The First Date

The First Date

When I was trying to decide how to describe the flirtation of Jenni Ann and Ashton, I wasn’t sure at first which way to go.  I mean, it is fiction, so I can go anywhere I want, right?  I wanted it to be light and to feel good after the previous crappy experiences she has had with love.  I wanted her to be Cinderella and him to be the Prince. I mean after all she’d been through in this book she needed a break!

So here is how I wrote about the first date:

“Sushi it is!” Ashton says as he politely opens the door, ushering me ahead. At my, request we were entering Bishoku, the best sushi restaurant in Atlanta. The chefs chant a greeting to us as we enter. Ashton nodded with me in acknowledgement, then leaned in to me as we are seated, asking, “Do they always say, um, Irasshaimase, or whatever it is they just said?”

“Irasshaimase?” I repeat back under my breath, laughing at his English interpretation. Just at that moment, two more couples come in and the familiar greeting is chanted aloud to them as well.

“So, yes, I take it they do.” He grins.

“It’s like when you walk into a Walt’s Ice Cream shop,” I explain. “They all say, ‘Welcome to Walt’s!’ You know, it’s just a greeting.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” he said with exaggerated relief. “I thought they were saying, ‘He looks like a cheap tipper. Give him to Shanghai Shirley in the back!’” Now he is grinning from ear to ear.

“That’s ludicrous!” I laugh at the thought of anybody thinking he could look cheap in any way.

“Ludacris? The famous rapper? Where?” he says, looking around jokingly. I couldn’t help but giggle as the waitress offered us the sushi menus.

“Well, it seems I don’t know a tekka don from a unagi!” he admits, reading from the list. “Maybe you could offer some suggestions?”

“Someone as worldly as you doesn’t eat sushi?” I asked. “Eat, yes. Order, no.” I helped him navigate the menu and order for both of us. When the food arrived, I identify some of the items on our plate. “This is hamachi, or yellowtail. And this on top is ijura. It is salmon egg,” I said as I showed him the plump, orange, translucent orbs.

“Well, in Russia, that would be known as caviar!” he said proudly. “And I do love caviar.” He is clumsy with his chopsticks and doesn’t get a bite.

“And this,” I continued, “this is the Jackie Roll, Bishoku’s signature roll.”

“Ahhh, speaking of, I did learn this,” he said, moving on with his attempts to snare the Jackie Roll. “Bishoku, translated, means ‘beautiful dining.’” He is desperate to keep his slice of sushi in between the chopsticks, but instead is dicing it and renders it in a pile on the small, ceramic Japanese plate.

“Well, reporter, you have done your homework, but not your handiwork.” I laugh again. “This delicious roll is named after the owner! You should really give it a little bit more respect,” I said jokingly.

“Oh, I know, but I mean, who can eat with these things?” he said, lifting his chopsticks in the air. “Here.” I lean over to him. “Let me show you how.” As my arm brushes against his, I can feel the strength of his physique and it makes me blush. He looks up at me. Our faces are so close. I can see his eyes change from laughing at his own clumsiness to magnets, pulling us closer. Suddenly, heat is searing through me straight to my soul with a desire I hadn’t felt in such a long time. The clatter of my dropped chopsticks breaks the spell. “Uh, oh,” I stammered, leaning to pick them up off the floor. He placed his hand on mine briefly.

“No,” he says as he leans to retrieve them. I notice my nails, still with bits of paint flakes adhered to them, and am struck by the contrast of his, so well manicured.

“Maybe we should just get you the kids’ chopsticks, already tied together,” I said nervously while leaning slowly back into my seat.

“So, I’ll use the kids’ chopsticks! Tell me, when did you know you were an artist?” “Oh,” I said, relieved to be talking about something else, “maybe when I was young… No one has ever asked me that.” I thought harder, wanting to answer. “That is an excellent question,” I finally said, thinking of Pappy and God’s Crayons. “Maybe I don’t even know.” Our conversation laced in and out of this subject and more about his job as a political correspondent. It was weightless. It was easy. The other diners were barely there.

As we walked back out to our cars, we noticed that the lot was nearly empty. “Well, next time,” asks Ashton, holding my car door open for me, “would you allow me to pick you up, or am I still on pre-stalker status?” Next time! I thought. He is already talking about next time!

“I’ll have to Google ‘pre-stalker status’ to be 100 percent sure,” I said, again giggling as I step to the inside of the door. As I turned to thank him for dinner, he reached out gently and drew me close to meet his lips. Briefly, gently. I am melting. We step back, slowly, looking into each other’s eyes. Is this the Cinderella kiss I’ve been waiting for all these years? Could this be my prince? I wondered.

“Yes,” I say aloud, trying to recover. “I believe you may pick me up next time, Mr. Ashton Parker.” He watched after me until I am almost out of sight before opening his car door. I know this because, using the rearview mirror, I can’t help but watch him, too.

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