The person who decided trigonometry should be a required course should be arrested.
I closed my book for the third time tonight and collapsed on the couch. It wasn't enough that I'd been so far behind when I moved, now I had to catch up on everything so I'd be prepared for finals. I only have 3 days to learn it all so I knew I couldn't quit.
But maybe I could buy myself a little motivation.
Loving my new idea I bound into the small kitchen and picked up my silver Motorola cell phone to dial the number I'd come to know by heart.
It was true. I, Amy Harvey, was addicted to Mike's Pizzas.
I'd never heard of it until I moved out to Coleton but now I couldn't stop calling them. Any moment now they'd start recognizing my voice and I'd say 'The usual, please?' and they would know exactly what I meant.
"Thanks for calling Mike's Pizza's, this is Tanner, how can I help you?"
"Hi Tanner, I-"
A loud crashing sound met my ears and I held the phone away from me.
"Ah, shit!" was muffled in the background. Something clattered to the floor and there were several shuffling sounds and then a perfect, "I'm so sorry about that. What can I help you with tonight?"
"Uh," I stumbled, taken aback at how quickly he'd recovered. "I'd like one large supreme, extra sausage and green peppers please."
"Would you like to include an order of parmesan bread sticks and a 2 liter of Coke for an additional two dollars?" he asked calmly.
I thought for a moment before giving in. "Sure."
"Great, would you like your pizza to arrive by delivery or carryout?"
"Delivery," I said.
"If you'll hold on for just a minute I'll give you your total," he said almost boredly. He'd clearly done this job long enough the words came out of his mouth without thought. "Blah, blah, blah, if you'll just pull through to the second window, I can throw my prissy east coast education out the window so I can repeat myself 400 times a day, thanks," he said sarcastically.
"Excuse me?" I asked in disbelief.
There was silence. I couldn't hear him breathing but I could hear the din of the small pizza shop in the background so I knew he hadn't hung up.
"That'll be $16.35," his voice came back suddenly. "It should be about twenty minutes."
"Hey, Tanner?" I asked hesitantly.
"Don't you need my address to deliver a pizza to me?"
"Shit," I mumbled banging my head into the cabinet near the small workspace I occupied. My brain had turned to mush. First I drop the phone, then I blurt out stupid shit without putting her on hold and then I forget to get an address.
"Yes, of course," I said, hopefully covering the panic in my voice with professionalism. "What's your address?"
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
"1359 Palmgate Drive, Coleton," the voice said softly. She probably thought I was high.
"Thank you, miss, it'll be about twenty minutes," I said, finally hanging up.
"Smooth move, Spaz," Ben chanted as he danced by, flicking my ear with his middle finger.
"Shut it, Ben," I said, "Where's Matt? I need him for a delivery."
"He's already gone," Ben said uninterestedly. "Your dad let him off early to study for a midterm exam."
"No," I groaned in frustration. Without Matt I was it. I was the only one still here with a car. I couldn't deliver the stupid pizza to the girl with the sexy voice! Hadn't screwed up enough tonight without taking extra turns?
"What's up, guys? Any more calls come in?" My dad, Mike—also the owner—sauntered over and smiled at me.
"One more," I muttered. "In Coleton."
"Oh good, why don't you take that one, Tan, and you'll already be close to home," he suggested, opening the till to start balancing. Ben grinned maliciously and blew me a kiss before he left to catch his bus.
I cleaned up with Dad while the pizza baked and tried to think of someway to explain why I'd been such an idiot on the phone. No wait! I didn't have to explain anything. How would she know I was the same person? She wouldn't. I was off the hook.
"Night, Dad," I called behind me, carrying the pizza out to my car.
I drove quickly into Coleton mostly so I could get her pizza to her quickly so she'd forget how dumb I was on the phone and partially so I could just get this the hell over with.
1359 Palmdale was a large white house with blue shutters. It looked nice but seemed more fitting for a neighborhood in Georgia than a small town in Massachusetts.
Uncertain if there'd be anyone sleeping—it was almost midnight—I used the brass knocker instead of the doorbell. See? I had a brain. I just used it intermittently.
When the door opened my mouth immediately went dry. It was her. I knew it was. She was looking at me curiously, possibly wondering if I was the goon she'd spoken with. Meanwhile I was staring because she was standing in the doorway in a white tank top and blue pajama shorts. A stripe of smooth skin was exposed between her waistband of her shorts and her shirt. Her brown hair was pulled up messily on her head and her light brown eyes were perfectly clear but seemed full of secrets.
Damn, she was hot. Just my luck.
