I actually didn't think this could get any worse.
Okay, well, I did, between my constant worrying that he'd say no to everything I said or would hate me or would think that I smelled bad or any other ways our date could get worse. Or, like, that maybe the movie would turn out to be horrible but he'd like it or vice versa or my hands would get gross from the popcorn or he'd think I was completely, utterly boring, or I'd end up talking his ear off.
But other than all that, I really didn't think this could get any worse.
Because my parents were in front of me. My parents, who were overbearing and conservative and, oh, homophobic while I was on a date with the guy that I've liked since October. Yeah, those parents.
I didn't let Eric know, obviously—Eric, who's cute and nice and funny and amazing and perfect—but I did suddenly fling my left hand onto the armrest. Where his hand was.
Eric looked at me in the dark movie theater. I could see his freckles and the length of his nose. "Asher, are you okay?" he whispered.
No, as a matter of fact, I was not okay. I was supposed to be in the library. As far as my parents knew.
"I just," I whispered back, then blushed. My breath was probably all popcorn-y, and I was breathing right in his face. "I need to go to the bathroom," I finished, and then raced out of there.
As soon as I was out of the theater, I rested against the wall and did my best not to hyperventilate, which happened quite often, 'cause I'm a bit of a spaz. But still—what were my parents doing here? It wasn't like it was unlike my parents to watch movies; they would watch anything as long as it didn't have excessive swearing or sex in it. Or gay people. And Eric and I were in the middle of watching a perfectly good PG-rated movie.
It was a couple of minutes before I stopped almost-hyperventilating and decided to go back into the theater. Maybe I could find an excuse to tell Eric so we could get out of here (I wasn't going to tell him that I was afraid of my parents) or just sit it out and somehow avoid the death gazes of Mom and Dad. Either way, I didn't want to leave Eric and I certainly didn't want to leave this date, no matter how embarrassing it had been on my way here. (Arriving too early and looking desperate, having him catch me trying to get a stuffed animal at a claw machine, accidentally touching his hand in the popcorn bowl.) But Eric had only laughed at everything I did. Hopefully he thought I was funny?
Eric glanced at me as I slid into the row we were sitting in—my parents didn't bother turning around, thank god. I tried to give him an assuring smile, and slipped back down next to him.
"You okay?" he asked me.
I blushed. Why was he so nice?
"Fine," I said, whispering as quietly as I could so my parents wouldn't be able to recognize my voice. "I just…" How was I supposed to tell him that I really preferred not to risk my neck with my parents here because I really didn't want to have them turn around?
Eric seemed to read my mind, or at least conveyed my emotions, because he's perfect like that. "Want to leave?" he whispered to me, smiling as he did so.
I felt guilty almost immediately. "I'm sorry, it's not like there's something wrong—I just want to—"
"It's okay, I'm getting bored too." He grinned and ignored the people behind us who were groaning at us for making so much noise. "Let's go then."
I followed him out, wondering how much more amazing he could get, and why I of all people, was on a date with him.
Well, actually, it was because I liked him in October, and then my friend who's a friend who's a friend of one of Eric's friends told me that he was gay which gave me the courage to finally ask him out. Which, you know, I did. Even though I was sure that he'd laugh at me and say no and/or be like, You heard I was gay? Haha, that's a joke, I'm not and you're a fag.
But obviously Eric's too nice and wonderful to do that.
Once out of the theater (again), Eric asked me, "What do you want to do?"
"Um." What was I supposed to say if I had only wanted to get away from my parents? "What do you want to do?"
"Oh, don't make me pick," said Eric, giving me a look. Though he looked amused, so I didn't take him too seriously. "You're the one who asked me out. You decide."
I blushed (again) because what was I supposed to do? I didn't know what Eric liked, other than soccer, and it was the middle of January, not to mention eight-thirty on a Friday night.
"I don't know," I said, thinking rapidly. "Um, ice skating?" I did know that there was an ice skating rink nearby.
Eric grinned. "Sounds like a plan."
So we walked out of the cinema and into the frigid air, zippering up our jackets and me hoping to god that nothing else terrible happened. Like me falling on my face or kicking Eric with my skates or not having enough money or being surrounded by little kids in the rink. I hate little kids.
