Molly had a great time with Maddy and her friends, Ginger and Sharon. She hadn’t had a girls' night of any kind in forever, and they all got along famously. Not a lot of jewelry got made, but they had a blast anyway, and made tentative plans to do it again.
“Oh, that was fun,” Molly said with a happy sigh as she helped Maddy clear away the dishes. “I haven’t done anything like that in so long.”
“Really?” said Maddy. “That’s too bad.” She picked up a tray with the decimated remains of a cheese selection. Cracker crumbs sat like rubble among the ruins of Swiss, Brie, and Pepper Jack. “It's the kind of thing I’d do with my sisters.”
“My sister thinks it’s a waste of time,” Molly said as they walked into the kitchen. “She told me she doesn’t know why I bother. Other people make it better, and with more expensive materials, and what was it she said? Oh, yes. There was no need to go around looking like I shop in a thrift store.”
“No offense,” said Maddy, “but I don’t think I’d like your sister very much.”
“None taken.” Molly put the glasses down carefully. “I don’t like her much, myself, a lot of the time. I think it’s pretty mutual.”
“I know someone who likes you.” Maddy gave her a wink.
“Who?” Molly looked at her with genuine curiosity.
Maddy laughed. “Jake, silly.”
“No,” said Molly, disbelieving. Then, with a hopeful note, “You think so?”
Maddy laughed again, a clear, pleasant sound. “Absolutely.”
Molly sighed and leaned against the counter. “I like him,” she admitted. “But…well, I think it’s obvious he’s not quite ready to jump back in the dating pool. That was a tough break up.”
“He told you about Chelsea?” Maddy asked, surprised.
Molly nodded. “It was the first night you had me over for dinner. When he walked me back, I offered to listen if he ever wanted to talk about whatever was bothering him. Then all of a sudden, he told me everything. I don’t know why, and we haven’t talked about it since.”
“I can’t imagine why.” Maddy gave a dry laugh. “Geez, what a conversation to have on the first date.”
It was Molly’s turn to laugh. “It was hardly a date, just a walk home.”
“You have to start somewhere.”
“Well, maybe Saturday.”
“Do tell.” Maddy left the dishes and turned to Molly..
“Jake invited me to a ball game,” Molly told her.
“Oh, no.” Maddy groaned and closed her eyes. “Cam drags me to those. It’s like watching paint dry only less exciting.”
“I like baseball,” Molly said hastily. “That’s not the problem. I just don’t know if it’s a game or a date. I think it’s just a game.” She waited a moment, then confessed, “I wish it was a date.”
Maddy came over and squeezed her hand. Molly was so…open. She shouldn’t ever play poker, Maddy thought. Out loud, she said, “Well, some people say dating is a game. Maybe you can make a date out of it.”
“I’m not that clever.” Molly sighed and looked away. “I’ll probably end up saying that to Jake, that I wish we were on a date. Then he’ll go to get a drink during the seventh inning stretch and I won’t realize until the ninth inning that he never came back and I’ll feel like a complete idiot and probably sit in my seat until the ushers throw me out.”
Maddy couldn’t hide a smile as the words flew out of her friend’s mouth. Molly had a gotten much more comfortable recently and wasn’t usually nervous around Maddy or Cameron. But when the conversation turned to Jake, Molly’s speech tended to approach Mach 1.
“I hardly think Jake will abandon you at a baseball game, no matter what you say,” Maddy told her. “It’s not his style.”
“I guess you’re right.” Molly brushed her hair back. “I’m just such a flake and I know it. Jake seems so together. It hardly seems right that he’d be interested in me.”
Maddy laughed loudly this time. “Jake could use a little flakiness in his life, not that you’re a flake.” She patted Molly’s hand. “Just go and enjoy it. And if anything slips out,” she shrugged, “sometimes Jake needs a push.”
Jake knocked on Molly’s door, irritated that he was nervous. It’s just a baseball game,
he reminded himself. With a friend. A very cute, fun, female friend.
“Hi,” said Molly.
Jake couldn’t help but smile as he stepped inside.
“I think we may have a problem,” he said, gesturing at her shirt.
“What? Why?” Molly looked down at her top, then back at Jake.
“It says ‘Phillies,’” he observed. It looked cute on her, he had to admit. It was white with red lettering, and she wore it over a blue t-shirt sprinkled with silver stars. She’d left her hair down, and it caught him by surprise. It looked like a golden waterfall. He was so used to seeing it up in a pony tail—her usual style for work—that he’d forgotten what it looked like loose.
“Well, yes,” she said, and could feel the words queuing up. “I’m from Philadelphia, so I’m a Phillies fan but if you think it would cause a problem I can go and change and…” To the surprise of both of them, Jake shushed her by placing a finger on her lips. Molly swallowed; it seemed more intimate than a kiss.
