Friday night, date night. Ben didn’t tell me where we were going, just to dress casual. I liked that he was surprising me and that he genuinely liked me. Eric was into the sex, that much was clear, but I was starting to realize he wouldn’t want a relationship with me. In public we were still only friends, and he made it perfectly clear by keeping his distance from me. He could tell me all day long that he thought I was pretty or beautiful, but he didn’t treat me like it. I wasn’t saying he treated me bad. He just had a type, and I didn’t seem to be it. I was still thicker than what he was into. Whatever. I could’ve been making it up in my head, but that was what it felt like.
That was why I kept Ben on the line. He wasn’t embarrassed of me. It was almost like he wanted to flaunt me. We ended up at an open mic night at a local bar, watching some awesome singers. Anytime a guy would look our way, he made sure his arm was around my shoulder or my hand was in his. He didn’t hide that fact that he liked me and it said a lot about him that he was willing to challenge my time with Eric. I also hadn’t told him who the other guy was.
“You want a drink?” I asked over the guy singing a slowed down version of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop. It was pretty cool. I was still doing good on my lifestyle change, so one or two drinks wasn’t going to kill me.
“Just a 7-Up for me,” he answered.
“Do you mind if I drink alcohol?” I asked. I’d noticed he didn’t drink. I wasn’t sure if that was for a reason.
“Not at all.”
“Okay,” I smiled. I leaned over to kiss his cheek before I got up and made my way through the bar. It was packed. The atmosphere was nice. I hadn’t been to a lot of bars since moving to town, but I had a feeling I would be back.
When I got to the bar I looked back while I waited to be greeted. Ben was watching the performer. He had this adorable thing about him when he smiled due to the dimples. He also had an amazing laugh. He wasn’t smiling, though. He was focused on what the guy on stage was singing and I noticed for the first time he had a tired look to him. He was an extremely handsome man, but it was obvious to me that his job was wearing on him. Getting a dog was probably going to be good for him.
I turned when the bartender greeted me and was excited when he confirmed they had the skinny vodka. I ordered a vodka tonic and Ben’s 7-Up. I was pleasantly surprised to learn they didn’t charge for soda. I was pretty sure they made enough on alcoholic drinks for it to be a wash.
I worked my way through the bar again, reclaiming my seat next to Ben. I set his drink on the table in front of us and casually rested my hand on his thigh. I wasn’t into sleeping with two guys at the same time, seeing as I wasn’t dating Eric, but being a little more physical wasn’t going to hurt. I had a feeling that in the end Eric was going to realize I was nothing but a rebound to get back in action after his last breakup. The hooker didn’t count.
“Thank you.” Ben put his hand on mine. “Are you a singer?”
“Not even close,” I laughed. “I sound like a cat in heat when I try to sing. Are you?”
“I’m not terrible,” he said with a little smile. I wasn’t expecting it when his name was called.
“Are you kidding?” I asked, my smile growing.
“Wish me luck.” He leaned over to kiss my forehead and then got up to go to the stage.
I was floored. I liked learning new, fun things about him. I also liked the way he treated me in public, not that Eric treated me bad– No, no more Eric on a Ben date.
I started clapping like a wild women, whistling for him as he took the stage. Ben picked up an acoustic guitar and took a seat on a painted purple stool. He strummed the guitar a few times and tuned it up a little.
“I uh, I brought a date with me tonight. She’s never heard me sing,” Ben said, earning him more applause. “So Sookie, I hope this won’t kill the evening,” he added with a charming smile aimed at me before he started to play a song. “This is a Ryan Adams song called ‘If I am A Stranger’.”
At first I was struck by how good his voice was. There was a slight rasp to it that I just loved, but then I started listening to the words. It was a song I’d heard quite a few times before, and as the words flowed through the speakers I had to lean back and stop the tears from forming. I couldn’t figure out why, I just felt so much emotion.
I didn’t realize I was so affected by it until Ben made eye contact with me and I reached up to wipe a stray tear. I knew he wasn’t serenading me, it almost felt like it, though. It was one of the best dates I’d been on and it wasn’t even over yet.
When the song ended Ben actually blushed when the room erupted in applause. He deserved it. I stood up from my seat and waited for him to make it back to our table.
“That was amazing,” I smiled at him when he approached.
“Thank you. I’m glad you liked it,” he replied. Ben kindly wiped another tear off my cheek. “You did like it, right?”
“I loved it,” I confirmed. “You have an awesome voice.”
