“Excuse me, you left this.” Cali heard from behind her and she turned. She found herself frozen as she looked at his face. She recognized him, those dark eyes which were usually behind a pair of glasses, the blonde hair peeking out from under his Starbucks cap. She looked down at his outstretched hand, seeing he was holding her phone. “Oh, thank you.” She took it, sticking in her purse. “Can’t believe I did that.”
“Cali right?” He said.
“Yeah and you are uh…”
“Nate, we’re in writing and art class together.”
“That’s right, you aren’t wearing glasses.”
“I guess I should pay more attention to who’s serving me coffee.”
“Well thank you very much.”
“No problem, see you Monday.”
“See you.” He waited until she was in her car before getting back to work. It’s not like he blamed her for not noticing him. Just because they went to the same university didn’t mean she would even really notice him. She was in a whole other league, beautiful, intelligent, loaded parents.
“Catch your girlfriend?” His coworker Brice asked.
“She’s not my girlfriend, we don’t even hang out.”
“That’s not what your face says.”
He sighed. “Shut up before I grind you into coffee.”
He chuckled “You should pursue her a bit more. You don’t even seem to try to get her attention”
“she’s out of my league”
“Somthing tells me she’s too nice of a girl to think stuff like that. She spends a lot of time coming here and she seems like a good person”
“she is..” Brice left Nate alone and all Nate could think about how scared he was to even try. A large part of why he liked her was because she had such a big heart but at the same time no guy that ever asked her out actually got a date and he wasn’t sure what the difference would be between him and those men. Nate thought of Cali all through his shift but that wasn’t outside of the normal in the slightest. No girl had ever consumed him this much and no girl had ever had him this nervous to ask her out.
The weekend seemed to flash by in a heartbeat and Nate was happy to see Cali in art class when he walked in. She was talking and laughing with a couple of her friends and he smiled at how happy she seemed. He took his seat and she did a double take when she saw him. “Nate.” She said and his heart skipped a beat.
“Hey.” He said a bit awkwardly and she smiled as she moved to his table.
“You’re wearing your glasses today.”
“Oh, yeah, well school is more of a strain on my eyes so they’re better.”
“I’m still really sorry I didn’t notice you before.”
He shrugged. “It’s fine, you’re usually pretty busy it seems.”
“Still, it’s kind of rude of me.”
“It’s really nothing, it’s just nice we’re talking now.”
Her smile widened. “Would you mind if I sit with you today then?”
“please do” He already wanted to face palm. He hoped please do didn’t sound too weird. She sat down next to him so he guessed it hadn’t. “How is it working at Starbucks?”
“pretty good, I like the people I work with and we have pretty good customers at the location I’m at”
“I’m glad” They talked all through class, only silencing when they had to be quiet. Nate couldn’t believe it. Cali Armstrong was actually sitting with him. Not only that but he cold make her laugh and smile and keep her interested enough for them to talk all morning.
“You’re really talented.” Cali said as she looked at the painting he had been working on. It was a landscape and looked like some hiking trail. The trees and bushes looked so realistic, she almost felt like she was actually walking through them.
“I’m not so good.”
He looked at hers. It was the start of an ocean scene. “Don’t say that, I like it.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“No way, once you finish it, it’ll be beautiful.”
She smiled, her eyes brightening and he felt that all too familiar warmth move through him. “You’re really good at motivating, thanks.”
“I really enjoy seeing your work in this class”
“well maybe you can see more of it. That painting is just amazing. Would it be a huge imposition to sort of tutor me now and then. Just whenever you can fit me into your schedule” He almost didn’t believe his ears. “You want me to tutor you?”
“Only if it wont be an inconvenience. I can pay you. My parents send me an allowance that’s far more than what I need”
“No, um, I mean yeah, I just meant no you wouldn’t be bothering me and I don’t need payment. I’ve..well I’ve always wanted to spend time with you “jesus you sound like a stalker!” his minds voice yelled at him but she just smiled “when would be good for you?”
