As Worst Dates Go

There are different levels of friendship, I've found. You have your basic friendship, where you chat politely about each other's families and ask about their plans for the holidays. Then you have you're intermediate friends who you can share you're real thoughts and opinions with, without having to reserve your feelings because of civility. And of course you have your best friends. The type of friend who'll come pick you up without hesitation when you're stranded in the middle of nowhere. The type of friend who knows what you actually want for Christmas and comprehends when to tell your parents that you aren't at home, even though you are. The kind of friend who can relay your life history back to you without the help of a tape recorder. Roxie was the third kind of friend and there was no one on Earth I was closer too. Sure she could be a pain in the but sometimes. And we weren't without arguments. But all in all she was the kind of friend who only came once in a lifetime.

And the next time I saw her I was going to wring her neck.

"So baby," my date leered. "Maybe later we could go back to your place…for coffee."

Mentally I cringed. How could Roxie possibly think that this guy was a good guy to set me up with? For the last hour and a half all Craig had done was drink Jim Bean and ogle my chest. In between making borderline-creepy innuendos of course. And now apparently he was inviting me back to my place. Great. Just great. Again, what the heck had Roxie been thinking? He wasn't even cute. His hair was brown and greasy and though he did have some muscle action going on, the wife-beater singlet, ripped jeans and too-big pumps were more than enough to leave me veryunimpressed. Did I mention the Kiss me I'm Irish tattoo on his shoulder? Guess what.

He wasn't Irish.

"Jessa?" he asked. "You still there?"

I gritted my teeth, "My name is Tessa. Tessa not Jessa."

"Whatever you say honey-pie." he said with a lopsided smile.

I stared at him for a moment. Was he for real? Did he seriously just call me honey-pie? Not even my mum called me honey-pie and she was up there on the sweetie-nicknames. And he got my name wrong. Again. From now on I'd be checking the blind dates Roxie picked for me.

"Tessie?" he grinned and waved a hand in front of my face. "You keep blanking out on me sweetie. Not much up here is there." he said and tapped my head. I recoiled from his touch and pushed my chair back. That was the last straw. I'd gone through a haystack of straws in my patience with him but no more.

"Excuse me," I said sweetly. "I have to make a quick call."

"Whatever you need sugar."

I have to physically restrain myself from glowering at him. Honestly, how on earth had Roxie managed to fix me up with such an irritating guy? He couldn't even get my name right! With a grimace barely disguised as a smile I got up and made my way away from the dining area, through the dance floor and out to the other side of the club. Once I'd past most of the noise and could hear myself think again I pulled out my mobile and within two presses of a button I was waiting for Roxie to pick up. But if she didn't have a good reason for this date she was so going off my speed dial list.

The ringing stopped and a groggy voice said, "Hello?"

I winced, forgetting that in Roxie-time it was probably the middle of the night. For some reason she normally went to bed at around nine-thirty. The only exception was when she was on a date, and even then she took about four espressos beforehand so that she didn't fall asleep.

"Roxie?" I asked. "Is that you?"

"Who else is it going to be?" she snorted, sounding much more awake now. "We do share an apartment you know."

I rolled my eyes, though I knew she couldn't see it. "Roxie, what were you thinking when you picked my date? He's a creep."

"Really?" she asked in surprise. "How bad is he?"

"Grade four." I replied gravely.

"Ouch."

Years ago Roxie and I had made up a grading system for our dates to see how good or bad they were. The grades ran from five to one; five being a dine and dash routine and one being perfect boyfriend material. I wasn't easily impressed but most guys made grade three or two. Since Craig was grade four, I was going by normal grade four procedures. Make up an excuse to leave and get the heck out of here. But first, I was going to give Roxie a piece of my mind.

"Yeah, ouch." I said. "He's spent most of the night perving at me and cracking stupid jokes. He's a complete sleaze."

"Sorry, but he's the friend of one of my cousins." she explained apologetically. "He said that Craig was really sweet and funny so I thought he sounded great for you. Plus he just went through a bad break up."

"Oh?"

I couldn't imagine why.

"Yeah, some girl named Carmen that he'd been dating for about eight months-"

"Eight months?" I asked incredulously. "He lasted eight months in a proper relationship? She must have been Mother Teresa to have the patience to put up with him. No wait. Scratch that. Mother Teresa would have better taste."

