Jessica must have been on the same wavelength, because she orders a burger as well, and then I buy a basket of chips to put on the table between us. We take our number and head to a small two-seater table by the window.
“Now we just need to keep an eye on the time,” Jessica says, smiling at me.
We fall silent. This is the first hurdle, I suddenly realize. Every other time we’ve sat down to talk alone, it was either about Owen or we ended up having sex. It’s strangely different now that we’re on an actual date. I don’t know what to say.
“Owen hasn’t let go of that bear since Sunday,” Allison suddenly says.
“Really?” I ask, startled and pleased.
“He really does adore you,” Jessica says with a small smile. “His daycare teacher says he was bragging all about the truck you got him last week. They pulled me aside because, as far as they knew, his father wasn’t, uh, on the scene, and I just told them that we were apart but had been working things out. It isn’t really any of their business.”
“What about Hazel?” I ask. “You said she would be curious.”
“She was,” Jessica says dryly. “She sent so many messages. I finally called her late Saturday night and explained. She deserves to know what’s going on. She’s really looking forward to meeting you.”
“She sounds nice,” I say with a small smile.
“She’s pretty great,” Jessica agrees with a laugh.
We’ve relaxed, I realize. Talking about Owen is an ice breaker. Maybe we really can do this after all.
I can only hope so.
I have no idea what I did to deserve this. It feels like I’m flying on air, as though absolutely nothing can go wrong. Grant is smiling and laughing with me, and he’s talking to me. Most of our conversation has revolved around Owen, and we’ve very carefully steered our way around sensitive topics like our break-up, the research that I did to find out Grant’s secret and our feelings for each other, whatever they are. Those sorts of things can wait until we’re both more secure in a relationship, if it ever gets to that point.
I don’t know for sure that this is going to work. But, as dinner wears on, I start to feel cautiously hopeful, especially as the conversation turns away from Owen and onto our daily lives. I talk to Grant about my job at the local grocery store; it isn’t much, and I work two full days a week so I can pay the rent and Owen’s day care fees, but I enjoy it, especially since it gets me out of the house.
Grant, on the other hand, seems to enjoy playing with a local football team. The weather has taken a cold turn lately, so they haven’t played as much as he would like to. He dragged Kyle to a game once, thinking that he would be the perfect player, but the large man fumbled the ball so many times that eventually ended up leaving the field so that everyone else could continue playing the game. I laughed hard at the image; Kyle doesn’t strike me as the type to be really clumsy, after all, and it’s hilarious to imagine him tripping on the field and dropping the ball like his fingers are made out of butter.
Grant grins along with me, looking pleased that he made me laugh. I remember, vaguely, from the other night, being so happy that I had made him smile and laugh after several beers. It gave me a warm, contented feeling.
But this is so much better. Grant isn’t smiling at me because he’s drunk and his inhibitions are lowered. He’s smiling because he’s sitting across from me on a date that he asked me on, half eaten burgers between us as we tell each other things about ourselves. He wants to be here, and that makes all the difference in the world.
It’s enough to make me want to cry. But I won’t, because that would startle Grant, and I don’t want this date to end any time soon.
I’m learning so much about him. When he said we should try this to get to know each other a little better, he really meant it. It’s not only about the football, which is a sport I had no idea he played. He tells me that he learned to play the piano a long, long time ago, when one of his kinder foster families paid for lessons, and that he sometimes still practices on a keyboard Ethan bought for Lily, who is apparently tone-deaf and hates music.
Then there’s the thing about computers. I had no idea that Grant loved tinkering with the inside of laptops and computers. He taught himself the components of these devices by pulling them apart and carefully putting them back together.
“I ruined several laptops doing it,” he says with a laugh. “Luckily they were old and no one wanted them anymore. But, eventually, I figured it out. Now, if any of the club members have a computer problem, they’ll bring it to me. Most of them even pay me for it. Only Ethan doesn’t, and that’s because I refuse to take his money.”
It’s fascinating. I wish I had known all these things about Grant three years ago. I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t know.
And as we start talking about me, I notice that I’m the same. Grant didn’t know that I could play the flute because I was in a school band. He didn’t know that I’m an aunt to two girls, though that’s only been in recent years when my sister gave birth to identical twins. He had no idea that I can’t stand ruffles on dresses because they tickle my skin and make me itchy all night.
Why didn’t we know these things about each other? These pieces of information aren’t huge, they aren’t secrets. After being in a relationship, we should have known almost everything there was to know about each other.
But we didn’t. Because we were both very closed-off people. Grant didn’t know how to trust anyone after what happened to him. I didn’t know how to open up and say what was on my mind, having been bullied terribly as a child and, as a result, being scared that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. Just another thing that Grant didn’t know about.
We really didn’t have the best relationship three years ago. It’s almost hard to believe that it lasted as long as it did. I think we were only together for two and a half years because we loved each other so much, and we both hoped that the other would eventually open up, well aware of the secrets we were keeping ourselves.
Maybe, one day, these things would have been voiced. But, instead, our relationship was cut tragically short by my foolishness. Now, here we are three years later, acting like we’re on our very first date and taking the time to really get to know each other.
I could sit here forever. But we hav