I held her pizza and breadsticks out to her and tried to appear like a mindless delivery boy. When she set those down I held out her soda. She took it and smiled at me, the amusement plain on her face. Her tawny eyes twinkled merrily, making me want to demand what was so funny.
"$16.35, right?" she asked with that same infuriating smirk. I could already feel my cheeks coloring. Her voice was better in person.
"Oh, no worries," I said calmly. "No charge for this one."
"Oh, thank you," she said, pleasantly surprised.
All right, Tanner, get your ass out of there before she realizes who you are.
"Have a nice night," I mumbled turning back to my car on the street.
"Good night, Tanner."
I grinned at his back as he paused mid-stride when I said his name. His shaggy, dirty blonde head turned just slightly as if he was going to confront me about it but he didn't. He didn't think I knew it was him, but I'd recognize his no-nonsense, professional voice almost as soon as he'd spoken.
He continued to his car, probably no thoughts save to escape, and I closed the door behind me. When I propped the pizza box open on the couch beside me I couldn't stop thinking about how awkward that had been. I'd been dying to laugh the entire time. How could he think he could pull that on me? Maybe he was nervous it would start a row but I wasn't actually upset with what had happened. I kind of thought it was funny. Maybe he'd just had a long day. Who was I to judge?
After my first encounter with Tanner, the pizza guy, I have to admit I was a little quick to order pizza. There was something about him that had me wondering what his secrets were. Besides that, I could admit to myself he was a fox. Completely swoon-worthy in a TV drama sort of way.
When I got my final grades back I was pretty stoked for my 3.86 GPA and knew I was in for some celebrating, and what better way than to celebrate with some of that heaven-sent pizza from Mike's, possibly delivered by the heaven-sent hottie, Tanner.
Erica and Jo agreed easily, having grown up with Mike's all their lives and accompanied me into the small pizza shop on Washington Avenue. As soon as we entered I was starving. The air smelled delicious, like fresh baked bread and vegetables. As soon as I was done dreaming about the smell I stepped forward to the counter to order.
"What can I get for you?"
I turned back to the girls to see what they wanted. "Hawaiian BBQ?"
They nodded and I turned to the boy at the register, whose tag said his name was Matt. He was already punching it into the register.
When someone appeared at Matt's side I turn to watch a handsome guy in khakis, a tight green t-shirt and a white apron over his clothes walk over to Matt.
"Hey, Matt, where did you put the-" Tanner stopped suddenly when he recognized me. I tried to smile at him but I was so nervous I was afraid I just looked like a little girl caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
Tanner cleared his throat and turned around, walking straight into another guy who was carrying a pitcher of iced tea to one of the few tables in the restaurant.
Tanner was fluorescent as he attempted to wipe off his wet, tea-stained shirt and apron with napkins.
"Jeez, Tan, I'm sorry," the other guy said. "I didn't see you there! You just appeared out of nowhere."
"Its fine," he muttered. He gestured to the table of students in the corner. "Just get them another tea."
"Hi Tanner," Erica said from behind me.
I was surprised—and a little jealous—that she already knew him, but they had grown up around here so they'd probably gone to school together.
He looked up and seemed to noticed Erica and Jo for the first time. Then he cast one last awkward glance at me.
"Hey Erica," he said calmly. "Jo."
"Hi, Tan," Jo said amiably. "Where've you been hiding?"
"Just working," he said modestly, holding his hands out as if to display to grandeur of the tiny shop we were in.
"You still heading to Harvard in the fall?"
"Of course, he is," Erica said, nudging Jo in disbelief. "He's brilliant. Besides don't you have a scholarship or something?"
Just how well did they know him?
I stared at Tanner while he floundered for an answer that didn't seem stuck up, taking notice of his deep green eyes. I hadn't been able to tell when he'd been on the porch last week. They were really pretty. It sort of made me want to stare into them.
"Right, Ames?" Jo asked me, bumping me with her arms.
Oh shit, I didn't even know what they'd been talking about. I stuttered while Tanner's emerald eyes bored holes into my head.
"Trust me, she is," Erica said, answering for me.
Tanner smiled, revealing a perfect set of white teeth.
"You know, Miss Smarty-Pants here was also accepted to Harvard? She apparently wrote a killer essay," Jo said proudly.
My mind raced wildly imaging going to school with this girl who seemed to turn me into an idiot and all I could do was stare. Did she realize that purple color of her shirt almost made her eyes look yellow? Like a cat's.
"Trust me, she is," Erica answered for her friend, who was currently frozen like a statue.