"Ha, ha, very funny." Roxie said dryly. "Anyway, I thought that, you know, since you're both heartbroken you could bond or something."

"Heartbroken? Jeez Roxie, it's been seven months. I'm over…him." I lied. I couldn't even say his name. "Besides, no one goes out on comfort dates anymore."

She ignored the second part of my speech and went straight for the kill.

"Uh huh. You just keep on telling yourself that." she said dryly. "You went out for three years Tessa, no one expects you to get over Nick that quickly."

I couldn't help but wince at his name, but I continued quickly. "Yeah, well, I am. I'm over him. Completely. I probably wouldn't even notice if I passed him in the street." -This received another snort from Roxie- "So don't set me up on anymore rebound guys. If they're on the rebound there's usually a reason why."

"Tessa Lydia Cooper." she said sternly. "You are being way too judgemental for your own good. You're on the rebound aren't you?" she didn't wait for me to reply, "So don't judge. Appearances can be deceiving and all that."

Coming from a punk-rock girl with three studs in each ear and a personality to match I couldn't help but think this was a bit harsh. But then again, this was Roxie. With spiky black hair, icy blue eyes and a wardrobe that rarely varied from black, Roxie's attitude was similar to her appearance. But she was also very different too. She might be sarcastic, pedantic and haughty a lot but she could also be warm and witty and she was always intelligent. Hence the reason why she was against judging. Although actually that was a bit hypocritical of her. She loved going on blind dates just so she could see the look on his face when he saw her decked out in all her punk rock glory. But she was a firm believer that every cloud had a silver lining.

I just liked going on dates for the thrill of it. The romance, the new acquaintance, getting to learn all about someone new. I wasn't easily impressed but at the very least it was something to do.

Roxie and I both loved blind dates. Usually the guy was a grade three, nice but no sparks, and sure, every now and then you'd get a grade four that would leave you making up excuses for why you had to leave (we'd gotten quite good at that) but when you got a grade two, it was all worth it. Of course, sometimes you had to get a grade five, but normally I only got one every year or two. Those were the ones that had you abandoning all politeness and heading for the hills. But that hardly ever happened and there were far more good things about blind dating than bad. For one thing you never had to stay home on a Saturday night; you always had somewhere to go. And since you didn't know the person you didn't feel as bad if you had to cancel. Consequently Roxie and I were forever out on dates. It had actually become quite a hobby for us. We'd even joked about putting it on our CVs under 'interests'.

But as of late I hadn't been on a date with anyone other than Nick and in the seven months since we'd broken up I hadn't even looked twice at another guy. That was what this date was supposed to be for: getting back in the saddle and starting to date again. What a mistake. Craig was defiantly not the kind of guy that would convince a girl back into dating. In fact he was the opposite.

"Well, appearances can carry on and be deceiving," I sighed. "I don't care, and I highly doubt that Craig's first impression on me was wrong. He's a creep."

"Yeah, but I know how hard to impress you are."

"Trust me Roxie. He's a creep."

"You already said that." she said and I could hear the smile in her voice.

"It was worth repeating."

"Okay, okay," she conceded. "Do you want me to come meet you so we can go grab dinner somewhere nice? Bit of girly time?"

"Nah," I said. "I'll just make up an excuse to leave. I'm in more of a stay-home and drink hot chocolate mood anyway."

"Kay. How long do you think you'll be? I'll pop the jug on."

"I don't know, it depends if the traffic's nuts." I answered.

"Tessa, this is Auckland. The traffic's always nuts." she said, and I could practically see her rolling her eyes.

"Fine." I smiled. "You save popping the jug on for when I actually get home. I'll work on ditching my date."

"Kay, see ya."

"See ya."

