AN: Prelude before reading . . . please read through before judging Marina. Or Owen, for that matter.

Marina Guerrero and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Date

By Devonny Auriel

Second date, my ass.

I slammed the car door behind me and shoved my keys into the ignition. My shabby little car roared to life, but I took a moment to rest my head against the steering wheel before taking off. I needed a minute to collect myself over the most ridiculous night of me life.

One week ago I got asked out by a random stranger. He walked into my restaurant, I served him his pizza, I flirted a little – only to get a good tip, and then he asked me out.

I do not go out with random strangers. It is just not something I do. The only men I go on dates with are friends I've known for awhile, or they are a friend of a friend.

But for some crazy reason I decided to go out with Owen Riley. He was cute, he seemed nice, and he offered to take me to this movie I'd wanted to see for ages. What could go wrong in one date?

Little did I know everything could go wrong.

First he had to meet me at my restaurant to pick me up because he didn't have time to go all the way to my apartment. Apparently he had time to ask me out, but not enough time to make it a proper date. He showed up in his old work uniform, giving me pathetic excuses about his dog. Then he proceeded to stall his car the entire ride to the restaurant.

The problems kept happening. He "lost" his wallet and couldn't pay for dinner or the movie. His cell phone rang three times throughout the movie before he finally left and answered the call. Thirty minutes later he stumbled back in. Of course he had no clue what was going on in the movie so I had to explain everything. God, it's one of my worst pet peeves.

When he finally dropped me off it was late and the parking lot was completely empty. I saw him open his mouth, probably to rattle off some cheap apology, but I slammed the door in his face.

Thank God it would be easy to get out of another date. I never gave him my phone number, opting instead to have him call the restaurant if he needed anything. He was a complete stranger, after all. I doubted he would have the nerve to ask for another date after the disaster of the first, but even if he picked his balls up off the floor and came to Filipiano's I'd just have another waitress handle him.

I picked my head up from the steering wheel and cracked my neck to the side. God, just thinking about it made me want to punch something.

I pressed my foot down into the clutch and started backing out. I was glad the parking lot was empty because I craved the sound of my wheels screeching against the pavement. I wanted to get home as fast as possible, and I wanted the satisfaction of hearing it.

Unfortunately I heard no such sound. Instead I heard the horrible and excruciating sound of my rear end crushing into something.

I whirled my head around in shock. It was a completely empty parking lot, what could I have ran into?

I let out a long and mother-disapproving curse when I figured it out. A car. I had hit a car. And not just any car. I saw those familiar, skinny legs pop out of the ugly, broken down Corvette, and I knew instantly that I just made the hugest mistake of my life.

Owen rushed over to my door and pulled it open. He placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "Marina, I'm so sorry. Are you alright? Are you hurt?"

I shrugged his hand off my shoulder and covered my eyes with my hand. "I'm fine. Why are you apologizing? I hit you."

His face heated up. "Well, that's true, but I still was . . . there. Are you sure you're okay?"

I unbuckled my seat belt and pushed my way out of the car. Owen let me pass and followed me as I went to survey the damage. I cursed again when I saw the huge dent in his car.

"On the bright side your car looks fine," he said quietly.

I turned to look and, in fact, my car had taken the accident like a champ. There was one foot-long scratch, but that was it. Somehow I still didn't feel great.

"I'll get your car fixed," I said. "I have insurance. It can cover it. Don't worry about it. What were you still doing here?"

He ran his hand through his curly hair and looked towards the sky. "Well, I noticed you were taking a minute to start up your car, and I wanted to make sure it turned on all right. I was waiting just a few feet behind you, actually. When I saw it turn on finally I began to drive but you backed up a little faster than I . . . anticipated you would."

I fought the urge to step on his foot. Through gritted teeth I said, "You couldn't have just left?"

I could tell Owen was starting to get impatient with my bad attitude. He slipped off his bright red frames and pinched the bridge of his nose. He inhaled deeply.

"Look, I know you're frustrated with me. This was an awful date. Why don't we figure this out in the morning, when you're less tired?"

"I'm not tired," I stomped my foot. "Let's just do this now. I'm not in the mood to wait until morning."

"Too bad." He took out his cell phone, a broken down, old fashioned model, and looked at me with a dead expression. "Give me your number."

Absolutely not! was perched on the tip of my tongue. He saw the expression on my face and folded his arms. "Marina, you have to. If it helps, I promise to never make any advances on you again. But I need your number to contact you about insurance."

I didn't want to give it to him, but even I knew I had to. I muttered the string of numbers, half tempted to give him one number off. He plugged it into his phone and slipped the device back in his pocket.

"I'll give you a call tomorrow morning. Do you need anything else?" His glasses were placed back on his face, his thin fingers pushing them up.

"No, I'm fine. Bye." I pushed past him and slipped back into my car.

I refused to look at him. I sat in my car, face fixed towards the restaurant in front of me and arms folded. I could see Owen lean his hand against my window from the corner of my eye. He looked as if he was about to say something but after a second of debating he walked back to his car.

His car sputtered away. I followed soon after, cursing the entire ride home.

I woke up the next morning in a haze. My alarm went off, ringing painfully in my ear. From the bed across the room my roommate slammed her hand on the snooze button.

"Alita," I moaned. "Alita, I had the worst night of my life."

Alita sat up in bed. I could see the dark circles under her eyes, despite her already dark complexion. Her long, black hair was pulled into a braid, the curls escaping everywhere. She was virtually a carbon copy of me, except while her hair was long, mine was cropped short at my shoulders.

It helped that we were cousins.

"Mierda," she hissed, holding her palm to her forehead. "You're telling me. I drank way too much tequila last night."

"Well that's your fault. I don't feel bad for you at all." I stepped out of bed and walked to the closet, pulling out an outfit for the day. "I went on the worst date of my life. And – ah man . . . I just remember the worst part of it."

"What's that?" She flopped back into bed. I kicked her with my foot, reminding her about work.

"I was going to get off scotch free, but then I backed into his car."

Alita sat up straight in bed, a goofy grin on her face. "You what?"

I cringed at the memory. "I backed into his car. Dented it pretty bad. Man, my insurance is going to go up so bad."

My cousin burst out laughing. She rattled off a couple insults in Spanish, knowing full well I could understand her. Alita grew up in Mexico, and as such, felt at ease speaking her native tongue. I grew up in Seattle where the most popular used language was not talking to anyone if you could help it.

"It's your fault then?" She asked when her giggles subsided.

