SOMETHING ABOUT KRIPSY KREME AND PSEUDONYMS

Damien opened the clear glass door of Krispy Kreme early one Saturday morning. He didn't know why, of all places he could be, he wound up here. Of course he knew why he wasn't at his usual place in Starbucks but here, instead of in any other place, he didn't know why. All he knew was this: he wanted change. Just like that. He woke up that morning feeling like he didn't need his every-day macchiato, didn't need to see the girl he once dated behind the cash register, didn't need to smile at the everyday people he was used seeing in Starbucks. He wanted change, and change brought him here. Why here though, in Krispy Kreme, particularly, he had absolutely no idea.

The familiar smell of honey-glazed doughnuts and brewed coffee wafted in the air as he walked in. The counter was manned by a guy whose name tag said ZALDY. He couldn't help but think how he closely resembled Humpty Dumpty, a mean thought.

"Good morning, Sir. What's up for you today?"

Damien smiled and surveyed the menu. He wanted something hot, like what all the men he knew needed in a fine morning. Choosing he first on the list, he said, "Smooth coffee, please."
Zaldy nodded. "Would you like a honey-glaze with that?"

Why not? "Sure."

"Name, please?"

Now this was his favorite part about coffee shops. Last time, he used Peter Parker in Kape Isla while his regular was Bill Clinton in Starbucks.

What to use now…

Who was that? The guy his sister was reading in that silly Austen book? The one she was blabbering about every single day – hot, witty and rich? Durnham? Draco? Dark… Dar – aha, Darcy! That's his name: Darcy.

"Darcy," Damien answered. His sister's going to laugh when she hears this.

"Order punched and will be ready in a while, Mr. Darcy."

Damien nodded, taking a seat on the nearest window table.

He surveyed the place. This wasn't bad. Actually, this was good. The view through the window was even better compared to the busy streets in Starbucks. He could see the nearby beach from where he was sitting – the pale brown sand, clear blue water and colorful sailboats far out in the distance. This change of atmosphere was giving him a relaxed day.

His gaze continued to sweep the whole room. Krispy Kreme posters, dirty white walls, a pretty-glasses wearing girl, coffee and doughnut paintings – wait, wait, wait. Damien's eyes hurriedly sought the last prettiest thing he saw.

And his brown eyes fell upon a girl across the room, wearing plain denim shorts and a yellow sweatshirt. Her short black hair was tied up, stubborn hair falling from the messy ponytail, framing her face. There were a few people in the room and she sat alone, leaning back on her chair, intent upon reading a book. At first, his eyes trailed over her body – her relaxed posture, her confident charm and her healthy body, not too skinny like almost every girl: a little big on the chest, slim on the waist and nice, long legs. She was biting her thin pink lips prettily – her pretty face with pretty eyes and a pretty nose. His lack of adjectives tells him so: she was undeniably pretty. She looked a bit Asian but not so much, and she had a very nice kind of tan.

He hated to admit it, but yes, he gawked at her. Ogled, even. Then, as he was surveying her from head to toe, his eyes landed on the book she was reading. The cover was very familiar; almost like he himself was reading it before he went to sleep. Where did he last see it? At home? In the car? In the library? At work? And after much brain racking and memory shuffling, he finally remembered. It was the book his sister was reading. The god-awful book she couldn't stop talking about. He was almost sick of it, as sick he was with Oreos.

And then it hit him.

The girl must know Mr. Darcy.

He was "Mr. Darcy."

And what a shame it would be to let a girl know he was reading some kind of chick-novel, especially if she was the only girl who caught his eye in the last forty-eight hours.

"Bennet? Liz Bennet?" Zaldy's voice sounded from behind the counter.

Damien watched as she, the girl, looked up from her book, a smile escaping her lips and a nod towards the boy at the counter. Her fingers simultaneously folded the page she stopped on as she stood up and placed the book on the table. She walked towards Zaldy gracefully and took her cup of coffee. She stood there for a while, smelling its scent, blowing it a bit and finally taking a small sip before walking back to her table. Then, she picked up her book, unfolded the turned-under page and began reading on where she left off. She didn't even flick her eye on his direction. Yes, those were normal, every-day actions that every-day girls do but Damien didn't understand why every single thing she did was captured by his memory.

And then the inevitable came.

"Darcy? Mr. Darcy?" Zaldy's voice called again.

