The Time Of My Life

Cassie Holmes never expected to win the Win a Date with One Direction creative writing competition. She had only entered because it gave her another excuse to write; something she loves to do. She’s not really a fan of the boy band, but when she meets her date of choice, Zayn Malik, she can’t help but feel drawn to him. Zayn is focused on his career as a member of One Direction, but after reading Cassie's winning entry he is intrigued. Meeting her in person, he is taken with her wit and charm. Will what starts out as just a publicity stunt become something more?

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4. The Date: Part 2 (Zayn)

In the final week leading up to the date, I didn’t have time to think about it as the guys and I were busy with recording our new album.  On the big day I was a nervous wreck, but Niall said to be my usual charming self.

I went over the possibilities over and over in my head.  I didn’t know what she looked like, as I hadn’t asked for a photograph.  The guys all wished me luck and made me promise to take pictures of her.  They all wanted to see the girl who wrote such an interesting story.

 

Stepping into the lobby of the hotel, I noticed a casually dressed girl sitting in the waiting area of the hotel’s lobby.  From what I could see, she was a very pretty girl.  But I really shouldn’t be ogling other girls when I had a date to pick up.

Walking up to the reception desk, I asked for Cassie Holmes.  The receptionist pointed to the girl seated in the waiting area.

As I walked up to her I could hear her singing quietly to herself.

She was so into her music that she didn’t hear me walk up to her.  So when I said her name, she looked up, startled.  She had sage-green eyes set in a softly angular face.  Her wavy dark brown hair had a cherry tint to it, and she was lightly tanned.  Her perfume was light and floral, and the make-up she wore was very minimalistic, which I liked.  Too many girls caked their make-up on their faces and practically dowsed themselves in overpowering perfumes fruit scented perfumes.

“That’s me,” she said answering to her name.

“I’m Zayn,” I said.  ‘I’m Zayn’? I mentally berated myself. Was that the best you could do?

It didn’t help that she laughed at what I said.

“I believe we have a date.”  That was better.

I led her out to the car.  The band’s manager and I decided not to rent a limousine; too showy, even in London.

There was an awkward silence at the beginning.  Usually I can think of something cool or witty to say to a girl, but for some reason I didn’t know what to say to her so I was startled when she suddenly made a comment on the weather.  After that we easily slid into conversation.  I was very shocked to learn that wasn’t even a fan.  She must be very dedicated to her writing and I liked that about her, which I told her.

Just then we stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast as we had decided earlier.  I fancied something with bacon so I ordered a bagel with bacon, egg and cheese, along with a bag of fruit and a black coffee.  Despite that I exercise fairly regularly, I have to watch what I eat to some extent.  Such is the life of a celebrity.  Cassie on the other hand devoured a Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin and a hash brown and washed it down with a milk tea.  She’s definitely not the type to worry about her weight or what she’s eating, and I like a girl with a hearty appetite.

When we’d finished breakfast, we had a short discussion on where to start our date.  Cassie surprised me again when she suggested the Museum of Natural History.  I had thought she would go for karaoke or bowling.  Then again, it would have been a bit awkward with the chauffeur and/or bodyguard with us.  At least in a place like a museum he would only be following at a discreet distance.

I had fun with her in the Museum, looking at the different exhibits.  There was something child-like in the way that wanted to see anything and everything, especially the familiar things that she remembered.

I found that Cassie was an enthusiastic photographer.  At the museum she photographed anything that she thought interesting.

The more I learned about this girl, the more I liked her.

Almost immediately after we returned to the museum’s Central Hall, Cassie’s stomach announced its’ hunger.  I couldn’t help chuckling at the timing.

“I’m hungry too,” I said.  Hopefully she wouldn’t be too embarrassed.  “What shall we have for lunch?”

Cassie suggested Italian.  I hadn’t had Italian food since the band was in Italy for its’ world tour last year, so I was game.

 

When we stepped into the restaurant, which was called Piccala Italia, the hostess looked up from the register and, seeing Cassie, started speaking to her in rapid Italian before she quickly disappeared to the back of the restaurant.

“I guess you come here often,” I commented.

Before she could say anything, a booming voice cried, “Cassandra!  Piccala belleza mia!”

Looking up, I saw that the voice belonged to a clean-shaven middle-aged man in a dark blue suit and black tie.  He briskly strode up to us.  He and Cassie hugged, kissed each other’s cheeks and began to converse in Italian.

For some reason, it made me feel…uncomfortable that they were so friendly; like I didn’t want him touching her so familiarly.

This confused me.  I’d only met the girl today!

They ended their conversation quickly but not before I heard Cassie say my name and surname followed by some more Italian.  She then turned to me.  “Zayn, this is Luigi Sorrentino,” she introduced.  “He owns the restaurant.”

I was shocked.  How does girl like Cassie Holmes know the owner of a popular Italian restaurant in London?  A family friend, maybe?

“Ciao, signor Malik,” Luigi said smiling.

“Hi,” I smiled in return.

Luigi led us to a table by the window, which was apparently one of the best seats in the restaurant.  When we were seated, Luigi set our menus in front of us.

“Grazie, Luigi,” she said.

Now, that I understood.

Qualunque cosa per cugina piccala mia,” the maître d’ replied.  He turned to me and asked, “Is there anything in particular you would like to drink?’

Quickly scanning the drink menu, I decided on a glass of Sicilian lemonade.

Luigi once again turned to Cassie and asked her something in Italian.

Si,” Cassie replied.

“A waiter will be out with your drinks momentarily,” he said.

Looking through the menu, it was hard to decide what to order.  Everything sounded delicious.

