Chapter 15: Valentine's Day
I wasn't sure if I really expected James to call or not after giving him my number but he did! Conversation came easily to us over the phone and we exchanged emails all week. Due to school, we didn't see each other at all for the week following the tournament. "What are you doing Saturday m'lady?" he asked one night while we were on the phone together.
"Um, let me check my calendar...." I said with a laugh. "Yeah, nada."
"Would you allow this knight to escort you to a fine feast?" I could hear the chuckle in his voice and imagined his smiling face on the other end of the line.
"A fine feast eh?" I asked. "Sounds charming Sir James."
He asked to meet my dad before the date, to which I agreed, knowing my dad would want and appreciate it. When they met, I couldn't help but think of the last time my dad had met a boy before a date and compare the meetings. His veiled hostility toward Erik in the beginning stood in stark contrast to the open arms with which he greeted James.
After the blissfully short parental meeting, James drove me to Dot's Diner. "A fine feast eh?" I teased.
"They have the best burgers in town" he said smiling at me as he turned off the car. I had just unhooked my seat belt when he opened my door and offered his hand to me. "M'Lady." he said as I took the hand and allowed him to escort me inside. I was surprised to see Erik working tonight but tried to hide it as we approached the register to order.
I avoided eye contact with Erik and smiled at James as we took up at a table.
"Are you alright?" James asked having detected something was bothering me.
"Yeah." I said. "My ex is here - I wasn't expecting that is all."
"We can go somewhere else." James offered, already half out of his chair.
"No no!" I said putting my hand on his. "We're here, we ordered. It'll be fine. Erik and I are still friends."
He slowly took his seat. "If you're sure." he said.
"I'm sure." I said and gave him a big smile. Our burgers arrived then so the debate was ended then regardless.
Eating occupied us mostly but between bites we chit chatted about little things. "So how long have you been doing debate?" I asked picking up a fry.
"Since junior high actually." he said. "I started in seventh grade and I'm a junior now so this is my fifth year."
"Five years? Wow! I never stood a chance." I said with a laugh.
"You were very good actually - especially since it was your first time." he said smiling. "And if it helps at all, I was mostly in the drama part of of Speech and Drama in junior high - so more like three years of debate."
"No" I said shaking my head but grinning. "That doesn't really help. I just hope next time I can debate against some a bit less experienced."
I finished my burger about the same time as James finished his. Erik must have been watching at that moment because he came around quickly to scoop up our plates. I considered avoiding eye contact again but decided facing it would be better - we were friends after all. I gave him a small smile as he took the plates, he mustered a weak smile in reply and left quickly.
"That him?" James asked after he'd gone.
I nodded. "That's Erik." We lapsed into a brief awkward silence after that. "You know, you've shown my your high school, I think it's my turn."
"What did you have in mind Queen Genevieve?" James asked clearly interested.
"Ginny...you can call me Ginny." I said with a giggle. He was about to respond and I held up my hand to stop him. "I know, I know - the second dance. Well my proposal might just satisfy that..."
"You have a proposal?" he teased.
"Yes - our school's Sadie Hawkin's Dance is on Valentine's Day this year, would you like to go with me?" I asked.
"That would be my pleasure my queen." he said. The rest of the evening was enjoyable. We left the diner, and a broody looking Erik, shortly after finishing and walked together around the old square.
Valentine's Day was on a Saturday so the school hosted the annual flower sale on Friday morning. Flowers of various types and colors were sold through the student council and delivered in first period to the lucky recipients.
"Who are they from?!" Veronica asked, staring at the roses and the small stuffed tiger sitting on our lab table for me. "Are they from Erik?" she asked.
"What?" I asked taking the card and pulling it out. I stopped looking at it and turned to Veronica. "No, Erik and I are just friends."
"Yeah, right." Veronica said. "Well if they aren't from Erik, will you look at the card and tell me who they are from?" she said making a grab for the card.
I held it out of her reach and laughed. She glowered at me until she slumped back and waited for me to look at it. "Happy Valentines Day Your Majesty ~Sir James, your loyal knight" it read. As I reread it I could feel my smile stretching. I put the card down and picked up the flowers to smell them.
"Who is James?" Veronica asked having snatched of the card and reading it. "Oohhh! The hottie at the chess thing!" she said.
James picked me up early for the dance with another bouquet of roses in hand. "My queen." he said, kissing my cheek as I opened the door. He chatted with my dad for a few minutes while I added the new roses to the vase with the ones from the day before.
I introduced James to Timothy, Todd and their dates when we arrived but Erik, to my surprise, was playing the music for the dance so I couldn't introduce them. "He's very good." James said to me, eying Erik across the room.
"Yes he is." I agreed. Erik had played for me a couple times but never being one for crowds, he'd never committed to playing for any event. I watched him for a few more moments and then turned to James. "How about that dance Sir James?" I asked with a playful grin.
"As you wish my queen." he said taking my hand and leading me onto the dance floor. It wasn't crowded yet since the dance had just started.
As more people arrived, the floor got more crowded but James and I kept dancing. "Would you like a drink Qu..." he paused and smiled, "Ginny?" he concluded.
I laughed. "At last" I teased. "That would be wonderful, we can take a breather if you like." I said following him off the dance floor.
As I stood off to the side, waiting for James to get us drink, I watched Erik playing and noticed he'd gathered a few groupies in the form of cheerleaders.
"M'lady." James said from behind me. He smiled and held out a drink to me. I took it and thanked him. We sat together at one of the tables set up listening to the music.
Todd and his date Kimi stumbled by and I wondered if it was just the evening or if their was an influence. I was deep in thought, watching Todd and Kimi curiously when I saw James's hand waving in front of my face. "Earth to Ginny." he said.
"Sorry James." I said laughing. "Come on!" I said clutching his hand and pulling him out to the now crowded floor.
At some point, Erik took a break - followed closely by his groupies - and someone turned on the stereo so there was no break in the dancing. I tried to give James all of my attention and we laughed and danced our way through several songs.
I had even forgotten that my dad had agreed to be a chaperone for part of the dance so I was surprised to see him enter the room for a moment before I recalled the discussion we'd had earlier in the day. I hadn't necessarily been excited about having my dad there but it didn't really bother me. Until I saw what looked like flirting between him and Ms. Moore...that bothered me! I'm not sure if it was because she was one of my teachers, that it was at a student dance or that I still wasn't ready for my dad to date but I was definitely bothered.
"Oh that's just not right." I said to no one in particular.
"Hmm?" James said following my gaze. "That's your dad right? Is that his girlfriend?" he asked.
Um...I hope not." I said trying to laugh it off. "She's one of my teachers...or was."
James raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah..." I said still eying them. James took my distraction as a chance to twirl me around and positioned me with my back to them.
"Better?" he asked with a grin.
I laughed. "Yeah a little bit. I'm all sorts of distracted tonight huh?" He just shrugged and pulled me closer to him as Erik resumed his place at the guitar and started a slower, romantic song.
"How's this then?" he asked as our bodies pressed closer together and we started to dance slowly.
"Getting better." I said as all the distractions around me disappeared. For that one dance it was just James and I and everyone else became a blur.
"Good." James whispered. He had my complete attention for the rest of the night as I lost myself in his calming, deep eyes and his easy smile.
Happy Valentine's Day to my readers from Carson (and Franklin) High Schools!
Timothy and Bella Crosby
Todd and Kimi Cruz
Lizzie and Wesley
Alex and Tessa
Erik, Veronica and Kellie
Ginny and James