I snapped my phone shut and put it back in my bra. Normally I wasn't the type to do that, but this dress didn't leave many options. It was an emerald-green affair made of velvet, with a low neckline and a loose skirt that came to just below my knees. It was my favourite and definitely the most flattering so I'd chosen it to impress my date. Paired with the dress I was wearing some emerald stud earrings and black heels, with my dark brown hair falling in loose curls down my back. Green was my best colour because it matched my eyes and made them seem more vivid. And I was always one to impress my dates. In fact, I'd worn this dress on my first date with Nick-

I stopped short. Why was it that he could so easily creep into my head when I didn't want him to? I shook my head to clear it of Nick-related-thoughts. It was time to face my date. I gathered my wits and wove back through the crowded dance floor and over to the dining area. Thank goodness it was quieter over on this side of the club, or I'd be deaf before I left the building. I spotted our table but I couldn't see Craig anywhere. I made my way over and was just starting to think that maybe he had ditched me when I saw him weaving through the tables towards me, a drink in each hand. He must have gone to the bar to top our drinks up. He didn't see me but I started towards him. This would be the perfect time to catch him and tell him I had to go; before he sat down and started flirting again.

I hurried towards him thinking of excuses I could make. I could easily pull of having a sick friend that needed me to take her to the doctor. Or having to go home early because I had an important meeting tomorrow morning. And there was always the classic: 'I forgot to take my bladder suppressants.' That would turn him off for sure. I smiled to myself and decided to go for the third option. Just for the heck of it.

I'd almost reached Craig when he caught his foot on a chair leg and stumbled, spilling the drinks down my front. He righted himself almost immediately but only then noticed me standing there, a large wet patch stretching from the top of my dress to my hips. I stood stock still, to vexed to move, just silently glaring at Craig.

"Oops." He smiled and snatching a paper napkin off the table closest to us proceeded to dap at my dress, lingering around the chest area. "Sorry, I didn't see you there."

I lurched away from him to keep his hands off me and glared at him. He didn't look sorry at all. In fact he had a goofy smile plastered on his face. What. A. Creep. And to add to my humiliation all the tables around us had witnessed our little incident. A few were even giggling.

"Uh huh. Whatever." I said, trying to remain calm. Now I could just say that I needed to get home so I could change. Too bad; I'd been looking forward to using the bladder suppressant excuse. "I have to go home and change now. Nice meeting you."

"Oh please sweetheart, you don't have to try so hard." Craig grinned. I narrowed my eyes at him. There was something I didn't like in his expression.

"Excuse me?"

He leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "I'll help you out of the dress."

I shoved Craig away from me in disgust. "That was not what I had in mind. You, leave me alone."

He grin twisted in amusement, "No need to act coy."

Oh my god. Who did this donjon think he was? This date was officially now a grade five. The time for politeness was over. It was time to run.

Just as I was about to though I heard a voice just behind me say, "…Tessa? Is that you?"

Uh oh. That voice was a little too familiar. I turned slowly to see if the owner of the voice was who I thought it was.

It was.

Standing behind me was none other than Nick Anderson, aka…my ex. He had a stunned look on his face and a drink in hand; he must have been on his way back from the bar and witnessed my little incident. Why? Why was fate so cruel? It had to be the one person that I never ever ever wanted to see again that was first to witness my humiliation. And Nick looked just as attractive as ever. He was wearing black jeans, worn by age and use, and a navy dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His light brown hair was longer than when I'd last seen him; starting to curl around his ears. His blue eyes looked puzzled with the prospect of seeing me here.

"Nick?" I asked breathlessly.

"Yeah…what are you doing here Tessa?" he asked. Nick looked how I felt. Dazed, disorientated and just a little bit heartbroken. But it was his fault. He was the one who wanted to 'take time out' so that he could go travel and do the other things that he'd always wanted to, but couldn't since he'd been weighed down with me.

I glanced back behind me at Craig, who was busy ogling my behind. When Nick asked what I was doing here he snapped to attention, his face taking on thundercloud qualities.

"She's here with me." Craig said crossly, butting in between Nick and me.

Oh no.

"And her names is Tessie not Tessa." He rolled his eyes and then turned to me. "Honestly, who does this shmuck think he is?"

I just looked at him. Part of me wanted to smack him and another part of me just wanted to sink into the floor and disappear. Then again, I could always just make a run for it and hope that I never saw either of them again. I tried to hid my grimace and instead put on my polite face.

"Craig, this is Nick…my ex." I said awkwardly. "Nick, this is Craig, my date."

Both men nodded and eyed each other up, their faces taking on dangerous qualities. I didn't like the look that passed between them. It smelled too strongly of testosterone and jealousy.

"Ok-aay." I said, breaking the awkward silence. "I'm going to leave know. Nice seeing you gentlemen. Bye."

