"Chris," her mom called before opening the door to her room. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she'd worn this same dress for a date with Mike. A date that hadn't happened and, as it turned out, had changed her life. She wasn't sure why she had been unable to see what he was really like. Too trusting, she imagined. He was older, flashy, charming, and knew what to say and how to say it. She was glad she'd seen his true colors that night. Who knows how long she might have stayed with him otherwise? Or what she might have given him that he didn't deserve. Joe had caught her attention before she'd found out about Mike's deception with Sesame Plexor, though.
So had Dan if she was going to be totally honest. She'd thought for sure he was going to ask her out and was disappointed when he hadn't before they left Dawson's Garage. Then he'd showed up outside the Anderson's and she'd felt giddy down to her toes.
It turned out, though, that their age was a bigger obstacle to him then he'd led her to believe. He wasn't a jerk like Mike, but he still had things in mind that Chris just wasn't ready for. And she didn't want to be pushed into being ready by someone who was in college. Not to mention she wasn't sure about college and he couldn't seem to accept that.
She'd been disappointed, her mom, too, because she liked Dan. She had no idea what her mom was going to think of Joe. She'd told her about him and she didn't seem too bothered by the fact he was black. That was the biggest obstacle, in her eyes anyway.
"Oh send her up. She's going to help me with my hair."
"You look nice, dear. Will I meet him?"
"I think so."
"Good," she said simply, closing the door behind her. Chris knew her mom hadn't been too thrilled with Mike either. He very rarely came to the door, and when he did he said next to nothing to her parents. That should have been a hint to Chris that he had only been looking for one thing from her.
Still hurt from Mike and uncertain what she wanted after breaking things off with Dan it had taken Chris a little while to finally accept Joe's somewhat persistent requests for a date. He'd found her number somehow and had called. Even when she'd mentioned Dan he hadn't given up. After she'd stopped seeing Dan he had stopped asking her out, as if sensing she wasn't sure what she wanted. She still wasn't sure, but she knew that she didn't want to sit in her room all of her life.
If the date tonight went well she planned to ask him to prom later in the month. She wasn't sure he'd accept, but Brenda thought he would. She'd passed Brad in the halls a few times since the night of their adventure. He seemed to know she had gone out with - and stopped - Dan, and she understood why he was happy about that. She had a few crushes herself over the years.
She'd thought about buying a new dress for tonight. When she'd gotten home from her last babysitting job probably ever, she'd thought about throwing this one away. Something had stopped her, though. It was a nice dress and it had cost her a good chunk of the money she'd managed to save. Those were two pretty big incentives for keeping it. Joe didn't need to know it was the dress she'd planned to wear on a date with another guy the night they'd met.
He knew she'd been seeing someone. He knew it ended abruptly, but that was pretty much the extent of Joe's knowledge about her relationship with Mike. And she planned to keep it that way. They came up with better things to talk about when he called her than to talk about ex-boyfriends.
She still couldn't quite believe he was really interested in her. Mike's comment at the restaurant about her knees being locked together was still fresh in her mind. So the idea of another older, and this one being streetwise, guy coming into her life so soon after made her a little unsure. It wasn't like she hadn't thought about sex, but she was only a senior in high school. She wasn't saving herself for marriage or anything. It just seemed too young. And she hadn't met the right guy. She wasn't sure there was a right guy, but she somehow doubted she'd die a virgin.
"You look great," Brenda said.
"A little." Brenda gave her a look that suggested she didn't believe her. "All right, more than a little."
"Thank you. I was wondering if you thought I was stupid. Now, sit down so I can do your hair. When's he supposed to be here?"
"About half an hour."
"Cutting it a little close aren't you?"
"You're the one who wasn't sure you could make it before now."
"Where's he taking you?"
"I'm not sure, beyond a nice dinner out."
"You've been here before."
"But not with him."
"You're right. I don't know him so I can't judge."
"You can't tell me there are other, prettier or easier girls in Chicago for him to focus his attention on if that was all he wanted."
Brenda quirked an eyebrow again.