None of that happened, though, because we got in fine and the guy at the booth gave us weird looks because we probably looked like freaks shivering out there in the cold. And then I yelled at the dude, "JUST LET US IN ALREADY!" earning me another look from him.
"You're certainly an impatient one, are you?" said Eric, smiling at me as we entered the building.
I hoped he thought my pink cheeks that were turning even pinker were still from the cold. "Um, I guess."
Eric laughed. "I like that in people," he said. "Makes it more fun to argue with."
I really didn't know what to say to this, but judging from the expression on his face, he wasn't joking. I felt a rush of pleasure.
We went to the counter, showed our tickets to get our skates, and then sat down at a bench to put them on. I remembered that the last time I went ice-skating was about two years ago with my younger sister. This would probably take a while to get used to.
When we stood up, I noticed that Eric wobbled a bit. "You okay?" I asked, concerned.
"What? Oh yeah, I'm fine."
But Eric's voice was kind of shaky. Weird.
"I'm fine." Eric laughed and put a hand on my shoulder, though it seemed more for his support rather than to assure me. "Let's go."
I was still wary, but we went into the skating rink anyways. As soon as the blade of my skate touched the ice, I remembered the sensation of skating instantly. Hey, as far as gay guys go, I'm really not that, well, gay (other than that whole liking dudes thing.) But ice skating is fun. I skated around, just sort of enjoying it for myself for a few moments before turning around to Eric.
He wasn't behind me anymore. He was clinging to wall near the entrance.
"Come on, don't stay there forever!" I laughed, and then blushed. I was probably getting a bit too comfortable.
Whereas Eric was getting uncomfortable. "I haven't… skated for a while!" he called to me.
I made my way over to him, making sure not to barrel over little twelve year old girls who got in my way. "When was the last time you skated?" I asked curiously.
Eric gave me a sheepish smile.
"What?" I yelped. "You never skated before?"
"I know, I know, I'm deprived and inexperienced and—"
"You should have told me that you couldn't ice skate!" I exclaimed. "When we came here! Or actually, even earlier since I had suggested it at the movies—"
"Well I didn't want to say no," he said, shrugging, though he looked a bit pink. I didn't know if it was because of cold, embarrassment or his desperate attempts at clinging to the wall. It was cute.
I frowned at him. "You should have!"
"You asked me out. You get to pick where we go. And I don't want to say no when you're asking me out on a date."
Really, I don't deserve him. At all.
"Okay then," I said, a plan forming in my mind. "Come on, get off the wall."
"Because I'm going to teach you how to skate," I said firmly, and then tugged him away.
Eric let go, and nearly fell on top of me. I could feel my face burning as I attempted to steer him around—he was only a few inches taller than me, but we were so close. And it was kinda hot. Not like little Asher was getting excited or anything (that would be embarrassing) but he was sorta gripping my arm and the entire left side of his body was against my shoulder and I was trying to hold him up while skating and to not seem really, really hopeless when it came to relationships.
"Go on, steady… steady…" I struggled under his weight.
Eric shot an embarrassed grin at me, which almost caused me to stumble. "Sorry that I'm so fat."
"What? You're not fat!" Was he kidding me? Eric wasn't a twig or like-like a pig. He was practically perfect.
"Asher, I was joking." Eric attempted to laugh, but then he almost fell on me again.
I heard some noise as we—I—skated around. A bunch of girls against the wall were giggling at us. I gave them a dirty look.
Eric glanced over at them too. "They're probably laughing at me," he said, sounding guilty.
I shot him a look. "Who are they to laugh at you when they're hardly doing anything themselves?"
"Maybe we should stop," he suggested. "I don't think I can learn to ice skate any time tonight."
I didn't want to stop—I sort of liked him having so close to me—but I said, "Okay," and started moving us toward the entrance.
"Sorry," said Eric, looking adorably embarrassed yet again.
I felt bad for making him feel like that. Again. As attractive as it was. "Seriously," I said to him. "You should have told me you didn't know how!"
"I didn't want to hurt your feelings!" he said indignantly.
"Screw my feelings! I wanted to ask you on a date, so your happiness is just as important as—"
I stopped. I sounded like a clingy boyfriend.
And we weren't even boyfriends.
