"Woo!" I cheer, doing a happy dance. "Oh yeah! Thank you, sweet car. I'm sorry for ever doubting you."
I went out this morning for coffee and, just out of some hope that the universe would finally be kind to me, decided to check if my car would work again. As if my prayers were heard, it started up the second turn of my key. The check engine light is off.
I thank everyone I can think of, including my third grade teacher who used to give us candy every day so we'd behave, for the blessing of it running again.
I call Brendon, giddy with anticipation. I can finally be the one to meet him at his house. It's been so weird for me to have to be picked up all the time. I’m usually pretty independent when it comes to getting things done, not that I have anything against others helping me.
"Hello?" I hear him ask on the end of the line.
"Hi, Pretty Boy!" I chirp, excited.
"Hi, Jenna," he responds, sounding like he's trying not to laugh at my energetic greeting. "What's up?"
"So we're going on a date today . . ."
"Yes, we are. And?"
"Well, my car works now! I was thinking I'd come pick you up since you always come here."
"That's not necessary. I don't mind meeting up with you."
I pout, then realize he can't see it over the phone.
"No," I whine. "I want to. You can't chaperone me all the time. I need to drive us for once."
"Alright. I didn't know you wanted to do it so much."
"I do," I answer, grinning at his acceptance of my request. "Besides, I think Taylor might start stalking me if I don't drop by to see her soon. Is she still there?"
"No, but she's just next door. She told me she didn't have any homework today and that I, and I quote, 'like, sucked big time' because I was going out with you instead of bringing you here while she has free time. She'll be overjoyed to see you."
I giggle at the girl's antics, pleased she wants me to visit. I think she needs a sister in her life, but it seems she's not too worried that all she has is me.
"So your car is working now?" Brendon asks, bringing back the attention to our previous subject. "When did you get it fixed?"
Um. Oops. I forgot I told him I was going to get it repaired. To be fair, that wasn't a lie. I was going to have someone fix it. I just don't need to now. I can't tell him that though. He'll probably be all concerned for my safety and tell me not to drive it because he doesn't understand my car. It’s always been a trooper, it just likes to complain to me sometimes. Not to say he follows safety rules, being the dangerous hand holder he is.
"Yesterday," I blurt out, not thinking. "Yep, yesterday."
I don't think I could be more awkward if I tried.
"Really?" he asks, sounding puzzled. "Why didn't you say anything about wanting to drive when I called you yesterday?"
Don't be smart, Brendon. Stop it. Be like another oblivious guy. Okay, I can do this. Breathe.
"Um . . . I didn't know it was going to happen!" I reply, trying desperately to keep my nerves at bay.
Since when do I have so much trouble lying to a person that isn't Eric? The thought bothers me, but I don't have time to dwell on it.
"What do you mean?" Brendon asks.
"I thought they wouldn't have time to fix it until later next week," I answer, feeling more confident now that I've had time to think about my story. "But someone cancelled their appointment, so they fit me in. Tada, I have a working car again."
"I see. I'm glad to hear that. How did you get home? Was everything okay?"
"Yeah, I was fine. Eric helped me. He complained about it all day too."
"Did he?" he answers, laughing. "I can believe that. You know, you could have asked me. My boyfriend duties aren't just limited to dates, okay? I can help you with other things."
My heart flutters at his thoughtfulness.
"Thanks," I say, hoping my voice is as grateful as I want it to be. "I really appreciate that. If you need help with anything, I'm here for you too. I don't know what I could give you, but still. Maybe a design for a poster or something."
He chuckles warmly, and I'm proud I made him do it.
"That's very kind," he responds. "If I ever need any, I know where to go."
"Okay," I chime, feeling a glow. "So I'll be by around five?"
"Sounds good to me."
"By the way, my car is not a magical vehicle like yours," I admit, mildly nervous now that the thought has crossed my mind. "It's not as fancy."
