First Comes Love(4)

By: Emily Goodwin

I unlock my phone and text my sister, Katie, to tell her that my date hasn’t arrived and is officially ten minutes late. I’ll give him another ten then I’m paying for my wine and leaving.

And that it’s all her fault. She set up the dating app and made my account. She’s been with the same guy for seven years and is living vicariously through me, though the few dates she’s set me up on never amount to anything but an awkward goodbye.

Five minutes later, I’m scrolling through Pinterest to keep myself busy and I feel someone stand near the table. I flick my gaze up and see Gavin. And he does look like his photos, thank God. I take a quick second to take it in: he’s tall with broad shoulders, has a bit of gray peppered in his dark hair, and is well dressed. He’s attractive in a non-obvious way. I can handle this.

“Lauren,” he says with a smile.

“Yeah, hi,” I say back and stand. Should I shake his hand? Or go in for a hug? We’ve talked on the phone and via private message, but I’m far from being comfortable around him.

He decides for me and leans in, wrapping his arms around me. He squeezes me tight and I almost choke on the smell of cigarette smoke on his clothes. I internally sigh. I hadn’t thought to ask about that. Such a turn off.

“How are you?” he asks and releases me.

“I’m good,” I say. “Hungry. You?”

He laughs softly. “Hungry too. And sorry I’m late. The temperature dropped and I had to change my socks. It’s not cold enough for the wool ones yet, but cotton wasn’t cutting it.”

I take a step back toward my chair. “Uh, okay.” Socks. What?

He lifts up his leg a bit so show me his feet, which are covered in bright-red fuzzy socks.

“Cold feet run in my family. So do hot feet, which leads to sweaty feet. So I have to find the right balance with sock thickness.”

I just smile and nod. Yeah, that’s weird. Too weird? Weird enough to bail out the bathroom window? I sit down and tuck my brown hair behind my ear. It’s thick and doesn’t hold a curl very well, so I left it naturally wavy, with some hair product help, of course.

The waiter comes over to take Gavin’s drink order and to give us menus.

“Dinner is on me,” he says. “Order whatever you want.”

“Oh, thanks,” I say and feel a little awkward. I didn’t want to assume he was paying this whole time, but kind of thought he would since this was our first date and all. Fuck these social rules when it comes to dating. Why make an already awkward thing more awkward?

My phone buzzes on the table. It’s Katie asking if my date showed up. I pull my phone into my lap and smile at Gavin. We put in our order for dinner, and I get up to use the bathroom, texting Katie as soon as I’m out of eye sight.

Me: He went home to change his socks…because his feet were cold.

Katie: That’s why he was late?

Me: Yes. He’s wearing fuzzy socks. Fuzzy. Socks. What should I do?

Katie: Run. Probably has a foot fetish

Me: He’s paying for dinner. I think I’ll stay for free food lol. PS if he kills me and cuts off my feet, my death is on your shoulders. No big deal or anything.

She sends me a kissy face emoji. I only find the best for you, sis!

I smile and shake my head, tuck my phone into my cleavage, and use the toilet. I wash my hands, give myself a quick onceover in the mirror, and go back to the table.

“So, how was your day?” Gavin asks when I sit down. He’s gotten into the bread, thankfully. I grab a slice and butter it.

“It was pretty good. I worked, though. But I like my job.”

“And you’re a veterinarian?”

“I’m a vet tech.”

“Oh, right. Like a nurse to animals.”

“Yes, you can say that.”

He smiles. “I love animals.”

I smile back. That’s one of the reasons I agreed to meet him on a date. His profile said he’s animal lover. “Me too. Sometimes more than people.”

He laughs, flashing me a broad smile. Gavin isn’t a bad-looking man, not at all. “And you have a dog?”

“Two right now,” I tell him. “My German Shepherd is a permanent resident and I foster when I can.”

“That’s just great,” he says. “We had a dog when I was a kid. He was my best friend. He got hit by a car though, and Mom’s allergic so I can’t get another. But I still have Rufus.”

“You live with your mom?” I ask, before the tail end of his statement hits me. His profile said he was twenty-nine. Several years older than me, but the age gap didn’t seem like a big deal. And living with a parent wasn’t a big deal either. A lot of people live with their parents after college. I did for a year and a half until I had enough saved up to move out and not be strapped for cash. “Wait, you still have the dog? He’s still alive?”

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