When we got to the main room and went back to the bench we had been sitting on earlier to take off our skates, I asked, "Is this the end of our date then?" I felt myself redden. Wow, way to be blunt, Asher.
Eric looked at me. "Only if you want it to be."
"I don't, I don't!" I said quickly. Did he think that I didn't want to go out with him anymore because he was hopeless at skating? That was far, far from the truth.
But he grinned when I said this. "Good. Because I have something in mind, actually."
"Something in mind?"
"To continue our date. That is, if you don't mind sushi."
I gaped at him. It was like he had read my… my deepest, innermost desires. I'd had sushi when I was five years old and loved it, but when my parents found out, they had forbidden me from eating it. Something about raw fish being poisonous or something. I don't know; all I knew was that my parents were irrational and stupid and full of BS and that I really, really loved sushi.
Eric's grin grew wider when I didn't say anything. "Sasha told me about that thing with you and sushi in ninth grade," he said.
Oh Sash. I'll buy her that box set of Merlin DVDs she's been whining about for the past few months.
"So is that a yes?" he finished, when I still didn't answer.
I opened my mouth, closed it, then opened it again. "Yes!" I said enthusiastically. "Let's go get sushi right now!"
Screw my parents. Really. They already ruined part of my night, and I wasn't going to let their stupid crazy rules do it too. Besides, I've been a good, obedient son for the past ten-ish years. And this was Eric.
So as soon as we returned the skates, Eric led the way out of the ice skating place and to the Sushi House. Apparently it was only the next block over, because before I knew it, I was inhaling the delicious, awesome scent of Japanese food.
"You've never been here before?" asked Eric, watching me with amusement.
I shook my head. "Never. My parents are evil."
He chuckled. "I'll bet," he said, before asking the waitress for a table for two.
Since it was about nine o'clock, people were still milling about, eating dinner. We went over to our table, and I sighed happily.
"Raw, raw fish" I said. "Raw fish, come to me!"
"You are so weird, Asher," said Eric, propping his elbow onto the table and putting his chin in his palm, looking like he was hiding a smile behind his fingers.
I blushed. "Well raw fish is good!"
"It is good," he agreed.
It wasn't long before we were asked to order (eel and tuna rolls for me, California rolls for Eric. He's such a not-Japanese-culture appreciating person. Well, Japanese food) and then our food came ten minutes after that. I ate one roll immediately and nearly choked.
"Are you okay?" asked Eric, his voice strained.
I glared up at him, although it wasn't like I was actually glaring. I couldn't glare at a guy like him. "Are you laughing at me?" I said, barely managing to swallow correctly.
"No," he said, not at all sounding truthful.
I stuck my tongue out at him. "Well eat your sushi then and don't not laugh at me," I said in my most dignified voice, and resumed eating.
He watched me for a second. "Did you just tell me to laugh at you?"
"Yeah, you did," he said.
"No I didn't." I was confused. "When did I say that?"
"When you—" Eric's eyes widened, and he looked at something over my head. "Oh, shit."
I swiveled around. "What's going on?" A girl with wavy blond hair had just walked into the restaurant, along with a ginger girl. Not a redhead. A ginger.
"That's, um," Eric stammered, sinking in his seat so only the top of his forehead could be seen. "That's my ex-girlfriend."
Something cold dropped in my stomach. He had an ex-girlfriend?
"She's my ex, though," he said, emphasizing the ex.
"So? Why do you not want to see her?" I demanded, as said ex-girlfriend (though I was only assuming it was the blond, not the ginger. Eric had better taste than that. Though he was on a date with me, so that was questionable.) "Do you still have feelings for her? You don't want to be seen on rebound? She doesn't know you're gay? You're scared of awkward situations? She—"
"No," said Eric, looking increasingly more terrified as the blond and the ginger approached us. "She's just really, really crazy—"
At that moment, the two girls passed our table and Eric ducked down so low that only his hair was visible. But apparently he wasn't trying hard enough to be invisible, because the ginger girl did a double take and said incredulously, "Eric?"
Eric scrambled back up on his seat and gave her a weak smile. "Carla."
Oh. So this was the ex-girlfriend. Yup, Eric definitely doesn't have great taste. (Though that's probably the only flaw about him.)