"I don't know if I would call my car fancy," he replies, and I can hear the smile in his voice. "But don't worry about it. I'm sure it's perfectly fine, and just as Jenna-like as your apartment."
Well, I do have an awesome miniature penguin hanging from my mirror that I got from Eric for my birthday. He's pretty cute. I also have this cool cup I keep forgetting to take into my apartment that I got as a gift from one of my clients that ran a small coffee shop. I made them logo designs and after they created all the merchandise, they gave me one of the final products. Brendon doesn't have anything cool like that in his car.
"That better be a positive adjective," I say, trying to sound accusatory.
"It is," he reassures. "Anyway, I'll tell Taylor. She'll probably want to meet you outside, since she'll be so excited. Just warning you now."
"That's fine," I reply, laughing again. "I don't mind."
"Okay. I'll see you in a few hours then, Jenna."
I hang up, still grinning like an idiot.
After spending a probably ridiculous amount of time getting ready, mostly because I tried to do my hair myself and then ended up giving up an hour in and putting it in a ponytail, I head over to Brendon's apartment. As soon as I pull up and get out, I see Taylor.
The bubbly teenager springs to me and wraps her arms around my waist before I can even greet her.
"Hi, Taylor," I say, laughing. "It's good to see you too."
"Jenna!" she chirps. "When Brendon told me you were coming over here I was, like, so excited. I wish you two weren't leaving. He totally sucks for taking you away."
"Sorry," I reply, smiling. "One day we'll have do something alone, okay?"
She lets go, bouncing on her heels as she steps back.
"But listen," she adds, looking a bit anxious. "My parents said that, like, they found a job back here in the states. He said they'd move home fully within, like, a month or two, probably."
"That's awesome, Taylor!" I reply, enthusiastic. "Now you don't have to be apart."
"Yeah, it is," she responds, but still seems uneasy. "But I'm worried, like, when he comes back . . . that Brendon and I won't be close anymore. And that you won't come see me."
I smile at her, ruffling her hair.
"Brendon will always be close friends with you, okay?" I reassure. "You guys are buddies, even during the times I'm sure you wish you weren't. And I'll keep hanging out with you as long as you want me to. Don't be upset."
"Really?" she asks, hopeful. "You promise?"
She gives me a grateful look, appearing relieved as well.
"So, do anything fun lately?" I ask, trying to move to something light-hearted. "Maybe talked to Josh?"
Color instantly appears in her cheeks, but she grins brightly.
"Actually," she answers, leaning in close, "I was eating lunch the other day and, like, he came by to tease me. So I was, like, I'll tease him back. He looked really surprised. But then guess what?"
"He hugged me! In front of, like, all our friends. Stacy was so mad, but I didn't care."
"That's great!" I reply, happy for her. "I told you he liked you back. And about Stacy, I bet she was irritated. But that's fun in its own way, isn't it?"
"Yep! It's awesome to not worry. Now I just have to, like, ask him to the dance before she does."
She looks a little nervous with the thought, biting her lip. I give her arm a playful nudge, scoffing.
"As if he'd say yes to her anyway," I respond. "He wants to go with you, I'm sure of it."
She beams up at me, and I am reminded of being that giddy at her age. I hope all of her adventures are better than mine. I think they will be.
Brendon appears at the entrance of the building, smiling as he spots us.
"Hi, Jenna," he sings, approaching me. "It's good to see you."
"Hi, Pretty Boy," I respond, voice just as light. "It's good to see you too."
I look back at Taylor, only to find her sulking.
"It's okay," I tell her, laughing again. "There's enough of me to go around."
"Tell Brendon to stop hogging you for himself," she grumbles, drawing away as the man ruffles her hair.
"You heard the girl," I say to him, holding back more giggles.
"I'm sorry," he responds, not in actuality apologetic. "I'll try to work on that."
"You suck," she hisses, shoving him.
She gives me one more tight hug, sticking her tongue out at Brendon when I smile.
