I think Tanner's smile grew brighter with every day that passed by the following week. I couldn't believe that he was so comfortable and happy with all of this while I was taking things a whole other way, getting more and more anxious as the dreaded dinner date got closer. I know that I didn't really have anything to worry about so much...I mean, I doubt the night is going to end with them screaming obscenities and hurling dishes at one another. It's just...I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm just being weird. Awkward and weird.
The few times that Chris lingered around in the locker room, I tried to keep myself from bashing him over the head with talk about me and Tanner. I'm sure he's so tired of hearing it by now, and I guess it's a little insensitive...considering his feelings for me. I'm surprised that we're still as close as we are, to be honest. He didn't take the heartbreak well at all.
I think things will stay uncomplicated as long as I keep my boyfriend out of it.
"So what have you got going on this weekend? Anything special?" Chris asked me on Friday.
"Oh...um, nothing big. Just some stuff. Just...stuff." I said.
"Yeah. You know...stuff." I wasn't going to say anything else. I swear. But, come on....did I really have to?
"Oh..." He sad. "I get it. You and Mr. Wonderful have one of your little dates planned, I take it?"
I didn't want to gush about it, so I said, "Yeah. Well, he's just sort of...coming over to dinner. My mom's cooking, so..."
"Your mom?" He asked. "So....you mean she's cool with you being...?" He made some sort of weird gesture, hehehe, but I got the hint.
"Yeah. She was actually really cool about it. A little shocked at first, sure...but really cool."
"Lucky you." Chris said, and sort of kept his back turned to me as he finished buttoning up his shirt.
There was a certain sadness in his silence. I turned to him and said, "It really is ok, Chris. You know....'being'..."
"I wouldn't know." I guess Chris still hasn't gotten that far yet. "I'm busy this weekend anyway. My dad's opening another restaurant here in town, and he's almost ready to start planning his grand opening. I'm going to have the whole house to myself. I'm sure there's some level of mischief I can get into."
I smiled and said, "You know...you could always ask Mitch to come over."
"Yeah, or not. Besides, I think you got that whole situation backwards, buddy boy."
"Mitch isn't talking to me. Ok?" Chris said. When I asked him what happened, he said, "I don't know. I tried to talk to him a couple of times, and he didn't answer me. I just figured he wasn't interested anymore."
"Maybe he's just busy with something, dude."
"Yeah. Or maybe he's not interested." Chris sulked slightly. "We used totalk all the time, but then...nothing. He just cut me off. No explanation. I mean...what better way to say 'I don't want to talk to you' than to simply stop talking to me?" Then he straightened up and closed his locker. "Whatever. It's no big deal. People change. I've gotta run. See you Monday..."
"There's lots of other boys out there, you know? Most of them cuter than me."
Chris stopped walking, and he looked me in the eye when he said, "Don't get your ego all thrown out of whack or anything...but none of them will ever be cuter than you, Derrick. Not a single one of 'em."
I wonder what went wrong? I thought Mitch would have been happy to have Chris' attention on him again. Maybe he got nervous? Who knows? I just...wish that Chris could find his way to true happiness in his life. Wow...I can't believe I just said that to myself. After all the times I wanted him to get run over by a TRAIN...it's weird to be cheering him on to find eternal love and bliss. Strange.
When I woke up the following morning, the first thought on my mind was..."My God, today's the day!" Immediately, my brain started working overtime. Calculating every bad thing that could possibly happen within the next 24 hours. Considering everything that could go wrong and trying to plot out a series of contingency plans to avoid any and all forms of teenage embarrassment. Keep those wheels turning, Derrick. I want to get all of my bases covered.
I spent time pacing.
I spent time worrying.
I spent time pacing some more, this time cleaning up parts of my room that weren't even dirty.
Then I went downstairs into the living room and just tried to sit still as the clock ticked down to doomsday.
I got up off of the couch as I heard my mom coming in the front door...struggling with even more bags than she had last week. I immediately went over to give her a hand, and said "Geez, Mom. More groceries?"