I thought back to it. I probably acted a bit . . . angrier than I should have with Owen. Despite him giving me the worst date I have ever attended, it was my fault that I backed into his car. Normally I was great at backing out. I always double checked the rear view mirrors. But it was so late at night, just this once I thought it wasn't necessary.

"Yeah, it is," I admitted.

She shrieked with laughter again. "Oh, your Madre is going to kill you when she finds out. She still pays for your insurance, no? It's going to skyrocket!"

"Maybe she doesn't have to know," I tried to remember how damaged his car looked. "I have enough money saved up from the restaurant. I was hoping to buy a plane ticket to visit Italy, but . . . this is probably a better investment. Mom would kill me."

"Just date some guy in the Navy and have him take you to Spain," Alita said. "Jeremy takes me everywhere with his free little plane tickets."

I kicked a pair of shoes back in the closet. "No need to remind me how you use your boyfriend."

"That's all men are good for, I'm telling you." She finally got out of bed, stretching to her fullest potential. "You should try it sometime. You keep acting like finding a guy is so difficult. Meet a decent one, then use him until you find someone better."

I glared at Alita. Sometimes she was just a little too coarse, and that's coming from me. "Thanks, but no thanks. I'll handle getting a boyfriend on my own."

"Suit yourself," she disappeared out of the room, cackling again.

I ventured over to my cell phone sitting on my desk. I had gotten a text message over night from Owen, asking me to call him when I was awake. I would have to do that, wouldn't I? I let out a groan.

"Maybe if I'm really nice to him he'll let me off the hook," I muttered. In my dreams.

Still . . . maybe Alita's idea of using guys wasn't so bad in this case.

An hour later I finally bucked up the courage to call Owen. Fortunately for me the phone rang and rang and rang, until I finally gave up. Unfortunately he called back within a few seconds.

He sounded breathless when he asked, "Marina?"

"Hey, Owen. I'm . . . calling you," I said, quite lamely.

"Yeah, thanks for that. I half expected you to have given me a wrong phone number," his laugh echoed through the receiver. "Listen, are you free right now?"

I heaved a huge sigh. "Yeah. It's my day off."

I swear I could hear him removing his glasses through the phone. Whenever he was nervous they would come off and up went his fingers to his temples.

"Would you mind going with me to get an estimate for the car? That way we can plug in your insurance information."

Alita bounded into the room, yelling in Spanish about how she was late and couldn't find her keys. I pressed one finger to my ear so I could hear him.

"Where do I have to go?" I asked.

"Donde estan mis llaves? Fuck!"

"Not too far. I can pick you up if you want. I promise it won't stall as much as last night . . . hopefully."

Absolutely not was my first thought. I was still embarrassed about being too grumpy the night before and decided to be more tactful and let him down nicely. Before I could say anything a pair of keys dropped into my line of vision. Alita jangled them, my familiar University of Washington keychain sticking out.

"I'm taking your car. Bye!" She zipped out of the room before I had the chance to tell her "No".

"Marina? You there?"

I clenched my fist into a ball, the same surge of rage from last night running through my veins. And to think I was voted 'Nicest Girl' in high school.

"A ride would be delightful," I said. "Can you pick me up from my apartment?"

He agreed. I gave him my address, cringing the entire time, and he promised to be there in fifteen minutes. As I waited for my ride I ran through a list of things that could go wrong. Most likely his car would break down. We'd get lost. He'd go to the most expensive repair shop in town.

I got my answer as soon as I opened the door.

Owen was standing there, looking a bit ridiculous in an argyle sweater and skinny jeans. His dark curls were tucked under a beanie cap and those familiar red frames were dangling on his nose. Despite his dorky appearance he was actually quite cute. I was always a sucker for bright blue eyes.

Owen wasn't the problem, however. Behind him stood a very tall man with a guitar pick in between his lips. He sized me over. I couldn't tell if he was checking me out as a woman or as the woman his friend failed to date.

"Marina, this is Logan," Owen introduced. "I hope you don't mind but I have to drop him off at school. We just came from band practice."

I grabbed my purse from the counter and walked out the door. "You're in a band?"

Logan's mouth dropped open and the pick fell to the ground. He sheepishly picked it up then exclaimed, "You didn't tell her about Jean Paul Goes to Le Biblioteque?"

I raised an eyebrow. "What kind of band name is that?"

"A cool one," Logan snapped. "This girl, man. I don't understand her."

"You don't know me," I pointed out.

"Leave her alone, Logan. It's my fault we didn't get around to talking much last night," Owen trailed off, obviously not wanting to talk about it too much. I was fine with that. I didn't want to explain the travesty that was the night before.

Unfortunately Logan was curious. "What'd you do, man?"

We both blanched. Logan continued to pester Owen until he finally said, "Let's just say I did nothing right. But I think the worst thing was losing my wallet. That's straight out-of-the-movies-jerk. I still don't know where it is . . . probably shouldn't be driving . . ."

Logan let out a long "Ahhhhh about that . . ."

In the blink of an eye Owen whipped his arm out and punched Logan in the gut. Logan barely seemed phased.

"What'd you do?" Owen asked.

We had stopped in the middle of the parking lot and the sun was beating down. I didn't feel like hanging around the steaming asphalt.

"I didn't know you had a date and I needed to borrow some money. I just grabbed the whole thing, because I wasn't sure if I'd need the credit card too, and uh . . . sorry man." Logan was blushing. It was a peculiar look to see on a giant guy.

"Here," Owen began rifling through his wallet and pulled out several 20 dollar bills. "Take this. I was going to pay last night but obviously this guy—"

"It's alright." Somehow the situation seemed a bit . . . convenient for me. I felt like Owen was trying to make up for a lousy night, but it was too late. Date over.

"Please take it?"

"Why don't you just grab me some coffee on the way and we'll call it good." I stalked ahead of him and stood by the passenger seat of his car.

The car looked worse in daylight. The front left side was completely caved in, and the bumper was hanging off. Owen didn't acknowledge the damage when he caught up to me. He mentioned to Logan that he had to squeeze in the back and I heard him complain. Owen sent him a deep glare that make the larger guy tremble.

"Fine man, fine," Logan maneuvered his way into the back seat, squeaking against the leather seats. "Ugh, it smells like dog back here."

"I had to take Caterpillar to the vet," Owen said.

Logan cursed under his breath about smelly dogs. I remembered the stench well. The entire ride to the movie theater was spent with my window open so I didn't have to endure wet dog.

I rolled down the window once again, cursing Alita for stranding me. I leaned my head against the window pain and ignored the boys chatter.

Logan had to jump start Owen's car when we dropped him off. A full hour after we left my apartment we were finally on our way to the auto shop.

