Hoarfrost – ‘Word Series’ short

Unsure how to proceed with the next phase of his ‘plan,’ Dante spent many days contemplating just how to go about asking Robyn Voll out.

Since meeting her his first day of classes, he’d known that he liked her. At first it had been a friendly like—she’d helped him find his classes, after all. (Even if that had been preceded by him tripping over her.) Not to mention the help with his English assignments (it had never been his strong suit). And in between, with the occasional hang out and study sessions, he’d slowly learned more about her.

Robyn was a gamer. It almost disturbed him how much she could get into her online matches. Some weekends she would go for hours straight if she didn’t have to work, even asking for the time off if some of her online pals had set up a ‘date.’ He used to game a little when he was younger, but now he just couldn’t understand giving up days at a time to sit in front of a television. His hands cramped up and his back ached just thinking about it.

Robyn was shrewd. In a good and bad way. She could be snappy and witty but also cutting and scathing. She was bright, clever, and sly. Dante had to wonder sometimes if she might be bipolar, she could change moods so quickly. She’d be chipper and perky one moment, and the next one wrong thing could be said and she’d storm off in a huff. It made him dizzy.

But she was kind. If any of her classmates asked her for help, she was more than happy to oblige. It must have been the future teacher in her. He admittedly took advantage of this kindness himself a lot, especially when it came to their shared English Grammar course the previous semester.

She liked green. She always had something green on, no matter the day or occasion. It could be a shirt, socks, or even the random rubber band on her wrist. And whatever the accessory or article of clothing, it only helped him notice the green in her hazel eyes.

And how sappy he was becoming. Dante wrinkled his nose in near disgust. Made all the worse by what he had planned.

Valentine’s Day was in a week. He had made it a goal, a New Year’s resolution, actually, to ask Robyn out before his birthday. He’d joked to himself that it would be his gift to do so, but it was easier said than done. And with his birthday a week after Valentine’s Day, he was running out of time for this little goal.

He didn’t think of himself as very romantic, so what he had planned was simple and, well, lame. He was going to buy her a small bouquet of flowers and a little bag of Ghirardelli dark and raspberry chocolates (thanks to her roommate Tasha for sharing her favorite flavors). He knew she worked the day before Valentine’s Day, and was going to wait until her shift ended and surprise her after work. That way they could go to classes that morning/afternoon and then have the Friday night to themselves.

Perfect? Naw. But he wasn’t exactly trying to shoot for the moon and land in the stars, so…

So that Thursday the 13th, at 9:56pm, he pulled up to the Applebee’s bar and grill she worked at and walked inside. His hands were clammy and jittery, and he almost dropped the bouquet on the way in. Twice.

“Hello! Welcome to Applebee’s!” chirped the too-peppy-for-ten-at-night greeter as he walked in. He smiled nervously at her. “Need a table, sir?”

“Ah, no, thanks. I’m waiting for someone to get off the clock.”

“Ohh,” she cooed, eyeing the goods in his hands. She smirked slyly at him and gave him a very obvious wink. He about died. “Well, feel free to wait here in the waiting area. It’s pretty dead right now anyway, so don’t be shy.”

“Er, thank you,” he mumbled, sitting quickly in a corner seat as far from the girl as possible. She practically stared at him the entire time he waited, grinning hugely. He wanted to crawl in a hole and hibernate. Or die. Which would be faster to do?

Then were the doubts. He hadn’t warned Robyn he was going to do this. She might flip out. He might flip out. He might be flipping out right now. What if she just walked out? Told him to back off and never talk to her again? Maybe she would kick him in the nuts and leave him a sobbing mess on the floor of an Applebee’s, with no one but the smiling hostess as comfort. Hell, maybe he had her schedule wrong. Damn it, he was going to check the parking lot for her car first before coming in, just in case, but in his nervousness he’d forgot to—

“Dante?”

“Oh f—” he almost cursed aloud before catching himself. He stood so fast his head swam, catching sight of Robyn standing next to positive-Polly at the small hostess station. Smiley-girl was beaming so bright she could light an entire mall with the wattage she was putting out. “Uh, hi!”

“Hi,” she returned, quirking an eyebrow at him. Her hair was tied back in a low ponytail (a green tie—she was just now taking it out and putting it around her wrist), and she was dressed in plain black slacks and a nice red blouse, her nametag slightly askew on her shirt. She must have been at the bar tonight—usually she just wore a black polo for serving…

Whoops, she was talking to him and he was busy staring at her.

“… here for food?”

“What? Uh, no, I—”

“He’s meeting someone,” Smiley shared, grinning at Robyn now. She was catching on. Great.

“Oh? Who’re you waiting for? They might already be seated…” she started to turn and look around the restaurant. Robyn obviously wasn’t grasping it, though. Sheesh.

“Uh, no, actually… I was waiting for you.”

Uh-oh. It was starting. As Robyn turned back to him Dante could see the shields going up, practically felt the chill as she turned suddenly cool eyes on him. Burr. It was like winter was coming from her eyes. He could feel the frostbite creeping up on him. If he started hyperventilating like he thought he might…

“What for?”

