Lee versus Li: First Things First
January 8, 2017
“A Chinese theater?”
Steve gestured for Darcy to take a seat in the back row before he answered. “Hold your judgment. This is a multi-phase date plan. Very complex.”
“Oh, I’ve no doubt.” She smirked, unbuttoning her cute new red wool jacket. Ever the gentleman, Steve managed to juggle the snacks and his drink and still help her out of her coat. They settled into their seats and Steve distributed the candy before Darcy spoke again.
“So I have to be honest here.” Despite the dark, cool stillness of the theater, whispering was not necessary. The only other people in the room were a couple of teenagers in the front row who looked and smelled like they were higher than the Chrysler Building. “When you suggested dinner and a show, this isn’t what I was expecting.” She shifted a little in her seat and her shoes stuck to the floor. “Subtitles aren’t my usual go to, and my Mandarin is a little rusty. Although a matinee is cool – I haven’t been to one on a date since junior high. And fair warning, even though my dad drove us in his cruiser, Benji Walters still had the cajones to try and kiss me afterward. It was really impressive. If he hadn’t eaten all my jujubees I probably would have let him.”
“I did spring for your own box of candy.”
Darcy turned in her seat to admire Steve in the low lighting. He was smiling. It looked good on his handsome face – although she had yet to see an expression that didn’t. If it weren’t for the way he was repeatedly smoothing his palm across the top of his thigh she would have believed he was just as relaxed as he was trying to appear. But he wasn’t relaxed – he was nervous. That was flattering and absolutely adorable. He wasn’t even half as bad with women as Bucky and Sam made him out to be, but he apparently didn’t know that.
“Oh, sure,” she nodded. “You get points for generosity. But Benji had to mow like twelve lawns to afford movie tickets, so I think as a percentage of income, he was the bigger spender.”
“That important to you?”
“In the grand scheme of things?” She shrugged and made a face, leaning against his shoulder unnecessarily to review the bucket of popcorn in his lap as if choosing the correct kernel required a lot of assessment. “Nah, not really. Originality trumps cost every time. And I have zero problem going dutch if that was understood to begin with. I mean, there were a lot of times in college when you brought your own drinks on a date – you know? And that’s cool, people have the finances they have and being the female in a relationship does not entitle me to free drinks or imply any sort of obligation for the same.” He was nodding and hadn’t tried to move either toward or away from the generous side boob she had snuggled up to his bicep. Darcy popped a single piece of popcorn in her mouth, watching how he followed the motion.
“I mean,” she continued after she swallowed, “I’m a modern girl, I always pack my own condoms.” Steve made a strangled sound of acknowledgment and Darcy had to fight a grin. “Everyone should be capable of taking care of themselves and expect others to be able to do the same, but the offer is still nice. Like, I’m always going to bring my own protection, cause that’s just smart, but if he planned for safety too that says something about how invested and responsible he is.” She leaned in again to speak in a stage whisper, “Benji didn’t even bring any gum for his breath. Seriously? He was never going to get any sugar with that kind of game.”
“So fourteen year old Darcy,” he began, but she interrupted him.
“Thirteen year old Darcy broke poor Benji’s heart because he ate your candy and tried to kiss you with popcorn breath.”
“Uh,no. Thirteen year old Darcy broke Benji’s nose after he told all his friends he had gotten to second base with me. I didn’t get a lot of dates after that, but his class photos were ruined with two black eyes and, according to Facebook, his nose is still crooked.”
“Sounds like he got what he deserved. A gentleman would never besmirch a lady’s virtue – lie or not.”
“Besmirch? Oh my god, you are such a dork.” Darcy pushed gently at his shoulder. “I did get to see a Jack Black movie – which was a formative part of my youth. I think I listened to the entire Tenacious D album like a thousand times that year. So, moral of this story? I am cautiously optimistic about your game plan here, but you’ve been warned about my standards.”
His eyes were crinkled at the corners like he wanted to laugh but he managed to hold himself down to a smile. “Don’t eat all the snacks. Be prepared to pay. Bring condoms but don’t expect to get to second base. Are those all the rules?”
“Excellent listening skills, soldier.” She reached for another piece of popcorn and tucked her hand over his elbow on their shared arm rest. The lights began to dim, casting him in the flickering glow of the warnings to keep their feet off the seats.
“First time I took a gal to the pictures was to see The Man Who Knew Too Much. Bucky set up a double. My date and his held Buck’s hands through all the scary parts and I ended up walking home with my neighbor, Gertrude Akheimer.”
“Was she your age?”
“Couple years older.”
“Whoo-hoo. Sounds like you got the better end of the deal. Older woman, walking home after dark. Did you get a kiss out of it?”
He snorted. “Yeah, actually. We got harassed a couple blocks from the theater. Three guys. I got in maybe one or two hits before Gertrude smacked one with a brick and kicked another in the, uh, balls.” Darcy chuckled at the blush darkening his ears. “She mothered me the whole way home. Kissed me and called me a brave boy. I’d never been so embarrassed in my whole life.”
“Was it a good kiss?” The intro credits had started and Darcy had to lean in against him to make certain he heard. It had nothing to do with enjoying the feeling of his body heat against her. At least, that was what she would have said if anyone asked.
His head was turned forward, but Darcy didn’t miss the way his eyes cut to her. “It was on my forehead – she was a half foot taller than me. And her breath smelled like cigarettes and licorice.”
“Don’t worry,” she whispered back, close enough that her words ruffled the short hairs above his ear. Her lips tingled with the urge to press them against the hinge of his jaw. “I brought gum.”
The blush spread down his neck and his lips quirked in a smile. “Shhh. I’m trying to watch the movie.” Bruce Lee came into frame on the big screen and Steve’s fingers threaded through Darcy’s.