Saturday, May 1, 2021

Such a Pretty Face, Chapter 3

 I’m relieved to find when I get to the classroom for the next lecture, the chair I brought in from the other room is still there. I won’t have to lug it over every single time.

I sit down in the back and leave a space for Brody’s wheelchair. I’m hoping maybe he’ll forget about our conversation from last time. Or at least, not be angry at me anymore. He’s clearly a nice guy and it would be good to have a friend in class for a change.

When there’s only a minute left until the lecture, Brody still hasn’t arrived. And that’s when I wonder about the impact of my thoughtless comment. What if he dropped the class? What if my mean comment humiliated him so much he decided he didn’t even want to be in the same room with me?

I breathe a sigh of relief when I see him enter the room. He’s wearing a black Mets T-shirt under a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and the dark color of his shirt makes the belt across his chest less visible. I look in his direction and try to smile. He won’t even look at me though. He backs his chair up and parks it near the front of the room.

Fine. Whatever. It’s a relief. I didn’t want to have to copy the notes for him every damn day. I’m glad he’s letting me off the hook.

My notes end up being awful. Every two minutes, I find myself staring in Brody’s direction. It’s not like everybody has to like me, but I hate the idea of somebody being angry at me, especially a nice guy like Brody. I should never have snapped at him. I need to apologize.

As soon as the lecture is over, I heave out of my seat and walk up to where Brody has parked his wheelchair. He’s fiddling with the joystick control on his chair and doesn’t acknowledge my existence. Even when I clear my throat loudly.

“Hey,” I finally say to him.

He glances up at me briefly, then nods, expressionless. “Hey.”

I squeeze my fists together. “Um,” I say. “Do you want to copy my notes?”

Now I have his attention. Brody raises his eyebrows at me. “I wouldn’t want you to have to go to the trouble. I’m just going to ask Dr. Nichols.”

“I really don’t mind,” I say. He frowns and I add, “Really.”

“No, I don’t want to bother you,” he insists. “I’ll ask Dr. Nichols.”

“It’s not a bother,” I say. “I promise.”

“Look, it’s not a big deal,” Brody says. “I’ve asked professors for their notes before.”

“And I said it’s not a big deal for me to copy my notes for you.”

“You don’t have to though,” he says.

I narrow my eyes at him. Honestly, now he’s just being annoying. “Listen, how many times am I going to have to tell you I’m okay with it before you’re willing to use my notes?”

The corners of his lips twitch. “One more time, I think.”

I sigh and roll my eyes. “Fine. Can you please copy my notes, Brody?”

And then he rewards me with that great, infectious smile. It makes me feel strangely tingly. Sheesh, he’s cute. “Okay, since you asked so nicely,” Brody says with a wink. “Let’s go.”

I have to wait for Brody to turn his chair one-hundred-eighty degrees so that he’s facing the door again, which isn’t easy in this tiny classroom. After a minute, he gets into position. By now, everyone in the class has already left, and the last person closed the door behind them. We stand in front of the closed door for a minute, and I finally notice Brody is looking at me expectantly.

“I’m not so great at doorknobs,” he says “Can you open it, please?”

I’m such an idiot. How did I not recognize he couldn’t open the door? If you don’t have much strength in your arms, doorknobs have got to be a challenge. It seems like such a simple thing—being able to open a door. And he can’t do it.

This time, Brody seems to know where the copy machine is. As we make our way there, he says to me, “I like your shirt.”

I’m wearing a black dress shirt that minimizes my girth and follows the curve of my boobs. It’s nothing spectacular. He’s just being nice.

“Thank you,” I say. And I feel compelled to add, “I like yours too. Let’s go Mets!”

He winks at me. “Not a Yankees fan then?”

I shake my head. “Never. I went to Wellesley for college. And over in Massachusetts, you can be a Mets fan, but if you’re a Yankees fan, they skin you alive.”

“I don’t like them either,” Brody says. “I used to. Like, years ago. But… I don’t know. It’s like there’s this giant robot going around clobbering everything in sight, and at first, it’s pretty fun to watch the robot, and maybe you even cheer for the robot. But eventually, you wish someone would defeat that goddamn robot. You know?”

I laugh. “No, that makes sense.”