“Awesome might be pushing it, but I did used to sing in the choir at church,” he told me.
“Awesome isn’t a good enough description,” I giggled. “You do seem like a sweet church boy,” I teased, reaching out to take his hand.
“I have my moments,” he agreed. “Do you want to stay a while longer?”
“If you like,” I shrugged. “If we leave, do we have another plan I don’t know about?” I asked. I picked up my drink from the table to take a sip.
“I was just thinking we’d take a walk and get some frozen yogurt,” he told me.
“We can do that.” I’d seen a frozen yogurt place on the way. I wasn’t that worried about finishing my drink.
“Then let’s get going.” Ben’s hand found the small of my back to guide me out of the bar to his car.
He opened my door for me, helping me in before he closed it and walked around to the driver’s side. I had my seatbelt on and didn’t hesitate to rest my hand on his thigh once he was buckled up. The music was low when he started up the car and we stayed fairly silent during the short drive. There was a small strip mall that had some touristy shops along with the yogurt shop. Part of me was hoping he’d at least kiss me good night later, but the other part knew I was probably going to be in bed with Eric the next night. Even after our little… I wasn’t sure what it was, we hopped right back into bed the next night.
Shit. No Eric.
“I haven’t been here,” I said once we were parked and out of the car.
“Me either, but there’s a female deputy who swears by it,” Ben told me. He held the shop door open for me. “She said the green tea flavor is pretty good.”
“I’ll let you get it and you can let me know how it is,” I chuckled. “I’m a vanilla girl.”
“Awww come on, where’s your sense of adventure?” He nudged my side.
“I’m plenty adventurous. I went after that giant lizard on the trail, didn’t I?” It was the biggest gecko type thing I’d ever seen. I needed a selfie with it.
“You can order mine and I’ll order yours,” he suggested.
“Hmm, that could get interesting,” I grinned. “Sure, I’ll let you order mine. No super sugary toppings, though. Is this a build your own place?” I asked as I looked around.
“I think so.” Ben let me go ahead of him to the counter to start making his ‘sundae’.
I tried not to look at was he was ordering since we were getting them for each other. I went to the other kid standing there and ordered him a scoop of cheesecake, the green tea he was talking about, and blackberry. It looked good, but I really was a vanilla girl. It was a good base for tasty toppings. I was even sweet and ordered mostly fruit topping, with a few brownie bites and Fruity Pebbles for good measure. He wasn’t on a lifestyle change, and I could have a bite, right?
“What are you working with?” I asked as we walked away from the counter and took a seat near a window. I placed my masterpiece in front of him before I took my seat across from him.
Ben presented me with a bowl topped with blackberries and some kind of drizzle…
“It’s the mojito and some peach with a little coconut with blackberries on top and a drizzle of pineapple syrup,” he told me.
“Looks delicious,” I smiled. “You make me feel lame with the green tea, cheesecake and blackberry. I’m excited to taste the Fruity Pebble topper.”
He chuckled and said, “Cheesecake is my favorite dessert, just so you know.”
“Good to know,” I winked. “Mine was vanilla ice cream on top of a hot brownie, but that’s all gone to shit.”
“Well, you could probably still have it, just once in a blue moon,” he said. Ben went for the blackberry yogurt first and nodded his approval. “That’s amazing. You want to try it?”
“Sure,” I smiled. He scooped up a little in his spoon and offered it to me. I took the offered bite, moaning softly. It was amazing. “You want to try any of these flavors?” I went straight for the mojito.
“Surprise me,” he smiled and took a bite of the cheesecake flavor.
I tasted the mojito before I grabbed a little for him on the spoon, coupled with a fresh blackberry and offered it to him.
“Okay, that might be my favorite,” he said after he swallowed.
“It’s amazing, right?” I smiled. I went back at it and double dipped the peach and coconut. I officially loved them all.
“I’m glad you like it,” he said. Ben got a bite of the brownie and cheesecake together. “Mmm… Damn, that’s good, too.”
“We’re never going to eat real food again,” I laughed. At least I wasn’t going to.
“Who needs it?” he asked with his mouth full of cheesecake yogurt, brownie bits and Fruity Pebbles.
“You’re cute,” I told him. He wasn’t as forward as… the other guy, but he was sweet and not as boring as he seemed at first. I liked him a lot more than I probably wanted to.
He gave me a little wink and tried the green tea yogurt. Ben thought for a minute before giving his review. “It’s not as strong as I thought it would be with the color. I don’t know if it’ll ever be my favorite, though.”
