“So, what’s the catch?” I said while leaning against the roof of Simon’s tired car. The roof nearly too hot to touch under the summer sun. Lately our conversations always took place outside car; Simon’s A/C no longer worked, and we hardly spoke during our drive with the windows down.
“There’s no catch. Like I said, I just need you to entertain her sister during our double date. Besides which, she’s doing it a favour for her sister, so there’s absolutely no expectations on your behalf.” Simon said, his foot on his tire and resting on his knee, his voice condescending and mischievous.
I slurped my thick shake which was now already watery in my cup. I stared at Simon; I could see the truth rising to the surface within him like a pimple forming a head.
“Okay, okay.” He burst. “Lexi, well, she’s sexy – her sister, Ava er— there’s little desirable about her. Don’t get me wrong she perfectly nice, and I’m sure there’s plenty of men that find her attractive but—”
“So, I get ugly Ava, while you make the moves on her sister.” I replied.
“Yes. Exactly, now you get it.” He replied with a smug grin. Simon started up the car and put it into drive. “Now, let me tell you the plan for our date.”
We arrived at their house. Simon jumped out and leaned against the car door while looking at the house, one leg cocked with his foot on the door of the car. He looked as if he were trying to strike a model-like pose. His oversized glasses, his jacket hooked on his index finger and over his back and his hair glistening even in the faint glow of the sunset.
“You look like a dickhead” I said. Simon had dressed his sharpest; tight mustard trousers; a short-sleeve blue shirt with a couple of folds at the sleeve and a white undershirt. I on the other hand had made no attempt to impress. There was a significant chance that Ava was every bit the way Simon had described her, and worse. I wanted to make it evident, from the moment she saw me that this was not a date, and I had no interest in impressing her.
“Call me a dickhead all you want. But you’ll understand very shortly.”
“Speaking of which, what’s taking them so long? They know we’re here right.”
“Yes. Of course. I mean, I assume so. I did say I’d be here at 6pm sharp.”
The door finally opened. Stamping through the threshold one of the girls walked out. Judging by her attire; a flannelette; singlet; skinny jeans; this must be Ava. Simon’s failure to address her as she walked past only confirmed my suspicions. She walked around the front of the car, and to my surprise, she was more attractive than Simon had described. She was petite, with wavy brown hair and large blossoming blue eyes. Suddenly I felt maybe I could’ve put a little more effort into outfit.
“She’s running late. She took a mid-afternoon nap and she only just started putting on makeup 20 minutes ago” Ava said. “So, I’d say we have at least another 30 minutes before she’s ready.”
Finally, just after 6:30pm, Lexi walked from the house. For the most part, the two sisters looked very similar, the same thick wavy brown hair, but Lexi was about 6 inches taller than her sister which put her just beneath Simon, she also had the same large eyes but hers were brown, and she also had olive skin as opposed to Ava’s pale complexion. Coupled with a face full of makeup I could see why Simon was attracted to Lexi, but Ava in her own right was also very attractive—maybe even more so.
Simon's three-event date was starting to turn pear shape already. Lexi arriving late to the car was cutting into ice-skating time. Which meant Simon was running out of time to initiate his carefully planned handholding during ice-skating – for stability reasons as he called it.
Ava and I skated around the rink. She was a much more confident skater than I was, and I felt embarrassed to be staggering as bad as I was. Between Ava’s lack of effort choosing her clothes, and her careless attitude in regard to our conversation, it probably didn’t make much sense to be embarrassed by my ice-skating ability, but I found myself consciously teetering on the ice, trying to keep up with her.
“You’re pretty good at this.” I said
“I’m OK. I use to do junior figure skating when I was younger. I guess it’s one of those things that come back rather naturally.”
“Oh really? It’s not everyday you hear someone was into figure skating as a kid. How come you gave it up?”
Ava spun on the ice in my path and looked at me. I jigged my feet trying to come to a halt but the momentum forced me into her. We drifted back a few moments as she kept us balanced and brought me to a stop. My hands had landed on her hips; her hands on my shoulders. “Are you good?” She smirked.
“Yeah. Sorry. I’ve just—only done this a few times.” I replied. She didn’t seem to mind my hands on her hips, and I wasn’t in a rush to remove them.
“I know you’re just doing this so Simon can have a go at my sister.” She glanced over my shoulder and I turned. Simon had finally got a grip of Lexi’s hand. Lexi was like a spider on the ice, her long slender legs flailing about, her short skirt drifting up with every wobble. Simon looked to be having the time of his life; unlike Lexi. “But we both know that we were just collateral damage for their date. I don’t expect you to be interested in talking.” And with that she turned, and glided away on the ice. Her hazelnut hair floating behind and a slight dimple on her cheek told me she was still smiling.
