"Rose, Rose?" The voice repeated over and over until the voice's owner shook her gently. She blinked and a teardrop rolled down her cheek. She shook her head, and came back to the present time. Funny, she remembered every single detail of that night, from the slick feeling of the pavement, to the way he took off his shirt.

She looked in front of her, and realized that she was in a café with Joshua sitting across from her, holding her shoulder like a death grip. He let go when she looked at him sadly.

"Did you know-" she looked at his worried face, smiling faintly "-I quit ballet after that night. Until you sent me that familiar red envelope three weeks ago. I started again after that."

He was touched. He knew that ballet was one of her greatest passions, and he was glad that she was starting on it again. He chose his words carefully, for he too had been thinking of that night.

"I hope, wish is more like it, that you can forgive me for acting so selfish. I knew I shouldn't have acted liked that, but I really wanted to be with you. I know this apology won't really do anything-" She stopped him by putting an index finger across his lips.

"You're right. It won't really do anything, Joshua. I've gotten over it, but let me tell you something." She lifted her finger away. "I couldn't date anyone else after that. I was insecure about the idea of getting serious so soon. I was full to bursting with all this pressure from my parents; it was increasing by the day before the start of college." She paused and sighed deeply, looking down and cupping her hands around her blue mug of cold tea. "I contemplated running away to my aunt's house in Florida, but then I realized that I couldn't be a coward, I had to stand up for what I believe in. That's why I didn't want to get involved with you back then, but now, who knows?" She smiled sorrowfully, her eyes haunted.

"I wish I could do something, anything, to get rid of your suffering," he said sincerely. She smiled warmly, and seemed to brighten as he clasped his hands around her tiny hand.

"Suffering is what makes us who we are, Josh."

At that exact moment, the waiter that asked for Rose's phone number came uncertainly with the enormous slice of chocolate cake. He set down the forks and all but ran off.

She smiled ever so sardonically as the waiter left. "Well, congratulations. You just scared off a potential relationship with that handsome waiter."

"Handsome? Handsome! Hah!" He dug into the cake with anger. She rolled her eyes and joined him. She only ate a bite and stared out the window, it was now enfolded in the early darkness.

"Rose, come on! Eat more!" Joshua said when the whole slice was gone.

She looked at it and said, "I don't think I can. It's already been eaten by the bottomless pit sitting right across me."

He looked down, sheepish. "Oh, right. Sorry about that. I was really, eh, hungry." She laughed again and he reddened.

"Here, I'll pay," Joshua said as he reached for the check that the waiter nervously brought. She shook her head as he counted the wad of cash from his wallet.

"Such a perfect gentleman," she said teasingly. He put on Rosario's coat for her and then his, and put on her hat for her as well. He tucked his fedora on and they were just about to leave when Rosario spotted something on the table and sighed exasperatedly.


"What?" He asked innocently. Snarling, she reached into coat pocket and threw down a couple of dollar bills. She slapped him hard on the back as they went out through the door, the bell above tinkling merrily.

"He doesn't deserve a tip! He tried to hook up with you, remember!" He protested, as they walked under the rows of bright street lamps.

"He served our food, that's all that matters! Let's go. Where are you staying at?"

"Yeah, I was going to ask you about that." He suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Can I stay at your apartment?"

She stopped in her tracks and faced him. "What?"

"You see, I don't want to be with my parents, they ruin my concentration whenever I try to paint. Can I stay with you?" They resumed walking.

"You better be glad that I am accepting your feeble excuse and letting you stay upstairs, in the spare bedroom."

"Hey, I'll give you a better explanation when we're in your car, all right?"

"Okay, but I have to drop by the grocery store on the way." She looked at him oddly. "Don't you have your own apartment? And where's all your stuff?"

He looked extremely relieved, which was made the situation even stranger. "No, I basically ran off to one hotel after another in Europe. It was amazing. I just got here, as a matter of fact. I threw all my belongings in the garage and ran all the way here. Literally."

She didn't believe him one bit.

"Let's get moving, then. My car is parked just behind the parking lot of the grocery store, and it's right-" she scanned the full lot and amazingly spotted the car "-Ah-ha! There it is, my baby!" She started sprinting towards the back, with Joshua right next to her.

"What-?" Did she say baby? He thought, confused.

But she stopped in front of a Volkswagen Beetle covered in one massive- Joshua stood there with his mouth open and yelled, "MURALS? Are you insane? Holy sh-how the hell did you manage to do that?"

She laughed at his shock and said, "Amazing, isn't it? It took me two years; I had to borrow my friend Sukie's other car in the meantime. I covered it with scratchproof sealants forty times, and that alone took five months. But it's worth it, don't you think? People are always staring at it. And the Smithsonian asked me to sell it to them when it no longer works. They promised a huge display of it for me."