“Can you do Sundays? I never work Sundays and I don’t have classes that day”
“Sunday is great for tutoring but if you want to spend time with me besides just to teach me can you fit me in another day?”
His heart was beating hard enough to burst out of his chest. “Well, I’d have to check my work schedule.”
“Then you can just text or call me.” She held out her hand and it took him a moment to realize she wanted his phone. He quickly pulled it out and handed it to her and she put her number in for him. She sent herself a quick message so she would have his number then handed him his phone back. “There, now you can talk to me whenever.”
When class was over they parted ways, him heading to his welding class while she was off to judo. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was and couldn’t wait to see her later in writing class. “Hey Nate, would you mind assisting today, the kid who usually helps me called in sick.” His teacher said when he walked into class.
“Sorry to spring it on you, but you’re my top student.”
“It’s no problem, I can always work on my project later.”
Nate was excited when writing class came around and happy when Cali sat with him again. He hoped this would become an every day thing. They couldn’t talk in writing as they had in their earlier class but just sitting near her made him happy. That night the first thing he did was check his work schedule online and find a day to do something with her. He almost texted but he decided to be brave and called her. “Hey Nate” she said happily when she answered. “Hey, can we do something the day after tomorrow? That’s the soonest day I’m free”
“Hang on” he could hear papers moving and a brief silence before she said “yeah, that works. I’m free all day until seven”
“Cool, so do you maybe want to have breakfast with me that morning?”
“I’d love too, you can pick me up at say seven, if that’s not too early.”
“Perfect, seven it is.”
“I’ll text you my address then.”
“Alright, so I guess I’ll see you at school then.”
They hung up and he couldn’t help but feel like a dork. He was about as smooth as a gravel road and he was sure he was coming off as too excited. “It’s not a date.” He told himself. “You’re just two college kids hanging out, you’ll probably discuss school.”
Cali herself was looking forward to spending more time with Nate. He was so sweet and sincere and his small amount of awkwardness made her smile. She still felt bad she hadn’t really noticed him and he only sat a couple of tables over from her in art class. He was also the first that hadn’t asked her out, instead she had been the one to suggest they hang out.
She thought of things they could do with their day. She wondered if he’d like to see some of her favorite spots to unwind. She made a few notes on her phone so she wouldn’t forget anything she wanted to do with him due to nervousness. Before either of them knew it the next day had passed and Cali was waiting eagerly for Nate. She didn’t know him very well yet but she knew this was going to be an amazing day. He arrived a little early which impressed her. Some men might have come late because apparently acting uninterested was impressive, at least in their minds. Nate was a gentleman and obviously as excited about their day together as she was.
“Good morning.” She said with a big smile and Nate actually felt himself melt. She was so perfect and beautiful.
“Morning, so I hope ihop is okay.”
“Sounds good, I love their cheesecake pancakes.”
“I knew there was a reason we got along.”
She laughed and it had him smiling as he held his car door open for her. She thanked him as she got in and buckled up and he did his best to calm his thundering heart. This isn’t a date he told himself again. They were going out as, well friends he guessed. “So I kind of made a plan for us if that’s okay.” She said once he was behind the wheel.
“Sounds good, honestly I didn’t have much planned after breakfast.”
“I’m glad, I was just thinking about today a lot and I want to show you some of the places I enjoy going” He wanted to ask where but he also wanted to just soak up every bit of this day. Nate had no plans to get ahead of himself so he just started asking her more get to know you questions. Once seated at Ihop they both places orders for coffee and cheesecake pancakes. In the car he had seemed to dominate the questions but in here she seemed to start over flowing with questions for him which he equally enjoyed. It kept them talking and unless they were fighting any reason to talk was welcome.
“So where to now?” He asked after breakfast.
“There’s this arcade I like to go to sometimes.”
“You play video games, I wouldn’t have guessed.”
“I play on occasion, but mostly I go there to eat pizza and read or draw. We can play if you want, I don’t know how good I’ll be though.”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s just fun getting to know you.”
