December spotted him before he could.
He was standing in front of the store, this time wearing a dark tank top with his board surf shorts, casually looking around his surroundings with his hands in his pockets, and she thought this was it. This was finally the time where she could spend the rest of the evening with him, since their last date. She watched as he perused them over slowly, carelessly, until his gaze found her.
His face lit up and she felt the pull again – like the waves were bringing her along to him.
When she stood before him, smiling as though she had just found the world's rarest treasure, he tilted his head slightly, making him seemed ten times more adorable than usual.
"Oh my, what have I done to deserve such a beautiful smile?"
Taken aback but delighted that she could just combust, December giggled, as was her habit when she was speechless or excited beyond containment.
"Oh, that's not fair. Sneaking up on me with that line." She let out a titter of chuckle before playing along. "But I'm not so sure to be honest…could it be because I've finally found you?"
He grinned and each time he does that, December felt the arrows of Cupid embedded deep in her heart.
But then he looked at her funnily, as though he was trying to cipher something wondrous. "Funny…that's what I was going to say too."
Oh. My. God!
Not able to maintain a semblance of coolness, she pushed at his shoulder lightly with her hands. "Ahh, stop, you big flirt."
Zach laughed when she said that. He shook his head with a smile and said, "So cute," before adding, "Are you hungry?"
She realized just then that the only proper food she had was during lunch, and that was hours ago.
"Not quite, but I'm halfway there." She said cheekily.
Chuckling, he continued, "Well, there's lots of options, but first, what do you feel like having? I think there's even a lobster shack somewhere."
She scrunched her nose and winced. "Ack, no lobsters for me. Allergies."
His face mirrored hers before nodded. "Okay, I'm glad you told me. What about other food?"
"Nope. Just shellfish." She nodded.
"Great, consider that crossed." He actually made a cross with his fingers and December had to restrain herself from poking a finger into his cheek.
"I'm cool with anything else really." Then, she remembered something from her talk with him before. "Is there a vegan friendly place around here? We can go with that."
Zach blinked, and he knew she was being considerate of him too. He smiled softly, but this one almost didn't reach his eyes which she didn't notice. And then, he held his hand out to her and while she was briefly surprised at their development, she clasped it without much hesitation, blooming with joy.
"Come on then."
She didn't forget to text her friends about her whereabouts and who she was with. December didn't want to risk worrying them, really, especially Brooke.
They bantered about the types of food each preferred; from burgers to fine dining, but each time, their opinions clashed. When Zach suggested eating at an Italian bistro by the beach, December thought the idea was too grand for something so simple. They were by the beach, and she didn't want them to spend on something too expensive. When December brought up hamburgers, Zach listed off reasons why they shouldn't get hamburgers sold from the food trucks on that day – apparently the quality of the patty weren't as good as other vendors who only sell them on different days. Something about the authenticity and type of ingredients chosen to make them.
He knew about all these things, things that most people wouldn't really care about, but he did. He was reliable and knowledgeable and not over the top like most of their peers were, and she knew that was one of the reasons why she admire and like him so much.
In the end, they agreed on getting pizza off the boardwalk and onto the street shops above the beach – just across the hill but still in view of the beautiful sea.
They entered a rustic yet modern pizzeria and a delicious waft of smell teased her senses. It made her mouth water and she looked over at Zach to see that he was anticipating the food too.
It was quaint, and the décor was simple, with red bricks for walls, and a series of photographs mounted on it to display generations of pizza makers and its history. There were spices and various colours of utensils hung on a beam against the wall, complementing the shades of mosaic backsplash like vivid rubies. The space was illuminated by incandescent lights creatively fixed to create sentimentality, and the background was filled with amicable chatters from the crowd and some Italian folk melodies.
It was homely, and she briefly thought about how Jethro would especially love and appreciate this atmosphere.
They sat in a booth for two where the only wall was a large glass of window; the passersby and the shore overlooking the expansive sea being the backdrop during their dinner.
It was absolutely lovely, and she felt as though time had transported her and Zach to Italy with the entire ambience.
They ordered their dishes; Zach chose a vegan cheese pizza and vegan Margherita whereas December chose a Hawaiian chicken.
"Are you really okay with me ordering the Hawaiian chicken? I don't want to seem rude." She started, sheepish when she thought about it. After all, she didn't want to come across as insensitive or ignorant since some people could be a bit touchy about their food preference.
But Zach didn't seem to mind it at all. "Of course! Don't worry, December. I'm actually trying the pescatarian diet, even though some say it's not really a vegetarian thing. But I think that's subjective and I'm not going to force or judge you for your choices, so don't feel shy around me."
December's lips pursed to form an 'o'. While she knew there was a difference between vegans and vegetarians, she didn't know there were more to that and that he was trying to follow one of them. She squashed the sneering thought in her mind that told her she should have learned about this during their first date.