"Sorry about that," he muttered.

"You really should invest in a new car. Is it even worth fixing this one?" I kept my voice light and airy, hoping to sound sweet.

Owen looked at me funny. I rolled my eyes, "Okay fine. I'm not excited to have to pay for this. So sue me."

"You have insurance, right?"

"Car insurance, yes. Life insurance?" I thought to my mother. She would not be happy. "No. I'm hoping it will be cheap enough that I can pay out of my pocket, if you don't mind."

"I don't care either way. Honestly, if it's ridiculously expensive I might just not worry about it. It's not like this car will be worth anything when I sell it. Surprised that little bump didn't total it," he said.

My heart jumped. There was a possibility I could get out of this without paying anything? It was time to take Alita's advice and pump up the flirting.

"I wouldn't mind that." I set my hand on his. "You don't have enough to just invest get a different car?"

He watched our hands carefully, as if he were trying to see through my skin. After a moment Owen realized he was driving and returned his eyes to the road.

"Well, I sort of just did buy a new car," he said, almost too quiet for me to hear.

"This?" I asked, unable to keep the tone out of my voice.

"Nah, this is my little sister's car. About a month ago I bought a brand new Ford. Nice dark blue color. Manual, which was awesome because I hadn't driven one since I was sixteen." A little smile crept onto his face.

"Oh," I kicked an empty soda can away from my foot. "You just decided to go on a date in your sister's crappy car, then?"

Owen rolled his eyes and said, "Hah hah." I pinched my thigh, reminded myself to stay sweet.

"No, actually, even though I paid for that car, it basically belongs to Caprise now. That's my little sister." I stared blankly at him, not comprehending. "You see, Caprise is only eighteen and she's living in the city and all she had was this crappy old thing. But the first week school started it broke down in the middle of this sketch area."

I saw the muscle in his jaw tighten. "She waved another passing car by to help but he ended up mugging her. Scared the crap out of her. Said she didn't want to go to school anymore."

"Oh." My mouth felt dry. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"It's cool. She's fine now. I told her she could use my car since it's safer and she agreed. And of course now she loves school and has a boyfriend and I really regret giving her my car. She should have gone home and stayed a baby a few years longer." He looked quite serious as he said the latter part.

I was surprised. Although it could have been an entirely fabricated story, Owen seemed quite sincere. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, pointing to a picture.

"That's Caprise. I think you'd like her. She's pretty feisty, just like you." He suddenly blushed. "Actually she really wants to meet you."

I blanched. "Me? Have you talked about me much?"

"No, no, don't be weirded out." He pulled into the auto dealership. I was surprised at how fast it seemed. "I just mentioned that I was going on a date to her. Because, surprisingly, I haven't been out much in awhile. And I told you her name, and she asked if you were Spanish, and long story short my sister has been studying Spanish for four years and wants to practice. You do speak Spanish, right?"

I nodded, still unnerved.

"It really wasn't like I talked about you a whole lot. Seriously. Caprise just gets excited, that's all," Owen said, still blushing.

"Well, I can't guarantee I'll meet her, but I guess if she's ever around . . .?" I trailed off, not sure what to say.

We lapsed into one of the worst awkward silences of my life. He parked the car and muttered something under his breath about going in. He left the car quickly, an intense blush covering his cheeks. I gave him a minute to walk ahead before leaning my head against the window and groaning, "Ughhhhhhhhh."

I pulled out my phone and dialed Alita's phone number. It rang four times before she answered with a breathless "Hola."

"Hola, Prima Puta. I will kill you when I get home," I gritted through my teeth.

Alita snorted. "Shut your mouth Primata, you will not . . . but out of curiosity why?"

I growled into the phone and gave her the quickest version possible. "You stole my car and left me to deal with Owen all day. Who apparently talks to his sister about me all the time! Or a little. Whatever, it's still weird."

"Well I'm sorry but I had to get to work," she said defensively. As if to prove her point I heard her hand cover the mouth piece and she said, "I swear it's only going to be five minutes! Jesus Christ, my boss is so annoying."

I sighed, feeling suddenly very exasperated. "When do you get off?"

"Not until five. I could pick you up on my lunch break, though."

"Yeah, maybe. I don't know how long I'm going to be stuck in his vicinity. He says we're only going to get an estimate, but knowing him, something will go wrong. I'll send you a message if I need to be picked up, alright?" I tried opening the door, wiggling the door opener several times. It was stuck.

"Alright. I got to go, stupid asshole is bothering me about how I take too many breaks. How about all the smoke breaks you take?" I was abruptly faced with the dial tone.

I kicked my foot into the door and it slammed open.

"His sister is one lucky son-of-a-bitch," I muttered.

Then I went inside, where I knew doom awaited.

"Five thousand dollars?" I yelled.

The mechanic shrugged his shoulders and pulled a cigarette out of his mouth. He dropped it on the ground and pressed it to the ground with his heel.

"It costs a little extra to fix a car that is as crappy as that one to begin with," he explained. "Plus, this is a Corvette. It may be one ugly-ass Corvette – no offense – but it's a Corvette."

Owen shrugged off the insult. I did not feel so forgiving.

"Come on, uhh . . ." I trailed off, staring at his name tag. "Peter? Peter. Peter. Come on, there's got to be something—"

"Listen . . . what's your name?" He peered down at me.

"Marina Guerrero," said Owen. I kicked him in the ankle.

"Marina? Well that's pretty. Can I call you Mari?" He didn't give me a chance to tell him it was not alright before continuing, "If you call your insurance company I'm sure they'll fix it up no problem. You have insurance, right?"

"Well, yeah, but—"

"Problem solved. Now, Mr. Riley, are you interested in getting the car fixed here?" The mechanic, Peter, stared at Owen hopefully.

Owen shot me a side long glance. "Umm, I'm not sure. I'll have to think about it."

Peter looked disappointed but he shrugged it off. "Alright, no biggie. If you decide to get it fixed here just tell them you want Peter to fix it. I'm the best here."

He left us in the waiting room. I leaned against the wall and covered my face with my hands. The past couple days were not turning out how I wanted them to.

Owen came up and stood next to me, "Are you okay?"

I couldn't even must a fake smile. I felt too miserable. Even with sacrificing my trip to Spain there would be no way I could pay for that. I would have to report it to my insurance company. Mom would find out. I'd be dead.

"I'm fine. Are we done here? I'm itching to get out of here," I pushed away from the wall and heading towards the door.

Owen sprinted after me and grabbed onto my wrist. "Hey, Marina, I'm really sorry about this. And I know the last thing you want to do is spend time with me, but I was wondering if I could at least buy you some lunch?"

