“I don’t think he does. No, I know he doesn’t,” Ginny replied, following its arch as it alighted on Tasha’s finger. Gently, gingerly, perfectly.
“Of course he doesn’t. Look at you.”
Ginny sighed. She hated it when they got to this point of the conversation, as they invariably did. Obediently she looked at her torn nails and ragged cut-off jeans. She realized she hadn’t shaved her legs again, and her hair was escaping what was probably the saddest excuse of a bun ever.
“You’ve got to start taking care of your looks, Gins, even if you don’t have much to start with in the first place.”
“Thanks for the confidence builder, Tash.”
“Just speaking the truth, you know, in love.”
She knew the spiel by heart: go for regular facials (a waste of money), put on makeup everyday (like a painted doll), dress up (though she’d rather dress down after wearing stuffy suits every day at work), act a little more helpless (which would only irritate herself), manicure and pedicure (just another excuse to be helpless) and lose some weight (maybe she should, though she was hardly fat). She nodded vaguely at the noises that came out of Tasha’s mouth. She had stopped listening a long time ago, after seeing the perfectly coifed Tasha running through a string of boyfriends and never ever settling down with one. The heartbreaks were more than she could bear, and they weren’t even her own. She should have stopped asking her for relationship advice as well, knowing the kind of advice she’d be getting from Tasha, but she couldn’t help it.
He was such a nice guy.
And that was the problem.
He was such a nice guy that she was sure he acted the same with every single girl that crossed his path. Only, she had to develop a stupid mind-boggling crush based on a random conversation that hadn’t ever repeated itself. Stupid Ginny, she said to herself as she drove home. Stop over-thinking it.
But she couldn’t. She remembered clearly where they had sat as they sipped on their iced teas, talking about books and travels, she half listening to a parallel conversation beside her and suddenly realizing – realizing what exactly? She didn’t quite know. She just knew that she went home that day feeling abnormally blissful, and waking up the next morning thinking about Paul. She shunted the name aside, trying to think of nothing as she readied herself for bed. Still, a smile crept onto her face as she snuggled under her blankets. Paul.
“But is she single?” Paul asked, ignoring Jeff’s smirk.
“You like her, don’t you? I could tell from the way you were cornering her the whole night.”
“I wasn’t. We were both at the same table with all of you.”
“Yes, but you weren’t exactly there, were you? You were off somewhere in that head of yours, ignoring the rest of us stupid people.” Jeff laughed at Paul’s grimace. “I think she is, bro. Don’t get all flustered.”
He scowled, annoyed at the way he always let Jeff ruffle him. But he had had to ask, hadn’t he? It would have been odd to ask her, out of the blue, for no discernable reason. He remembered smiling across the table at the distracted young woman, admiring the curve of her neck as she listened to the conversation about movies beside them.
“What did you think of The Hobbit?” he had asked, watching her head swivel towards him suddenly, awkwardly.
“Oh! The movie?”
She shrugged. “It was okay, I suppose.”
He had carefully drawn her into a discussion about movie adaptations, hobbits, Tolkien and fantasy books in general, amused by the way she spoke to him directly but somewhat nervously, her attention flitting between him and their other friends. He had lost track of the conversation beside him a long time ago, not quite deft enough in tracking multiple strands of discourse as she seemed to be doing, and doing rather skillfully, darting one moment into their talk about books and then dropping comments about some movie to the others in the next.
It was nothing ground breaking, no fanfare, no fireworks; just a steady appreciation that grew over the course of evening. He didn’t say a word extra, didn’t turn a hair, only left with a thought on his mind that night. I’d like to get to know you better, Ginny.
They smiled at each other, stopping as they were about to cross paths.
“How have you been?”
“Fine, just fine. And you?”
“Yeah, good. You know, I checked out that book you talked about the other day.”
“Magician, by Feist. I thought it was pretty interesting.”
“Oh. That’s nice,” he smiled, unsure what to say next.
Ginny looked at him awkwardly, then turned away. He’s obviously not interested.
Paul watched her leave. I don’t think she likes me.