Sophie loved people-watching.
That was how Sophie found herself, on a relatively clear and breezy afternoon, sitting on a bench in the heart of Central Park.
In a place like New York City, people came in all varieties. Perhaps that's why people were so attracted to the city: they had the ability to stand out, to grab attention, to make something of themselves. Or maybe there were others who loved the Big Apple simply because they could blend in with the others, one unique outfit—one unique personality—equally as impressive as the rest.
Sophie's ice blue eyes followed each person, back and forth, as she reveled in the feeling of aloofness the park-goers seemed to radiate. A woman in sweats with a swinging ponytail walking nine dogs; an elderly lady dressed in a neon green pantsuit, continuously pushing her slipping glasses up the bridge of her nose. Sophie tucked a lock of black hair behind her ear and glanced up the walkway. A hippie with cut-off khakis, an open floral button-down, and a chest-length white beard; even the occasional celebrity or two, hidden in their oversized sunglasses and the cloak of the throng of bodies. Every height, every weight, every skin tone, every style: the décor of the bleak, gray city. Bright colors harsh against windows and pavement paths up-close, clashing with the green of the trees, melting together against the skyline for city passersby in the distance.
The people were different in Central Park than those on the sidewalks of Times Square—where she usually sat—Sophie noticed. Those on the streets of Manhattan walked with a purpose; they had somewhere to go, somewhere to be. The people in the park, however, had merely the purpose of walking. They were more relaxed, sheltered from the binds of work hours and blaring car horns.
A little girl ran past Sophie, the laces of her squeaky clean shoes unlaced and a melting ice cream cone in her hand. She looked to be six-years-old. An older woman with graying blonde hair and a huge canvas bag chased after the young girl. Must be her mother, mused Sophie. After stumbling a few times, the woman caught up with her daughter and knelt down beside her.
"Nicole," the woman said, sighing and hurriedly straightening the girl's clothes. "Don't walk away from Mama. You scared me."
The young girl shuffled her feet. "Sorry, Mama. I saw those dogs"—she pointed in the direction of the dogwalker Sophie had seen earlier—"and I wanted to pet them."
"Okay. Next time, though, don't scurry off, alright?" The woman stood up and ran a hand up her face, clearing the sweaty hair off her forehead. She looked frazzled; the skin under her eyes was puffed and dark, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. Sophie's heart went out to her.
The girl nodded her head, not paying attention to the chocolate ice cream cone in her hand until it began dripping. Rivers of sticky brown followed the skin of her arm, collecting at her elbow. Sophie bit her lip to hold in the smile, and leaned forward, resting her arms on her legs.
The woman sighed again, and kneeled back down. "Oh, Nic. Hang on." She rummaged through her bag for a couple minutes before giving up and taking hold of her daughter's ice cream-covered hand. "Come on, let's go find some napkins," she murmured as they began walking again.
Sophie laughed under her breath when she saw the girl duck her head to lick the ice cream from her forearm.
"Lick it up, baby. Lick it up," Sophie murmured, leaning back on the bench and smiling at her film reference and how well the quote seemed to fit the situation.
"Heathers?" an amused voice questioned from her right. Sophie snapped her head to the side in shock and got a good look at the speaker.
It was a man, seated on the bench next to her. His deep brown eyes matched his shaggy brown hair, which topped off a tanned, wide face. Blue jeans, a plain white tee shirt, and Adidas clad his seemingly fit body. Two dimples marked his face as he grinned at her. He looked like the same age as her. He was very handsome, she thought.
Sophie raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. "You know that movie?"
He laughed and clapped his hands together. "Who doesn't?" he countered with a grin. His eyes twinkled.
"Touché," she replied and looked back to the people passing by. Her face was smooth as her mind ran a million miles a minute. Stay calm; play it cool; don't swoon, don't croon, don't wake up in a spoon. Easy as pie. Piece of cake.
Several minutes passed without a word from either of them, and Sophie was desperately trying to keep her mind off of the stranger sitting next to her and rather on the tourists and natives mixing into one singular crowd. The people that captured her attention so easily now seemed unimportant. Her eyes darted from person to pavement to the big, green plants, and back again. The silence made the sound of her rushing blood roar in her ears, and she couldn't tell if the quiet was awkward or not.
