He stayed. What am I to do now? As Shawn greets his friends goodnight, he glances at me smiling. We’re the last two people in this party - apart from the residents of the house and Anna, who is nowhere to be seen - so it’s clear that he’s only staying to spend more time with me. Shit!
It all started about 40 minutes ago when he sort of accosted me in the middle of the dancefloor. “Hi! You’re Amelia right?”
“Ehm… yes?” Who is this guy and why is he talking to me?
His cute puppy smile and awkward look in his deep blue eyes don’t match his bold manner and raspy voice. “I’m Shawn, Anna’s cousin. You’re flatmates, right?”
“Ah, yes.” Right. I have to be nice to him. So for Anna’s sake I give him what I hope looks like a polite - not encouraging - look. Just polite.
His smile broadens just a bit. “Are you having a good time?”
His flailing arms tell me he’s a clumsy dancer and yet his smile doesn’t falter. To protect my toes I suggest that we sit down.
“What was that?” he asks leaning in close enough to hear me over the loud music. Close enough that I can smell him - is this tequila?! He doesn’t seem tipsy.
“I said, how about we grab a drink?” Suddenly I feel like I need one.
Two drinks and what feels like too many revelations later (he’s doing his PhD in some type of ‘save the world engineering’, he’s two years older than me, his grandmother is from Brazil, he likes going to the movies and studying?! He likes STUDYING?!), I feel like my ears will fall off. I need to get going. After yawning pointedly, I say, “It’s getting late. I think I should go home, I feel my eyelids losing the fight with gravity.”
“Oh… of course.” Something like guilt makes my gut clench at his obvious disappointment but he’s quick to hide it with a mischievous expression. “So, how about we go on a proper date?”
“Er…” Not sure about this cutie.
“I promise I don’t normally smell of tequila,” he says, causing laughter to bubble up out of me suddenly, “and I vow to take you somewhere nice.”
And because he did manage to make me laugh out loud, I give in. “Ok then. But I can’t promise I won’t smell of tequila.” I can’t help thinking I’ll probably need it.
“I don’t know if I want to go.” I text the girls on my way to my first date with Shawn. I’ve already postponed this once in the last couple of weeks so my only choices are to ghost him or woman up and just do it. Shit! Did I send this to Shawn?! It takes me ages (ok, more like a couple of minutes) to make my fumbling fingers obey my brain and heave a sigh of relief - the proof of my reluctance was sent only to the girls. Phew!
“Oh just give him a chance. He’s cute right?” Lina replies.
“I don’t know; I don’t even remember him that well!”
At that Anna just sends one of her pics with her cousin - ok he’s cute as the girls are quick to confirm.
“Ok, but he’s not really my type. I like bungee-jumping and kayaking and just letting loose. He’s all buttoned up and so proper. In all honesty I think he’s just too ‘I’m a grounded balanced - possibly boringly safe - person’ type. And he’s been texting me every day. EVERY DAY. Who does that?
“Amelia seriously, when was the last time you had a date with a nice guy?” Lina insists.
“That’s the thing - I want adventure, I want fun and craziness and…”
“An asshole,” Anna finishes for me. “My cousin is great, don’t be stupid.”
As Amelia makes her way to me, I take note of her confident gait. Her hips sway like a snowflake in a soft breeze - it’s both discrete and fascinating. Her big brown eyes take me in slowly, carefully. I’m being scrutinised. I stop the urge to look at my clothes, consciously making my hand slide down to my side and into my right pocket instead of fussing with my tie. Like last time, I’m fascinated by the intelligence in her eyes, her long brown hair and the unexpected beauty mark in the middle of her top lip. That mark… I’ve been thinking of that mark every day, of how it sits atop her heart-shaped lips, how it might feel if I were to...
As she reaches me I take a whiff of her perfume - cinnamon? That’s… spicy. Meanwhile I keep begging myself: Be cool, act cool, show her you’re cool! “Hi beautiful.”
Her lush lips form a confident smile. “Hi Shawn. Hope I’m not too late.”
My breath catches at that smile. I was afraid she wouldn’t show up. I was worried that she wouldn’t agree to meet me after she cancelled last time. “Not at all.” I lean in to kiss her cheek and take in more of my new favourite scent.
“So, where are we going?” She’s looking at me expectantly and I rally my thoughts.
“Right. St Katherine’s Docks is nearby and has lots of bars and restaurants to choose from.” Is that a smile she’s trying to suppress?