We arrive at the copy machine after only a minute. This time, I’m not winded and my thighs feel okay. I take my time copying the two pages of notes from the class. I press the two warm sheets of copy paper into Brody’s backpack. “Thanks,” he says.

“You don’t have to thank me,” I say.

“Sure I do,” he says.

As we face each other, he smiles at me. I find myself smiling back. Then out of nowhere, Brody blurts out, “Do you want to have dinner with me?”

What? I stare at him, my heart slamming in my chest. That was absolutely the last thing I expected him to say. “You mean like a date?”

That didn’t come out right. I watch his cheeks turn red. “Well, no, it doesn’t have to be. We could just go as friends if you’d like. Either way, I’d still like to have dinner with you.”

It doesn’t have to be. Does that mean he wants it to be a date? Does he actually want to go out with me?

So this is what it feels like. This is the first time I’ve ever been asked out—or whatever this is. He seems so embarrassed about the whole thing, it’s adorable. And flattering. I try to imagine him looking at me, and thinking I’m the sort of person he’d like to go out with or maybe even kiss. I can’t.

Maybe I misunderstood.

“So what do you say?” Brody asks me, his smile faltering.

“Okay,” I say.

His eyes light up. “Yeah?”

“Sure,” I say.

“That is awesome.” He nods happily. “Are you free tomorrow? I know it’s Friday, but…”

“Yes,” I agree. Maybe a little too quickly. I don’t want to seem overeager. Oh well.

What I want to say to him is I do want this to be a date, but I can’t quite get the words out. The thought of admitting to a guy that I’d like to go out with him is enough to make me blush.



I’m excited, okay? As fun as my little internet relationships could be sometimes, they weren’t the real thing. Not by a long shot. I mean, those were all based on lies. Those guys didn’t like me. They just liked the girl that I was pretending to be. They certainly weren’t attracted to me. And I never got to kiss them or touch them or… well, anything.

But Brody likes me. He wants to go out on a date with me. Me! He wants to maybe even… Christ, maybe he wants to kiss me…

Okay, now I’m getting myself nervous. Especially since we didn’t even make it clear whether or not it was a date. But he seemed like he wanted to go out with me. I mean, he asked me to dinner. Just me. Not me and my more attractive friend.

I’m so excited about it that the next time I take a shower, I belt out Whitney Houston at the top of my lungs, and I don’t care who hears it.

But the next day, I am seriously anxious. I am woefully inexperienced for a twenty-seven-year-old going out on a date. I don’t know how to dress, and I’ve never put on makeup in my entire life. The average high schooler knows more than I do. Hell, most middle schoolers know more than me.

That’s why in the afternoon, I catch Abby when she’s coming home from her step aerobics class. Her cheeks are bright pink and she’s got her hair in a ponytail high on her head that swings back and forth when she walks. She immediately goes to the fridge, pulls out a bottle of water, and drains nearly the whole thing as I watch her.

You know what I don’t get? Water. I hate drinking water. It has no flavor whatsoever. I mean, I drink it for hydration and because it fills you up to have a lot of water before a meal, but I don’t understand how Abby guzzles it the way she does. Like it’s delicious.

“Abby?” I finally say.

Abby lowers the water bottle and gasps to catch her breath. She wipes her lips with the back of her hand.

“Emily!” Her face lights up like me talking to her is the best thing that’s happened to her all day. I don’t know how she manages to be so perky all the time. Maybe it’s the endorphins. “What’s going on?”

I take a deep breath. “I need your help.”

Abby pauses for a moment, then unexpectedly throws her arms around me. She squeezes me to her chest with astonishing strength. “Oh, Emily,” she sighs. “Of course I’ll help you! I’ve been telling you that since you moved in. We’re going to get rid of that weight together, I promise you.”

I grit my teeth. We haven’t even started and I already seriously regret my decision to ask Abby to help me prepare for my date.

“I don’t want to lose weight,” I say, pulling away from her stifling hug.

Abby’s face falls. “You don’t?”

“No,” I say tightly.

“Oh.” Abby frowns. “Well, what do you need help with?”

“I have…” I pick at a loose thread on my shirt. “A date. Tonight.”

Abby’s eyes get huge like saucers. “That’s wonderful!”

She could not possibly look more astonished and excited if I told her I was taking a rocket to the moon tonight.

