Tish found him in the end. Parked in the middle of suburbia of all places. Well, as close to suburbia as Santa Cruz could get. The rusted red truck was a bit of a giveaway.
She approached the passenger side door and tentatively hopped in. Jen and Piper had filled her in on what had been happening prior to her arrival, but she didn't want to jump to any conclusions. Which meant that he had the first move.
They sat in silence for a while, Priestly was watching a man outside washing his shiny new Prius, and resolutely not glancing over at the passenger seat.
A while later, after the man had hosed it down, shammied it and gone inside, Priestly turned to the steering wheel. "I'm never gonna fit in here, Tish. I'm not that guy. I'm sorry, but I'm not."
Turns out she was right, after all. "I never wanted you to be."
"Look, don't bullshit me, okay? I just-"
"I'm not." She cut him off. "Look, I... I know sometimes I say sometimes say things that are petty, and I seem really shallow, but I'm not. Not really." She tilted his chin to face her. "I do like you Priestly. You're the first person that in a long while who I might even feel something more for. Just give me some time, and I'll prove it, I swear."
Priestly was still caught up on that middle part, the 'something more' part. It distracted his train of thought long enough that Tish had the time to devise a way to make good on her word.
"Start the car."
"Start the car."
He kicked the engine over. "Where are we going?"
"Well, first you're gonna make a left..."
He looked at her. "You're not going to tell me, are you?"
"Just drive, Priestly."
"Now this is why you don't ask women for directions."
"I knew where we were going."
"I was just trying to confuse you."
Tish thumped him on the arm. "Shut up."
Wisely, Priestly did.
After twenty minutes of lefts, rights, rights... rights, lefts and a few random stops for no reason, they finally arrived at the five-minutes-away beach. They bickered from the moment Priestly pulled up to the point where they were standing in the middle of a almost-deserted beach.
"Well, we're here – what now?"
Tish took a second to brush aside some sand that had already managed to snake its way up her calf before straightening up. "This way," she said, and began to lead Priestly across the sand.
As they neared the path that separated nature from civilisation, Priestly raised his eyebrows. "You wanted to go to the boardwalk?"
Tish nodded, seemingly pleased with herself. "Yes, I did."
It was in that moment Priestly decided 100% that not only were women crazy, there was nothing that could pre-empt the innate feminine urge to purchase footwear.
He was later proven right, when two minutes later Tish was trying on shoes at a local stall. The upscale marketplace slash plaza that was the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was busy today. It seemed all the beachgoers were spending their time enjoying the rides and playing games. After all this mornings' events, the high number of people mingling about was starting to make Priestly a little self-conscious; something he hadn't felt in a long time.
But he wasn't going to say anything though. Tish was buying shoes, and saying shit like that to a woman was always more hassle than it's worth. Instead he shoved his hands in his pockets and adopted a politely bored expression.
In the end she didn't want shoes, but she did want lunch, which suited Priestly fine.
Until she said, "Let's have it here."
"The Grill is five minutes away."
"I'm hungry now."
"It's also free."
Tish was a little quieter with her next statement. "I just wanted to do something different."
Something told him he was being played, and yet within mere seconds Priestly felt himself caving. He took a step back and bowed grandiosely. "As you wish."
Tish looked at him. "Princess Bride?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Something about the eyeliner made his widened eyes seem a little wider.
Tish just smiled and slipped her hand into his as they walked, something not entirely unwelcomed by Priestly. It even made up for the few glances he got as they strolled along.
It didn't, however, make up for where Tish ended up steering them into.
It's childish to label things such as cliques, but it was a well-known fact that the frequenters of the trendy little cafe they entered were aesthetically elite. The Tad's and the Brad's and all the other people that didn't come to the Beach City Grill.
From the second they stepped in the door, it didn't escape Priestly's notice how many eyes had zeroed onto him. He unfocused his eyes, not looking at anything in particular while Tish led him to a table.
They sat down, and Priestly amazed at how quickly the model made his way over from afar. He didn't spare Priestly a glance, and Priestly turned to look out the window while they talked with Tish.
"Hey Tish," The one on the left smiled.
Tish smiled back. "Hey Jed."
"Right. Of course."
A brief pause – in which Priestly smirked to no one in particular – and Jack resumed the conversation.
"So, what brings you here?"
"I'm having lunch with my boyfriend."
Jack finally looked at Priestly then. His gaze mainly stayed on the hair before he dismissed Priestly for the second time in as many minutes. "Right. Well, if it doesn't work out, feel free to give me a call." Through the reflection on the window, Priestly saw him throw in a wink for good measure.