"Bye, Jenna," she mutters, shooting the man a dirty look.
"Bye, Taylor," I reply. "Have fun while you don't need to do homework."
Brendon takes my hand as Taylor trudges towards the door, looking irritable. Once she gets inside, I turn to him.
"You should talk to her," I say, almost shy to tell him what to do when he's been friends with her longer. "Don't let her know I said this, but she's worried."
"Worried?" he questions, blinking. "About what?"
"She thinks that once her dad comes back, you won't be close to her anymore. That you won't want to hang out with her."
"Oh, that's why she's been acting odd lately," he replies, warmth and understanding flooding his eyes. "I didn't know why, thanks for telling me. I'll have to find a way to reassure her without actually saying it, since I know she'll deny it."
"I told her she had nothing to worry about, but I'm sure she'll appreciate what you're going to do."
The sound of his phone buzzing attracts our attention.
"It's Taylor," he tells me, laughing as he reads her text message. "She says I better help her with her English homework tomorrow because I betrayed her today by stealing you."
"I think that sounds fair."
"I can accept it," he agrees. "Maybe it'll provide me with the opportunity to make her feel better. Hopefully she doesn't try to keep up the angry thing too long."
"Will she be okay?" I ask, holding back a giggle.
"She'll get lost in a video game or something later," he reassures. "She'll probably already have forgiven me by the time I come back."
"I don't know about that," I say. "She seems like she's going to hold a grudge."
"I've found that nobody can really stay angry with me," he shoots back.
It feels true, but I'll never admit that to him.
"Isn't that being a bit egotistical?" I ask.
"Not in my experience."
"I bet I could be mad at you," I challenge. "I'm good at resisting forgiveness when it comes to holding grudges."
"Part of me wants to test that claim," he replies, grinning. "But a bigger part doesn't even want to see an attempt, much less deal with it if you were actually successful."
"Let's go, you goofball," I respond, letting go on his hand and walking to my car.
He insists that he opens the driver side door for me, to which I thank him for but make sure I roll my eyes. Sometimes I worry he may be a bit too chivalrous.
"Are you excited?" he asks, slipping into the seat beside me after he walks around.
"No, Pretty Boy," I chirp, unable to sustain any real sarcasm in my voice. "I purposefully asked to change our date spot to a place where I would be bored and not excited at all."
"Does the sass ever end?" he groans, but he's smiling. "I think it's safe to assume that the answer is no."
"If you're done whining," I tease, "I'd like to get this show on the road."
"Ha, get it?" he asks. "Our date will literally be on the road. That's funny."
"That wasn't meant to be a pun. You just took it that way."
"Everything has the potential to be a pun if you want it to."
"Okay, you weirdo."
"I like your penguin," he says, leaning forward to see it better.
"Thanks. His name is Perry."
"Cute," he responds, chucking.
I turn on the car, getting ready to pull out.
"Wait!" he exclaims, before I start to go.
"What?" I ask, startled.
Was I about to run over little Bobby in the street or something? Or worse, did I almost hit a dog?
I can't help but feel there's something morally wrong about what I just thought. Oh well.
"Only this," he answers, taking my hand again.
"Not with me too," I complain. "I don't know if I can drive one-handed like you."
"Try it," he encourages. "If you're having difficulties I'll stop."
"You're bizarre, you know that?" I ask, reading. "You have a hand holding obsession. Do you need an intervention? Because I know a guy who runs an addiction center. Well he's actually the owner's brother, but still. He owes me."
"I'm fine, thanks. And who wouldn't want to hold your hand all the time, Jenna?"
"I don't . . ." I trail off, hiding the way my heart skips a beat. "Okay, fine. But as I mentioned before, if we crash and die-"
"You'll follow me around for eternity to say you told me so," he finishes, laughing.
I glare at him, but it doesn't seem to make a dent in his grin. I was hoping he'd flinch a little or something. Whatever.