“I’m so thrilled!” She clasps her hands together. “This is going to be so much fun! Luckily, I don’t have any plans tonight.”

No surprise there. Between you and me, Abby’s social life is not exactly jumping. I know when she goes on dates, and they’re extremely rare. I’m not sure why, because she’s pretty cute. And whenever she and I go out together, men hit on her left and right. (It’s part of why I hate going out with her.)

“So, um…” Abby flashes a wicked smile. “Is it anyone I know?”

“No,” I say, not wanting to go into any details.

“What’s his name?”

I figure it’s safe to tell her. “Brody.”

She nods. “Did Camille set you up with him?”

The assumption is insulting, but not unreasonable. “No… I met him in my computer science class.”

“And he asked you out?” She still sounds like she’s trying to wrap her head around it.


She winks at me. “Is he cute?”

“Definitely,” I say honestly.

Abby claps her hands together. “That’s so great, Emily. Really. Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” I mumble. Because what the hell else am I supposed to say to that? “Anyway, I thought maybe you could help me figure out what to wear. And maybe I could borrow some makeup?”

“Oh my gosh, yes!” Abby exclaims. “I’m going to give you a complete makeover! You won’t even recognize yourself!”

That’s highly unlikely. She can do what she wants to my face and my hair, but she can’t change the most important part of me.



Remember that scene in Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts goes on a fashion spree and tries on a zillion different outfits, evolving from being a skanky hooker to a gorgeous model during the course of a single song?

Well, Abby giving me a makeover for my date is nothing like that. Nothing. It’s definitely not any kind of fashion montage. It’s more like slight tweaking here and there. Abby breaks out her tote bag of makeup (Abby has literally ten million tote bags) and successfully applies a bit of smokiness to my eyes. She chooses a shade of lipstick that isn’t too whorish. She even does my hair with a curling iron, and for the first time in my entire life, my hair isn’t frizzy. I still look like me, but a better version of me.

“You have such a pretty face,” Abby sighs as she examines her handiwork.

I swear to God, I don’t.

The outfit is more of a challenge. Without even checking, we know there’s nothing in Abby’s closet that would even come close to fitting me. Abby stares into my closet for like twenty minutes, moaning, “Why is everything you own black?”

That’s not fair. I own plenty of clothes that are dark brown or navy blue.

Even though it’s getting dangerously close to when I have to leave, Abby talks me into going to the Urban Outfitters that’s two blocks from our apartment, which is the closest clothing store. I’d never set foot inside an Urban Outfitters before, and I quickly discover why—nothing in this store is even remotely my size.

I’m not even kidding. The only sizes I can see are zero through eight. They don’t even have size ten, even though I’m pretty sure I read the average size for an American woman is twelve. Who the hell shops at places like this? Certainly no grown woman.

Not that it would help me if they had size twelve. I couldn’t even zip up a size twelve. I probably couldn’t even get it over my head.

“We should go,” I say to Abby. “I don’t think we’re going to find anything here that fits me.”

“Don’t be silly,” Abby says. “I’m sure they must have plus sizes here. I think it’s, like, the law.”

It’s not the law, Abby. Trust me.

Abby flags down a salesgirl, who seems like she could easily fit into any size zero pair of jeans in the store. The girl is in her early twenties and is popping a piece of bubble gum as Abby talks to her. When Abby explains to the girl that we’re looking for an outfit for me to wear on a date tonight, I want to hide under a pile of size two jeans. (Except I don’t think they have enough tiny jeans to effectively hide me.)

“So where should we look?” Abby asks.

The girl looks me over and practically starts snickering. “Walmart. There’s one on Second Avenue.”

Abby blinks, shocked by the girl’s response. I’m far less shocked. If this were actually Pretty Woman, I would leave this store, and come back a few hours later, looking gorgeous and skinny, loaded up with bags of expensive clothing, and say to Size Zero over here, “You work on commission, don’t you? Big mistake!”

But this isn’t an eighties movie. So I tug on Abby’s shirt sleeve. “Come on,” I say to her. “I don’t have time for this.”

In the end, I wind up in a somewhat flattering pair of boot-cut dark green dress pants and yet another black blouse from Walmart. Abby is grudgingly satisfied. “You only slightly look like you’re going to a funeral,” she says.