The girl's head snapped up, looking around the room for the Mr. Darcy. He knew it. She knew. And it wasn't just the girl's head that looked around. Everybody else's did. The old lady, the guy reading the magazine, a group of students – everyone. And they all looked amused. Not only did they look amused but they snickered as well, he heard them so. Was it really that criminal for a man to use Mr. Darcy? What if his last name really was Darcy?

But it wasn't.

Damien was hesitant to stand up. It looked like everybody knew about that book the girl and his sister were reading. Everybody knew about Mr. Darcy. But Zaldy was looking at his direction, looking amused as well, a laugh at the edges of his lips.

He took one brave breath and stood up.

Then he caught her eye. And she smiled at him, that teasing smile on her face, and if that split-second look gave him exact visualization, he even saw her blush.

As soon as Damien got his coffee and doughnut, he quickly went out of the door and drove home in his car.

After that mind-boggling incident at Krispy Kreme, Damien's mind didn't submit to any change his body wanted and stubbornly stayed at Starbucks across the street.

"Hey there, Mr. Darcy," someone said from behind Damien. He was sitting on his favorite table far from the window and in some way hidden behind the side counter where the smell of brewing coffee wafted in the air.

It was a perfectly warm Saturday morning.

But then suddenly it wasn't. Or he wasn't sure anyway. He wasn't sure if the unmanly way his heart missed a beat, not that he would admit it in a million light years, or the uncanny feeling he felt in his gut made his day from okay to better or from okay to worse. He knew the voice, that voice, who unmistakably said "Hey there, Mr. Darcy" even though he hasn't heard it before. He listened, in his imagination of course, to that exact same voice reading some sappy chick-novel. He could picture her with that voice.

Damien watched as she slid her slender body on the seat in front of him. She was wearing faded jeans and a green sleeveless shirt, her short hair clipped to one side. She smiled.

And he simply stared at her.

"Hello?" she asked, looking at him weirdly.

"Liz Bennet?" was all he could muster himself to say.

"It's Charlotte, actually."

Charlotte? She's Charlotte? Who then is Liz Bennet? And why, in the name of Krispy Kreme Zaldy, are his hands sweaty?

"I'm sorry, but are you constipated?"

His reverie disturbed, his eyes snapped up to meet her black, genuinely concerned ones.

"Constipated?" he asked, suddenly amused.

"You look odd."

"Well that's a first." He feigned a frown, then grinned boyishly. "My sister calls me a dolt but she never deprived me of my attractiveness."

She laughed at that, and even her laugh was pretty. "What I actually meant was your expression looks odd."

"So taking my expression out of consideration, does that mean I'm attractive?" he cocked an eyebrow slyly.

"I guess so. But I can't be the judge of that yet," She grinned and said, "Unless you wipe off that constipated expression out of your face."

He just had to laugh at that, and a smile played on the corners of his lips.

Her eyes widened and simply stared. Stared too long.

"Like what you see?"

"I'd have to say so."

"I think I like what I'm seeing, too," he admitted impulsively. He bit his lip. No, it wasn't for Damien to fess up to a girl. Any girl.

Hell, he never even said he liked his most recent girlfriend, the subject of their numerous fights and the principal reason for the abrupt break-up. Not that he cared.

Girls admit attraction.

He plays along.

Surprisingly though, this piece of beauty just made him say something he wasn't supposed to say.

He cleared his throat and tried to make up for what he considers a partial loss of manliness. "So, what brings you here?"

She raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

Yeah, nitwit, what did you mean? "Well, I had the impression you were a Kripsy Kreme regular," he answered, and added with what's left of his macho grace, "and it seemed unlikely to see you again. Unless of course, you were looking for me?" he suggested, waggling his eyebrows.

"Alright, mister. I'll humor you. I just woke up today and needed change. And I thought, 'hey Starbucks is pretty near, so why not?' So here I am," she answered. "But I'll have you know: that waggling you do with your eyebrows subtracts from your virility points."

He frowned. "And here I thought my sister was just trying to make me feel bad." I probably am a dolt.

"I'd like to think otherwise."

"Oh yeah?"

"Tell me, Mr. Darcy. What is your name?"

He tried so hard not to blush with the mention of Mr. Darcy's name.

"It's Damien."

"Well Damien, most of the men I know haven't even heard of Jane Austen, what more read Pride and Prejudice? Dave, that's my brother, calls it a chick-novel. But you've read it, I suppose, how else would you know Mr. Darcy? Well anyway –" she was blabbing "It's a classic. Classics are good books, and I like men who read good books."

