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Excerpt# 18: Princess Laser Tag

“Where are we going?”
“Just two streets. I promise.”
“You said that two streets ago, Ray.”
“You know at the rate you complain we should just change your name to the whiner.”
“Oh really? Fine I will stop complaining if you tell me where we are running off to.”
“Nope.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”—–“Why is it that on every date we end up running to someplace?”
“Because. I gotta keep you on your toes princess. If I don’t you might actually stop to think and try to ruin this.”
He was right.
“Do you think I am fat?” She changed the topic.
“What?!”
“Well with all this physical exertion, I am wondering if it’s your way of telling me I need to lose a few pounds.”
He shook his head. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Nope I’m your little miss sunshine. I like the princess by the way.”

“Speaking of princesses, we are here.”

They were facing an Italian pastry shop decked out in Christmas lights, beautiful music and fairytale vibe.

“Wow.” For once she was speechless.
“Wow, for once are you actually speechless?”
“Shut up while you’re ahead.” She hushed and grabbed his hand.

They walked into the restaurant hand in hand and sat down.

“You know next time, if you want, instead of running around I can think of other physical exertions for our next date.” He grinned, she looked at him for a long second “I know what your thinking and I am totally for it.”

“Yeah?”

“Of course. Laser tag here we come.” His groan and her snicker could be heard mingling with the music.

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Excerpt #18: Date 2- Order of Sushi with a Side of Stubborn

Women can’t resist the lure of good sushi.

Their second date was founded on Ray’s wholehearted belief of this concept.

“A dragon roll please” she ordered.
“Let me guess. That’s what you usually order.”
“Yep.”
“Why not try something new?”
“I am. I am eating it with you.”
He chuckled, “Cheekiness. I like.”
She batted her eye lashes at him, “And what, pray tell, do you dislike?”

He bought out her weird quirks…including defunct phrases and terrible accents.
“Why? So you can annoy me?”
“It only seems fair. To return the favor and all,” she blurted out. She didn’t know what the fuck she was doing. Here was this amazing guy and here she was trying to ruin it.

He stared at her intensely for a moment.
“It won’t work you know.”
“What?” She said nonchalantly.
“You, trying to ruin this.”
She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She looked up and grinned, “Darn and here I was trying so hard.” She meant the statement as a weird kind of apology. Miraculously, he must have understood because he nodded and dropped his seriousness.
“Come on.” He said as they finished.
“Where?”
“Just come!” Having paid the bill, he grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the resturant.
“Ray! Where are we going? I didn’t sign up for exercising. You promised it would only be sushi!”
“Oh, come on you big baby.”

It was a beautiful summer night… the kind of night in those romantic movies that all girls dreamed out. And here she was, walking alongside Ray to God knows where. It was a while before she realized he hadn’t let go of her hand. She decided not to remind him.
“Ray…where are we going?”
“There was a lake here somewhere.” He mumbled as they kept walking.
“We are trying to find…a lake? In the middle of the city?”
“Okay not a lake. A body of water of sorts. Just a bit farther.”
They kept walking. After a while they came across a row of apartments and a shifty neighborhood.
“Ray…I don’t think there is a lake this way.”
“What?”
“We are, by the looks of it, in the projects.”
Ray swore when he realized the truth and she laughed. His desire and grand failure at finding the elusive and romantic lake was endearing.
“Well…on the bright side… it’s no lake but there is a puddle by the broken fire hydrant there. That looks promising.”
He stared at her again trying to gauge her. When he realized she was teasing him and not being mean, he hugged her, laughing. It was so effortless that she didn’t even realize when a piece of her shattered heart began to put itself back in place.

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Excerpt #17:Date 1- Establishing the Brownie point System

For the next week, she tried her best to cancel the coffee date with Ray. She called him a couple of times, but had the strangest feeling he was screening her calls. She had to hand it to him…he had her pegged. She could never cancel a date, a first date at that, over a text…it seemed so barbaric. So when Friday rolled around, it found her in her favorite rust color long dress and her golden brown mane of hair tousled in waves over her shoulders. She might have been less than enthused about the date, but she never passed up a reason to dress up.

