"I'm so nervous" Christine admitted as she sat down in front of her vanity. Chloe stood behind her and began to undo her French braid.
"Don't be; you've got this. Jeremy is totally into you, and if he's anything less than a perfect gentleman, I'll kill him."
Christine laughed as Chloe brushed her hair.
"I'm not worried about Jeremy being chivalrous. I'm more concerned about my behavior. I'm not very lady-like. I'm loud and I have terrible table manners."
Her smile slid off her face.
"Chloe, what if I scare him off?"
"You won't. Jeremy is crazy about you. He's even more nervous than you. If you really want to present your self as a lady, just sit up straight, cross your legs when you sit down, and keep your knees together when you're getting out of the car."
Chloe walked over to Christine's closet and opened it.
"Come on. We have to finish making you nice and pretty for your date."
Jeremy was going through his closet while Michael sat on his bed.
"What was I thinking?" Jeremy muttered. "I can't do this! I can barely talk to her; how am I going to get through dinner?"
Michael slid off Jeremy's bed and softly pulled him away from the closet. He led him over to the bed. Jeremy nearly collapsed on it. Michael wrapped an arm around him and placed his thumb under his chin.
"Look at me, Jer" Michael said softly.
Jeremy allowed Michael to tilt his head up. His ocean blue eyes were red and swollen. His face was bright red and sticky with mucus, sweat, and tears.
"You've got this. You can do this. Christine really likes you. She wouldn't have said yes if she didn't. All the things you're insecure about; your stutter, your acne, those things don't bother her."
"Thanks" Jeremy sniffed as Michael passed him a tissue. "It's just- I really like her, Michael. I don't want to screw this up."
Michael crawled behind and started to massage his shoulders.
"What exactly are you worried about? Animals getting to the food? Her disliking your cologne?"
"I'm worried that I'm going to take one look at her and clam up. I won't say a word the entire time, I'll just sit there like an idiot. I'm worried that what I have planned isn't good enough. I'm worried that I'm not good enough."
"You are good enough, Jer. You're sweet, attentive, and romantic. I mean, for Christ's sake, you made this girl dinner! As long as you remember my rules, you'll be good. Recite my rules to me."
Jeremy took a shaky breath. "Be a gentleman."
"And that means?" Michael prompted.
Jeremy swallowed hard. "Give her my jacket if she asks for it, open doors for her, and don't pressure her to do anything intimate."
"What's my second rule?"
"No means no."
"Give her genuine compliments, talk about something other than weed and video games, and don't get nervous."
Michael beamed and squeezed his shoulders. "You're gonna be great. Now get up. We need to get you dressed."
Christine stepped out of the closet just in time to hear Chloe shout "He's here!"
Christine inhaled deeply. "I'm not ready yet! I still have to-"
Chloe smiled and took Christine's hand. "You're fine. I'll greet him at the door. The two of us are going to have a little talk."
Christine's eye went wide with horror. "Please don't do that. He's very skittish. I want him to feel confident."
Chloe smiled and squeezed Christine's hand. "I won't bully him. I'm only going to give some gentle warnings and friendly reminders."
"Chloe, I'm begging you..."
"Christine. Listen. I'm trying to help. You're an amazing person and I don't want you to go out with a guy that doesn't deserve you. Ok?"
Christine nodded slowly.
"I promise I'll go easy on him" Chloe said. "I picked out an outfit for you. It's on your bed. Come down when you're ready."
Jeremy walked up to the Canigula's door and raised his fist to knock.
I can do this Jeremy thought. This is going to go well.
He knocked on the door and was greeted by Chloe.
"Oh, uh, hey" Jeremy said, clutching the bouquet of daisies.
Chloe stepped aside. "Please come in. You and I need to talk."
Jeremy followed her into the living room. "What do we need to talk about?"
Chloe took a seat on the couch. "Christine."
"I know what you're going to say; she's a terrific person and if I hurt her, you'll kill me."
"I won't kill you. I will destroy your most prize possessions, beat you senseless, and then I'll kill you. Christine is a truly amazing person and you're really lucky to be going out with her. And if you are anything less than perfect tonight..."
"Stop" Jeremy said.
"Excuse me?" Chloe snapped.
"I don't need or want to hear this. I know I'm good enough for Christine. I've been to all her plays, I've helped her practice for auditions, I make her playlists, and I have spent two days planning this date, which will consist of dinner that I made, and thanks to my careful calculations, will happen in the perfect place at the perfect time."
Chloe raised a perfect eyebrow.
"You really thought this out. I'm impressed."
"Yeah, well... you should be" Jeremy said.
Chloe smiled. His bravado was slipping.