Damien didn't think it was a good time to tell Charlotte that she got the wrong idea.

"Are you saying that you like me then?"

"I'm saying it makes a good first impression."

"Well, does that get me a dinner with you?"

"Tonight?"

"The sooner the better." Was she agreeing?

"At around eight?"

"If you'll be ready by then." So soon?

"You'll pick me up?"

"If you tell me where you live." Isn't this going way too fast for her?

"Hmm," was all she said, looking all thoughtful.

"I'll see you tonight then?" his voice sounded really hopeful.

She grinned at him. "I'll think about it."

He suddenly felt the world on his shoulders. "How does five seconds thinking time sound?"

"I think three will do. 1, 2, 3."

"The verdict?"

"No."

"No?"

"No." she repeated. "Why not let fate do the trick?"

"Fate?" he didn't think he heard it properly. "I don't think I understand what you mean."

She rolled her eyes. "Please don't tell me you don't know what fate is."

"I do, but I'd like you to explain your point further."

"Seven days. Every night at eight o'clock, let's go out to dinner."

"Together?"

"No, silly. Separately. That's the whole point of fate." She said that in a matter-of-fact tone. "Then if in those seven nights we won't find each other, that'll be the end of it."

"And if we do?"

"Then we'll probably have something special."

"Are you sure you're reading classics and not the chick-novels we men would die to hear about?"

"I'm pretty sure I am."

He considered her proposition for a moment.

"We choose a restaurant within this street?" he clarified.

"The whole city."

He groaned. How, for the love of men, is he going to find her in seven nights in a city as large as this with over a hundred restaurants?

"I don't think it's a good idea," he said.

"I think it is."

"Nu-uh."

"I'll compromise."

"What kind of compromise?"

"I'll stay in one place every night for seven days from eight pm till ten."

He sighed. It was better, but… "I barely know you. All I've got is your name, your face and your book."

"Well, since you've read the book, there's no trouble finding me." She said.

Then, she quickly stood up and ran out the door, leaving her half-empty cup of coffee. Odd. But Damien rushed out, only to see a street full of jam-packed cars and a steady flow of busy people. And just like that, she was gone. There was no Charlotte around.

Oh hell, now he had to read the book to find her. But why does he even care? Because 1.) she's very pretty 2.) she's intellectually challenging 3.) she's amusingly frank 4.) she just had him for a fool and 5.) she's just… different. In a very pretty way.

Damien found the nearest book store just around corner, and almost automatically, like it was waiting for him to get there, he found the Pride and Prejudice on a corner shelf near the entrance. It had a different cover from her sister's and Charlotte's but he had this weird familiarity with it that it didn't need the same façade to have him know it was it. This was his roadmap to Charlotte. He excitedly began to scan the book and he was suddenly taken a back. One, he wasn't a book person. At all. He cheated on home reading reports in high school, found summaries for the ones that looked interesting, and had some attractive girl tutor him in college over candlelight dinner. No. He didn't read nor will he begin now. And two, even if he was a book reader, he couldn't find himself reading this kind of book. Yes, he understood it and would probably get every point as quick as lighting but he'd be bored to death. To death.

But if he wasn't going to read it, how will he get to her? He groaned, and a little girl in pigtails looked up to him and said, "My sister read that book. Says it's good."

He looked at her, and smiled. Of course: his sister.

He knew he had a lot of things he had to give up for his little journey to find Charlotte, especially if he wasn't going to read the book. He'll have his masculinity on stake and his whole life up for eternal teasing – his sister would flip when she hears this. But she'll help. He knows she will. Ah, anything for the name of what she calls "love."

Oh, she's a firm believer of "fate" too.

And that's how he found himself hurriedly walking home and barging in her sister's room, knowing he'll find her there.

"Oh dear beautiful Princess Sabine, your charming brother the King direly needs your help."

"Funny how my charming king brother doesn't have his queen yet. Still sticking to mistresses, are we?"

He sighed and slumped on her bed, shoes and all – he knew she hated that. "I am seeking for a gorgeous – "

"Fair," Sabine corrected, glaring at him and pulling her blanket off the bed.

He grinned boyishly. "As I was saying, I was on my way to seek a fair lady's hand."

"And her name?"

"Charlotte."

"Where to find?"

"Ah!" he exclaims dramatically. "And there my problem lies. I am in search for her and I don't know where to start. I need you to decode her map. I have seven nights and two hours each."

