Winnie tried not to gag at the sheer quantity of food Joel had in front of him. If she was going to have any chance dating a football player, she was going to need to get over that reflex. She’d been upfront with him that she was a vegetarian and light eater, so he knew not to take her to a steak house or something. Winnie decided that if she kept talking, he would keep eating and not sit there watching her pick at her meal.
Joel asked her a few leading questions, and she took lots of time elaborating. Where’d you grow up? How many brothers and sisters do you have? What do your parents do for a living? How long have you been dancing? What are your plans after college? He seemed fascinated with her and listened intently. That was refreshing.
When Joel had made a dent into what he’d ordered, Winnie scraped half of her food off her plate and onto his, claiming she would never be able to eat all that and didn’t want it to go to waste. Which was true. She didn’t mention that she didn’t want the food to end up on her waist. Leotards showed every pound, and she had a performance in less than three weeks.
She picked at the other half of her food, taking a small bite here and there between stories. Just enough that she didn’t look like she was sitting there with her hands folded in her lap not eating.
Why guys thought they needed to take girls on dates to restaurants was beyond Winnie’s comprehension. Eating was such a private activity, necessary to stay alive, but not something she wanted to do in public with people watching and analyzing every bite she took.
Winnie had dozens of questions she wanted to ask him too but decided to wait until he was finished. Until then she kept talking.
“So, when my dad started working for Chrysler, we settled in Farmington Hills and they enrolled me in a private school for performing arts. Of course, I’d been dancing since I was old enough to walk. My mom sometimes jokes that my first pair of shoes were ballet slippers. She’s not far off. I’ve always wanted something light and soft on my feet, kind of like a snuggly pair of socks.”
“What’s your dad do at Chrysler?” Joel asked after swallowing and taking a drink of his ice water. No serious athlete would have a beer with dinner this close to playoffs. Winnie wondered if he ever drank in the off season but decided to wait for another day to have that conversation. Dancers didn’t have an off season. Dancers danced. Almost every day. From Joel’s defined muscles and trim physique, she’d guess he worked out every day too.
“He’s a vice president of marketing,” Winnie said. “Plus, did I tell you he loves football? He comes to almost every one of your home games. We have box seats.”
“Now that his daughter’s dating a football player, he’s going to be doubly motivated to come to the home games.” Joel raised his eyebrows.
“Does that mean you plan to take me out on another date?” Winnie asked playfully, her heart racing with excitement. She didn’t usually get this excited around a guy she just met. Usually, she got bored halfway through the first date. Snooty guys stereotyped her as an uppity ballerina who only wanted to go to some upscale coffee shop and listen to bad poetry or an open mic night. No, thank you.
She’d rather go to a sporting event or rock concert than an orchestra performance or lecture. The perfect date would be lying on the sofa watching a romantic movie and making out afterward. Probably too soon for that when they’d just met the day before. Of course, he was a testosterone-driven guy in the prime of his life. He’d probably be up for anything she was willing to do. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.
“Want to come over and watch a movie… or something?”
“Check, please,” Joel called over to the waitress and they both laughed. Guess that was a yes. They waited as their server walked in their direction.
“You two aren’t interested in desert tonight?” The waitress asked, laying the bill in the middle of the table. Joel snatched the bill and already had his debit card out before the waitress could leave.
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll want desert later.” Joel wiggled his eyebrows at Winnie.
“I have ice cream in the freezer,” Winnie suggested, loving the direction this conversation was heading.
Joel looked up at the waitress. “We have ice cream in the freezer.”
“I’ll be right back with your receipt.” The waitress chuckled and walked away. She didn’t take long and then they were out in Joel’s car, a black Mustang that smelled like his cologne was competing with the new car smell and losing.
Winnie gave Joel directions to her apartment and then started into her own list of questions. “My turn to get to know you now that you’re not trying to replenish lost calories you burned off at practice this afternoon.”
“Is that what you think I was doing?” He laughed heartily. “I was hungry. I’m a growing boy.”
“How old are you, by the way?” she asked.
“Same.” Winnie kind of figured he was about her age because he seemed like a senior and serious about school. “Any NFL draft talk in the works?”
“Nah, I love football, but I want to be a doctor. Football was just my way of getting into U of M.”
“Is your family not well-off?” She wondered why he was driving a brand-new Mustang but needed scholarship money to pay for college. She ran her hand along the leather console.
“My family has plenty of money. But my GPA in high school was subpar. It was only through my prowess on the football field that I was able to convince them to let me in. They needed a good defensive cornerback. I needed to get into the top-rated medical school in the world.”
“So, you really are a cornerback?” Winnie impressed herself that she’d gotten that correct.
“Yeah, and I have no idea how you figured that out.” He raised his eyebrows and glanced sidelong at her, baiting her to tell him.
“With that bod, you were either a cornerback or a wide receiver, and for some reason you just don’t look like you play offense.”
“Are you saying you like my bod?” As if he needed confirmation.
“Nah, I’m really not into jocks,” she teased. “They can be such… jocks.”
“What kind of guys are you into? If not jocks?”
“Hmm… probably jocks.”
A little growl escaped the back of his throat as he turned into her complex. “Can we just skip the movie, postpone the ice cream, and get to the fun stuff?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Winnie said, triumphant that her flirting had succeeded.
Joel held her hand as they walked up the stairway to her apartment, but they both sighed in frustration when they walked into find her roommate, Danielle had a few friends over.
After introducing Joel to everyone, they stepped over to the refrigerator and Winnie held open the freezer. With a smirk of resignation, she looked over at Joel and asked, “Ice cream?”
“Ice cream sounds great.” Joel leaned forward and placed a tiny kiss on her lips. Probably for the best. Good things come to those who wait, and Winnie had been waiting twenty-one years. What’s a few more days? She grabbed two spoons and the carton, and they settled onto the couch beside Danielle, resigned to hang out eating ice cream with friends.