First Date

from “Kissed by a Rose”

In this excerpt from Chapter 11 of Kissed by a Rose, Adam and Chloe go on their first date. And Adam finds it strange going to the cinema with a movie star.

After showering and shaving, Adam pulled on his best pair of jeans and plain white shirt, then drove to Chloe’s in his fifteen-year-old Ford Fiesta. It wasn’t much of a car, but the engine was sound and the insurance was cheap. She was sitting on the wall that separated her front garden from the footpath. He pulled up beside her and she jumped up.

She was wearing a short stonewashed denim skirt with a frayed hem and black blouse. She opened the car door and Adam watched as she climbed in. He thought he caught a glimpse of white under her skirt and looked away. He looked in his door mirror until he heard her shut the door then looked back at her. She leaned forward to kiss his cheek.

“I bet the last time you went to the pictures you had better transportation than this,” he said as they set off.

“You could say that. Like I said, the only time I get to go to the cinema is for premières—and you have to arrive in a limo or the press thinks something’s up. I went to one last year in a stretch Hummer. That was bizarre, I can tell you.”

Adam chuckled. “What’s it like at première? It must be cool.”

“Not really. Half the people are more interested in getting their pictures in the papers than watching the pictures on the screen. There’s always a dreadful after-show party of some sort. I hate them.”

“Most people would give their right arm to go to one,” Adam said.

“Believe me—they’d only ever want to go to one.”

Chloe bought the tickets for the movie while Adam bought snacks for them to enjoy during the film. “I didn’t know what you’d want, so I got us a Coke each, some buttered popcorn and bag of Malteasers.”

“What, no ice cream?”

“Sorry, I’m skint.”

The movie was a couple of weeks old and had been moved to one of the multiplex’s smaller screens. Chloe said she preferred it to the giant screens she normally saw films on in the West End. She thought it was more intimate. They sat at the back and tucked into their snacks during the adverts and trailers.

“Hey,” said Chloe as one trailer started. “Look, it’s Reunion.”

The trailer focused on Mark Watson and Lisa Mitchell, but Chloe did appear briefly. She cringed and hid behind her popcorn when she was on screen.

“That looks quite good,” Adam said.

“I’ve already told you that.”

“I know. But now I’ve seen it for myself.”

The popcorn was almost gone by the time the movie started. They were both absorbed in the cinematic experience. Twenty minutes in, a tense moment on-screen resulted in Chloe holding on tightly to Adam’s hand. She didn’t let go after the hero had survived the car crash. She smiled at him and winked. He smiled back and squeezed her had.

Adam watched Chloe as much as he watched the movie. She was wrapped up in the action—her face a mix of emotions. She must have sensed him watching her because she turned her head towards him and smiled again. She squeezed his hand tighter than ever, then scooted down in her seat and rested her head on his shoulder. Her hand moved from his and rested on his leg. Adam wanted to do the same, but he dared not. Her skirt was so short that he would have no choice but to put his hand on her soft, smooth skin. He dare not, dare he? He put his arm around her shoulder instead. He hugged her tightly and she purred like a contented kitten.

The film ended in traditional action movie style—lots of guns, cars, explosions and very little plot or acting. The credits rolled and the house lights came up to allow the patrons to leave the room safely.

“Let’s wait a bit,” said Adam. “Avoid the crush.” In truth, he didn’t want to get up. Chloe still had her head rested on his shoulder. He wanted to keep her there for as long as he could get away with.

“Good idea,” Chloe replied.

As the crowd moved past their row, several people threw confused looks in their direction. Clearly, they couldn’t make up their minds if they were seeing who they thought they were seeing. Chloe blushed and tried to hide behind Adam. The last of the stragglers made their way out and Adam was about to suggest that they leave when a young girl—Adam guessed she was in her early teens—came along their row holding a pen and a piece of paper.

“Excuse me,” the girl said. Her voice was shaking with nerves. “Are you…? Are you Chloe Goodman?”

Adam was going to say that he wasn’t, but Chloe answered instead. “Yes, I am.”

“Cool!” The girl suddenly sounded excited rather than nervous. “Could I…? Would you sign this for me?”

“Sure.” Chloe took the pen and paper and signed it with a flourish. She handed it back to the girl. “There you go. But don’t shout about it now, or everybody will want one, and it’ll make that one less special. Wait and show your friends at school on Monday.”

