I'm not a night person. I usually start yawning around eight in the evening, so the fact that I'm still awake at two in the morning is a little disconcerting. I just can't turn off my brain! The evening with Matt keeps replaying over and over, like a DVD stuck playing the same scenes of a movie again and again. Has that ever happened to you? Then you know how annoying it is.

Matt was a complete gentleman the whole evening. You would think there would be at least one snarky remark about my dress, but none came. I wasn't expecting to be taken on a date when I was packing, so I only brought the one dress and describing it as "prim" would be charitable.

"Well, don't you look marvelous!" These were the first words out of his mouth when seeing me? I should have expected it considering our first meeting, but still, "marvelous"?

"Now, you're just being incredibly generous, but thanks anyway."

"And look at that! You have enhanced your natural beauty this evening!"

If you can categorize some mascara and a little lip gloss as "enhancement". "So, when you said I looked 'marvelous' you weren't referring to my face?"

"I was alluding to your entire being."

I'm not sure what to say, so, I just smile and shake my head. He offers his arm and I take it. It's just a little weird. I've never done that before.

As I sit watching Twelfth Night, I can't help a little part of me being very aware of the man sitting next to me. There are no attempts to hold my hand, put his arm around me, or even whisper conversation. During intermission he is the perfect escort by making sure I find the ladies room and doesn't complain that he is alone for that whole time, ladies' lines, being what they always are. He is the perfect theater companion. One more reason to like him.

As we leave the theater he suggests coffee and/or dessert.

"Sure. I could use a sugar infusion right about now." It's going on midnight and the adrenaline from witnessing an inspired performance is starting to wane.

We are both silent. The only sound is the clip-clop of my sensible heels. I am wracking my brain for something else to say, but it seems the evening shut-down process in my brain has commenced.

"I hope you realize what a rare and wonderful thing it is to meet a woman who doesn't talk just for the sake of talking."

"I've always wondered about that myself. I have friends that can go on and on about anything and everything whether it's interesting or not. I guess I don't have that talent."

"That is not a talent. It's an annoyance. This walk has been most enjoyable. Ah, here we are." He steers me into a coffee shop.

I look up at the board and peruse the options. Hot Chocolate? Or herbal tea?

Matt does the same, but seems to make his decision quickly and looks at me questioningly. I hate that it sometimes takes me forever to decide on this kind of stuff. I nod and smile and with a hand on my lower back, guides me to the counter.

"Ladies first."

"Okay... a hot cocoa, please." I smile at the clerk. She smiles back at me and then turns to Matt.

I don't really pay attention to what he orders as I look around the shop, taking in the ambiance. We take a seat at a small table.

"Do you not drink coffee?"

"I don't like it. I don't much like tea either. I like cocoa and herbal teas."

"That is uncommon. Definitely not average," he says with a grin.

I smile, but can't think of anything to say. Brain shutdown continues.

"Are you well?"

"Yes, I'm just tired. I'm not a night person."

"An 'early-bird', are you?"

"That's me. At this moment my cognitive functions are slowing. Or, as my friends would say, I'm turning into a pumpkin."

He is looking at me like he has no idea what I'm talking about.

"It's a 'Cinderella' reference. You know, how at midnight her coach turns back into a pumpkin?"

"So around midnight you do the same?"

"No, I usually start 'pumpkin-izing' around nine."

His eyes go a little wide. "But that was hours ago! You didn't sleep during the performance! How are you still awake?"

"I'm somewhat surprised myself. The performance was amazing! It completely captured my attention. Sometimes I am able to stay awake under special circumstances, but now that it's over I'm crashing."

"We won't stay long then. Thank you, Mary Ann."

"For what?"

"For allowing me to escort you this evening."

"I should be the one thanking you. You purchased the tickets and got me there. Not to mention this delicious cocoa."

"It was my pleasure, truly."

I give him a "Mona Lisa" smile and finish off my drink.

"Mary Ann?"


He smiles. "May I have your phone number?"

