Thank you all <3
May screamed for a solid minute when I told her on the phone. "Summer! You're going on a date!" She screams. "A freaking date! With Micah!"
"I know!" I squeal back. "I keep pinching myself thinking he's going to tell me it was a mistake and he changed his mind or something."
"He's not Summer, don't be dumb. He wants to go on a date with you! He's interested! Like I said, he's not going to hate you forever!"
Once we finish screaming about the date and that it's Micah and what and pinch me and how, the nerves start to set in. The fact is, I've never done this before. I wasn't lying when I told him I've never been on a date. And this is following up one of the scariest conversations I've ever had in my life when I truly thought he was going to cut his losses and be finished with me for good.
"May, how do I do this?" I finally ask her.
"What? A date? Summer this is the easy part!"
"Summer. Think about it. You already met up with Micah and hashed out the Anna thing completely on your own. You didn't tell me that was happening, which is fine, you had no advice going into that, you just did it. And look how that worked for you! You don't need me to give you advice. You just need to be yourself and talk to him."
She's right; I did do that on my own. But I had nothing to lose then. He already wasn't going to talk to me ever again. Now, this could be a real thing.
"Give me advice anyway?" I ask with a smile she can't see.
She laughs. "If you insist. I'm going to give you some cliché, yet true, advice. Number one, don't stress it. You will not FaceTime me you trying on fourteen different outfit choices. You can send me two. It will be after a competition, so neither of you are going to look perfect, and that's fine. Embrace that. Wear something comfortable that also makes you feel cute. He already knows what you look like."
I do a quick mental survey of my closet and decide on my favorite pair of athletic shorts with a Purdue tank top May sent me.
"Number two, all you have to do is talk to him. Stick with me. Don't balk at the word talk."
"Here's the thing, you've already done this. You talked to him online for months. You already know things about one another. You had an epic conversation in person on your own. You can do this. Think of a few possible conversation topics. Think of a few anecdotes. Think of some things you want to know about him. All you have to do is talk like you would to Bryn or Katya."
And to think a few months ago, the idea of talking to Micah in person did nothing but spike my anxiety and make me want to cry. And look at me now. Hands hardly even shaking and heart beating semi-normally and my not quite a stomach ulcer thing not even bothering me at all.
"And finally," She says. "You don't have to kiss him if you don't want to!"
My eyes widen. Is that even a possibility?
"But if you do, look at his mouth, put on lip balm, whatever. And if he's not getting the hint because boys are dumb, just kiss him yourself!"
It's almost funny that she thinks I'll be able to do that.
"Bottom line, Summer. You got this. Don't worry about it. Micah wanted to go on a date with you Micah is interested in you. All you have to do is keep being yourself."
I sit next to Bryn on the way to the competition. Katya sits across the aisle from us next to Ethan. Micah sits in front of them with another one of his friends. I catch his eye a few times and he smiles at me, making my stomach swoop and turn over, but in a good way.
Kaila isn't even on this bus, which makes the whole thing sweeter.
I wore my Purdue tank top and purple athletic shorts, just like I originally planned. I feel great. Excited about the competition. Mildly nervous about later.
One thing for sure, this competition already feels a million times better than the last.
We arrive at the school hosting the competition, file off the bus and get ready as normal. There’s no time to say anything to Micah as we march down to our warm-up area, but there will be time for that later.
We play our warm-up and line up to get ready to take the field. Kaila rubs my left shoulder for good luck. I rub the shoulder of the person in front of me.
Once it’s our turn to take the field, we do our final warm-up and take our places, Micah speed walks by me as he makes his way to the back sideline. Just after he passes by, he turns his head ever so slightly and flashes a quick smile. My stomach turns over, but for once in a happy way, and I flash a quick smile back.
Onto the show.
“Warrior Marching Band, take the field!” The announcer says as the crowd applauds.
I focus on Micah as he counts us off.
I play perfectly.