She squirmed in her seat, and then sighed. How could this man have so much power over her level of comfort?—the comfort which seemed to be dropping at a drastic rate. Or maybe it wasn't his control over her, but her own control over herself while in his presence. That thought made her more restless than the first.
Unable to resist, she glanced at him slyly. His smiling eyes were staring right back. Her heart skipped a beat—she pretended not to notice—and she looked away. After a few seconds pause, she looked back. His eyes were still on hers, and he chuckled when she huffed indignantly.
"How long have you been looking at me?" she accused, twisting her body toward his.
He laughed. "Oh, I think you already know the answer to that." He winked lavishly at her.
Sophie bit her lip, trying to hide her smile, but failed miserably. "You're rather cheeky, did you know that?"
He shrugged. "I've been told."
"Is that so?"
He narrowed his eyes playfully. "Is it just me, or are you asking a lot of questions?"
"Would you rather I bat my eyelashes, blush furiously, and then fall to your feet, begging for you?" she retorted.
He threw back his head and laughed. The sound made Sophie smile; his laughter was contagious. "No, I think I like them feisty," he said.
She raised her eyebrows and gestured toward herself with her arms. "Apparently."
He nodded, grinning. "Apparently," he agreed.
Sophie faced forward in the bench once again and crossed her legs, thinking. Her fingers began tracing invisible patterns on the pant leg of her jeans.
"I'm pretty sure that was a backwards way of you telling me that you like me," she said after a pause.
He nodded again. "And I'm pretty sure that you're right."
She pursed her lips; her brow furrowed. "And now, you're repeating my words."
"You're right about that, as well," he said, chuckling.
"You laugh a lot."
"Do you not like it? The general public seems to think happiness is a good thing." His smile threatened to crack his face in half.
Sophie's cell phone rang.
"Oh," she murmured, reaching into her vibrating pocket to retrieve the phone. She looked at the screen; it read "MAEKA".
"It's my friend, Maeka," she explained, turning toward the man, and then shook her head as she wondered why he needed to know that. "I need to take this," she restated.
He lifted his hands in a surrendering motion and smiled. "By all means, answer it." He said it like a challenge.
She stared at him defiantly. "I'm going."
"I mean, I'm leaving."
"Sounds good." He grinned almost condescendingly.
Sophie stared at him defiantly before standing up and pressing the button to answer the call, using more force than necessary, just to let the message sink in. He chuckled in reply.
Keeping his eye for one last moment, she spun on her foot and followed the pavement. The same pavement that the people she liked to watch walked on. Head held high, back straight, without another glance back, she lifted the phone to her ear. Unfortunately for her, she couldn't keep the small smile off her face.
"You what?" Maeka shrieked, pieces of chips that she'd been chewing falling out of her mouth.
Sophie grimaced at the mess. "Are you trying to burst my eardrums?" she inquired; she rolled her eyes. "I said I met a guy."
Maeka's eyes grew as wide as saucers, large green circles with pinpoints for pupils. "Who? What? Where? When? Why? I need to know these things," she insisted, shaking Sophie's shoulders with her hands.
They were in the living room of Sophie's and Maeka's shared apartment, a relatively unfurnished room. The only items were a television and a loveseat, both occupying the opposite walls from one another. The perfect room for a sleepover. The hardwood floor was a collage of black blankets and white pillows, bags of chips and cups of soda scattered across the rumples of sheets.
"Are you sure this is the only soda you've had today?" Sophie asked, holding up Maeka's glass of cola.
Maeka laughed and nudged Sophie with her elbow. "Of course. Besides, you should be used to my insanely outrageous attitude by now; we've been friends for twelve years. Now," she rushed her words, "don't avoid my questions."
Sophie sighed melodramatically. "'Who?' A nice-looking man. 'What?'… Wait, what does 'what' have to do with anything? That question doesn't make any sense whatsoever." Maeka giggled behind her hand, and Sophie smiled and continued. "'Where?' In Central Park, on a bench. 'When?' About ten minutes before you called me this afternoon. 'Why?'" Sophie shrugged. "He must've overheard me mumbling to myself, I guess, and he had to give his input."