Nate was still a little nervous, but seeing the blush that tinted her cheeks at his words helped calm him. They got in his car, him once again opening the door for her. When they got to the arcade, Cali pulled him over to the zombie shooting game. “I know what you’re thinking…zombies? her?”
“I was actually thinking that I’m about to totally crush you at this game.”
“Well then you’re on.”
He didn’t go easy on her. Nate knew she wouldn’t want him to. If she won she would want it to be based on her skill. After a few rematches Cali managed to beat him and bounced with joy which he found adorable. They played a couple other games, staying until lunch because he wanted to try their pizza since she apparently liked it so much. “I see why you come here” Nate said after his first bite “Honestly, this has been the best time I’ve ever had here Nate” Now he was blushing and didn’t know what to say so he took another quick bite of pizza. Cali was just thinking about how sweet he was again. She loved how easily she could make him blush.
We’ll have to come again then, I mean I have to beat you to preserve my masculinity.”
She laughed. “Oh no, did I punch a hole in your manhood?”
They both laughed, continuing to joke around until they had eaten their pizza and were ready to go. “So, how do you feel about ducks?”
“They’re okay I guess.”
“Want to go feed them with me?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Are you spoiling me?”
He shrugged. “Maybe, I just like seeing you smile and I’d feed a million ducks if it made you happy.” He blushed again, his heart tripping over itself at his big mouth. He mentally face palmed, knowing he probably sounded like some sort of weirdo. “So, should we get some bread or something?”
“Oh, uh, well actually corn or peas are better for them. We can get a couple of bags, if that’s okay.”
As they were leaving the store Nate asked “so where did you learn corn and peas are better for them?”
“My Uncle lives to know everything about animals. Down to the most mundane details he just has to know when it comes to them. One day when we were hanging out and I wanted to feed the ducks he told me, along with a million other facts. It’s fun, hanging out with him is like hanging out with animal Wikipedia.” Nate chuckled “animal Wikipedia”
“You have to meet him and see what I mean. I’ll arrange something if you give me your full work schedule.”
“I’ll make a copy of it for you at school”
He was a little sad when their time together ended and he had to take her home. He had never had such an amazing day and he wished it could go on forever. “Hey don’t look so down, we’ll see each other at school and on your next days off.”
“Sorry, I know it’s kind of childish, but I really had an amazing time with you today.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I…thank you for giving me the time of day.”
“I was happy to do it, so let’s do it again sometime.”
“I’d really like that um…could I have a hug?”
She smiled, making his heart skip a beat. He could watch that all day. “Of course.” She wrapped her arms around him and both of them warmed. “Call me when you get home, I want to make sure you got back safe.”
Nate watched her go inside then forced himself back into his car. He felt like that went extremely well despite his awkwardness. She seemed to like it and he hoped she really did. He could very easily just be over hopeful. The second he was in his dorm room he messaged Cali to let her know he was safe and looking for his schedule to copy for her the next day. She messaged back “you weren’t just agreeing to meet him to not be rude right?”
“Of course I do, he sounds fun and anybody related to you has to be amazing” Her heart went wild again, he was far too adorable and sweet. He made it hard to stay away from him now that they were talking. Nate made sure his schedule was in his back pack before he set his alarm and went to sleep.
Cali was so excited to see him the next day that her friends immediately started teasing her and she quickly shushed them, not wanting Nate to feel bad or awkward. “Hey, here’s my schedule.” He pulled it out and handed it to her. “Just tell me what day works for you two and I’ll make sure I’m not doing anything.”
“Awesome, I’m really excited about you meeting him, he’s really the sweetest and funniest guy.”
“I’m sure, you’re funny and sweet so it must run in the family.”
She felt her cheeks warm. “Oh stop, I’m not that nice.”
“Don’t say that, you’re wonderful, you’re perfect.” He ran his fingers through his hair as he gave a nervous chuckle. “Sorry, I just don’t want you talking down about yourself, you’re so…well everything.”