"Well, congratulations," I said to her.
Her eyes seemed to come back into focus and fall to the tea stain on my apron. I had a sudden and strong desire to fold my arms over my chest but that would just get my arms sticky.
"Oh! Stupid me! Have you two even met yet?" Erica asked, smacking her forehead with the heel of her hand. "Amy Harvey, Tanner West."
Amy Harvey reached out her small hand, offering me a timid smile and I wondered if she knew how stupid she made me. Just looking at her my brain was losing eloquence. Too late I reached out and grasped her perfect hand in my sticky tea covered one. I grimaced. I'm an idiot.
"It's nice to me you, Tanner," she said in that silky voice of hers. Her hand stuck to mine disgustingly when I let go and she wiped it on her jeans.
"You, too, Amy," I managed to reply.
Matt was suddenly gone so I removed my gawking loser hat and donned my Mike's Pizza register operator hat. "Can I get anything else for you girls while you wait?"
"We're good, thanks," Amy said, chewing on her bottom lip.
Again my mind raced through the tullies on a tangent. She did have nice lips.
The girls chose a table and I went to find another apron. I didn't miss my change to smack my head against the cabinet in the back again.
"What are you doing?" Ben asked me.
"That girl out there?" I said pointing to the table of chatting girls. "She's the girl from the phone last week."
"No, shit! The hot one?" he exclaimed loudly, moving forward to get a better look. "That sucks for you, man, you probably looked pretty stupid with all that tea on your shirt."
"Thank you," I said sarcastically.
"What's the big deal? Just ask her out already, it's obvious you like her," he said taking a stack of pies and heading out the back door.
Awesome. That's what I wanted to hear.
Since that day in the shop Amy called in every week or two. She'd even talk to me for a few minutes after giving me her order. It got to the point where I recognized her phone number and would push Ben or Matt off the stool and take the phone so I'd get to hear her voice. Then suddenly she didn't call anymore.
I was in the middle of wondering if she'd fallen off the planet when I pulled into the parking lot on a Wednesday afternoon. I hadn't worked a Wednesday afternoon since high school, but I was covering for Matt so he could go on some kind of choir tour.
"Dad?" I called in as I closed the back door behind me.
"In here," he responded from the back office.
It was the last Wednesday of the month. That meant finances. There were receipts and pens everywhere. My dad was brilliant and made better pizza than anyone but he wasn't very organized.
"Sorry, bud, can you get that?"
He motioned to the phone on his desk and I answered it quickly just to get the infernal ringing to stop.
"Mike's Pizzas, what can I help you with?" I answered quickly, kneeling to pick up some receipts that had fallen to the floor when they'd been bumped by the phone cord.
"Amy," I jumped, smacking my head into the underside of my dad's desk. "Ow, fuck."
"What was that?" she asked anxiously.
I gripped the back of my head with one hand and in the most normal voice I could come up with I said, "Nothing. What can I get for you today?"
I sat up while she considered and found Dad staring at me, his expression the perfect mixture of surprise and disbelief. He continued to stare at me.
"I just wanted a Veggie pizza pocket," she told me. I stood and rifled through Dad's desk for a pen, any pen. Upon finding one I just wrote on my arm. Who knew what papers in here were okay to write on?
"Would you like your usual order of coke with that?" I asked, surprised I was admitting I knew what her usual drink was.
"That sounds great, yes, please," she said, her voice was intense like there wasn't anything she wanted more right then than a coke.
"Sweet," I mumbled, writing it down as well. I wasn't taking any chances forgetting something.
"Don't you normally work nights?" she asked tentatively.
I looked up in surprise, releasing my throbbing head. She knew when I worked?
"Yeah," I said. "I'm just covering someone's shift."
"Oh," she said. Was it me or did she sound disappointed? "So you aren't going to be working afternoons now?"
"No, I usually have class in the afternoons," I answered even more confused than when I'd started explaining. Was she disappointed that I was working nights? Or that I wasn't working afternoons?
"Class?" she asked. "But it's summer."
Yeah, it is. I'm just a nerd and take extra classes in the summer so I don't go crazy with boredom.
"Yeah, I have a summer British literature class," I admitted, feeling like a raging dork.
"Mm-hmm," Dad cleared his throat. When I turned around he pointed to the order on my arm and then out to the ovens.
Right! He wanted it to be baking while I was killing my chances with her. We're all about efficiency here.
I headed for the prep area, the phone cord stretching and whipping against things as I moved, making a mess of Dad's office.
I pulled a small round of dough from the fridge and started on her pizza pocket, pressing the phone to my ear with my shoulder.
