After a While, Crocodile
Yup, she did it. She said yes to Locke, in what probably was one of the most unconventional ways for two grown adults to communicate the desire to get to know one another better.
Essentially, we were like two elementary schoolers passing a note. ‘Do you like me? Check yes or no.’ and I checked yes! I don’t know what to think, who would have thought there would be someone else out there equally as quirky as me! Mari shook her head as she finished the thought. Now, she had to get through the rest of the week, and despite her best attitude, there was no way that Friday was going to come fast enough!
The next day, Finn bounded up to her and asked, “Ms. Llaves, did you get to see Uncle Locke’s cool leg when I went to get my backpack yesterday? I was gonna ask my Uncle if he let you see it, but I forgot.”
“You know what Finn, I didn’t get to see it, but you know, sometimes there is a time and a place to do things. It is kinda like how we don’t take off our shoes unless it is nap time, I bet Uncle Finn felt like it wasn’t the right time to show me his fancy leg when he knew that he had to pick you up and take you home.”
Finn stood and thought about what Ms. Llaves had said. “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right, it is like the way you don’t like us picking up our shirts and showing our tummies in the middle of circle time. Maybe you can come to my house for a playdate, and I’ll invite Uncle Finn for a playdate, and we can go on my trampoline and did you know that my Mom says that you’re not supposed to wear your shoes on a trampoline? Yeah, then that would be an okay time to not wear shoes and then you can see his super awesome leg!”
Ms. Llaves stood patiently, listening while Finn seemed to say all that he had to say in one breath! She processed what he had to say and in her polite, teacher way she responded to him. “Well, that sounds like that would be a fun day, I guess we’d have to see about that, but I’m not sure when that would happen, but thanks for the invite, you are such a sweetie! Maybe I’ll have to talk to your Uncle about setting up a grown up playdate.”
Finn nodded, satiated with Ms. Llaves’ response, he went on to play with his friends in the block center. Soon it was time to clean up and go to the library. Marisol rang the bell alerting the class that it was time to clean up. Today, everyone was cooperative, so she didn’t have to wrangle any lazy-bones and prod them into cleaning, so it was a fast clean up! As everyone walked down the hall to the library, Marisol was struck by a thought. We never exchanged numbers! I’m going to need to get his number to confirm details for Friday!
The students walked into the room with the librarian, and Mari made a beeline straight for her classroom to the box of student files under her desk. She pulled out Finn’s file and crossed her fingers. She quickly scanned the files with baited breath. If this didn’t provide what she needed, she wasn’t sure what she would do! She zipped through the file and zeroed in on alternate pick-ups. There it was. Just what she needed, Locke Glasgow’s information. She quickly keyed it into her phone for later and carefully tucked the file back into its rightful place. She then carried on with her usual duties, getting folders ready, sanitizing tables and straightening chairs before going back to pick up her class.
After her class went home for the day, Marisol sat in her classroom, looking at her phone. She now had his information and it was up to her to firm up the plans for tomorrow afternoon. What should I say? Well, duh, you ding-bat, just the obvious when planning a get together with someone! Mari took a deep breath and began to type a text on her iPhone. “Hey Locke, This is Marisol Llaves. I just realized that while I gave you your sticker, we never really solidified those plans for Friday! I hope that you don’t mind that I got your info from Finn’s file. It was either that, or we’d both be out of luck! How does the Starbucks on West Ave. at 3:00ish sound?” Mari looked over her message, a bit long-winded, but that was the way she rolled, so she took a deep breath, hit send, and waited.
Marisol was tidying up her room, getting things ready for the next day when she heard her phone and felt it buzz in her pocket. Ding! Ding! Mari immediately pulled the phone out of her pocket and began reading the response. “Hey Mari! Is it okay if I call you Mari? This is Locke. 3:00 sounds great, I’ll meet you at the West Ave. Starbucks then!” She emitted a sigh of relief. What else did she expect? She didn’t think he’d cancel or anything, but it just felt good to know that now, there was a confirmed time and a place!
Friday went fast, as it did most weeks. The last day of the week zoomed by in the blink of an eye. Normally Mari would spend a little time after the kids left to clean things up a bit, but she had a date! Or at least an “I owe you for not sending my nephew for to after-school every time I was late, here’s a little coffee and dessert to say thanks and see you next week” kinda thing. She really was hoping this was more of a date, and the way things have been going between her and Locke at pick up time, this seemed like it was going to be more like a date. Especially since he just asked if he could call her Mari, right? Dropping the formalities isn’t as big of a deal as it would have been once upon a time, but still, it was something.
Thankfully, Mari remembered to bring her favorite black blouse, it was still warm, so it was short sleeved and had a scalloped neck. She wore a red chunky necklace, a funky red bracelet and a pair of red sandals. She had remembered to paint her toes, but she loved orange, so her toes were a bright tangerine orange color. She refreshed her make up. Locked up her room, closed the door and was on her merry way to Starbucks!