The bus ride back to the school passes in a blur. With the competition over, now it’s time for what comes after. My casual hang date thing.
I’ve purposefully tried to think as little as possible about what is going to happen once we get back to the school and I leave with Micah. I’ve tried not to think about what people are going to say when they see him and I talk in the back room, or when they see me get into Micah’s car. I’ve tried not to think about what he has planned to keep the pressure turned all the way off.
It’s just a casual hang. Like Micah said when we talked about my lack of dating experience. First dates are no big deal. You don’t have to decide if you’re going to marry the person, just if you want to go on another date.
Bryn gives my hand a squeeze when we pull up to the school, “You’ve got this.”
Katya gives me a thumbs-up from across the aisle and leans over to say, “Just be Summer.”
But I don’t feel like I’m going to throw up. I don’t even feel like passing out. It’s like May said. All I have to do is talk to him. And I can do that. I already have.
I deposit all of my things in the band room and loiter near Katya’s locker so I won’t have any awkward encounters with Camilla. I’m hoping the band room will clear out a little before Micah finds me and takes me wherever we’re going. I’m never going to like the idea people noticing me and talking about me.
The band room is only half-cleared when he approaches me. “Casual part first, or food first?”
“It’s not all casual?” I joke.
“Well I was going to treat you to a four course meal at St. Elmo’s,” He shrugs, but the glint in his eye tells me he’s joking. “But if you’d prefer something a little more low-key I suppose I can make that work.”
I let out a short laugh. “Casual part first is fine!”
I’m sure there are people looking at us and wondering how this happened and what’s going on as we leave the band room in step, but right now that doesn’t matter. What matters is Micah.
I slide into the passenger’s seat of his little silver car parked in the front row of the parking lot. His car is pristinely clean and one of those little tree air fresheners hangs from the rear view mirror.
“How’s downtown?” He asks as he pulls out of his parking space.
“Downtown is good. This is casual you know, so I’m going with the flow.”
This is good. I can do this.
I’m not sure how to fill the silence as he makes his way to the interstate, so I’m glad when he turns the radio on and his pre-set country station plays. I’m tempted to text May and let her know it’s going well so far, but I don’t want him to think I’m not interested or something, so I sit and stare out the window and try to keep myself calm.
He chooses a parking spot right downtown, expertly navigating his way into a parallel parking space. I may have passed my driving test, but I will still drive around a block ten times to avoid parallel parking.
“Have you ever been to the canal?” He asks.
“I have, but it’s been awhile.” The downtown canal was always a popular summer spot to go with the family when we were all younger.
“That was my plan for the casual portion, walking the canal. Is that okay?”
I shrug. I’m not going to tell him that I will do pretty much any activity with him because that means I get to spend time with him. “I’m casual Micah, we can do whatever.”
He laughs again. We walk a few blocks to get to one of the staircases leading down to the canal that runs below street level. The canal is lined with fancy apartments, condos, and restaurants. There are even a few people riding on the paddleboats for rent. I left my wallet in the car, so I’ll feel bad if he ends up having to pay.
Neither of us say anything for the first five minutes of our walk. We’re a foot apart, arms swinging at our sides, both of us facing forward. I hope this isn’t a bad omen.
I finally say, “It’s really nice out today.” Which is the lamest thing to start talking about, but I’ve got nothing else.
“Yeah, perfect marching weather. I thought the competition went really well today.”
Marching band talk carries us for the next ten minutes. I try to remember all of the conversation topics I thought of over this last week. He wants to do dinner after this too. Are we going to run out of things to talk about? That definitely wouldn’t be a good sign.
“How’s May doing?” Micah asks me.
“Good! She’s really liking marching band and she’s made a lot of new friends.”
May and college plans takes us all the way to the waterfall at the end of the canal. The path loops around so we can walk back down the other side. Another couple zooms by us on a pair of those rentable scooters that are all over downtown. They’re laughing and look like they’re having the absolute best time, which makes me self-conscious like maybe Micah isn’t having a good time and this will be our first and last date.