"Yeah, sorry but I don't think that's gonna happen." Tish replied, and smiled pleasantly in that way all women do when what they're really saying is that the conversation's over, and they can take their leave now.
Jack ignored it though. "Come on Tish, I think we both know you can do better."
Priestly knew a slap in the face when he heard one, and short of actually slapping Jack back, he couldn't think of a retaliation.
But Tish could, though. And he didn't he ever loved her more than he did in that moment.
"Listen, Jed: my personal life isn't any of your business. I don't think it will ever be. Now I suggest you shut up and leave, or I will tell everyone with ears how abysmal you are in bed." She made a shooing motion. "Go on."
Surprisingly, Jack didn't take to being demeaned. His eyes narrowed as he leaned down into her personal space. "I knew there was something... freaky with you. I'm happy you finally met your match."
Priestly grabbed Jack by the hair and slammed him down on the tabletop. "Apologise," he growled. Well, that's what he wanted to do; something intimidating to make this wanker back the fuck off. But he wasn't that guy. He wasn't tough or menacing, and besides Jack had already left so he couldn't even if he wanted to.
"I'm sorry." Tish said.
He'd missed something here, he knew it. "What?"
"Not about-" He jerked a thumb over his shoulder.
"No – well, yes, but no." She took a breath. "I'm sorry I brought you here. I just wanted to show that I don't care about this superficial stuff." She scrunched up her face a little. "It didn't work, I'm sorry."
"Woah, hey – don't worry about it. It, ahh... It means a lot that you tried." He shrugged, and Tish took that as a manly way of saying that he was alright. Still...
"Do you want to leave?"
"No no, this is symbolic and we'll stay for lunch. But," he slapped his hand on the table, "we are never coming back here again."
She smiled. "I can live with that."
"Good." He reached over and plucked the menu from between the salt and pepper shakers. "Don't tell Trucker about this either, I don't want him to know we cheated on him with some trendy cafe."
Tish smiled, the kind of smile that comes from inside and makes you close your eyes when it happens so you can properly appreciate it. When she opened them she found Priestly was smiling at her from across the table.
Work returned to normal after that. No one brought up Priestly's momentary lapse in self-esteem, and he and Tish never spoke of cheating on Trucker with that stupid little cafe on the boardwalk.
The Boaz ribbing had started back up again, though he was beginning to accept it more and more.
That doesn't mean he was going to take it lying down, though. "Listen, Jennifer – I fail to see the sense in letting a perfectly good sub go to waste."
"You know what else doesn't make sense? Boaz."
While Jen's face was conveying how she totally-went-there, Piper spoke up, "What are you going to do if he shows up?"
Priestly shoved the mouthful he'd already bitten to the side of his mouth. "He's an hour late – the man's not gonna show up!"
At that very second the door chimed. Panicking, Priestly hastily spat the mouthful of sub back into the paper with the rest of the uneaten sandwich, to which Jen and Piper cringed.
It was all moot though when it turned out to be Tish entering; something he'd know if he bothered to look up before acting on impulse.
"Hey guys." She called, tossing her bag on the counter as she swerved around the bench.
"Oh, my God," Piper and Jen chimed, causing Priestly to jerk his head up.
Tish stood there with her sunglasses pushed back into her hair, holding in place bright pink streaks which were currently interwoven into her dark locks. "So, what do you think?"
Piper covered a laugh of surprise with her hand, and Jen's mouth was stuck open in shock. It was an open question, but they knew they weren't the ones to answer it. As one they turned to Priestly and awaited his response.
He took a good minute staring at her hair, a blank look on his face as he stepped closer to see just how many she had and whether they were in fact real. When he ascertained that yes, they were real and no, they wouldn't wash out immediately, he could only laugh.
"What?" She asked. One bangled hand reached up to self-consciously touch her hair.
Priestly quickly schooled his features into solemnity. "Nothing, just... I don't think this is going to work out."
She arched an eyebrow. "Is that so, Boaz?"
"Yes, Platisha. I'm sorry. But your hair..." he sniggered. "It looks stupid."
She swatted him, hard. If anything it just made him laugh more.
"I think it looks nice," Jen said.
"Very 'wild'," Piper agreed.
"Thanks guys." Tish smiled before turning back to Priestly. "I wanted to-"
"I know, and you didn't have to."
Tish shrugged. "I wanted to."
He pulled her into a hug. "Thank you, Platisha."
"You're welcome, Boaz."
Before the Jen or Tish could comment on the amount of play the new hair seemed to be getting, the door chimed.
"Hey, I'm sorry I'm late. I had an order for eleven o'clock but my watch had stopped and I only just realised..."
Priestly looked over at the bundle of paper on the back counter. "I'll make you a new one."