As she rounded the corner of Martha’s, she got her first glimpse of Ray. She almost changed her mind about the whole thing and began to turn back.

“Hey! Miss Sunshine!”

Damn, he saw her. Curse her bright dress and hair!

“Oh! Hi…Ray the artifact…” she mumbled.

“Did I just catch you attempting to slink away and stand me up?”

“N-no, that’s preposterous!” she said defensively. She was using SAT words, a sure tell she was lying to those who knew her.

He looked unconvinced, “Am I that hideous?” He teased.

He was the exact opposite of hideous and that was the problem. And funny. Shit. She wasn’t ready! She gave him a daggered look that he took to mean: no he wasn’t hideous and there was no way she was going to admit how attractive she found him. He was right.

He grinned, “Come on, grumpy lady, maybe some coffee will take care of that growling problem you have.”

How the hell did he keep doing that? Knowing exactly what to say, how to act to make it impossible to dislike him? She sat down facing him on a table outside the café with drinks in hand. She refused to start the conversation; she knew at this point that she was being a bitch. But this was dangerous territory and survival in any form was paramount. Besides, he seemed to be doing well in conversing all by him self.

He did not disappoint.

“You realize my name isn’t Ray the artifact right?”

“And you realize mine isn’t Little Miss Sunshine?

“Yeah, but it’s a cute nickname, I think I will call you that from now on.”

“Well then, your status as an artifact remains unchanged in my book.”

“Finally! Some progress! At least I am in your book.”

“Oh God, Ray you are relentless” She finally cracked a smile and shook her head in defeat.

“Hey, I say what I mean.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Her first sip of delicious coffee bought a blissful smile on her face. She caught him staring. “What?”

“Nothing, just seeing my theory being proven in action.”

“Theory?”

“You’re a coffee lover, your whole demeanor changed with a sip.”

“Fine you got me, what about you.”

“Oh I dabble in the art of coffee, used to work as a barista for a bit.”

“No way.”

“Way…so should I put this down as two brownie points for Ray?”

“Ray, we do not have a brownie point system…”

“Well, we should. Let’s start now.”

“And what are we offering as a reward?”

“Not being mean to poor old Ray maybe?”

“Whoa there artifact, that’s asking a lot…how about I bake you actual brownies instead?”

“Yum home made brownies, that sounds delicious. Reward accepted”

“Then again, I don’t really know how to bake so…” She smiled devilishly, enjoying herself.

“Damn, fell into that one. Well I can always teach you…we can make a day of it!”

“Oh, Ray you’re hopeless.” Every negative thing just bounced off of him.

“No Little Miss Sunshine, I am here to bring back your hope…just call me…wait for it… your Ray of Sunshine.”

“Ungh, lame,” she groaned. “No, I think I will stick to Ray the artifact.”

“From you, I expected no less,” he conceded graciously.

She hadn’t had this much fun in weeks.

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Excerpt #16: Asking a Girl Out 101 With Ray Fyodor

When she had suggested they go out for coffee, it had been her gut reaction. She didn’t want, or need, a rebound guy. Ray certainly wasn’t the rebound type either. So when he called her the weekend after their first meet in the train she was determined to turn him down. But somehow, she ended up with a coffee date.

Earlier in the day

She was binge watching Criminal Minds when her phone rang. She picked it up, not checking the caller ID as she continued to lust after—ahem—watch Spencer Reid do something brilliant on her screen.

“Hello?”

“Hey Little Miss Sunshine.” A smiling male voice replied.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s Ray from the train? Remember me?”

She was so engrossed in her show, she didn’t respond.

“Ray… the artifact, remember? Cradle, Russian, ring any bells?” Comically he mentioned the highlights of their conversation.

As it dawned on her who this Ray was, she sat up straighter.

