We were actually going to try this thing. Who would have thought that we could actually act our age and discuss things like… well, maybe not grown-ups, but at least people with some common fucking sense and maturity. God, I had missed Eric so damn much!
I didn’t have the slightest idea what he could possibly be planning for tonight. After he left, I went back to practicing for a little while, then took a long bath with my yummy coconut bubble bath. I exfoliated and shaved until I was smooth and smelled good all over, and braided my damp hair so it would be wavy when I took it down. I pulled on some cutoffs and a t-shirt for dinner; I didn’t want the chance of my clumsiness ruining whatever I chose to wear.
I sat down at the table with everyone and blew on my lasagna to cool it off. I looked around for a second and took advantage of the temporary quiet. “So, Eric is taking me out tonight after dinner. I hope that’s okay.”
Jason smirked, Daddy rolled his eyes, and Mom squealed like a schoolgirl. “Oh, honey! I liked that boy. He remembers your curfew, right?”
I took a small bite to test the temperature. “Yes, ma’am. He will have me home on time, if not before. We both have school tomorrow.”
After getting that out of the way, we began our usual chatter about our weeks. Sunday dinner was one of the few times all of us were available and, honestly, I liked catching up with my family. I liked hearing about Jason’s job and the guys he worked with on the road crew, or Daddy’s days on the farm, or Mom’s week at library. We were a diverse family.
After dinner, I went to change into something else. Eric had said to dress comfortable, but there are different degrees of “comfortable”. Damn, sometimes being a girl sucks. I pulled on some khaki capris and a white sleeveless button down shirt with some brown sandals. There. Comfortable, but still able to be seen in public without embarrassment.
At seven-thirty exactly, I heard the crunch of gravel and practically skipped out to the porch to meet him. God, he looked good. Dark blue jeans and a gray t-shirt. He made the simplest clothes looks just mouthwatering. I couldn’t help the grin that split my face when he jogged up the stairs and swung me around in a big hug. He came in and said hi to everyone while I grabbed my phone and pocketbook. He assured my parents I would be home by eleven (my new school-night curfew) and escorted me out the door.
One we were in the Camero and pulling out, I turned to him. “So do I get any hints about what we’re doing tonight?”
He grinned and flicked his eyes over at me before returning them to the road. “Nope, this is going to stay a surprise until we get there.” He kept grinning; I knew he was excited. I liked having fun Eric back.
We kept driving out of town until we got to the next city over, a much bigger place, about forty-five minutes away. His car started climbing the mountain that rose above the city and I started to smile. “Are we really going where I think we’re going?” I asked, unable to keep the excitement out of my voice.
“Mmhmm,” he replied, catching a glimpse of my smile.
“But they’re closed!” I said.
“Nope… they have a new exhibit of nocturnal animals that just opened. They have some new animals. If what I read was correct, there are a lot of rodents that I don’t think either of are really interested in. There’s a koala, a couple of foxes, some reptiles, but I think I’ll keep the best part a surprise… well, surprises,” he said with a grin that matched mine. He slowed as he pulled into the parking lot of the zoo on top of the mountain.
As soon as I’d seen the ad about the new nocturnal animal exhibit over the summer, I had thought about Sookie. They were showing off some of the new baby animals that had been born in the spring. Unfortunately, we hadn’t been speaking at the time, and I really didn’t want to go by myself. Sure, I probably could have taken Pam, but I had already had enough “quality time” with my little sister by then.
My mom was suspicious of my new good mood when she and Pam got back before I left for my team meeting at the school. I assured her everything was fine and ignored the winks and leers that Pam was giving me as I wolfed down some quick dinner and headed out the door with a change of clothes. The days were still warm, but the nights were getting cooler, and I wanted to be comfortable.
After the meeting was over, I changed and headed toward Sookie’s house. I guess she had told her family about our date, because none of them seemed surprised to see me. Sookie looked like a knockout; her simple khakis and white shirt highlighted her tan and toned little body.