Maeka raised her eyebrows. "Mumbling to yourself? Again? And he didn't think you were loony?"
"Oh, be quiet," Sophie laughed, and ate another chip. "I don't talk to myself as often as you imply I do. I was… quoting a movie under my breath, and he heard me, and guessed the correct movie."
"Ah," Maeka said, nodding. "That makes sense… not. What movie?
"Heathers." Sophie shrugged halfheartedly. "It seemed to gain his attention."
"Your life is complete," Maeka teased as she took a sip of her drink.
Sophie laughed and rolled her eyes, throwing a hand over her heart. "Yes, I've finally caught the eye of a well-to-do man. I can die happy now."
"I'll be sure to carve his name on your gravestone, in gratitude," Maeka joked. She popped another chip in her mouth. "What's the lucky man's name, anyway?"
"I don't know."
"You don't even know his name?"
Sophie shook her head.
Maeka huffed. "Well, how's he supposed to ask you out? You didn't exchange numbers or anything, did you?"
"Maeka," Sophie said with amused frustration, "if he doesn't know my name, and I his, do you expect us to hand out our phone numbers? And am I the kind of girl who'd give out her number, even if he did know my name? Hm?"
"Alright, alright, you've made your point clear, Sassy McSassypants," Maeka said. "So you don't intend to… pursue him or anything?"
Sophie shook her head. "No. What would the point be?"
"Oh, I don't know," Maeka laughed loudly, "maybe that you'll actually end up falling for him?"
Sophie shrugged noncommittally, her eyes focused on the blanket beneath her, her fingers twiddling with the fabric.
Maeka bit her lip. "Honestly, Sophie, if you don't start dating now, when will you? You're twenty-six-years-old, and you've never been on a date. You've been asked out plenty of times, but have never followed through. Why is that?" The joking atmosphere had subsided, and a more serious tone was implanted in Maeka's words.
"I've yet to find a guy who strikes my fancy is all," Sophie mumbled to the floor. "I want a guy who knows me and can put up with my likes and dislikes and all of that."
Maeka leaned in and tilted Sophie's chin up with a finger. "And what kind of a guy is that, Soph?" she asked softly.
"I want a guy who knows how to cook. I want a guy who isn't afraid to tell me honestly what an outfit looks like on me. None of that 'you look good in anything, sweetheart' nonsense. I want a guy who can stay up late with me, watching the same movies over and over again—good movies, I mean, not the B-rated ones. I want a guy who isn't afraid—no, who wants—to introduce me to his friends and parents; a guy who'll do the grocery shopping for me when I'm sick, give me a backrub when I'm feeling sore; a guy who takes relationships slow and doesn't rush anything. A guy who is marriage quality."
Maeka sat back on her heels and nodded slowly, appreciatively; the honey-brown curls on her head bounced with the movement. "Sounds like a pretty decent guy."
"Who'll never exist," Sophie pointed out.
"It's certainly never a bad thing to date, though, Sophie. When you date, you find out what traits you like and what traits you don't."
Sophie narrowed her eyes at Maeka. "Thanks for the tip, Mom."
Maeka patted the top of Sophie's head. "Anything for my lovely daughter." She grinned. "So," she began suggestively, raising her eyebrows, "what does this mystery guy look like?"
Sophie rolled her eyes for what felt like the hundredth time that night. "Brown hair, brown eyes, nice smile."
"Sophie's feeling descriptive tonight!" Maeka exclaimed. "Any other details you'd like to throw out?"
Sophie racked her brain for the benefit of Maeka. "… He has dimples on his cheeks?" That was a pretty decent characteristic.
Maeka slowly raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Which cheeks?"
Working at a movie store had its advantages and its disadvantages.
One advantage was that Sophie received a fifty-percent discount on all movie rentals—that was probably how she'd come to see, know, and cherish all of the films that she did. That was probably how she'd come to remember so many quotes from the films she'd seen; she'd watched them over and over. They say "history repeats itself, so just watch the reruns"—Sophie felt that way about the plots of films. All storylines tended to repeat themselves, but the characters and words changed. That was enough for her.
