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Old 07-28-2015, 06:36 AM   #4
loopytheone
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We were seated at a small table outside, per our request. It was a beautiful evening, and it would have been a shame to spend it indoors. The waitress brought us both glasses of water, took our drink orders, and went on her way. We hardly noticed. And neither of us were looking at the menu. We were doing this awkward but adorable dance between observing our surroundings, making shy eye contact, giggling, blushing, and repeating the process. At one point, I bit my lip and extended my hand across the table. Derek picked up immediately on the cue and laced his fingers through mine. It was different, looking each other in the eye, than it was sitting or standing side by side. Vulnerability is higher when you have to maintain eye contact.

The contact of our hands was like briding a gap between us. Conversation flowed out like water unleashed from a ruptured dam.

"I've missed you so much," I blurted, at the same time that Derek said, "It's so good to see you, Alex." We both laughed.

"How's work been, post-training?" Derek asked. I gave him the bare-bones details of the monotony of my job, shaking my head as I pointed out the rewrite I was working on for the software that would inevitably result in yet another training course. Although, hopefully, I would be running the next one, rather than attending. Negotiations were in the works.

"What about the coffee shop? Did it survive your absence?" I inquired. Derek reported that things had gone better than expected, and despite the weekly shipment of food being far more than the store could possibly use in a week, there were no major snags. It was good to hear about his day, so comfortable and familiar, but the tension between us was building by the minute.

When this train of thought came to its natural end, we found ourselves staring each other deep in the eye. Unlike the minutes before, we didn't uncomfortably look away, but it was still a very profound and vulnerable connection. The energy between us would have been deafening had it been translated into sound.

"Alex, what the hell are you doing here with me?" Derek asked finally. I was so taken by surprise that I couldn't do anything but shake my head and look at him with a confused expression.

"What are you talking about?"

Derek leaned back in his chair, the wood joints creaking in protest. The chair was uncomfortably small for him, it was clear. It didn't have arms, thank goodness, but it was a very small seat for a very substantial man. I tried not to focus on this, because I knew that he was uncomfortable, and it was slightly disconcerting to me that I was kind of turned on by that. He stretched one arm over his head, resting his hand on the crown of his head. He mussed that beautifully shaggy hair a bit. He appeared to be wistful, confused, hopeful and nervous, all at the same time.

"You're this gorgeous woman. You've got your life together. You have an incredible corporate job. You have job security for life, and you'll probably always be financially secure. You could have any guy in this city." Derek gestured at the plethora of attractive men milling about. I hadn't noticed any of them until Derek pointed them out. "And here you are, at this restaurant, with this 400-pound loser whose only idea of a career path is to make coffee for people who don't bother to tip. What's the catch?"

My stomach fell through the floor. Derek had seemed so confident once I got him to open up to me. Where was this self-doubt coming from?

"There is no catch, Derek," I said lamely.

He leaned forward, scooting his chair back, resting his forearms on his knees. I couldn't help but notice how his belly filled most of the space behind his arms, and I couldn't tell for sure, but I'm sure I blushed a bit at that realization. God, he was so beautiful; I hated that he was giving himself such a hard time. "No, see. There has to be a catch. Beautiful women don't like me. In fact, when I can get a beautiful woman to even acknowledge me as a human being, I have to spend forever convincing her that I'm worth getting to know, that I'm not a slob, I'm not lazy, I'm not stupid, and I'm not disgusting. And then, even if I can convince her to go on a date with me, even if she likes me as a person, it comes down to my weight. Beautiful women can't get past the fact that I wear size 54 pants, or that I can't ride roller coasters, or that I can't buy clothes at department stores. So what I want to know is whether or not you can see past that, because I'm already falling for you, and if you can't, I want to stop myself before I get hurt. Again." His face was pinched, pained. I could tell that he hadn't planned to gush out like that, but once it was out, it was out.

Right about the time that it was crossing my mind that the most inappropriate place for this conversation was a very busy restaurant, the waitress walked up and asked if we had decided on what we wanted. I looked up at her in a daze. She stared at me for a moment, I remained speechless, and she walked away, saying she'd come back in a few.

I sighed, and leaned forward on the table, speaking in a soft voice so as not to broadcast myself to every patron in the place.

"No, Derek, I can't see past it." I paused to make a point. Derek's face fell. I continued. "And I don't want to. Don't you remember how we were on the plane? How... the way I touched you? I can't imagine you forgot that already. You told me I could touch you like that any time. Remember?"

"Yeah, I remember," Derek said.

"Well? Between that and me not complaining about sharing half my seat with you, shouldn't that have clued you into a little insight about me?"

Derek stared at me. I could tell he was thinking hard, but nothing was coming out.

"You don't get it, do you?" He kept staring, eyebrows furrowed together. "I can't see past it because I don't want to see past it. I like your size, Derek. I like your body. I think you're stunning."

I was blushing furiously at this point, because even though I meant it, it was a very awkward thing to admit. Especially since it was clear that he wasn't going to just accept my confession. In fact, he was speechless for a long time.

"You don't make any sense," he finally said, in a soft voice. He didn't appear angry, just confused.

I couldn't help but laugh. "Take it at face value, hon. A beautiful woman thinks you're beautiful. What's to complain about?" I gave him my best gentle, warm, inviting smile. I didn't want him to doubt me, and certainly not doubt how attracted I was to him.

He smiled back at me, though his was a sad one. He picked up the menu and started browsing. With a sigh, I did the same. We studied the entrees in silence for a bit. At one point, Derek mumbled under his breath, "I'm damned starving." I laughed softly. Without putting my menu down, I replied with, "Then eat."

Derek peeked over his menu at me. I winked at him over mine. There was still that awkward tension that comes after a vulnerability is revealed, but I was determined to make him feel comfortable again.

When the waitress returned, she looked to me first. I gestured to Derek to place his order before mine. Derek went ahead and ordered, choosing a steak and pasta combination. The steak he ordered was a very large 18 ounce T-bone. He also ordered cream of potato soup and mashed potatoes as a side. I grinned at him, and he blushed a little, but smiled shyly. "Can't go to an Irish restaurant and not get potatoes," he said.

I agreed, and told the waitress I'd have the same. Both her eyes and Derek's got wide, though Derek's expression was considerably more surprised. It was a large amount of food. The best part was, I knew I couldn't finish all of it. Oh, I was going to try. And in the meantime, I was going to make Derek feel comfortable because even if he was eating a mountain of food, he wouldn't be alone. Well, maybe it would make him comfortable. I hoped. Otherwise I was going to eat a lot of food for nothing.
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