The Awakening/C3 First Date
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The Awakening/C3 First Date
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C3 First Date

A long day doesn't even begin to describe the kind of day Sera has had. She's happy to leave it all behind as anticipation begins to bubble up inside of her. Despite Amanda's unending knowledge of the dating scene, she decides against changing. If Jack would be donning his work clothes, so would she. Keeping the tan dress pants and white collared shirt, she did happen to stop home and apply some extra makeup before making her appearance. She parks her white sedan in the spot in front of Jack's Coffee Bean for the second time that day. Sera flips down the visor to double check that she resembles what Amanda calls 'sexy-casual' before running her fingers through her hair. With one last nod of courage to her reflection, she exits the car and heads toward the door.

Approaching, she notices all the blinds are down and the lights are dimmer than usual. A weird feeling settles into the pit of her stomach when she reaches the door. The sign on the door reads: 'Closed', but the hours posted along the bottom clearly indicate otherwise. Looking around nervously, Sera starts to chalk this up to a dating failure and starts to leave when she spots Jack springing through the double doors of the kitchen. One more deep breath and she knocks softly. Hearing her knock from a few feet away, his eyes immediately meet hers. He appears to visibly relax, and his lips curl into a smile. Within seconds, Jack is holding the door open for her, welcoming her inside. Sera's eyes greet him shyly before glancing about to notice the whole ambiance has changed. The holiday music is replaced with something sultrier. The lights are all dimmed, and the brightest glow in the place emanates from the tea light candles scattered all about. The tables and chairs are moved to the side until all that remains in the center is a small table for two. Even Jack has spruced up, wearing a black-collared shirt with khaki pants. She catches a whiff of cologne upon entering.

“Wow," comes tumbling out of Sera's mouth as she continues to gawk. Tugging at her shirt uncomfortably, Sera realizes then, maybe she should have listened to Amanda. To be honest, she's a little taken aback by the spread. The way he asked was so... casual.

“So, I figured you'd be hungry, and I've made us a little something to eat." Jack breaks the growing silence.

“Well, you were right—I'm starving."

Jack places his hand on the small of her back, guiding Sera to the center table. "Let me check to see if it's ready."

Disappearing through the double doors again, Sera uses the time to take one last gaze about. Garland wraps all over the walls and candles glisten back at her. "Oh. My. God," she mouths to herself before Jack reappears with two plates of his famous Panini's. He brings them to the table on one arm with a steaming latte that smells like warm caramel in the other. His arms gracefully place the plate and coffee in front of her before slipping into the remaining seat. Jack's eyes scan Sera, enveloping her like a warm summer day. She glances away nervously trying to look at everything and anything to draw the attention off her.

"I'm happy you came."

"Why wouldn't I? This place is my favorite."

"I'm happy to hear you say that, you know this is a new business venture for me."

"Well, you picked a good one." Headlights shine through the blinds causing Sera to jump. Thankfully, Jack doesn't appear to notice, because he's uneasily looking up from his hands.

"It took me a while to work up the courage—I mean look at you." His hand motions toward her."Me?" Sera responds after her first bite of the Panini.

"Yes, you. Sera you're—" But she never gets to find out what she is, because he abruptly stops talking and looks at the blank space beside her. If Sera didn't know any better, she'd swear he shook his head minutely.


He blinks. It's almost like he forgot she is sitting only a few inches away. "Sorry, what was I saying?"

"I don't remember." That's the truth, because she starts to get this cold shiver down her spine, like an ice cube is dripping down her shirt. Her skin prickles. She looks around the shop once more. It appears different somehow; darker. The candles dim and the December night's coldness creeps in. Something is off here, she's not getting that homey and welcoming vibe—instead it's almost eerie and creepy."

Sera, can I be honest with you?" Jack's question startles her before meeting his blue-green eyes. There's that feeling again, the strange one in the pit of her stomach. The one that tells her something is wrong.

"Of course." Her hand reaches for the coffee, desperate to chase away the chill.

"There's something about you." He leans in, placing his elbows on the table. "I'm drawn to you for some reason." One of Jack's hands slips inside hers. Words escape her as she stares down at their clasped hands. For months, she had been fantasizing about this moment, yet deep down, she knows it doesn't feel right. Saving her from having to respond, something clatters to the floor in the kitchen. They both jump when it echoes.