The disadvantage was the lack of people during the dead hours—which were the only hours that Sophie worked. Of course, she could always peek out the window and watch people walk past, but it wasn't quite the same as breathing the same outdoor, polluted air that they're breathing and being able to experience the same things that they're experiencing.
The jangling doorbell shook her from her thoughts. Sophie looked to the door and watched as a young teenage boy with messy blond hair and the healing scars of acne search the romance section of the store. It was winter now, snow falling at a steady pace onto the sidewalk and making taxi drivers uneasy in the streets. Sophie could make out a few snowflakes on the shoulders of his black jacket. Figuring the boy was fine on his own, she resumed categorizing the DVDs in the cart behind the counter.
"Hey lady," a voice called, and she looked up to see the blond-haired boy looking at her anxiously.
She bit her lip to prevent her from telling him to get some manners and that she did, indeed, have a name. "Yes? Is there something I can help you with?"
"Uh, yeah. I need a good movie. Do you have any recs?" He ran his hand across the nape of his neck and looked over at the horror section.
"What's the occasion?" Sophie asked.
"To watch with my… um… girlfriend," he fumbled, his cheeks turning pink.
How sweet. "It depends. You can never go wrong with Titanic; it's romantic and sappy, and you'll get bonus points for watching a chick flick. But she also may enjoy Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which isn't as good, but it's a horror. She'll cower into your side and want to hold your hand, most likely." Sophie smiled at the boy. "Your pick."
He grinned. "Thanks!" The boy dashed off toward the horror section. Of course, she thought; anything to get out of watching a romantic emotional movie.
Just as Sophie had ducked down to continue ordering the DVD by genre and then title, she heard the doorbell jingle again. A couple minutes later, the bell at the front counter rang.
"One moment," she said, sticking Silence of the Lambs in the horror category, and then stood back up. Waiting at the counter was the blond-haired boy. He thrust out his arm, and as she took the DVD cover from him, she peeked at the title. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ah, just as she'd suspected.
"I figured you'd get this one," she said, smiling knowingly as she rang it into the computer. "Seven-forty-two."
She saw the boy scratch his forehead out of the corner of her eye before he handed over two fives. "Yeah," he laughed, "I think she might, um, like this one better."
"Sure," she said in an unconvinced tone, grinning at him.
He grinned back. "Okay, you caught me," he said. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre sounds a hell of a lot more manly than Titanic. Honestly, I don't want my friends thinking I'm a pansy-ass."
She printed out the receipt and handed it to him with the DVD and his change. "I know what you mean," she admitted. "But next time, go for the romance. She'll appreciate it."
He nodded and smiled almost shyly. "You got it." She watched him as he left the store, her eyes lingering on the door handle even after the door had closed.
Someone coughed from the counter and she jumped in surprise; she hadn't realized there was anyone behind the boy.
Sophie swiveled her head to the waiting customer. "Sorry, how may I—"
The familiar brown eyes shined with excitement and amusement. It took Sophie a few seconds to remember to shut her mouth, which had dropped open in shock.
"I believe it goes, 'How may I… help you?'" He grinned.
Sophie snorted. "I know how it goes. What are you doing here? Are you… you aren't stalking me, are you?"
The man laughed and shook his head. "Think that highly of yourself, do you? But no, I'm not. I promise. I just wanted to check out a movie." He handed her a DVD and she looked at the title. Gone with the Wind.
"Great choice," she said quietly, nodding appreciatively. "Have you ever read the novel?"
"No." He shook is head again. "But I've seen the film before, once, and it's the kind of movie I'll never grow tired of you, you know?" He smiled.
Sophie nodded and rang it through. "If you want something even more interesting, though, read the novel and then compare the two. Seven-forty-two, please."
He took out his wallet and handed her a credit card. "I'll be sure to do that. Thanks."
She finished the process and handed him the receipt, his credit card, and the DVD case in silence. He didn't leave the store; she didn't resume her categorizing. But it was a comfortable silence.