I shifted from foot to foot. "I don't know, Owen . . ."

"Please, Marina? I swear, this isn't a pick up attempt. I just want to show you that I'm not actually scum." From beneath his glasses his eyes were big and pleading. It put a pang in my heart.

"I don't think you're scum," I said. "Last night, maybe. But now, sincerely, I'm not mad. I'm just mad at myself."

"If you weren't mad at me then you wouldn't act like spending time with me was the most exhausting task on Earth," Owen pointed out.

I started to protest but he held up his hands. "If not lunch, then how about coffee?"

I checked my watch. It was only 11:45, which meant Alita wouldn't be able to pick me up for another hour. Somehow I didn't think Owen was going to bring me home without throwing a gift at me, so my best option was to go to my cousin.

"Alright. We can get some lunch. But I get to choose the restaurant."

We arrived at Torrerors twenty minutes later. Owen raised an eyebrow at the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant.

"You like it?"

"Yeah," I said, lying through my teeth. "The best. Reminds me of Mexico."

"Last time I came here Caprise was turning fifteen. She puked up all her food the next night," he said dryly.

I sent him a glare. "I told you I was fine with going home—"

"No, no, I'm sorry. If you like it then we'll eat here. No complaints." He opened the door for me and motioned that I should go in first.

"Hola, welcome to Torrerors," said the hostess very blandly, and with a very bad accent. "How many? Two?"

Alita came from around the corner and shouted at the hostess, "I got them!" The girl went back to texting on her phone, popping her gum loudly.

"Marina, what are you doing here? I thought I was going to pick you up?" Alita looked at Owen, then at me, and let out a long "Ohhhh."

Owen shifted awkwardly from foot to foot next to me. I barely shook my head, trying to send Alita a clear "ex-nay-on-the-ohhh" shit she was pulling. Alita clearly did not get the message, and put her hands on her hips, surveying Owen bluntly.

"Prima, who's the gringo?" I knew she was speaking in Spanish deliberately to make Owen feel awkward. It was her favorite past time. While referring to me as "Prima", which just meant "cousin", wasn't too insulting, the "gringo" that followed was not the world's best compliment.

"I know what that means," Owen muttered. "Well, the gringo part."

She waved her hand. "It just means white boy. I could have called you worse things." She said this as if Owen should be happy she stuck with just the simple word.

"Alright," Owen said dryly. I could tell he was getting annoyed. "Can I still treat you to lunch, or do you just want to go home?"

I suddenly felt a bit guilty. I don't know why now, out of all times, I felt the need to apologize, but I could feel it rising in my throat.

"Owen," I started, my throat dry. "I still want to eat, I just like this restaurant. And I thought I'd save you the trip—"

"It's alright, Marina. I'll just buy you something, but I won't make you hang out with me. I can see that it's not high on your list of favorite things to do." He tried to laugh it off, but his fist was clenched at his side.

"Owen—" I said, once again.

"Marina, just take him up on his offer. I can box something up to go and then I'll bring you back," Alita said.

Owen pulled out a 20 dollar bill from his pocket, way more than a lousy meal at Torreros cost, and handed it to Alita. He bowed his head at me, almost like a man tipping his hat, and told me he hoped I'd have a good day.

I followed him out the door, calling his name once again.

"You know, Marina, it's not a big deal. You don't have to hang out with me. I don't owe you anything. It's fine, really," he gave me a smile, but it didn't reach his eyes.

"But . . . your car," I said, quite lamely.

"I'll call you if anything big happens, but it's fine. It was a crappy car anyway, I'm not that upset. So just . . . well, have a good . . . life. I guess."

Owen left quickly, patting his hands against the sides of his jeans. I exhaled, blowing the bangs out of my eyes. That guilty pit in my stomach kept growing, and it didn't stop, even as I watched his car pull out of the parking lot. It sputtered along.

I walked back into the restaurant and found my way to the bar. There was hardly anyone in it, rightfully so, because it was still the early afternoon. The bartender got me a lemonade, I wasn't feeling any alcohol this early, and left me alone. Fifteen minutes later Alita sat next to me, dropping off a plate of shrimp enchiladas. The only good dish at Torreros.

"Why the long face?" Alita asked, stealing a bite of my food before I could. It didn't matter. I wasn't too hungry.

"I'm feeling guilty. And it's stupid. Because that was a really bad date he took me on," I explained.

Alita looked up to the ceiling. She was trying to recall all my complaints. I listed them off to her again. Late to pick me up. Call stalled. Made me pay for the movie and dinner. Abandoned me in the theater for awhile.

She whistled. "Yeah. That's a pretty crummy first date. I don't know why you're feeling so guilty, Prima, it sounds like he's a douche."

"Well, according to everything I learned last night, he is a douche. But, I don't know, I was talking to him today, and there were a couple things about him that were . . ." I paused, thinking back to how he helped his sister out. "Sweet. I guess." Then I remembered the strange comment about Caprise wanting to meet me. "Although he's definitely weird."

"Marina, just forget it. He gave you a bad date, you crashed into his car. You're paying to fix it, he bought you lunch. You guys are even. I don't know what the big deal is," the last part of her sentence became muffled as she took another bite of food.

I leaned my cheek on my hand. Alita was right. We were even. And as long as the insurance company had no problems, I would probably never have to see Owen again.

Alita patted me on the back of my head. "Now hurry up and eat so I can take you home."

I faked a smile. "Fine."

I never thought I'd see Owen again. But I saw him. A lot.

The first was when I was taking a jog in the park. It was a surprisingly beautiful day in Seattle and I was anxious to get outside in the sun. I left my apartment at 8 o' clock and reached the park twenty minutes later.

It was going well until a dog came out of no where and stopped at my feet. I almost tripped over it but stopped myself just in time.

"Woah," I said to the dog. "Where'd you come from? And what is wrong with you?" The last part, contrary to what you might expect of me, was said nicely.

The poor dog looked normal from the front, but attached to its body at the back was a strange, wheeled contraption. I peered around the back of him and noticed that both of his hind legs were pulled up into casts, and the wheels were used to transport him instead. I cooed at him and bent down, scratching his ears.

"Sorry about Caterpillar, I turned my back and he was gone."

I peered up at the voice. My mouth dropped open a bit when I saw Owen looking down at me. I didn't recognize him at first, he was missing his trade mark glasses. On top of his head was a Mariners baseball cap, shading his eyes.

"Oh. Hey." He looked just as shocked to see me. I was probably pretty unrecognizable as well. I'm sure I was sweating like a pig.

