MY FATHER shouted up that he was heading to the lab to check on some samples that were arriving and needed to be put into cold storage straight away. I realised it was almost midnight and I was starving. I headed down to the kitchen to find Mum was still pottering around in there organising - which translates as "Keep out of my way". She suggested I go into town and get something to eat. I didn't think it was such a bad idea, if I could find anywhere on this island open at this hour. She chuckled answering "This is Zaratan." 'Okaaay.' I grabbed my keys and set off for my first outing in Zaratan.
It wasn't long before I spotted an old 50's style American diner. Pulling in I noticed there wasn't many cars, I'd have thought it closed if it hadn't been for over the top neon lighting. I looked at the clock on the dashboard - 00:21. Not surprising it wasn't busy.
Apart from a couple sitting at the counter, the place was empty. There was a waitress leaning near the cash register, she was in her 50's, but at a guess, I would say she thought she was in her 20's. She had plastered her make-up on and the colours didn't suit her skin tone at all. She was busy filing her nails which were painted a bright, salmon pink. Inconsequentially I wondered if you were supposed to wear nail varnish when serving food. I sat at a booth and absentmindedly noticed somebody had left one of those trashy magazines I tried to avoid. I picked up the menu and scanned the choices available. Under the title of HUMAN the choices were: Burger, Cheeseburger, Fries, Milkshake, Cola, Coffee, and Tea. I was just deciding which flavour shake to have, before taking a look at the other titles on the menu and their choices when I saw him.
His hair was a deep black, and styled in tousled disarray that I inexplicably imagined running my fingers through. My eyes automatically moved to his lips that had the perfect cupid's bow and were so inviting, I could barely control the urge to walk over and kiss him. 'What's wrong with me?' I had never mentally undressed a boy before, and that was exactly what I seemed to be doing. I couldn't stop. My eyes travelled down his jaw line and neck, continuing to strong shoulders and on to what I imagined to be a perfectly sculpted chest and abs. Just as I was starting to check out his butt, a figure standing over me clearing her throat interrupted. I resisted the compulsion to fly out the door, caught in the act of what was so obviously an ogle. Cheeks burning, I lifted my head to the smirking waitress who was waiting patiently to take my order. I decided on a strawberry shake to accompany my fries and set about looking busy reading the magazine.
The waitress approached the boy I'd been staring at and for one horrific moment, I thought she was going to tell him what she'd caught me doing. Thankfully, all she said was that he should take a break before the evening rush. 'Evening rush? At passed midnight?' He was finishing wiping the counter when he must have sensed me watching him. His cool, grey eyes met mine and I held my breath. I couldn't tear my eyes away even though a voice in my head was screaming at me to stop being a complete freak. The corners of his perfect mouth pulled up into a dazzling smile that made my heart skip a beat. I started to return his smile, when his eyes moved passed me to the entrance. His smile vanished and his whole demeanour settled to one of resigned acceptance of whatever he knew was coming. He turned, finished wiping the counter, and left, just as I heard the raucous laughter of the two guys who had just come in.
I kept my eyes down on the magazine, apathetically watching them in my peripherals. They reminded me of typical all-American boys you see in those films. You know the ones - the popular, star athletes on whichever team of whatever sport. They sat at the counter completely immersed in themselves and their own conversation. My fries arrived and I picked at them while reading a fascinating article about some celebrity who was back in rehab after breaking up with her cheating boyfriend. 'Can you say cliché?' I was interrupted by the chorus of "Hey Damien!" and "What, you not gonna wait on us tonight?" and "Yoo-hoo! Anybody home?" Then silence. I looked up to see what could possibly have shut the jocks up. They were staring at me. Gradually a smile spread across their faces, except for Damien who sat at his booth stirring his drink looking slightly flushed and deliberately looking away. The two at the counter were grinning and scrutinizing every part of my body. Uncomfortably, I realised this was what I must have looked like when I was ogling Damien. The difference being that they didn't care if I saw them doing it.