When we got to the zoo, she was practically vibrating with excitement. It was contagious. I knew there were two animals that she would be more excited about than the others, and that was part of my surprise and the main reason I wanted to bring Sookie here. I knew her favorite animals and they were part of the exhibit.
I also knew which animals she hated and the ones she was scared of, so we were bypassing the rat and mouse like things as well as any reptiles. She had told me before if it had scales or didn’t have legs, she didn’t want it around her. She hated when the fish at the lake would swim past her and she about passed out when she found a black snake sunning itself on the porch of her dad’s cabin. My girl was petrified of snakes.
She cooed over the koala and it’s baby, a few small bears, as well as some of the monkeys and foxes. We got the the biggest, and newest enclosures and I took her hand. “These were the surprises,” to told her as we entered.
The first area was a heavily wooded area with a little stream running through it. It was behind glass, because it was really to dangerous otherwise. We stepped closer to the window looking. I saw them first and pointed. “Look, over there in the corner. Can you see them?”
She leaned in closer to the glass and gasped. There was a Bengal tiger with three little cubs nuzzled together. The tiger was new to the zoo and had been kept in seclusion while the enclosure was built and she mothered her newborns. Even I had to admit they were cute little things. But I led Sookie over to the next enclosure, knowing this would be the one she would be extremely excited to see.
The habitat of the area was basically the same as the one for the tigers. But the inhabitants were easier to find in the weak light due to their coloring and I didn’t have to point them out; she found them before I did.
“Oh! Cougars! I love these! They look like great big house cats! Aren’t they pretty?” she breathed. I had discovered her love for this particular animal by pure coincidence; she had a magnetic calendar in her locker with all different pictures of mountain lions. I may have walked by slowly and seen it while she was talking to a friend. Not admitting anything though.
The sleek cat stalked around the enclosure, being followed by four little balls of fluff. I think if she could have, Sookie would have set up camp and watched them all night. Finally, after looking at my watch, I told her that if we were going to make her curfew, we needed to leave.
Once in the car, she was giddy. “I’ve never seen one up close like that before! I love the big cats, but cougars are my favorite. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just love them. And the tigers! The cubs were so cute!” She was breathless and seemed like she couldn’t stop smiling. “Thank you, Eric. This was perfect!”
She placed her hand over mine on the gear shift and leaned over to kiss my cheek. It would have to do, since I was driving, but I planned on making up for lost time with her as soon as possible.
I don’t think he could have planned a better date. I don’t know how he knew, but I loved the big cats and seeing my favorite cat with its babies… I would have stayed there all night if I could have. Kinda funny that I can’t be around regular cats because they make me stop breathing.
I chattered and babbled all the way home, just absolutely giddy from a perfect date. Once we got back to my house, it was about quarter til eleven, I unbuckled my seat belt and turned to him as he cut the engine and turned off the headlights. “I don’t know how to thank you for tonight. This was perfect.”
He grinned. I was liking that look on him more and more. “I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever done a date like this before. It was fun. Shame we don’t have more time together though,” he said and wiggled those damn eyebrows.
I laughed. “Sorry, you’ll have to remember this afternoon fondly for the next few days. I have to work tomorrow night.”
He twisted in his seat until he was facing me. “We still have a few minutes until you have to be inside. Is a little making out out of the question,” he asked with puppy-dog eyes. Damn puppy eyes. They always get me.
I leaned over the console of the car and kissed him softly, just letting my lips glide over his at first. I pulled back and looked at him. He had a small smile and his eyes were closed. He was just breathtaking and I could have kicked myself for being so damn stupid. When his eyes opened again, I returned his smile and leaned in again. His arms wrapped around me and he gently pulled me over the console so that I was straddling his lap. He lightly kissed my neck before he returned that talented mouth to mine. My arms were wrapped loosely around his neck while one of his hands rubbed up and down my back and the other was tangled in my hair, moving my head so he could kiss me the way he wanted.
I didn’t know if I was thankful or furious when the light by the driveway started flashing on and off. “Damn it,” I groaned, pulling back from Eric. I took a few minutes to catch my breath. “I need to go in. See you tomorrow?”