"I don't think I'm quite following you."

"Oh hell, I'd be better off telling you the whole thing in normal talk than this."

She grinned. "Then tell me about it. But first, is she another mistress or finally the queen?"

He scratched his chin. "Prospective queen."

"Good, because I ain't helping you land another weekly bed."

"Oh believe me, she's not the type."

"Well that's a first."

"Are you saying I have a bad taste for women?"

"I'm saying you have no taste at all. Which by the way, might change depending on how prospective queen Charlotte turns out to be."

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that."

"Pretending won't make the truth go away."

"Hm. Finally, some insight."

"I think you should begin with the story now. I'm really hoping it's kinda embarrassing on your part, and I'm pretty sure it is 'cause you're stalling."

He threw a huge pillow at her and smirked when it hit her in the head.

"You better be thankful pillows are soft," Sabine hissed.

He laughed and told her the story, somewhat turning red in some parts.

He ended up with a hysterically laughing sister. "God, prospective queen has it going."

"Opinion regarding my choice of women changes?"

"Only on this one." She said, wiping tears off her eyes. "And you may be charming but my goodness, what a dolt!"

He frowned. "You're not helping."

"Neither are you. You've led her to believe you actually read the book! Oh, I can't wait to see how furious she'll get and maybe, hopefully, smack your head with a pan."

"Again, you're not helping."

She laughed. "And by the way, Liz – short for Elizabeth – Bennet is actually Mr. Darcy's wife in the end. So I think I like where this is all going."

"Does this mean you're helping me?"

"I think so."

"You think so?"

"I'm supposed to decode the map?"

"Exactly."

"And it means…?"

"You tell me where to find her."

"By?"

"Well she did tell me, and I quote, 'Since you've read the book, there's no trouble finding me.'"

"Are you saying you still won't read the book?"

"Does it look like I am?"

She rolled her eyes. "You are just plain stupid."

"May I dare say it's in the genes?"

"No, you may not."

Sabine told her brother a lot of things about Pride and Prejudice, telling him the whole book in what Damien calls "the normal talk." She even expanded it a bit by emphasizing every detail of Elizabeth Bennet's character, and how romantic Mr. Darcy is.

She did that real fast. Well, she told him all that in three hours.

"Tell me though, how do I find the restaurant?"

"Should I have to think about that too? I actually thought you had at least a small portion of an ant's brain."

He frowned. "Nothing you told me actually tells me where she is."

"You can start with the phonebook directory."

And he did.

There were 104 restaurants.

FIRST NIGHT

Damien decided to visit all the restaurants, starting with the ones nearest to his street. That night, he finished 14 restaurants and 5 streets, taking specific care on classy, expensive ones. He was sure she was nowhere where he's been. But he didn't lose hope. It was the first night after all and he had six more to go.

FOURTH NIGHT

Still nowhere. He rang his sister. It was 9 PM.

"Hello?" Sabine answered.

"Are you sure there's nothing more you could add?"

"I'll tell you as soon as I can think of something else."

"God, this is killing me."

"You're really cute when you're this crazy for a girl."

He cringed at the word she practically all but smiled saying. Cute. There was no way he was taking that in.

"Sick love dog. I didn't know I'd actually live to see you like this. You're losing your macho-ness, Damien."

"I won't get off unscathed, am I?"

"Not in the world. I couldn't believe you could be this romantic. And to a girl you've only met for like what? Half an hour?"

"Shut it, prick."

"Sore. That's what you are. Sore. And all gooey for prospective queen Charlotte."

"Gooey?"

"Oh you know what I mean. I can even bet you'll turn into jelly when you see her again. Hell, I can bet all my life-time savings that the only adjective you can describe her with is 'pretty.'"

"Really now?"

"Of course. You're too stupid to think of anything else." Then she hangs up.

SIXTH NIGHT

He had only covered up 85 restaurants in six days. He entered his last one for tonight. It was already 9:59. He didn't have a good feeling about this place. It was a lousy diner that serves banana pancakes this late. The chairs were stained, the upholstery cracked and the window shades were drawn down though it was dark outside. It was a very unlikely place to find Charlotte, but she was an unlikely person herself. He sat on one of the tables nearest to the counter, feeling very unhopeful.

Then suddenly, she was sitting there.

She was sitting, her back to him, on one of the high chairs that lets you eat over the counter. He had blue earphones on, her head moving to some beat.

He felt very weird. His hands weren't sweaty nor was his heart mis-beating. Simply, he felt weird. Like he didn't know what to do or if he should do it all.

