Emile texted me regularly that week. We were trying to set up a date, but both of our work schedules were rather erratic. I hadn’t gotten to see him much outside of his typical visits to the diner, which was frustrating. I desperately wanted to get to know him better. When he asked me if I worked on Saturday evening, I deflated when I had to tell him that my shift didn’t end until eleven at night. He insisted that wouldn’t be a problem, as long as I was fine with it. I was.
I brought a change of clothes to work, so that he could pick me up at The Webb and we wouldn’t waste any time. He had kept the destination a secret, insisting that sometimes it’s better not to know everything. I hated surprises, but he wouldn’t budge on the issue. All he’d said was that casual dress was appropriate, so I picked out comfy jeans and a cute sweater. I hoped it wouldn’t be anything outdoors—I didn’t really have any flattering winter jackets. But maybe if I was cold, he’d lend me his coat again. I wouldn’t mind that.
I waved goodbye to Rose when a now-familiar black car pulled out in front of the diner. Emile popped out to open the passenger’s side door for me. I melted into the comfort of the heated seats as he jogged back around to the other side of the car. Before he could buckle up, I pulled him over for what I’d intended to be a quick kiss. A couple minutes later, we finally headed off.
I sighed in contentment and gazed out the window, taking in the sights zipping by. I gave up trying to figure out our destination, finally realizing that it didn’t matter. I’d happily go along wherever he led me. But I couldn’t hide my surprise when we finally pulled into a parking lot.
“A bowling alley?”
“I thought it would be fun,” he shrugged, “I didn’t even know these kinds of places still existed.”
I chuckled, “I don’t think I’ve been bowling since a middle school club fundraiser.”
“What club were you in? No, let me guess...Art?”
“No!” I swatted at him playfully before putting an end to his guessing game, “Chorus. Is your mom going to drive us home after? I have a curfew, you know.”
He ignored my teasing and led us inside. It looked exactly like any bowling alley I’d remembered from my childhood, complete with a few ancient arcade games of questionable functionality, and what had to be massively outdated score-keeping computers. It was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night, and I wondered how a place like this had managed to stay open at all.
I feared that I looked stupid in my garish rented shoes, but Emile looked just as ridiculous in his. Maybe he looked worse, even. They really clashed with the sexy vibe he typically emitted. We picked a lane and chose our balls for the evening. His was a marbled black and gray that suited him much better than the shoes did. The only one I felt comfortable with was a hideous neon orange. We plugged our names into the computer and our match began.
“Ladies first,” he insisted.
I swung back and released the orange ball down the lane, where to my great annoyance it swerved right into the gutter. My second attempt over-corrected in the other direction, and missed again. Shit, this was harder than I had remembered.
“I can have them raise the bumpers for you, if you want,” he taunted before his first turn. But it turned out he wasn’t much better than I was. He only managed to strike one pin at the end of the alley during his whole turn.
He ordered us some drinks and food between rounds. I’d eventually have to tell him that I preferred sugary vodka cocktails to beer or wine. This was the second time now I’d drank something I didn’t particularly care for on his account. But that could wait until our second date. I hoped that there’d be a second date, anyway. I was having a good time, even if we were both terrible at this game.
He excused himself to smoke, and I took that opportunity to play around with the score-keeping computer. I checked to see if I could edit my name. Because he’d plugged me in as ‘Elle,’ and the machine abbreviated us both to ‘E,’ it was getting kind of confusing. I smirked when I realized that the scores weren’t locked and could be edited.
When he sat back down, he did a double take at the monitor. “Hey! What’s this about?” He gestured to the screen, where my score now read as being perfect.
I smiled as innocently as I could muster, batting my eyelashes for full effect, “What?”
He tried to scowl, but we both dissolved into laughter as the silliness of our evening overcame us. We completed our first game with a tie. Both of our scores read as 300. We thought it was hilarious, but the worker in charge of the lanes didn’t seem quite as amused with us.
Just as I was about to ask if we were ready to leave, the lights cut out. Suddenly, all of the lanes were aglow in neon. My hideous orange bowling ball shone even brighter than it had been before. Rainbow lights danced across the floor. “What the hell?”
“The last hour is by black light,” he explained just as someone over the loudspeaker announced ‘Laser Bowling Hour.’
Techno music blasted through all of the speakers as we played one last round. It was deafening to the point where we could barely hear each other. We didn’t edit the scores this time, feigning a more serious competition as we let things play out naturally. I’d improved enough to pull off a victory, but just barely. Only a few balls landed in the gutters this time around.
I crawled into his lap so that I could speak into his ear, “What’s my prize for winning?”
“Me,” he crooned. It was cheesy, but I liked it. I liked him.
I looked him over with my best scrutinizing glance, “Alright. I’ll take it.”
My ears were ringing as we shuffled our way back to the car. It was pretty late by now, so he drove me back home to my apartment. He parked out front and we immediately began to make out like teenagers. ‘Appropriate,’ I thought, considering our rather juvenile date venue. But I’d actually had a great time. I hoped Emile did, too.
“Come in for coffee,” I begged between kisses, “Please.”
His gaze was steady as he clarified, “For coffee.”
I nodded and he followed me inside. He didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t actually have a coffee maker. I don’t think he even noticed. He ended up spending the night.