Chapter 29 The ice-cream date

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Flora

As the rest of his family piled into the living room to watch TV, Sean stayed behind and cleared the dishes with me. His eyes were on the table, dark and preoccupied, and as usual I couldn't tell what was going through his head.

"What are you thinking?" I asked.

He looked up and smiled. "Not much. I'm just thinking you're really great with parents."

"I wasn't just trying to impress them, you know. I honestly like talking to them."

"I know, otherwise you'd say your hobby is volunteering at the soup kitchen instead of waking up in crisp white Egyptian cotton."

I smiled. "I can't help being myself, but I did try to be my best self."

"Why?"

"I thought it'd make you happy. You want your parents to like your friend who they've invited for dinner, right? Even if I'm just an ex-girlfriend." Linda's boyfriend really should learn a thing or two from me. If he took her seriously, he definitely should make an effort.

Sean lifted his eyes to my face and looked at me in a way that brought back many memories, like he adored me but didn't know what to do about it. "You're not just an ex-girlfriend," he said softly, then he took the dirty dishes to the sink.

"Hey, I'll do it."

"It's okay, I will," he said. "You've never done any house chore in your life, have you?" There was a teasing glint in his eyes.

"I make very good coffee with the coffee machine," I said, "and I can at least help you load the dishwasher."

Our fingers touched occasionally when he handed over the plates, and my heart jumped each time it happened. I scolded myself. This was a boy who I had done a lot of things with. I had touched many parts of his body which were a lot more off-limits, and I was freaking out about our fingers touching? How juvenile.

"So you feel lucky to be my history partner? This is new," he said.

"I can change my mind, can't I?" I peered at him briefly from under my lashes. "Actually, I left out a few things when I was telling your folks about how I like working with you. For instance, I didn't tell them that I really like it when you try putting up with my craziness with mild amusement."

"Mild amusement?" His eyebrows rose. "Try excruciating reluctance."

No need to argue with him because we both knew it was true. "When I get upset you drop your cocky attitude immediately. I also like that although you're stubborn and opinionated, you go through that drama thing with me even though you think it's stupid."

"Flora, are you giving me a compliment here or are you condemning me? I keep hearing words like cocky and stubborn," he said. I suspected he was embarrassed that I was suddenly saying nice things to him.

"I'm saying I love working with you."

We locked eyes. His blue eyes were as clear as crystals and he gazed at me fondly, just as back when he used to say I was the most unpretentious girl he'd ever met. It was so hard not to like him.

I dropped the line I had been building up the suspense for. "When you look at me like that, I just feel like I really, really want to kiss you."

He stared at me stunned, eyes wide and beautiful, not blinking. I knew he wanted to kiss me too but he was deliberating if it was a good idea. I raised my chin slightly. Our eye contact didn't break, and I hoped I could hypnotize him if I stared hard enough.

He leaned in and I closed my eyes, only to receive a peck on the left cheek. It was soft, light, and entirely too brief.

My eyes flung open. "Wow, a kiss on the cheek? Can I post this on Facebook and ask everyone what it means?" I said loudly. "Is he testing the waters? Telling me to stay away? Hallucinating and seeing his sick grandma?"

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