The girl nodded and ran out of the room shouting, “Mom! Mom! It was her. Look!”

Chloe laughed as they stood up to leave. Adam was bemused. “I thought you didn’t want people to recognise you. I thought you wanted to be normal.”

“Normal is relative, Adam. I mean, do you know how many copies of the Charlotte’s Secret DVD were sold in Britain this summer?”

Adam shook his head. “No idea.”

“Over three million. Like it or not, I’m always going to be recognised, no matter what I do. One little girl asking me for an autograph, I can handle. A room full of students clambering over the furniture to get a look at me when all I want is a drink is a different matter. Come on, let’s get out of here. There’s a side exit we can use to avoid the foyer.”

They slipped out of the multiplex unnoticed and Chloe took Adam’s hand as they walked across the car park.

“Thanks for tonight,” Chloe said, her voice full of sincerity.

“No, thank you. I mean, you paid for the tickets.”

“And you bought the popcorn. But I never would have come if you hadn’t suggested it—and I definitely wouldn’t have come on my own.” She moved in close and kissed his cheek. “So, thanks.”

Adam blushed. “Okay. Sure. Well… I guess I’m just sorry the film was so rubbish.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“As action movies go, it wasn’t. Lots of set pieces and guns. The special effects were pretty good. The car chase at the end was pretty impressive. But there was almost no plot and the characters were straight out of the How to Make an Action Movie Handbook.”

They reached the car, Adam unlocked it, they climbed in and he started the engine. Before he pulled away, Chloe said, “Let’s not go home just yet.”

“What do you want to do then?”

“You know I said I only ever get to go to premières, and that afterwards there are always those awful showbiz parties?”

Adam nodded. “Yeah?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted, after watching a film, to go somewhere quiet for something to eat, maybe a coffee, and just talk about the film. That’s what ordinary people do, isn’t it?”

“Sometimes. But I’m strapped for cash now. I’m not sure I could afford a slap-up meal.”

“Oh, it needn’t be anything fancy—just McDonald’s or Pizza Hut or something. I’ll pay. You drive, I’ll pay. Deal?”

“Sure.” Adam turned off the engine.

“What are you doing?” Chloe asked.

“There’s a Burger King right over there.” Adam pointed across the car park towards the chain restaurant sited to entice people before or after their movie. “You don’t want me to drive over there do you? I thought you said that walking was good for the bum and thighs.”

She playfully punched his arm. “Rotter. Come on, then. Let’s go.”

There was a short queue in the burger restaurant which gave Chloe time to examine the menu. But she still hadn’t made her mind up by the time they got to the counter.

“Can I take your order please?” said the baseball cap-wearing teenager behind the bar, drearily. He clearly wished he was somewhere else—even if it was just the other side of the counter.

Adam ordered then turned to Chloe. “Well? Decided?”

“I don’t know. It all looks so… Look, I know this sounds weird, but I’ve never been in a Burger King before. I want to try everything.”

“You’ve never…? God, being a star is all well and good, but it sounds like you’ve never lived.” He turned to the teenager and said, “She’ll have an XL bacon double cheeseburger meal, with Coke.”

“Is Pepsi okay?” His monotone was annoying.

“Pepsi’s fine. Can we get a couple of chocolate doughnuts too?”

“Anything else?”

“No, that’s it,” said Chloe. She held out a twenty for the boy. He took it and looked at her for the first time. His mouth fell open and he froze, his hand still outstretched holding the money. Adam waved a hand in front of his face.

“’Ere, you’re Chloe Goodman! Boss! Boss! Come look. It’s Chloe Goodman!”

Every eye in the restaurant turned to look at them and silence descended. Then the whispering started. Incessant whispering, so quiet it was deafening.

“And could we get that to take away, please?” said Adam.

By now, the all the customers were buzzing and most of the staff were standing behind the teenager and staring. Chloe took her money back from his still outstretched hand. “Forget it—We’ll go to McDonald’s. They stare less.” She grabbed Adam’s hand and they ran out of the restaurant, laughing.

“I still fancy that burger,” she said.

“There’s a drive through on the way back to the campus. We could take the food back to your place.”

“Okay. Good idea.”

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