He's waiting for her when she returns a week later. She's torn between turning heel, taking his head and slamming it against the L-shaped display case, or acting as if he isn't there. She chooses to ignore him, as it's the easiest and he's already spotted her, which roots her quivering knees and prevents her from running like a coward. With her luck and that determined smolder in his eyes—smoldering like a hot coal, like the sun, like an oven, he's so warm, so different from her and 'oh, don't melt me!'—she's sure that he'll chase her down anyway. Yes, it's much better to give him the cold shoulder, cold as peppermint, and hope he gets the hint to leave her alone.
She doesn't spare him a glance as she makes her way to the counter, nor does she look at the ice creams on display because she knows what she's going to order this time, but as the employee—again the pimply, redhead girl—greets her and asks for her order, she sees him stand out of the corner of her eye and her traitorous mouth blurts out "chocolate" before she can catch herself.
The teen grins knowingly and Marcie feels the blood rush to her head, making her cheeks as pink as spots of bubblegum. She's too mortified to even correct herself and tell the teen she wants something else, something not chocolate.
A hand places itself on the counter beside hers and she freezes up, her eyes darting to the offending appendage—coffee-tinted and sprinkled with fine, dark chocolate hairs—and follows it up to what is undoubtedly Jesse's shoulder, neck, and face. He's not even looking at her and she can't gather up the strength to swallow—is there a bit of cone stuck in her throat? She can't remember eating one but it's definitely there in her throat, pressing into her esophagus and it's sharp and it hurts—so all she does is stand there like an ice sculpture as he pulls out his wallet, asks for a vanilla, and boldly declares that he's paying for her cone.
That pulls her out of her daze in the span of a heartbeat, and she at last tears her eyes away from him to glare at the counter—which is blue, and his tan hand stands out against it like butterscotch on lime sorbet.
"You don't have to do that."
His eyes are on her now, she can feel them burning on the back of her head, and she feels more than hears the coy smile he's obviously wearing. "Yeah, but I want to. If it bothers you that much, just think of it as an… apology, for catching you off guard last week. I don't usually kiss on a first date."
"Date?" She squawks, alarmed and embarrassed and offended and something else she can only describe as strawberry. "What date? I wasn't aware of any date; I think I'd know if I were on date or not."
"Hmm, really? Are you sure?" He pays for the ice creams and slides his free hand around her shoulders to herd her toward the two-person corner-table he was sitting at before.
'No,' she thinks, 'I'm not sure at all.' Her heart feels like its been scooped out of her chest and dropped in a milkshake mixer.
He isn't offended or put-off by her silence. "Well then, how about calling it a date this time?"
A date, he says, a date with her, "Ice Queen" Marcie Maddox? A joke, surely it must be some sort of irritating, cruel joke because there's nothing all that likeable about her and she knows this, has known since she was an awkward, hormonal teenager who spent more time experimenting with electronics than going to the mall and flirting with guys. She was Ice Queen in high school, she was Ice Queen in college, and she's Ice Queen now, and Jesse is anything but cold; he's hot, hot like fudge, like those cinnamon Red Hots that go so well with the simpler flavors like vanilla and—she shivers—chocolate.
She can see her reflection in the ceiling-to-floor windows, her face oddly blotchy like Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl and she opens her mouth to tell him no, she won't date him, won't let him pay for her ice cream anymore because she's icy and he's burning hot and she doesn't want to end up melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, but all she manages is a breathy:
He's visibly relieved, leaning back in a way that makes it seem as if he finds the black metal arch of his chair comfortable—impossible; those things are so uncomfortable—his blazing smile and eyes cooling down to smoky embers (still enough to make her melt, just more slowly than before).
"I like you."
"The Jenkins' are a big family—I've got five siblings—and the family we're close to and often marry into is even bigger: the Jenski's. Everyone's rowdy and loud and friendly and open and exhausting. You're just… not. I wouldn't say you're a breath of fresh air, exactly, but you're just so different from what I'm used to. I want to see more of it."
