• Ben

23 December 2007

Updated: Sep 18

Vince offered to drive me into town tonight since he was picking Melissa S. up from Shellharbour. I didn't / still don't really feel like going out but I haven't hung out with him since my birthday.

It feels weird being picked up and driven into town by someone else. I'm not in control, I can't just leave when I'm over it.

We arrive at the North Gong Hotel around 7:30pm. I hang with Vince in the beer garden and we watch the life around us. To our left Melissa S. and her drab chain smoking girl gang stand in a rather lifeless circle. Why did they come out? By stark contrast across the way a group of girls, full of life laugh and converse. They're dressed well and look nice and I notice the Melissa I like is among them. I'd love to bump into her again for a chat, though I don't like my chances of that happening. I hear Melissa S. and her gang bitch about the pretty girls.

"Uh, look at that group of girls. They're so like 'Look at me!'" One of the drab gang says.

I know who'd I'd rather be around right now.

"You want to go for a walk?" Vince asks me. I get the feeling he also doesn't want to be around his girlfriend and her drab gang.

"Yeah, let's head this way." I say, taking the opportunity to move in the direction of the Melissa I actually want to be near.

A few steps in and we're almost there, but her back is turned to me and I have the feeling I've stuffed this up already by walking behind her rather than in front where she might actually see me.

Damn it.

Suddenly a voice leaps out at me.


And with shock and awe, I almost don't realise she's spotted me out of the corner of her eye and turned around to grab my attention. I must look surprised. She has a tall glass of white wine in her right hand, her purse in the other and she wears a red dress with an orangey-red pattern. She looks amazing.

"Hey, how are you?" I ask, pretending I didn't expect to see her there but actually still in shock that the pretty girl spoke to me.

"I'm good. Did you go to Daft Punk?" She asks. It seems everyone except me went to that concert.

I try to answer as casually as possible, hoping she won't think I'm not cool enough to go to a Daft Punk concert: "No, James was going to give me his spare ticket but it didn't work out. You?"

"No, I didn't go. It's not really my thing, but it seems like everybody's talking about it." She replies, modestly. I like that she didn't go either.

I add a line of nothing to the conversation: "Yeah it was just a few days ago." As if she didn't already know.

Meanwhile, Vince has been so quietly standing beside us I forgot he was there. He mustn't have expected this conversation be any more than a "hi" and "by". I wouldn't blame him if he did. But somehow the conversations feels like it's going to be a bit more than that. I should introduce him.

"This is my friend Vince, by the way". I say.

"Hi, I'm Melissa." She tells him.

"How do you guys know each other?" Vince inquires.

Melissa and I look at each other and sort of shrug as we both attempt to answer.

"Mutual friends…" She says.

"Through James…" I add.

Vince nods. His mobile rings and he excuses himself to answer it.

She chirpily begins a new topic. "Hey are you on Facebook?"

"I just created a profile like a month ago." I reply.

"Me too, we should be Facebook friends."

"Yeah for sure." I agree, noticing how well this is still currently going.

Vince gets off the phone and returns to us.

"Hey, Mel wants me to drive her home." He says.

"Oh really? Wait, you're my ride home." I say as the realisation that I'm going to have to leave now sets in.

"No, stay here and chat. I'll take her home and come back and give you a lift home later." He replies.

"Are you sure?" I'm gobsmacked that he would drive her all the way back to Shellharbour (especially since we've only been here for half an hour), and then return to North Wollongong (that's going to take at least an hour) and then later, drive south a second time for another 25 minutes to drop me back to Dapto before returning home to his place in Figtree, which is a further 15 minutes north again from my place.

"Yeah, yeah. No problem. Stay and chat." He says generously as if it's no trouble at all. "I'll come back." He adds.

"Ok well, just give me a call when you get back." I say as he heads off.

Melissa and I return to our conversation and I explain to her how far Vince has just committed to driving for me. She is just as surprised as I am. We continue to chat and time passes quickly. It seems like we're really connecting and I don't want this moment to end, but how much longer can it possibly go on for? My phone rings. It's Vince.

"Hey." I answer the phone.

"Hey where are you now?" Vince asks.

"I'm still talking to Melissa in the same place you left me." I say.

"Really?" He asks in astonishment.

It dawns on me that it has actually been an hour since he left. "Yeah."

"Ok I'll see you soon." He ends the call and I put my phone away.

Suddenly, without warning she extends her hands to give me her drink and purse: "Hey, do you mind holding these for a moment while I go to the bathroom?" She asks.

I get that sinking feeling this is where the conversation ends. I throw my hands up and defence: "Oh, no, I've heard that one before. You give me your drink and go to the toilet but never come back." I say, convinced that I've caught her out using the standard 'how to get out of a conversation' rouse for girls.