Ouch. Even Smiley-Sally winced a bit at her tone and question. What for, indeed. Did she not know what day tomorrow was? Probably, Dante reasoned, but didn’t give two craps about it, knowing Robyn.

Man, why was this so hard? He’d dated a couple girls back in high school, and didn’t remember it being near so difficult asking them out. Well, the one had asked him, but still.

Wait. Had he answered her yet? Ugh. Trying to pretend it was just the two of them there, and noting for future reference never to ask someone out where they worked again, he cleared his throat. “I would like to ask you if you’re free tomorrow. For Valentine’s Day,” he clarified, in case she really didn’t know what day it was. “I was hoping we could do something tomorrow night after classes.”

Wow. That came out a lot smoother than he thought it would. Nice. He gave himself a mental pat on the back.

“Are you kidding me?” He immediately chopped that mental hand off. That million-watt smile from the hostess was burnt out at this point. “You come and ambush me at work to ask me out?”

Ambush? Whoops, he hadn’t thought of it that way. Suddenly his tunnel vision expanded, and he could see the patrons and other employee’s of the restaurant looking in their direction. Oh, God, he was gonna be sick. Or die. Which would be easier?

“Not… well, not my best idea ever, but…” he stuttered, trying to maintain eye contact. It was so, so hard, though. Especially with the icy look she was giving him.

She breathed in deeply before reaching out quickly with her hand. He thought he was gonna get slapped. Instead she snatched the edge of his riding jacket and yanked sharply, pulling him toward the door.

“Can’t believe you…” she started, and then they were out the door and in the parking lot, her hand still tightly holding his jacket. He stumbled along after her. For a little thing, she was pretty tough. Sheesh.

Great. Now she was gonna beat him up in the parking lot. He was gonna end up like Biff in Back to the Future, a solid hook right in the face. Only instead of in front of the girl he liked, it was coming from the girl he liked.

“Robyn…”

“Shut up.” She spotted his ATV and walked over to it, stopping and finally letting him go as they reached it. She spun on her heel and faced him, and in the light of a pole he could see her face was beet red. She’d hidden that very well inside.

“That was so embarrassing!” she hissed, as if there was someone around to hear them. She was breathing almost as heavily as he was. “You don’t pull that crap in public! That’s for in private.”

That’s what she was so pissy for? “Uh…”

She put her hands over her face and shook her head, muttering, “Oh my gosh, everyone was there and they all saw and even strangers and oh my go-osh…”

As adorable as her reaction was, Dante was confused beyond belief. “So you’re not mad I asked you out? Just that it was in front of people?”

“Yes!”

“That’s ridiculous.”

She stared at him, thunderstruck. After a moment, though, Dante couldn’t stop himself.

He laughed.

Robyn just kept looking at him like he’d kicked her puppy. “It’s not funny, Danny.“ He stopped laughing and smirked knowingly at her. She blushed even more. “That was really embarrassing.”

“If anything,” he said, still chortling, “I should be embarrassed. You practically rejected me in there, after all.”

“What?” she blinked in shock. “What do you mean? I did not—”

Ha-ha. He could be cunning, himself. She fell for that one, easy. Being flustered probably helped…

“Really? You didn’t? So you’re free tomorrow?”

“Wait… I…” She started to get the wild-animal-in-a-cage look, so Dante sighed and backed off a little.

“I’m kidding, Robyn. I’d like to take you out tomorrow. I’d like to go out with you. But I won’t pressure you into it. Um, I think I did enough pushing for one night…” He waved his hands in surrender. “So it’s totally up to you. Of course.”

Robyn took a deep breath; pressing her cool hands to her face in order to, hopefully, take some of the red out of her cheeks, she stared at the ground in thought. Dante so wished he could place his hands over hers.

Gross. Sappy thoughts again.

“Can I, um… think about it, first? Let you know tomorrow? After classes.”

Definitely not the answer he was hoping for. Hiding his disappointment with a look of hope, he smiled gently and nodded. “Sure. I understand.”

“Cool. Great. Okay. Uh…” Unsure where to go from there, she lowered her hands and looked up at him timidly. It was so weird to see her this way. She usually had much more confidence.

Not wanting to risk scaring her more and making himself look even more stupid, he tipped his head and smiled. “So I’ll see you tomorrow. You’re done at… uh, three, right?”

“Yeah, three,” she agreed, a small smile on her lips now. Phew. At least she wasn’t crying or anything. Good sign, right?

They said their farewells for the night, Dante awkwardly and belatedly offering the flowers and chocolates, and he left feeling almost as bad as he had when he arrived at the restaurant. Now she had time to think. Crap.

He felt fairly confident, though, which was kind of new for him. After that terrifying, frosty look he’d gotten from Robyn at first, he was sure he had a coffin with his name on it. He’d been prepared to dig his own grave. Now, at least, he had a little hope.

After all, she’d left him with a smile.

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