Over the past year, I have made an important realization: it is incredibly hard to get ready for a date without looking like that's what you're doing. This was no exception to that discovery, as much as I wished it would be.
I was in my room, trying to find an outfit that succeeded in being date-worthy, but not necessarily labeled 'date material'. I'll tell you right now that no such outfit exists, or if it does, I've yet to own it. Or see it. Or even hear of it.
While I was trying to decide on what to wear, part of me asked myself why I was even bothering to find something nice. I knew exactly why James and I were going out on a 'date' on such short notice: I was going to get dumped.
Maybe that should have bothered me, but it really didn't. I'd known all along that our relationship couldn't last forever, and we're close enough that I knew we could stay 'just friends' without things getting strained or anything.
I eventually gave up on trying to find something 'perfect', and decided that a nice pair of loose black jeans, a white wife beater, and a red and white plaid over-shirt would just have to do. I put on socks, my black and red Nikes, did my hair, put on some cologne and I was ready to go.
"Bye Mom, bye Dad," I said as I walked out of the living room. "I'm gonna hang out with James for a while; I should be back before ten." They nodded, and I headed out the front door.
I got into my black Corvette and headed off to The Yellow Rose, the place where I was supposed to meet my boyfriend. If I hadn't known it was one of his favorite restaurants, I'd have suspected him of picking a stereotypical Texas restaurant, just so I couldn't raise a fuss over being dumped without being jumped by a pack of homophobe rancher/cowboys. You're either straight or a queer, as far as that type's concerned, and I'm pretty sure that they'd label me 'queer' quicker than a three-year-old can get bucked off a bronco. Things could only go downhill from there.
No, nothing's happened to me, but stuff happened to a friend of a friend; some hicks grabbed him while he was taking out the trash one night, dragged him into a little side alley nearby, and beat him black and blue. He moved to California, figured he'd fit in better there, which is a pretty good judgement call, if you ask me.
All in all, I wasn't too worried. After all, I didn't plan on making a big scene.
It didn't take too long for me to get to the restaurant, which was a good thing. I just wanted to get some good food in my stomach, then get the whole thing over with. The less time it took, the better, as far as I was concerned.
I walked in and said I was there to meet with James Sanchez. The host, a really hot guy with gorgeous blue eyes, took me to where James was waiting. I thanked him and sat down across from James in a little two-person booth.
"Hey," I greeted my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. He smiled, but it looked kind of strained. Charming, yes, but forced.
"Hey, Davis. Go ahead and order whatever you want," James offered, nodding towards the menu lying on the table.
"I'll have a Coke and the mesquite grilled chicken with a Caesar salad," I told the waiter when he arrived. He nodded, took the menu, and left, saying he'd be right back with our orders.
I only halfway listened to what James was saying as I waited for the food to show up. We've been really good friends ever since we were just little kids, and I knew that he babbles when he's nervous, which he was. Instead, my mind was on the waiter.
I knew he was from our school, but I couldn't quite place him. I'd seen him in the halls, thought to myself that I loved his hair, but that's all I could remember. I checked his nametag when he came back with our drinks: Michael.
"Michael Saint!" I burst out, the name finally hitting me. The waiter stared at me, surprised, but nodded. James looked annoyed by the fact that I wasn't paying attention to him. Typical quarterback, always wanting to be the center of attention…
"Sorry," I apologized, realizing that I must have sounded like an idiot. "I just knew that I'd seen you at school, but I couldn't remember your name."
"Yeah… You're Davis Brown, right? And of course this is James Sanchez, star quarterback." James grinned at the attention being paid him, not even noticing the way Michael practically spat his name and the word 'star', as if they had a bad taste he wanted out of his mouth.
"Yeah, that's us. Sorry for being so weird all of a sudden. Uh, I think you should probably go, the people at that table are glaring at you like you'll explode or something if they stare hard enough," I pointed out, feeling kind of weird about taking up so much of the poor guy's time with stupid comments.
Michael blushed, said the food would be out soon, and darted over to the table I'd mentioned, apologizing repeatedly to the people for taking so long.
I tuned James most of the way out again and watched Michael out of the corner of my eye. Why listen to more boring play by plays of past football games I'd already watched when I could occupy my mind with something more pleasant instead? Something like, say, a really cute blonde waiter?
Rumors at school said that Michael Saint was gay, but nobody knew for sure if they were true or not. I mean, he didn't act gay, or dress gay, or sound gay. Stereotypically, I mean. He just seemed like a pretty normal guy. Well, not really normal, seeing as how his outfits were never "in fashion" and tended to run to extremes, but that wasn't enough to label him as a queer.
Then again, he'd never shown interest in any of the girls at school before, not even the two cheerleaders that fell for him last year. Kids at school will gossip about any guy that just flat out turns down two of the hottest girls at school, so most people didn't put a lot of faith in the rumors; most of them thought he was either really picky, or just plain stupid.