He smiled despite himself. His nerves were getting into him. Yes, maybe this was what Sabine meant by gooey. He really was kinda feeling a bit gooey. Ha, he actually used the silly word.

He slowly sat beside her. She didn't seem to notice him. Her face was curtained with her short black hair, unclipped, untied. Damien could hear the loud blast of music from her earphones.

He was hoping she'd see him so he wouldn't have to come up with something stupid to get her to notice him. He wasn't good at this. Girls noticed him, never the other way around. But she didn't. A full five minutes passed and she was still there, nodding her head and drumming her fingers on the tiled counter. It was another two minutes before he got the courage to reach out to her, and tuck her hair behind her ear, his fingers lingering on her jawline for a second more.

She flinched and slapped his hand away, pulling out her earphones in the process.

"Who in the world are you?" the girl screamed, glaring at Damien with dark green eyes that were surely not Charlotte's.

Damien almost fell over the chair, and he wished he did, wishing as well that the checkered floor would open up and gobble him down. He felt weird, not because he felt gooey, but 'cause it wasn't right. He felt weird, like weird-wrong.

"There was a bee on your hair." Could he make a lamer excuse? He mentally punched himself in the gut.

"Oh yeah? Where is it now?"

"Out the window."

"Funny 'cause the windows are glued shut," she snapped.

"Oh, yeah," he muttered, walking out the door with a boyish grin that seemed out of place but hopefully would stun the girl too much to forget about the last thirty seconds of her life.

SEVENTH NIGHT

It was frustrating to find himself in and out of 98 restaurants, fast food chains, coffee shops, pubs or any food establishment at 9:40 in the evening of his last night. He had only time for one more and the only place he was up to by this time was a bar. Feeling like he needed a drink, he walked out of his 98th place, a tiny French restaurant on a side street that no one would have noticed if they weren't looking hard enough.

Then he saw a little kid with an ice cream. Her hair was on pigtails. She oddly resembled the kid in the bookstore.

"Hey, mister. It's you again."

Oh, it's the same kid. He could practically hear her sister whisper, "You nitwit."

"I suppose so," he answered. They were in a busy part of the city where most pubs and bars were, the whole sidewalk lined up with streetlights.

"Want some ice cream?"

"Do I look that bad?"

"Yes? But don't worry. Anything can be fixed with ice cream, especially in big amounts." She grinned.

"Should you not talk to a stranger?"

"I'm Ella." She stretched out her small palm to be shaken.

"I'm Damien." He took it and shook her tiny hand.

"Do you want some ice cream?"

"No, I want a drink."

"Like a strawberry smoothie?"

"No."

"Like water?"

"How old are you, Ella?"

"Ten."

"Then you aren't old enough to know that I was talking about drinking beer."

"Hm." She placed her pointing finger on her chin and tilted her head thoughtfully. "Do you like wine instead?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because," she said, the way his sister would say it, "my sister works in this place across the street. She's a pianist. I can take you there. She's probably wondering where I am right now. But they don't serve beer. Only wine. It's funny, Lottie says, 'cos wine has more alcohol than beer. Then I say, that's funny 'cos I didn't think anyone would drink something I use to clean my hands."

He smiled. It took him a while to understand who Lottie could be. His body began to feel restless.

"What's the place called again?"

"It's a funny name for a place like that. Pemberly."

Just at that moment, his phone rang. It was Sabine.

"Pick it up. I don't mind." Ella said, licking her ice cream.

He almost laughed. This was some kid.

"Hello?" Damien answered.

"Guess what I found!" Sabine excitedly shouted over the phone.

"Should the place Pemberly ring a bell?"

"Oh good! You've found it. It's Mr. Darcy's home."

"And you only tell me now?"

"You still have 10 minutes left. And it's not like I did it on purpose, though it would do as a good joke. But I still didn't, okay? And I was looking through the phonebook and I saw the pub's name and an advertisement that said no beer served, only wine. And it's funny 'cos wine has higher alcohol content than beer. And it's funnier still 'cos I can't imagine anyone drinking something I wash my hands with."

"You're blabbering."

"I know. And you have only 9 minutes left. And it's somewhere downtown. And I've checked the internet – all the intersections are jam-packed. Where are you now?"

"Right across the street."

"From Pemberly?"

"Yeah." He could already see the bright green neon light sign of the little bar across from him.

