“I like parks,” Tom cheerfully observed. He sat back, resting his hands supportively in the thick grass and closing his eyes in the warm spring sunshine.
“Mmm-hmmm,” Abigail responded, in a noncommittal way. She squinted into the bright light, feeling wetness seeping through the small blanket and into her jeans from the moist lawn. A slight breeze carried a tangible whiff of dog feces from somewhere nearby.
Tom turned to Abigail, opening his blue eyes to stare into her brown ones. Unfortunately, the angle of her face made the sun reflect off her glasses and he couldn’t quite see them. He shifted, then smiled as their eyes finally met and her face brightened.
“There are just so many things in life to be excited about,” Tom continued, confidently. He’d finished his first week at a new job, one he’d selected after all the companies he’d applied for offered him a position. “Like, today, for example,” he said. “It’s a beautiful Saturday, and I have you to spend all afternoon with.”
Abigail recoiled slightly at the sincere praise. She had spent that morning at yet another interview. A whole month had passed since the last company she’d worked for had decided to downsize. She found herself feeling unwanted lately after so much rejection. “Yeah,” she said, attempting to echo his positive tones. “I’m glad you planned this, Tom.”
Frowning somewhat, Tom amended, “Oh, I didn’t plan today. I just thought we could wing it.” He laughed. “We could do anything. The sky’s the limit, you know!”
The $20 bill Abigail had dusted her apartment for felt smaller in her pocket, as she considered how much sky might end up costing this afternoon.
“So what do you want to do?” Tom asked.
Oh, great, she thought, I need to say something fun and adventurous so I don’t sound like a stick in the mud. Sticks and mud were already poking at her ankles. She cast around for an idea.
She chickened out. “What do you think would be fun?” Hopefully, he’d keep it under $20.
“Well,” Tom began immediately, whipping out his cell phone, “I actually made a list.” Activating the screen, he scooted closer to Abigail so she might see the ideas he’d compiled. He still subconsciously managed to sit in a dry spot.
He read aloud as she did so silently, “Tubing down the river, going to the pier, spend the day at Six Flags, try paragliding, see a movie, ride a zipline, eating dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, rent bicycles…”
The list continued a few more lines. None of the options seemed inexpensive. None of them fit the mood Abigail was in, which was to simply sit somewhere and recuperate after an emotionally-stressful week.
She liked Tom, a lot. He was intelligent, capable, organized, and he liked her. He said he liked her. He’d truly seemed to after their last date, during that first, lingering kiss just outside her apartment building. Too bad it had been that time of the month, literally during dinner. She’d have been screwed without that spare pad in her purse.
Well, Abigail thoughtfully amended, I’d been screwed if it hadn’t been that time of the month.
Coming back to the present, Abigail realized Tom had stopped reading his list. He was looking at her expectantly.
Tom liked Abigail, a lot. She was thin, kind, laughed at his odd jokes, and seemed to like him in return. She had a great butt, and kissed well. He thought she might not feel the same as he did after they’d only kissed last time, but then she had texted him on Wednesday to ask if they were still on for Saturday. Despite his many great qualities, sometimes girls would not answer him back when he texted.
Tom waited for Abigail, his face betraying some impatience. The day was nice, but would pass quickly. They needed to make a decision and go.
He reached over casually and touched fingers. Their hearts fluttered as each intentionally shifted and held the other’s hand.
Ignoring memories of the catastrophic bicycle accident of their first date, Abigail decided to trust Tom. It could be fun.
She took a deep breath. “Scroll down your list, and I’ll point to one with my eyes closed.”
Tom looked ecstatic. “Great!” He said, activating his sleeping phone.
Abigail closed her eyes, her finger hovering over the screen. She jabbed her finger down before she could change her mind. Gingerly, she opened her eyes.
Tom peered around her nail, and read, “Paddle-boating on the lake.”
“Let’s go!” He enthused, stood, and bent to collect his shoes. Abigail stood as well, checking her backside discreetly to see how obviously the grass had affected it. Tom picked up the blanket, frowning slightly in confusion at the wet spots.
He waited for Abigail to collect her things, then held her hand once again as they headed toward the boat rental dock.
Tom had never been on a paddle boat before. This will be fun! He told himself, noting the bright orange of the boats and the warm glint of sunlight on the lake’s surface.
Abigail hadn’t been on a paddle boat since she was ten. Her father had accidentally shifted the boat too roughly and she’d fallen in. After two weeks of feeling sick, they’d taken her to the doctor and discovered she had Giardia. I won’t fall in, I won’t fall in, she repeated, in an odd sort of mantra.
They reached the sales office, and stood in line behind some giddy teenagers.
“Are you ready?” Tom asked Abigail.
“I think so,” she bravely replied.