The Nice Ass, Chapter 15

It was six o’clock before I knew it. Mary hadn’t called me back which, to my surprise, bothered me a little. Maybe she hadn’t had as much fun as I had. Casey, however, had called me almost as soon as I was back from lunch, and she wanted all the details. It had taken me an hour and a half just to get her off the phone, and she still never told me how drunk Rachel had been. I was beginning to think she was serious about keeping that girl away from me.
Another big consumer of my time was the damned iron. I’ve never ironed clothes in my life. When I buy clothes, I look for that little “wrinkle-free” tag. I want my clothes to be low maintenance. I do own an iron, though, which was handed down to me from my mother. From the looks of it, I assume it was handed down to her from her mother. Anyway, I had to call her and ask her how it worked, and why she gave me a special bottle of water to go with it, and what I could use in place of an ironing board, because I didn’t own one.
In the end, I went to the grocery store and bought a bottle of spray-on wrinkle remover. It took the wrinkles out. While the shirt might not look fresh-pressed, it no longer looked slept-in. I was pretty nervous about that because I wanted to look my absolute best for this date.
The tie, however, looked brand new.
And so, at six o’clock sharp, I was standing at the front door of Diane’s new house, wearing my suit and tie and holding a single long-stemmed rose that I’d picked up at a grocery store. (This was Casey’s idea. I had no idea that grocery stores even sold roses!) I was so nervous that I thought I might throw up. She called from inside for me to come in, so I cracked the door and called back.
“Good heavens, Ben,” Diane laughed. “I said come in. I’ll be out in one minute.”
“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t running around in a towel or something before I opened the door.”
I slipped into her house and closed the door behind me. In one evening, she had unpacked the entire living room and decorated it so that it felt like a home. This was one industrious woman. Again, that nervous twinge in my stomach reminded me that I should be intimidated.
“I’m dressed.” Diane was still in her bedroom. I grinned, thinking that women like to make an entrance when they know they look amazing. “I just had to find the box with my shoes in it. I also need you to zip me up. Come here.” So much for the theory about making an entrance. I set the rose down on her couch before I walked into her bedroom, and then I think I might have stood there, slack-jawed, for a week.
To say that Diane looked amazing would be the world’s biggest understatement. Even holding the front of her dress up and waiting on me to zip up the back, she could have attended the coronation of some European king and been the most beautiful woman present. She was wearing her hair down, and a black dress that looked tailored exactly to fit her, cut just below the middle of her thigh and showing off her legs.
“You can admire later,” Diane smiled and turned around. “Zip.”
I’m sure that husbands, sons, and boyfriends do this sort of task all the time and never think twice about it, but my only experience with the zipper on the back of a dress up to this point had been pulling it down, not up. Looking at her bare back, the very last thing on my mind was zipping her up. I also noticed another tattoo, an oriental character, in between her shoulder blades.
“Nice ink,” I said. “What’s it mean?”
“It means stop talking and zip up the dress because we have reservations,” Diane looked at me over her shoulder and gave me her best sultry look. “The idea of skipping dinner has crossed my mind a few times too. Now zip!”
Diane’s commanding voice startled me, and I zipped her up before I even realized I was doing it. As soon as I did, she turned around and kissed me full on the mouth. If she was trying to discourage me from stripping down and throwing her on the bed, this was certainly not helping things. It’s also not fair to say that she kissed me. I’m pretty sure I was kissing her back. I think a few months went by before we finally stopped to catch our breath.
“I, uh, have this rule about not going for a kiss on the first date.” My God, was I panting? How attractive was that?
“I told you, I’m counting this as the fourth,” Diane winked. I think she was panting, too. “Now let’s move into a room that doesn’t have a bed in it before I change my mind about dinner.”
I glanced over at the bed and nodded. Apparently her unpacking spree had not hit this room yet. Boxes were stacked along the wall, unopened. No decorations were out, save two candles on bedside tables. Taking my hand, Diane pulled me out into the living room.
“Oh, is that for me?” Diane asked, smiling at the rose. “That wasn’t necessary.”
“It never is,” I said. “That’s what makes it stand out. But don’t get used to it. I’m not really a flowers kind of guy.”
“After a kiss like that, I don’t think it really matters what kind of guy you are. I’m just glad we got that Chemistry test out of the way.” Diane smiled and took the rose into the kitchen. She was back in no time with the flower in a vase, which she set in the center of the coffee table. “I’m scared to climb into your truck while wearing this dress. I might get arrested.”
“We could take your Bronco,” I laughed. “Or I could be a perfect gentleman and open your door for you and stand there until you’re situated.”