"Your false bravodo was cute. However- oh look who it is!"
Jeremy turned his head slightly. What he saw made his heart stop. Christine looked... perfect. Her black hair was wavy and framed her face beautifully. She was wearing a neon orange scoop neckshirt, a neon yellow skirt and white flats. She reached the foot of the stairs and looked up at him. Her eyes were shining with happiness and her lips curved into a smile.
"Hi Jeremy" she said softly.
Jeremy took a deep breath and held out the bouquet.
She eyed the bouquet. "Are those for me?"
"What? Oh, um yeah." He thrust the bouquet in front of him.
Christine smiled and walked across the room towards him.
"They're lovely" Christine said, taking them from him.
Chloe swooped in from behind and swiped them from Christine.
"I'll set these in some water. I'll be right back."
Chloe zipped into the kitchen. The sound of water running could be heard a few seconds later.
Jeremy akwardly stared at his Converse. Christine never took her eyes off him. He looked cute in khakis and a dark blue button up shirt that was covered by a black sports jacket.
"You look nice" Christine said.
Jeremy blushed. "Thanks."
Chloe walked back into the room. "Why are you guys still here?"
She started pushing them towards the door. "You guys have fun. But not too much fun. Oh! One more thing. Turn around, both of you. Christine, put your head on his chest. Just like that, perfect. Now wrap an arm around her Jeremy. Perfect."
She snapped a picture. "You guys are so cute!"
She stepped between them and opened the door. "Now get out of here. For real this time."
It was close to evening when they reached the park. Jeremy parked his car.
"Close your eyes Christine" Jeremy said.
She giggles and complied. Jeremy exited the car and opened her door. He waited for Christine to get out.
"Um, Christine" Jeremy said. "Are you gonna get out?"
Christine's eyes popped open. "Oh sorry. My eyes were close."
"Oh crap! I am so sorry! I completely forgot. I don't know what I was thinking-"
Christine giggled. "It's okay."
She closed her eyes again. Jeremy took her hand and carefully guided her out of the car.
"Be careful" he warned, steering her around small piles of dirt. "I don't want you to stain your flats."
Christine squeezed his hand. "You're so sweet."
Jeremy blushed. "Thanks. You're pretty sweet yourself. We're going up a hill now. We'll be moving much more slowly."
Christine nodded. As they started up the hill, Jeremy took her other hand. They moved in almost perfect silence, broken only by the occasional "Ow!" from Christine, followed by a squeaky apology from Jeremy for stepping on her foot.
They reached the top of the hill.
"Ok" Jeremy said. "Open your eyes."
Christine opened her eyes and gasped. Jeremy was lighting candles near a red quilt covered in food. There was a plate of lumpia, a large bowl of tomato soup, and small absket of roles.
"Jeremy" she whispered. "This is amazing!"
He smiled shyly. "Thanks. There's also a chocolate cake and a few bottles of strawberry cream soda in the basket. Oh! And plates and silverware."
The basket was dangerously close to the candles. Jeremy noticed this and quickly moved it. Christine settled on the blanket. Jeremy sat down next to her.
"This is really sweet" Christine said. "My favorite foods in my favorite place. No one has ever done anything like this for me. I don't even want to think about all the time you spent doing this."
"I was happy to do it for you" Jeremy said. "You're an amazing person and- hey, what's wrong?"
Christine had begun to cry.
"This is so sweet!" she sobbed. "No one has ever done anything like this for me. And you... you've been so good to me since we started dating. You always surprise me with little gifts, you're always there for me, and..."
Christine began to cry harder. Jeremy wrapped his arms around her.
"It's ok Christine. I get it. You've felt alone most of your life. You've been overlooked and rejected by your peers. You felt like you would never meet someone special, someone would love what everyone hated about you. The person who embraced your quirks and helped you learn to love them. And now that you have found the person, you're worried that they'll turn on you, just like everyone else. You're terrified that the person will start seeing you as the nerdy pest everyone else thinks you are. And when they leave, that's it. You'll be alone forever. Because what are the chances that you'll ever meet such an amazing person again? That's how I felt when I met you. You have never made me feel like a bother. You've always listened to me rant about video games. You are a huge source of comfort for me. I know that I go to you with anything without judgement. That's huge! You truly are the best thing that ever happened to me and I..."
Jeremy paused. "I love you. I love you Christine Canigula."
Christine sniffed. "Jeremy... I don't know what to say."
"Say yes. Agree to be my girlfriend" Jeremy urged.
Christine squealed and threw her arms around him.
"Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!"
Jeremy smiled and pulled her in close.
"The sun's setting. You know, if this was a movie we would..."
Christine cut him off with a kiss as the sun began to sink into the sky.