Things were quiet as he drove. I’d turned on the radio with Ezra’s permission, but I couldn’t find anything good, so a classical violin piece was softly playing instead. The song was vaguely familiar, although I couldn’t place where I’d heard it before. My dad used to hum classical music whenever he was driving, but that was ages ago; I doubted I remembered one specific song he liked in particular. I was in the passenger’s seat of his car, sitting on my hands so I didn’t harm any of the leather detailing. It didn’t look particularly expensive, but I didn’t really expect him to be able to drop hundreds on dinner and not have a gloriously fancy car. Ezra’s hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, tinting his knuckles white with the force. After a while, he took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry.”
“What?” I asked him, utterly surprised. “I must have misheard you…did you say you’re sorry? For what?”
“For this date. I pressured you into coming somewhere where you clearly felt uncomfortable going and you looked gorgeous but so out of place.” He laughed one, low and under his breath. “I kept looking at you and you were so nervous. You looked like you were afraid to touch anything, like you might break it. And you kept mouthing all the French words to yourself with the most confused look on your face. It was pretty obvious that you didn’t understand any of them.”
“It’s not nice to make fun of people,” I said, smiling as I glanced over at him. “It’s just that some of us don’t have random cash to flash around on getting better tables and fancy cars and…thousand dollar dinners.”
“Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be, huh?” he asked, grinning. But the grin slipped form his face. “But anyway, like I was saying, I’m sorry. I mean, if you hadn’t ended the date when you did, I would have had to anyway.”
“Really?” Oh, crap. Was it going that horribly for him? I mean, he was nice and I’d probably consider going out with him again, but I hadn’t stopped to think that maybe I was just too out of place for his tastes.
“My sister called and she needed me to come home. She’s seventeen, but she likes to pretend that she’s practically helpless if I’m not there to do everything for her. Her name’s Rhyannon, but my nickname for her is Ko.” So that had been who he was talking to on the phone.
“Why Ko?” I asked, wrinkling my nose slightly, and he shrugged.
“No particular reason. My parents just liked the sound of it, I guess; they used to call us Lo and Ko when we were kids. You know, the two of you would probably get along pretty well now that I think about it. It’d be cool to have you guys meet one day.” As soon as the words left his lips, he sucked his breath in through his teeth and grimaced. “Awkward. I…can’t believe I actually just said that. Here I am, first date, and I’m telling you I want you to meet my family.” He grinned again. “I’m sorry. I make stupid choices when I’m around pretty girls. My brain doesn’t work right.”
“Aw, sweet talker, aren’t you?” I asked, smiling.
“Yes, I am. I am very good at the sweet talk.” He laughed and it made me giggle for some reason, filling the car with noise. I never giggled. Oh, God, what was happening to me? “But in all seriousness, Ko’s the best. Our parents haven’t really been around for us and they left Ko in my care as soon as I was legal. Unofficially, she’s been my only real family. We mostly grew up alone together. A few years ago, though, Ko’s best friend moved in with us after her parents died. It’s almost like I have two sisters now, Zoey and Ko.” He tapped his fingers against the wheel, which he was no longer clutching with a death grip, and grinned. “So what about you?”
“What about me?” I asked, trying to detract him from what I knew he was going to ask.
“Well, you’ve heard me drone on and on about my tiny family. Tell me about yours.”
“There’s not that much to know.”
“Come on,” he said. “I know you have a mom, at the very least.” As if on a scheduled cue, my phone rang once more to the tune of the funeral march.