“I could’ve told you that, but you mentioned it so I had to get it for you,” I told him. “Of the three the peach on its own is my least favorite.”
He nodded. “I guessed. I debated between that and the raspberry.”
“Hmm, I think I would’ve preferred the raspberry,” I admitted.
“Well then I’ll know for next time,” Ben smiled. “Raspberry with the cheesecake would be good.”
“That would be orgasmic,” I nodded. “Raspberry cheesecake is a close second to my brownie fetish.”
“My favorite is a coconut cream kind of thing my mom used to make,” he told me.
“It sounds good,” nodded. I worked my way to the pineapple drizzle. “This is too sweet for my taste,” I admitted. I put a little on the back of the spoon to offer him.
Ben tasted it and said, “I’m glad I went easy on it.”
“Me too, but it’s not bad with the coconut. I think everything will be good with this coconut, though,” I chuckled.
“I figured it would be like a pina colada.”
“Oooh, it is a little bit,” I agreed, taking another bite. “Have you been walking around this area before?” I asked. “I haven’t gotten out much other the last few years.”
“Not too much. I’ve driven by this place a hundred times but never stopped in.”
I smiled at that and took another bite. Ben and I finished our frozen yogurt within a few minutes later. When we left the shop he took the initiative to take my hand as we walked along the little strip mall. The sun was down so there wasn’t much for us to see in way of scenery, but it was nice nonetheless. We reached the end and there was an overlook that seemed like it would have been a great view if the sun was up.
A slight breeze kicked up, making me shiver a little. I didn’t want to get my hopes up for a kiss, but he’d been so shy about it, so I refused to hold my breath. I just needed to know if it was any good. I leaned my back against the railing while Ben stood in front of me holding my hands. It was sweet… like Ben.
“Have I ever told you how much I like your eyes?” Ben asked me.
“No,” I replied softly.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen eyes this color. Like peacock blue.” Ben stepped closer to me and he glanced at my lips. “Or maybe like a stormy Caribbean ocean…”
“Hmm, they’re the same color as my mother’s, or so I’ve been told,” I told him. Our eyes were locked on each other’s. His were a beautiful hazely green color. They were gorgeous.
“They’re beautiful.” That was the last thing he said before he finally kissed me.
It started soft, which was fine. Ben’s hands slipped around my waist as I felt his tongue lick the seam of my lips. As soon our tongues touched I was… I felt…It was good, but…
I pulled back to look up at him and said, “You’re a good kisser.” Because he was. I couldn’t quite tell if the spark was missing for him too.
“So are you,” he agreed. Ben tucked some of my hair back and leaned in to kiss me again.
I gave it a second shot just to see if it was nerves or maybe we had to get used to it… Nope.
“I can’t,” I said against his lips. I turned my head and added, “It doesn’t feel right.”
“Oh,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. He looked genuinely disappointed.
“Me too. Is it… Did I do something? I thought we were doing well,” he said.
“No, you didn’t do anything. I think you’re amazing,” I said sincerely. “And we were, but I didn’t feel the spark I should feel when I kiss you. I’m really sorry, Ben.”
He sighed heavily.
“Me too. Is it the pineapple syrup?” He tried to joke.
“No,” I replied with a humorless laugh. I was highly disappointed. “And you are a good kisser, really. We could try again, but I don’t know if that magic is going to happen for us.”
“Is it the Vegas guy?”
“No.” Maybe. “It’s not going anywhere with him,” I admitted because I truly felt like it wasn’t going past sex with Eric, as much as I wanted it to.
“So… This is it?” Ben looked… sad?
“I think it has to be.” I dropped my arms to my sides, letting go of his waist.
He nodded and I could tell he wasn’t happy. Ben took a step back and turned away from me.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized again.
“Me too,” he replied. Ben started to walk again toward where he’d parked.
I stayed put. I didn’t want an awkward ride home. I was sure I could get a cab. I probably could’ve called Eric, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing it wasn’t going to work out with Ben just yet. I reached into my purse to grab my phone out and went to browser to look up local cab companies. I just found a number when Ben came back and offered me a ride home. I declined it. It had to be the end.
With one last sad puppy look Ben walked away and I called the cab company. In the back of my mind I think I always knew it wasn’t going to work with Ben. He was kind of boring, and very safe. Ultimately, he wasn’t what my heart wanted and that wasn’t fair to him.
It wasn’t fair to me either.