"This your dog?" I asked. It was a small Jack Terrier, and his tongue was wagging out of his mouth.

"Yeah. This is Caterpillar." He kneeled down next to me and scratched his dog's ear. "He's a little bit . . . under the weather lately."

I raised one eyebrow. "What happened to him?"

He blushed. I wasn't sure why. Owen scratched the back of his neck and said, "A couple weeks ago I uh – well, I had to be out for the evening so I had my sister look after him. They went for a walk and they intercepted a big dog and it chased Caterpillar. He took off, Caprise lost him, and somehow he broke his legs in the chase."

I gasped. "No! Poor puppy!" I rubbed his neck. "Did you find the dog's owner?"

He was still blushing. "Uh, no. I was kind of busy that night, so I just had to let Caprise handle the situation. She's not great with confrontation so she just took him straight to the vet. I'm sure the other dog was just trying to play with Caterpillar."

I nodded and pushed myself off the ground. Owen followed suit. "Why Caterpillar?"

"Caprise," Owen said simply. I nodded. Girls can choose the weirdest names.

I looked down at the dog, still feeling bad for it. A couple weeks prior . . . I stopped. Wait. Hadn't we gone out a couple weeks ago? I strained to retrieve the memory of that night and recalled him mentioning something about his dog.

"Wait a second," I said. "Was that the night we went out?"

The blush on his cheeks deepened. "Oh. Um. I don't really recall."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "Owen."

"Okay, so maybe it was. A little." I rolled my eyes at this then immediately regretted it.

"You should have told me. Was this why you disappeared in the movie? To talk to Caprise?" I placed my hands on my hips. Owen didn't say anything but I took that as a yes. "Owen! Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because!" He rubbed his temple. "The date was already going so badly, I wasn't about to bail on a movie that you had to pay for. Caterpillar was fine."

"He's not fine!" I pointed to the poor thing. "I would have understood if you explained."

Owen shot me a look. I rubbed my arm, self conscious. "I would have."

He didn't say much, just let out a quiet, "Right." We both fell into silence.

"Well, I better get him home. He can only play for so long without getting really tired," Owen said softly.

I nodded. "Yeah. I need to head back soon, too."

I gave Caterpillar a quick pat on the head. Owen lifted his hand to say goodbye then left in the opposite direction I had to head. I watched them leave, my heart aching as Caterpillar scooted along the ground.

I had another chance meeting with Owen at the grocery store. He was walking down the aisle with a perky blonde girl. She was pointing at different salsas, rattling on and on about which was better. I saw him before he saw me and I tried to hide, but unfortunately the aisle of a grocery store isn't very concealing.

Owen stopped pushing the cart when he saw me. The girl didn't notice for a good fifteen seconds. As she continued to talk I lifted my hand.

"Hey Marina," Owen said, interrupting her.

The girl stopped abruptly, her eyes wide. She quickly set down her coffee cup in the cart and said, "Oh, my God."

I felt incredibly self conscious. I smiled politely at Owen and asked how he was. We exchanged pleasantries all while the girl stared at me. It seemed as if Owen finally got too frustrated with the girl and said through gritted teeth, "Caprise."

The girl, Caprise, burst into a long list of words that I could barely make out because of how fast she was talking. She took my hand and shook it, and the only thing I could make out was "So good to meet you!" and "You're so pretty!" and something about what sounded like "gardening" in Spanish. I must have not heard her correctly.

"Caprise, shut up. You're embarrassing." The latter part he said quietly, but I heard.

"This is your sister?" I guessed.

Owen nodded.

"I didn't know you guys were still talking!" Caprise said. "I assumed he ruined it with his crappy date. A movie and dinner? Really? So boring. I gave him a lot of better ideas, for the record. Hi!" She reached out her hand for me to shake it. It seemed so out of order, yet didn't surprise me. "I'm Caprise!"

I shook it. "Marina. But you already knew that."

She shrugged, looking completely unabashed. "Guilty as charged. I'm sorry if I'm overwhelming. That's the word he always uses to describe me. I just can't help it! I never thought I would get to meet you!"

I had no idea how to respond to that so I said nothing. We all lapsed into silence. I was getting accustomed to having these with Owen. Our – what would you even call it, friendship? Acquaintanceship? – was doomed to be forever awkward, I felt.

Caprise bit her lip. "So, um, I'm going to go get a coffee. Do you want anything, Owen?"

He shook his head. The bubbly girl grabbed her purse from out of the cart and said a quick "Bye!" and darted off. After she rounded the corner I suddenly remembered that she already had a coffee. It was sitting in the cup holder of the shopping cart.

Owen noticed my eyes go to the coffee and snorted. "She's subtle."

"Incredibly," I drawled. We both laughed. Then it was quiet again.

"How's Caterpillar doing?" I asked.

He looked surprised that I would remember. "Oh, he's good. Still in the cast. Will be for a couple months. But he's happy enough. How is, uh, your cousin?"

Owen was clearly reaching for conversation but I didn't mind. I didn't know what to talk about either. "She's good. Still kind of a bitch."

He bit back a laugh. "I can tell you love her."

"I do," I insisted. And it was true. "But there's no denying her . . . charm. She's anything but sweet, except when she wants something. I don't know how her boyfriend puts up with it."

"He must be a brave soul," Owen said.

I thought to her boyfriend. Brave would not be the word used to describe him. More like . . . a doormat? It wouldn't make great conversation so I merely smiled.

"How did your car turn out? Was my insurance company a problem?" I hadn't heard anything from them in the past month so I assumed everything went well.

Owen nodded. "Yeah. It's uh, all fixed up."

"That's great. Sorry again," I said.

He shrugged it off. I watched his eyes search out his sister, as if he were desperately trying to find an escape. I decided to free him.

"Well, I better be going—"

At the same time he said, "Hey, Marina, would you—"

We both stopped short and shared an awkward laugh. I told him to go on but he shook his head and told me it was nothing. "I'll let you go."

"Oh." I pulled my purse up on my shoulder. "Yeah. Thanks."

We said goodbye and it was strange. I watched the back of his head go, a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach again. It wasn't quite guilt, no, I had gotten over that by now, but the sensation was strange to me. It felt like a combination of happiness and, weirdly enough, disappointment. How those two worked together I didn't even know.

When I was leaving the store I saw Caprise and Owen checking out. She looked as if she were berating him for something. I could see the angry look on her face from the doors. Owen said something to her that made her abruptly stop talking. He suddenly looked at me and I blanched.

I left the store before I had a chance to be embarrassed.

