Our bags and books dropped to the marble floor with muted thuds, and we both slumped in the plastic chairs. I lightly kicked Dion’s foot under the table to remind him that his long legs were hogging the space and he shifted them back, making room for mine. My knees brushed against his nevertheless as I settled into a comfortable sitting position.
He smiled rather sleepily. “It’s my treat this time, isn’t it?”
“You know it,” I grinned, dragging a hand through my corkscrew curls. It was a bad habit; I always seemed to make them more unruly than they needed to be. Six months ago, I would’ve restrained myself around him.
A waitress – younger and more charged than either of us – fluttered to our table. Dion gave her our orders: flat white for him, chai latte and a blueberry bagel for me. When she’d departed, he focused his attention fully on me, recollection lighting his expression.
“You haven’t told me how your date went last night.”
I stifled a groan and shrugged instead. I had been hoping the marathon study session had put that out of his mind. “It was alright. He doesn’t like spicy food.”
He arched his right eyebrow, laughter lurking in the corners of his mouth. “That’s a deal-breaker?”
“Only because he was boring,” I shrugged again, unable to stop myself from grinning back.
“Oh come on!” Dion leaned forward, elbows propped on the table. “James is a great guy.”
I gave a noncommittal murmur, momentarily saved from providing excuses by the reappearance of our waitress with the drinks. We fell silent for a moment, busy with stirring and sipping our respective coffees. Dion was never one to let a topic go unresolved, however, and more questions were no doubt sitting on the tip of his tongue. I was right.
“So?” he prompted. “What happened?”
“He’s not my type,” I offered. The right eyebrow rose again, and I sighed. “He’s not bad-looking.” Really, James was rather handsome. Sharp chin, clear skin, floppy hair the colour of butterscotch – yet I wasn’t taken enough to even remember the colour of his eyes. “Just… doesn’t do it for me.”
It was his turn to sigh. “Shame,” he said, lifting his glass to his lips once more. “I thought you two would hit it off.”
I brought the bagel to my mouth, swallowing a bite before saying, “I told you blind dates are a bad idea.”
He shook his head and reached for my plate. I watched him tear a chunk of the bagel. Three months ago, he wouldn’t have dared. Then again, three months ago, he wouldn’t be paying for my snacks. “It requires a good matchmaker, that’s all.”
“And as last night proves,” I grinned, “you are not one.”
“Oi,” he laughed, making as if he was going to toss a piece of bread at me. I ducked sideways, but he didn’t go through with the threat. Shaking his head, he popped the bread into his mouth instead. “I suppose it was my fault for assuming you’d like him.”
I gave an emphatic nod, temporarily unable to speak due to the food in my mouth. This drew another upward quirk of his lips. “Though I did ask you what you liked in a guy and you wouldn’t tell me, so…” I lowered my chin and cut him a look that had him raising his hands in a laugh. “Nope, still completely my fault.”
I laughed along then and tugged the plate of bagel away from his greedy fingers. “Right. Now that that experiment’s over, focus on your own love life. Didn’t you have a date last weekend? How did that go?”
A bashful smile bloomed across his face, and he murmured something unintelligible. I dialled the brightness of my smile up a tick. The twinge in my stomach – the one that came whenever that expression settled on his face like that – was easy to ignore now. “That’s brilliant! Come on, tell me more about it.”
He obliged, though every detail he provided seemed to drag across his tongue. Like the memories from that night were precious pearls, and he wasn’t sure if my hands were steady enough to hold them.
I watched him over the rim of my coffee cup as he spoke. Dion was not handsome, not in the way that would part a crowd. He had a smattering of freckles across his pale face. His hair was cropped so short, you might mistake its shade of red for blonde. His eyes were brown, and if anyone tried to tell him they were chestnut, he’d laugh.
I shouldn’t have known him so well.
Cilla is a postgrad student by day and writer by night. She enjoys watching Masterchef, blogging about books, and eating delicious food. You can find her on Twitter: @pavedwithbookss.