"What? Come on. We met two months ago and tonight's the first night we're going out. If that was all he wanted would he have waited this long for it?"
"Maybe he thinks you're playing hard to get."
"And maybe he just likes me, Brenda. Older guys do like younger girls once in a while."
"I know I just don't want to see you get hurt again. You're just about to graduate, maybe go away to school. That'd be a bummer of a way to end high school."
"I know. And thanks," Chris said, placing her hand over Brenda's briefly before letting her friend continue working on her hair.
She was done before Chris knew it and she heard the sound of a car pulling onto the driveway. Both girls ran to the window to watch, discreetly of course, as he got out of the sports car and walked to the front door. It wasn't new and flashy as Mike's had been. There was no personalized license plate either, which she was glad to note. She could do without anymore SO COOL's in her life.
"I told you."
"Well, you thought Mike was cute, too."
"In a kind of creepy way, yeah."
"Why didn't you ever tell me that?"
"Would you have listened?"
"That would be why. Go, have fun," Brenda said as the doorbell rang.
"Aren't you going to come down and meet him?"
"Next time. Let your mom meet him first."
Chris gave her a hug and walked downstairs. She heard her mother's voice and Joe's.
"Come in, it's nice to meet you, Joe."
"Thank you, you, too, Mrs. Parker."
"Chris mentioned you live in the city."
"Yeah, sort of by Logan Square."
"And how did you two meet?" Chris cleared her throat at that point, letting them both know she was in the doorway. No sense in Joe having to come up with a lie as to how they met. Tonight anyway. One day, she'd tell her mother the truth. If this amounted to something that warranted such a confession anyway, it might not.
"Hi," she said once Joe noticed her. He didn't seem to mind talking to her mom. That was good. She doubted the girls he normally dated required him meeting their mother. She had to remind herself of what she'd said to Brenda upstairs. There were more accessible girls if sex was all he was looking for.
"Hi. You look nice. Great." And he did. She wasn't sure what she expected, but he wore a suit that looked as though it was made for him instead of off-the-rack. She supposed boosting cars for a living paid well. It probably did until he decked his boss anyway.
"Thank you. So do you. You met my mom."
"Okay. Well, I'll be home later, Mom."
"Not too late, Chris."
"I know, Mom."
"I won't keep her too late," Joe said as they passed through the front door. That seemed to please her mother. He opened her door for her once they got to his car.
"I'm sorry," she said as soon as he joined her in the car.
"Having to meet my mom and stuff."
"I'm not sure why you're apologizing. She seems nice, and I can't fault her for wanting to meet me."
"It's just not something you probably have to do too often."
He shrugged, reversing the car from her driveway. "I've met a mother or two in my time."
She smiled at that and reached to tuck some hair behind her ear before remembering Brenda's hairdo didn't allow her to. "I'll bet you have."
"Well, not like that, but friends have parents, too. I really only had one steady girl in high school."
"She wanted marriage, babies, and I wasn't ready."
"And she broke up with you for that?"
"She didn't have a great home life. It really wasn't me she wanted, I was just a means to the end. An out. She started dating some guy shortly after we broke up. They're married with kid number three on the way last I heard."
"You haven't seen her?"
"I don't go to that neighborhood much anymore. When I first moved away I did, but now," he shrugged, glancing in her direction while at a red light. "I just don't. Where are you going to school?"
"What makes you think I'm going to college?"
"Because you're smart, resourceful, and pretty. All three things that add up to your doing well in life, and your parents ensuring you have the tools do that."
"I've been accepted at Purdue. A couple of others, but that's the one I'll pick if I go."
"You must work hard."
"Would it bother you to have a guy back home?"
"No, I mean it's not that far. Why?"
"Just wondering what page you're on."
"I haven't even started the chapter yet."
"Then it sounds like we're about at the same place."
"I'd say so," he said, sliding his hand over hers.
She accepted his touch, smiling at him. His hand felt nice, comforting, and judging by the way her heart skipped a beat at the touch, exciting. Now that she was here with him, she was looking forward to spending time with Joe.
And maybe even contemplating what it'd be like to kiss him.
As well as other things.
She was only human after all.