We make it unharmed to the area of Brooklyn with the Promenade after a mildly nerve wracking drive (although Brendon seemed to have no fear of his potential death), and find a parking space in a relatively close by garage.
"See?" Brendon asks, smiling. "That wasn't bad at all. You were worried for nothing."
"I don't think you saw me almost swerve to avoid that squirrel that ran into the street," I retort. "Because I sure feel like it was a mess."
"Well I had complete faith in you the whole time."
"Even when I accidentally bumped the gear shift into neutral with your hand and freaked out?"
"Um . . ." he trails off. "Yes. As I said, complete faith. Sure."
"You're just saying that because you want me to hold your hand on the way home, aren't you?"
"You know me so well," he chirps, grinning.
I ignore him, getting out of the car myself to his obvious chagrin. Ha. Take that.
He catches up to me after I brush past him, smirking to myself.
"Mean," he says. "That's you."
"Only if you're a wuss," I sing, my smile softening as he scoffs and intertwines our fingers. "You really do have a problem."
"I know," he replies, content.
We make our way to the Promenade, stopping just a few steps in to take in the sight. The breathtaking view of the Lower Manhattan skyline is spread out in front of the harbor, the city's lights almost illuminating the air. The water laps against the shoreline, and the buildings don't seem out of place below the dark sky speckled with stars. I can feel a smile creep onto my face from the sight, something pleasant worming its way through my heart. The place makes me remember what it was like to be safe and loved, as if the world never had anything harsh to give anyone.
"Beautiful," Brendon says, but looks more like he's gazing and me instead of the view.
I start to walk again, and he follows me. Stay calm, stay cool. No need to freak out over to sweet comments.
"I've always loved it here," I say, pretending he's talking about it. "When I was little, my family used to come down here for a few hours every month and we'd play hide and seek along the benches. Then we'd get some pizza from Grimaldi's even though the wait was always really long."
"Ah, so I've found the source of your love for pizza," he chimes, grinning.
"Maybe," I reply. "Pizza doesn't need a reason to be loved though. Just like coffee."
"If you're into that kind of thing," he jokes.
"Shut up, Pretty Boy. I could shove you off this you know."
"And I could do drugs," he shoots back. "But I won't. Just because you can doesn't mean you will."
"You're so odd," I respond, but it's not harsh.
He lightly bumps my shoulder with his.
A slight breeze hits me, the cold air causing me to slightly adjust the scarf around my neck that's slipped under my coat. Brendon's scarf. Oh, no. He'll probably tease me about wearing it. Oops. I didn't even think about it when I put it on. What if he wants it back? It's so soft and comfortable. I'll give it to him, but not without some pleading to keep it first.
He peers curiously at me, noticing the fabric. Damn it.
"Is that mi-"
"No," I interrupt. "Shh."
Sometimes I think I hate his smile. Only sometimes. But if he keeps doing it, I might have to smack him.
We pass a couple making out on a bench, but that's the only thing that dents the light mood. Everyone else that's still around is quietly watching the city or spending time huddled against each other in the chilled air. It's relatively quiet.
"So," Brendon starts, "have any more exploits to tell? Did you develop your attitude here too?"
"I'm thinking that drop to the street might just kill someone if they 'tripped,'" I snap, making air quotes.
"Sorry," he replies, but he doesn't sound apologetic at all.
"What about you, then?" I ask. "You said you've been here before. Was it fun?"
"Yes," he says, shrugging. "Not as much as your trips, it seems, but still fun."
"Are you . . . having fun now? If you can even tell yet."
"No, it's horrible," he responds, chuckling. "Yes, Jenna, I'm having a good time."
"And you say I have the attitude problem."
He stops near the railing, pulling me until I can rest against it. We take another moment to look at the skyline once more.
"It really is gorgeous," he says, leaning an elbow on the railing. "It somehow seems even more breathtaking today than the other time I was here."