"That's weird." Jack rises to check it out, leaving Sera sitting alone, staring after him apprehensively. A cool breeze sways past, causing another shiver to rack through her. When Jack reappears from the double doors, she doesn't miss that he's rubbing his arm. "It was just a pot that fell, must've piled them too high." His tone indicates there is nothing to worry about, but his eyes depict otherwise. Those blue-green eyes scan the air around them and the tables behind where she's seated. His body language is making Sera so anxious, she attempts to change the subject.

"The Panini was delicious as always."

"I knew it was your favorite." By favorite, she can only assume he meant it's the only one she's ever ordered. Forcing a smile, she can only assume it is a joke. Jack walks toward the table, looking back only once. He's still mid-squat when the cash register behind the counter starts beeping incessantly. He freezes. The drawer clinks open, and they are both on their feet this time. Jack swings around the bar, but Sera approaches the countertop apprehensively. He inspects the machine, pushes a few buttons, and closes the open drawer. The register falls silent. Their eyes meet across the counter once again dark with fear. They have met like this millions of times, but tonight it's different—Jack is hiding something.

"Well, that was weird." He tries to joke to dispel the awkward tension.

"I'll say." Her eyes dart about feeling the hair on her arms stand on end. Something weird is definitely going on here, and she doesn't want to stick around to find out what exactly it is. Quickly, she racks her brain for an excuse to leave as Jack comes around the counter. He walks determinedly up to Sera and places his arms on her shoulders, looking into her eyes. He looks rattled, too. He seems... tense.

"This isn't going as planned."

"You planned for me?"

"I tried."

"Things happen, Jack, don't worry about it."

"You're being a really good sport. I'm glad you came..."

Despite the strange happenings, she has to say that she's happy, too. Her first date in a year was long overdue. She needed this to get back on the proverbial horse, so to speak. Even if nothing comes of tonight, she had to know. "Me, too."

His lips crack a smile before he takes a step closer, leaving their feet toe-to-toe. His eyes close, and his lips purse slightly. Sera holds a breath, unable to move, when commotion springs to life in the kitchen once again. The clanging doesn't stop, pots and pans bang around, beeping starts, and a crinkling sound begins. Sera is on Jack's heels as he dashes for the back door, not bothering to hide his alarm anymore. He attempts to block her view, but Sera pushes past him to get some answers. The kitchen is in shambles; everything is thrown about like a tornado hit. The timers all beep repeatedly, food is tossed this way and that, pots scatter the floor, and doors hang off their hinges. She's starting to think the ovens are on as well because there's an intense heat emanating from the room.

Sera turns to Jack whose face appears genuinely shocked. Whatever is going on with him, I don't think he was expecting this. Sera's instincts start to kick in; she sneaks past his rigid body heading back into the store. This isn't right, she thinks shaking her head.

"Sera?" She turns around to respond when the fire alarm blares to life in a deafening roar. The sprinklers extend almost automatically before raining water on the two of them. Sera glances down, almost unbelieving as the water soaks through her shirt and pretty much everything else around. Their eyes meet again; Jack's eyes are as wide as his mouth. He's frozen in the same stance as when the sprinklers started. If Sera didn't know any better, she would say he looks just as stupefied as she must.

Pure unrelenting laughter bursts from Sera. What are the odds? Jack's shoulders visibly relax at Sera's reaction before also cracking a smile. He then walks beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder blades this time, guiding her toward the door.

"I'm sorry our first date was such a mess." His ringlets drip, but his eyes hold a sincerity she finds endearing.

"Well, when Amanda asks, I'll tell her that it was so hot the fire alarm went off." That gets a laugh as he holds the door open for her, his cologne filling her senses. The sirens from the approaching fire engines become increasingly louder. Jack escorts her all the way to her car out front when suddenly his demeanor changes.

"I'm sorry this had to happen tonight, I hope you'll give me a second chance."

"It's not a big deal, Jack, my clothes will dry. I'm worried about your store." Water has begun to pour out from under the front door and snake down the path toward the parking lot.

