Chapter 5: Don't be Sorry
Rose checked the full-length mirror behind her door. She was wearing dark, fitted jeans and a violet pullover sweater with a large collar that overlapped on her chest. She put on the diamond earrings and matching necklace that her parents had gotten her for her Sweet 16 just a few months before.
Rose was evening out her eyeliner when the doorbell rang, causing her to jump. She rubbed frantically at the spot where the pencil had marked her and added more blush before walking down the stairs.
She took each step gracefully, being careful not to make herself look stupid by tumbling to the feet of her date.
Peter was sitting in the living room, talking with her father. He looked up at Rose.
"Wow, you look amazing, Rose," he said, standing up as she reached him.
"Thank you. You too," she said, admiring the navy blue cardigan he wore over a white button-down shirt; the top button of it undone, making him seem more casual, more comfortable.
Peter started towards her timidly, unsure of how to greet her before their first date. She finally moved in and hugged him, wrapping her arms around him. After a second of shy hesitation, he wrapped his around her as well.
She could feel the cottony fabric of his cardigan slide smoothly under her fingertips as she released him. He kept a hand on her back and stuck out another to shake hands with her dad before leading her to the door.
"Love you, hon," Mr. Ford said, kissing Rose lightly on the cheek. Rose was caught off guard by the sudden sign of affection from her rarely affectionate father. His loving gesture gave her a sense of approval that she never felt before. It soared through her confidently as Peter spoke to her.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked.
"Yeah, let's go." She said goodbye to her dad again as he opened the door for them.
Peter led her out to his car, which was waiting for her at the curb; its chipped dark blue paint and rusted bumper never seemed more romantic. He held the passenger door open for her and held her hand as she stepped in.
"Thank you," she said. He smiled at her and closed the door, making his way around the front of the car.
Their drive went on mostly in silence except for the occasional small talk. Before they were dating, the two talked endlessly, freely.
Now it was…awkward.
"You know, I would've worn a dress," Rose defended, "but you said to wear something comfortable."
"I guess I might as well tell you," he said, turning to smile at her for second before looking nervously back to the road. "I wanted it to be a surprise, but we're going downtown for dinner. Besides, you look beautiful like that."
Rose blushed furiously and played with the cloth of her sweater. "So why no dress?"
"Just wanted you to be comfortable."
They arrived at their destination a few minutes later. It was a restaurant called Pristine Night. Once inside, Rose stopped in her tracks. Peter turned back to her. "Is there a problem?" he posed.
"No, of course not. It's so beautiful here."
"Eh, the name sounds fancy, but it's nothing big," he said quietly, stepping up to the hostess.
"Are you kidding? It's great. Wade's is practically the nicest place I've ever eaten at. Besides your house." He chuckled beside her.
"Do you have reservations, sweetie?" the hostess asked.
"Oh, yes, under Harris."
She nodded at Peter and led them to their seats.
Rose stared at the menu, unsure of what to order.
"The steak's really good," Peter said, peering over his menu at her. "Or the lemon-pepper tilapia thing sounds pretty good."
"Tilapia?" Rose asked, embarrassed.
"It's a type of fish."
"Oh, yeah, I'll have that." She took a nervous sip of her Sprite.
"Two of the number sevens, please," Peter requested, smiling his thanks to the waiter.
The waiter nodded and collected their menus.
Peter and Rose walked out of the restaurant side by side.
"That was so good, Peter." She hugged him appreciatively.
"It was no problem." He wrapped an arm around her and grinned.
"So, where are we going?"
"I figured we could walk toward the dock."
"I thought we were going to see a movie after dinner."
"We will, the movie starts in an hour, and the theater is close by."
"So we walk," she agreed, looking up at him.
"Yes, if you want."
She nodded. The dock wasn't as crowded as they expected it to be on a Friday night. They found a spot and sat down, their feet dangling over the water.
After some small-talk, very similar to that of the car and the restaurant, Rose said, "Are you sure we're doing the right thing by trying this out, Peter?" He furrowed his brow a little in thought. "I mean, we're already losing our ability to have intelligent conversations with each other," she joked, trying to lighten the mood of an obviously serious question.
Peter's hand grazed hers as he shifted to face her. "Rose," he said, staring her in the eyes, as if afraid that if he didn't, she might forget what he was about to say, "we need to try. This has been bothering me for a long time." Their hands touched again, but this time, Peter held on. "I can't spend another day with you—watching you as you speak, as you smile, as you laugh—without you knowing something." He came closer, his gaze becoming so strong and emotional, yet so gentle all the same.
"What's that?" she asked, knowing exactly what he meant, but too afraid to get her hopes up.
"You are everything that I have ever wanted, everything that I have ever needed. Also, I wanted you…to know this." He leaned forward and kissed her. Although she knew it would eventually lead up to this, the shock kept her paralyzed for a moment.
He pulled away after realizing she hadn't kissed him back. "I'm sorry," he said, "I shouldn't have…"
She collected herself and shook her head. "Don't be sorry." She touched her fingertips to the back of his neck and brought him forward, allowing their lips to connect once more.
She couldn't figure if the moment felt too short, or too long. She couldn't really think. All she knew was that, in this moment—Peter's hands guiding her by her hips, Lake Garland wavering before them, strangers walking past completely unaware of how long it took to build up to this—she had never felt better.
"Claire! Come back! Oh, God, please come back." Rusty slumped onto the sofa and watched as the two-year-old ran from room to room.
After what seemed like hours to Rusty, only about 10 minutes in reality, the little girl stopped and sat cross-legged on the floor before him. "See, now that wasn't so hard, was it?" he said, smiling at her. He approached her and picked her up, bringing her to the kitchen.