“Uh, yeah hi Ray the artifact, what can I do for you?”

“If I recall correctly, we had a coffee date.” he said ignoring her jab.

“If I recall correctly, you are a budding alcoholic.” She said vehemently, trying to offend him.

Instead, he laughed.

“As I told you, I am Russian, alcohols in our blood.”

“Yeah, yeah. Look I am actually really busy at the moment…”

“Is that Criminal Minds I hear in the background?” Indeed she had forgotten to turn off the show.

“AS I was saying, Spencer Reid and I have a standing Criminal Minds date on the weekends and you are disturbing our alone time.”

“Ah, Spencer Reid. Many a great men have lost to his boyish good lucks and his nerdy charms.”

“You watch Criminal Minds?” She narrowed her eyes.

“Yep, does that win me brownie points?”

“I didn’t know we had established a point system.”

“We hadn’t, why not start now?”

“Sure, can I go now?”

“Yep, so coffee next Friday at Martha’s downtown? Let’s say seven-ish?”

The team was about to face the perpetrator, “Yeah sure, whatever.” She said transfixed, whatever to get off the phone.

“Okay, cool! It’s a date. See you soon.” He hung up quickly, knowing he won.

She looked at the phone, episode forgotten. Wait, what?

He looked at his phone as he hung up. Thank you Spencer Reid.

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Excerpt #15: White Russian

She knew better than to look anyone in the eye on the train. It was a recipe for disaster.

“Hello, hello, miss?”

Maybe if I ignore him he will stop. Concentrating on the music, she closed her eyes.

“Oy, Miss, you in there?”

“Yes, hello, apologies, I didn’t hear you the last 3 times, how may I help you?” she sighed.

“Do you know how I can get to ________? The announcer just said the train wouldn’t stop at the station.” He smiled at her, undeterred.

“Yeah, just take the shuttle at the last stop”

“Where’s the shuttle?”

“Just follow the crowd.” She began to put her earphone back on, eye contact averted.

“Miss?”

Sigh. And then it happened, eye contact made. Gorgeous blue eyes crinkled back at her, reminding her of someone else.

“Hi I am Ray.”

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Are you always this friendly or am I getting the special treatment?”

“That’s me, little Miss Sunshine, at your service,” she gave him a grudging smile.

He made small talk while she berated herself for making eye contact. Granted he wasn’t a pervert, but she never knew how to deal with beautiful eyes.

“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“20”

“Wow you are a baby! Like practically in the cradle” He guffawed.

“Well, how old are you?”

“25”

“Wow! You’re ancient, like practically an artifact!” She mimicked.

The woman sitting beside them burst into laughter. “Good one”

He shook his head.

“Wanna grab lunch sometime,” he asked.

“How about a drink?”

“But you’re not even legal!”

“Are we back to that again? Russians. I meant coffee.”

“Oh.”

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Giving Her Some Alone time: His Story- The Waiting Game

He checked his phone for the 5th time, waiting to see if she had messaged him. It was the third Friday straight she would be missing their weekly meet up and so far no message. She had messaged the last two times saying she was either ill or busy. But in class she seemed neither sick nor stressed. Well she seemed sad though. He just didn’t get it. Last time they met she seemed fine. Granted she left quickly, but she didn’t seem mad. So then: why give him the cold shoulder in class? Was she avoiding him? Why would she? It made no sense. He sat at their bench hands under his chin, elbows on his thighs.

What happened?

He remembered the first time he meet her, she was coming towards the classroom door he was lounging around. She was literally bouncing on her heels, her ridiculous layered skirt flouncing with her. She looked so fucking cute he had said hi.

“Hi”

She was walking with Judy and Twigs. “Hey?”

“I like that skirt you’re wearing.” What the fuck? WHAT. THE. FUCK? Did he just say what he thought he said? She was going to think he’s a pervert for sure.

He could see her eyes narrow infinitesimally, but she was nice. “Thank you, it was gift.”

“You’re welcome.” He grappled for something else to say, but found nothing.