I turned to leave but was stopped by both guys saying; "Wait!" in unison. I gritted my teeth and turned back to them. Craig was glaring at Nick and Nick was looking pleadingly at me.

"Tessa, we need to talk." Nick said quietly. "Things didn't end well between us and I wish I hadn't done what I did."

"No. She doesn't need to talk to you." Craig said, and for the first time that night I felt grateful towards him. "My sweetie and I are going to finish our drinks and then hit the dance floor."

Scratch that. Gratitude terminated.

"Craig," I said dryly. "I'm wearing our drinks remember?"

He gaze snapped back to my chest area and the goofy smile returned. "Oh yeah."

"Yeah."

"We could always skip the dance floor." he said slyly.

Nick's eyes narrowed.

"No thanks." I grimaced.

"Come on sugar." he said, sidling towards me. "You know you want to…"

"She said no."

I glared at Nick. Oh yes, he was very valiant. But since we weren't a couple anymore, he had no right to stick his nose into my business. Craig glanced at Nick fleetingly before turning his gaze back to me. He waggled his eyebrows.

"Craig. Do me a favour and leave me alone." I said firmly.

Craig didn't move but did shoot me a wounded look.

"Do you have a problem with that?" Nick asked darkly. His grip on his glass tightened.

"Don't start Nick."

"No." Craig said, glaring at him. "I have a problem with you."

"Craig, please."

"I have a problem with you too." Nick said with a fake smile.

"Guys."

Craig glared at Nick and stepped towards him, invading his personal space. I couldn't help but notice how Nick was almost half a head taller and much more intimidating that Craig in his too-big pumps. But at the same time, I was fuming. Who did these two idiots think they were, fighting over me? Craig was (as I'd said before) a creep that I wanted nothing to do with and Nick, oh, Nick had given up any right to feel possessive of me when he'd broken up with me seven months ago. I blew out an irritated breath and snatching Nick's drink I tossed it over both of them.

"There." I said sweetly. "Problem solved."

That got their attention.

Both boys turned to look at me, flabbergasted. Craig had gotten most of the drink on his face and it was dripping off his chin, making it look like he was drooling. Nick on the other hand had gotten most of the drink on his chest (like me) so all he had was a large wet patch on his shirt. I couldn't help but feel a little bit smug. Who says a damsel in distress needs a man to help her out. I sorted my problem well enough on my own.

"Um, excuse me?" a voice asked from behind me. "What's going on?"

I turned and saw a pretty girl behind me, glancing between Nick and me. Oh yeah. Now all three of us were dripping alcohol, half of the diners were staring at us and I still hadn't managed to get rid of the two guys currently trying to irritate me to death. Whoopee.

Nick sighed, "Carmen, this is Tessa. Tessa, this is Carmen."

Oh. It was like that.

I gave the girl a once over and grudgingly decided she was suitable to be Nick's girlfriend. She was pretty in a Latino kind of way, with mocha skin, almond shaped eyes and silky black hair. She shot Nick a 'what's going on here?' look and looked around at our group. Funnily though, when her gaze crossed Craig she stopped dead still and her face went white. Or as white as it could go considering her tan skin tone. I looked back and forth between them. Was there something I was missing?

"Carmen." Craig said quietly, with a puppy dog expression.

"Craig." she said, her eyes tearing up.

"It's been so long since I've seen you honeybun." he said. "I've missed you."

"I've missed you too sweetie pie."

Nick glanced back and forth between them. "Am I missing something?"

My thoughts exactly.

Carmen turned to Nick and gave a defeatist shrug. "Nick, this is the guy I was telling you about." she said sadly. "My ex-boyfriend."

My eyes bugged wide. This was the Carmen, Roxie had told me about? But she was so pretty! And she looked so nice. Not at all like I'd envisioned her after meeting her ex. I'd figured she would be a heavy smoker with tattoos galore. Instead I was presented with a petite, shy looking, young woman who seemed as if she was going to cry just by looking at Craig.

Huh. Score one for Roxie on the not judging scheme.

Craig held out his hand to Carmen and she took it sadly. Their eye lock didn't break for a second as Craig said, "If you don't mind Tessie, Carmen and I need a few minutes to talk."

"Uh…sure."