Marisol pulled up to Starbucks right at 3:00. As she pulled into the parking lot, she took a quick look around to see if she could spot Locke’s Retro Blue Fiat. As luck would have it, he was parked near the front door and there happened to be a space right next to him. Perfect! Marisol pulled in, exited from her Silver Rav4 and walked into the Starbucks. Mari glanced around looking for Locke and quickly spotted him in the back reading on his Kindle. Well, it looks like I don’t have to wait for a playdate to see Uncle Locke’s robot leg. Today is my lucky day. She smiled at Locke, who was dressed casually in shorts and an olive green polo shirt. “Hello Mr. Locke, pleasure to meet you here,” she greeted him.
“Hello Ms. Llaves, or is it okay for me to call you Mari?”
“Ah, sure, you can call me Mari.” Mari blushed, suddenly finding herself way more nervous than she anticipated. “So, how are you on this lovely afternoon?”
“Great, now that you are here,” said Locke with a smile as he stood up. “Despite my love for coffee based beverages, I decided to wait until you arrived before ordering drinks. After all, I owe you, and I didn’t know what kind of drink you wanted,” he said, giving her a playful little pat on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s get some coffee in us before we sit and chat.”
They both got in line. As Mari sat in line, she waffled a bit. Cold drink or hot drink? Coffee drink or fruit based drink? Cool Lime Refresher or Soy Cinnamon Dolce Latte, Refresher or Latte …. During this time of indecisiveness, the line had moved along and next thing she knew, she heard Locke tell the barista his order.
“A venti Mocha Frappuccino, please and Mari?”
“Oh! Um. I’ll have a …” Make a decision! “… Umm… I’ll have a Mocha Frappuccino too.”
The barista looked at her and asked, “Same size?”
“Yeah, I mean, yes ma’am, same size please.”
Locke looked at her and smiled. “Good choice! I love my Frappuccinos!”
When in Rome, as they say. Make a duplicate decision when you can’t flipping decide! thought Mari. She could not believe how suddenly, she felt kinda naked outside of her classroom with this guy, they have had such great banter and suddenly, she felt incredibly insecure. She desperately hoped that he didn’t notice how suddenly shy and flustered she was. Worse yet, what if he thought it was because she now saw his “robot” leg and was freaked out by it. Oh my gosh, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Come on Mari, get it together, you are an adult, you are capable of carrying on conversations that are not focused on Paw Patrol, Disney Princesses or Dinosaurs!
Eventually the barista called out their order, as they sat at the table, Locke took a look at his cup and said, “Well, I guess I know my Starbucks name at this place, Lochk, what is that? Low-chuh-kuh? Lotch-kuh? I think that spelling is right up there! With a name like Mari, you gotta have a Starbucks name, what is yours?”
Mari turned her cup around and examined it. Mardee. “Mar-dee? Apparently my name here is Mar-dee??”
“Well, nice to meet you Mar-dee, apparently I’m Low-chuh-kuh?” They both started laughing hysterically. They laughed so hard that people started to stare at them.
They both tried desperately to catch their breath, but it took a moment.
“Oh, man Mari, I haven’t had a good laugh like that in a while, thanks for that!”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Well, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have been here, right now, to have this hysterical moment!”
“Well, if it comes down to it, I guess this moment is brought to us by our parents who gave us names that weren’t so simple!” She began giggling again.
“To our parents!” said Locke as he raised his cup in a faux clinking gesture.
“To our parents!” laughed Mari as she met his cup in the air.
They each took a sip from their drinks and Mari began to relax a little.
“So Locke, just curious, how did you end up getting to be Wednesday pick up for Finn?”
“Oh, that, it was no big deal, Lana and Daniel both ended up having their long days coincide on Wednesdays, and I tend to have more flexibility in my position at work. I’ve also always been very close to Lana and of course to Finn, so it was a no-brainer that I’d go pick him up.”
“Ah, well that worked out well for Finn and his parents then. If you’ll pardon me for saying so, it has also worked out for me too.”
“Oh really?” said Locke with a raised eyebrow. “How’s that?”
“Well, I’ve gotten to see you every Wednesday, haven’t I?” said Mari, somewhat suggestively.
“Well, well, well, Ms. Llaves, I thought it was just me, but it looks like it has been a two-way street, huh?”
Mari blushed. “Am I in trouble, or are you just working the teacher angle?”
“I don’t know,” said Locke, “we shall see.”
Mari looked at him curiously.
Locke continued, “It seems that we are nearly done with our drinks, but I don’t think we are done with our conversation.”
“Hmmm, I am inclined to agree,” said Mari as she reached over and began tracing circles on his left knee.
Locke looked surprised, yet intrigued.
“Well, then, Miss Marisol, would you care to join me for dinner, I’ll drive.”