Her ice cream cone is melting in her hand, dripping down the diamond-patterened sides and over her fingers. She's somewhat afraid to eat it; she's well-enough reminded of the kiss without drowning herself in chocolate and she's not sure she could stand to eat it without lighting up like a neon sign.
"I didn't ask for your life story."
He laughs and puts his elbows on the table (again). "See, that's what I'm talking about! Who says stuff like that?"
She tears her eyes away from him and his sparkling white teeth and creased eyes, unsure whether she feels insulted or flattered. Maybe it's both, but on the other hand maybe he didn't intend for it to be either. He's honest, brutally honest, similar to the way she is honest, but it's a kind of honesty that she finds nothing short of foreign—kind honesty, not cruel—and she can be nothing less than honest in return.
"If you want to date a bitch, there's plenty of other women out there whom I'm sure are plenty willing."
He doesn't miss a beat, though his face is reddening with suppressed laughter. "Probably, but I doubt any of those women could make a face-full of ice cream look cute."
She's blushing again, she can feel it all the way to the tips of her ears and she's glad she's sitting down and wore a long skirt today because otherwise she'd surely be on the sticky tile floor now, her knees are knocking so badly, and forget about the milkshake machine, her heart is in a blender.
"Well, I don't know about that…" she manages to murmur.
He laughs again—'How can a person be so consistently cheerful?' She wonders—breathy and almost silent at the force of it. "Is that a yes?"
"A yes to what?"
"To going on a date with me, of course!" He says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world—which it isn't because the delights of ice cream is.
She finally takes a lick of her ice cream and the taste of chocolate blooms and dazzles her tongue. "I'll think about it."
Apparently that answer is as good as a yes and maybe even better because his entire demeanor explodes with warmth—'like the dawn'—and then he's reaching across the table, hands fumbling for hers, ice cream tumbling out of their hands to the floor like worthless garbage, which is absolute blasphemy, but oh, blasphemy is liberating and sweet and though it should be vanilla this time he somehow manages to defy all logic and sense because he still tastes like chocolate.
And then, like before, he's gone again, muttering about something or other—probably a date and time, but she's too dizzy to make it out—his calloused fingers lingering in her curls and then he's out the door with a merry chime, whooping and kicking his heels like a scene from an old silent movie only in color.
The teen server at the counter is giggling and the sound is just enough to wheedle her out of her numb state.
"What are you laughing at?" Marcie snips, her voice purposely sharp but not enough to keep her emotions from oozing into her tone. She reddens.
The teen only smiles wider, twirling a red braid around her fingers. "You didn't catch a word he said just now, did you?"
Her only response is to blush further.
"He was hanging around here all week waiting for you, ya know." The pimple-nosed girl continues, surprising Marcie.
"He... was?" She can't quite believe it, but there's no reason for the young server to lie.
"Yep. Ordered vanilla every time."
"Oh," She thinks on that, suddenly feeling humbled. "So… what was it he said, again?"
The teen smiles.
To Be Continued...
I admit it, I laughed when i saw how many people said that they thought Marcie was a b!tch. That means I'm portraying her correctly. Yes, she is, but she won't be that way forever; like the ice cream she so loves, she'll melt as the story progresses.
Also, I know some of you are concerned as to why these kisses are coming out-of-the-blue; other than being there for theme purposes (52! Hello!), Jesse has a reason and it will come to light in time.
One reviewer pointed out that I should try to use the characters' names a bit more and add more sensory details (sight, sound, etc). I'll try to do that, but this story isn't intended to have much of that, it's meant to be largely emotionally-perceived, and Marcie has something of a disattachment to her name because--in a weird, backwards way--this is a 1st person pov story, despite being written in 3rd.
Katie will reappear at some point, and we learn the ice cream server's name soon, as well as the name of the store.
In want of a beta for this, especially since I'm not used to writing in present tense. Drop me a line if you're interested. No idea when the next chapter will be up.
Read, review, and all that jazz,