They walked off hand in hand, for the other side of the club, their eyes still locked on each other. Nick and I stared after them, gobsmacked. It seemed as if I had managed to ditch my date afterall. But somehow I didn't think that your date leaving you for his ex and leaving you with your ex qualified as ditching him. Hmm, wonder if you can have a grade six date? I glanced at Nick. He was still watching Carmen so I sighed. Was now the time to remember that our first date had been a grade one? Nope.

"Well."

"Yeah." I said. "You can say that again."

He looked at me and smiled. "Looks like I got to talk to you alone anyhow."

"Yeah." I said and managed a small smile.

Needless to say this wasn't how I'd pictured my evening. I'd thought I'd meet my date and that he'd be a grade three, or if I was lucky maybe a two. We'd have dinner, laugh, split the bill, and then say goodbye as indifferent acquaintances. He'd have had a nice date and I'd be able to date people again. Maybe I'd even be able to look at a guy without thinking of Nick. Instead I got both ends of the scale, a wet dress and the knowledge that Nick was fine with seeing other women. Great. Just great.

And to top it off people were still staring at us.

"Shows over folks." Nick said wearily and then took my hand. "Let's go talk somewhere more private."

He led me past the dining area and over to the end of the bar so that we could speak without being overheard. I followed him along passively. I couldn't muster the strength to feel angry anymore. All my fury had drained away when I saw Craig walk off with Carmen. He had been my main source of annoyance…Nick just caused me heartbreak. Hurriedly I busied myself with collecting a few of the napkins off the bar top and dabbing at my dress. Nick followed suit.

"So." I said, once we'd sat down and done the 'awkward silence' routine for a few moments.

"So." Nick repeated. We were both sitting stiffly on our stools and staring at the bar, not making eye contact.

I had to smile at the absurdity of it. Here we were, two exs wearing their drinks and trying to gather the courage to have The Talk. I thought we'd been there and done that, but the more I thought about it the more confident I felt that there were a lot of things left unfinished between us. I never got to slap him or yell at him for leaving me, and he had yet to fully explain why he had. Now all I had to do was break the silence. Again.

"This wasn't how I expected to meet you again." Nick said with a rueful laugh.

"I never expected to see you again." I said quietly.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw him look at me, but my gaze remained on the bar top. Now that we were talking, I wished we weren't. I wanted to back in my apartment with Roxie, where we could drink hot chocolate and talk about how men sucked. She'd understand and we'd share funny stories about our dates gone wrong, until I was laughing instead of crying. But I couldn't cry. Not in front of Nick anyway.

"I always expected to see you…"

We locked eyes and I looked away a second too late. The awkward silence was back with vengeance. I glanced back at Nick, willing him to say something natural that would get us out of the awkward stage of our conversation. Thankfully he seemed to get the message and he smiled at me. At least…I think he was trying to smile. It ended up as more of a grimace.

"Nice dress."

"Thanks." I said. Oh please say something better than that. There was no way we'd be able to hold a conversation on my outfit. Especially not when it was covered in Jim Bean.

"It's my favourite." I continued. "A Chanel knock-off."

"I remember." he said quickly. "You wore it on our first date."

"Yeah…"

Awwwwkward.

"You still look beautiful in it."

I paused. "Thanks." I think.

"Yeah."

Oh my god. Can you die of awkwardness?

"You must have really wanted to impress your date." he said, not looking at me. I glanced back at him and stopped. Was that jealousy I detected?

"It always worked on you." I said with just a little hint of Bitch thrown into the mix. He glanced up at me quickly and I raised an eyebrow. If there was something he wanted to say, he was going to have to say it.

He locked eyes with the bar top again and we lapsed back into silence for another minute or two. How different this was from our first date. But how alike too. I was wearing the same dress and the club we were at was similar to the one we'd met at. It was a nice club, not the type where you're afraid to touch the walls in case you pick up a disease. But if wasn't just different club that was different. It was us. We were different. We'd been anything but quiet on our first date. I'd wanted to learn everything I could about the handsome stranger in front of me and he'd been more than happy to oblige. I could remember it like it was yesterday; the warm bubbly feeling I got when he looked at me, the happiness at meeting a great guy and the sense of accomplishment that came for every new thing I learned about him.