I take the bus to the restaurant where Brody and I agreed to meet, even though I’m sure it’s going to wreck the magic Abby did to my hair. As I sit on the bus, trying to keep my distance from the open window, I wonder to myself if Brody is thinking about this as a date or not. I close my eyes and try to remember his face when he asked me. He was so embarrassed. But maybe he was embarrassed because he thought I took it as a date and he didn’t intend it to be. Maybe he was mortified by my assumption that it could be a date.

Maybe I just spent all this time getting ready for nothing. Maybe he’s going to look at my outfit and think I’m overdressed. Maybe he won’t show up at all.

And now I’ve driven myself completely crazy.

When I arrive at the Italian restaurant, I’m relieved to see Brody immediately. He’s sitting in his wheelchair, right outside the door, craning his neck in the other direction to look for me. He’s waiting for me—he’s looking for me and is excited by the prospect of seeing me. It’s almost a little hard to believe.

Before Brody spots me, I take a minute to check him out. He’s wearing a nice dark blue dress shirt and brown slacks. This is a step up from what he wears to our class—he made an effort. For me. Then the thought strikes me that Brody probably isn’t able to dress himself. I have no idea who dresses him, but he likely had to tell that person he was going out and wanted to look nice tonight.

“Emily!” Brody spots me and lifts one of his arms in greeting—he manages a slight wave. It’s not really a wave though, since his hand only hangs limply from his wrist. A woman is walking by with her two kids, and the kids stare at Brody so intently that one of them walks into a mailbox.

“Hey,” I say, as I get without earshot.

He looks up at me and smiles winningly. He is adorable when he smiles—it gets me all aflutter. And his blue shirt brings out the color in his eyes. “I got you something,” he says. And that’s when I notice the small bouquet of colorful flowers on his lap. He grabs them with his wrists and holds them out to me.

He got me flowers. He went into a flower shop and purchased them for me in an effort to impress me. He definitely doesn’t want to hang out just as friends—he wants this to be a date. The thought of it makes my knees weak.

“Thank you,” I say. Truthfully, I hate flowers—I have no idea how to keep them alive. But I love these flowers so much because he got them for me. I want to keep them alive forever to remember this feeling. “What are they?”

Brody gives me a funny look. “They’re flowers.”

Does he think I’m completely stupid? “I mean,” I say, “what kind of flowers are they?”

“Oh!” He laughs nervously as he rubs his chin with the back of his curled fingers. “I don’t know. The guy at the flower store told me they were…” He thinks for a minute. “Carnations, maybe? To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not a flowers expert. Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” I say.

“I hope you don’t mind I got them for you,” he says. “I know we didn’t agree this is a date, but… well, I couldn’t help myself.”

He pauses, looking at me expectantly. I’m not entirely sure what to say. Honestly, I’m so nervous, I can’t say much of anything. Finally, I say, “I don’t mind.”

Brody looks a little disappointed somehow, but I’m not sure why. I told him I liked the flowers. Was he hoping for a more effusive response? Was I supposed to make a big show of smelling them and saying how beautiful they are? Did he want me to do an interpretive flower dance?

“Let’s go in,” Brody says. “I reserved us a table.”

I don’t know what arrangements Brody made in advance, but he’s scored us a table right near the entrance that already has one chair pulled away to make room for his wheelchair. Right now, I see another advantage of being with Brody—we don’t have to sit in a booth. I hate booths. Remember how I almost got stuck in that desk in the classroom? Well, that happens in booths too sometimes. I have had to leave a restaurant because the only places to sit were booths and I couldn’t fit.

As Brody opens the menu by using the ball of his hand, I wonder about how he’s going to eat. It’s making me a little nervous. He’s already asked me for help with notes and making photocopies. Is he going to ask me to feed him? I can’t imagine he’d assume I’d do that without asking me in advance. But then again, how could he hold a utensil with those hands?

I try not to think about it as I focus on my own menu. Ordering food in public always makes me edgy. You wouldn’t think my food choices would be anyone else’s business but my own, but that absolutely isn’t the case. If I order anything more substantial than a glass of water and a single lettuce leaf, I’m almost guaranteed to get commentary. Are you sure you should be eating that?

But Brody wouldn’t say that. Not out loud, anyway. But I don’t want him thinking it either. So I guess I’ll be ordering one lettuce leaf.