"I had to make sure that everything was in order for tonight. Just leave it all on the table. I'm going to set up my workspace as soon as I get a breather. Oh my gosh, I'm so excited! Aren't you?"
I looked in the bags as I set them down. "Steak? You're making steak?"
"The best steak we've ever had. It'll be just like old times, remember? You and your dad had to stay out of the kitchen and let me throw down for a while? Well, I'm feeling much more inspired tonight. Believe me." She smiled.
I didn't want to be rude in asking, but... "Mom...can we afford all of this?"
"You let me worry about that. My son only gets one 'first boyfriend', and we're going to celebrate it big time, Sweet Pea."
"Mom...please don't call me 'Sweet Pea' when Tanner gets here. Ok?" I whined.
"Don't worry. I won't embarrass you. You teenagers and your 'parent-phobia'." She said. I wasn't so sure that she was going to stick to her word. I don't think parents actually know what embarrassing is. Maybe you lose your perspective of it after a certain age. Ugh! I hope this goes alright. I probably should have called Tanner. I don't want him to...I don't know...say anything to make me nervous. Not in front of her.
Jesus! Now I know how Superman feels! Clark Kent and Superman are supposed to live two completely separate lives. They're not suppose to...'connect'. In ANY way. EVER!
My mom got in a decent rest, but once she got up again and got herself back in that kitchen, I heard pots and pans banging and clanging together with a vengeance. Cabinets opening and closing. Drawers rattling with culinary utensils that usually lie dormant until Thanksgiving dinner. And the next time I walked in there, she had a set up on the counter next to the stove that looked like she was setting up an army battalion for war. I can't remember the last time I had seen her so happy. I know that she hated only having enough time and energy to throw something 'functional' together for me after work and before school, but she loved cooking. I couldn't count the number of times she had to help the diner out during an unexpected rush of customers. I guess she was back in her element.
I showered and got myself ready for the big event. I can't say what had me so jittery and nervous about this dinner date of ours. I shouldn't be, right? Shit, I don't know what to think! I just put on some clothes and tried to build up enough confidence to make it through the rest of tonight so we never ever EVER have to do this again! Why did I agree to this? Oh wait...I didn't. That's how. My mom and Tanner are big SNEAKS! The both of them!
I came downstairs, and my mom already had the steak cut and cleaned and marinating in some kind of concoction that she had made herself. She had salad ingredients on the table, and all of her spices and stuff within reach. She meant business tonight. I could tell.
She saw me and said, "Honey? Do me a favor and grab the Balsamic vinaigrette from the cabinet by the fridge, will you?" I handed it to her and she added it to her 'arsenal' of flavor on the counter, still working some magic on the flank steaks themselves. "Gotta put a little love into these. Makes them tender. They'll be tough without a little love." Then she took one look at what I had on and said, "Oh...is that what you're wearing?"
"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"
"Aww, honey, you should snazz up a little bit, don't you think?"
"Snazz up for who? It's Tanner, Mom. And I'm at home. It's not like we're going out anywhere..."
"I know, Derrick, but...ya know...? Are you really going to do a pullover t-shirt? C'mon..." What? It was clean. She was squirming a bit, but I don't know why. Geez, I didn't think I looked that bad. "Why don't you wear that off-white, button down shirt of yours? You know, the one with the really nice design on it? It's so cute on you. It brings out your eyes."
I'm exhausted by this dinner already. "UGH! Fine!" I said, leaving the kitchen in a huff.
"Ugh! Fine!" She said, mocking me with a grin. "Iron it if it needs ironing!" She called out, and got another frustrated groan in return. "I love you, Sweet Pea"
"Please, don't call me Sweet Pea while Tanner's here." I answered back, and then went to go change.
So...the moment of truth was upon me. Tanner's almost never late. Like, for anything. My mom was searing those steaks up nicely and tossing a salad in a large wooden bowl when we heard the doorbell ring. My mom actually 'yelped' with glee when she heard it, causing me to jump. "He's here! He's here! Ok...you go let him in and you two come back to the kitchen. Ok?"
"It's just Tanner. Mom, please don't make this weird..."