A hysterical shout echoed across the rink which caught the attention of many of the skaters. Across the other side, Lexi was drifting slowly along the ice on her ass and her knees appeared to be grazed. She was screaming at Simon wondering why she thought ice-skating was a good idea. Simon just smiled nervously back at the other skaters, frozen.
Next on Simon’s agenda was a movie. We took a short drive to the cinemas from the ice rink. This time I sat in the back alongside Ava. The drive was mostly silent, and there was a palpable tension in the car between Lexi and Simon. Lexi spent the duration of the drive with her arms folded and Ava spent the whole time staring out the window. Simon was sitting more upright than usual, gripping the steering wheel firmly and appeared to be speeding slightly.
We arrived at the cinemas. Lexi was still in a mood as she stood alongside Ava in the hall waiting for Simon to walk from the queue with movie tickets. I walked over to assist Simon picking a movie, he looked like he was struggling. “How’s it going?”
“Not good. This date is becoming a trainwreck.”
“I’m not sure which movie I should get us tickets for either. Do you have any suggestions?”
I looked up at the board. There were only two movies to pick from; Whirlpool: a movie about time travelling pirates which was said to be quite good; the other, One Passing Moment: a rom com about a guy flying to Australia to find a woman he had met briefly in a line at Starbucks in San Jose. “I’m not really sure. Everyone has been talking about the pirate movie, but I can’t see Lexi being into it. I guess the safest option would be One Passing Moment. Everybody loves a rom com, right? Besides it may lighten the mood.”
Simon arranged four tickets for the movie. As we made our way inside the cinema, I suggested to Ava that we sit a couple of rows behind Simon and Lexi; for their privacy—and perhaps ours a little too I thought. We took our seats three rows behind as the movie started. Ava and I laughed as Simon squirmed in his seat, nervously trying to place his arm over Lexi, like a mouse tentatively eating cheese from the trap waiting for the snap. At last, he succeeded, and you could see Simon exhale and relax into his seat, but it seemed Lexi hardly noticed as she was busy texting on her phone.
Halfway through the movie, Lexi’s face was still glued to her phone. A moment later I felt Ava’s phone vibrate in her pocket. We both glanced down and realized we’d etched slightly closer to one another throughout the movie. She slid the phone from her pocket and revealed the screen. A message from Lexi:
What the hell is this movie. I don’t want to watch this garbage. We should bail.
Ava rolled her eyes and placed the phone back in her pocket.
“She’s never been much of a romantic unfortunately. She wouldn’t know a good movie if it slapped her in the face.”
“So, you think this is a good movie?” She’s into rom-coms I thought to myself. Cherishing the only bit of information I had really gotten out of Ava throughout the whole evening.
“They’re okay.” She said, glancing at me sideways, as if she had revealed a personal secret. “Don’t you like it?”
Truthfully, I loved it, but it hardly seemed possible to share this with Ava as it was quite clear she was taking everything I was saying as some form of script devised by Simon. “It’s okay.” I said.
We left the cinemas and made our way down the street. Conversation between Ava and I was now flowing rather naturally, but the content was rather meaningless, just words to pass the time between now and the end of the date. I wanted to get more from her however, but it was clear any attempt was doomed. As we strolled down the street, I decided I’d make my intent clear with her and reached for her hand. We walked for a few meters with our hands intertwined before she slid from my grasp and placed her hand back in her pocket.
“Here we are. I’ve got us a table booked.” Simon said, raising his cheeks and manufacturing a smile. For people who didn’t know Simon, it was a nice enough smile but anyone who knew Simon knew he wasn’t a teeth smiler, and it was just a façade. His eyes were haggard looking, and his hair clung to his skin around his ears. I admired Simon for attempting to try and salvage the remaining part of the date. I think at this stage he knew he had lost his chance with Lexi, but he was intent on at least seeing it through.
Still paused outside the restaurant Lexi looked up. “What is this place?”
“It’s a Japanese style bar and grill. They do the best fish here.”
“Fish?” Lexi said, her eyebrows suspended far above her eyes and her forehead wrinkled.
“Here we go.” Ava murmured.
“I’m a vegetarian Simon.” Lexi said. “I thought I told you that."
"It's fine." Simon interjected. "I'm sure they have vegetarian options too."
"It's beside the point. This has been the worst date ever." Lexi grabbed Ava’s hand. “Let’s go Ava. This has been nothing but a waste of time.” Lexi proceeded to drag Ava up the sidewalk, her body still half turned towards me as if wanting to say something before finally receding into the shadows.
“Well just the two of us for dinner then” Simon said as I gave him a pat on the back.
“Yeah, I guess so” I said. Waiting as if Ava was about to re-emerge from the darkness and step into the light beneath the streetlamp. We turned and walked up the stairs towards the entry of the restaurant, I gave Simon a slight elbow to the ribs “So, I thought you said I’d get the ugly sister.”