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Alexis VanZee
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"A Simple Red Rose"

Emma Pillers

My leg shakes nervously as I fidget with my keychain. I want to invite him inside, but I wonder if he will judge me.


I envision myself leaving my warm car and darting through the cold air, walking up the old steps with the blue chipped paint, opening the torn-up screen door, and then the wooden door. I imagine the door creaking loudly as it opens up to a mess in the living room, a mess likely caused by my lazy older sisters. I think, I don’t want him seeing that, and I quickly muster up an excuse to run inside. I awkwardly mutter, “I really have to pee, but I’ll be right back.” 


I rush through the bitterly cold air and down the poorly shoveled sidewalk into the house. I fold the blue throw blanket into a somewhat neat rectangle and drape it over the couch to cover the wear. I arrange the pillows until it looks decent enough. I pick up water bottles sitting on the coffee table and toss them in the trash, despite being half full. Returning to the living room, I look at my work and think, good enough, it’ll be dark anyway.


I rush back outside, down the steps, and into the running car. He just looks at me and smiles. Nervous butterflies fill my stomach. I wait a few seconds before asking, “Um, do you want to, like, go inside?” 


He responds, “Of course I do.” 


I still worry about what he will think of me after we go in. But none of that matters as he takes off his seatbelt and I turn off the car and take the key from the ignition. 


We step into the cold house and take our shoes off before sitting down on the couch. The dog starts to whimper in the other room, so I release her from the kennel. She scurries in and immediately jumps on the couch. He pets her and she lays down, so I allow her to stay. She sits in the middle of the couch, so I have no choice but to sit on the other side, apart from my date. 


We turn on a stupid show and laugh together. His long blonde hair sticks out from underneath his hat, and he still wears his jacket over his sweatshirt. The draft from the front door blows cold air directly toward the couch, so he curls up under the blue throw blanket. The TV screen dimly lights his face and I can hardly see his features: a strong brow bone, a bigger nose, and a soft jawline. 


I start to pet the dog, too, and I hope maybe he will take the hint that I want to hold hands. I stop and think this is so stupid, why don’t I just hold his hand and stop acting so awkward? I just keep petting the dog. She gets bored of sitting there, likely due to our awkward silence, and she does me a favor by getting up and running off to the kitchen, leaving us alone. 


With the dog gone, I slide toward him to lessen the distance between us. I lean in, and he puts his arm around me. I waited for this the whole time, and I wonder if he has too. His soft touch comforts me as he gently rubs my shoulder. He asks me a simple question, which sparks a long conversation. It feels good to talk to a friend I have known for what seems like forever. We do not pay attention to the time as we talk, and the show plays in the background lighting up our faces. 


I look down at my phone and notice the time. “Oh crap,” I say, shocked at how long we had talked, “you should probably head home.” 


He looks back at me with a tired smile. “Not yet,” he responds with a grin, “I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what I’m doing.” 


He wants to kiss me. I scoot in close to him, close my eyes, and just go for it. He barely kisses me back as his relaxed lips hardly come to a pucker. He didn’t lie when he said he didn’t know what he was doing. I don’t care about that, though. He needs to go home, but I don’t want him to leave. The nervous butterflies in my stomach fly around with joy. I think to myself—finally.

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