Nick sighed and looked at his two girls. He felt blessed just then and overcome with emotion. It happened from time to time. Skylar just brought about all of these feelings he never thought he could have. He was so grateful that he changed his mind when it came to children, not that he had much choice, but still she was something he would never ever regret in his life.
“I love you.” He said to his baby girl.
“Daddy, keep telling us the story!” Only a well-loved child could dismiss those words. Nick used to yearn to hear them when he was a kid. He thanked God his daughter would never know that feeling of loneliness and disconnection he did at her age. He gently caressed her hair, allowing his love filled moment to pass and continued on with his tale.
“So, after our concert, I was really tired and sweaty.”
“And smelly, don’t forget smelly.” Now it was Shauna’s turn to do a little ribbing.
“Yes, and smelly.” He then pretended to smell his own arm pits and made a disgusted face which once again has his child giggling.
“We ended up at a coffee shop just a few blocks away from the arena…”
It was tricky trying to find places that would be open but yet not overly crowded, especially with the post-concert rush of girls all too excited to go straight home to bed. The last thing Nick wanted to encounter was a bunch of wired up fans while on a first date. Shauna listed off a bunch of different places but settled on this one because of its location and the crowd it generally attracted.
“Let’s just say, no one in here will care about you or the Backstreet Boys in the least.” And she was right about that. The place was completely made for indie rockers. The entire band probably could have shown up unnoticed.
When they arrived only three other people were in the place. Two of which were on their laptops and the other one had headphones on and was bobbing to whatever it was he was listening to as he sipped tea.
Nick knew he didn’t look all that great. The show wore him out tonight. If he didn’t have this date, he would have gladly just gone back to the bus and crashed for the night. He was wearing a pair of overly worn jeans and a black hoodie to mask who he was, just in case. In contrast, Shauna was still dressed in her gray and white, looking radiant and business like all at the same time. Strangers encountering the two would probably think she was his older sister taking him out for coffee and giving him money from mom and dad.
“So, sounds like you had a good show tonight. The crowd really got into it.”
“Thanks, yeah they usually do.”
She glanced over to the huge bodyguard sitting a few tables away. As much as Nick liked his independence, there was no way he would be allowed to go out by himself and be mobbed, so Q, one of their bodyguards got the unlucky draw to have to follow along. He sat there by himself gnawing on a bagel.
“Sorry about that, management insists…”
She nodded, “I get it.”
There was an awkward tension in the air. Nick always seemed like he was so sure when it came to the ladies, but in reality he felt like a high school nerd asking the beautiful girl to the prom every time, except when it was just a booty call. The thought of sex briefly crossed his mind because he was after all, a guy.
“Are you hungry? Can I get you anything?” He stood up; hoping the walk to the counter would help him loosen up a bit.
They sat in silence for a little while, just looking at each other. Shauna was nursing a black coffee with one sugar while Nick was playing with the straw in his iced latte. It was so clear they came from different worlds. Just as he was convinced he made a mistake she shot a spit ball across the table which promptly hit him right on the nose.
“You have the cutest what the hell just happened, face!” Shauna had said as she blew on her coffee and took a sip.
“I love when you hit daddy on the nose!” Skylar yelled out breaking Nick’s telling of the story.
“Oh, yeah well maybe I should bop you in the nose then, huh?” He asked getting as close as he could to his daughter’s nose and then giving it a gentle tug with his pointer and middle fingers.
She bat his hand away as he continued…
“Anyway…when your Mom did that, I thought I would get her back by dipping my straw in my latte and spitting it at her. She didn’t like that too much, at least she pretended not to.”
“You got it all over my shirt!”
“You loved it!” He winked at her.
“And you still owe me for that blouse by the way! It was one of my favorites!”