I, on the other hand, was pretty sure that the rumors were true. There had just been a few little things that I'd noticed over our time together at school. I don't even remember what the individual things were anymore; just that the overall picture they painted didn't say 'straight' to me. And I'm usually a pretty good judge of those types of things.
So in other words, instead of paying to attention to my best friend, or worrying about being dumped, or waiting impatiently for the food to get to us, I was checking out the waiter. For fifteen minutes straight.
I nodded and smiled at Michael when he finally got back with our food; he blushed again. James and I started eating; the food wasn't all that great, and I just wanted to hurry up and get dumped. Weird? Me? Heh. Of course not.
"James, do me a favor and get on with it already," I finally sighed in exasperation, getting fed up with the way he was eating so slowly. I had already eaten all that I wanted to from my meal, and as far as I was concerned, the sooner he finished his own food, the better.
"Get on with what?" he asked innocently, looking up in mid-bite.
"With dumping me!"
He looked surprised. "How did you… Never mind. You've always been good at reading me; I should have guessed you'd seen this coming. Anyway…" I readied myself for a stereotypical, by the book 'I'm leaving you' line; I wasn't disappointed. "You're a great guy and all, but I've found someone else," he said. Yeah, that's James for you: real creative.
I nodded. "What's her name?" I asked, curious despite myself. His eye widened even further, and I had to admit to myself that he looked pretty cute. Yeah, so we were officially broken up now, but that didn't mean I couldn't still check him out if I wanted to.
"I don't have anyone in specific picked out yet, but I… Wait. How'd you know it was a girl?"
I shrugged. "Simple. Homecoming's in a week or two, and you need a date. I know that taking a guy would ruin your reputation as the perfect, All-American quarterback—I don't expect you to do that for me. If you want to impress everyone, you need some pretty girl that looks good in high heels and a sparkly dress."
A sheepish grin appeared on James's face. "I don't mean to seem like a stuck-up jerk or anything, but yeah. I'm sure you'd look great in high heels, but… It just wouldn't be something the kids at school could deal with, especially not at Homecoming. Besides, I really do like girls too—you know that. I might as well take a pretty one, you know?"
Despite myself, I grinned. Even when he was being a jerk, he really didn't mean to, and he came off as being cute. Like a kid that doesn't realize he's being impolite.
Besides, I couldn't really blame him. Appearance and popularity are really big things to athletes, especially ones hoping for scholarships. I knew that, which is why I didn't take it personally.
"No hard feelings?" he asked, looking almost worried. I shook my head.
"No hard feelings. I promise."
Knowing that he felt so bad about it made me feel good, to tell you the truth, so there was no point in making him feel worse than he already did.
We both nodded, and I got up to leave. No point in staying; I was dumped, done eating, and he was covering the bill. Before I'd taken even two steps away from our booth, chaos erupted, and I looked around to see what was going on.
It didn't take more than three seconds to see what the problem was. Michael was sprawled across the table of the men that gotten upset with him earlier, and the situation didn't look good. One man was pinning him to the table, while another was pulling his arm back, ready to punch him.
James and I burst out of our booth together, ran the few steps over to the table, and took action. James pulled the attacker away from Michael, and I punched the guy holding Michael down square in the jaw; needless to say, he let go pretty quick.
The second that Michael was free of his assailants, he ran out of the restaurant at top speed, darting past customers and staff alike in a desperate sprint to get away. I punched the guy I'd already hit a few more times, just for good measure and, I'll admit, the sheer fun of it, then followed Michael out of the restaurant, leaving James to deal with the two idiots.
I wasn't worried about James's ability to handle that pair of jerks; he was rich, he was a star athlete, and his dad was a lawyer. Add the fact that the guys had started it by beating up an innocent waiter, and what did James have to fear? Nothing, that's what. I'd just call him later and thank him, then split the repair costs of the table.
The transition from the bright lights of the restaurant to its relatively dark parking lot was a sudden one, and I blinked for several seconds as I looked around, trying to force my eyes to adjust to the darkness quicker.
I spotted Michael in a matter of seconds, an easy thing to do since he was the only person outside besides me, and walked over to him. I wondered if he'd be freaked out; I knew that I probably would be, after something like that. I'd at least be angry, that was for sure.
One way or the other, regardless of what he was feeling, I wanted to talk to him and make sure he was okay. Of course, I also wanted to satisfy my curiosity and find out what happened. That might seem kind of rude, but hey. It's human nature. Kind of like looking out your window at the site of a car wreck, wondering if you can find out if anyone died.
Michael was standing in front of one of the restaurant's side walls, away from the two overhead lights and the one huge, blind-covered window. I approached him slowly, not wanting to scare him or to make him think I was one of the guys that attacked him, following him out here to finish the matter.