I was honestly not jealous of my brother and his relationship with Elyssa, our assistant, but sometimes I hated that I was single. I always felt like a third wheel when I was hanging around with them.
The two of them invited me to attend the Snowflake day winter festival with them. It wasn’t the sort of thing that Adam normally liked to do, but he was more outgoing with Elyssa. I agreed to go because I had nothing better to do.
“There will be lots to do there,” Adam assured me when I said that maybe the two of them wanted to just spend the day together. “We can do that new snowboarding half-pipe,” he said, sounding excited.
“That does sound pretty fun,” I agreed.
“And we can go ice skating and roast marshmallows,” Elyssa added. “Come on Ferris. You stay in this old place too much. Your brother said you didn’t used to be this reclusive. He said he was always the loner, but you and Carter used to do all kinds of things together.”
It was true. I hadn’t really made much of a life for myself in Twinbrook outside of my work. I agreed to go with the two of them to the Festival mostly because it would have been even more pathetic sitting home by myself.
But it stank watching them be so happy and romantic together. They included me in the outing, but I felt more alone than I have ever felt.
Maybe this loneliness, this being included but feeling like I was outside of the group, was what made me make the call I did at the Festival.
“Hey, Elaine. Happy Snowflake Day!” I said brightly into the phone when the chirpy voice on the other end said hello. “It’s Ferris Fields. I was wondering…would you like to meet me in the park? My brother, Elyssa and I are just about to roast hotdogs.”
I don’t think anyone would have been more surprised than I was when she said yes and promised to “be right over!” And I was actually happy to see her when she showed up. I remember smiling at the sight of her. She had on a lavender coat…the soft kind that belts in the middle. Her dark eyes sparkled in the moonlight.
“I’m so glad you called,” she greeted me warmly, giving me an affectionate peck on the cheek. “I had nothing to do, and what’s more pathetic than being alone on Snowflake Day?” She laughed.
I had met Elaine a few months earlier at the Consignment shop. With Elyssa’s help, Adam and I became the new owners. We shut the place down and then had it redecorated to suit the more gadget-centric clientele we were hoping to attract. Elyssa helped with this as well, but I did have my hand in it. Then, when we were finished, we held a grand re-opening. Elaine was one of our first customers.
“So you’re the ones who invented the hygenator?” she asked me when I introduced myself and welcomed her to the store.
“Yes. My brother Adam and I invented that and several of the other items we stock here.”
“That’s so cool! I love my hygenator! I used to love setting it to ‘fruity potpourri’ but now that you have the new scents, I think I like ‘refreshing mountain mint’ even more!”
“I’m glad you like it Miss…?” I asked, fishing for her name. Since I’d come to Twinbrook, I hadn’t met any women besides Elyssa. She was absolutely right that I worked too much. Seeing this pretty girl who actually seemed interested in what I did, I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get to know her better.
We exchanged names and I subtly found out that she wasn’t married. I decided to risk asking her if she wanted to go out with me sometime.
“Maybe tomorrow or the next day?” I said, suavely. “I mean, I’m completely free. I set my own work hours!” Yeah, I felt like a complete idiot. Luckily, Elaine seemed to be delighted by my incompetence.
“I’m a reporter,” she said. “I get off work around 5 unless there’s some breaking news.”
“That must be exciting,” I said.
“Sure. I get to be here covering your grand opening. It’s a lot of fun.”
Now, for someone else, this might have been sarcasm, but Elaine was genuinely excited. She seemed to get enthused by the most mundane things I learned later when we did have our first date.
We met at the Bistro. She insisted that we meet there instead of me picking her up. I thought this odd at first, but Elyssa told me that most girls nowadays wanted to have an escape plan if a date went wrong.
“What could go wrong?” I asked, completely clueless. I hadn’t dated anyone since Marissa in high school. And when we went out back then, it was often in a group with one of my brothers and his girlfriend or a large group of all of our friends.
Elyssa shook her head at my puzzlement. “What if you guys don’t get along?” she asked. “She wants to be able to leave on her own if the date sucks.”
The awkwardness of the first few minutes of the date made me wonder if Elyssa had jinxed us, but once we both settled in things went fine.
It sort of helped that Elaine opened with “So Ferris, have you ever been married?” I nearly choked on my sushi.
“Wh…what?!” I pounded on my chest to dislodge the stuck California Roll.
“Oh, sorry. People say I’m too direct. But I figure you should lead with what’s important, right? That’s the rule in journalism, anyway. Lead with the important bits. So, ever been married?”
“Um, no?” Since it came out like a question, Elaine laughed. I liked how the candlelight twinkled in her brown eyes.
“Well, it’s a legitimate question,” she said. “A lot of guys your age have been married. Heck, most people both of our ages have already been married.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I shrugged.
“Not that I’m a spinster, no matter what my mother and sisters say…they think that not being married is a crime against nature…but I’m not a spinster. I want to get married. I want the whole family thing. But I wanted to establish my career first, you know?”
I coughed. “Yeah. I get that. Work is important.” I nodded to show that I was at least attempting to follow her train of thought.