Two months later I hadn't seen Owen. In fact I had almost forgotten him completely. Life got too hectic. School started up again, I was given a ton more hours at work, and worst of all, my mom got sick.

I was spending a lot of time at home helping around the house. It was a rainy day in September when I went to grab the mail and saw it in the mailbox.

A bill from the insurance company.

I cursed under my breath. As far as I knew Mom still didn't know about my accident. I'm sure the bill hadn't been altered in the first month that followed, but now, three months later, there had to be a spike in the price. Mom was sure to find out. And I was sure that I would be murdered before the end of the night.

I dropped the mail off on the counter, hoping she wouldn't ask. I was not so lucky.

"Anything good?"

I placed a bag of fruit on top, hoping to make her forget. "Nope. Just bills. And who wants to see those?"

"No one," she agreed, laughing. "But bring them here none the less."

I shifted from foot to foot. "Maybe you should look later. You don't need the stress."

My mom sat up from the couch and narrowed her eyes at me. "What are you hiding?"

"Nothing!" I said, far too fast. My mother just held out her hand and glared at me. Reluctantly I brought the stack over to her, making sure the insurance bill was on the bottom.

She went first to the cell phone bill. She scanned the entire thing slowly, expecting there to be an outrageous amount because I had gone over my minutes. Of course she found nothing. I had been so busy the last thing I had time for was to talk on the phone for hours. I stuck only to quick conversations so I could get to work on time and all my homework done.

I walked over to the kitchen and began washing some dishes. My mother continued to go through the bills, scanning each carefully. Finally, it was time. She reached the bottom. My insurance bill.

I cursed under my breath when I saw her eyes widen in shock.

"Look, Mama, I can explain—" I began.

She let out a gleeful cry. "Finally! It happened! I knew it was going to happen one of these days but it was taking so long!"

I set the clean mug down on the counter. "What?" This was not the reaction I was expecting.

"Your insurance bill. It went down! Finally. They kept charging us so much for so long, just because you were a young girl, and I kept waiting for them to realize you are a good driver and hike down the price. And it did! Only fifty a month, but still. That adds up!"

I was confused. "Wait. It went down?"

Mom stared at me, confused. "Yes. Should it not?"

I thought back to the accident. The mechanic had said it would cost about five thousand dollars. That was a hefty sum. The insurance company was not likely to just brush that off, let alone reward me for it. What was going on?"

That night I went outside and pulled out my cell phone. I thumbed down my address book until I stopped at the name "Owen". It took me several minutes to get the courage to call, but finally I pressed "Send" and waited for him to pick up.

He didn't. Instead a piercing beep went off in my ear and a woman's voice said, "Sorry. The number you have dialed is no longer in service." She continued to rattle off options but I hung up, disappointed.

The mystery of my insurance company plagued me for a couple weeks. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do about it. I didn't know how to get in contact with Owen to ask, and I wasn't about to call up my insurance company in case it was a simple mistake. I would simply have to deal with not knowing.

I had given up hope of running into Owen again either. I wondered if maybe he was avoiding the grocery store and the park in case he had to run into me again. I hoped not, but being that I never saw him there again, it was a possibility.

I tried to shake it off. I don't know why I was suddenly worried about what Owen thought of me. After all, Alita and I had agreed that there was no reason for me to feel bad about our encounter.

I put in a pair of big, gaudy diamond earrings. Well, cubic zirconium technically, but who was to judge a 22 year old for having fake jewelry? I was getting ready to go out for the night. A girl I met in class, Kaylehn, told me about this band that was playing at the local club that was worth going to.

"Although I'm biased," I recalled her saying, "because I know someone in the band. But still, pretty good."

Kaylehn and I got along well enough. She had a tough exterior and biting personality that matched mine well enough. But the girl was scatter brained for sure. As soon as she recommended the place her eyes darted across the room and she seemed to go off in her own world.

She left quickly, telling me she hoped she'd see me there.

I didn't want to go alone so I persuaded Alita to come with. She had recently dumped her Navy boyfriend and was anxious to meet some guys and agreed to come happily. When she walked into our room I rolled my eyes. She was completely decked out in a slinky outfit that showed off her breasts and curvy lower half.

"Don't judge," she said. "I know you're jealous of my Latino curves."

I snorted. "You forget I'm Spanish too. I've got the same curves. I just don't feel the need to show them off."

Alita blew me a kiss. "Te quiero, Prima."

I stood up and surveyed myself in the mirror. I left my hair down and made sure to straighten it. My outfit was fairly simple, just a pair of skinny jeans and a backless tank top, but I liked it enough. I was never one to go all out.

The only thing I played up was my eyes, lining them with enough make up for Alita to comment that I looked like a raccoon. I knew it looked fine, however, because I got a "Niceee" from the guy at the door when I walked in.

Alita abandoned me as soon as we got in the club for a group of guys in the corner. She leaned up against the bar counter, sticking her butt out. I snorted as two of the guys let their eyes trail obviously to her ass.

"Hey, you made it!"

I turned around to see Kaylehn with another girl. She introduced me to her friend Riley, and the small girl looked shocked to see me.

"I never knew Kaylehn made other friends," she commented.

Kaylehn smacked her on the head and said, "Come on! I saved us a booth up front. We can see Logan pretty well from up there."

I watched as Riley turned a shade of red. Kaylehn smacked her once again on the head and muttered, "So disgusting."

As we walked to the table I asked Kaylehn about the band. She told me her friend Logan played guitar with a group of guys. I asked what the name was and she laughed.

"Brace yourself. It's a doozy. They're called Jean Paul Goes to Le Biblioteque. Don't ask how that name came about because I have no idea."

When she said the name of the band I had an odd sense of dai ja vu. I knew I had never heard of them before, and yet the name sounded familiar. She mentioned her friends name again, referring to something about Riley and Logan, and the sense of dai ja vu sprouted again.

Suddenly the lights flickered and the crowd went wild. I was shocked. For a band I had never heard about – more or less – they seemed pretty popular.

Riley saw the look on my face and grinned. "Yeah, they're pretty popular at our college."

A group of guys ran onto the stage, arms in the air. I was taking a sip of beer when I saw the tall guy come up to the mic. He looked incredibly familiar, and I suddenly knew why. Riley followed my look.

"Do you know Logan?" She asked, pointing to the large guy.

I shook my head. "Well, not really. It's someone else I know."

Kaylehn and Riley both watched as my eyes flickered to the bass player. Owen was standing there, making a quick tune on his guitar. I quickly inhaled my beer.

