Alex drummed his hands on the steering wheel of his ancient Ford Escort as he slowly drove through Alyson's quaint suburban neighborhood. He was nervous, as he usually felt when he was about to see this girl. Yes, he saw her every day at work. Yes, he'd shared lunches with her a few times before. But tonight would be a different animal entirely.
Alex had finally asked Alyson out on a real date. The moments leading up to his asking were agonizing for him. But as soon as he had uttered the words, he felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from his shoulders. And it isn't as if he had done anything special to get her attention. He just walked to her cubicle at the end of the day. As she was shutting down her computer, he simply asked her if she'd like to have dinner with him. And she simply said yes, tacking on a smile for added effect. He smiled in reply and then they worked out the details.
And now he was on his way to pick her up. He was nervous all over again. If she had said no, well, he would have gotten over it. But since she said yes, he now felt the pressure of being cool and confident and conversational for the next few hours of his life. Alex had turned the stereo in his car off, opting instead to psych himself up for his date. He reminded himself that she already said yes, so it's not as if he has to impress her. He reminded himself that Alyson, while she may be the girl of his dreams, was still just a person who wanted to be treated with kindness and respect. Alex figured he could do those things.
He pulled into her driveway, turned off his headlights, grabbed the flowers he had bought, and walked up to Alyson's front porch. He rang the doorbell and was greeted by a strange girl wearing a bathrobe and holding a bag of chips. The girl looked blankly at Alex and his flowers.
"Uh..." He wasn't sure if he had the right house. "Is Alyson here?"
The girl turned her head and yelled, "Aly! He's here!" She turned back to Alex and held out her hand. "I'm Tasha, Aly's roommate. You can come in if you want."
Alex shook the roommate's hand and told her it was nice to meet her. In the background he heard Alyson say she would be ready in a few minutes, so he walked into the house and took a seat on the nearby sofa. Judging by the television, he had interrupted Tasha's regular ritual of chips and Ghost Whisperer. He felt a little awkward as Tasha went on pretending he wasn't there, occasionally munching noisily on her chips and salsa.
After what felt like an eternity, Alyson finally emerged from a darkened hallway. Alex may have been hallucinating, but he could have sworn that her entire face lit up when she saw him sitting there. He stood and handed her the bouquet that had been sitting in his lap.
"They're beautiful!" she said, "I'm so sorry it took me so long."
"What are you talking about? I love the Ghost Whisperer," Alex said, trying to be as polite as possible. Tasha, it seemed, didn't even realize a conversation was happening in her midst.
Alyson laughed and looked over at her nearly catatonic roommate. "I'll be back later. No wild parties while I'm gone." Tasha merely rolled her eyes and waved them off. Alyson looked back at Alex and said, "Let's get out of here."
Walking to the car, Alyson apologized for her roommate. "No, I thought she was great. Really into her TV though."
"Yeah, that's the way she's been lately. Really bad break-up about a month ago," said Alyson as Alex opened her car door.
Alex walked around to the driver's side and got in. "I hope you like Chinese. I made reservations for us at P.F. Chang's."
"I love that place. And I'm starving." Alyson just kept on smiling. They drove in silence for a few minutes before she finally said, "I was really glad you asked me out."
Alex was a little shocked at that statement and wasn't sure what to say. He concentrated on the road, making sure not to hit anything or anyone in his sudden elation.
"I mean, I know we see each other every day and I know we've had lunch before, but it's not the same as really getting to know someone."
Alex untied his tongue. "In that case, I'm sorry I didn't ask you out sooner."
Alyson laughed again. He didn't think he had said anything funny, but the sound of her laughter was amazing to him. "It's okay," she said, "just know I've been really looking forward to tonight."
Alex was still nervous about dinner, but suddenly, a great deal of his fears melted away.