Page 113 of We Were Once

He says, “My mom told me you were working in the city.”

“Yes, at City Medical a few blocks from here.” The way he looks at me is like he’s seeing an old friend. We were never that close, and a few dates in high school won’t change it now.

“Your dad must be proud.”

Newport loves to gossip. There’s no way he doesn’t know about the famous falling out of the Foxes, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. “We no longer speak.”

“I didn’t want to bring it up, but I was sorry to hear that.” I stop the eye roll because his words sound genuine. He looks up as a group of boisterous guys pass by the patio area. When his gaze slides back to me, he says, “I’ve been working abroad for the past three years, so I’ve lost touch with the old crew. It’s really good to see you again.”

Julie asks, “Where were you working?”

Smacking my hand to my head, I say, “I’m sorry for not introducing you. This is my friend, Julie. If the outfits didn’t tip you off, we work together.”

Curiously, the wall I used to raise around him doesn’t shoot up like a red flag. I watch as they shake hands and how the arrogance he once carried around like a badge of honor is nowhere to be found. Something’s humbled him—life? I’m not sure what it could be, but it’s an unexpected and pleasant turnabout.

He takes a step back, and says, “I should let you finish your meal.”

Julie says, “Oh gosh no. Stay. We were just talking about Chloe going to Salvation, that new—”

“I’ve been to that restaurant.” His eyes light up as if he’s grateful to have something to add. “It was really good.”

Julie adds, “Chloe didn’t get to eat—”

“I told you,” I say tight-lipped, “I had the poutine.” I know what she’s doing. The last time she tried to set me up, it didn’t work out so well. I shoot her a glare that Trevor doesn’t catch. “Don’t,” I mouth.

He says, “I haven’t tried their version.”

“We couldn’t get a reservation, so my mom, friend, and I shared an appetizer at the bar.” I sound more pathetic by the second, wishing I could leave my body now more than ever.

His hand touches my shoulder, the feel of him all wrong. He says, “I can get a reservation for tomorrow night.” Both happened too fast for me to stop him. Covertly, I angle out from under him. He’s none the wiser, and grins, but I’ve clearly sent the wrong message because he continues, “Would you like to go with me, Chloe? It’d be great to catch up.”

“I, uh.” My foot is kicked, causing me to glance at Julie, who is shaking her head yes so hard it might fall off. But when I look at him again, he seems sincere. Maybe this will be a good trial run of spending time with a man and building my confidence in dating again. That is if he’s not the same jerk he used to be under that expensive suit.

I promised myself to say yes more often, and he’s the first guy in line. “Sure. I’m off work tomorrow. I can meet you there.”

“I’ll text you the details.” Holding his phone up, he says, “I still have your number.”

“From high school?”

“Yep. I never delete a contact. You never know when you’ll need them again.”

I already said yes, but that alone makes me want to pull out of this date, but he’s already returning to his table.

Julie rests her chin on her hand and says, “He’s dreamy. What is it with you and all these hot guys who can’t seem to take their eyes off you? I’m so jealous.”

“There aren’t ‘all these hot men,’ first of all. And if you only knew the half of it—”

“I don’t even know a quarter of it, but I’m all ears.”

The check is set down between us and I grin smugly. “Too bad break’s over. Back to the real world, and Roger.”

“I sort of hate you right now,” she teases with laughter.

* * *

I don’t know why I said yes.

Not only is dating out of my comfort zone, but Trevor is especially. To help ease my nerves, I text Ruby on the car ride over: If you hear from me in ten minutes, call me right back.

Ruby: Oh my God! You’re on a date???????

I giggle that one question mark wasn’t enough, and text: Yes. Why am I doing this?

Ruby: Because one day you’re going to fall in love and wonder why you waited so long.

That’s a lovely notion, but I did experience love once, and it wrecked me in the end. Is it possible to find my forever this time around? Me: I think that’s your dream. Not mine.

Ruby: What’s mine is yours. Have the most fun and call me tomorrow.

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