He smirked. “Just try to keep me away.”
I didn’t have the slightest idea what to expect when I got to school that Monday morning. As I got dressed, I realized that we still hadn’t defined this thing and laughed at myself. I just didn’t care about that anymore.
I grabbed some strawberry pop-tarts and a bottle of orange juice and threw them into my backpack while I yelled for Pam to hurry up. She ran though the kitchen, grabbed her own juice and chocolate pop-tarts (yuck, for breakfast?) and ran out to the car. After getting in and buckling her seat belt, she sniffed and wrinkled her nose. “Eww, why does it smell like a tanning salon in here?”
I took a deep breath as we pulled out of the neighborhood, but didn’t smell anything unusual or odd. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She pressed her face into the seat back and breathed in. “Ugh. Coconut. Which of your little skanks has been in here? Please tell me you disinfected before I sat down.”
I scowled at my little sister. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I took Sookie out last night.”
Her eyes lit up with mischief. “And what was she doing to make your seats all smelly?”
“Nothing. We went to the zoo. Why do you care?” I rolled my eyes at her.
Her expression softened the slightest bit. “Cuz you’ve been miserable since you guys broke up last month. It’s about time you got your balls back and went after what you wanted.”
I huffed out a laugh as we ate our respective breakfasts. As soon as I parked, Pam was off like a shot, joining up with her friends. I saw the blue Cabrio across the parking lot and smiled. This would be interesting.
There were a few other girls standing around her car. Three I recognized as her teammates and a brunette that I remembered from the lake on Sookie’s birthday. She turned and saw me, flushed bright pink (officially my new favorite color… at least on her) and gave me a wave to come over. The brunette smirked at her before giving her a hug and walking off while the three girls on the dance squad just stared with wide eyes and slack jaws. Yeah, that was the reaction I had been used to before I met Sookie.
I approached her and wrapped my arm around her shoulders, stooping to give her a kiss on the cheek. She cleared her throat. “Umm… Ginger, Danielle, Belinda, have you guys met Eric?”
Still with dazed expressions, they all shook their heads slowly. I gave them my charming-but-aloof grin before turning to Sookie with a genuine smile. “I think we need to head in. We have just enough time to get to out lockers before class. Which lunch do you have?”
She smiled back at me. “Second. You?”
I fake pouted. “First. What time do you get off work tonight?”
“Not until nine. But you’re picking me up tomorrow, right?”
We started walking towards the building. “You bet. Hope you don’t mind Pam tagging along. She gets a ride home in the afternoon from one of her friends, but she rides with me every morning.”
She shivered and pulled me closer. “You’ll protect me right? Pam scares me a little.”
“Her bark is worse than her bite… although that’s not saying much, cuz her bite is pretty bad,” I replied with a laugh. “She won’t do anything with me around.”
She had to go in a different direction than me to get to her locker. “Call me tonight around nine-thirty. I don’t know if I’ll get to see you again today.” She gave me a quick kiss and ran to get to her locker before first period.
I walked to my locker and was greeted by three very pissed off girls. Heidi, Felicia, and Isabelle stood at my locker looking furious. “Really, Eric? Really? Her?” Heidi asked in a tone of utter disdain.
I spun the dial and started putting in my combination. “Yes, her. If you have a problem with it, I suggest you just get the fuck over it,” I replied calmly as I opened the door and started getting out books.
“What the hell can you get from her that you can’t get anywhere else? I seem to remember you saying that you ‘don’t do relationships’,” Isabelle sneered.
“I know that she isn’t fucking anyone I know. I know that she doesn’t give a damn what brand jeans I have on. I know that she isn’t into me for the boost that I can give to her popularity. Can any one of you say the same thing?” I zipped up my backpack and slammed the locker shut and stared at their stunned faces. “That’s what I get from her that I can’t get anywhere else. I have to get to class.” I turned around and headed off to English, pretty damn satisfied with myself. Yeah, maybe I should have given a little more thought into pissing them off the way I did.