He walked around the beetle. It was a detailed painting of the ocean life that encircled the bottom of the car, and reached the level of the tires. From there, there were life-like mountains, city-sides of various countries, deserts, and natural wonders. Towards the top, there were miscellaneous pictures, of angels, people together, detailed flowers.. It was all a humongous collage; all detailed so realistically. It was a whole hodge podge of things, but it all seemed to be related to each other. He gaped at her, at loss for words.

Finally, he managed to sputter out something. "You have so much talent! The only masterpiece I created that I treasure-well, I'll show you some other time. It's not quite done. But."

She shook her head. "Josh, this isn't my masterpiece. I just did it because I wanted to stand out. My masterpiece, I will show you when we get home. I want it to be a surprise for you. Well, can you stop staring at it? Let's go inside."

He numbly let himself be dragged into the store. He was amazed. She sometimes doodled in the college prep classes they had together in, but they were stick figures, mostly. He shook his head.

They were in the dairy section when Rosario finally noticed that he was still speechless.

"Josh, it's not like you discovered Jesus! Snap out of it!" She tossed a milk carton into the half-filled shopping cart.

He nodded and cleared his throat. "I didn't discover Jesus, not yet."

He absentmindedly fiddled with a bag of dog food. He followed her as she made her way through the aisles. Rose was deeply in thought as she walked around, with Joshua waltzing beside her.

Why the heck did I let him stay with me? She asked herself. She didn't know. Well, she was giving the spare bedroom upstairs, so he doesn't have to sleep on the couch. She didn't know why she said yes when this was the first day of seeing him. But what could happen?

The latter left her bewildered for some reason. Nothing's going to happen. Why am I even asking this? I'll let him stay as long as he wants, no big deal.

Apparently, it was a big deal. Rose was so wrapped up in her thoughts and Joshua yelped when he snapped out of his little tap-dancing show. Just as he twirled for the last time, he noticed that she was dazedly putting package after package of red meat.

"Hey! HEY!" He ran over to her and stopped her actions. "How about you snap out of it?"

She looked down and saw that the cart was magically full to bursting of red meat. She shrieked and dropped the spare ribs. It landed with a resounding thud.

"I can't eat red meat! I'm a vegetarian!" She frantically started shoving the rest of the ribs and steaks back where it came from. He couldn't stop laughing and had to grip the cart to keep himself up.

"You must have been really preoccupied, then. What were you thinking about?" He asked when he calmed down. She glared at him and walked hurriedly to the cash register.

The tired looking cashier rang up the items and said in a bored tone, "Thirty-seven dollars and eighty-nine cents." She handed out the precise amount. He counted it drowsily and muttered, "Nice day, go away."

She grabbed the bags, but Joshua took all of them for her. She shook her head and twirled to the door, opening it for him.

She helped him put the groceries in the trunk, and she unlocked the door. "So, we're going back to your house?"

He nodded and opened the door. "I'll just grab the necessities for the night. Do you mind if you could take me back tomorrow? I'll go in my car with the rest of my stuff."

She sat inside, and faced him. "Wait, you're moving in? Like, as in living?" He nodded slowly, as if she were a child.

"Why?" Was the only thing that could come out of her mouth.

"I-I wanted to?" She glared at him. He gave in. "All right. Look, I wanted to be with you more. I wrote all of these letters, but I would toss them. I said I would contact you, right? After college? We both graduated early, but didn't do anything three years back. I missed you."

"We could see each other, why do you want to stay with me?" She looked into his face, frowning.

"I miss you. If you wanted to how much, I didn't date anyone for the past six years. I was waiting for you."

Her eyes widened. He clasped her hand and stroked her face, bare of any makeup.

"You were waiting for me?" She whispered.

He leaned closer and said intensely, "I had no desires to be with anyone, I had to get out of here, and so I did. I graduated early and took off for Europe by myself. I realized I needed you, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I wondered if you moved on, and found someone else. I wondered if you wanted to forget me. I knew you didn't want to forget me when I saw you sitting there, to the entrance of our first date. I arrived there early to see if you would come."

He let go of her face, and she stared ahead of her, touching the place where he touched her. She forgot how much she wanted him to be with her. She didn't date, either, but she focused on her career, her were all there to distract her from him. Now that he was back, and asking to stay with her, she couldn't say anything. Things were going too fast. Too fast.

She inhaled deeply and looked at him, gripping her hands on the steering wheel. "Too fast."

He looked at her and gently removed her hands from the wheel.

"Then let's make it slow."

He opened his arms and Rose scooted into them, wrapping her arms around his neck, savoring the secure warmth. She nestled her face under his neck and murmured something.

He laughed and smoothed her hair.

"I know, I remember the chocolate cakes."