He looked good. Maybe it was the crowd of girls cheering for him, or just that I hadn't seen him in awhile, but I couldn't take my eyes off him. The entire concert my eyes were glued on Owen. Even though Logan was the singer, and probably far more entertaining to watch with his antics, I still stared at Owen.

Half way through the concert Alita sat down next to me, very tipsy.

"Well, look who it isss," she drawled. "The gringo."

Kaylehn and Riley looked confused. I muttered under my breath a quick introduction, embarrassed I had to introduced Alita in such a state. She pointed her head in the direction of Owen.

"Marina and him went on a date, once."

Riley gasped. Kaylehn, if she cared, did not show it. She was suddenly off in her own world again, glaring into a corner of nerdy guys.

"You know Owen?" Riley gushed. "No way! Wait, wait. You're that Marina, aren't you? The one who –" she suddenly trailed off.

"Crashed into his car? Yep, that's me." I finished. The embarrassment wasn't so great now that all these months had passed.

Riley looked confused. "Oh. That's not . . . really? You crashed into his car?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. Wasn't that what you were going to say?"

She shook her head. I asked her to go on but she seemed more interested in the story behind the car incident. I filled her in, trying to be as blasé as possible, and asked again what she was going to say.

"Just . . . well, not that it's a big deal or anything, but Logan always talks about how Owen went on a date with this girl that he claimed was 'the one', and totally botched it up. And says Owen is still upset at how he ruined it. I'm assuming that's you."

I was shocked. Owen said that about me? More than referring to me as "the one", which, frankly, was a bit weird, I was surprised to hear he was still upset. I thought Owen wanted nothing to do with me after I was a royal bitch.

"I mean, it's not like he's hung up on you. It's totally not like that, don't worry." She must have mistaken my look of surprise with one of annoyance. "It's just, that's the type of guy Owen is. He's really sincere. He doesn't go out with a lot of girls because he isn't interested in many."

My eyes trailed to Owen again. The song had just ended and he was gulping down a bottle of water.

"It's fine," I said. "I know. He was a good guy."

Kaylehn suddenly snapped back into the conversation. "You going to talk to him after the show? They usually come out after their set is done. Logan will come visit us, obviously," she shot Riley a dirty look. I was starting to get the idea that Kaylehn did not approve of – what seemed to be- a relationship between her two friends. "Owen usually goes home, but I can get him to stay."

I blushed. "You don't have to do that. I don't know if he even wants to talk to me."

"He does," Kaylehn said quickly. Riley and I both stared at her oddly. Alita was too busy waving at some more boys to notice. "Just . . . I know. Let's leave it at that."

I suddenly felt very nervous. I hadn't seen Owen in months. The way he looked tonight, I wished I had dressed up a little more. In his element Owen was, in a word, beautiful. He still had that nerd look going for him, but it worked. It worked wonders on him.

The show ended twenty minutes later. The boys came out to do a quick encore, but after they disappeared for another fifteen minutes. Then, out of nowhere, Logan popped next to Riley and put his arm around her.

"How was it?" He asked.

Kaylehn gagged. "Before you go into intense love-making mode, go get Owen, would you?"

"You really don't have to—" I began.

Logan noticed me for the first time. His mouth dropped open a little bit. Before I could insist anymore that I really didn't need to see Owen he jumped out of his seat and ran off. I had to resist the urge to bury my head in my arms in embarrassment.

"Wow, I didn't take you for a blusher," Kaylehn said dryly.

I normally wasn't. Yet the burn on my cheeks was unmistakable.

A couple agonizing minutes later Logan returned, literally pulling Owen behind him. He shoved Owen down into a seat and clapped me on the back. It hurt and my body arched forward on the impact.

"Look who knows our girls!" Logan said gleefully.

I suddenly looked back and forth between Kaylehn and Owen. Were they . . .

Kaylehn noticed my look and snorted. "Oh no. Hell no. No offense, Owen, you – " she paused, sent him a look, and said again, "No. Just, no. Owen, here, has the hots for—"

"Knock it off Kaylehn," Owen said. She shot him another dirty look and he sent her back a sympathetic gaze.

She stood up from the table and said, "Just trying to be matchmaker. Because that's my job after all."

Kaylehn disappeared in a huff. Owen apologized for her, as did Riley. Logan just went back to pulling his girlfriend into his arms. Owen's eyes trailed to Alita, who was busy glaring at him.

"Gringo," she said.

"Alita," he finished. "You look nice."

"I'm out of here," she said as she stood up. "Well, not out of here. I'll just be around, okay Prima? Adios." She took off.

Soon it was just the loving couple and me and Owen. They started to whisper to each other and the situation got awkward. Owen grabbed my hand, eliciting a strange spark, and pulled me away.

"Want to go outside?" He asked.

I nodded, setting my cup of beer on the counter. It was already my third one. I felt the alcohol course through my veins, making me feel warm. Or was that Owen? I couldn't tell.

The outside air felt nice. We leaned up against the side of the building. A couple people next to us were smoking and the air wafted over to us. I coughed, and Owen, being the gentleman he was, asked if I wanted to walk around instead.

The idea of going somewhere alone with Owen made me nervous. Not that I didn't trust him, just that it was easier to lapse into an awkward silence when there were no distractions around you. Plus, the aggravating bubbly feeling in my stomach wouldn't go away, and the more I looked at him, the greater it felt.

"How do you know Kaylehn and Riley?" He asked.

I thought back to class. "I just met Riley. Kaylehn and I have been working on a project together. She kind of invited me on a whim. I took Alita just in case I didn't see her here."

Owen nodded. "They're nice. Well, Kaylehn is a handful, but she's good deep down. Somewhere. Actually, she kind of reminds me of you."

I shot him a dirty look. "Are you saying I'm not a nice person?"

He blanched. "No! Just, uh, I mean. You're both—"

I cut him off, laughing. "I'm just kidding. I know I was a bitch to you. In general, I have that tendency. Even I know Kaylehn and I are pretty similar."

Owen looked relieved. "You're not a bitch."

"I was," I said quietly. He looked up at me, surprised. Very quietly I added, "I'm sorry. That night . . . I was just bitter for awhile. I know now that it was just an off night for you."

He smiled. "I'm sorry, too. You had every reason to hate me for that first date."

"Forgive and forget?" I asked, holding out my hand.

Owen took it, shaking it gently. Once again a jolt of energy ran up my arm. I stumbled slightly, taken aback by it. Owen steadied me, placing his hand on my elbow.

"You okay?" He asked.

"Yeah, fine," I looked down at my feet. "It's these heels, I think. And probably the beer. But mostly the heels."