"Good God! You have like 8 minutes left. Now go cross that street and kiss her senseless!" Then she hangs up. Again.

He looked at Ella who was half way through with her ice cream.

"Hey, Ella. Does Lottie happen to be short for Charlotte?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"I think I might know her."

She looked at me with squinting, suspicious eyes. "Are you her boyfriend?"

"Not if I don't find her in 5 minutes."

"Oh 3 will do." Then she took his hand and all but dragged him across the street, unfazed by all the honking cars and flashing lights.

Ella took a seat on one of the bar stools, talking to a guy with tattoos covering his arm.

"Hey, pumpkin. I was about to go and look for 'ya. Lottie's all worked up," the bartender said. Then he looks up at Damien and asked, "Who's he?"

"Lottie's boyfriend in two minutes."

"Not yet?"

"Not yet." She confirmed, biting the top of her sugar cone.

"So do we go nice and easy on him or real hard?"

"Nice and easy."

"I'm Dave," the bartender said in a rather gruff but friendly way.

"Damien."

"Lottie's on the piano. She's playing."

Damien could hear soft music from somewhere to his left, separated from the bar with a divider. He wasn't the classical music type of guy. He never was classical anything. And Charlotte was like, as far as he knows, classical everything. She was classical and pretty and different and just… great, he was running out of adjectives.

Then he began to sweat. And miss heart beats. Good Lord, how acutely gay that sounded. Then he started talking to himself inwardly.

What are you telling her?

Hi?

Then how are you going to tell her you never actually read the book?

Should I?

Of course you should, stupid.

You sound like my sister.

You're a dork.

Zip it.

Moron.

Her fingers glided lightly over the ivory keys, her body moving fluidly with the melody. She was wearing a black strapless dress, her short hair pinned back with a small pearl barrette. She was very, very pretty. He slowly walked to her until he was hovering behind her, covering her with his shadow. She knew he was there, no doubt, but she continued playing on like he wasn't. He cleared his throat. He didn't know where to begin.

He didn't have to. She did.

"You haven't read the book, have you?"

"How could you read me?"

"Because if you had, you'd only have to look at the phonebook to know."

"Well, I attempted to, but reading isn't just my thing. So are classics. It's just not me, you know."

"I guess. But you still found me." She ended her song with a flourish and he slowly looked up to him, meeting his eyes.

"Yes." He was kind of getting breathless with the way her black eyes looked at him. It was the strangest feeling, being breathless because of a girl.

"Tell me how."

"I went to this bookstore around the corner from Starbucks. I found the book and I just knew I couldn't read it. Then this kid come up to me and says, 'My sister read it, says it's good" or something along the lines. So I went to my sister and had her tell me the whole story. And it was really hard you know, her inserting every now and then numerous adjectives that all mean I'm stupid and really cute."

"Well you are. Cute, I mean."

"I prefer the term attractive."

She giggled. "Continue, please."

"So, yeah. I covered 98 restaurants, the 98th being that French restaurant across from here. And I walked out feeling all kinds of frustration when this same little girl I met in the bookstore comes up to me and offers me ice cream."

"Ella."

"Yeah, she's adorable."

"I know."

"And then I tell her I wanted beer – "

"She's ten!"

"And she practically lives in a pub."

She bites her lip. "Touché."

"Well, I told her I wanted beer and she tells me this place that doesn't serve beer, only wine, and something about alcohols, hand wash and a lot of funny. Then she says her sister's name's Lottie and she's the pianist in Pemberly then my sister calls me and tells me Pemberly is actually a place in the book. Then I ask Ella if Lottie and Charlotte's the same and she narrows her eyes at me and asks if I was your boyfriend – she sneers the word."

"I can imagine."

"Well, she did. Then I say, not if I don't find her in five minutes. And she all but dragged me here. I met Dave, by the way. And Ella tells him to be nice and easy on me."

"Hm," she mused, tilting her head and placed her index finger on her chin just like Ella did earlier. "You still haven't read the book, you say?"

"Well, no," he muttered. "Are you unimpressed now?"

"Well, I should be. But I'm more impressed with a man who finds me without any clue on where to start. You wasted time on every restaurant, bucks on gasoline and who knows what else. But hey, you got a grand tour on every food place in the city."

"But all I really wanted to get was you." Cheesy, and definitely not his smoothest lines.

"I'm impressed with you."

"I'm impressed with you, too."

"So I guess we have something special after all." She smiled prettily.

"I guess so, too." he grinned.