I looked at my watch for the third in as many minutes. I was always early so I still had a ten minute wait. Usually I relaxed, enjoyed the quiet time but tonight I was restless, anxious. Tyler hadn’t replied to my email, maybe he hadn’t seen it? Or maybe he wasn’t interested. I sighed as I did my best not to think about it. But a moment later I was back obsessing about it. I should have banned myself from checking the stupid email until tomorrow, but I hadn’t been able to resist.

“Idiot,” I grumbled to myself as I stared down the road, watching lights draw closer. Not the bus, too early and the lights were wrong. I stepped back a little and looked down so the lights wouldn’t blind me as the car went by. A moment later I was looking up cautiously as the car slowed to a stop near me. Probably someone was being dropped off to catch the bus, it happened occasionally.

The car, well truck really, one of those oversized pick ups with a large metal box in the exposed flatbed, idled at the curb. A sign on the door panel read ‘Carmody Carpentry’ so the metal box was probably for tools. I waited for the door to open, heard instead the soft whir of a window then music spilled out into the night, the same song that I’d woken up to earlier in the day. The one that had disturbed my dream where Tyler was calling my name …

“Lily?” The music cut out and I heard his voice again. “Lily is that you?”

My head jerked up from the sign on the side of the car and I stared at the man leaning across the seat, staring at me with a half a smile.

“Tyler?” I blinked, shook my head in confusion. “What are you doing here?”

“Just driving by and spotted you,” he said and hit me with a full smile. In case I’d forgotten how gorgeous he was. “What are you doing here?”

Really? I looked behind me at the bus stop. In reality, I hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time with this man, maybe he was as dumb as he was pretty?

“I mean, fuck.” He swore softly as I turned back to find him with his hand over his face before I was pinned by those green eyes again. “Obviously you’re waiting for the bus.”

I nodded when he paused, aware I was smiling at him as he smiled at me. “Pretty sure this is the right spot for it,” I said.

“There’s no stop closer to your house then?”

Oh right, I’d forgotten he knew where I lived and yeah, the bus stop was a couple of blocks away. I shrugged, said, “It’s okay, I enjoy the walk.”

We stared at each other for a moment then he said, “I could drive you.”

He didn’t say ‘I got your email and I’m not sure’. He didn’t say ‘I got your email and I’m sorry but I’m not interested’. Maybe he hadn’t seen it? I felt incredibly awkward and unsure, a part of me just wanted to jump in the truck with him. The more cautious part of me said, “It’s fine, the bus will be here in a minute.” Then the paranoid part of me said, “Why are you here anyway, this isn’t your neighbourhood.”

“I was working.” He tapped the car door. “I’m headed into town to grab some food anyway so you’re sort of on my way.”

I was tempted. By not having to catch the bus. By having some time with Tyler. I sighed as I fought my internal battle, then he tipped the scales.

“You’ll be early so you could join me while I eat. You can have dessert or just a coffee. Anything you want Lily.”

He had me at coffee. “I can’t be late for work.” I warned as I took a step closer to him.

With a click the door opened and was pushed wide to show him leaning across the seat towards me. I slid in and closed the door and he reached over me for the seatbelt. I sat in bemused silence as he adjusted it over my shoulder.

“Sorry,” he muttered as it clicked home. “I would have come opened the door but there’s a car coming up behind us.”

“It’s fine,” I replied as I settled my bag in my lap. “I can open a door,” I added but he was busy checking the road.

We drove in silence for a few minutes, Tyler’s attention on the road, my nerves screaming. I jumped when he spoke, grateful he was looking ahead so didn’t notice.

“Is ‘The Diner’ okay with you? Their service is usually pretty quick.”

“Oh um, whatever you prefer Tyler, you have to eat the food. Once we’re in town I can always walk to work if I need to anyway.”

I heard him sigh and looked over but he was staring straight ahead and didn’t say anything. Neither of us spoke for the duration of the trip so by the time he pulled into a parking space and turned off the engine I was ready to bolt. If we couldn’t even have a conversation in the car, what hope was there? I wanted to tell him to ignore the email, that I’d been wrong, that there was no point to any of this.

Before I could say anything he was out of the truck, rounding the front of it and … opening my door? He grinned as he reached across me to release the seatbelt then placed his hand on my arm. “Ready Lily? I’m starving.” A gentle tug and I realised he was helping me out.

“Oh, of course,” I said and let him help me out. He didn’t give me a chance to walk away, his hand gripped mine while he closed the door then he started across the carpark and led me inside, the bell above the door announcing our arrival.

“Grab a seat and I’ll be right with you,” a voice called from the kitchen and again I trailed after Tyler as he picked a booth and I sat down. It was a night for surprises as he slid in beside me rather than opposite me, shot me a smile then picked up a menu.

“What do you think Lily, you want something to eat or just coffee?”

“Oh um, just coffee thanks.” I didn’t bother to check the menu, I was too nervous to try to eat.

“What’ll it be?”

I know Tyler ordered but I couldn’t have said what he ordered, I was too busy worrying about what I was going to say next. I sat there with the heat of his body running up my side and waited for him to see through my smoke and mirrors to the insecure woman I really was. In that moment I wasn’t Lily, the woman who wanted to take chances and didn’t want to give up. In that moment I was Lillian, cowed, scared, worthless.