile rose on his lips and he thanked me, but declined the offer, saying he would figure it out on his own. He pushed himself to a standing position. “Well, this is getting a bit too Dr. Phil for my liking, so I’m going to head over and get me some more catfish. Do you need anything?” he asked. I shook my head and watched him walk away.
“Oh thank God, you’re still alive,” muttered a voice next to me. I turned as Tristan slid into Sam’s seat.
“What are you doing here?” I’m so happy you’re here. I like when you’re here. Ask me the kissing question again.
“Well,” he began to explain. “When a friend goes on a date with Stalker Sam, it’s your responsibility to check in on that friend.”
I’d been friend-zoned. Ask me the kissing question! Please.
“And since when are you the responsible friend?” I asked, playing nonchalant about the fact that my stomach was doing cartwheels and somersaults while unicorns and kittens danced around inside of me.
“Since about…” He glanced down at the invisible watch on his right wrist. “Five seconds ago. It sounded like fun to come and watch you and Sam make complete fools of each other.” He tapped his fingers against his kneecaps, avoiding eye contact with me.
Oh my gosh…
He was jealous.
I wouldn’t mock him about it, though. “Dance with me?” I asked.
When his hand reached out for mine, my heart skipped a beat. I placed my hand in his and he led us to the dance floor. He spun me around once before pulling me closer to his body. My breaths were short and fast as I stared into his eyes. What are you thinking, stormy eyes? He stood inches over me, never letting his hold on me falter. I could feel the eyes of every person in the place staring at us. I could almost hear their judgments, their whispers.
My head lowered, my stare falling to the ground. I felt his finger lift my chin and he forced my stare to meet his, which was fine. I liked looking at him and I liked the way he looked at me. Even though I wasn’t certain what it meant—the two of us staring at each other the way we were.
“You lied to me,” I said.
“I’m not a liar.”
“But you lied.”
“The white feathers. I saw the receipt for them. You said you found them at Mr. Henson’s shop.”
He chuckled and frowned. “I might have lied to you about that.”
I leaned in closer to his lips, seconds away from kissing him, seconds away from our first kiss where he was him, and I was me.
My hands fell against his chest and I could feel his heartbeats against my touch. I could almost see his soul within his eyes. The song stopped, but we stayed close, our breathing patterns matching each other’s. Our breaths heavy and nervous. Excited and scared. His thumb ran alongside my neck, and he stepped in closer. I liked how close he was. I feared how close he was. He tilted his head slightly as he gave me the smallest crooked smile, staring at me as if he was promising to never look away.
They all warned me about Tristan, begging me to stay away. ‘He’s an asshole, he’s wild, and he’s broken, Liz,’ they would say. ‘He’s nothing but the ugly scars of his yesterdays,’ they swore.
But what they didn’t see, what they chose to ignore was the fact that I was also a little wild, a bit crazy, and completely shattered too.