“Is the food good here?” I ask him.

“Really good,” Brody says.

“So you’ve been here before?”

“Of course,” he says. “I wouldn’t take you to a place I’d never been to before. Got to check it out, you know?”

I don’t entirely know what he means, but I don’t ask. Instead, I study the menu, focusing mainly on the salad section.

Our waitress is a pretty, young woman who looks like she could easily fit into anything at Urban Outfitters. She smiles skinnily at us. “Would you like anything to drink?”

“I’ll just stick with water,” Brody says.

My face falls. I can’t order an alcoholic drink if he doesn’t get one. Even though I desperately want one. So I go with my staple: “I’ll have a Diet Coke.”

(The last time I went out to eat with Abby, she went on this five-minute monologue about how Diet Coke is worse for your weight than regular Coke. But the truth is, if somebody like me orders a regular Coke, they’ll just assume diet and bring it to me anyway.)

“And are you ready to order?” she asks.

Brody raises his eyebrows at me and I nod.

The waitress takes her pad out of her pocket. “What would you like today?”

You know what I want? The fettuccini alfredo. Alfredo sauce, when cooked right, has this perfect creamy, cheesy taste that makes me oh so happy. Just thinking about it makes my stomach growl. But I can’t order that in front of Brody. Or ever, if I’m being realistic. So I bite my tongue and say, “I’ll have the house salad, no dressing.”

“Okay.” The waitress turns her skinniness in Brody’s direction. “And what would you like, sir?”

Brody frowns at me. “That’s all you want? Just a salad? Without even any dressing?”

No, that’s not what I want! Can we please not talk about it? Because I have used all of my self-restraint to order that salad, and I need this waitress to leave the table before I change my mind.

“Yep,” I say.

“Emily.” He shakes his head. “You should get whatever you want. Please. It’s my treat.”

Now both Brody and the waitress are staring at me. “The salad is fine,” I croak. “Really.”

Finally, he shrugs. “I’ll have chicken parmigiana with ziti,” he says. He flashes the waitress a crooked smile. “Um, could you have them, like, cut up the chicken for me, please? Into small pieces?”

“Of course, sir,” the waitress says. Her voice has a mildly patronizing edge that grates on my nerves.

After she leaves with our menus, I’m terrified there’s going to be an awkward silence between us, but there isn’t. I mean, there’s a moment of silence, but it’s not awkward. Brody is grinning at me and seems thrilled to be here. Which makes me happy too. The two of us sit there for a good minute, grinning like idiots.

“Hey,” Brody says, breaking our sappy silence. He seems like a talkative guy, who doesn’t leave much room for silences. He’s not shy like I am. “So I was flipping through my Townsend Harris yearbook last night. I thought we could compare notes.”

My smile slips. I’m not sure I want to compare notes about high school. High school wasn’t a happy time in my life. But I don’t have any alternative topics of conversation to offer.

“Mr. Jeffers,” he says. “Did you have him for calculus?”

I close my eyes for a second and picture a man with curly black hair and a creepy mustache. “Yes, I did.”

“Me too,” Brody says. “You know what happened to him, don’t you?”

I stare at him. “What?”

He smirks. “You don’t know? Oh, man.”


“He got canned. He was always hitting on the female students. All the kids knew about it, but the administration finally caught on. Did he ever hit on you?”

No. I was most definitely not the kind of teenager who got hit on by teachers. Even teachers of the creepy mustache variety. Doesn’t Brody realize that? “Not really,” is all I say.

“I’ll send you a link to the article,” Brody says. I gave him my phone number yesterday, and he sent me a text this morning to confirm the location for our date. The text was one long sentence with zero punctuation and a couple of bizarre autocorrects. I suppose it’s not too surprising from a guy who can’t use his fingers.

“I thought of someone in your class that I knew,” I say. “Knew of, at least.”

Brody raises his eyebrows. “Yeah?”

“Pete Glasser?” I didn’t know Pete well at all. The only reason I knew him was because he was an asshole. In elementary school and middle school, I got teased mercilessly about my weight, but in high school, kids don’t do that anymore. If they have something negative to say about you, they’ll usually say it behind your back.