"Hey," he said after a few minutes, leaning forward onto his elbows. "I swear, I'm not following you," he grinned, throwing up his hands in a surrendering motion, "after all, it's been months now since I've seen you in Central Park. But now that I've seen you again, it brings an interesting thought into my mind. It seems as though Fate is trying to pull us together." He started pulling an invisible rope toward himself, as though it was attached to Sophie. She put a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing and tried to stare at him with a what-are-you-doing? expression. "So, since Fate obviously wants us together, I think… you should go on a date with me."
Sophie pretended to think, tapping her forefinger against her chin. "That has got to be the worst pick-up line I have ever heard."
"That may be the case," he chuckled as though to agree, "but you didn't really give a proper answer."
She raised her eyebrows. "Give me one good reason."
He matched her facial expression. "Because, if you don't, I'll spend the rest of my life wondering how it would have turned out if you had said yes."
Sophie bit her lip and tried to stop the blush from consuming her face.
"That's kind of a corny line," she replied after a long moment.
He grinned and spread his arms out wide. "I'm just a big old book of clichés… but you know you love it," he said, winking.
"You're relatively cocky," she accused.
He shrugged. "Maybe just a bit."
"But it's a nice change from men who think they're the hottest things on the planet."
"Now, I never said I didn't think that about myself, did I?"
"Perhaps, but you never boasted it, either," she pointed out.
"True." He smiled. "Go out with me?"
Maeka's words from months earlier echoed in her head. "When you date, you find out what traits you like and what traits you don't." Oh, how Maeka would love to hear about this. And it's just one date, right?
Sophie spotted one of the other workers stocking shelves in the back of the store. "Hey Mike," she called. He turned around. "I'm going to take a break. Is that fine?"
Mike nodded. Sophie pretended not to see how happy her date—the word sounded strange in her head—was. She pulled the red uniform top off, folded it, and placed it on the counter. As she grabbed her thick winter jacket and purse, she looked back at the man, who was grinning as though his life depended on it.
"Any place in particular you'd like to hit up?" the man asked as he shoved his hands into his pockets.
Sophie took a deep breath of the smoggy, cold air. "I'm in the mood for some chocolate ice cream."
He looked at her like she was insane, the snowy wind blowing his hair around his head. "Taking us for ice creams in a blizzard… makes you wonder who the real whack jobs are." He smiled.
She raised her eyebrows approvingly and smiled. "Girl, Interrupted. Very impressive. I wouldn't have pegged you for the crazy chick flick type."
"There's more to me than meets the eye." The dimples resurfaced on his face as he smiled.
Sophie smiled back. "I'll bet. Is it just me, or do we have a thing for quoting movies in our everyday life?"
"I know I do." He grinned.
"Isn't that a little… strange?"
He shrugged, still smiling. "Not when the movies are good."
"I suppose." She smiled lightly at him.
"But really, Angelina Jolie is absolutely fantastic in that film. She plays just as good a bad guy as Sir Anthony Hopkins."
"That's another great movie, Silence of the Lambs," Sophie agreed.
"Hannibal and Hannibal Rising, though, I didn't like as much."
"Neither did I."
They reached the ice cream store that Sophie had chosen, and he paid for her ice cream cone as well as his. Sophie made a mental check on his "good attributes" list in her mind; pays for meals.
They sat down on the bench they'd shared months ago without realizing it, and the man began laughing when he remembered.
"What's your name?" he asked Sophie after a minute of comfortable silence. "You look like a Rebecca, or perhaps an Audrey. I've spent the past couple of months trying to decipher it."
Sophie's heart thumped loudly in her ears at his honesty. Had he honestly spent the past five months thinking about her? Part of her hoped he was joking around; the other part—the bigger part—hoped he was being serious. And another part of her felt chagrinned because she'd done exactly the same thing: tried to think of his name. She did it subconsciously, of course, but those moments that her mind would run away and remember the day he'd sat on the bench next to her, she always placed names with his face. Jackson, Troy, Sam…
"Close, but no cigar," she said, her voice higher than usual. "I'm Sophie."
He grinned. "Sophie, Sophie, Sophie… it's a gorgeous name." Sophie smiled in thanks. "I'm Ian, by the way." He held out his hand. "Nice to meet you."
She placed her hand in his, a smile spreading across her face. "And you as well."
