4. Number 31
The candlelight flickered across Number 31's face across the table. It was our first date, and the first date the Dating Department had ever set up.
Number 31, otherwise known as Paul, had decided that a sappy, cliché, and all around over used candle-lit dinner was the way to go.
Did I agree with his assessment?
Not so much.
Don't get me wrong, Paul was a pretty nice guy, he had picked me up at 7 o'clock exactly dressed in a button down shirt and tie, while I had been in a t-shirt and jeans. He had made no comment about my lack of formality, but took me to a mega-fancy restaurant with a smile.
So here we were. Sitting. In silence. Him all nice and fancy. Me in casual clothing. Eating dinner by candlelight.
Yep, it was torture.
“So, Riley, how did you get caught up in this whole Dating Department business in the first place?”
“Don't you dare tell him!” Amber's voice hissed in my ear through the earpiece she had placed there. “Repeat after me...”
“I was having some... troubles finding a date, I saw a flier for the Dating Department and figured, 'I've tried everything else, why not this'?”
He laughed. “I find a girl like you having trouble finding a date a little hard to believe.”
“Blush! Riley, blush, now!”
“How the heck do you expect me to blush on command?” I hissed into the earpiece.
“Pardon?” Paul tilted his head slightly.
“Er, uh... Orange Crush is my, er, favorite band?”
“Amber telling you what to do with that earpiece?”
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“Well, you were hissing at your shoulder, and it's kind of noticeable.” A slow smile spread across his face. “Tell her hi from me.”
“Paul says 'hi'.” I giggled into the earpiece.
“Uh.... hi, Paul....” Amber muttered. I could just picture her embarrassed face right about now.
“Dude, that was epic!” I laughed, taking the earpiece out and shoving it into my pocket, ignoring Amber's protests.
He bowed as well as he could from his sitting position. “I try.”
“You know, you seem like much more fun than this...place.”
“Haha, this wasn't my idea, it was Amber's, didn't she tell you?”
I raised an eyebrow at him and gestured at my attire.
He chuckled awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Guess not.”
“So all this was Amber's doing?” I asked, waving my fork around at our fancy environment.
“Yep...” He paused. “Truth be told, I'm not really all that sure I like it here.” He eyed the white table-cloth and the fancy, most likely highly-breakable tableware warily. “I'm scared I'm going to be kicked out if I hold my fork wrong or something.”
I laughed, nearly spitting out my fancy water onto the fancy table.
Paul cracked a grin, “I had no idea I was so funny.”
I just nodded, embarassed that I had nearly spat on him. I absentmindedly started twirling my spaghetti around my fork, before blurting, “You know, spaghetti is supposed to be romantic and all, but seriously, who wants to watch someone eat spaghetti? It's messy and people slurp it.” I looked up to see him staring at me confusedly and quickly dropped my head, blushing in spite of my efforts not to.
“You know... I've always thought the same thing...” Paul commented slowly, twirling his own pasta around his fork.
I let go of a breath I hadn't even been aware I had been holding before looking around myself and sighing again.
“Too fancy for you?”
“I feel like I'm being stared at for being here in jeans and a Harry Potter t-shirt.”
“Well... we could always leave?” He added a hopeful twist to it, whether it was intentional or not, I didn't know.
I dropped my fork eagerly. “Seriously?”
He shrugged, “Yeah, why not?” He waved over the waitress and paid for dinner before standing and leading me out the door.
I stepped out into the warm night air with a contented sigh. “Much better.” I turned back to him. “So where to, Nu—Paul.”
He chuckled. “Were you about to call me 'number 31'?”
“Come on.” He laughed, grabbing my hand and towing me down the dark street.
“Er... okay. Where are we going?”
“The park.” He grinned at me and began to walk faster.
I dug my toes into the cool sand as I swung slowly back and forth next to Paul. I leaned up against the swing's chains and looked over at him.
“Tonight was fun, Paul.” I said, suppressing a yawn in the process.
“Yeah it was.” He smiled, his green eyes twinkling from behind his long blond bangs.
We moved slowly back and forth on our swings, in comfortable silence, the moon shining cheerily above us and the stars winking.
“So, have I made it?” Paul asked, facing me again.
“Huh?” I blinked at him, confused.
“Have I earned myself another date with you? Because I would absolutely love to go out with you again, miss Riley.” He winked at me but his voice still held a tone of seriousness.
“Why yes, mister Paul, I do believe you have earned yourself another date. But just barely.” I winked at him and he shoved me lightly.
We had a shoving battle for a few minutes, I swear I could have won, but that cheater, Paul, decided that it would be funny to push me off my swing and backwards into the sand. I did, however, win our jumping contest by jumping a full fourteen and a half feet away from the swings while he could manage a measly fourteen. I was quite obviously the winner, though Paul was quite reluctant to admit it, and rewarded my victory with a tackle.
I rolled away from him laughing. “Just admit you lost already!”