She smiled. "Oh, okay." And then, because she was curious, she thread carefully, "Can I ask you something?" When he nodded, she continued, "So as a pescatarian, what kind of food should you avoid?"
Zach seemed pleased that she asked. "Any types of meat like chicken, beef, and pork should be avoided, except fish and anything seafood related."
December teased him as she grimaced mockingly. "Ah. Is that why you suggested lobster earlier?"
He shook his head. "You caught me. If you hadn't told me about your allergy, I think we would have been eating that right now." And then he winked to show that he wasn't being serious. December had to tell herself to prepare for future winks from him, otherwise she would seriously make a fool out of herself – and this time she had no idea what she might do.
Whipped. I'm so whipped for him like a cream, it's not even funny, her mind whispered blissfully.
Their food came and they continued making small talk. The idea of his diet intrigued her because she didn't know anyone who was committed to their plan as him; he had been trying this for three months. She also found out – it was a surprise that she didn't figure this out earlier during their date – that his mother was a nutritionist and while they didn't have a specific type of diet, he explained that because he had been eating meat and chicken a lot, that it was taking a toll on his health. She was worried but he assured her it wasn't anything too serious.
"My mom flipped when she found out. She had no idea I was eating them often since I'm always at the dorm." Zach winced, thinking back to the past. "So I told her I would take care of myself more."
December almost gawked in disbelief. "No way. With this body? I thought you were always eating healthier stuff than most of us."
Zach laughed, enjoying how open all of her expressions were. She didn't seem to worry about wanting to impress him like all the other girls did. It was refreshing.
"I guess there's more to me than what you see?" He teased, but just as he did, his smile dimmed a little and his expression seemed downcast. As quickly as it did, he tried to rearrange his expression into one of his usual and pleasant demeanour.
This time, December caught that flitting expression on his face.
"Is something wrong, Zach?" December's brows furrowed in concern.
Startled, he looked at her, a little bit confused but trying to appear just fine.
"No, why do you think so?"
He almost succeeded but December wasn't easily thrown off.
"I don't know…you just looked sad for a moment." She said in all honesty.
Zach blinked at her, gauging his next actions.
If someone who had really known Zach could see him in that moment, they would know that he was devising a strategy to recoup his composure, to piece together a distraction from focusing on his weakness or fissure in his demeanour. Zachary Wong wasn't used to having his persona being picked apart by anyone much more his girlfriend. His girlfriend of almost two weeks. No one had ever managed to figure him out that well but December just did – he didn't know whether to be in awe or be extra careful now.
"I was thinking of this one time when I found out my parents used my favourite character Legolas from Lord of The Rings to make me eat my greens." He retorted smoothly. That memory had been a passing thought in his mind while they were talking about food, and he thought it was a good idea bring it up now.
December mulled over that. The story of him being upset about Legolas was cute and she wanted to know more. Still, there was a niggling thought at the back of her mind which wanted her to prod him more too – why did he looked sad…and tired? Could it just be that his work had taken a toll on him – but she respected people's space and she could also tell he didn't want to discuss it. Whatever it was must be something he had been trying to ignore.
She decided to not press it, lest she bring the mood down. This was the second time they could hang out like this and she wanted to savour the moment as much as she could.
She plastered on a smile and leaned forward, "How did you find out about it?"
Zach's face didn't seem as tight as it was earlier. He smiled. "It was an accidental thing, actually. I wondered why he didn't give me the presents himself – my parents said he would do that to congratulate me for eating right but," At that, December chuckled out loud. " – I remember waking up to some rustling one time and found my parents in the act of putting the present on the table. They didn't know what to do other than telling me the truth, so there goes one about my hero."
December's cheeks hurt from smiling too much. The story of him as a kid and how his parents tried to make him eat healthily was endearing. Knowing this little things about him made her heart warmed, as though every step she took and story she knew about him brought her closer to him. She wanted to know this side of Zach more.
"Aww, how cute. Were you always a fussy eater, though?"
He shook his head. "Other than that phase, I don't think I was. By the time I figured it out, there was nothing I could do about it since my mom packed my lunches. But she makes a mean meal and we do have some days where we could eat other stuff." He laughed, his cheeks a little ruddy from smiling and chuckling so much.
"That sounds absolutely lovely." She said softly, feeling the love he had for his family and the gentleness of the memory. She was living vicariously through his storytelling.
When they were done with dinner, they paid their bills – going dutch after a mild disagreement; Zach wanted to pay for their meal but December thought she should pay for hers too.
"I think you should know that I'm not the kind of person who expects my date to pay all the time." She grinned sweetly at him.
Zach only shake his head but he agreed too.
"Where do we go next, miss?" Zach looked at her, smiling in contentment. They were full and enjoying this night together, and she hoped the evening would slow so they would have all night.
This time, she sought to hold his hand, matching his expression fondly.
"Let's head down to the beach."414Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡuWTPGxqv1Z