“Awe.” One of her friends said and she gave her a look. “What?”
“Nothing, just be good.” She looked back at him and smiled at him. “So, can we set together again?”
That Sunday came before she could arrange something with her Uncle but they had a date set for that following week. For now Nate just had fun working on painting techniques with her. “You’re doing really good”
“You really think I can get the hang of creating art that looks like you’re above it?”
“Yeah, you’re catching on fast”
“Thank you for doing this, and for free at that”
“well we’re friends aren’t we?”
“yeah” she said with a smile and lingering look. His heart thundered in his chest but he looked into her eyes until she looked back at her painting, practicing what he had just told her to practice.
When the day came for him to meet her uncle, he was nervous. He had grown even more attached to her and would hate if someone she loved disapproved of him. He sighed. He wasn’t just attached, he loved her, really and truly loved her. From her bright smile to her dedication to her studies, he loved all of it. He wanted to tell her and to actually ask her out. He knew it would probably end in rejection, but he knew he should take a chance. The knock on his dorm room door startled him and he quickly checked himself in the mirror before running to answer it.
“There you are.” Cali said when he opened the door. “You ready?”
“Yeah, a little nervous.”
“Don’t be, he’s going to love you.”
Her Uncle wanted to host the dinner so she drove the two of them over. He welcomed her with a tight hug and him with a handshake “It’s nice to meet you Nate” Nate was glad her uncle had his name memorized. That could be insignificant but it still meant something to Nate. “wow, it’s already served and everything” Cali said in an obviously impressed tone and her Uncle said “I’m capable of being prompt when I really want to be. You’ve never brought a boy over, I’m excited.” Cali blushed and rubbed her arm. Her Uncle chuckled and they were soon sitting down and enjoying the meal he prepared.
Nate asked him questions about different animals and was amazed at the waterfall of knowledge that seemed to just pour out of him. Nate felt that he could come to dinner every week with this man for the rest of his life and he wouldn’t run out of animal facts. Eventually her Uncle managed to start asking about Nate. Nate was happy to quell any of his curiosities, especially since he had answered so much for him.
In the car that evening Nate asked “Are you tired?”
“well, I’d like to talk to you but I’d rather do it when we can look eachother in the eyes as we talk so sitting in the car wont do”
“we’re going to pass a park pretty soon. It’s extremely well lit so it would be a good one to get out and talk at”
“You don’t mind?”
“I need to know now”
Nate was nervous when they parked and even more so when they got out and walked together over to one of the picnic tables. He tried to get everything he wanted to say in order, not wanting to sound foolish. “So? What’s on your mind?” Cali asked as they sat down.
He took a deep breath. “I need to tell you first how amazing you are and how happy spending time with you has made me. You’re so perfect and beautiful, I feel so lucky.”
“The thing is, I really like you, not just like but love, adore even. Cali, would you consider being my girlfriend? I know you tend to tell guys no, but I promise to make you happy.”
She smiled, feeling touched and elated he wanted to be with her. Unlike the other men who had wanted her Nate was genuine and she was always happiest by his side. Cali took his hands “I’m so happy you asked. I love you too Nate” He wanted to speak but he was so happy and overwhelmed with emotions his words caught in his throat. Cali moved over and kissed him, hoping it was okay. She figured it was fine going for it since he had just professed his love. He kissed back gently, savoring the contact. They sat there talking, laughing and kissing for hours “Oh my gosh it’s nearly three am” Cali said after she checked a blip from her phone. “damn, we better get home. I don’t want any drunks coming through the park and starting anything”
They got back into her car and she dropped him off at his dorm. Immediately they went from spending most of their free time together to spending all of their free time together. Neither Nate nor Cali could remember being so wholly happy and they owed it to her forgetting her phone in Starbucks. She figured they were ment to be so the universe would have gotten them talking some other way if that hadn’t worked but she was certainly glad she left her phone that day to wake her up and make her see him.
~ The End