Chapter 5 - Part 2

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At least with the appetizers there the subject of the crowd outside was forgotten—for the moment. Hector asked the girls if they wanted a glass of beer or something else to drink. They each said they'd be fine with beer. He started to pour a glass, and Felix hurried to pour one too so he could get Ella's.

Why was he acting like such a schmuck all of a sudden?

To his relief Hector, handed the one he poured to Carmen, and Felix handed the one in his hand to Ella. At least the seating worked out. Since Carmen had sat next to Charlee, Ella sat across from them, leaving the seat next to her open. Felix snagged it. Carmen was now caught up talking Charlee and Drew's ear off about the self-defense class, and Felix finally had a moment to chat somewhat privately with Ella.

"So you come here often?"

The words shot out before he could even think them through. That was not how it was supposed to sound. He'd meant to take her somewhat playful comment back at the gym about coming here a lot and use it to start a safe conversation. One that wasn't too personal. Instead, he immediately felt like a douche using a cheesy pickup line on someone at a pizza place!

She smiled, and his eyes were instantly on her mouth. He'd been right about her having great teeth, but this close he could see it wasn't just her teeth that made for that nice smile. Her lips were perfect too. Almost sensual. Most people didn't have such perfectly shaped lips.

"Yes," she admitted, continuing to smile, and he had to force himself to look up at her eyes. "I've been coming here since I was a kid, and then in high school, this was one of the places where everyone hung out."

"Really? Did you go to Garfield?"

"I did." She nodded then added quickly. "And, of course, I knew you went there too. How couldn't I? The huge mural on the back wall of the gym was a dead giveaway."

"That was kind of embarrassing," he admitted. "I didn't even graduate from there. Halfway through my junior year I had to pull out because I began training to go semi-pro and started getting homeschooled."

"It still counts according to the administration there. They're very proud of their most famous and successful alumnus. If you hadn't left to be homeschooled, we would've attended school there at least one year together."

He looked at her skeptically. "No way. You're too young."

She shook her head. "I'm an early December baby, so I started school a little early. Just made the cutoff." With a sudden bashfulness, she added. "It was disappointing to say the least. One more year. I would've been a freshman your senior year."

Her smile went even more playful before sipping her beer. Felix couldn't get over how at ease she was talking to him despite the fact that she'd just admitted looking into what year he attended there then did the math. He'd gotten used to being amused that girls could be such total wrecks when they talked to him. Sometimes, just like her friend, they'd overdo it and talk way too fast because they were nervous. Ella had even asked Carmen very casually to slow down in the car. Meanwhile, just like now, Ella had been the essence of composed.

"Sometimes I regret missing out on high school," he admitted, taking a sip of his beer.

"Really?" She tilted her head.

With every movement she made, Felix noticed something new about her, like now. Hector was right. Nothing about her popped out at you. She probably wouldn't make your head turn at first glance, but he'd hardly call her plain. She had the kind of delicate features you had to study closely to appreciate. Like her lashes. They weren't big and thick like the ones on the models and television personalities he was used to dating. But they were long and curved and appeared to be all natural, nothing fake. Everything about her was like that. But Hector was right about one thing. She wasn't the type of girl he'd normally date. Ella was something else and then it hit him. That's what it was. She was what he'd heard so much about and had never gotten it. Ella had natural beauty.

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