We met when we were both juniors.
It could've been that simple, but it wasn't quite. I was sixteen; he was twenty-two. I was in high school; he was in college. Emery's dad was a new work colleague of my dad's who had just moved to our town of Sierra, New York. Emery was going to college at Burgess University, fifteen minutes away in Royville.
My dad hosted dinner parties for his work friends, and to welcome Carl, Emery's dad, to town, he invited a few of his more influential colleagues along with Carl's wife, Teresa, and Emery.
I'd like to say I knew the moment he walked in the door that he was it, but I didn't. He came in with his parents in a heather-blue sweatshirt and jeans, like most of the somewhat-better-dressed college boys. He had his back to me while he introduced himself to my parents, and I quickly forgot about him as I went to check on the steamed rice.
I was standing by the stove in the kitchen, waiting for the rolls to finish cooking, when he walked in. It wasn't really a walk, though; he had kind of a mixture between a self-assured saunter and an easygoing lope. I noticed it immediately because it was so different from the awkward shuffle all the guys at my high school had.
"Need any help in here? I'm the master of Ramen noodles," he said, flashing me a grin. I laughed and he stuck his hand out towards me. "I'm also Emery." he said.
"Sunday," I replied, shaking his hand, "But most people usually just call me Sunny."
He was tall, probably six foot two to my five foot three. I noticed unconsciously as I looked up at him that he was attractive—really attractive. He had nearly-jet black hair, which I could tell by looking at his mother wasn't dyed. He also had the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen. What really got me, however, was how confident he was. Not cocky, but assured. Like I said, I didn't really realize all this off the bat, but it tickled in the back of my mind.
"Well, Sunny," he said, looping his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans, "Do you need help carrying anything in?"
"Actually...if you could get the peas, that would be great." I confessed, hoping that his offer was genuine and not just out of begrudging politeness.
"Sure thing," he said, reaching over me to grab the pot, "If you promise I don't have to eat any."
At dinner, all the businessmen at the end of the table talked about statistics, new marketing strategies, the stock market, and projected gains the for the next fiscal year. The women, in the middle of the table, veered from topic to topic, touching on shopping, the upcoming election, cosmetics to get rid of wrinkles, colleges, and god knows what else. Emery and I, the only people under forty, were at the very end of the table.
The night started off slightly awkwardly. What was I, a high school girl, supposed to say to a college guy without sounding stupid or immature?
"So, um...what are you majoring in?" I asked, searching for anything to say. I figured he was probably tired of this question being asked all the time, but I really did want to know. When he finished chewing, he drank a sip of water and answered my question earnestly.
"Originally I was going into accounting, because my dad wanted me to have a steady job when I graduated. But when I got away from home, I realized that was definitely not what I wanted to do. So now I'm a music performance major."
"Cool, what instrument?"
"Piano, actually. My dad said if I was going into music performance, I should pick one of the more 'manly' instruments I play, like drums, but--" he shrugged nonchalantly "--when he got that I was serious, he backed off."
At this point, I was seriously intrigued. Apparently Emery was more than a confident frat boy with a swagger and a few manners.
"Do you play?" he asked me, jerking me back to reality. "Anything, I mean?"
"Well, I actually play cello, violin, and...a little bit of piano." I didn't want to seem like I was trying too hard to have things in common with him, so I downplayed my piano playing a tiny bit.
"Really? How long have you played piano?" he asked, looking interested.
"Um..." My face flushed a little. "Eleven years...or so." Okay, so I downplayed it a lot. I didn't want it to seem like I was trying to outdo him.
"Cool, cool. You--" Just then he was cut off by the men at the end of the table yelling down to us, feeling like comedians after a few beers.
"You and Emery going to be best friends now, Sunny?" Jonas, my dad's best friend yelled down to me with an overexaggerated wink.
"No way, they're going to fall in love and get married!" Nic, the tipsiest of the group, roared as he speared some peas on his fork.
I was mortified, to say the least. I felt my face flush even more and I took a big gulp of water to try to hide it. I peeked over the rim of my glass at Emery, who was smiling sheepishly at me.
"Are they always like this?" he asked me quietly.
"None of the others have sons, so you're the first guy that they've probably ever seen me with." I flushed a little deeper as I debated whether that made me sound like a loser, a slut, or totally desperate. "They just like to tease me. About anything. Everything. Constantly."
He grinned as he tore a roll in two.
"Well, at least now it looks like I'll have to suffer with you."
Throughout the rest of the meal, we talked about anything and everything. We debated the merits of Optimus Prime versus Megatron, why Beethoven was better than Bach, and whether the first or second half of Titanic sucked worse. I showed him pictures of our most recent winter on my phone when he didn't believe me about the six feet of snow, and he showed me the zombie tattoo he had gotten on his wrist the last summer. I never did convince him to try any of the peas I had made.
When I waved goodbye to all of our guests, I felt a little pang saying goodbye to him, knowing that I probably wouldn't see him very often again. I didn't realize until that moment that I was definitely attracted to him, and I mentally slapped myself for crushing on a random hot college guy. Why can't you find someone who's actually close to being in your league, Sunny? I berated myself. You really think Emery would ever be into you at all? Quit dreaming, girl.
It only got worse, though, when I started clearing off the table. My mom started from the men's end, muttering about how messy they were with their bread crumbs and squished peas. After I cleared my place, I came back for Emery's. When I picked up his water glass, I noticed his napkin was under it, folded up into a little square. What was weird was that he had drawn a little sun on it.
I felt strange picking it up, like it might be some sort of secret message. He just doodles, I told myself. It's not a letter to you, and it certainly isn't one asking you out, so quit dreaming. I unfolded the corners carefully, alternating between hoping to see that he had written something and knowing that he hadn't.
To my surprise, there was a little note, written in neat block letters. Sunny, it started off, I think it'd be fun to hang sometime and maybe play...it'd be cool to see what you do on the piano. If you want, just text me sometime and maybe we can meet up. -Emery. Under it was a cell phone number.
I stuffed the note in my pocket and tried to stop smiling. It is not a date, the voice told me. It is not an invitation to a date, it's a totally friendly and obviously semi-professional...hanging out type thing. Don't get excited. Don't do something totally stupid.
I didn't do anything totally stupid, not that night at least, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't get excited. I would definitely be lying.