The warmth of his hand on her own sent a tingle down her spine, and she found herself contemplating on the roughness of it and how her hand felt so feeble when grasped in his.
How many hours they spent there, Sophie wasn't sure. She was positive her manager at the film store would be upset at her for leaving work early, but for some reason, she couldn't bring it in herself to care. The minutes flew by rapidly as they talked about everything and anything, from the most overrated tourist attractions in New York to childhood pets (she had three dogs; his goldfish died in a week). She found herself smiling more often than usual, Ian's large grin causing one to break out across her face. His eyes were magnetic, his dimples contagious; he was electrifying.
Being the gentleman that he was (yet another check added under the "good attributes" list; it was currently beating the "bad attributes" list, seven-to-none) Ian walked Sophie to her apartment.
Sophie stalled when they reached the door, looking down at the key in her hand and then back up at Ian. "Thanks for taking me out for ice cream," she said. "I… I really enjoyed this afternoon, Ian."
"Me too," he said softly, and grinned. "Do you think I could have your number? I'd like to take you out again, soon, on a proper date."
"Oh, sure," Sophie said, surprised. She reached into her bag to look for a pen and paper, searching, before Ian handed her a pencil and an index card. "Thanks," she murmured, writing down her telephone number. "What are you doing walking around with a pen and paper, anyway? Are you always prepared to grab a lady's number?" She raised an eyebrow.
He shrugged, smiling impishly. "You never know when it might come in handy."
"Right." Sophie drew out the word, displaying her disbelief.
"So… I'll call you sometime," he said. Sophie nodded. "Goodbye, Sophie." He hesitated for a moment, as though deciding what to do next. He cupped her face with his hand and pressed his lips gently to her forehead; Sophie's eyes fell closed. His thumb followed her cheekbone and he mumbled one last "goodbye" and left.
Sophie shook her head from side to side, as if to clear her mind from the feeling of his lips on her skin, and unlocked the door to the apartment. Her hand was trembling as it turned the doorknob—
The door flew open and in the doorway stood a frenzied Maeka.
"Oh… my… god!" she squealed, tugging on Sophie's arm and pulling her into the apartment.
"What?" Sophie asked, the break in her voice and the thickness of her throat clear evidence of her afternoon's activities. If Maeka didn't already know who was just on her doorstep, she would figure it out in a matter of minutes.
Maeka sighed, still high-strung. "Don't have such little faith in me—I was watching the whole thing through the peephole. And you said you'd never…"
Oh, so she already knew. Lovely.
"Of course you were," Sophie muttered.
"That was the Central Park guy, wasn't it?" urged Maeka. Sophie spotted a cup of fresh coffee on the countertop of the kitchen and poured it down the sink. She might have heard Maeka mutter, "it was decaf," in the background, but she wasn't sure.
Maeka's jaw dropped open as though in surprise, even though Sophie knew that Maeka had already figured it out before she'd entered the apartment. "He's… stunning."
"He is really, really handsome," Sophie agreed, nodding and leaning back against the counter.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Tell me all about him!"
Sophie sighed, smiling, and acquiesced. She hoped the heat she felt wasn't obvious on her cheeks. "His name is Ian Reynolds."
"I love the name," Maeka murmured in a dreamy voice.
"Oh, hush, Maeka!" Sophie laughed. "He's twenty-seven—"
"Just your age…"
"—lives in Manhattan, and owns his own catering service."
"So, he's rich," Maeka concluded.
Sophie rolled her eyes. "Yes, he probably has quite a bit of money. May I go on, or are you going to interrupted every other second?"
"You can't blame a girl for being excited! Here," Maeka said as she walked from the kitchen to the living room, "let's sit somewhere more comfortable so we can gush easier."
"Alright," Sophie laughed, and joined Maeka on the blankets on the floor (which seemed to always be there). "He's an only child and was adopted when he was seven. He's really good at tennis, apparently, and he's a big movie buff. His favorite bands are…"
Sophie was watching 10 Things I Hate About You—not an A-rated movie, but certainly not a bottom-dweller, either—with Maeka when the apartment phone rang. Maeka dashed out to the kitchen and took it off the hook.