"Do you like homework that much?" she asked. "I mean, you're going to Harvard, right?"
"Uh-huh," I mumbled. I was throwing toppings everywhere.
"Then you must be pretty smart, which rules out summer school," she said.
I reached for the cheese and found the canister empty.
"Right," I agreed, turning and digging through the fridge for a new bag of Dad's combination cheeses.
"Then you're taking this class by choice?" she asked in shock.
Right at that moment I ripped the entire bag open splitting it down the side and covering her pizza pocket, myself, and the floor in cheese.
"Yeah," I answered feebly.
"Wow," she said.
Think, Tanner ,Think!
"Hey, Amy, would you like some extra cheese on that? No extra charge, we just have some extra," I BS-ed, staring at the less than appetizing pile of pizza ingredients I'd just built.
"Sure! That would be awesome," she said. "Thanks."
I was losing my mind. I had to get off the phone.
"Was there anything else you needed, Amy?" I asked, praying she'd say 'Yes, a date with you!', or if not a 'No.' would suffice.
"No, that's everything," she said, cheerfully, making me imagine the way her eyes lightened when she smiled, as I'd discovered the last time she'd come in. "Four dollars?"
She did call in a lot.
"Yep, Four dollars, even," I said, still trying to salvage her pizza pocket. "It should be out there in about fifteen minutes."
"Thanks, Tanner," she said, hanging up.
I swallowed enjoying the way she said my name far too much and dropped the phone in the cheese on the floor, the cord pulling it through the mess and back into Dad's office as it recoiled.
Well, that was a strange conversation.
I stared at my phone and wondered if Tanner would be the one to deliver it or it would be one of the other boys. Ever since I'd taken the evening shift at Yangshuo Gardens I'd gotten Matt on the phone to take my order and the other guy delivered it, the tall one.
Sure, enough when the doorbell rang, it was the tall one. What was his name again? Oh yes, Ben.
"Hey, beautiful, here's your pizza pocket," he said. I was pretty familiar with all the delivery boys. Luckily, they assumed I was on some kind of Mike's pizzas diet and not just severely crushing on the owner's son. "And your cokes."
"Cokes?" I asked, taking the two drinks he held out to me.
"Yep, that's what he said."
Confused I held out my money wondering if I should give him more for the extra coke but he took it and left without another word.
I returned to the kitchen with my early dinner and noticed the label peeling off one of my cokes. I peeled it back, surprised to find a note written there.
'Enjoy your caffeine fix, this one's on me.'
I grinned at my drink and downed that one first.
"What are you grinning about?" my older brother asked, looking at me funny.
"Nothing," I smiled.
When Saturday night came around all I could think about was if Tanner was working. I hadn't spoken to him in a week and a half and since he said he hadn't changed shifts I had every hope that I'd get to talk to him when it came time to order dinner for the last girls' night we'd have before Jo went back to Colorado for school.
"Okay! Okay!" Jo said to quiet us down, "Truth or Dare?"
"Truth," Whitney decided, earning her some groans from the group for her cowardly ways. "What? I don't want to end up streaking which may or may not have happened last time I took a dare."
There were some giggles but they were drowned out by complaints so finally she said, "Okay, dare."
Erica, Jo, Melissa, and I sat and tried to think of something really good we could get her to do.
"Hey, Ames, has your mom ordered the pizza yet?" Erica asked.
"No, she said we can do it whenever," I said, my cheeks flushing a bit.
Erica's eyes gleamed mischievously. She whipped around to face Whitney on the Lovesac. "I dare you to call and order the pizza and when they ask what toppings you want you ask for everything including them."
"Yeah!" the other girls giggled and Whitney turned red.
"What if it's a girl?" she worried.
What if it's a girl? That's what she was worried about? I was more worried about what if it's Tanner.
"It won't be. There's only like one girl who works at Mike's and she works weekdays," Jo assured her.
"Okay," Whitney said uncertainly.
She took the cordless phone from my side and started dialing, using the magnet from the fridge to get the phone number. I tried to listen so I would know who was answering.
Whitney's face brightened as a male voice answered. I couldn't tell who it was. I couldn't hear well enough.
"Yes, I'd like to order a pizza," she said, barely controlling her voice. She was this close to losing it to a fit of giggles.
I couldn't hear the next thing the guy said because Jo interrupted and whispered, "Put it on speakerphone!"
Whitney hit her hand away and covered her ear to hear better.
"If I were to get one with everything …" she hesitated while the girls around her snickered into their hands. "Would that include you?"