“And have the show all to yourself?”
“Being a gentleman is not always without its rewards, but I won’t look.” Oh, but I wanted to look. I was still thinking about that bed. It was only twenty feet away. “We should get going. Don’t want to be late.”
“Yeah,” Diane said. I think she sounded a little disappointed. Maybe she was thinking of those twenty feet, too. “Let’s hurry.”
I held the truck door for her and helped her in, and managed not to look too hard.
“It’s surprisingly roomy in here,” Diane said as I climbed in the driver’s side. “It doesn’t look this big from the outside.”
“I’m not a big fan of driving tiny cars,” I said. “I like to be comfortable. The bucket seats are the only sacrifice I was willing to make in getting this. I like bench seats.”
“Like the song by Cake,” Diane smiled. It surprised me that I’d been out with this woman four times and never once discussed music. Music is a big deal to me, and I can usually tell a lot about someone by the type of music they listen to. The song she referred to was on the Fashion Nugget disc, which just happened to be in the center armrest.
“You like Cake?” I asked. I love asking this question, because, really, who doesn’t like cake?
“Who doesn’t like Cake?” Diane laughed. “I have all their albums. Speaking of music, what do you have in here? You can tell a lot about someone by what they listen to.”
The way our brains seemed to sync up was almost creepy, but in a good way. If creepy can be viewed in a good way. Diane was already opening the armrest and poking around. She pulled out the Cake disc and held it up.
“That’s almost creepy,” she grinned.
“But in a good way,” we said together, and both of us laughed.
“Who is Combichrist? And Wumpscut? And why are they in here with Willie Nelson? What’s the Thievery Corporation?”
“I am a very complicated man when it comes to music,” I answered, and left it at that.
“Oh, Tool,” she said, pulling it from the armrest. “I would have never guessed you were a rivethead.”
“And I would have never guessed you’d be someone to use the term rivethead to describe a fan of industrial music.”
She put in the disc, and advanced straight to one of my favorite tracks without looking at the case to find out which number it would be.
“So you like Tool?” I asked.
“Shhh!” Diane waved her hand, dismissing me, as the music blasted from the speakers. I hadn’t even noticed her crank up the volume, and I could feel my seat shaking with the beat. I grinned and sat back, hardly surprised when she started singing along. She couldn’t carry a tune very well, but I didn’t mind. It was good to see her enjoying herself.
Three songs later, we pulled into the parking lot of Sugarbaker’s. She turned the music down, smiling over at me. “I want to kiss you again, but I’m going to make you wait until after dinner.”
“Oh?” I grinned. “Should I assume that’s the first warning flag? That you’re a control freak.”
“Funny,” Diane smiled. “Just for that, I’m not going to tell you what that tattoo means.”
I got out and walked around, opening the door and standing guard as she climbed out. “I thought it meant ‘stop talking and zip up the dress because we have reservations.’ I’m fascinated with Asian characters. They can really pack a thousand words into one picture.”
“You’re such a smart ass,” she said, turning to face me. “I think I like that most about you.”
“I thought it might’ve been my patented Teddybear Physique,” I answered, extending my arm. “Shall we, Miss McLeod?”
“We shall, Mr. Stuckey.”
Living up to my self-proclaimed gentleman status, I held the door for her as we entered the restaurant. To my surprise, the man who seated us pulled out both of our chairs for us. I was beginning to think that this place was officially too fancy for me. When I picked up the menu and saw that nothing had a price listed, my suspicion was confirmed. Before then, I had only heard rumors of menus like this, and all of them revolved around fancy places.
“Hmmm. They aren’t running their ten-cent wings special tonight,” I said, trying to make light of my intimidation. “Too bad. They have the best teriyaki sauce.”
“You aren’t comfortable here, are you?” Diane asked. She was grinning, but her eyes looked a little worried.
“A gentleman would never admit to being uncomfortable,” I smiled. “I will simply say that while I have worn a tie to dinner several times, this is the first time that I’ve ever eaten in an establishment where the tie was not an option.”
“Well, I’m going to say that you’re handling yourself perfectly,” Diane smiled back. “And your tie is perfect. For being such a trooper, you get to pick the next date.”
“I don’t think I can one-up this place,” I laughed. “So it’ll have to be either a sports bar on game day or movies on a living room couch.”
“Deal,” Diane reached over and took my hand, giving a reassuring squeeze. “The steak here is to die for.”
“I suppose I’ll settle for steak, though I really had my heart set on wings,” I sighed with a grin. There were six different steaks on the menu, which blew my mind. “What are you going to get?”
“I having the house salad with the dressing on the side, and a bite or two of your steak.” She winked.