"Are you hungry, Claire-Bear?" he asked, placing her on the counter. He opened the various cabinets but found very little. T.V. dinners and beers took up the freezer and refrigerator.
He looked at her sadly and she pouted at him.
"I'll find something," he promised. But he couldn't find a single thing. "We don't even have a single pack of crackers," he said, incredulously.
"CWAKOES!" Claire exclaimed, throwing her hands up in excitement.
"We don't have any crackers, Claire-Bear. I'm sorry."
She stared at him with big, innocent brown eyes as her face fell. "Cwakoes…?" she repeated.
He shook his head. "Nope." She dropped her hands. "Maybe soon Mommy and Daddy can give you something." He heard a crash clearly from the Andrews' room a few doors down, meaning it still wasn't safe for little Claire. "Or you and I can go to the corner market and get some Goldfish. You want crackers, Claire?"
Her grin reappeared, wider than ever. "Yay! Cwakoes!"
He took her to the door and threw on his coat. He helped her into her jacket. "Go get Blankie, Claire." She wobbled away and returned with her Spongebob baby blanket. He wrapped it around her shoulders for good measure then carried her out.
"You better hope your parents pay me good tonight. The rainbow ones cost extra."
Claire opened her mouth wide, revealing an array of colored Goldfish.
"That's nasty," Rusty said, gently pushing her head away from him. She giggled and he smiled at her.
Once on their floor, Rusty gazed at the Andrews' door. He could still hear their shouting.
So could Claire; she burst into tears and buried her face in Rusty's chest.
He sat down on the dirty concrete floor in front of his apartment and gently tugged the toddler away from his chest. He set her in his lap and wiped her tear-stained cheeks. "What's wrong, Claire-Bear?" he asked, brushing a wavy strand of brown hair away from her face.
"I hying," she pouted.
"You're…oh, you're crying. Why are you crying, hon?"
"Mommy Daddy keeming."
"I know. They are screaming, aren't they? But everything's going to be OK." As he said it, the door to the Andrews' apartment flew open. Larry stepped out and slammed the door behind him.
"Oh, Rusty, you have Claire," he said. He looked back at the door of his apartment and back at Rusty. He bit his lip in thought then said, "I'll go ahead and take her with me now. I'm going out for a drive." He took a wad of money out of his pocket and handed a couple of the crumpled bills to Rusty. "Thanks, son." He took his daughter and made his way down the steps, leaving Rusty holding the bag of Rainbow Goldfish.
Rose walked with Peter to her front door, their hands intertwined.
"Tonight had to be the best night of my life, Peter."
"You told me the night you went to Disney World was," he countered.
She faced him and held his other hand. "Tonight was so good I can't even remember what happened at Disney world."
He cocked an eyebrow at her. "And what happened exactly at Disney World?" he joked.
Rose smiled at him, realizing that he wasn't as tense as he was at the beginning of the night, and neither was she. "Don't worry, Goofy has nothing on you."
He chuckled and gave her one last kiss for the night before getting in his car and driving off.
"Rose, honey, is that you?" her mom called from the living room
"Who else?" Rose said, placing her purse on the coffee table.
"Your father went out to get some groceries. So, how was the date?"
Rose sat next to her mother on the sofa and said, "It was actually really nice."
"OH! I almost forgot. Katie is waiting for you upstairs. She said you invited her for a sleepover."
"Uh…yeah, I did," Rose lied. She grabbed her purse and went to her bedroom.
She heard Katie squeal the second she opened her bedroom door. "What happened!" Rose opened her mouth, ready to answer, but was bombarded with a flurry of other questions. "Where did you go? What did you do? Did you guys kiss? What HAPPENED!" She placed a finger on her friend's lips to shush her and laughed.
"Calm down, Katie. I don't kiss and tell." Her friend let out another squeal and sat on the bed. Rose proceeded to tell Katie of her evening.
"That is so ROMANTIC!" Katie exclaimed. "Who knew Peter could make something so simple as the concept of dinner-and-a-movie into something so…so…romantic!"
Rose laughed at her friend and reached under her bed to pull out the mattress. She pulled out some sheets from underneath the bedside table. Katie helped her out, chatting excitedly as she did.
But Rose wasn't listening. She was still caught up in what had happened that night. Her life changed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly she had the man of her dreams, a newfound relationship with her father, and she was happy.
"Alright, dude. Well, I'm glad you had fun. Talk to you tomorrow." Rusty hung up on his cousin and got ready to go back up the stairs to his apartment. His father had just gotten home and went into a rampage over a stain that was actually caused by him the last time he was drunk.
He stumbled on his way up the first step when he heard a meowing sound.
"Hello?" he called, feeling stupid. Whatever had just meowed at him was most likely not human.
He stepped carefully through the small pathetic gathering of trees by his building, afraid of stepping on whatever made the sound. He peered around the trunk of one of the trees where he was sure he had heard the sound, but when he found nothing, he turned around to go back.
But then he heard the noise again: a sad sounding meow.
He went back and searched behind another tree close by.
This time, he found big glowing eyes staring back at him.
"Oh God!" he exclaimed, as he jumped back from them. The meow sounded again, but it sounded more like crying.
He couldn't help but want to save it. So he reached his hand carefully towards the cat. At least, he hoped it was a cat.
The cat leapt up and backed away, hissing.
"OK, you win!" Rusty threw his hands up in defeat. He went to sit on the steps and watched as the barely visible being paced around the tree. Finally, it came slowly towards him.
He realized that it wasn't a cat. Well, not technically. It was a kitten. A kitten with bright blue-green eyes and black hair.
A/N: Sorry this chapter's short and it took such a long time to update. I've been working on A Twisted Heart and I got really into that one, but I am still dedicated to finishing both. Thanks to those who are still reading :)