"It's lover-boy," she sang as she ran back into the living room, tossing the phone into Sophie's lap before flopping back onto the couch. Sophie held up the phone; the screen read "REYNOLDS, IAN".
She threw Maeka a sharp look for the lover-boy comment and pressed the talk button. "Hello?"
"Hey, Sophie, it's Ian," his voice chimed. "How are you?"
"I'm good. I'm watching a movie with my friend. How about you?"
"That sounds like fun. I'm just over here at the shop."
"Oh," Sophie said, "are you catering right now?"
"You betcha," Ian replied—Sophie could hear the smile in his voice. "We're cooking up a delectable chocolate pudding cake. I wish you were here; it smells amazing."
"What's it smell like?"
"Like the corpse of a rotting hottie."
Sophie laughed loudly into the phone and Maeka looked at her with clear interest. "I suppose I set myself up for that one. Disturbia; very nice."
"Thank you," he chuckled. "So, I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me this Friday evening."
Sophie smiled. "Isn't it a bit early to call, Ian?" she teased. "I mean, we just saw each other yesterday."
"Sophie, cut the guy a break!" Maeka shouted, her mouth close to the phone so Ian could hear her. "I'm sure she'd love to go out with you, Ian. From what I can tell, she had a really nice time with you on your last date."
"Maeka," Sophie chided as she pulled the phone away from her ear and covered the mouthpiece. She could still hear him laughing on the other end. "What was that all about?"
Maeka shrugged, grinning. "I figured you needed a little push in the right direction."
Sophie brought the phone back to her ear. "Sorry about that, that was Maeka."
"Ah, the Maeka."
"Yes, that Maeka."
"I see. You know, you can say no and I'll be okay with that," he countered her statement from before.
Sophie sighed heavily, overdramatically. "Well, I guess if you want to take me out, then I suppose I can be free. Plus, I'm pretty sure Maeka will be upset if I refuse your offer." Maeka nodded fervently beside her.
"Great! I'll pick you up at eight?"
"Sure. Will this be a formal occasion, or jeans-friendly?"
"A dress and heels should be lovely."
"And what makes you think I already own a dress and heels, Mr. Reynolds? You've only ever seen me in jeans. For all you know, I could wear jeans every day of my life."
"Because it's not possible for a beautiful woman such as yourself, Ms. Lyn, to not own a dress that will enhance her beauty tenfold."
Sophie bit her lip. "You make a fair point."
"That was the plan," Ian laughed.
"Eight o'clock on Friday."
"You got it."
"Good night, Sophie. Sweet dreams."
It was Friday evening, and Ian was dropping Sophie off at her apartment after their date.
Sophie played with the apartment key in her hand and bit her lip. "I had a really great time tonight, Ian."
"Do those words sound familiar, or is it just me?" He grinned, but it slowly faded into a soft smile. He tugged his jacket further around Sophie's shoulders as it began to slip, making sure she was still warm.
"I had a great time, as well," Ian said.
"You're a lovely man."
"You're a lovely woman."
Her eyes narrowed playfully. "Are you repeating my words? Again?"
Ian's hand moved up to cup her face, and his thumb brushed slowly along the apple of her cheek. "Yes, I am."
Sophie's eyes fluttered shut. Tingles crawled their way up her spine, spreading to the tips of her fingers and the crown of her head. The feeling of his palm against her cheek was amazing.
"May I kiss you, Sophie?" Ian whispered.
Sophie's eyes shot open. "I might be bad at it," she whispered back.
He chuckled lowly. "A Walk to Remember. Nice. I really liked Mandy Moore in that film."
"No," Sophie clarified, her voice still quiet as she let out a shaky breath, "really. I've never… I've never been kissed."
Ian let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "Oh. Well, you can't be bad at it." A gentle smile touched his lips. "It really isn't possible."
And when his lips touched hers, it bypassed all her expectations that had been built off high school crushes and stolen peeks at movie screen kisses. It was so much more than what the movies made it look like, and far more exhilarating, and Sophie knew that Maeka was absolutely spying on them through the peephole in the doorway, but she didn't care, because the feeling of his lips on hers was perfect and she was drowning in the pure movie magic of it all.