“Do you want to get married someday, Ferris? Do you want the whole family and kids thing?”
“Um, yeah?” Gosh, I was articulate. Luckily Elaine thought this questionable answer was also funny. “I’m sorry,” she said as she laughed at me, reaching out to touch my hand. “I’m too forward. Everyone says so. It’s just that I could like you a lot, and I don’t want to like you that much if you don’t want what I want.”
“You’re funny, Ferris.”
The rest of our first date actually went better. I found my voice and managed to string together more than just a few hesitant interrogatives. We talked about her work and mine. I told her all about moving to Twinbrook and selling my inventions and finally managing to buy the Consignment shop. She told me all about being a reporter doing interviews and digging up dirt on the residents of the city.
“I’m not really a gossip,” she said, “but you have to work your way up in this business. I want to be on TV someday, but I can’t do that unless I prove myself.”
Our second date, I invited Elaine out to the park. I met her there with a handful of daisies. I thought of roses, but Elyssa talked me out of them because I didn’t know Elaine that well. Daisies are less committal according to Elyssa.
Unfortunately, our park outing was cut short because it started to rain. Instead of calling the evening off, I invited Elaine back to my place.
“I can’t believe you live here!” Elaine clapped with excitement when she saw my old barn. Then she stepped inside and was even more amused at the contrast between the old and the new.
“That’s what I was going for,” I told her. “I like the irony of an old barn that is completely modern on the inside.”
“It’s modern,” Elaine said, “but it is homey, too. I like it!”
“I don’t cook very well,” I warned her, “but I think my assistant left some goopy carbonara in the fridge. It’s Adam’s favorite.”
“She’s Adam’s girlfriend, right?”
“That must be strange.”
“It was at first, but now I’m used to it.”
I had little choice but to get used to Adam and Elyssa dating. My brother had fallen head over heals for her. I actually found this amusing especially when he gave her his first gift: a puppy.
“Isn’t he cute!” Elyssa screeched when she saw the little thing. She immediately started petting it and making kissy noises at it. “What should we name it?”
“You decide,” Adam said, a dopey grin on his face. “It’s a boy,” he added.
“How about Pooper,” I suggested, “’cause that’s what that guy is going to do a lot of…and I’m not cleaning it up! He’s going to get huge, Adam! What were you thinking?”
“Aw, don’t listen to Unca Ferris,” Elyssa spoke to the dog. “He’s just jealous because you’re so cute!”
“He’s just a little guy, Ferr,” Adam said.
And he was, but I could tell. It was going to get bigger. I don’t think Adam even thought about what breed of dog he’d picked out. It looked like a German Sheppard mix of some sort.
“I think we’ll call him Jacque,” Elyssa said. “Do you like that Jacque-y? Do you? Jacque?!”
“You better start training it,” I warned Adam. “If it chews on my furniture, it’s out!”
“Stop being such a downer Ferris! It’s just a puppy!”
Of course I was right. By the time we opened the Consignment shop, the dog had grown to the size of a German Sheppard. But at least Adam and Elyssa trained it. It never chewed on the furniture and managed to do it’s business outside. Adam had built it a dog house, but he was such a sucker that now Jacque usually slept next to him on his bed.
“What about Elyssa?” I asked when I saw the dog up there for the first time. “What if she wants to sleep over?”
“We usually go to her apartment,” Adam said, blushing at my insinuation that my brother and Elyssa were doing more than making out on the couch. I knew they were sleeping together off and on. We were all busy with the opening of the new store, but they’d made time to be together and it wasn’t like Adam was so old fashioned as to wait for marriage.
I, on the other hand, was not getting past second base with Elaine. Part of it was my fault. It wasn’t like I had a lot of experience—actually, I had exactly none. I’d only ever gone out with one girl…Marissa. And back in high school, we’d mostly engaged in kissing and over-the-clothes petting.
So when Elaine whispered in my ear, “Let me stay the night, Ferris” on our third or fourth date, I panicked.
“Uh…” I hesitated and pulled back from her slightly. She looked into my eyes and saw that her suggestion had startled me. She didn’t know why, though, so she became defensive.
“I don’t have to stay,” she said. “I mean, if you don’t want me to.”
“Uh…it’s not that,” I mumbled, sheepishly. I looked away from her. “It’s just that I…um…well…I usually don’t have girls in my room.” How was I supposed to tell her that I’d NEVER had a girl in my room? Was I supposed to just come out and say, “I’m a virgin”?
In the end I was too afraid to admit it. Instead I said, “Don’t you have work tomorrow?”
To say the mood was destroyed would be an understatement. Elaine tried to act cool about it, admitting that she did have to get up early, but I could tell that she thought that I didn’t want her to stay the night. I couldn’t think of a way of reassuring her except to tell her the truth. But I had already panicked about doing that, so I just said, “I’ll call you tomorrow” while I handed her her coat.
Except I didn’t call her the next day. In fact, I didn’t call her at all. She sent me texts and emails and left messages on my voice mail, but I replied I was busy to the former and ignored the latter. Eventually she stopped trying.