"It won't be weird. It won't. It'll be amazing. Wait..." She started messing with my hair causing me to swat her hands away as if I was fending off some sort of random bat attack! She straightened my collar, and gave me a smile. "Tonight is going to be something special. I promise."
"I know, just...chill out, k?"
"I'm chill. You're Mom's a hip lady." She said.
"Don't...use the words 'hip lady' around him, ok?" I pleaded.
"I can come up with something else..."
"No. Like...don't. Just...don't talk too much." I said.
"You're keeping your date waiting out in the cold, you know?"
"Just...don't get all mushy and crazy on me."
"Go answer the door, Derrick." She grinned, giving me a push.
"And don't call me Sweet Pea!" I said as I walked into the living room.
Ok. Deep breath. I think my mother knows the house rules for tonight. Now, let me just make sure that Tanner knows how to behave as well, and we can make this night go off without a hitch.
I put my hand on the doorknob...and opened it wide.
It's not like Tanner came dressed in a tux or anything, but it was definitely a bit more than the casual attire that I was used to him wearing. It was...you know...hot. Ok, so I'll give my mom ONE bonus point for making me change, but that's it! And I'm not going to tell her about it either.
"Hi..." Tanner said shyly, and I saw him holding three red roses in his hand as he nodded at his ride and let them know it was ok to take off.
I reached for the flowers. "Awww, look at you. How sweet." I smirked.
He lightly smacked the back of my hand. "These aren't for YOU, silly. They're for your mom." He peeked over my shoulder for a second to make sure that we were alone, then he gave me a brief kiss on the lips as he stepped inside. "Omigod...the whole house smells delicious! What the heck is she cooking in there???"
"Come on and find out. I guess she wants us to help." I smiled. I led him into the kitchen, where he was instantly bowled over by the aroma filling the house, getting a powerful fragrance right there at its source.
My mom was standing there against the sink, attempting to look...er um...I don't know how she was intending to look. But it looked weird. Hehehe, at least to me it did.
"Tanner! So glad you could make it sweetheart!" She said, coming over to hug my boyfriend around his shoulders. "And what's this?"
"I brought you some roses, Mrs. Liddle." He said sheepishly, handing them to her while sort of keeping his head down. "I didn't want to come empty handed."
"Why, thank you, Tanner. Awww, you are SUCH a cutie!" She said, kissing him on the forehead. "I will...uhhh...hmmm, I'm not sure that I have anything to put these in..."
Before she could finish, Tanner pulled out another little box from behind him and said, "Don't worry. I took care of that too. Just in case." It was a small clear vase made of glass, just the perfect size for our kitchen table. Nothing expensive, or necessarily flashy. Just something to hold the roses up. Something sweet. I don't know...my baby was just...making me really proud tonight. I was moved.
My mother took a brief pause to smile at us, and she instantly put water in the small vase and set it up as the centerpiece of our table. Then, she eagerly took Tanner by the hand and pulled him over to her 'work' area. "Wash your hands! Both of you. I want you guys to help me finish off dinner. Come on." She said, causing Tanner to roll up his sleeves and giggle.
"Sweet! What is that you've got going in here? It smells awesome." He said.
"Well, tonight we're having flank steak, cut and feathered out to make it tender. I promise. I'm serving it up with garlic and black pepper and a nice grilled onion relish and a few mushrooms. Side of garden salad with a homemade vinaigrette, and you two are going to make the steak sauce." She grinned.
"WOW! You made all that?" Tanner said, his eyes wide.
I said, "My mom might definitely knows how to a Grade A gourmet mess when she wants to. But it'll be worth every bite."
My mom gave Tanner an apron and then handed me hers. "One thing you're going to learn before you leave her tonight...is that Derrick's mom's got skills!" She winked at him, and I silently gave her the signal to stop right there. Like...no more! Enough! God, I hope she doesn't call me 'Sweet Pea'...
She gave us everything that we needed for the sauce. The Balsamic vinegar, some worscestershire sauce, ketchup, Dijon mustard...Tanner kept looking at me like none of these things should ever go in the same pot, ever. He fumbled a bit, but once I assured him that it would be amazing, he trusted me to follow the instructions the rest of the way.