“No.” He stepped back. “That’s not it.” He held up a shirt, and taking it in both hands, let it unfurl like a flag.
Molly laughed as she read ‘Cardinals’ and saw the logo. “We’ll have to sit in different sections.”
“Oh, I guess we’ll manage. We Cardinals’ fans aren’t like you hooligans in Philly." He smirked. "No one throws snowballs at Santa Claus here.”
“You don’t have the guts.” Molly narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Besides, need I remind you who won the 2008 World Series?”
“True.” Jake grinned slyly. “Nice of them to win two titles within a person’s lifespan.”
“Being a Phillies’ fan builds character,” Molly sniffed. “ We have personality.”
“You have a court in the stadium for drunks!”.
“That’s the Eagles,” Molly corrected. “And I don’t know if they still have that.”
“Sobered right up for the new stadium, eh?”
Molly arched an eyebrow. “You know, I don’t have to put up with this kind of disrespect.” Even as she said it, he could see her fighting to hide a grin.
Jake took her in as she stood in front of him. She was beautiful. Her face was so open, so friendly; and her eyes were such a clear blue. Ever since she had surprised him with that hug, he’d been more than a little anxious to try it again. The chance just hadn’t presented itself. Until now.
“You’re right,” he said. “Let me make up for it.” He took a step forward and pulled her to him, finding her lips with no trouble at all. When she gave a startled gasp, he took advantage and gently slipped his tongue against hers. Champagne,
he thought, she tastes like champagne. With one hand at her waist, he slid his other around her neck and pressed her close.
Molly wrapped her arms around him almost involuntarily, then held tightly, afraid he would let go. She'd wished for so long now that he would do exactly this that she wanted it to last as long as possible. She ran the fingers of one hand through his hair and smiled to herself when he gave a small mmmmm
of pleasure. His hand threaded into her hair and tugged gently so that she tilted her head back. It was her turn to sigh when he gently kissed her neck.
He found her lips again and slowly, reluctantly pulled away. He stepped back slightly but kept his arms around her. They stared at each other for a few moments, not sure what to say. Molly was afraid if she spoke she wouldn’t stop and bit her lip to keep quiet. Jake thought that was somewhere between adorable and completely sexy.
"I hope that wasn't, um, out of line," he said.
"Maybe a little out of left field," Molly said, almost shyly. He laughed and the tension dissolved. They stepped apart and after Molly found her keys, they left.
"I've wanted to do that for a while," Jake said as he started the car. "I just wasn't sure if I should."
"Why would you think you shouldn't?"
Jake shrugged. "I don't know where I am quite yet. The whole thing with Chelsea messed me up and I don't want to mess anyone else up."
Molly felt her heart sink a little. "I can understand that. But…messing up is part of the risk of any relationship, isn't it?" She didn't want to pressure him, but she did hope to find out what he thought of her. Of them, maybe, if there was a them. There ought to be after that kiss,
she thought to herself.
"Sure." Jake nodded. "It just seems like you should try to keep it to a minimum if you can. I feel like I'm in the maximum risk zone."
"I work in a hospital," Molly reminded him. "I see risk all the time."
"You do, don’t you?"
She nodded. "It's never easy, but a lot of times it's worth it."
Jake was quiet for a bit as he drove. "I don't know if I'm worth any risk for you, Molly."
It was her turn to ponder an answer. "I think it's up to the person taking the risk to decide that, don’t you?"
The game had all-star pitchers, amazing plays in the field, and several crowd-pleasing home runs. Jake barely noticed. Instead, he found himself concentrating on Molly. They teased each other as the teams traded the lead, made jibes when the managers brought in new pitchers. Jake was surprised to find out how much baseball trivia Molly knew. The few times he'd gotten Chelsea to a game, she'd made an effort to understand the rules, but not much more.
Molly was fun to watch, he decided. She tensed when the count was full, cheered for the acrobatic catches, and poked him when the Phillies scored their runs. Not just fun to watch,
he thought, fun to be with.
Being this close to Molly also had one unintended effect—he kept looking for excuses to touch her. Nothing major, just a tap on the knee or shoulder to point something out. At one point he used a lame excuse about one of the outfield billboards as a reason to put an arm around her shoulder.
He wasn't sure he'd ever had quite these same feelings with Chelsea.
Had he enjoyed his time with Chelsea? He pondered that as he went to the concourse for some snacks between innings. He must have, he reasoned, or he wouldn't have stayed with her so long. They had had some enjoyable times—he remembered movies they saw, parties with friends, and a few times they'd gone away for weekends.