"No, I'm handing you my purse!" She retorts.

I look down and see she actually is handing me her purse. Does that means she trusts me? I guess she really will come back.

"Oh yeah." I say as a I take her things.

"Ok, don't steal my purse. I'm trusting you." She says with a smirk as she leaves for the bathroom.

I stand there by myself holding her items for a minute, thinking about what I must look like to the random strangers around me.

Vince arrives.

"Where is she?" He asks.

"She went to the toilet". I innocently reply.

He makes the exact same assumption I did.

"Oh, went to the toilet? So she's not coming back then." He says.

"No she gave me her purse to hold". I say, holding up the evidence.

"Oh wow, she must be coming back then. What have you guys been talking about all this time?" Vince asks.

"I dunno, just stuff. I really like her." I say. To think, I didn't feel like going out tonight.

Melissa returns and greets Vince again. Then (and I know it's out of respect for me so I can continue chatting with Melissa) he excuses himself to meet up with other friends and leaves. Melissa and I chat for a while longer until one of her friends come over to us. Melissa introduces Cara to me.

"Hi. I really like your jumper". Cara says, pointing out my beige coloured Ralph Loren Polo cashmere jumper I'm wearing. I won't mention it's a fake I picked up in Shanghai a few months back.

"Yeah I really like it too." Melissa chimes in.

"Thanks, I say." Even though I felt like I actually hadn't made an effort tonight since I didn't really want to go out.

Cara directs herself at Melissa: "So, a bunch of us are going to The Illawarra Hotel."

Melissa looks to me. "Do you want to go to The Illawarra?" She asks.

"Sure." I say. I don't really have to think about it. I'm just happy to be wherever she is.

I let Vince know where I'm going and he agrees to catch up with me later. Melissa and I pile into Cara's boyfriend's truck for a ride over to The Illawarra Hotel. On arrival we head to the bar and I offer to buy Melissa a drink. The girls find a seat and Troy (Cara's guy) and I buy the drinks. It feels odd being out with a bunch of people I don't know.

Troy leans in to speak to me at the bar. "Hey, so you like Mel then?" He asks with a type of confidence that tells me he probably goes out with a lot of girls.

"Yeah. She's really nice." I say, with a type of sheepishness that probably tells him I don't go out with a lot of girls.

"Ask her out then." He says, as if it were nothing. I get the feeling Cara told him to say that to me.

Vince calls just as talk of moving on to the Harp Hotel comes up so Melissa and I jump into his car and we drive over. Cara and Troy are supposed to meet us outside the hotel but there's something going on with them and now they're not coming. Standing on the street outside, I remember how much I really hated the Harp. It's an older crowd and at this time of night full of drunks. Melissa doesn't look too keen on it either. A light rain begins to fall.

"Oh no, it's raining. My hair is going to frizz up." She says.

I take my jumper off and hand it to her. "Here, put this over your head." I say.

She graciously takes my jumper and makes a scarf out of it. We agree the Harp doesn't look too appealing and I begin to consider the inevitable fact that we've reached the end of the night.

"We could go to Mumma's Pizza?" Melissa says.

"Yeah I could go for some pizza." Says Vince.

"I'm always hungry." I agree.

We sit inside Mamma's and share a pizza. Having worked there, Melissa knows the staff and they treat her like family. Finally, it's time to head home. Melissa looks at her mobile for the time.

"12 o'clock. Crap I forgot curfew." She says.

I am astounded to hear someone who is 21 years old say her parents have placed a 12 o'clock curfew on her, but I like that about her.

"We can give you a lift home if you want?" I offer.

"Are you sure?" She asks, looking at Vince.

"Yeah of course." Vince happily confirms.

We drive her home to Mangerton. The drive is less than 10 minutes from town but in my mind I'm rehearsing over and over how I'm going to ask her out on a date when we arrive at her house. She directs Vince and he pulls up outside her house. I get out of the car to say goodbye to her. It's time to muster up the courage and do what I've always been afraid to do… my heart races as my nerves take over.

"Hey, so maybe we can go out for dinner sometime?" I say as my heartbeat rapidly increases.

"Yeah, we should." She replies with a smile. I bet she thought I'd never ask.

"Ok, well I'll call you." I say with glee.

Thankfully at some point during the night she had even entered her number into my phone. I guess she wouldn't have done that if she didn't want me to call her. She gives me a hug and kisses me on the cheek before heading up the driveway to her house. I can't believe the night I just had. This is definitely the single greatest night of my life so far. I get back into the car, feeling pretty good about myself and Vince pulls off to drop me home.


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