I reached down and slipped them off, just in case. My height ducked down a couple inches and suddenly it felt like Owen towered over me. Realistically he didn't. We weren't that different in height. But still, it felt nice. I always enjoyed having to look up at guys, even if it was only a little.

"Did you enjoy the set?" He asked, steering us over to a patch of grass, most likely so that my feet would be okay.

"Yeah! You guys were great. I never knew you were in such a talented band," I said.

We talked about his band for awhile. He told me that they had been together several years, ever since they all met freshman year, but were just doing it for fun. Owen planned to be an engineer, and he knew the other guys had other aspirations.

I asked about the name of the band but Owen looked at me, perplexed. "Is it a weird name?"

I pulled in my lips, trying not to laugh. "I guess not."

Owen suddenly stopped. He asked if I minded sitting down and I told him I didn't. We parked ourselves on the grass, looking up at the night sky. Unfortunately the bright city lights made it impossible to see many stars.

"Owen," I began pulling out some grass, as a nervous habit. "Did you change your number?"

Owen blushed. "Uh. Sort of. Not . . . really. Did you try calling?" I nodded. It took him awhile to continue talking but finally he said, "I had to cancel my cell phone."

"Why?" I asked.

"I just, um. I couldn't afford it anymore. Had to spend all my money in something else, so until I make some more I'm stuck to my family's home phone. I'm back at home, too."

I stared at him, perplexed. "Did you buy something?"

He was still blushing. "Yeah."

I waited for him to continue. He didn't so I nudged him. Owen still said nothing. Suddenly I remembered the mystery of my insurance bill.

"Have you not reported the crash to my insurance company yet? For some reason they haven't charged me anything," I said.

Owen looked at his watch. "It's getting pretty late. Maybe we should head back to the club. Your cousin is probably worried."

He started to get up but I grabbed him by the arm. "Owen. What's going on?"

Owen stayed silent. In an act of desperation I pinched the side of his arm and twisted. He let out a couple "Ow, ow, ow"'s before I said, "Tell me!"

I didn't stop pinching him until he said "Fine! I bought a new car."

I let go of his arm. "Instead of fixing the old one?"

He nodded. I was a bit confused.

"Well, you could have still reported it and just used the money to go to a new car, right?" He said nothing. I pressed on, "Right?"

"It's true, I could have," he said.

It took me a couple minutes to piece together what he was implying. I blamed it on the alcohol which was making my brain fuzzy. I blamed it on him for sitting so close to me and making me concentrate too much on his lips instead of what was coming out of them.

"You didn't report it?" I said finally.

Owen shrugged, "It's not a big deal. I just didn't think—"

"Is that why you have to live at home? And why you don't have a cell phone anymore? Because you had to spend all your money on a new car?" I felt shocked. I'm surprised the words came out so smoothly.

He licked his lips. "Yeah. But it's really not a big deal. My mom and dad live real close to the city so it's hardly a commute. And Caprise helps out, too."

I stared at him for a couple seconds, still shocked. Then I felt my eyes well up. Owen noticed almost immediately and sat upright, nervous.

"Marina! Why are you – I mean, are you okay?" He placed his hand on my shoulder.

I leaned over and threw my arms around his neck. Owen sat upright, his body tight. I buried my face in the crook of his neck and inhaled. He smelled good. Like vanilla. A strange scent on a guy, but I liked it.

We stayed like this for longer than normal. We were clearly not just two friends hugging. Finally I let go, wistfully mourning the loss of his sweet scent and the feel of him pressed up against me.

"What was that for?" He asked.

I shrugged. "To thank you. Although I don't really think that really covers it. Owen, you didn't have to do that for me. I feel so bad."

This time he shrugged. "I wanted to. And it's not such a big deal."

I placed my hand on top of his and squeezed. "I can't believe I thought you were a jerk."

Owen laughed. "I can. Bad date, remember?"

Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was just me being daring, but I leaned over and kissed him. Unlike the hug, Owen didn't seem as stiff. His lips were soft against mine, and they moved slowly, as if I were delicate. Our hands were still intertwined, and they stayed like that as we kissed. He let go of my hand to reach up and cradle the back of my neck.

It felt good. Right.

I don't remember the rest of the night very well. I know we exchanged numbers again, Owen giving me his home number. I found it the next morning in my cell phone. And I know we kissed again, and again, because the next morning I still felt the tingle on my lips.

I didn't know he took me home until Alita told me the next day.

She was nursing a bad hangover. My head felt fine, although I was still confused at what transpired the night before.

"That guy brought you home," she muttered. "I looked for you all night and then decided to just go home. And then I saw you two kissing in front of the door. What happened between you two? I thought you hated him."

I thought back to it. Despite not knowing quite how things ended up, I knew I was happy. The way things transpired may be have been quick, but I remembered feeling at ease with it. I think the entire time I started having strange feelings it was me being interested in Owen.

For so long I could only focus on the first date. The night was awful and I didn't want to give him a second chance. Even when it was staring me right in the face that he was a nice guy. A great guy.

I sipped my coffee, a small smile on my face. "I guess it pays to give people a second chance," I said.

Alita snorted. "Whatever."

My good mood didn't shake the rest of the day. Not at class, not at work, and certainly not when I checked my voice mail after I got off and had a message from Owen.

"Hey Marina. Uhh, it's Owen. I was just thinking that, maybe, you'd want to re-do our first date. I know that you've forgiven me by now, but I still would like to show you a good time. Are you free this Saturday? Let me know. Uhh bye."

I saved the message in my phone and shut it. Then I let my fingers trail to my lips, surprised to find myself grinning.

Never, ever did I expect to find myself happy for crashing into someone's car, but suddenly, I was thankful.

I punched in some numbers quickly.

"Owen?" I said into the phone. "Hey. It's me."

AN: This story was inspired by true events. But sadly, the guy I went on a date with (and backed into) was not charming, and definitely not worth a second date. However long I did try. Ugh. Just thinking about it makes me angry.

I really wanted to write a story that's a little more meaningful than just "they met and it went swimmingly" because that's not how it goes, realistically. A lot of girls write off guys without giving them a good chance and I think that's a shame.

I've kind of decided, as people may have notice, to intertwine these stories. And actually I plan on writing a couple sequels. So sooner or later I may combine all these into one big story. We'll see how that goes.

I'm not Spanish, by the way, nor do I speak it. All translations were provided by my friend, who is fairly fluent, but if it is wrong, don't blame me.

Also, the title, thoughtfully given to me by CPT Funk, is a play on the book, and also because everyone expects it of me now to have extremely, long-ass titles. I find it enjoyable to continue this trend.