He loved going sailing. He'd told me that straight off when I'd asked about his hobbies. He'd said that he didn't get much chance to go sailing, since he lived in a city, but whenever he visited his home he'd take out his family yacht and spend time with his dad. His favourite colour was blue because of the sea, and his lucky number was eight because when you turned it on its side it meant infinity, and that had to be good, right? He liked peanut butter and mashed potatoes, for no particular reason and when I'd cringed at the thought he'd promised to make it for me sometime. And that had been the moment when we'd realized that we wanted to spend more time with each other.

So we had. I'd found out that his full name was Nicolas Joseph Anderson, that he'd graduated college with a degree in psychology and that if he could have any car he wanted it would be an Aston Martin. Black, of course. He'd found out that I liked listening to jazz and that I was left handed. He'd learned that I was utterly in love with pasta, that I'd always dreamed of being an author and that my lucky number was two, just because. After a while I'd even admitted my deep fear of water snakes to him, and told him about my family back in Colorado. He'd learned that though I loved the city, the mountains would always be home to me, and when he'd come home with me to meet my parents he'd found that he loved the mountains too…and me. He realized he loved me. And I'd realized I loved him too.

His peanut butter and mashed potato dish was terrible of course, but I figured everyone had a few faults. I had enough of my own for sure. Like how I wasn't easy to impress. But Nick…Nick had impressed me right from the start. And yet here we were, so different from when we'd first met and practically strangers from the months we'd spent apart. So much for not even noticing if I passed him in the street, I though bitterly. Although in my defence we'd met in a club not the street. And he hadn't exactly let me pass him.

"I still love you."

"What?" I asked in confusion, turning in my seat to face Nick.

"Dammit." he cursed and scowled at the bar top. "I was trying not to say that."

I looked at him, half amused, half pissed off. No. Make that three quarters pissed off.

"Thanks for trying to hold it in." I said sarcastically. "But you didn't need to bother."

He looked back at me in annoyance. "I'm not joking Tessa."

I flinched when he said my name. I'd always loved the way he said it; how exotic he'd made it sound in the way it rolled off his tongue. But I forced myself to sound nonchalant when I spoke.

"Uh huh."

"Seriously. Do I look like I'm joking?" he asked, and gestured to himself. "Would I be sitting here with you, half soaked, if I truly didn't give a damn?"

"I don't know. Why don't you ask your girlfriend?" I snapped.

He blinked. "Carmen? She's not my girlfriend."

I raised an eyebrow. "Do you smell that?"

He sniffed. "What?"

"It smells like bullshit." I said snarkily. "I wasn't born yesterday-" I forced myself to say his name, "-Nick. You show up at a club with a pretty girl on your arm and that generally means you're dating her. But don't worry. It doesn't bother me. I'm just the girl you broke up with remember?"

He rubbed his face with his hand like he always did when he was frustrated. "I regret it every day." he mumbled.

"Sure you do." I swallowed hard, willing myself not to cry and not to start caring again. I'd spent too many nights crying until I ran out of tears, I couldn't stop pretending it didn't break my heart not to see him every day now. I'd pretty much driven Roxie insane after the first month. And I'd spent a fortune on tissues too. I had to stay strong.

Nick looked at me. It was his no nonsense look. The look he wore when he wanted me to be serious. He'd once used that look right before he'd swept me off my feet and carried me back to my apartment, because I was too stubborn to make amends with Roxie after we'd had a falling out. But somehow I didn't get the feeling that he'd be sweeping me off my feet again anytime soon. Or ever for that matter.

"Tessa, first things first." he said seriously. "Carmen and I? Not a couple. We both work at the clinic and we came here on a comfort date. You know, to share feelings about still having feelings for your ex and all that."

Huh. I sat stock still with surprise. Score two for Roxie. People did still go out on comfort dates. Nick turned back the wall and studied it like it held the meaning of life. I could sympathize with him. He was obviously telling the truth and what he'd said just then, that took guts to say something like that. But on the other side of things I still didn't know exactly why he'd broken up with me and I was going to keep on pretending that I didn't care about him until I found out. Possibly I'd keep on pretending even after he explained; it might not be something good. He might have left me because he had cancer. I bit my lip at the thought.

"Remember the night we broke up?" Nick asked, interrupting my thoughts. He still wasn't looking at me but I nodded anyway.