Adam, of course, noticed that Elaine and I had stopped going out together, so he asked me about it.
“What’s up with you and Elaine?” he asked around a bite of grilled cheese. “Weren’t things getting kind of serious there? Did something happen?”
At first I just shrugged and mumbled something about having different schedules and things just not working out, but Adam called me on it.
“Bullshit, Ferris! You set your own schedule. It’s not like you can’t just take off work whenever!”
“Well, she’s really busy,” I said lamely.
“I don’t know.”
“Seriously, Ferris,” Adam looked at me, concerned. “Elyssa and I thought you and Elaine were perfect together. Something had to have happened. Did you get in a fight?”
Not knowing what else to do, and really needing advice from somebody, I reluctantly told Adam the truth about myself and Elaine.
“We had a really great time together,” I began. “We had fun. She’s so enthusiastic about everything! She got excited about ping pong, watching TV, listening to me talk about our newest gadget. It didn’t matter, she was enthused.
Her enthusiasm was contagious. But, I’m not normally like that, you know? I mean, she was always moving faster than me. She asked me out way more than I asked her. She’d call and say, ‘Let’s go to the movies!’ and I’d agree.”
“I don’t see the problem,” Adam looked confused. “If she was so easy to please, then that’s good, right?”
“Yeah, except she wanted to stay the night here. We were sort of making out on the couch and she just whispered it in my ear. I guess I panicked. I didn’t know what to do, what to say…Adam, you know that I’ve only been out with one other girl, right? I mean, what the heck do I know about having a girl stay the night? She was all hot and bothered and I kept thinking that I had no clue what I was doing!”
Sometime in the middle of my confession, my brother started to snort and then he busted out laughing. I was embarrassed.
“Don’t laugh! I can’t help that I haven’t…that I am…well, it’s not my fault!”
“Sorry. Sorry, dude. Really,” Adam said over his gasps as he tried to control himself. “It’s just that you do realize that you broke up with a perfectly willing girl all because you have never had sex before. You’ll be a virgin forever if you keep this up!”
“It’ not funny,” I pouted.
“Just call her,” Adam advised. “And then tell her the truth. And then let her stay the night, you idiot!”
I didn’t call until Snowflake day. I’d tried and failed to call several other times. The best I’d managed to do was send her a few friendly texts of the “hi, how are things going” variety. She’d replied back that she was fine, but that was all.
So, when she agreed to come to the park, I was surprised. After our initial, somewhat awkward greeting, Elaine managed to make me let go of any nervousness I might have had about seeing her again.
“I missed you Ferris,” she said. “I know I should be mad at you for not calling me all this time, but I just missed you. I’m really glad you finally did call!”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have called sooner. I was afraid you’d be mad. I wanted to explain myself, but I didn’t know how.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it!” Elaine said brightly. “We can talk about it later. Let’s just enjoy this Snowflake day! I’m looking forward to the hotdogs you mentioned.”
After Snowflake day, I asked Elaine to go with me to a movie. She agreed, of course, as enthusiastic about this date as any of the others. After the movies, we drove back to my house. Elaine chattered happily about the movie, but I didn’t say much.
“Is something wrong, Ferris,” Elaine asked when she finally realized that I hadn’t done more than grunt in the last few minutes.
“No, but you know that talk we were going to have later?”
“Well, I think now is later. I need to tell you why I panicked before and then didn’t call you….but…I’m sort of nervous.”
“You don’t have to be nervous, Ferris. You don’t have to tell me, either, if you don’t want to,” Elaine said sincerely. I could tell she meant what she was saying. She was so easy going, but I knew I couldn’t avoid talking about things forever. I wanted to invite her to spend the night. I had hopes that our night would end better than the last time she’d been over.
“You know, Ferris,” Elaine interrupted my worried train of thought, making me realize that I’d been too silent again. “I like it that you’re old fashioned,” she said. I looked over at her, confused. What was she talking about?
“I mean, most guys are all about getting into a girl’s pants, you know? You’re not like that. I figure that you didn’t like it that I was moving too fast the other time…well, I probably was. So, I just wanted you to know that I don’t mind waiting. I mean, well…it will be more special, won’t it?”
“Um, Elaine?” I interrupted her as she was about to continue expounding on the virtues of old-fashioned ideals.
“I’m really not that old fashioned. I don’t care if we wait. In fact, I was hoping tonight you’d want to…um…stay over?”
“You were?” I nodded. “But I thought that you wanted to wait…?”
“No, I’m just like other guys,” I laughed. “Except…well…you know I have only had one girlfriend, right?”
“Well, that was in high school. And we never…um…we never…well, we were never ‘together’.”
“Well, gosh Ferris! If that’s all this is about!” Elaine laughed. “You had me so worried! I thought I was acting too slutty and easy!”
“I don’t mind slutty and easy,” I said, pulling into my driveway. Elaine laughed again.
We were both laughing as we went into the house and took off our winter coats. Then Elaine grabbed me, catching me off-guard with the hottest kiss I think I’ve ever had. When she paused for breath she said, “Come on, Ferris. Let’s go upstairs!”
Who was I to argue?