Carla's gaze was fiery as they raked him over. Eric took this time to pull on my arm and introduce to her, "And, um, this is my, um, date. Asher."
Carla's eyes flashed when she looked at me. I swear to god she was about to eat me at that very second.
"Do you know what you did after you treated me like that?" she screeched to Eric. Screeched. "Do you know how I feel? All alone, my pour soul was all broken and alone when you dumped me! I thought we had a good time, a good relationship, we were perfect together—AND THEN YOU HAD TO GO BREAK MY HEART AND CALL ME A PSYCHOPATH—"
"Psycho bitch," he muttered under his breath.
"—A PSYCHOPATH, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE PAIN I FELT, THE PAIN—"
"The pain," said Eric with a roll of his eyes, as if he'd heard this all before, which was likely. I giggled.
Carla took that moment to catch her breath, during which the blond girl snatched up her arm and said, "Carla, let's go sit down—"
"I'm not done yet!" she said fiercely, causing both me and Eric to flinch.
Suddenly, a small Japanese waitress appeared at her elbow and said, "Um, excuse me miss, but I have to ask you to leave. You are creating too much noise—"
I looked around. Everyone in the restaurant was staring at us.
"We'll go," said Eric suddenly, throwing money down on the table and grabbing both of our plates of sushi. "Come on, Asher." He beckoned me and we both hurried out of the Sushi House.
As soon as we were back out into the dark, cool air, he turned to me. "Sorry about that."
"It's fine," I said. It was, even if a bit intense. But it was funny, too.
"No, really," said Eric, stopping now. "It kind of ruined the date for us."
"Well hardly! We still have our sushi, don't we?" I took my plate from him and starting eating from it. "Mm. Nope, our date wasn't ruined at all?" I smiled at him, still chewing. "Besides, you paid the bill, and that's more than enough."
"Yeah, well. Out of habit," he said, eating his own sushi. "Carla always commanded me to, even though I never asked her if she wanted me to, when we were going out."
"You're right, she is crazy," I said.
"Main reason why I broke up with her. We didn't even last for a week." He scoffed. "Though I only said yes to be nice. I'm more gay than straight."
"Nice to know," I said, and Eric smiled at me.
"Besides," I added as we walked around the city and ate our sushi in the thirty-degree weather. "The restaurant wasn't that bad. Better than the movies, actually."
"Really?" He raised his eyebrows. "It was that bad, huh?"
I blushed. "Not really. It was just that—that I saw my parents there."
"Oh—Oh," he said, suddenly looking like he understood. "So that's why you wanted us to leave."
I blushed even harder. I was hot enough that I could barely feel the wind on my cheeks. "Yeah."
"Well that's okay," he said brightly. "You have high-strung parents, and I have a crazy ex-girlfriend. It's all balanced out then."
So he didn't care at all that I was scared of my parents. Even though they're pretty normal, just freakishly strict. Unlike Carla, who's just a freak.
"We should have another date sometime soon," Eric continued on airily.
I turned to him suddenly. "You aren't serious?"
"Unless you don't want to have one."
"No! No, I mean, of course I do!" I said. "I just mean—even today? Really? You want to go on another date with me?"
"Well yeah, this one was interesting," he said. "Though I'm not sure if the next one will be just as fun." He didn't sound like he was joking at all.
"Oh, don't worry, I'm plenty of fun when we're alone," I said, grinning.
Eric laughed. "I can tell," he said as we neared his home. His sushi plate was empty in his hands, and he handed me his chopsticks.
"What are these for?"
"Just something." He shrugged. "To remember our date."
"Oh yes," I said. "How sentimental. Bamboo chopsticks." But I was only teasing.
"Would you like me to give you my plate instead?"
"Nah," I said. "My parents might figure out that I had sushi by the way the plate says 'SUSHI DINER' on it."
"That's true," he chuckled.
I suddenly realized that we had stopped in front of his front door and he was looking a bit fidgety under the streetlights, not at all because of the cold. I shifted around too; this really was the end of our date.
"See you in school?" he said to me.
I swallowed. "Yeah, see you."
"Till our next date then." Eric grinned, and, with his hands in his pockets, leaned over and touched my lips with his own.
He tasted like sushi. I beamed when he pulled back.
"Yeah," I said to him. "Till our next date."