"Don't worry about it; it's just a glitch somewhere." He rubs his arm again, which Sera is beginning to realize that the gesture shows he's lying. "You should go home and dry off before the firemen get here and this date gets really embarrassing."

"So this was a date?"

"I was hoping it would be..." His eyes gaze down at his feet. "But, maybe we shouldn't count this as a date."

"Maybe." Her fingers swiftly slip into her pocket and deftly pull out the car keys behind her back. Jack's eyes study her face, trying to read her, but she spent a year schooling her features so that no one can.

"Well, this was... eventful." Her eyes glance down allowing the keys to jingle from her hands. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"I hope so." His expression tries to hide disappointment before he closes the gap between them.

Sera grows increasingly nervous. The end of the date, the uneasiness of how to say goodbye flushes her cheeks. She can feel his breath on her face, feel his heart beat through his shirt; it has been a while since she's been this close to a man. "Definitely." Her arms quickly wrap around him in a hug, and she tilts her face to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek. "Goodnight, Jack."

He watches her slip inside the car before closing the door behind her. Only when she straps her seat belt on and shoots him a shy wave, does he finally step back onto the curb.

Sera pulls away from the shop before glancing back in the rear view mirror just as the fire trucks begin to pull up. Jack's eyes are still staring after her sedan. Should she have kissed him? Jack is gorgeous, sweet, and owns his own business. So why does she still have goose bumps on her arm and the feeling that something is off? Her mind reels the entire drive home.

By the time she pulls the car across from her house, she's still no closer to answers. The weird feeling in the pit of her stomach has passed, and she finds herself wondering if she imagined it all. It could have been nerves, only it wasn't like any butterflies she's ever experienced before. That combined with the goose bumps and her hair standing on end make her wonder what Jack could be hiding. With a shake of her head, she exits the car, not able to bear thinking about it any longer. Her feet take her up the walk of the blue farmhouse she shares with her parents. When she returned home from college, she didn't have the funds to move out and now, quite a few years later, she finds she doesn't have the heart to. Her parents are the best 'roommates'. Her father is hardly ever home, working long hours in the city while her mother spends most of her time grading papers from all of her high school students.

She opens the door quietly, but there is no need. Her mother is still awake. She's curled up in the living room reading her latest adventure novel wrapped on the comfy (and dare she call ugly) recliner her father just had to have. Her curly auburn hair is up in a bun with a few stray strands spiraling free as her eyes intently scan the new Kindle she received for her birthday only a few weeks ago. It's safe to say she has become a little obsessed with it. Can't say Sera can blame her. She herself escapes to a different world every time she's asleep and has become a little infatuated with it as well. Bianca Cross looks up from her retro reading glasses when she hears the front door close.

"There you are. Where were you all evening?" It seems like no matter how old Sera gets, her mother will always be protective of her. A smile plays on Sera's lips when she enters the living room.

"I kind of had a date after work," she says, sitting on the edge of the couch across from her.

"Oh?" Her mother's head picks up; Sera has her full attention now. "And how did that go?" Her glasses slip low and she eyes Sera's wet clothes. Ever since Sera turned twenty-four, her old fashioned parents have begun hounding her to settle down and get married. They didn't hide their disappointment when she broke up with her high school sweetheart a year earlier. To be honest, to this day, he still comes up conveniently in conversation with her parents. She knows they mean well, they just feel she should be getting on with her life by now. Looking into her mother's dark almond-shaped eyes, Sera can't bear to admit she doesn't think there will be a second date. So instead, she switches to her go-to response—sarcasm.

"Oh, you know," waving her hand and scooting off the arm of the couch, "The kitchen exploded, the sprinklers went off, the cops came, the usual." Sera's footsteps slosh their way toward the stairs.

"Well, as long as you had fun," she says, shaking her head at Sera's antics before returning to her book. Sera notices she is leaving a trail of water in her wake when she climbs the stairs and slips into her room. Peeling off the wet clothes, she tosses them in the corner before throwing on an oversized tee shirt and collapsing into bed. After the day she's had, she's completely ready to escape to her alternate universe. Closing her eyes, she hopes that sleep will come quickly.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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