Susanna returned from the pub positively glowing - and I didn’t think it was the result of alcohol.
“He is such a cool guy,” she confided in me. “He’s lived in Rome, Athens, Paris and even New York! He had so many stories to tell. You know, one summer, he played as part of a band in Central Park? And with his school in France, he performed a Shakespeare play beneath the Eiffel Towel. And he’s seen dancing horses - in Spain, since his family loves holidaying too! He’s so cultured!”
“He does sound cool,” I agreed, almost wishing that I had been there as well.
The next day, Thursday, there was a surprise call to the house. Susanna and I were helping Uncle Mack make lunch when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” I offered.
Standing outside was a tall, handsome boy with hair like amber and beautiful blue eyes.
“Hey, there - you must be Jennifer,” he said warmly. “Maybe Susanna’s mentioned me - Joel?”
‘She didn’t mention you were drop-dead gorgeous!’ I thought.
“Oh, yeah, she did,” I said. “D’you want me to get her for you?” I tried not to stare as I talked to him.
“Actually I was hoping to speak to your Uncle Mack? Is he around?”
I was completely surprised by this request - I wondered what he wanted to say to him.
“Yeah, he is - I’ll get him for you,” I replied. “Wait here.”
I returned to the kitchen and said “It’s Joel. He wants to talk to you, Uncle Mack.”
Uncle Mack put down the knife he’d been using to chop up carrots, looking bewildered, and went to talk to Joel.
Susanna looked equally stunned.
“What did he want?” she asked.
“He didn’t say -don’t you know?”
“No, I don’t...”
A few minutes later, an awkward-looking Uncle Mack came back, followed by a cheerful-looking Joel.
“Hey, Susie, I was asking your uncle’s permission to ask you out on a date. Would you like to have coffee with me on Saturday?”
‘This is a bit fast...,’ I thought. ‘They’ve only hung out once together - not counting all the volunteering...’
Susanna blushed, but looked happy to be asked all the same. She didn’t seem to think it was unusual at all and since she didn’t look uncomfortable, I decided not to worry about it.
“I’d love to, Joel,” she answered, smiling.
“I know it’s maybe a bit soon,” Joel said, as though he had read my mind and wanted to reassure me that there was nothing suspicious going on, “but I just feel like we have ... a connection. D’you know what I mean?”
‘Little bit cliché there...,’ I thought, embarrassed to be in the room as this conversation was happening. I noticed that Uncle Mack was very focused on chopping the carrots. I decided to forgive the cliché, and resumed my task of putting fish fingers and potato waffles into the oven.
Susanna ran up to hug him.
“I know - I do too,” she murmured.
“Can Joel stay for lunch?” Susanna asked our uncle.
“Oh, sure,” he replied, glancing up at them with a smile, though he quickly looked down again.
“Anything I can help with, sir?” Joel asked.
Well. He was the perfect gentleman, wasn’t he?
“Well, Jen and I can handle the vegetables. You two could lay the table.”
“Let’s go, Joel.” She led him to the dining room where they began laying the table. Uncle Mack finished chopping carrots, added the slices to the saucepan which already contained peas and water. He proceeded to put the vegetables on to boil.
Half an hour later we were sitting around the table, eating.
Joel was conversational for the entire duration of the meal and showed himself to be an interesting, personable character, but I just came to feel like he and Susanna should’ve been alone in some café or restaurant - he was too intense for my liking. Also, I discovered that it’s really difficult to concentrate on eating or chatting when there’s a hot guy at the table. Call me shallow but it was incredibly distracting.
Eventually the time came for him to leave and I almost sighed in relief.
Susanna was bouncing.
“So, d’you like him?” she asked me.
I found it sweet that my sister cared about my opinion and was glad that she wasn’t so obsessed about Joel that she had forgotten her family.
I smiled faintly and replied, “Yeah, he seems like an alright guy.”
“I’m so glad you think so. You know, I feel like I’m almost already in love with him...”
I tried to hide how awkward that statement made me feel.
“That’s great,” I told her. “He seems to really like you too - he couldn’t keep his eyes from straying in your direction every once in a while, as though he was worried about the impression he was making or he cared what you thought.” It was the truth. Despite the awkwardness of it all, I had slightly envied my sister the attention she had been receiving from such a wonderful, wholesome-seeming guy.
“Thanks, Jen,” she whispered, as though I was in some way responsible for this brilliant event in her life. It wasn’t difficult to see that she had fallen for Joel - and fallen hard.