Author's Note: First Date Fiasco is set in the universe of Waiting in the Wings, a week after Chapter 24 (before the Epilogue).
There should be a handbook on first dates. Or dates in general. A full chapter about going on a date with your good friend would have been enlightening.
Because Erin was standing in front of her full-length mirror, auditioning her favorite salmon dress (the third dress she had tried on) for her date tonight, and all she could think of was “How many times has Ramon seen this dress?”
She should have kept count.
Stop being ridiculous, Erin thought and put on the denim jacket she often combo-ed this dress with. Ramon wouldn’t care if he’d already seen me in this dress.
The clothes are not the point, she reminded herself as she twirled happily in front of the mirror. Her signature straight hair now cascaded in beautiful waves over her shoulders (thanks to Hiraya’s curling iron), and she loved it. If it weren’t for the prep time, she’d probably consider wearing her hair like this more often.
She was carefully applying color on her lips when her phone hummed against her dresser. On my way to pick you up, the message preview said.
Erin’s stomach did a triple somersault.
. . . . .
Ramon turned the windshield wipers on.
Accidentally, when his knuckles hit the control lever as he started the car.
He wanted to laugh. He was so nervous about this date—why, again? It wasn’t as if he didn’t know Erin or the things she liked. In fact, he planned tonight’s itinerary around the things he was sure she’d appreciate:
Her new favorite restaurant for dinner.
A superhero movie she’d been wanting to see.
Nightcap at a dog café.
So why the heck was he so jumpy?
I’m almost done putting my face on. Drive safely, was Erin’s reply to his last message. He tightened his grip around the steering wheel and took a deep breath as he drove out of the parking lot.
Chill, Ramon. You got this, he told himself as he glanced at his reflection on the rearview mirror. You got this.
. . . . .
“It’s fine, Ramon. I’m sure we can find someplace else to eat.”
Erin scrolled through her Guide2DCity app to look up nearby restaurants, an alternative to where Ramon had made a dinner reservation. A last-minute misunderstanding with the receptionist at Coco’s cost them their table, and although extremely apologetic for the mix-up, the restaurant manager could only offer them a table for 9:30 p.m.
They had tickets to an 8:30 film screening.
7:45 on a Saturday night and cars were moving at a snail’s pace on the rained on streets of Ortigas. Erin had checked Waze a little while ago and confirmed the cause of the standstill: an accident involving two cars and a motorbike at the intersection ahead of them.
They were going to have to settle for the last full show at this rate. Needless to say, Ramon was upset.
“Hey, Ramoncito…” Erin reached for his arm and squeezed. “It’s okay. Let it go.”
“If they only told me sooner, we wouldn’t have had to take this detour and—just look at this mess!” Ramon gestured toward the traffic jam in front of them and sighed.
“Relax. Is it possible to refund the tickets if we can’t make it?”
She clicked her tongue. “That’s too bad.”
“Are you hungry?”
Erin heard the anxiety in Ramon’s voice, and the creases on his forehead told her he was stressing out over this more than he should. Stuck in traffic wasn’t an ideal first date scenario, but nobody said they couldn’t improvise.
She unbuckled her seatbelt, leaned across the console, and kissed Ramon’s cheek. “I have an idea.”
. . . . .
Before he could ask what she was up to, Erin bolted out of the car, bringing her purse with her. If she suddenly changed her mind and abandoned him in the middle of this godforsaken carmageddon, he wouldn’t be surprised. He sucked at planning.
And of course, the universe decided to school him on Murphy’s Law today, of all days. Of course.
Erin returned ten minutes later, her wide, pleased-with-herself smile lighting up this dreary side of the city. In her arms were two Family Mart bags she quickly unpacked as soon as she settled back in on her seat. “I got us sandwiches! Do you want chicken or ham?” she asked, holding up a sandwich in each hand.
“I know you like chicken, so I’ll take ham,” he replied, unable to control a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
A small frown appeared on Erin’s face. “Ramon Elias…”
“Ang cute mo kasi.”
The adorable way she wrinkled her nose told him he hit a high mark on her kilig-o-meter, and seeing that expression on her face was both an achievement and a reward. He took the ham sandwich from her hand and gave in to the urge to kiss the tip of her nose.
“Your choice of adjective is lacking in originality.” She put on a pretend frown and rubbed any traces of his kiss away with the back of her hand before putting canned coffee in the console. “Here, I bought coffee too. And fruit cups. Because balanced diet.”
“So thoughtful,” Ramon mumbled, smiling, watching the pout on her face intensify as she struggled with the plastic seal of her fruit cup. Oh, how he wanted to kiss those lips, those knitted brows, that endearing face of concentration.
And that victorious smile, too, when she finally peeled the plastic seal away. He grinned. Trust the ever-resourceful Erin Javier to turn a potentially disastrous day around. “Your boyfriend must find you adorable,” he teased.
She flashed him a smug little smile. “He does, actually.”
“Figured.” He clicked his tongue. “Is there no way I can perhaps steal you away from him?”
Erin cackled. “I’ll have you know that my boyfriend looks like he can beat the shit out of anybody. And he’s a really good kisser, so if you can top that…”
Ramon was convinced he’s found something more effective than caffeine, as Erin’s words often prompted his heart to pound wildly against his rib cage. Sometimes, he still couldn’t wrap his head around how this pint-sized beauty could easily knock the air out of him without even lifting a finger. Was this even normal? He should probably consider getting his health checked, or health insurance, for that matter.
But he wasn’t one to back away from a challenge, so…
“I can’t very well only give you lip service, can I?”
Her face inched closer to his. “No. I need receipts.”
“Very well…” Ramon didn’t wait for her to challenge him further and just swooped in for an apple-flavored kiss.
He had never been so thankful for a traffic jam his entire life.
. . . . .
According to Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” and that was exactly what happened tonight, on Erin’s first official date with Ramon. After losing their restaurant reservation, they got stuck in horrible traffic for two hours and missed the movie they were supposed to see. And because the dog café they planned to go to was completely packed when they got there, they skipped that part of the itinerary completely.
But she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I’m sorry our first date sucked,” he told her when he parked his car in front of her apartment a little past two in the morning. “I’ll make it up to you next time.”
“What are you talking about? I had fun!”
“Eating sandwiches in the car?”
“…and drinking canned lattes. We even had fruit cups!”
Ramon shook his head. “Erin…”
“We also did car-aoke, which was fun. I love random duets,” Erin said with a grin and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. “I also loved that we made that isaw and taho stopover before coming here. I haven’t had taho in like, a million years.”
He looked at her like he couldn’t believe what she just said. “I had better plans…”
“Of course you did.” She reached to touch the creases on his forehead. “But we were together all night, and I had fun. Didn’t you have fun?”
“I did. I always have fun with you.”
“Well…that’s what matters, right?”
Ramon nodded, took her hand and kissed her palm. “Of course. That doesn’t mean I’m not still gonna try making it up to you on our next date,” he insisted, gently tapping his index finger on the tip of her nose.
“Such a perfectionist, my Ramon.”
“Only because my Erin deserves nothing less.”
And there it was again, that feeling of kilig that made her wrinkle her nose up at him. She wondered if he knew what kind of effect he had on her. “Awww. Labyu, Ramon.”
“I love you too.”