That's when we heard the phone ring, and my mom hurried over to grab it. "Hello? Uh huh? Well...ok, but...can you hold on for just one moment?" She covered the phone with her hand and looked over our shoulder. "Honey, reduce the heat on this just a little bit, and let it thicken. But you guys keep stirring, ok. Strain it again if you think you have to. Put a few shakes of Cayenne pepper in there. Give it some heat." Then she took the phone in the other room to talk.
Tanner and I were only quiet for a second before he looked at me and just burst out with a flurry of boyish giggles. I asked him what he was laughing at, and he just shrugged a shoulder and said, "I don't know, this is just...it's cool. You know? I don't know, I never thought I'd be making steak sauce in the kitchen of my boyfriend's mother before. Hehehe! This whole thing is so surreal. And I've barely been here fifteen minutes yet."
I looked over at his profile, those smooth cheeks barely hidden behind that silken sweep of beautiful hair...hanging to his cheekbones. Those candied lips displaying the most innocent and alluring of smiles as he peeked into the pot to make sure he was stirring it right. Hehehe...omigod it was the cutest thing EVER! It felt like my heart was actually being squeezed for every last drop of giddy infatuation that could possibly be wrung from its already drained dry surface! Unable to help myself, I put my hands on Tanner's slender hips and attempted to turn him to face me.
"Hehehe, Derrick? What are you up to?"
"Kiss me..." I smiled.
"Unh unh, I'm stirring."
"I don't care. I wanna kiss." I said, and Tanner blushed softly as he leaned in and gave me a sweet little peck on the lips. "I want another kiss!"
"Hahaha, behave, you! Your mom went through an awful lot of trouble just to have us mess up on the sauce at the last minute." I really couldn't help myself. He just...he looked so cute and smelled so good and he was being so adorable...I almost wished we had the house to ourselves. I kissed him again and again, and when he laughed and leaned his head back away from me...his neck was fully exposed to me, and I dove straight for it, making loud kissing noises as he giggled and a squirmed from the ticklish sensation. "Nooooooo! No wait, hehehe, wait wait! Um...HERE! We need to taste the sauce! Taste it! We need to...hahaha, Derrick! Quit it!" Tanner finally pushed me far enough off of him to reach for the spoon in the sauce and hold it up to my lips. I got a little swipe of the seasoned concoction off of the tip of the spoon, and while it was made to perfection...I still think the nape of Tanner's neck tasted better. "Is it good? Did we do it right?" He asked.
"It's excellent." I said. "Here, taste..." I took my finger and wiped it in the center of the spoon to offer him some. Tanner's blush deepened, but he took the offering...pursing those delicate lips around the tip of my finger and getting me all aroused and excited by sucking the thickening sauce with a slow lap of his tongue. "Hehehe, you did that on purpose." I said.
"Want more? Hehehe! I got some more sauce on my finger, but this time I purposely surprised him by wiping it on the tip of his nose, making both of us snicker uncontrollably. Tanner actually raised his hand up and I caught it. "Omigod, dude, we're you gonna slap me? Hahaha!"
"Maybe. Hehehe, you need a god slapping!"
"I can't believe you were actually gonna slap me. Ugh. Shame on you."
"Shame on you first. Erg." We struggled a little bit, with him trying to get a hand free and me trying to keep him still, hehehe....but then...our eyes made contact....and everything stopped. I gazed into those bright hazel orbs and was instantly reminded why this boy left me so breathless. Out little wrestling match came to an end, our muscles relaxed, and I think we both thought about fighting the force that was now pulling us forward...but why? When the love is this strong, this pure...the touch of our lips was inevitable.
We kissed. More than just a peck this time. A longer, lingering kiss, that made me weak in the knees...but weightless enough to stay standing. The love in my heart poured out of me. I cared so very much for him. Everything about him was a dream come true for me. You have no idea how amazing it is to be loved this way. He really does complete me. He really makes me feel alive.
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