One of the guys stood up, his friend slapping him playfully on the back, and started over towards me. He sat himself down opposite me and continued to appraise me without saying a word. I silently looked him in the eye, which had eventually left my cleavage. I'd known guys like him back home and knew he was the type that expected me to open the conversation with something like 'Hi, I'm Candy. I'll be your conquest for tonight'. Guys like that were a dime a dozen in the Earth realm and it seemed they were here too. I was so not in the mood for jock tactics. He smiled again, but remained silent, clearly waiting for me to start the dating game by pursuing him. 'Sooo not going to happen'. It looked like we'd reached a stalemate and there was clearly only one thing for me to do: I went back to reading the magazine that was suddenly fascinating.
A few more seconds passed before he must have realised he had two choices:
1. Get up and go back to his friend; which would make him look like a complete idiot! OR
2. Start the conversation himself.
I was in no doubt which option he would choose. As if right on cue, he gave in with "Aren't you gonna tell me your name?"
I glanced up briefly, "You didn't ask." I took a sip from my shake and returned to the very riveting article I was pretending to read.
He shifted slightly, a sure sign he wasn't used to girls not falling at his feet. "I'm Jed," he stated, as if this was supposed to mean something to me.
I looked him in the eye, smiled my sweetest smile (the one people believed genuine before they discovered my sarcastic side), said "Hello Jed", and then returned to my magazine. I could hear his friend trying to hide his amusement at my treatment of the mighty Jed, while he himself seemed to squirm in his seat. I'm ashamed to admit that a part of me was enjoying myself.
He tried again "And you are?"
"Raven" I answered, still 'reading'.
I started to feel a little (miniscule) pity however, when his friend mumbled, "That must be some article." I decided to ease up - just a bit. I pushed the magazine to one side, and took another sip of my shake.
"So why are you sitting all alone on a Saturday night?" He smiled, a little more confident, now that I'd given him my (mostly) undivided attention. "A girl like you should be on the arm of a gorgeous guy."
'A girl like me? Exactly what kind of girl am I?' I wondered, hating being pigeon-holed like that. "Really?" I asked innocently.
"Absolutely" he said. Then giving me what I was sure was his practiced kilowatt smile, he leaned in close across the table "Meet me here later." He leant back in his seat again and nodded his head. "2 o'clock." He made it sound like it was a done deal. 'Unbelievable'.
His arrogance was really starting to bug me. "Why's that?" I asked deadpan. Over his shoulder, I could see Damien watching us, clearly amused by the exchange taking place. Jed's eyes hardened and his mask slipped briefly, showing he was not amused. That was when I realised that maybe this guy could get a little nasty if he didn't get what he wanted. After the Martin incident and meeting Mr Creepy I had decided I was no longer going to be the type to be easily intimidated. He only showed his dark side briefly, and then the happy-go-lucky mask was back.
"I could show you the places to hang. Introduce you to the right people. After all, you're new," he smiled "you wouldn't want to start off on the wrong foot now. Would you?" I knew it was a rhetorical question. What he was really saying was that my social status depended on whether I agreed to meet him later. 'Bloody cheek!' I was one of the most popular girls at school back home and I didn't need anyone's help in social circles. I also wasn't going to be the type who responded well to blackmail, but I refused to let my mask slip. Dee always told me it was easier to get the upper hand when you made other people believe they already had it. This guy played dirty and I wasn't about to let him win. I was going to take a leaf from Dee's book. I took a final sip of my shake.
With perfect timing, Damien arrived at the table and started clearing my dishes "Did you enjoy your meal?" he asked, lightening my mood somewhat.
"The food was lovely, thank you" I smiled.
"Do you need anything else?" I understood he wasn't referring to the menu.
Smiling at his gallantry, however unnecessary, I stood and placed the money on his tray "Thank you. I'm fine."
He nodded and I left, hearing Jed shout, "See you at 2 o'clock!"
'In his dreams.'