“Cassie, what would you recommend?” I asked.

 “Well, one of my favourites have to be the funghi cotte al forno con pancetta, it’s basically a baked Portobello mushroom stuffed with bacon, smoked salmon and mozzarella,” Cassie replied.  “It may sound strange, but it’s actually very tasty.”

We both ordered the Portobello mushrooms for starters, and I had a Chicken Breast in Sage and Lemon Sauce with rice, while Cassie asked for a Sirloin Steak in Pepper Crust with Peas.

Having decided what we were going to have, they took our menus away.  A minute later our drinks arrived.  Cassie’s looked like a fizzy orange soft drink, but it was redder.  When I asked Cassie what it was, she replied that it was in fact fizzy blood orange.  Apparent it what she always ordered when she ate at Piccala Italia.

“Where did you learn to speak Italian?” I asked, sipping from my lemonade.

“My mother taught me,” she replied.  “She’s from Naples.  We didn’t have Italian at school so I learnt at home.”

“What other languages do you speak?”

“I can speak French fairly fluently, and a bit of Latin as well.”

“Latin?” Yet another surprise from this girl.

“My dad’s a translator for Italian and Latin,” she explained.  “He teaches too.”

Our mushrooms arrived just then.  They smelled wonderful.

Cutting off a bite-sized piece off and popping it in my mouth, I could see why Cassie recommended this dish.  The bacon and smoked salmon complemented each other well and brought out the subtle flavour of the mozzarella.  There was also an underlying flavour of garlic, basil and parsley which I liked.  The whole things just melted in my mouth.

While we ate, Cassie confessed surprise that I’d ordered something with bacon at breakfast, as she knew that I was a Muslim.  I asked her if she had a problem with my religion, but she told me that she had been baptised as a Catholic, but didn’t really conform to the religion, which I could understand especially have parents from two different religions.

That got me talking about my family, the kind of things we do day to day.  I started to tell her about the two frying pans that Mum used when cooking meats at home.  “She uses two frying pans, one for cooking pork, and the other for other things.  If Dad so much as catches a whiff of the pork frying pan, he starts swearing in Urdu.”

Cassie laughed at the story and shared a few of her own with me.  I learned that her mother was quite the cook herself; and made everything from scratch.

When our main courses arrived, I asked her a question that had been bothering since we’d entered the restaurant.  “How do you know Luigi?”

“He’s a distant cousin of my mother’s, through my great-great-grandfather’s brother, I think. I always come here with my parents every month or so,” Cassie explained.  “He always gives us discount, even though we keep telling him not to.  He’s generous to a fault.”

We continued in this way, talking about our various relatives. We barely paused in our conversation, even when the plates were cleared and our mains were brought out.  Something about Cassie made me comfortable enough to share things that were very personal to me with her.

We were finished eating, the dessert menus were brought out.  There was quite a selection of desserts, most having some form of ice-cream.  There were several cheesecakes that sounded attractive.  I finally decided on a traditional Italian cheesecake, and Cassie had a scoop each of chocolate and cappuccino gelato.

 

Just as we were leaving, he said to me that since I was Cassie’s friend I would get discount whenever I come to the restaurant.  I wasn’t sure if I should correct him, so I said nothing.  But I would definitely recommend Piccala Italia to the guys.

Cassie and I decided to go to the National Art Gallery next.

Wandering around the galleries, I noticed that Cassie paid particular attention to the European Renaissance paintings and sculptures.  Though I wasn’t really a Christian, I could appreciate religious art.

When it came close to dinner time, I took her to a Pakistani restaurant I had been to before in Marylebone called Eastern Spice.  Since Cassie shared a little of her culture with me, I thought I’d share a little of mine with her.  Earlier I’d asked her if she liked spicy foods to which she had jokingly replied that as long as it didn’t set her mouth on fire she would try it.

Neither of us really wanted much for dinner so we both ordered aloo chaat (fried potatoes with chutney) for starters, and then a chicken shami kebab for myself and a chapli kebab for Cassie.

As we ate we chatted about the paintings from the National Art Gallery we liked and why.

After dinner, we decided to end the date with a trip to the London Eye as Cassie had never been.

Coincidentally, we timed it just when the lights were coming on.

“It’s so beautiful from up here,” she murmured, as she gazed out across the London nightscape.

I knew this was quite the romantic cliché, but it didn’t stop this warm fuzzy feeling from building up inside of me.  Not only that, I couldn’t help thinking how pretty Cassie looked with her eyes wide in that childlike wonder she seemed to frequently wear on her face.  I was half-tempted to say something like ‘just like you’, but I had a feeling that she would just shrug it off like a meaningless platitude, so I just said, “Yes, it is.”

Cassie didn’t reply but kept her eyes on the view in front of her, while I kept my eyes on her.

 

“You didn’t have to walk me up to my room, you know,” she said as we rode the elevator to the fifth floor.

“I wanted to,” I replied.

When the elevator came to a stop, she turned to me and said that I could leave now, but I insisted on walking her to her room.

We came to a stop outside a room door on the right side of the corridor.

“Well, this is me,” she said.  “I had a great time today.  I hope you did too.”

“I did, very much.”

There was a moment’s pause before she did something I wasn’t expecting from her.  She kissed me.  On the corner of my mouth.

Cassie blushed before she quickly unlocked the door and darted into her room before closing it softly behind her.

I just stood there for a moment or two, not quite believing that she’d actually kissed me, before mentally shaking myself from my daze.

Touching where she’d kissed me, I chuckled before turning to walk back to the elevator.

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