By four thirty I was home, having peddled my borrowed bike as quickly as I could. When I walked through the door, Lukas and Stephen were already home. Lukas gave a tentative smile before returning to his book, Stephen paused his show and we talked quickly. Apparently he was working at a children's day camp, "Though God knows why. I don't even like kids, at least not six-year-old French ones," he said. He asked me how my day had been and I brushed it off with a fine—though I think he could see something was up. I felt like a blush was consuming my whole face and extending to my ears, and my cheeks itched with the urge to smile. Mr. Tremble asked me the same question when I met him in the kitchen, though much more enthusiastically. "C'etait correct," I replied, running up the stairs before he could ask me anymore questions.
Last night I'd been so quick to fall asleep, and then to sneak out, that I never truly appreciated the patriotism of the room. The aforementioned colours were a bland, washed out orange with a ring of deep, deep blue. Along the wall adjacent to the bed was a huge—and I mean huge—Canadian flag; there was one desk and one tall shelf filled to the brim with Québécois history and culture; there was even large book lying, conveniently, on the desk recalling the hardships of Lower Canada caused by Upper Canada, and how the prior was superior to the later. If I really wanted to immerse myself in Quebec culture, I suppose this was the room in which to do that.
Lana had never specified where we would be going (she'd only said that she'd be taking me on a date like none other), so I decided on casual attire. My sleek back hair was secured in a ponytail and I chose to wear my most athletic clothes, if you could call them athletic. Who knew, perhaps she was a hiking enthusiast? Besides, from what I'd seen of Quebec, everywhere you went was an uphill battle.
That's when I remembered that I hadn't told her the house number. I hit recall on the number that had called me earlier and listened nervously for her voice to pick up. The beeping finally ceased and someone picked up, there was some static from the other side and then Lana's rushed voice. "Who is this?" she asked.
"It's Amelia, I know you said not to call, but I forgot to give you my house number. It's 208 Bibliothèque Street, just off the freeway."
There were some voices in the background, too muffled for me to make out. "Alright, merci, I'll see you soon." Then she hung up.
Being punctual as always, by five o'clock I was ready and waiting downstairs in the living room. "So, explain to me again what's happening," Stephen prodded as I sat next to him and Monja. Lukas had disappeared as soon as Monja had come into the equation.
"Last night, at the party, I met a girl. Her name is Lana, she's mysterious and gorgeous, and today while I was at work she asked me out," I explained, for the second full time. "I said yes, in case you couldn't tell."
"So basically she's your manic pixie dream girl?" Stephen asked.
"Manic pixie dream girl: the love interest whose sole purpose is to help the brooding lead character lighten up and enjoy their life. Mysterious, filled with the answers of life, magical, does this sound like your girl?" Stephen joked.
"How am I supposed to know if she knows the answers to life? Besides, that sounds like just a stupid movie trope," I replied, checking my phone again. No calls, no texts. "And for the record, I'm not brooding, I'm just an introvert." It was still ten minutes to half-past-five, but I was already getting anxious.
Monja, tucking a stray piece of blonde hair behind her ear, rolled her eyes. She had certainly gotten over her hang-over quickly. Last night she had been throwing up out of M. Tremble's car and yelling out the window at hot strangers, this morning she had threatened to kill anyone who woke her up and had blown off her first day of work, but she seemed back to herself now. There was a beer mug filled with ice water on the coffee table with a half-empty bottle of ibuprofen (two of which I'd taken upon coming downstairs) beside it, but other than that there were no indications of hard-core underage partying from her. If anything, Stephen looked more worn out, though he had been sober: his face was blotchy and his eyes somewhat bloodshot, not to mention he kept complaining when we talked too loudly. In all Monja had rebounded better from drinking half the bar than I had from drinking my 1.5 beers. "Well, what if she decides to take you to a fancy restaurant in Montreal," Monja suggested. "Are you just going to go like this, you look like the girl from a Jillian Michaels video who does the modified version of everything."
"Thanks," I replied. "What else am I supposed to wear? I currently have thirteen dollars to my name and I doubt she has too much money either." There was a sudden honk from outside, and the three of us jumped from the couch and ran to the window.
"Looks like your ride's here!" Stephen exclaimed, looking at the car with star-struck eyes.
Outside on the slope of the hill—next to M. Tremble's freshly washed car and antique gas guzzler—was a sleek black car. I wouldn't be able to tell you the make for the life of me, but Stephen noted that it was a hybrid. "You were saying?" Monja asked.
"Yeah, looks like it," I mumbled, choosing to ignore Monja. I smoothed out my hair, retied my shoes, and slung my purse over my shoulder before leaving the house. I grabbed a spare key on the way out, in case Lana dropped me off late. Honestly, I was going into this blind and was just trying to prepare for all possibilities.
"Salut, ma belle," Lana greeted when I got in the car. With relief I noted that she too was wearing athletic clothing, and not something fancy. Even in the sports clothing, her hair hung in perfect curls, her bright eyes contrasted to smoky-eye, and her pearly teeth shining against bubble-gum lipstick. "I see you came prepared." The only downside to all of this was that Lana exclusively spoke French, in which I wasn't yet fluent. The last thing I needed was to make an idiot of myself trying to translate something. From the window I could still see Monja and Stephen; Monja using hand gestures to predict what would happen that night, Stephen giving me a thumbs up and then hitting Monja's arm. "Your friends from last night?"
"Yup." I began formulating my next question. "Where will we go?"
"It's a surprise," she replied with a wink. In the background an indie music station hummed quietly. "So, how was your first day of work?" she asked, calmly working the stick shift as she reversed up the hill. My dad had tried teaching me stick shift once, it hadn't been as hard as I'd expected but it had been more stressful than driving an automatic. I was surprised that such a new and expensive looking car even had a stick shift. With ease Lana pulled up the hill, I traced the perfect curve of her nose when she turned to look behind her shoulder.
"It was fine, slow, but at least not demanding." A few seconds of silence proceeded during which I heard an acoustic cover of Wake Me Up playing. "You like indie music?"
"Indie, alternative, pop: I like anything with a beat I can dance to." I'd guessed as much from last night. "What about you?"
"I like foreign music: k-pop, Bollywood, European pop." The last little house flashed by us, and we were out of the small municipality of St. Canut and well on our way to the highway. She wasn't actually taking me to Montreal, was she?
"You are very interesting, Amelia. I'm going to enjoy getting to know you," she said in an alluring voice, flashing me a smile.