Our waiter came up as I was looking at the house salad. While I’m a big guy, there are times when I enjoy a salad. Assuming there is meat in it. Theirs had grilled chicken. If she was going to steal some of my steak, I might have to steal some of her salad as well.
“Good evening.” The waiter nodded his head with his entire torso, making it into a small bow. I had to keep myself from snickering. “What you would like to drink tonight?” He didn’t even glance at Diane, which meant one of two possibilities. He was either gay, or he expected me to order for both of us. I called forth all of my movie and book knowledge, as well as one visit to a wine tasting, and reacted as I thought appropriate.
“Let’s see. What would go well with steak and chicken?” I smiled, setting my menu down. “Do you have a cabernet sauvignon you would recommend?”
The waiter named off two without hesitation, and I picked the second one. It sounded more French.
“An excellent choice,” the waiter gave another small bow. “I’ll have a bottle sent out immediately. Would you like me to put your food order in as well?”
“Certainly,” I nodded. “I will have your 11-ounce porterhouse, medium rare please, with a loaded potato and house dressing on my salad. The lady will have your house salad with the dressing on the side, please.”
“Of course, sir.” Again, the waiter bowed, and then slipped off towards the kitchen. Not once did he ever look at Diane.
“And here I was, thinking that you were uncomfortable,” Diane whispered. “You handled that perfectly.”
“Beginner’s luck, I guess,” I smiled, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. “I’ve never ordered for another person before. Or ordered a wine, for that matter. I hope it’s not too expensive.”
“Don’t you worry about the price at all, Ben.” Diane squeezed my hand back. “Although, I slipped my credit card in your left pocket so that, when he brings you the check, you can hand it to him.” I slipped my hand into my pocket and felt the plastic pressed between my wallet and my thigh.
“When did you manage that?” I laughed. “I’m offended that your hand slipped below my waist and I didn’t’ even notice.”
“When we kissed,” she giggled. “I had set it on the dresser before you came into the bedroom.”
“You didn’t need help zipping up, did you?” This girl was clever. I would have to watch her more closely.
“Not at all,” Diane smiled, and squeezed my hand again. “I’m sorry if you feel like I manipulated you, though. I just thought that you might be a little nervous about letting me treat you to this evening. Maybe a little intimidated.”
“Oh please,” I winked. “You’re the least intimidating person I’ve ever met. You’re confident. You make crazy amounts of money. You’re beautiful. You’re clever. You’re a little bit bossy. What’s intimidating about that?”
“I’m a lot bossy, mister,” Diane laughed. “You can’t raise two kids and not appear to be in control at all times. They would take over in a second! Especially Laney. That girl has plans for world domination.”
“She’ll have to get in line,” I smiled. “I have seniority. But I promise to be a kind and benevolent ruler. Maybe you can be in my Cabinet.”
“That’s pretty kinky. Do you think we’d both fit?”
If it wasn’t for the fact that Diane’s conversation made me forget where I was, I might’ve remembered to be uncomfortable. The steak, as Diane promised, turned out to be the best steak I’ve ever had in my life. I was tempted not to share when her fork slipped over to my side of the table. The wine was good enough for us to finish the bottle, and I’m not a wine drinker by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t get to taste Diane’s salad, though. She fended off my fork with a small growl.
The waiter returned after the plates were cleared away, holding the bill. I decided I didn’t want to look at the price, in case Diane would get offended, and I simply handed him the credit card from my pocket. He took it and slipped off without a word.
“You didn’t look at the price,” Diane smiled.
“Whatever the price, I think I’m worth it,” I laughed. “Honestly, I didn’t want you to think I was being nosey. I’m sure it’s high enough that I probably would have fainted if I’d looked.”
“You are worth it, Ben,” she said.
When the waiter returned, he left the credit slip on the table and wandered off. I slid it to her side of the table without looking. She wrote in a tip and signed it quickly before sliding it right back beside me. I pocketed her card and smiled over at her.
“Are you ready, Miss McLeod?”
“I am, Mr. Stuckey,” Diane winked.
I pulled her chair out for her, held the door, and she hung on my arm all the way to the truck. Once again, I stood guard as she climbed in.
“I have a confession to make, Ben,” Diane whispered.
“I knew it,” I grinned. “You’re a transsexual, aren’t you?”
“No,” Diane laughed. “James just bought us dinner, though he doesn’t know it yet.”
“The bastard had it coming,” I said. “You’re positively evil, Diane.”
“I know,” Diane grinned and put her hand on my thigh. “Now take me home and get me out of this dress. I want to show you how evil I really am.”

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