But Pete apparently had the maturity of a thirteen-year-old because he made several comments to me or within my earshot during my freshman year. Nothing that made me run home sobbing, but enough to sting. The first thing I ever heard him say when he saw the freshmen filing out of the auditorium for our first orientation was, “Wow, what a crop of dogs.”

That comment didn’t bother me so much. I mean, there were plenty of hot girls in my class, so I knew he was blowing smoke. But then when I passed him, he nudged his friend hard. “Holy shit!” he snickered. “Look at that one! That’s the biggest ass I’ve ever seen in my life.”

I don’t even like to think about the fact that I was downright skinny back then compared to what I weigh right now.

“Oh, right—Pete,” Brody says, grinning. “He was a riot.”

“Yeah.” I study Brody’s face. He’s such a good-looking guy—if he wasn’t disabled back in high school, was he friends with assholes like Pete Glasser? For all I know, he was the guy Pete nudged that first day. Maybe Brody did push freshmen down the stairs.

“In our biology class,” Brody says, “Pete took that model skeleton of the human body and started waltzing around the room with it. He almost got suspended.”

“So you and Pete were pretty good friends, huh?”

Brody narrows his eyes at me for a second, then snorts and shakes his head. “Nah.”

“How come?”

He gives me a crooked grin. “Because he was a huge asshole, that’s how come. You think I’d be friends with the biggest douchebag in the class?”

I blush because, of course, that was exactly what I was implying. “People change.”

“True,” Brody says thoughtfully. He scratches his nose with the back of his wrist. “I wonder what Pete is up to these days. He’s probably either wildly successful or in prison.”

“Didn’t you just have your ten-year reunion?”

“Oh, right.” He shifts in his chair. “Yeah, I don’t go. It would have been… weird.” He averts his eyes. “I wasn’t… you know. I didn’t need a wheelchair in high school. I really didn’t want to spend three hours explaining over and over again to every person in the class what happened to me. I saw the photos on Instagram—that’s enough.”

I desperately want to ask him what did happen to him. He’s got a certain comfort level with his disability that makes me sense it isn’t a recent thing. And the scar on his neck makes me think it was an accident. That’s about all I know.

Finally, he says, “I was in a car wreck when I was nineteen. Broke my neck.”

“Oh,” I say.

He shrugs again, and that’s the end of it. I have about a million other questions I’d love to ask him, but I decide to keep my mouth shut.

At that point, Brody digs into a pouch on the side of his wheelchair and comes out with something that looks like a thick watchband. He drops it into his lap, and I watch him as he manages to get the loop around the last four fingers of his right hand. “Don’t mind me,” Brody says. “Just preparing for when the food gets here.”

There’s a pocket in the band, and Brody tries to get his fork to go into it. I guess that answers my question about how he feeds himself. Considering I’m pretty sure all he can move is his elbows and his wrists, he’s struggling with this. It’s a little painful to watch, and I’m not sure what the proper etiquette is. “Do you want me to help you?” I ask him.

“Nope, I got it,” Brody says. He doesn’t though. Well, eventually he does. It takes him about a million tries, but he finally gets the fork attached to the cuff, and I see his shoulders relax. “Sorry,” he says. “I have adaptive utensils I use at home that I’ve gotten used to. This way always takes longer.”

“It’s okay,” I say.

“It’s just frustrating,” he says. “You know, like, exactly when I’m trying to make a good impression, I do everything much worse than usual.” He takes a shaky breath. “And now I’m even saying stupid things too.”

He looks so incredibly nervous. It’s completely adorable. If I wasn’t so incredibly nervous myself, I would have given him a hug. I wonder how often he goes out on dates. I’m guessing it’s not very much. He could probably give me a run for my money. “Don’t worry about it,” I say.

“Maybe we could start over again, huh?” he says.

“Sure,” I say.

He takes a deep breath. “You look really nice tonight, Emily. Really, really nice.”

Brody is looking at me in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been looked at before. And it makes me feel a way I’ve never felt before: attractive. Another silence hangs between us and this one isn’t sappy at all—it’s very serious. I get that tingling all over my body, but especially in my underwear.

Of course, it would be that moment when our waitress arrives with the food. Brody’s chicken parmigiana looks and smells amazing, and my salad looks comparatively sad and bland. As promised, Brody’s chicken has been cut up into tiny pieces. He nods and smiles up at the waitress. “Thank you very much.”

