Chapter One:

(Two Years Later)

"Okay, let me make something very clear to you Chezelle," Faith says firmly, her pale hands on her hips. Chezelle rolls her eyes and continues to rummage through Faith's wardrobe.

"I am only going on this blind datewith what's-his-name Zeeke because you're forcing me to. I can assure you that I won't like the guy-"

"You haven't even seen him yet!" Chezelle interrupts, her voice sounding muffled.

"Trust me, you and I have very different opinions on guys," Faith says knowingly.

Chezelle whips around with so much speed that she bangs her head, swears, recovers and then replies with watering eyes, "Actually Faith, the difference between you and me is that I actually have an opinion. You just dismiss every guy you see!"

"That's not true."

"Oh Faith," Chezelle shakes her blonde curls in dismay before sitting down on the bed.

"Anyway, as I was saying, this is the last blind date that I will go on, ok? Promise me you will stop torturing me?"

Chezelle laughs, and replies ominously, "I'll consider it."

An hour later, Faith is dressed in a very flattering white mini dress that shows off her legs and figure, and her dark orange hair is flowing around her shoulders. A tight denim jacket is flung at her from the depths of her wardrobe by Chezelle.

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea," Faith says uncertainly as she glances at her reflection, but Chezelle firmly steers her downstairs.

Faith's Mum looks up as she passes the kitchen.

"You look great Faith. Have fun!" she calls out.

"Thanks Mum," Faith replies, looking queasy.

The taxi arrives within five minutes, and as she waves at Chezelle, she considers just going to town, and ditching the guy, but then she remembers that he knows Chezelle, and Chezelle would absolutely kill her. Great.

By the time the cab stops outside the coffee shop, Faith is feeling nervous. She isn't any good at dates, especially blind dates. But she doesn't have much time to build herself into a panic, because as she pays the taxi driver, someone taps her shoulder and she turns around to see a fairly good-looking guy with black hair standing there.

"Are you Faith?" he asks in a smooth voice.

Faith blinks. Did he just say something?

He laughs slightly and she's surprised to see him flush.

"What I meant is, is your name Faith?"

She nods, finally finding her voice. "And are you Zeeke?"

"That's me," he replies with a grin. "Shall we?" he asks.

Faith decides that this is her chance and gives him a withering look, before stalking inside.

Choosing a table right in the middle of the shop, she sits down and glares daggers as Zeeke takes his time seating himself.

There's a moment of silence as they contemplate each other.

"Can I say something?" Faith asks, her voice extremely polite.

"Be my guest Faith," he replies with a grin, and she feels her lips twitch.

"I am not interested in guys at the moment. My stupid friend forced me to come on this date and I just want to tell you, that I want nothing to do with you whatsoever."

Although her tone is polite, even Faith knows she was harsh, but before she can regret it, Zeeke applauds her with a pleasant smile and asks innocently, "Are you interested in girls then?"

She stares at him blankly. What?

"You're so innocent," he laughs, seeing her bewildered expression, then grows mock-serious as he lounges back in the chair. "I like that about a girl."

Faith gives him a dry look, but she's amused despite herself.

Luckily for her, a waitress arrives at that moment to take their orders, so she tries to think of some good tactics to end this evening as soon as possible.

"So," Zeeke begins as the waitress disappears, "why aren't you into guys? Or girls, for that matter? Normal people are."

"I'm not a normal girl," she shrugs and stares at the wall.

"That's obvious," he says, maintaining an innocent expression.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, normal girls don't tend to insult their date as soon as they meet," he replies, not looking the least bit insulted.

"Look," Faith says, trying to hide her guilty expression. "I didn't mean to insult you. I just wanted to make it clear to you that I'm not interested in a relationship at the moment."

He doesn't say anything.

"I'm sorry, but it's nothing personal. I'm sure you're a great guy, and some other girl will be really lucky to have you…"

"Did someone cheat on you?" he asks suddenly.

"What? No, of course not," replies Faith, surprised at the sudden change of topic.

"Hmm, then did he go away on holiday or something?"

"No."

She feels her face flush slightly under his scrutinising, but once again, the waitress saves her and arrives to deliver their drinks and fries.

"Are you married?" he asks as the waitress leaves again.

"No. I'm only seventeen!"

"I'm eighteen," he replies with a grin that despite herself, makes her breath catch. "We're a match made in heaven!"

Faith feels her lips twitch but glowers at him.

"Will you quit with the flattery?" she says and takes a sip of her Coke.

"Oh, so you're feeling flattered, are you?" he replies cheekily, an eyebrow raised.

Another glare from her.

Another grin from him.

"Did he die?" he asks, but this time, his voice is gentle.

Faith feels herself stiffen, and doesn't answer.