That seemed to be all they needed to break the tension. Soon, a conversation started. Very casual at first, then more personal as time went by. Nick learned that Shauna was an only child raised by a single mom. To entertain herself, she used to sing to doorknobs and dance around her house with her grandmother’s old cane. She worked two jobs to put herself through college where she graduated at the top of her class with a business management degree. It turns out she was a little older than Nick, but only by two years. Maturity wise, about ten though. She talked with an ease about her. Even though she was as Irish as you could get, she used her hands as emphatically as most Italians do when they are engaged in intense conversation.
The second round, a glass of water for Shauna and two big chocolate chips for Nick, brought talk about Nick’s life. How hard it was to be famous at such an early age. How he never felt comfortable being in show business but did it mainly because he felt like he would be letting his parents down if he didn’t. He talked about the guys and how much they meant to him, how in his darkest moments, they were the ones that would guide him back to the light.
He was surprised when she said she was actually a fan of their music but didn’t follow them as people. She could sing their songs by heart but could also pass any one of them on the street without a second thought as to who they were.
Turned out both were big football fans. Nick loved the Bucs but Shauna’s heart belonged to the Eagles. She had to be different from all her other Jersey friends who rooted for the Jets or the Giants. She said she did it mainly to piss off her best friend’s boyfriends at first but eventually she started to own her love of the team and once she owned something she loved it passionately.
They shared horrible dating stories, Nick’s much more interesting and over the top than Shauna’s. She admitted she came close to marriage once, but found out he was cheating on her. It took her a long time to get over it and still to this day, that was her deal breaker. She wasn’t a jealous person, she confessed, or one that tolerated playing games but if you cheated, there were no second chances for you. Out the door you would go.
Both were animal lovers. She had a cat at home named Wednesday and anyone who didn’t like the tabby was shown the door. She said she once had a boyfriend who said it was either him or the cat. As she walked him out of her life, she explained that Wednesday won because if you truly loved someone, you wouldn’t put them in the position to let go of something that precious.
How many times Nick has been in that position he couldn’t count but not once did he ever even consider not giving up what was asked. He let so many people walk all over him. Good thing no one ever asked him to get rid of his dogs.
They sat in silence for a little bit, not awkward at all but comforting. Like two old friends rekindling a relationship thought lost. Theirs was just starting though.
“Care to dance?” She asked out of the blue.
Nick looked around to see the three people who were there had long since departed and Q half asleep on his own chair with cellphone dangling in his hand.
“There’s no music.”
“I know this sounds dumb, but I usually have this test I do with the guys I go out on a date with.”
“I have to say I’m not the best test taker.” He joked, trying not to let his tiredness show. He was beginning to fade but didn’t want this night to end.
She stood up and took him by the hand. He followed her all the way to the counter where there was the tiniest bit of space between tables. “Let’s call this our dance floor.”
She pulled him close. She had some kind of perfume on that smelled sweet, just the perfect amount so as not to be overpowering. Her heels brought her all the way up past his shoulders. He placed his arms around her waist and she countered by pulling hers around his neck.
“So, what’s this test?”
“I have to be able to hear a song. If I don’t hear it, then this isn’t going to work out.”
She smiled as she closed her eyes, “I will never tell.”
“Is that the name of the song?”
She laughed and said a quiet “Shh…” and in barely a whisper she said, “There it is…”
They began to sway to the music that only she could hear and at that moment, 2:07 am, in a small coffee place in the middle of North Jersey, he knew he had met the woman he was going to marry.
“Daddy dance with me!”
Now we were getting to the real reason Skylar enjoyed this story so much. It was at this point where she got to dance with her daddy. He grabbed her little hand and stood her on the bed. She wrapped her arms around his neck and swayed with him.
“I still don’t know what song you heard in your head.” He said to his wife while he danced with his daughter.
“I’m taking it to my grave.”
Skylar let go of her father, “Now the two of you dance!”
“You heard the little lady…let’s go.”
Nick grabbed Shauna’s hand the same way she did in the café 4 years ago. He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her waist as she put hers around his neck.
They danced to silence as their daughter excitedly stood on the bed and watched. Keeping her own time as she began to gently jump up and down, placing her hands above her head like a little ballerina.