Brody lays out a napkin on his lap and digs into his food. I try not to watch, but it’s hard—I’m curious. He’s not doing terribly at eating, considering everything. He spills almost nothing but sometimes he takes two or three tries to spear a piece of chicken.

Meanwhile, my own plate of food is pretty much torturing me. Do you want to know a secret about me? I hate salad. So much. I feel like a rabbit when I’m eating it. I hate everything people put in salads. I hate baby tomatoes. I hate cucumbers. There’s nothing that makes salad more appealing aside from those creamy salad dressings that I’m not allowed to eat.

But what can I do? Aside from the salad, everything on this menu is at least a thousand calories. So I better try to enjoy the salad.

I’m so anxious, I wish that I had something to drink. I mean, something alcoholic. Alcohol would help the situation right now. I think alcohol was invented for first dates. Why did he just order water? What’s wrong with him?

Even though I hate salad, I devour every bite. I’m that hungry, and it’s not terrible if I eat it quickly. Brody pushes his plate away when he sees I’m finished, even though his plate is still more than half-full.

“I’m done too,” he says.

“You don’t have to rush,” I say. He barely ate anything. He’s a man—he’s supposed to at least be able to match me.

Brody shakes his head. “Nah, I’m good. I don’t walk and burn calories, so my appetite isn’t that big.”

The skinny waitress comes to take away our plates and we’re left staring at each other once again. Brody clears his throat. “So, um,” he begins, blinking his blue eyes with much too long eyelashes. “I don’t want to push you or anything, but at this point, I’d kind of like to know if this is a date or not. So if you could tell me, that would be great.”

I swallow. “Oh, um…”

“Because right now, I would really, really like to kiss you,” he murmurs. “But if this isn’t a date, I won’t try.”

All the air suddenly rushes out of my body.

“Um,” I say. “I think… yes. It is. It’s a date.”

Brody raises his eyebrows and a slow smile creeps across his lips. “Yeah?”

I nod.

“Come closer,” he says.

Across the table is way too far away for him to comfortably lean forward and kiss me, considering he has a strap across his chest, so I scooch over to the side of the table so that I’m right next to him. He stares at me for a second, as if doing a few mental calculations to judge the distances. He lifts his right arm, brings his wrist to the back of my head, and pulls my face close to his. He goes about ninety percent of the way to my lips, then I bridge the gap.

And we’re kissing.

Oh my God, we’re kissing!

I wonder if he has any clue this is the first time I’ve ever kissed a man on the lips. It feels so natural, so right, that I don’t even worry (too much) if I’m doing it wrong. At first, Brody stays chastely on my lips, but then his tongue gently laps at my upper lip—he wants to get inside. I open my mouth to let him in, and oh my God. This is amazing! My entire body tingles as his tongue dances against mine and his stubble grazes against my chin.

When we finally separate, I’m literally shaking. Brody’s face is flushed. He mumbles under his breath, “It’s been way too long.” And he turns even redder.

“It’s been a long time for me too,” I tell him.

“I’m sure it’s been longer for me,” he says.

I’m not going to play this game with him, because I don’t want to admit that no matter how long it’s been for him, I’ve got him beat by a million miles. Even if he hasn’t kissed a girl since he broke his neck, I’ve still got him beat.

“I want to kiss you again,” Brody says, and he does. And can I just say that it’s pretty adorable that he announces it when he wants to kiss me.

After our second kiss, I can’t help but notice that half the restaurant is staring at us. I guess we’re a spectacle. But I don’t even care.

As I pull away from him, my boob knocks my knife and fork off the table. My boobs and my butt are always knocking things down. I’m used to it. “I’ll get that,” I mumble, then I reach for the utensils from the floor.

And then I feel something rip.

Oh my God, my pants just split. It’s happened to me many times before, and the sensation is unmistakable. There’s now a big hole along the bottom seam of my pants. I can feel a breeze. Stupid cheap pants.

All the joy I felt a few moments ago drains from my body. This is the most mortifying thing that can happen on a first date. My shirt is nowhere near long enough to hide my pants. The second I get up, he’s going to know what happened. Everyone in this stupid restaurant is going to know what happened.

I wish I could disappear.