“Oh yes, I would love to have dinner with you.”
Locke and Marisol walked out the door and up to his car. Locke unlocked the doors and then opened the passenger door for Mari.
“You are such a gentleman, Locke!”
“I guess my Mom raised me right, then,” said Locke as he closed the door for her.
Locke got in and put on his seatbelt, turned on the car and turned to Mari.” Well, where do you feel like going? I was thinking it was a nice night. Do you think you’d be up to going to have dinner downtown on the Riverwalk?”
“That sounds like a fantastic idea!”
“Okay, great, I think I know just the spot. How does The Republic of Texas sound?”
Mari responded enthusiastically, “Oooh! I heard they have great burgers there, that sounds delish!” Maybe we can sit outside along the river to enjoy the romantic ambience too. she thought to herself.
“Ah, I love a girl that can enjoy a good burger!” said Locke, as he shifted into gear and proceeded to head downtown.
Traffic wasn’t too bad, for a Friday evening, but they did end up circling downtown a bit before they found a good space at one of the restaurant parking lots. “It’s a good thing I have this! “he said as he whipped out his placard. “I don’t often pull it out, but I figure we will end up doing a good bit of walking, and we will both be thankful for close parking by the end of the evening!” Locke smiled broadly at Marisol.
Mari nodded in agreement and was kind of a bit amazed that he pulled his placard out so nonchalantly. She almost wondered if part of this was a test? He knew that she knew about his prosthetic leg, but this is the first she’d actually seen it. She generally was nonreactive towards it, because she figured it was the way to go. I mean, it would be foolish to ask a thousand questions about it, most of which she probably had a pretty good idea of the answers to, because, when in doubt, Google and YouTube will give you pretty much any answer you need. Well, mostly non-reactive, after all, she did just boldly trace little circles on his leg not 20 minutes ago in Starbucks, but he seemed fairly open to her brazen invasion of his personal space. “That sounds like a fantastic plan Locke, glad you are such a thinker!”
They walked down the stairs to The Republic of Texas and on down to the reservation point at the entrance that was on the Riverwalk. “Hi, we need a table for two, under the name Locke please.”
The hostess, nodded, put Locke’s name down and told them, “It’ll be a 20-minute wait, for indoors and 30 for outdoors, which do you prefer??”
Locke and Mari simultaneously looked at each other and Locke asked, “Outside sound good?”
Mari responded, “Definitely!”
Locke turned to the hostess and said, “Outside seating, please. May we wait at the bar?” “Certainly!” replied the hostess who then directed them to the bar.
“Mari, what will you have tonight?”
“Oh, Locke, I don’t mind getting my own drink.”
“Well, I’m sure you don’t, but it would be my pleasure to get your drink and dinner tonight, because, if you don’t mind, I think I’d like to call this a date.”
Mari turned to him and gave him a sweet little peck on the cheek.” All right, I think I’d like to call this a date too,” she said blushing ever so slightly.
“Well, darling, what’d you have to drink?” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“I think I’ll have a Mango Margarita on the rocks, extra salt on the rim, please.”
Locke got the bartender’s attention and ordered her drink along with a Dos XX with a slice of lime and salt for him.
They sat drinking and began to chat.
“Geez, Locke, I hate to admit it, but I am just getting a case of the nervous nelly, dumb-dumbs right now.” said Mari.
Gently chuckling at her sweetly, awkward choice of words, he replied, “Why is that?”
“Well, honestly I’ve thought you were a handsome guy from the first time I met you, and I never imagined that I’d actually be having anything more than small talk with you, much less a full-fledged date.”
“Really? When I first laid eyes on you, I thought you’d be taken and was surprised to find out that you were single.”
“Hmmm, is that why Finn asked if I had kids and was married?
Locke crossed his arms over his chest and said, “Maybe, I plead the fifth on that one.”
“Well,” chuckled Mari, “that certainly explains a lot about the conversations that day.”
“Oh, come on!” said Locke. “You didn’t play fair that day either!”
“Oh, really?” Mari asked with a hint of indignation.
“Yes, really!” said Locke with a grin. “Mr. Finn, may have let loose that a certain teacher of his asked a few questions regarding the marital status of his hot uncle.”
“Hot uncle? I don’t believe I asked a question directly about a hot uncle.”
“Well, you may as well have said hot uncle!” chuckled Locke.
“Okay, fine I admit it, I may have pried little bit, and Finn may have offered that you were handsome and I didn’t exactly disagree with him, but it looks like it worked out well for both of us.”
“Marisol, you are one of a kind, and I like it!” he said as he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“As are you, you handsome stinker you!” she said as she reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze.
The buzzer went off alerting them that their table was ready. They walked back towards the hostess stand, and on the way, Mari never let go of Locke’s hand, for her hand seemed to fit just right into his and he seemed to feel the same way, as he gave her hand a little squeeze too