If I tried to speak I knew my voice would betray me. I remembered the night we'd broken up like it was yesterday. It was a Tuesday and Nick and I had just gotten back from seeing a movie. He'd been acting distant lately and when he'd said that we needed to talk I'd known in my heart what he was going to say. And to top it all off, cliché of clichés…it was raining. Of course.

"About a week before that I'd gotten a letter from my psych ward about how out of all there psychoanalysts, all of them, I'd been selected for the trip of a lifetime." he said stiffly. "I'd get to a group of small islands in the Caribbean to study the natives and learn about their culture for a few years. It's a dream comes true. Just what I wanted…and then I realized I couldn't go."

This confession finally dragged a comment out of me. "Why not?"

"Because of you." His eyes met mine and they held. "I couldn't leave you. I loved you too much and I knew that if I went away for so long I might not come back." he exhaled heavily. "And then I started thinking about all the other things I couldn't do because of you. I couldn't travel anywhere or move away. There was a whole list of things just beyond my reach that I couldn't have…because of you."

I remained silent and let him rant, despite how much it hurt me.

"And so I thought to myself, right, I'll leave Tessa, and take the chance because it might be the one greatest adventure of my life and I don't want to miss it. If I come back then I'll look up Tessa and see if I'm still in love with her. And so I did. I broke up with you, packed my bags and left."

And took my heart with him.

"Then why did you come back?" I asked, managing not to choke on the poison words.

"Same reason." he smiled sadly. "Because of you. As soon as I said goodbye I knew it was the wrong thing to do. I should never have gone and I knew it was the biggest mistake. But you know what the worst part was?"

"What?" I asked. I didn't know what Nick had done to me but it felt like all the air was being drained from the air and I was the only one who couldn't breathe. Who knew you could get your heart broken twice? And by the same man no less.

"Knowing I couldn't fix it. It wasn't like when you take a wrong turn. You can still turn around and go back the way you came if you do that. When I left you I broke your heart, and mine, and you wouldn't have taken me back so easily. But I still wanted to see you."

"Then why didn't you come see me?" I burst out bitterly.

"Because I was scared you wouldn't want me."

And that was it. Those words broke the dame I'd been keeping shut up the whole time we'd been talking. Actually, for the last seven months. I couldn't pretend I felt nothing for him anymore. I felt something. Oh boy did I feel something. I felt anger. Because for some reason, even after all this time, I was still in love with Nick and there was a part of me that would love him until the day I died.

And here he was, breaking my heart. Again.

"Coward." I spat. "You're nothing but a coward and a jerk. You felt scared because you couldn't do all of the things you wanted to because you were with me? Think how I felt, when the love of my life said he wanted to 'take time out' so that he could go travel. How do you think I felt? I'll tell you how I felt. I felt broken. So you can take your apology and your great adventure and shove them both up your-"

"Tessa." he said earnestly. "I came back because of you. I realized I didn't need an adventure off on some island. I quit the research team and came home because of you. You are my adventure."

And just like that all of my anger melted out of me. I'd said what I'd wanted to; I'd had the little rant I'd been denied when he first left. He'd given up the chance of a lifetime because he was still…still what? Still in love with me? That's what he'd said. But could I love him completely again after what he'd done? I felt the tears coming on just thinking about it.

Nick turned so that he was completely facing me and took both of my hands in his. He eyes searched mine. For what? I couldn't tell.

"Tessa." he said carefully. "Are you still in love with me?"

I stayed perfectly calm and tried not to cry. I tried not to think about how good it felt to have his hands around mine. I tried not to think about how miserable I'd been, having to go through every day without seeing him. And I tried extra hard not to think about how later on I'd go back to my apartment and cry for the next week or two.

"Is that all you have to say?"

He smiled bitterly. "You always were hard to impress."

I caught his eyes and I know he saw it. He saw that I still cared for him.

"I have to get back to Craig." I said, quickly turning away so that he wouldn't see me cry. "He's probably wondering where I am." I scanned the room looking for an idiot in too-big pumps and finally spotted him on the edge of the dance floor making out with Carmen. "Or not."

"You'd really rather go back to your grade five date than talk to me?" he asked.

"…No." I muttered, hating that he could drag the truth from me and that he knew about the grading system.

"Do you still have any feelings for me?" he asked, his voice breaking a little bit at the end.