"So that's why you're not into anyone," he says softly. "Because you feel like you owe him some loyalty…"

She's surprised to find herself replying, "Yes, I owe him a lot of loyalty. I loved him."

"So you don't love him now?"

"What? That's not what I said. Of course I love him now!" she replies, shocked. "I'll always love him, and no one can ever change that."

"Would he have wanted you to grieve for him forever?"

"I'm not grieving for him. I've made the decision to-"

"Never have a boyfriend again?" he finishes for her understandingly.

She doesn't like the way he seems to understand her so much.

Half an hour, she thinks to herself. Only half an hour left and she can get out of there.

"When did he die?" Zeeke asks curiously, as he eats a donut.

"Two years ago," she replies testily.

"What did he die of?"

"What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? He died of Tuberculosis."

"Tuberculosis? But isn't that when-"

"You cough up blood and your lungs and some other body parts get infected? Yeah, that's TB," Faith finishes for him, her head starting to hurt. She feels his eyes on her, but doesn't look up.

"So have you seen Alvin and the Chipmunks?" he says, subtly changing the topic once again.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks? I love that movie!"

"No way," Zeeke replies, grinning again. Faith quickly looks away. "That film is just rubbish!"

"What? Are you crazy or something? It's so cute!"

Zeeke rolls his eyes. "It's so babyish…"

And to her surprise, Faith starts to like him. They talk about movies, food, books and lots more and they're debating and agreeing on so many things.

I could like this guy, Faith finds herself thinking after two hours and then immediately blushes bright red as Zeeke chuckles at her.

"What?" she asks horrified, thinking that she might have said her thought out loud.

"You've got ketchup all around your mouth," he says with a warm smile as he hands her a napkin, and Faith punches his arm.

"You could've told me that before you started laughing," she says, pretending to be annoyed at him.

"Oh, but then I wouldn't get to see you feeling embarrassed," he chuckles, before glancing at the time. "Wow, we've been here for almost two and a half hours."

"We have?" Faith glances at her watch too, before deciding it's time to leave, albeit reluctantly.

"I better go," she says as she stands up.

"Why? Got another blind date after this?" he jokes as he too stands up.

"No, the next one's not 'til another two weeks. But I've got to get my beauty sleep, haven't I?" she dazzles him with a smile as they walk out together into the night.

"You don't need beauty sleep," he replies and Faith grins at him.

"You've started with the flattery again, haven't you?"

"No, no," he laughs, palms up in mock-arrest. "I'm perfectly serious."

Faith doesn't reply, but glances at him, feeling strange.

They get into his car since he insists on giving her a ride home. She isn't really into cars or anything, but even she admires the shiny, sleek exterior and the leather seats.

They're both pretty quiet in the car. Faith assumes that he's just concentrating on driving, but it doesn't matter. The silence is one of those comfortable ones.

He parks the car outside her house and switches it off before turning to face her.

"So, did you have a good time?" he asks, very directly.

"Actually yeah, I did," Faith replies honestly. "I had a great time. Thanks."

"Anytime," he replies pointedly with a grin.

She tucks a strand of her copper coloured hair behind her ears, before saying, "You know, I really am sorry that I got on your case as soon as we met."

"Forgiven and forgotten already. Don't worry about it."

She sees him glance at her lips and tingles suddenly run down her spine.

He takes a deep breath, before saying, "I really like you a lot, but…"

"But what?" she asks, barely listening.

"But it's obvious you don't feel the same way about me."

"What? Who said that I don't?"

"Are you saying you do like me?" he asks pointedly.

"Well, yeah. I mean, you're funny and charming and-"

"Because after all, you're still in love with your deceased boyfriend, aren't you?"

"I…" Faith thought it was rather cruel to point this out right now, but as soon as he said it, guilt flooded her stomach. What was she doing? He was right. She still loved Klaas. She had no right to play with other people's feelings.

"It's okay," Zeeke says and briefly puts a warm hand on her knee. "You're confused right now." He glances away from her and out into the night, before facing her again. "But I'm not, and I know I like you. A lot."

He waits for her to say something.

She feels wretched as she replies, "But I can't go out with you. I don't want another relationship. Not now, not ever. I just can't."

"Hey, I understand. But can I at least have your number? Who knows? Perhaps you'll fall for me, three years from now."

Faith guiltily dictates her mobile number to him, before saying, "I'm really sorry."

He flatters her with another gorgeous smile, before repeating, "Forgiven and forgotten, remember? Don't worry about it."

She gets out of the car as soon as she can, and waves at him before walking up her small drive and letting herself into her house, not once looking back. As she hears his car leave, she closes the door and leans her back against it with a sigh, followed by a dry smile.

What has she gotten herself into?