Ariel patted his shoulder. "Go on."

Toby sighed. "Well, I'm just staring at her, and she sees me and asks me if I'm just going to stand there with a bunch of flowers in my arms or if I'm going to give them to her and open the door for her," he continued. "So I go to open the door for her, and I get the feeling she's judging me, and I know I'm giving a pretty bad first impression.

"And it only gets worse once we're inside. I try talking to her, but...I can't find anything to talk about with her. I try school, but that's boring, and we talk about that with our friends all the time. Then I try asking her if anything exciting has been happening to her this weekend. And she says, 'This date is supposed to be exciting.' And I feel like such an idiot because of course this date is supposed to be exciting. What was I thinking asking her that stupid question?"

"Oh Toby." said Ariel sympathetically.

"And the worst part is that at this point I know for sure she's judging me." Toby cringed a little just remembering it. "She's got her arms crossed in front of her chest, she's got her...her lips pursed." It was the only way he could think to describe it. "And she's just looking at me like she was promised a car for Christmas and instead got some ugly sweater. And I'm just sitting there, sipping soda and thinking to myself that I should've stayed home.

"After that we barely talked at all. We tried—I tried to start new conversations, but nothing worked." Toby sighed again. "So I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I don't actually go, I just stand in front of the mirror trying to get a grip on myself. When I finally get the courage to go back, I see some guy's sitting across from Lapis, and she's just laughing along with him."

"Who was he?"

"No idea." said Toby. "At least, not at first. I hid by a staircase where I could listen to them. Turns out the guy's the restaurant owner's nephew, and he saw Lapis sitting all by herself after getting off his shift in the kitchen and thought he'd go and talk to her. And Lapis is just telling him about how she was supposed to be having this great date, but the guy she's having it with is super-green. 'I thought that because his parents are pretty famous, that he'd be as scarlet as they are,' she said. 'But he's just a quiet little mouse'." Toby cringed again, remembering how close to home that one had struck.

"And he asks why she was dating me in the first place. And Lapis says, 'Because his parents are super-famous, he banged a senior in his freshman year and all my friends told me we'd make a cute couple!' And I...I realized that she'd never really wanted to go out with me. She'd just done it to shut her friends up."

He paused. Ariel took the opportunity to ask him a question. "Did you ever really want to date her?"

Toby seriously thought about the question. "I don't know." he said. "Maybe." He heaved another sigh. "Anyway after that, they got up and left. Guy paid the tab and everything, said he would show her a night she'd never forget. Lapis was telling him she'd enjoy that. They left, and after a minute, so did I. I got the car from the valet and headed home. It started to rain...and you know what happened next."

"Oh Toby." she said again. "I'm so sorry."

"Yeah, me too," he said. Ariel hugged him and tried to lean his head into her shoulder. Instead Toby missed the shoulder entirely and laid his head on her lap. Ariel accepted this, placing one hand on his shoulder, the other brushing his side gently. For the first time that night, Toby let out a sigh that wasn't full of sadness.

"You're the only one who gets me, Ariel." he said. "Nobody else makes me this happy or comfortable."

"Of course." she said. "That is what I am here for."

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