I covered my mouth with my hands trying hard not to laugh or pass out. I really didn't know what to feel. If it was Matt, he'd be like a tomato right now and that would be funny, but if it was Tanner … I felt more like falling over in that instance.
"Uh-huh. Sure," she giggled. "Yeah, thanks."
She hung up and the room erupted into loud laughter.
"Who was it?" Jo questioned.
"I don't know," Whitney laughed.
"What did he say?" Melissa asked.
"He said I'd have to pay extra," Whitney giggled, still blushing. Matt definitely wouldn't have said that. Ben would have. I didn't know if Tanner would say that or not. He was pretty candid with me but maybe that's how he was with everybody. Whitney had grown up here, too. She probably knew him better than I did.
Still … I really hoped it had been Ben.
"Let's get this mess cleaned up before the pizza gets here," Jo suggested, starting to clean up the board game we'd abandoned. I helped her to give myself something else to think about.
When the game was returned to the closet we sat cross-legged on the floor again and Whitney threw some popcorn at me. "Your turn!"
"Yeah, Ames, truth or dare?" Melissa asked. I thought momentarily before deciding that, no matter what, I should just get it over with.
"Dare," I declared, trying to feel brave.
"I dare you …" Whitney said thoughtfully.
The doorbell rang then and Jo sprang to her feet to answer the door.
"Wait, don't answer it! Who is that?" Erica asked.
"I don't know, I can't see him. It's definitely a boy with a pizza," Jo said, trying to peek without being seen. "It's Ben's car, it's probably Ben."
"I dare you to take the pizza and give him a big, fat kiss for his tip!" Whitney declared. "On the lips!"
"What?" I asked, mortified. What were we? High school girls?
"It'll be funny!" Jo agreed.
"Ben won't care, he's a sweetheart," Melissa assured me. "Here, I'll come and take the pizza from you so you don't drop it."
Already blushing we stood and walked to the door. At least in a couple weeks I'd be in Boston and Ben wouldn't see me until the end of the school year.
"Here! You might need this!" Erica threw some lip balm at me and I threw it back.
"Just shut up!" I whispered fiercely at her.
Ben knocked again, probably wondering what kind of maniac would order a pizza and then not be home to pay for it.
I readied my money, deciding I'd just do it all at once. Take the pizza, thrust the money into his hand, and plant a big one on him before closing the door. It would take 10 seconds. Tops.
My heart was racing and my hands were shaking, but I could do this.
Somehow my brain detached from my body and my hand acted of its own accord and pulled the door open. I was very shocked—and a little bit happy—to find not Ben, but Tanner on my porch.
"Hey Amy, how-" he started, but cut off when I abruptly took the pizza from him and shoved it into Melissa's hands where she hid behind the door.
I didn't miss Tanner's bewildered expression as I threw my arms around his neck and planted my lips firmly onto his mouth. He backed into the siding in surprise but then he was kissing me back. His strong arms wound around me, keeping me close to his chest as he adeptly moved his warm lips with mine.
Through the haze some part of my brain was trying to remind me I didn't actually know this guy well enough to be swapping spit with him like this but his lips were molded to mine, his kisses just as feverish as my own. He tasted so sweet; I just stopped thinking all together and kissed him for all I was worth. He was just so hot! I couldn't help it if I wanted to kiss him!
I vaguely heard a small gasp from behind the door and remembered that this was just a dare and I'd really overdone his 'tip'. I pulled back breathlessly and blushed scarlet.
"Thanks, Tanner," I nearly purred in my excitement. I shut the door behind me and almost died right there.
I'd just made out with Tanner West!
"Wow!" Melissa exclaimed, laughing. "You really went to town on that one!"
"That was a whole hell of a lot more than just a tip!" Jo laughed.
"No, kidding, that kiss should've covered the whole check!" Erica agreed.
Then it hit me.
"Damn it! I forgot to pay him!"
"No charge," I mumbled breathlessly to myself.
I'd never been kissed like that before.
I realized she hadn't paid me but that was okay, I was fine paying for her pizza, cause—let's face it—that was hot!
I wiped the spit from my still buzzing lips and walked back to the street, hoping I'd be able to drive back to the shop.
"What the hell was that?" Ben demanded when I got in.
"I don't know. She just kissed me!" I exclaimed, pulling away from the curb.
"Damn it! Those girls are probably playing truth or dare!" Ben reasoned. That would explain a lot. "That should've been my kiss!"
"Sorry, dude, you answered the phone and got ordered on their pizza, I was the one who got to deliver it," I said happily.
