“I want to buy you a drink.”
Simple, straightforward words. Why did they hold so much weight to her? That was their beginning. She was so excited it would be foolish of her to deny that. Wasn’t it what she wanted? One drink. But what did it mean? Could it be a gateway to something more? There she was overthinking again, placing meaning to something that did not need any deciphering.
Dana looked at the text without replying. She did not know what to say. He didn’t ask her. He told her what he wanted. That did not give her room to make a decision she thought. She could not just take it for it was.
“That’d be nice when?”
The date was set. It was all Dana could think about. She did not want to jinx it that’s why she didn’t tell her friends. What was she protecting Mali from?
Dana and Mali had met in a club. Even then, he did not do anything to crave attention but he was all she noticed. They were seated next to each other on the same table. He was a friend of a friend.
“May I please have a glass of your water?”
He did not answer. He just took an empty glass and poured it for her. She was jittery. Dana had already picked out baby names and yet no words were exchanged. They sat there looking at each other but no one said a word. Conversations were going on around them. Unconsciously, Dana took the water and drank it all.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t notice. Let me buy you another bottle or anything you’d like?”
That was their icebreaker and they spent the whole night talking to each other. Laughing at other people’s dance moves yet they were seated.
“I could dance better than that.”
“Then why are you seated making me laugh, go bust a move.”
“You ain’t ready.”
From then on ‘you ain’t ready’ became their word.
Their night was cut short when her friends texted her that they were leaving.
“I’ll text you at 8 a.m. to tell you how boring my night was after you left?”
She laughed as she walked away. Of course, he was not going to text her, that is what she thought.
“Hey it’s Mali.” At exactly 8 there was a text from him. Dana couldn’t believe it. He told her all the details of that night before Dana could even form a coherent thought. He kept his word and Dana was intrigued. It was a Saturday. They talked about everything and nothing at all. It was perfection to Dana. But they lived in different towns. They kept trying to meet but something always came up. Texting became a mundane task. Calling felt too intrusive. So they were left with the awkward how are you’s occasionally. It was obvious they liked each other but there was no rhythm in the direction they were heading.
Dana had not expected to hear from him so that text was a reminder of the fantasies she had created in her head. The wedding that would have happened, the first date that never came to be and all the names she had picked for their children. She went back to that first night they met and she replayed those moments in her head. She did not want to forget a single word he said. Even though that moment was becoming a memory, she might forget.
This time she would not read too much into what they shared.
But all that resolve went down the drain; Dana could not take her eyes of him. He wasn’t doing anything special. He was just being. When she hugged him, she felt a familiarity that did not belong. Texts and infrequent phone calls could not bring that, she thought. It was not awkward; they picked up where they left off their conversation.
He did not drink. That made her a bit self-conscious.
“Do you see yourself embracing your vulnerability?
“What?”, as she choked on her drink.
Why was he being intense? That is not how you started a conversation.
“Or do you want to hide?”
Dana did not respond to his questions. She kept on sipping her cocktail pretending that he had not said anything.
She could feel him, as he looked right through her. His words clung to her body waiting; wanting to be devoured. Then he kissed her, something she never expected. She did not push him away. His face was so close to hers she could smell the apple juice he had been drinking and before she knew it; his tongue was in her mouth. She was kissing him back. Softly at first, then with an intensity that made her pull him closer to her.
They were in a restaurant. She wanted to tell him to stop. What if someone saw them? But did it matter?
It was as if he could hear her thoughts.
“Do you want me to-“
The rest of his words were lost against her mouth. This was not her. She was the prim and proper girl but in that moment, nothing made sense.
Mali touched her body and everything in her told her to trust the way his hands moved. She knew that if she continued kissing him all her unutterable thoughts might just occur right in front of her eyes. He sensed that Dana was trying to pull back. Before she could withdraw, his arms were around her. She would blame it on the alcohol. She wanted to let go without fear. He was one of the people she longed to wait for on other side of fear. She was dreadfully afraid that it might go too far but she did not want that moment to end.
She wanted to be where his mind often wandered. She was willing to let him take everything from her. This was an alternate universe. She had not prepared her mind for this.
She was not thinking it but somehow her brain decided to act on her behalf. Mali just laughed as he let go of Dana.
The bill was paid, then they walked out of the restaurant. There was an awkward moment, both of them standing there not saying a thing.
“Let me call a taxi,” she said.
He pulled her close to him and told her he would drop her home. All she could think of was what would happen if she kissed him. Would she be a girl who went after what she wanted or one who did not know how to read the room? The drive was silent. Dana blurted out directions once every 10 minutes. There was a song on the radio. He kept looking at her and he mouthed the words you ain’t ready. She laughed. Not the well-choreographed laugh but the one she tried her best to hide.
Then, they were at her gate. She did not want to alight. What did that kiss mean? She wanted to ask him. The alcohol had worn off so she could not use that as an excuse for brazenness.
As she opened the front-seat door, Mali pulled her back.
“What if you didn’t go home tonight?”
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