Love Incorporated
By Elena Lane
Date: August 6, 2021
Ch. 55

The next week, Tabitha found herself once again getting ready to go out. This time, she dressed more casually. She put on a nice shirt and jeans, throwing her hair into a neat ponytail. They were going to a movie and would then grab a bite to eat and given this, Tabitha didn’t want to look like she had been trying too hard to impress Jared even though she was, in fact, doing just that. She applied some mascara and lip gloss, but that was it for makeup because one of the secrets of beauty was that every girl looked more beautiful when her beauty was seemingly effortless. Beauty had to look natural, not forced; that’s just how it was. It was complicated, but Tabitha followed the societal beauty bible regardless.

Finally, when Tabitha finally felt that she was ready to grace the outside world, she looked into the mirror for a final inspection. Finding that everything was in place, she descended down the stairs. In the living room, she found Mark and Kevin waiting for her patiently. Mark began his usual spiel about being safe and cautious. To this, Tabitha rolled her eyes. He was such a worrier. Tabitha had had the whole spiel memorized since she was in ninth grade. She was nineteen now and didn’t need her father’s overprotectiveness, but she let him talk anyway. It would make him feel better. He could talk all he wanted, but that didn’t mean that she would listen.

Tabitha was daydreaming about Jared and was very excited about the movie. This was going to be a great day; Tabitha could feel it. As her father droned on, Tabitha heard the doorbell ring and a smile spread on her face. “Bye parents, got to go,” Tabitha said, flying towards the door, waving at her parents. She opened the door to see Jared standing on the stoop. She gave him a sweet smile, but didn’t bother inviting him in because if she did, family friend or not, her fathers would probably start interrogating the poor boy. Tabitha slammed the door behind her, grabbing Jared’s hand as she pulled him to Jared’s dark green car.

“It’s good to see you,” Tabitha said as she settled into the passenger seat. She felt stupid. Couldn’t she have said something less lame? All morning she had been imagining this date and envisioning what their conversation would sound like. Tabitha had thought of a million interesting things to say, but when it came to the actual date, her vocabulary seemed to shrink dramatically. Luckily, Jared made up for Tabitha’s lack of conversation skills.

“Yeah,” he said with an easy laugh, “I hope you like horror films. Dungeon of the Gremlin just came out and I’ve only heard rave reviews.”

Tabitha nodded eagerly, but then she felt stupid again because obviously, he couldn’t see her nod; like a good driver, he was focusing on the road, not her face. So, she spoke up, “I’ve been wanting to see that movie.” Coincidentally, Tabitha had been wanting to see that movie. She hadn’t let Jared know this fact before the date so she took it as a good sign that they were on the same page about the film. From there, conversation became easier for Tabitha. She started talking with him about other films in the genre and then, conversation bloomed from there.

The movie was good. Tabitha wasn’t frightened by horror movies, but she did find the genre to be particularly convenient. It gave her an excuse to employ one of the oldest tricks in the book, the scared girl cuddle. During the intense parts of the movie, Tabitha would get a little closer to Jared and he would throw his arm over her shoulder. It was amazing how close two people could get without even speaking.

After the movie, they went to the restaurant across the street. They had only been able to speak in hushed whispers during the movie and the car ride hadn’t been long enough to get into any major conversations, which meant that Tabitha was especially eager to talk and was feeling quite chatty. They each ordered their meals and delved right into a conversation. The conversation didn’t feel forced, but Tabitha’s nerves didn’t calm. She felt unpolished as she spoke and scattered too. It was kind of thrilling really for her to stray from her normally organized speaking, but also anxiety inducing. Tabitha was nervously rambling on when Jared said with a laugh, “I don’t mind listening to you. You have a great voice and all, but you don’t have to be nervous.” He patted her hand slightly and leaned closer, “Honestly, I’m a little nervous too.” His words were meant to be reassuring and they were to a degree, but Tabitha still felt butterflies even as their food arrived and they began to much on their burgers and fries.

Jared was one of the nicest boys that Tabitha had ever been out with. He was poised and polite, clearly his parents had taught him well. The only problem was that Tabitha felt anxious when she talked to him. He was so perfect and she wanted to make sure that she didn’t mess up her chances with him. This feeling of anxiety undermined the date somewhat, making Tabitha feel more worry than fun. If only she could just let her guard down and relax.

Sensing her discomfort Jared made attempts to calm Tabitha, “You know, there’s no need to be nervous, Tabitha. I like you and I want to get to know you. Don’t worry so much; your anxiety is contagious,” he said with a nervous laugh. Despite his own obvious nerves, Jared had a confident look about him. It surprised Tabitha that he had any insecurities at all.

Tabitha relaxed slightly, “Yeah, maybe I should take your advice.” So, as they finished their food, Tabitha did her best to forget all her thoughts and just live in the moment, which of course was easier said than done, but it gave Tabitha a chance to get a better feel for who Jared was as a person. She learned that he was a Christian, but not overly devout and that he played the guitar, which surprised Tabitha. There was a lot about him that Tabitha never would have guessed. It was fun to slowly unravel Jared and see what was beneath.

Jared then drove Tabitha home and the whole care ride to her house, Tabitha couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not Jared would give her a goodnight kiss. She wanted one because in Tabitha’s mind, a kiss was important. A good kiss was crucial and she wasn’t looking for just a good physical connection, but there was also a special emotional, a spiritual connection, that could be felt in a kiss.

When they got to her house, Jared opened Tabitha’s door for her, guiding her out of the car. They stood behind a tall shrub in Tabitha’s front yard, hiding themselves in case one of Tabitha’s fathers happened to glance out the window. “Do you mind if I give you a goodnight kiss?” Jared asked, leaning his face close to Tabitha’s with a gentle grin on his face.

Tabitha nodded a small, almost shy nod. She felt a ravenous animal inside of herself wanting to smash her face against his, but wisely, Tabitha restrained herself and waited as Jared eased his face slowly towards hers. His lips were soft but passionate. After the kiss had finished, Jared said goodnight to Tabitha, giving her hand a squeeze before bidding her farewell and walking towards his car, “Goodnight, Tabitha,” he said with a smile. “It’s been a lovely evening with a lovely girl.”

She smiled at him, “Goodnight Jared.”

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