“Let’s sit for a second,” He say and motions towards the large stone steps we’re about to walk past. He climbs up to the second step and I sit next to him, about a foot away. “You seem nervous.”
“I do?” I thought I was doing a moderately good job of faking it. “I mean, I am a little bit I guess.”
“I am too.”
“Why are you nervous?”
“I don’t know. I’m interested in you. We had a weird start, and I want to know if the connection is going to carry over I guess.”
I nod. “Now I remember someone saying that first dates aren’t scary at all because all you have to do is figure out if you want to go out with them again.”
He laughs. “That was me wasn’t it? I stand by that statement.”
“I’m nervous because I’m trying not to be an awkward loser around you.”
He laughs again. “I don’t think you’re an awkward loser at all.”
“Micah, let’s be real. I was too awkward to talk to you two months ago so I made a fake profile so I could talk to you. I’m definitely a loser.”
“And yet somehow you’ve conned your way into a casual hang.”
“I’m as shocked as you are.”
He laughs again. I can’t believe how easy it is to make him laugh.
“So there is one pretty fool-proof way to test whether or not you have a connection with someone,” He says.
“And don’t get me wrong, usually I wait a little longer to bring this up. But I think with all of our history, as awkward as you think it is, it might be worth a shot.”
I’m too nervous to look him in the eyes. I think I know where he’s going with this. While I don’t want the embarrassment of being wrong, I’m also overthinking being right.
“Oh?” I say again.
“I could kiss you,” He says simply. “Very casually of course.”
“Of course. Casual.” Am I the only one that can hear my heart thumping?
“Because this is a casual hang after all.”
“Right. The date comes later, with that four-course St. Elmo’s dinner.” I can’t help but smile.
I chance a quick glance at him and see he’s smiling too.
“If you don’t want to that’s fine. Just an offer.”
I take a breath. I can do this. “I’m going to be a scientist, you know.”
“How could I forget?”
“And scientists like to test theories.” I’m surprised my voice isn’t shaking.
I’m still too nervous to look directly at him, but I still see when he moves closer. I wonder if I should wet my lips or fish for my lip balm or just wait until a heart attack does me in.
And then he kisses me. It’s gentle, testing the waters and waiting for my response. I kiss back and he reaches his hand around to the back of my head, his fingers combing through my hair. And for a moment, I don’t care who sees.
Our lips part and I want more, but Micah is already sitting back up, his hands back at his sides.
“So Miss Scientist,” He says. I like the way he says scientist. “As the theory expert, what would you say are the results of our testing?”
I pretend I have to think about it. “Well, initial testing showed promising results towards the direction of a connection, but additional testing may be warranted to verify the findings.”
He laughs and puts a hand on my knee, kissing me deeply. An electrical current runs from my knee to my stomach to my heart and then short-circuits in my brain.
“I’d say the results are pretty conclusive. What about you?” He says.
He stands up and offers me his hand. “How about dinner?”
I stand and interlock my fingers with his. I can do dinner.
-the end- :)
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING <3
I would love your thoughts on the plot and character arcs as a whole! I already have some ideas of what I want to do for edits including making Micah a more well-rounded character, including more descriptions/sense of place, and probably upping the romance.
Please be honest! I am not easily offended and I know this is not a perfect draft.
What needs to be improved upon big picture wise and little picture wise? What do you think of Summer, Micah, May, Katya, Bryn, Camilla, and Kaila? What do you want more of or less of? What is missing? What do you think of the voice? Do the characters sound like teenagers? What did you think of the catfishing/Chat With Me? Did you believe the Summer/Micah romance?
You don't have to answer all of those questions. I just want to hear any and all thoughts you have about how I can take this story to the next level.
I truly appreciate every single one of you for taking the time to read this story and give me your feedback. Look for your names in the acknowledgments should this book be the one <3 <3