Brody is trying to make conversation, but I can’t focus. I take a sip of my Diet Coke, trying to figure out what to do next. Maybe I could steal a napkin and tuck it into the back of my pants. Of course, the napkins are bright white and my pants are almost black. It’s going to be incredibly obvious.

“Hey,” Brody is saying, “I was just thinking… It’s still early. There’s this great coffee shop a few blocks away. Do you want to go?”

Before my pants split, I would have been dying of happiness at his invitation. But now it’s out of the question. “No, thanks,” I say. “I’m just going to, you know, go home.”

“Oh.” His face falls. “Sure. You said you came here by bus, right? I can wait with you at the bus station. Make sure you get on all right.”

As much as it pains me, I need to get rid of him. Now. If there’s any chance of getting out of here without him discovering my secret, we definitely can’t be making more plans for the evening. Although I have a feeling the minute I stand, the gig will be up.

“No, that’s okay,” I mumble. “I’m just going to head out. I… I’ve got a headache.”

“Oh,” he says again. And this time he takes the hint.

Our waitress comes by with the check. I offer what I hope is a compensatory smile. “Let me split it with you,” I say.

“No,” he says firmly. “I’ve got it.”

“I could pay the tip.”

“I said I’ve got it.”

Brody fumbles around in the front pocket of his shirt and comes up with a credit card. It drops onto his lap and it takes him about five tries to get it into his hand and onto the table. He completely misses the tray that the check is in, but our waitress manages to figure it out.

After the waitress leaves with a credit card, we sit there in silence again. But this time, it isn’t dopey, happy silence. It’s awkward, miserable silence. I’m so angry at my stupid pants right now.

Brody leans forward. “Listen,” he says. “I’m sorry I said that thing about it being a while since… well, you know. I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that I’m happy to be here with you. And… you kiss really good. It was nice. That’s all.”

He looks miserable. He thinks he’s blown it. And right now, I’m blowing it. I’ve got to tell him the truth. No matter how humiliating it is.

“It’s not that,” I say. “I had a really nice time too, and… you kiss really good too.”

He lifts his eyes. “But?”

He thinks this sentence is going to end with “but I’m just not that into you.” He has no idea. It pains me to say this. “I split my pants open when I bent over to get the fork and knife. So I’m… I just want to go home.”

His eyes fly open. I caught him off guard with that one. I wait for his face to fill with disgust. But instead, he shifts around and starts sifting through the backpack on the back of his chair. I have no idea what he’s doing.


“Hang on.” He’s searching for something. After a minute, he comes out with a black sweatshirt hooked on his fingers. He shoves it across the table. “Here. You can wrap this around your waist. For the ride home.”

“Oh.” I take the sweatshirt and unfold it. It will probably fit around my waist, although barely. “Thank you.”

I was worried I would never see him smile again, so I’m relieved when he flashes me one of his grins. “No problem. I’m prepared for any kind of embarrassing emergency. I’ve experienced everything.”

I study his face and there isn’t even a trace of judgment there. I’ve never met anyone quite like him. “I had a great time tonight, Brody.”

“Me too. I think we should do it again.”

“I definitely think we should.”

I end up sticking around until he signs the check in an illegible scribble. (Hopefully, the waitress doesn’t make up some crazy number for the tip, because it’s not at all clear what he was trying to write.) And then he kisses me one more time by the entrance to the restaurant. I have to bend down and it’s a little more awkward than our other kisses, but still really, really nice. A girl could get used to this.

To be continued.... 


  1. What a wonderful chapter! I really enjoyed it! Thank you!
    Can't wait for the next chapter!

  2. Love it!! Thanj you for such devvy goodness :D I loved the restaurant scene, the way you described his hands and arms. Brody is so cute. Can't wait to see more of them together. Also, omg, Emily is so adorable too, I feel for her having to go through all this bullshit. I love it that she was honest with him about her situation with the rip in her pants, and I love the way he reacted to it. I don't think I could handle him being broken hearted again haha Well, I'm looking forward to next week!

    1. Glad you liked it! There are more devvy descriptions coming up!

  3. Ohh I like this so much! I don't remember much from the original story, but I can see that I like Brody a lot. And your writing is flawless as always.

    1. Thanks! I definitely made a bunch of changes from the original.

  4. Aww Brody is awesome, and Emily too! Really enjoying seeing how their relationship.develops.