Hugo Allard will never leave me alone, Irene thought to herself with annoyance. She was starting to get tired of him following her all the time. Through the halls at school, on the street they shared, he even sat behind her in classes, or a table away at the library. He was doing it now too, as they walked home from their bus stop. He was laughing with some of his friends and talking with them, but when Irene looked over her shoulder Hugo was also looking right back at her.
“Hugo,” she said suddenly, whirling around to face him. “What will it take to get you to stop following me?” Hugo’s already round eyes widened at her, and the freckles on his face flushed red. Irene could tell her darker skin was flushed too, but she ignored it.
“Well… would you go out with me?” Hugo asked, figuring this was as good a moment as any. Hugo had been meaning to ask for forever, and he hadn’t meant to seem annoying. His friends laughed around him, and Irene’s almond eyes narrowed at him.
“No.” She said with finality, and turned on her heel away from him, her long black hair swishing behind her as she walked away.
“Hey wait!” Hugo called, picking up his walking pace to keep up with her.
“Look I’m really sorry! I didn’t mean to annoy you or whatever, I was just kinda, trying to figure out how to ask you. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
“Well, you did. And frankly if your friends are going to make fun of me I’d really rather not.”
“What if they weren’t there? Couldn’t we just try? Just like, I dunno, hang out with me or something. I could make it worth your while!” Irene stopped again, scrutinizing Hugo shrewdly. He wasn’t bad looking, honestly. The problem was that she knew nothing about him. And she wasn’t really sure if a dating relationship would work out.
“I’ll tell you what.” Irene said, crossing her arms. “I will go on one, ONE, date with you. Just so we can maybe talk and get to know each other. If the date goes well, maybe we can talk about another one. If not, you need to stop following me everywhere. Deal?”
Hugo wrestled with Irene’s proposal. He really liked her, and one date would be nice. But what if he messed up, and then wouldn’t be able to see her again? Once again, however, he decided there was no time like the present.
“Deal.” He said, holding his hand out to shake on their agreement. Irene took it, and Hugo couldn’t help but sigh at how soft her hands were.
“Alright. You can come get me on Friday. I would appreciate it if we would do a date where we can talk, so not the movies, but that’s my only request.”
“Alright.” Hugo agreed, nodding.
“See you Friday.”
Irene was dreading Friday. Why did I make that stupid deal with Hugo? Just so he would leave me alone? That’s fine and all, but why am I so nervous? This is going to be a total disaster.
As Irene was pulling on a white cotton dress over her leggings, her mom knocked on her bedroom door and said,
“Irene, Hugo from down the street is here to see you!” Irene just groaned.
“Alright, tell him I’ll be a minute!” She called back, hurriedly throwing her long hair into a ponytail. She used her lucky blue scrunchie, although she wasn’t exactly sure what she was hoping for.
Irene flounced down the stairs reluctantly, her steps loud and pronounced with slight annoyance. She threw the front door open in front of her to see Hugo, his face pink. He was hearing a brown jacket with a sky blue shirt, and jeans. He was holding a small bouquet of flowers, with the tag from the supermarket still on it. Irene pretended not to see it.
“Hello.” She said to him politely, but did not smile. “Those are lovely.”
“Thank you! They’re for you.” Hugo exclaimed, seeming to remember himself. Pretending he had not been caught up in how pretty Irene looked, he handed her the flowers.
“So, where are we going?” Irene asked, looking around Hugo slightly. She could see his dad’s car, a silver Toyota, parked on the street.
“I thought maybe we could go to Haversville park, and do a picnic. It’s especially nice out there, on some of those hills, to watch the sunset.” Irene was a little taken aback. She really hadn’t expected this much thought put into their first date. Trying not to show how impressed she was outwardly, she just gestured with her hand and said,
“Lead the way.”
After waving goodbye to her parents, Irene slid into Hugo’s front passenger seat and folded her hands in her lap. Hugo entered the driver’s side, and after closing the car door, asked Irene,
“What kind of music do you like?” She just shrugged.
“I dunno, it’s kind of all over the place. I like pop sometimes, or like, alternative. 80’s music is sometimes good too.”
“I can see that, but the 80’s music they play on the radio is never good. I do have a semi-alternative playlist on Spotify though.”
“Alright, sounds good.” Hugo fiddled with his phone a minute, then the sound so they could talk if they wanted, before he shifted into drive and eased his way down the street.
“So how’s school going for you? I’ve been having an okay time, but my grade in history could be better.” Irene chewed her lip, staring down at her dress. Really, he wants to talk about school?
“I really would rather not talk about school. What about like… sports? Do you like any sports?”
“Oh, yeah! Not a whole lot of people here are into hockey, but in my home state, Michigan? I really like hockey. I would play if our school had a team. What about you?”
“I play soccer for our girls team, y’know, the Haversville Harpies.”
“Oh yeah! I haven’t seen a game yet, are you guys just practicing?”
“Yeah since fall semester just started, we’ve just been practicing. But we have our first game Thursday after next. We’re playing the Columbia Cories.”
“Oh nice! D’you think I could come watch?”
“I don’t see why not.” Irene replied, allowing a small smile to play upon her lips. She was starting to feel more comfortable now, a little more relaxed. She dared herself to think that Hugo in fact was very nice, once you got past his well-meant awkwardness. He was, at the very least, animated about sports.
“Do you have any pets, or anything?” She asked, trying to keep the conversation going. She wasn’t ready for silence just yet.
“Oh yeah. I have two cats named Nickel and Peanut. Peanut likes my mom better, so she’s my mom’s cat, but Nickel is mine. He likes to sleep on my bed, and occasionally will walk on my desk when he wants attention. You?”
“I have a rabbit, her name is Luna. She doesn’t do a whole lot to be honest, but I love feeding her parsley and holding her in my lap while I read. We’ve fallen asleep together once or twice.” Irene smiled.
As they continued to talk about their lives, they arrived at the park and began to set up their sunset picnic. Irene was especially impressed with how thoughtful Hugo was with his food choices. They ended up eating a small salad together with some dumplings Hugo helped his mom make. Then, for dessert, Hugo presented her with some fresh baked apple empanadas, which were so sweet Irene’s eyes watered. She almost wished they had ice cream.
Irene and Hugo ended up sitting next to each other to watch the sunset, their stomachs full, and, to Irene’s secret delight, enjoying each other's company. Hugo really wasn’t a bad guy. And as their conversation dwindled, he even said to her,
“I know you didn’t want to talk about school earlier, but, if you ever need anything, I’d be happy to study with you or something. Even if this doesn’t, like, pan out? The offer will always stand.” Irene turned her head to look at him, her dark almond eyes sparkling, lips smiling. She was suddenly struck by a thought she had had, but this time with a new meaning
Hugo Allard will never leave me alone. And I think I’m okay with that.