I hardly paid any attention to anything the rest of that night. All I could think about was Amy and that kiss.
When we closed down I went home with Dad but I knew I couldn't go upstairs without thanking the man who'd made my fantastic night possible.
"Thanks for letting me deliver pizzas, Dad," I said in a daze.
His eyes followed me quizzically up the stairs. "You're welcome?"
The last week before school past quickly and I was soon in Boston attending Harvard University. I remembered one of her friends telling me that Amy had gotten in to Harvard, too, but she never said if Amy had accepted. I scanned all the students in my classes as soon as I sat down but there was no Amy.
That kiss permeated my thoughts a lot when I was bored in class or tired of my homework. I hadn't realized I'd gotten so stuck on her over the summer but it was clear that I had. I started taking every excuse possible to drive the 2 hours home so I could take shifts for my Dad, hoping I'd get to talk to Amy. He actually started telling me no because he was worried my car couldn't take all the miles.
So there I was the week before winter break, sitting on the benches at the Harvard Square ice skating rink, watching everyone else skate. I was going home for Christmas in two days and trying to devise a plan that would necessitate me going to Amy's house, but I couldn't think of one. Whatever happened over the break I knew I had to talk to her before I got back to school in January. I missed talking to her when she called in to order something. Maybe the purpose of the conversation was business but after that first phone call she'd never talked to me for less than 10 minutes and I can assure you, it does not take 10 minutes to order parmesan bread, a 2 liter of coke, and a supreme with extra sausage and green peppers.
Ah, man, I had her order memorized.
Feeling the need to eat at Mike's I stood and started for my car. As I rounded the last corner, passing the concession stand, someone yelled. "Watch out!"
Nachos and coke went everywhere, including on my own coat, and down the front of the person I'd walked into.
"Oh, damn it, I'm sorry," I apologized, picking tortilla chips out of the cheese on her coat. "I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry."
"That's okay, it was my fault," she said, dumping the nachos from her sleeve into the paper basket she was holding. "I was thinking about getting some pizza anyw…"
I looked up at the sound of that smooth honey voice and stared. It was Amy.
"Hi Tanner," she blushed. She glanced quickly at my lips and then down to her nacho covered coat.
Oh, how I loved to think about the girl in front of me.
"I'm really sorry about your coat, Amy," I said. "I'm an idiot sometimes. I really wasn't watching where I was going."
"That's okay," she said again.
"No really, I wanna make it up to you," I said, suddenly concocting a brilliant plan. "How about dinner tonight? I'll take you anywhere you want to go."
She looked at me uncertainly and then around the square. She squinted against the afternoon sun, "Anywhere?"
Tanner's face was blank.
I don't know what I'd said that was so strange, I'd just really been craving Mike's the last couple of months since I got to school. I don't know how much of that was the food and how much of that was the, erm, customer service, but I loved Mike's.
"I did say anywhere," he smiled. "Do you have time to go back tonight?"
"I was going back tonight anyway," I admitted with a shrug.
"I'm cool with that, I just have to pack," Tanner said, looking at me with those irresistible green eyes. "Do you want to meet me here in an hour?"
"Sure," I said. I was grinning like a crazy person, I knew I was, but I couldn't seem to help myself. He was just so cute and perfect and klutzy. I was practically on air thinking about driving home with him and then having dinner with him tonight. I'd either really lucked out or I was one hell of a tipper.
Two hours later I was in Tanner's car driving home on Route 9. Somehow we were talking and laughing like we'd been friends for much longer than just a few months. I learned he'd been at school with me this whole time, though I hadn't seen him. He was studying business, which made sense since he'd grown up helping at Mike's. His full course load and my strange work hours were what kept us from running into each other. We were almost always at opposite ends of campus.
The closer we got to Mike's the more I just wanted to keep driving. I'd waited a long time to be with Tanner like this and I wasn't sure I wanted it to end with dinner. But dinner came, nevertheless, and we parked in the back lot at Mike's Pizzas.
"Wow, that smells good," I mumbled. "Your dad should be knighted."
Tanner laughed and we got out. "This is the way the really awesome people come in," he said. I followed close behind him since I'd never gone in the back way and didn't want to make a fool of myself by getting lost or being in the way.
"Does that make me an 'awesome people'?" I wondered.
"Hey guys," Mike said, coming out of his office to hug his son. I was surprised when Tanner took my hand, but I was in no way objecting. He was just helping me stay out of the way but holding hands was holding hands. "And who's this?"
"Dad, this is Amy Harvey, she's going to school with me and I owed her dinner."