“No way, half a foot doesn't count.”
“It does so count! It's a full six inches!”
“Wow... six inches! That's such a huge length!” He muttered sarcastically, lying down beside me on his back, hands folded.
I sighed contentedly as I gazed up at the stars overhead. “The sky is beautiful tonight.”
“Bntbuflu.” Paul mumbled.
“Speak up, I can't quite hear you.” I had gotten the jist of what he had said: a corny line, but I wanted to embarrass him, just a little.
“Bunotasbeautifulasyou!” He shouted in a rush.
I started to giggle idiotically before I caught myself and covered it up with a cough. “Oh really?” I smirked and raised an eyebrow at him.
“Shut up...” He mumbled, smacking me lightly on the shoulder and red creeping up his cheeks.
“Awww... I made you blush!” I cheered, pinching his cheeks.
“Did not, it's just kind of...cold.” He sat up and rubbed his hands up and down his arms, faking a shiver as well. “Brrr...”
“Yeah, right...” I rolled my eyes at him and stared back up at the sky.
Paul laid back down and slung a arm around me.
“Hey! What the heck do you think you're doing?!” I demanded, scooting further away from him and feeling my face flame.
He grinned mischievously, “Awww... I made you blush!” He mimicked me, pinching my cheeks as I had his.
“Okay, okay, I get the point...” I mumbled, pushing his hands away and still keeping a safe distance from him.
“Aw, come on, Riley, I was just poking fun.” He pleaded, trying to move closer to me.
I shifted farther away from him in response. Nearby, a lake sparkled and an idea popped into my head.
Hurriedly, I jumped up and ran to the lake before laying back down on its shore. I heard Paul groan and jog over to me.
“Please, Riley, I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable...” He reached a hand out to me. I faked hesitation before taking his hand and swinging him into the lake, letting his hand go in the process.
What I wasn't expecting was for Paul's ninja reflexes to kick in and him pull me in with him.
I re-surfaced coughing and spluttering, the water bizarrely cold even though it was summer. Paul came up beside me, but I pushed him back down before running away as fast as one could in water dressed in waterlogged jeans and converse.
“What was that for?” Paul whined, trying desperately to wring out his soaked suit.
“I was just poking fun.” I said, winking at him.
He stuck his tongue out at me like the mature person he is.
“Grow up...” I teased, bumping him with my hip as we walked back towards his car.
“Psh. Never!” He declared, pumping his fist into the air.
I laughed and pulled the passenger side door open before realizing my wet clothes would probably ruin his upholstery.
“Er...Paul... your car...” I looked up to him already climbing in, wet suit and all. “Okay then...” I mumbled, and climbed in after him. “Sorry about that...” I muttered, gesturing at his soaked self.
“Eh, it's cool. Nothing a little dry-cleaning won't fix.”
“What about your car? Won't all the water ruin the seats?”
“Nah.” He paused thoughtfully, as if reconsidering. “Well, maybe, but you know, cest la vie.”
“You speak French?”
“Only if knowing that one phrase and the word 'bathroom' counts.”
I laughed. “You're incredibly amusing, you know that?”
“Amusing, awesome, how many other 'a' adjectives can you use to describe me?”
“I never called you awesome!” I protested.
“You're right, you called me epic, which is pretty much synonymous with 'awesome'. It works out either way, really.” He turned to smirk at me.
“Smart alec.” I muttered, smacking his arm.
“Hey! Don't hit the driver! I could end up losing control of the wheel and crashing into a tree or something!” He scolded, turning towards me with mocking, wide eyes.
“Keep your eyes on the road, dimwit.”
“Or what?” He teased, looking at me again.
“Or...” I pursed my lips and thought about what I could do. My mind came up blank. “I honestly don't know...”
His smirk grew more pronounced as his eyes returned to the road. “That's what I thought.”
“Oh, shut it, Mr. Ego.”
“Maybe I will.”
“If you do, you'll cause us to crash, but it's totally your choice.”
“Stupid smart person...” I complained under my breath.
“You know that's an oxymoron, right?”
“You're an oxymoron.”
“That made absolutely no sense at all, Riley.”
“Yeah well...” I frowned and crossed my arms. “I'm tired.” I mumbled changing the subject. “You can't expect everything I say to make sense.
“Riley, it's only ten.”
“Oh CRAP! Really? I was supposed to be home by nine-thirty!” I leaned forward towards the wind-shield, as if that would make us go faster.
“Crap, really?” Paul quickly made a U-turn and started back to my house.
“Thanks for the ride.” I smiled, climbing out of his car in my damp clothes. “Tonight was fun.”
“Yeah it was, we'll have to do it again sometime. Minus the swim of course.”
“Eh... I'll think about it.”
He laughed and waved at me. “'Night, Riley.”
“Goodnight, Paul.” Silently, I shut the door behind me and locked it before climbing up the stairs and collapsing, exhausted, onto my bed.
Number 31 down, numbers 19 and 13 to go.