I met him on a warm Memorial Day weekend. My shirt was blue and my hair was mussed and my shorts were covered in dirt from spending most of my day laying on dirty pavement and talking about nothing with my best friend. My day had been extremely enjoyable, and I was looking forward to just having a cold iced tea at the local coffeehouse that was my home away from home, but meeting him and his gaggle of friends made my life more complex, if anything.
His cousin came up to us first, interrupting a very important game of Shithead* (that I was winning!). He immediately took interest in my best friend, and began to chat us up. I had seen him around at the coffeehouse before, always drinking an espresso and speaking foreign tongues with his friends, who were obviously from the same country. It sounded something Eastern European, and I was soon to be informed by the Chatty Cathy sitting next to me that he was from Albania.
My father called them gypsies, or more specifically, he called them zingari.** My family had told me so many times to stay away from them, not to mention he had nine years on me, easily. Petrified of getting myself into an awkward situation, I quickly shut my mouth and soon my friend was on her own while I quietly listened to their conversation. I sipped my now watered down iced tea and smiled and laughed when it was appropriate. I had always been able to fake interest very well. I did it everyday during school; there was no reason for it not to work when talking to a twenty-five year old.
The next thing I knew, I was seated next to a large man, at least six feet tall. His hair and skin were dark and he had prominent five o'clock shadow. His eyes were a kind brown, laced with delicate eyelashes. I was taken aback at the contrast of his other features to his eyes. He didn't look like anyone I had been around for an extended period of time, but how could he be a bad person with those eyes? My eyes met his and I smiled widely.
"What are you playing?" he asked smoothly, raising an eyebrow.
"Shithead." I winced after swearing aloud. It was extremely unladylike. My mother would have a fit if she could have seen me sitting there, talking to unknown men and swearing like a sailor.
"Never heard of it. Do you play poker?" his voice was tinged with an accent and it made me shiver. I bounced my leg up and down to keep my nervous laugh from acting up too badly.
"Well, yes and no." I answered, trying to think of a way to get off the subject of cards.
"Yes. Yes she does." I visibly deflated when I heard my friend's voice correct me. "She's totally good, a regular card shark."
"I don't have any money."
"We don't have to play with that."
"What do you suggest we play for, then?"
My heard stopped and I'm sure my mouth was a perfect "O". For a moment, I was speechless. And I'm never speechless unless I want to be.
"I…Uhh…Well…" I swallowed hard, watching the amusement play on his face over my discomfort.
"I have to go anyways." He said abruptly as he stood up, showing his full height. The overall broadness of him in general struck me speechless again. I felt inexplicably tiny compared to him. Sometimes, I think that was the way he wanted to make me feel at the time. A little hopeless. A little inexperienced. A little scared. He succeeded with that on far more levels than I would care to admit.
An hour later, he was back.
This time I was the one that was leaving.
I had an early curfew to make and I could not be late. I was in a rush, digging for my keys as I began to walk off the patio of the coffeehouse when I was suddenly pulled back by a rough hand. I looked back, and there he was, smiling at me knowingly.
"I have an early day tomorrow." That was a lie. I was only sixteen. I needed to be home by eleven to keep my parents satisfied.
"Oh. I see. So no poker game tonight?"
"I don't think so. Sorry." I began to walk forward again, but he gripped my elbow tighter, and I stopped again and looked back and up at him.
He handed me his phone and I knew exactly what I needed to do. A minute or two later, I handed it back to him, my number tucked securely into it.
"Jill?" he asked, cocking his eyebrow again.
"Yeah. And you?"
"Alright, Nick. I'll see you around?"
"I would hope so. You do live around here, don't you?"
"Yeah. I do. But I really have to go." And with that, I left him. His hand fell from my elbow, lingering on my forearm before leaving me completely.
I should have known better.
Author's Notes: Chapter one of le saga! I hope you guys liked it! Any comments and constructive criticisms are godsends. Thanks for reading!
* Shithead is a popular game where I am from. It's basically a game of chance, but there is some skill involved. It is much like poker, for people who are too stupid to play it.
**zingari is the Italian word for gypsies.