Was Shawn so handsome - so hot last time? And so… cool? He’s been texting me all week to meet and now he’s acting like… cool - yes, that’s the right word. Still cute but somehow more… at ease with himself? I guess it helps that he's not trying to dance after drinking tequila (he should simply avoid it whenever he wishes to impress). It also helps that he did fulfil his vow to ‘take me somewhere nice’ - I love St Katherine’s Docks. The picturesque marina always invokes my imagination, with its medieval archways and beautiful boats that gleam under the moon.
Mr Blue-eyes is smiling at me, again, in his quiet way. He just seems so grounded. As if nothing can ruffle him. That sense of quiet strength was there when we met too; it had managed to break through despite his nervousness and awkwardness. He’s like a sturdy boat in a storm. I wonder, what would happen if he found himself adrift? I’m having the oddest impulse to test his stoicism. How would this nice guy react if I revealed the extent of my… ‘spontaneity’. Even the girls get to experience it in small doses. Imagining what I might do almost makes me grin but I manage to rein it in. Amelia behave! I urge myself.
“So Anna said you came close to ghosting me,” he says, startling me enough to make me gasp.
“What?” I’ll be arrested for murdering my flatmate! “Sorry, I was… er, I just thought-” I stop my pathetic attempt at an excuse.
“I knew it!” he says grinning triumphantly at me.
I pause mid step and look at him, really look at him this time. I cannot believe that I fell for that! Of course Anna wouldn’t rat me out! He’s still smiling! It appears Mr Blue-eyes is game after all, but so am I.
I cannot hold back my grin as I watch her shocked face. There is no way she’d expected the nice guy to call her out. And the truth is, I can’t help wanting to make her feel better so I change the topic, “I’m just teasing. So… how long have you lived in London?”
Her eyes have a scary gleam now that wasn’t there before. What have I unleashed?
She tells me about how she fell in love with London when she first came here on vacation and decided to make it her home after graduating from Vienna University of Economics and Business, two years ago. She is half Austrian - half English. Her parents live in Brighton. She loves spending time at the beach when in town. Then she asks about why I chose London and I proceed to tell her until I realise she’s not standing right next to me anymore.
I turn my head and Amelia is nowhere to be seen. I look around calling her name, getting no answer. I walk back, my eyes scanning everything like I’m in a James Bond movie (only without bravado) and suddenly she sprungs at me from behind a large grey van shouting “Yoo-hoo!” almost scaring me to death. What the hell?
Gone is the poised girl I was supposed to be on a date with.
He’s staring at me shocked - half scared, half incredulous, and I cannot stop laughing like a mad person. Not as he exclaims, “Amelia, what was that?” not even when he sweetly says, “Amelia, I’m getting worried.”
Goodness! He’s super sweet - any other guy would probably get mad at me. But he’s just trying to understand as I’m trying to moderate the craziness that has overtaken me. But my laughter continues undeterred, remains uncontrollable. And right when I think he’ll sober up and leave, I’m rewarded with his quiet smile, which turns into a grin and then into pure laughter.
The rest of our date continues in the same vein.
First, I climb on a bench and dance to find him staring at me, smiling, until he gently pulls me down looking embarrassed. “We shouldn’t disturb people around us,” he says.
Later, I opt to sing a duet with a street musician who is happy to oblige me. Shawn waits patiently at a ‘safe distance’ as if not to show he knows me. I smile brightly at him and I see his lips curl upward despite himself.
He tries to remain courteous even when I climb a tree asking him to join me, loudly. Looking around, his cheeks getting red, he asks me quietly to come down so that I don’t hurt myself. I know he’s truly worried. I know he wishes to protect me like a knight in shining armor. But somehow acceding now would feel like giving up. Instead, I feel compelled to make him step out of his comfort zone, to make him laugh and act silly.
“Are you serious right now?” he asks a tad louder and I can finally see all he could be through the cracks. I can tell he’s starting to unravel and this fills me with joy and what oddly feels like pride. I imagine I could be a kite. To fly me, he’d need to move out of his comfort zone perpetually. It takes considerable skill and dedication to fly a kite, help it soar up to the sky, keep it high but tethered to the ground and safe, ensuring the string never breaks.
“Amelia!” he shouts at me and I relent, make a move to come down and suddenly find myself in his arms. His eyes are shining with a mix of annoyance and awe. He’s taking shallow, uneven breaths. His maleness invades all my senses. We stare at each other.
And then, I do the craziest thing so far: I lean in and kiss him square on the mouth, keeping my eyes open. And I feel a spark igniting inside of me as he smiles against my lips and proceeds to show me he’s game, again.
Note: this story is based (loosely) on my first date with my other half - he’s been steering the kite successfully for over 7 years :)