Chapter 23: Better Late Than Never

"You are wearing lipstick?"

"It's a gloss," I shrugged.

"It's pretty. You look very nice," my mother said softly beaming like she had when I got my first scholarship.

"Whoa, wait, what is that face for? What did Petra say to you?" I asked feeling nervousness over take me, this time not only because of our 'date'.

"She said that you are happy," my mother said with a gleeful expression.

"Right and you took that to mean what exactly?" I asked cautiously. My mother did not think on the same tangents that normal people did. A simple phrase to one person meant something substantially different to my mom. She had a tendency for the dramatic and often found monumental meaning in the tiniest of details.

"Happy is good. I want you to be happy," she told me.

"Okay," I nodded feeling a little skeptical.

"Do you think he might want to come in and sit down for a coffee and alfajores?" she asked.

This was exactly what I was worried about. I groaned.

"I made the cookies today—I'm sure your dad would like to meet him," she offered looking slightly pathetic.

"Mom, no! Absolutely not, it's a first date not the Spanish inquisition," I stated firmly.

"Well, at the inquisition…they didn't have coffee and cookies," she told me, with a hint of a smile.

"Yes, because coffee and cookies would have made it far less traumatic," I retorted with a snort.

"We will meet him a different time then," my mom agreed.

I grunted. I couldn't say I was enthused about the idea but honestly it was better than her persisting with the hope to have Everett come in for coffee tonight.

"Do you think he might want some cookies? I could put some in a little container for you to give him,"

"I have to go," I told her leaving the kitchen. I was not going to give him cookies from my mother on our first date. I don't even know what that would signify, though desperate was probably a valid assumption and deranged was probably not far off...

"You'll be home some time later?" she asked.

"What! Yes, I'll be home. Honestly mom, please stop assuming that I've somehow completely changed by having a date! It's just a date," I urged, before ducking out of the kitchen.

It is just a date, I repeated to myself as I stood watching out the window and slipping my gaze back to my cell every few moments.

It's just a date. I reminded my twisting my fingers in my skirt and I chewed my bottom lip. I was insanely nervous about this night. What if this was the only date with Everett I ever got? What if I laughed and spit water across the table accidently, or dropped something on myself or had food on my face and didn't know about it for hours?

The knock at the door was quick. I jumped; I had been so distracted that I hadn't even noticed. Oh, this was it.

I took a calming breath and wiped my hand on my dress.

"Um, hi," I eked out shyly once I opened the door.

"Hey…oh and you're dressed up," he stated, just as I took his in relaxed look. Jeans paired with a grey hoodie and a black/brown leather jacket.

Ah for the love, why? I held in the wince of realization.

Yes, this would happen to me.

"You said 'nice'," I stammered.

"I was thinking like nice in the sense of delicious or enjoyable, but…uh you look beautiful but I swear you are going to freeze if you wear that."

"So you think I should change?" I asked.

He nodded with a soft smile that just tweaked the corner of his lips.

"Can I have a few less ambiguous descriptive words this time?" I asked still feeling a bit flushed.

"Warm, Cozy and shoes you can walk in," he stated.

"Okay," I nodded. "Would you like some coffee and cookies after I change? It would make my mom's day," I've always been an all or nothing sort of person.. There is a threshold, once reached you can stack on as much extra awkward without feeling any worse for wear. Therefore, you might as well pile on as much embarrassment as you can take in one go and get it over with in one fell swoop. I was interested in capitalizing on this unfortunate incident, might as well kill two birds with one stone and meet the parents.

"Yeah, we aren't in a rush," he stated.

"Okay, you want to just hang out in the living room, while I change?" I asked.

"It probably best," he tossed back with a smirk.

Everett was a hit with my parents. He told my mother that her alfajores (which he absolutely butchered the pronunciation on) were the best cookies he had ever tasted and then comfortably chatted with my father. After about half an hour I told my parents that we really needed to go.

It had all gone strangely well with my parents, so naturally I was expecting the fallout, I mean really, with my track record, I was pretty convincing of this. As soon as I let my guard down something would go desperately wrong…it was just my luck.

The shock was that everything was going so well, driving with Everett felt strangely natural.

"Okay, so, cut me off if any of this is disagreeable, but I was thinking we could grab some hot drinks, and go see the Christmas lights, maybe that's weird but there still up and I haven't actually made the effort to see the lights in forever, and I thought it might be nice…" he paused. "I don't know, maybe it's stupid. Do you think it's stupid? You can laugh at me if you think it is stupid," he told me.

"I don't think it stupid," I offered.

He scoffed, "So you're saying if Vincent Hamilton invited you to see the lights, almost a month after Christmas, you'd think it was a good first date activity?"

Vincent Hamilton was a self-proclaimed nerdy geek in high school. Who knows, he was probably some rich bastard, dot com millionaire by now but back is high school he was weird, probably intentionally weird because honestly a person would really have to make an effort in order to be that much a social pariah. It should be remembered that I was a total nobody in high school, but this isn't pot calling kettle. I was mostly invisible, or at least I was below the radar most of the time. Hamilton was in your face kind of weird—can I play my tuba over the loud speaker, just this once Principal Dean?—weird.

"Honestly?" I asked with a slight laugh at the memories his reference evoked.

"Be brutally honest," he encouraged.

"Well, alright. Any option suggested by Hamilton would be bound to be pretty freaking weird; I can't imagine he'd just let us walk and enjoy the lights. He probably have hacked the controls on them and reprogramed the lights to synchronize with some kind of weird German synth music," I offered.

Everett laughed, "I thought you were going to say something clichéd and make a crack about Star Wars, and I was ready to get all defensive, but I see there was no need,"

"Nope, definitely picturing the German synth music, that Marvin the Martian shirt he'd always wear and then maybe he'd ask if I wanted to dance," I offered before breaking out laughing. "How exactly does one dance to synth music?"

He shrugged, his eyes were laughing at me, but his mouth kept the poker face, "Wow, you've given this a lot of thought, are you sure you wouldn't rather be hanging out with him? We could spend the evening calling 411, seeing if we can track sweetums down, whatcha think?"

"I think the lights will be really nice without the added flare," I told him.

"Okay, only if you're sure," he replied with a smirk.

And we went on like that, laughing, joking, sipping coffees and later kissing against the bright lite backdrop of Christmas lights. The lights were beautiful, nowhere near as crowded mid-January as around the holidays and it seemed all the better for it. It was a perfect night, one of many. It seemed appropriate somehow. It seemed so true of us. We'd been a long way; I'd been stubborn, blind and unforgiving. He had been obnoxious, sometime silent and too presuming but we had found it somehow. For this moment we had made it and like seeing the Christmas lights out of season, some things really are better late than never.

A/N: Thanks everyone for sticking through till the end. I apologize for how long this last chapter has taken. I wanted the ending to be right and I was stalled for an age, but what can you do? I didn't have the time to sit and stare at the screen so I left it on the backburner… Yeah, anyhow, I don't want to remain in apology mode because I've completely my first story ever! I've written a ton of things that have not been finished, so I feel really proud this evening, despite how long I've doddled and how this story isn't that great. It's finished and so I do feel a sense of accomplishment.

Thanks to everyone that took the time to read this, I hope that you enjoyed it, faults and all.