I nod, entranced in the sight. I let out a content sigh.
"What's your favorite thing about it?" Brendon asks, squeezing my hand.
When I tear my gaze away to face him, I see that he's smiling. I lean my head on his shoulder, surprising him. He relaxes, stroking the skin on my hand with his thumb.
"Whenever we'd come here, it'd be perfect," I tell him. "It didn't matter what had just happened. I could have had a hard day at school, my parents could have had a fight, and I could have even scraped my knee or something. It was like it never existed once we started walking. My dad used to swing me up onto his shoulders so I could get a better view. When I got too big for that, he'd give me piggy back rides instead while my mom laughed. I don't know exactly what it is, but it's never been a place where I felt bad things could happen. Troubles are always far away. When I come up here, the world just seems still. I know we're in New York and it's never that quiet, but it's as if the world stops for a moment. Like it wants us to enjoy the beauty of something that most people don't appreciate, if only for a little while."
Brendon is quiet when I look up at him as he peers across the bay in contemplation.
"Jenna," he says, then is quiet for a minute. "You just . . . you're amazing, you know that?"
"W-what?" I ask, stuttering in surprise at the comment.
Me? Amazing? Never heard that one before, except for when it was delivered with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
He faces me. He's looking at me the way that makes me feel weightless, like he did at the coffee shop our first date and when I helped Taylor. I'm starting to think I might develop a craving for it, as weird as that is to me. I've never wanted someone to stare at me a certain way until I met Brendon, but it's like magic. It's as if I'm the only thing that could possibly matter to him in this moment.
"You have a gift for making the little things seem extraordinary," he adds.
"I, uh, I'm not . . ." I trail off, unable to remember what breathing feels like while I struggle to push down the rising feeling of tears coming for an unknown reason. "I mean, I can't-"
"You don't have to believe me," he says, voice soft. "I just wanted you to hear it, since it's true."
Unable to produce any more words, I lay my head back down on his shoulder and pull my hand from his to wrap it around his arm.
We stay pressed against each other for a while, simply enjoying the company and the scenery. After that, we discuss his favorite spots and why they are that way. He tells me about a bookstore in Williamsburg that has the coolest selection he's ever seen, and how there's always an adorable cat that pads around the area. I know I should tease him because he would choose a bookstore, but I can tell it's really special to him. I don't know why he's calling me the one with the gift for the little things, as he's the one who could make a trip to watch paint dry seem exciting. His enthusiasm and warmth about the bookstore strike a chord in me that makes me long to go there, if only to have been inside a place he holds in such high regard.
"Will you take me there one day?" I ask, almost shy about requesting something that's personal to him.
"Of course," he chirps. "If you want to go, I'd love to show you."
"I do want to," I reply. "It sounds wonderful."
He looks down at the thin watch on his wrist, thinking. A grin comes to his face.
"Or, you know . . ." he trails off, teasing. "Ah, never mind. You don't want to, I'm sure."
Is he keeping something from me?
"Pretty Boy, come on," I whine. "Tell me. Secrets don't make friends. What is it?"
"Just that the store happens to be open right now."
"Are you kidding?" I ask, and he shakes his head. "Let's go then! Come on!"
He laughs at my excitement, letting me pull him along by his hand.
"Slow down," he says, voice light. "We have until ten, don't worry."
"You haven't seen how long it takes for me to go through a bookstore," I chime back. "I like to explore it all."
"You're never allowed to tease me about how I much I enjoy books or words after this," he replies, grinning.
"Okay," I respond urgently. "Now stop dragging your feet and let's go."
"Alright, alright. I'm starting to feel you'll just pull me the rest of the way if I happen to trip because I'm not keeping up."
"It's a possibility," I shoot back, giddy.
He listens to my enthusiastic chatter as we make our way back to the car, a warm smile on his face. I’m really starting to like where this is going. The bookstore, of course. Yeah. Right. What else could I have meant?