"So you brought her here?" Mike asked incredulously. He shook my free hand with a smile. "Now, why does Amy Harvey sound familiar?"
Tanner looked back at me with a grin and I blushed. Yes, I was the girl who called in an order every five seconds.
"You know her," Tanner said to his dad. "Large supreme with extra sausage and green peppers, parmesan breaksticks, and-"
"A 2 liter of coke," Mike finished for him, grinning widely from ear to ear. "It's nice to meet you, Amy. I remember you well."
"I really like your pizzas," I said lamely, self-consciously.
"I seem to remember you liking the pizza pockets, too," Mike said, giving Tanner a mischievous look.
"Hey! That menu board's new, right?" Tanner said suddenly, changing the subject. His dad started laughing and I got the idea I'd missed something.
"Hey! It's the hot girl!" Ben yelled, ambling toward me and lifting me in his arms for a tight hug.
"Hi, Ben," I said awkwardly. What's with the familiarity?
"Hey, I have a bone to pick with you," Ben said teasingly, pointing his finger at me.
"Not right now, we want a table," Tanner interrupted. "What do you want Amy?"
I shrugged and we said together, "The usual."
"Coming right up," Mike said with a wink, heading for the prep area.
We took the table just outside the kitchen, it was sort of half in the customer area but you could see the whole kitchen from there, too. I could see Mike making our pizza as we talked. It was making my mouth water.
"Do you suppose if I asked nicely Mike would tell me his secrets to making his pizzas so good?" I asked, leaning forward on my elbows to appear as though I were being sneaky about my inquiry.
"You know," Tanner said dramatically. "I know everything that goes into those pizzas."
"I even know how to make the sauce," he said proudly. "But it's a family secret. I couldn't possibly divulge."
"Oh," I said in disappointment.
"I could make you one at school sometime though," he amended with a smile.
"Really?" I asked excitedly. "That would rock."
"So you really like Mike's, huh?" he asked, amused.
"I do," I admitted honestly. "No one makes pizza like Mike's. Especially the pizza pockets. Those are yummy … I like the staff, too."
Tanner looked at me, his cheeks colored slightly and I hoped he knew which employee I was referring to.
"My dad hires good people, I guess. I liked working here. You get to meet some cool people."
"Do you miss it?" I wondered.
He hesitated for some reason and looked over his shoulder at the bustling kitchen again and then me.
"I thought I did," he said, his beautiful smile creeping onto his face. "But it was really just the people I talked to that I missed."
I smiled into my hands, hoping he was referring to me, but having no idea if he was or not. I liked to think that when I ordered pizza every Friday night I talked to Tanner a lot longer than anyone else did. I never seemed to want to get off the phone.
"I sort of miss answering the phone," he said. I looked up and he was turning red again.
He was talking about me.
"I may have called in for more than just the pizza," I admitted, with a blush of my own.
Tanner reached across the table and almost had my hand, but Ben interrupted. Again.
"Hey, beautiful! Here are your parmesan breadsticks," Ben said, gracefully setting the basket down in the center of the table where Tanner's hand used to be. "I will be your waiter this evening and I would like to point out that the, uh, tip ... is not included in the bill."
Ben winked at me and I started laughing under my breath as he went back to the kitchen. I was so embarrassed. Had he heard about me kissing Tanner for his tip? Maybe Tanner had come back and told him. Either way it was clear to me what Ben thought his tip should be tonight.
"Speaking of tips," I said, feeling very embarrassed and a little guilty. "I owe you $12.73."
"You do?" Tanner asked in confusion.
"Yeah," I said, ducking slightly and hoping I could hide a little bit. "The last time you delivered a pizza to my house I forgot to pay you."
Tanner looked at me for a second and then laughed, suddenly realized which evening I was referring to. "I think you paid me plenty, Amy. Good tip, too."
"It was a dare," I was practically crying tears of mirth onto my parmesan breadsticks.
"I figured it was something like that," he said with a grin. "Luckily for me, Ben answered the phone while I was playing supervisor so I got to deliver the pizza."
He ran his hands through his blonde hair. I bit my lip thinking about that kiss and wondering if I could steal another tonight.
"Were you mad?" I asked hesitantly, curiously.
He smiled and shook his head. "No, I wasn't mad. I rather liked it, actually. I would've killed Ben if he'd gotten it."
"If it had been Ben delivering the pizza the kiss wouldn't have been quite so … exuberant."
Tanner looked at me with eyes dancing merrily, clearing enjoying that bit of news.
I continued. "I may or may not have already liked you when that dare was issued."