She saved him the trouble. Looking at his mortified face, she smiled. “Are you in Prasad’s class also?” Then blushed, obliviously finding her question just as moronic since he WAS standing by the door. Her discomfort had made him more comfortable.

“Yeah, I heard he was the best.”

“Me, too.”

The classroom had opened and as the students began to file in, he looked at her. She smiled, “Why don’t you sit with us?”

And he did. They had been friends ever since. The beautiful girl with the flouncy skirt had become a part of his life that he couldn’t do without.

And now she’s nowhere to be found.

He flashed back to reality, checking his phone again. Nada. Zilch.

If he were to admit to himself, there were times he wanted to be more than friends, tell her what he really thought. But he could never do it. He wasn’t wired that way. Girls came to him, that’s how His Keeper-uh-Stacey came into his life… and stayed there. He rubbed the back of his neck. Stacey was whole another issue that he would rather not think about.

He thought about texting her again, but wasn’t in the mood for a terse reply that grated his nerve. He checked his phone again and got up to leave. As he walked, he reasoned, maybe she just needs time and would contact him when whatever was bothering her was sorted out. She was private that way. He would wait.

But no reasoning in the world could rid him of the nagging feeling that something had changed, and his fear that he would someday lose her friendship (which is the main reason he kept his feelings to himself) began to gnaw at him.

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Giving Her Some Alone time: August/Chase’s Story – When the Time is Right

The first time August met Chase was at the gym. Curious to a fault, August had tagged along with Her to meet the mysterious gym partner. She took an immediate liking to him. He was nerdy, but seemed friendly enough without any immediate flaws. She wasn’t shallow; she just believed people should present themselves to the best of their ability as a respect to others. She thought about the first day as Chase walked her home to her apartment.

“Do you remember the first day we met?” She questioned.

“At the gym right?”

“Yeah, I remember being curious about you.”

“You’re always curious.”

“Aren’t you glad I was, or else we might have never met,” She flipped her dreds at the idea of never having met Chase. It made her heart hurt.

“Of course I am. But we would have met regardless.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do. If not then, then later…it’s only logical. Once you became friends with her, you were bound to meet me.”

She sighed; he was as romantic as a bag of peanuts on Valentines Day.

“Aren’t you worried about her? Even a bit?”

“Of course I am, but she will get over it. Besides picking at her wounds won’t solve anything. Just give her time.”

“And us?”

“What about us?

“You are going to pretend there is nothing between us?” Seeing her friend in pain made her realize, she had to address this thing between them before it was too late. She couldn’t imagine a life avoiding Chase, like her friend was her crush.

“No, I am not pretending. I just didn’t realize you were ready to talk about it.”

“Well I am.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

“You’re really going to make me start? Fine, I really like you Chase, so much it bothers me sometimes, but you’re right I don’t know if I am ready for the type of relationship we deserve.”

“I understand.”

“You do?”

“Of course, I know I don’t say it much. But I do get it. We are at different points in life, you want to get established, and I want to explore the world. You want to make your name; I want to scratch my name into every continent. And I really like you too…if that wasn’t obvious”

She gave him a genuine smile and then continued, “And you’re okay with that? Us not being together?”

“No, I am not. But sometimes it’s better to wait for the right moment to start something, than to rush in and ruin it forever. “

“I don’t want to do that,” she whispered.

“August,” he held her hands in his and stopped walking, “look at me.” He waited till she did. “I promise you my feelings and I aren’t going anywhere, we will be right here until we, me AND you, are both ready.”

“What if that takes decades?”

“Then it will take decades. For now take it one day at a time. Think of it this way, there are worse things in life than waiting for the right moment.”

“Like realizing there never will be one?” She thought back to Her.

“Precisely,” he let go as he pushed up his glasses and his frown deepened.

As they resumed walking, she reached for his hand again and together they walked the familiar path to her place, not knowing where their relationship was heading but taking comfort that it had a future, however far in the distance.