Okay. So I had blown Winter off at first, which was not cool. After all, with all the insanity in my life right then, she was the best thing I had going for me. It was total serendipity that someone so cool and funny and vivacious had come into my life right when everything else was so odious. There was no way I wanted to screw up our nascent relationship, so I decided to make it up to her. I came up with a perfect plan, and I wanted it to be a surprise. So that day at lunch, I invited her over to study later that night. She looked at me a bit suspiciously when I asked, but agreed.
My parents had a PTA meeting that evening, so Winter and I would have the place to ourselves. She showed up right on time, and when I answered the door, I was nearly stunned by her pulchritude. Under her denim jacket, she wore a white sweater with a furry collar, and her cheeks were flushed pink from the chilly autumn air. Every time I saw her, I swear she got more and more gorgeous.
“Hi! Thanks for coming,” I said.
“Hey there, football star,” she said with a smirk. She shrugged out of her jacket and shoved it at me rather roughly as she passed me by. She stopped at the entryway to the living room, where I had dimmed the lights and lit a bunch of candles. On the table was an overflowing bowl of popcorn, several smaller bowls of candy, and a stack of DVDs.
“So, this is your den of iniquity?” she asked. “I like the snacks. Nice touch.”
“Huh?” I looked over my shoulder as I hung up her jacket in the front closet. It smelled like strawberry gum. “My what of what?” I asked.
“Don’t forget who you’re dealing with here,” Winter said, dropping down on the couch. “I know your parents are both teachers, and I know they’re out tonight. Why do I know this? Because my mom is on the PTA. And I know how you guys and your prurient minds work. So when you invited me over here to ‘study,’ ” she said, throwing in some air quotes, “on the one night your house is deserted, I knew you had only one thing on your mind.”
She looked at me with a teasing, knowing smile. I stared at her from the doorway. “Your mind works in mysterious ways,” I said.
“Please! Don’t try to deny it. What are these, porn?” she said, grabbing the first movie off the stack. She looked at the title and her jaw dropped slightly. Now it was my turn to smirk. “Fools Rush In?” she read, then picked up the next movie. “While You Were Sleeping . . . Just Married . . . You’ve Got Mail . . . 13 Going on 30. Oh my God. It’s the most vacuous collection of films I’ve ever seen. Where did you get all these?”
“From my mom’s collection,” I said, sitting down next to her. “She watches them incessantly. She loves them too, although for very different reasons than you.”
“I don’t believe you did this,” Winter said, looking around at all my efforts, enthralled. Clearly she was seeing the room in a whole new way. “I’m so sorry. When you said you wanted to study, I figured it was a spurious story—”
“Well it was, just not for the deviant reasons you had in mind. This was just a surprise to apologize for being such a moron this morning,” I said. Then I slid a bit closer to her and wrapped my arms around her tiny frame. “Although, you did come over even though you thought I was going to try something, so if you were interested . . . ,” I joked, waggling my eyebrows.
She whacked my arm. “Hey. Don’t make me repent my repentance,” she said.
“All right. Can’t blame me for trying,” I said, pulling away with my hands raised. She rolled her eyes at me. “But seriously, I just wanted to apologize for blowing you off by the lockers,” I told her. “I had a lot on my mind, but it’s no excuse.”
“Darn tootin’ ” she said.
“Did you just say ‘darn tootin’?” I asked.
“I’m a very layered and complex person,” she replied, grabbing a handful of popcorn.
“Also big on extolling your own virtues, I notice,” I teased. She tossed half the popcorn in my face, and it tumbled down my shirt. Point taken. “All right then. Which should we watch first?” I asked, brushing myself clean.
“First? We can’t watch all of these. We’ll be here all night,” Winter protested. “And in case you’re forgetting, it is Monday.”
“I know. But I was thinking we could make it sort of a standing date,” I told her. “Every week we can watch another one, and you can tell me how rife each one is with problems.”
I knew that this plan implied that I was hoping for a long-term relationship here, and I wondered how she would take it. She didn’t even seem to notice. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad sign, but I would have to roll with it.
“Ooh! I like it,” Winter said, bright-eyed. “Then let’s start with 13 Going on 30. The laughable scenes are manifold. Plus they acted like it was all high-concept, but it is so derivative of like a million movies. I really felt bad for Mark Ruffalo, I gotta say. But then he went and made Just Like Heaven, which kind of made me wonder about his intelligence.”
“Wow. You’ve really put a lot of thought into this,” I said, popping the movie in.
Winter smiled. “You have no idea.”
We settled back into the couch together to watch, and as Winter curled into my side, I realized I hadn’t felt so serene in days. Just having her with me calmed all my tensions and guilt and fear. For the next two hours, I resolved that I wasn’t going to think about gambling or my mistakes. I was only going to think about her.
“This is really cool, Mike. I wish I could do something to reciprocate,” she said as the movie started. Then she turned her face toward mine and kissed me.
I smiled happily. “That’s all you needed to do.”