"Yeah?" he asked, happily. I nodded. His finger brushed the back of my hand. "I may or may not have to pay you back for that."
I stared at my hand on Amy's and wondered where all these guts were coming from. What happened to making a fool of myself if front of her?
"Here's your pizza, milady," Ben said suddenly, scaring the shit out of me. I jerked by hand out of the way in surprise and knocked the cokes off his tray with my elbow, causing the brown soda to splash onto the table and all over Amy, myself, and Ben.
"Ah, shit, sorry," I muttered, grabbing a pile of napkins from the counter behind me and handing them to Amy.
"Damn, Tanner, jumpy much?" Ben commented, while I picked up the glass that made it to the floor.
Maybe this was par for the Tanner/Amy course, but usually I had the phone to cower behind when I said or did something stupid. I didn't dare to look at her.
"Is there a sink somewhere?" Amy asked me, standing.
"Yeah," I said, pointing into the kitchen and feeling horribly.
Why was I such a damn klutz around this girl?
We stood in the back at the sink we used to rinse dishes in and washed our hands and arms off, freeing them of the stickiness. I held a towel out for Amy and a red Mike's Pizzas t-shirt, so she didn't have to sit through dinner in her Coke-soaked one.
She took it and smiled at me, looking a little more than impish.
"Do I make you nervous, Tanner?" Amy smiled at me and all the stupid things I'd done in front of her came careening into my head.
"Very much," I admitted.
Her smiled grew but she didn't say anything.
"I hope I didn't ruin your shirt. Or your coat. Shit, have I spilled on you twice today?"
"Yeah, you have," she chuckled.
"I'm sorry, Amy, I'm really not this much of a klutz," I assured her.
"That's okay, Tan," she said, calling me by my nickname. (Which I really enjoyed.) "I'll bet I can think of a way you can repay me."
The kiss we shared on her porch automatically sprang to mind and I started hoping she was thinking about the same thing I was.
"I'm going to need a ride back to school," she said softly.
That wasn't what I wanted. Well, it was but it wasn't.
"Of course I'll take you back," I said easily.
"Can I have a rain check for tonight?" Amy asked, looking up at me at the last moment. Her eyes were sort of honey colored today. I liked that.
"Do you want to go?" I asked anxiously.
Please say no.
She giggled. "No, but it defeats the purpose of making up for spilling on me if in the process you spill on me again."
So, so true.
"Would you believe me if I said I did it on purpose to get another date with you?" I asked uncertainly.
"No," she grinned.
Trying to decide if I was brave enough to just admit what I felt and finish the kiss we started months ago, I kept my eyes open for anything indicating that she'd rather go home tonight. She smiled softly at me instead and shifted her weight onto her foot nearest me.
"I might have a solution to all the clumsiness," I said, steeling my nerve. She continued to watch me in amused interest. "Maybe I wouldn't be so nervous if you were around me more."
"More?" she asked playfully. She was already smiling.
"Maybe when we have a free night or between classes …" I said, just watching her blink merrily at me. What a beautiful girl.
I shifted closer to her as well and brushed my fingers against hers. She looped her small hand around mine and held on tightly.
"I'd like that," she almost whispered since I was so close to her.
She drew my eyes to her mouth when she licked her lips. I leaned in as she tilted her head up for me and I wrapped an arm around her slight figure. The other hand slid behind her neck, my fingers softly wrapping in her dark hair. Unlike our first kiss, which was incredibly random and a little frantic, when I kissed her this time, it was sweet and purposeful. It was also painfully premeditated on my part.
I relished Amy's lips against mine and finally kissed her back as I should've months ago. Her lips were soft and full and she tasted a little like parmesan breadsticks. All of those months of missing her were coming out in how tightly I was holding her and the way it seemed like this kiss wasn't going to end. To my utter joy Amy wrapped her arms around my neck again and knotted her fingers in my hair. Her lips were almost possessive of mine and it gave me chills. Every nerve in my body seemed to stand on end.
The knot I'd had in my stomach earlier was gone and I had all the confidence in the world as we kissed, moving my hand from her neck to her jaw to keep her lips near mine. She moved forward, leaning into me and just as I thought I couldn't be happier my shoes slid in the water on the floor and I fell flat on my back, taking her down with me.
"Tanner!" she laughed hysterically.
"I'm sorry," I said for the 100th time tonight, although I didn't feel half as guilty or stupid as I used to.
"I thought you were getting used to me!"
I shrugged and grinned at her still in my arms. "I guess I'll just have to spend more time with you."
"I guess you will," she smiled affectionately.