I was trying to look like I was not trying too hard. This was supposed to be casual, after all. Honestly, I had zero expectations of this evening being anything but awkward and uncomfortable. The middle school girl with braces who hung out in corners at the school dances was still there, in my head. I tried to shut her up as I put on my yellow henley shirt and my pink suspender pants; I know this sounds like a crazy outfit, but I considered it hip at the time, and flattering.
Michelle nodded her approval; she was in a sweater and jeans. We walked up to the brothers’ red bricked colonial and rang the door bell. I was nervous, but Michelle was all smiles and reassurances.
Frank opened the door and let us inside. “Hey guys, we’re almost ready. Tom’s just finishing primping.”
Frank joked that Tom was apparently a little picky about his hair. Great, a freaky meticulous guy. I looked down at my bitten down nails and wished I’d thought to put a coat of polish on them at some point in the last seventy two hours. Did I have something in my teeth? I started running a mental check of my own grooming.
We made small talk with Frank’s mother, which was not exactly easy since English was not her first language. In fact, when Frank spoke to her, he spoke in German. She seemed nice enough though, and she and Michelle seemed to get along; a crucial point for any girl wanting to marry a woman’s son.
Finally, Tom appeared in the hallway.
Michelle wasn’t kidding. He was very good looking. I was a little stunned, actually. He was tall, somewhere around six feet or so. He had golden blond hair that curled in ringlets all over his head. Striking blue eyes, a strong chin, and a broad chest; I couldn’t believe the package delivered as actually as it was reported. Wow.
He graciously shook my hand, introducing himself. “Hi, I’m Tom. I guess you’re stuck with me tonight.”
It was a wonderfully self deprecating introduction. It couldn’t be possible that this guy was this good looking AND actually nice, could it?
It was. A few hours later we were laughing our way through our third set, with tons of high fives and hand slaps when I actually hit more than five pins. Tom didn’t get angry at my lack of bowling skill and the fact that I was dragging their average down; in fact, he told me I was “saving his life” by filling in for the regular bowler that night. I could feel that familiar sense of “clicking” with this boy, as I had with Joe and with Ray.All the signs were there; the sitting next to me, the needless touch here and there, the flirtatious language. He asked me a million questions about what teaching second graders was like, and I responded with questions about his internship, his school and what his degree entailed. He was interesting, funny and clearly smart, but also a good listener and seemingly just as interested in my answers to his questions.
If I had any doubts that the evening had gone well, confirmation arrived at the news that Frank was going to go out for coffee with Michelle, and was it OK with Tom to drive me home himself? I gave Michelle a knowing look as she and Frank sped off, leaving me and Tom at the threshold of his quiet house on the end of their street.
“Do you want to come in for a little while before I take you home?” he asked.
I gulped. “Sure, that sounds great,” I answered as his key clicked in the lock.
I felt like I was on the roller coaster at the top of the steep hill, looking down. I was exhilarated and scared all at the same time.