It would be the right thing to say no again, that way I'd know for sure that Nick would never break my heart again. It would be the truth if I said yes, and my heart would thank me for it. Instead I chose neither and headed off into the crowd towards the door. I had to get out of his club right now. Right this instant. Otherwise I'd be crying in front of all these people and Nick, the idiot, would know the effect he had on me. I tried to think of all the things I hated about him. But it didn't work. I hated how he wouldn't watch chic flicks with me, how he was pedantic to the last detail and how he had once chosen to go on a study trip to the Caribbean islands instead of staying with me. I could try hard to hate him, but like I said. It didn't work.

I was in love with Nick.

As soon as I thought it the tears started coming. I turned, and sure enough, Nick was hot on my heels. I smiled through my tears and as he reached me I took a step closer to him.

"Yes." I said. "I still have feelings for you."

"And do you want to give me a second chance?" he asked. He was trying to be casual but I knew him too well. He was anything but indifferent. But I waited just a few seconds to make him suffer. It was my last bit of payback for what the idiot had put me through.

"Yes."

Immediately I was swept up in his embrace. "Thank god." He whispered in my ear. I started laughing and soon enough he was laughing too. To think I was worried before about how I looked. Here we were standing here hugging like idiots, laughing and crying in the middle of the dining area. Probably lots of people were watching. But I didn't care one bit.

"I love you so much Tessa." He murmured. "And I'm such an idiot."

"You've got that right." I laughed.

We broke apart at last and I wiped my eyes with my hands. It felt so good to know that Nick was mine again. Even if he was the world's biggest idiot. He was my idiot. Just as I thought it couldn't get better I heard a voice behind me.

"Hey Tessie!"

"Ugh." Nick groaned.

I rolled my eyes at him and turned to see Craig behind me, with his arm around Carmen. Both of them looked ridiculously happy, which was the same way I felt.

"Hey Tessie." Craig smiled. But it wasn't a creepy, pervy smile. It was a sweet and happy smile. "Sorry about how our date ended. I shouldn't have run off on you but…well, Carmen and I hit it off and we're willing to give 'us' another try." They grinned at each other.

"That's okay Craig."

"I hope it wasn't too awkward for you and Nick." He smiled.

I exchanged a special look with Nick. "No. No it wasn't awkward at all."

"Oh good." said Craig, looking relieved. "We were looking for you two, but we couldn't find you."

Sure you were looking. You were looking at the same time that you were playing tonsil hockey with Carmen, I thought. But I didn't mention it. Besides, with Carmen, Craig seemed like a much nicer guy. I could almost see the 'sweet, funny Craig' that Roxie had told me about. Maybe all that was missing for him to be like that was Carmen. In which case they deserved each other.

"No worries." I said with an earnest smile. "I hope you too are happy together."

He smiled back at me and they headed past us towards the door. I was happy to see what a nice guy Craig had turned into in the last twenty minutes. That must have been one heck of a make-out session.

"See ya around Tessie." he said as he passed by me and patted me on the behind.

I was all ready to be indignant and find another drink to throw at him, but Craig carried on without further comment so I assumed it was merely an affectionate gesture. Here's hoping. Turning back to Nick I saw he was beaming uncontrollably. And when it came down to it…I was feeling the exact same way. I smiled coyly and he took my hand again.

"How about tomorrow you and I go out on a date?" Nick said. "I figure we're due another one."

"Sounds good to me…I'll see you tomorrow, same time, same place. But I have to go now and make a call. Roxie will be wondering what happened to me." I leaned in and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "I love that I can do that again."

He patted me on the behind. "See ya around Tessie."

I rolled my eyes at him and headed outside to call Roxie. All in all, as worst dates go this evening was one for the records. My date was a creep, I'd had a drink had spilled on my dress and…my ex had turned up saying he was still in love with me. Then my date had gone off with his ex to play tonsil hockey, my date partner had gone from a grade five to a grade one and I'd come out of this with a partially mended heart. Make that score three for Roxie, clouds could have silver linings. My date with Craighad been a complete failure but my date with Nick had been pretty impressive.

And I wasn't easily impressed…

Hope you enjoyed the one-shot. I got the idea for this and it stuck, so it pretty much wrote itself. Please review…

© Copyright 2011 Atramento (FictionPress ID: 796490). Posted 22/12/2011. All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Atramento.

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