"Umm..." I'm not sure how to answer. "I go home the day after tomorrow."

"I would still like your number."

"You want to keep in touch?"

"Yes, I do."

"All right, but if you turn into some kind of crazy stalker-boy, I'm gonna kill you."

He is amused. "Aren't the stalkers the ones who usually do the killing?"

"Yeah, but I've had this number for forever and I don't want to learn a new one."

"It's nice to know you have limited criteria for murder." He pulls out his phone and hands it to me. I look at it blankly then give it back to him.

"You better do it. I have no idea how to work these new-fangled phones." I reach into my coat pocket and pull out my ancient phone and wave it at him. "I'm good with the oldies, but goodies."

He chuckles and puts in my number as I tell him.

"Besides, it wouldn't be murder. It would be self-defense."

"Right, because I would be the 'stalker-boy.'"

"That's right."

"So, what are your plans for tomorrow?"

"Well, I guess my first priority would be to try to sleep in."

"Isn't that automatic with staying up late?"

I sigh, "Not for me."


"It's like my body is incapable of sleeping in no matter how late I stay up. Sometimes it helps to get a nap in the afternoon."

He shakes his head, a sad expression on his face. "That is positively a 'below-average' trait, my dear."

I laugh. I think he may be catching on. "I agree!"

"Well, what about tomorrow evening? May I take you to dinner?"

I study him as I mull over my answer. I am really starting to like him, but what's the point? We live in two different countries! Casual friends are all we ever could be, so if I set my expectations to "friends only" then everything should be fine, right? No broken heart, no pining. I can do that.

"Sure. Dinner would be great. Can I ask one favor, though?"

"What is it?"

"Can it be an informal thing? I don't have much in the way of dressy-dress-up clothes. What you see now is all I've got."

"No worries. I want to show you my favorite pub."

"Sounds perfect."

He gives me one of his earth-shattering smiles and I try not to turn into goo.

He stands up, "Let's get you back to your hotel, pumpkin."

I groan as I also rise to my feet. "I just knew telling you that was a mistake."

"Not at all." He holds the door open for me.

As I walk out the door I say, "If you start calling me 'Pumpkin' I'm going to have to hurt you."

As we start the walk back to my hotel his expression tells me he is weighing the pros and cons of my statement. Then says, "First you threaten to kill me and now you threaten to maim me. One wouldn't realize your violent tendencies by looking at you."

"Why? Because I look so sweet?" I give a fake smile and flutter my lashes.

He smiles. "Because you have gentle mannerisms."

Huh? "What the heck are you talking about?"

"You have a substantial amount of grace in the way you move."

"Grace and gentleness are two different things; Martial artists can be graceful, but not necessarily gentle."

"I will grant you that, but in my observations of you and your interactions with others you are gentle and kind."

"What interactions would those be? We only met this morning."

His color changed a bit. Was he blushing?

"At the risk of sounding like a 'stalker-boy', I watched you for a few minutes before approaching."

I cast my mind back to earlier in the day, trying to remember anything I could have done before he came. Just as I remember he speaks.

"I saw you help a mother, or a nanny, with her shopping bags and children."

"That was ages before you came up to me! I wasn't even in line yet!"

"That mishap was what drew my attention to you in the first place."

"That was around the corner from the theater. You were watching me for at least ten minutes... Stalker-boy!" I'm teasing him because I want more information.

"I'm not a stalker, I swear!"

"No? Then what are you?"

He grimaces and scratches the back of his neck. "Just a bloke who likes to observe and consider before he makes the big approach?"

"Hmm... while out for a breath of fresh air?"

"You really don't think I'm a creep, do you?"

"I'm still deciding. You better not be. I gave you my number."

"I promise not to abuse the privilege."

I grin at him. I can't help it. He smiles back.

We arrive at my hotel and I bid him goodnight. I don't go through the whole "Will he? Won't he?" kiss me thing because I set my expectation to friendship. I smile, wave, and walk inside only to be kept awake by replays. Tomorrow is gonna suck.