Waiting for the pretzels and sodas, he gave it more thought. The movies, more often than not, he realized, had been Chelsea's choices. He hadn't minded, so he'd gone along. Rarely had Chelsea agreed with one of his suggestions. The parties had been mostly ones given by her friends. Even the weekend trips had been at her convenience. To top it off, Chelsea had never liked Cameron, which had always surprised Jake. Everyone liked Cam.
How had he let that happen? He shook his head at himself as he walked back to his seat. Why had he let everything he wanted be overruled by what she wanted so often? Surely that wasn't healthy. Was he so afraid to be alone? Was she?
Molly's laugh drew his attention as he waited for a break in the action to return to his seat. She was chatting with another Phillies fan behind her. She's so friendly
, Jake thought. He loved to see her smile, hear her laugh. He sighed and walked to his seat while the next batter stepped into the box. He knew what Cam would say if Jake brought it up. First, Cam would smack him on the back of the head, then point out the obvious—Molly was sweet, she liked Jake, and Jake should get his head out of his ass and start dating her. Thanks, Cam,
Jake thought. You always did know the best way to phrase things.
"Oh, my brother cried for days when Schmidt retired," Molly was saying to her new friend. "My father finally told him, 'For God's sake, the man's retired, not dead.'" The man behind her roared with laughter. She turned her attention to Jake as he sat down.
"Hey, you're back!" She beamed and reached to take the drinks before they could spill. "You have good timing. Nothing happened on the last at bat, so you didn't miss anything."
"Cool." Jake sat, balancing the food. "They must have been waiting for me so they can pull out the dramatic, come-from-behind win."
Molly laughed. "There's still an inning and a half left, and is it that dramatic when you're only one run behind?"
"I'll take what I can get." Jake took his drink from her, letting his fingers brush over hers.
Molly felt herself blushing and bent her head, ostensibly to set a napkin on her lap so she could lay her soft pretzel on it. Jake was driving her crazy with all of his little touches. She didn't know what to think. Were they accidental? Was he just that kind of person, like Shirley at work? Shirley was always patting a shoulder or squeezing a hand. Or, Molly almost dared to hope, did it mean he wanted to touch her? Because she was sure she wanted him to.
"I think you should buy dinner," Jake said. "Your team won, after all."
"Loser buys," Molly said. "Remember, that was your idea." Just as they had entered the stadium, Jake had proposed a bet with dinner as the prize.
"It shouldn’t count," he said with a grin. "I still had hope at that point. The game hadn't started. I was overwhelmed with the possibilities."
"Don’t try to wiggle out of this one, Counselor." Molly arched an eyebrow at him. "You won't find a technicality here."
"Don’t be so sure. I'm a pretty good lawyer."
"How about we compromise?" she suggested. "You pay, but we'll go to McDonald's or something."
Jake laughed, but part of him was touched. When had Chelsea ever compromised, even on something as silly as this? When had he tried for one, instead of simply going along with her?
"I can do better than Mickey D's."
Jake chuckled. "I think I can afford a place with chairs that don't swivel."
"Good," said Molly with a relieved sigh. "Those kind of seats always make me feel queasy."
Jake laughed again and found a diner called Spooner's that he and Cam had been to a few times. They had good food and quick service, and Molly was delighted with the 1940s theme.
"I love film noir," she said, looking at the pictures on the walls. "I have a bunch of DVDs but never have time to watch them."
"My aunt watched so many of those she got depressed." Jake leaned back in his seat. "She switched over to romantic comedies for a while."
"I used to watch them with my grandmother." Molly sipped her drink. "My mom has a list of about ten movies that she'll watch, and six of them need subtitles. My sister won't watch anything that doesn't involve Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock."
"I've got a soft spot for old movies," Jake said. The server dropped off their orders and he picked up some ketchup for his fries. "I watched a lot in law school. Thank God for TCM. There isn't much on at three in the morning."
"I did the same thing in nursing school." Molly smiled. "After I was brain dead from studying, I'd find something to watch. Then I'd pull out my laptop and find out the title, since I was almost always in the middle of something."
"What's your favorite?"
"I like Out of the Past,
with Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum." Molly slid the pickles off her sandwich. "Almost anything with Kirk Douglas will suck me in."
"Can't go wrong there," Jake agreed. "I've never seen that one, though."
"Oh, you should come over sometime," Molly said reflexively. "We could watch it together."
"How about tonight? Unless you're too tired?"
"Oh." Molly stared at him in surprise. She'd never expected him take her up on it, at least not so quickly. Lost for a reply, she could only say, "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely," Jake said, and Molly felt herself melt a little at the warmth in his voice.
"That'd be fine." Her nerves kicked in. "I don’t have to work tomorrow so that should work, but I don’t have much in the way of snacks or anything unless you want to stop by the store on the way back and—"
Jake leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. "We'll be fine."
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