385. - Lucien
I catch the towel tossed at me by the set assistent, using it to dry my curls. They're getting awful long again, which worked perfect for this shoot, but I really need to see a barber. Harry, the director of the shoot, guides me through some of the pictures taken and makes it clear that he would like some more shots, but the place is booked thirty minutes from now so we have to clear out. Besides, I have places to be. We set up a second appointment for remaining shots before I'm dismissed, and when I get outside Maddy is already waiting.
A quick greeting and embrace later, I help her into my car.
"You need a haircut." She comments with a chuckle, brushing a still-damp curl away from my forehead. I smile, agreeing. Emma would probably have argued if I'd said I needed one, because she liked my longer hair. And then, after I'd completely ignored her and gotten one, she'd run strands between her fingers and complain how they definitely cut it too short, only for the whole thing to start anew.
"So," Maddy starts, changing the subject. "Where are you taking me on this awful gloomy Valentine's day?"
I shoot her a sideways glance, cruising through the Paris traffic. "I thought we agreed not to call it a Valentine's day date?"
"It's not. But it's still Valentine's." She smiles, shrugging. It's the first time I've seen her since that first date, and we've had some minimal texting. She's flaky in her replies, often forgetting to, and because we agreed to take it slow I rarely send a follow-up because I don't want to seem overbearing - but then it always feels like that hurts her feelings. Truth be told, I was hesitant about a second date. I couldn't tell you why exactly, but something felt... off. When I told this to Gabriel, he rolled his eyes and reminded me how my last relationship started with us hating each other, only to blossom into something gorgeous. I had nothing to argue that. I still don't understand why Brie seems to deadset on me persuing this, but sometimes it's easier to just go along with it to get him off my back.
"Are you going to tell me, or not?" Maddy prods, and her voice is less kind now.
"Can't I keep it a surprise?" I ask before making a left turn. She is definitely not smiling anymore.
"No, I don't like surprises. The last time I was surprised it was when I found a stranger in my husband's bed, so I tend to avoid them now."
Husband? And here I thought she was just dating the man, but apparently she married him. I shake it off, realising that this is not the time to ask about that. "Okay, okay. I made us a reservation at a sushi restaurant my sister recommended to me."
"Something wrong?" My grip on the wheel tightens. Apparently 'taking it slow' isn't the same as 'keeping it light and breezy', and for some reason Maddy's attitude is rubbing me in the wrong way.
"I just didn't take you for a sushi person is all."
"I mean, it's not my favourite - but you said it is yours, and I don't mind it..."
To that there comes no reply and the silence feels awkwardly loaded. Luckily it's not long before we reach the restaurant and when we get out of the car, the tension seems to lift. She even takes my arm as we enter the restaurant, offering a dazzling smile to the host. As we are brought to her place, I see Maddy's eyes scouting out the place like she's trying to find someone she knows, but if she finds anyone she doesn't say it.
"Good evening, Mr du Castellon, miss." The waiter greets us politely, and Maddy beams. They pour us a cup of sake, and I toast it to Maddy's.
"To this non-Valentine's date." I offer, and she just smiles.
The dinner is mostly uneventful, though there is a lot of silences between us. She makes little effort to keep the conversation going and at some point I simply run out of questions or the motivation to try and think of any. Often enough, Maddy's eyes wander around again, still for looking something or someone, and with every minute passing I'm regretting this date more and more.
Then, just after dessert, she suddenly smacks down the little spoon she used for her chocolate mousse, startling me. With a shock I realise she's crying.
"I'm sorry." She squeaks. "I... I thought I was ready for this. But I'm really not. I'm sorry, Lucien, I should never have... I have to go."
Before I can even think of trying to stop her, she's up and gone. The people at the tables nearest to us look at me appalled, like I did something, while in reality I'm just as confused as they are. I wave over a waiter for the bill and the moment it's paid, I also leave. Leaning against the hood of my car I light a cigarette, rubbing my temple with the other hand. I'm honestly not sure what just happened, and I wonder if I even want to understand. I dig up my phone, scrolling through the apps mindlessly when Instagram gives me a memory; a picture of me with the pink elephant that I shared on my stories a year ago. I stare down on it with a smile, remembering how there were plenty more pictures taken with that stuffed animal and how most of them would not be appropriate for social media. Which is why they were only sent to Emma.
I realise that she's probably on a darling Valentine's date with her fiance, and I try to convince myself not to call her. But I haven't talked to her in weeks, and I hate it. We were doing so well with becoming friends again - I don't want it to get wasted over me disliking her future husband. It's not like we see each other every week anyway, we could probably go around fine without me and Jesse ever meeting again.
Just as my thumb hovers over her name to call her, a text rolls in.
I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me. I guess the whole setting and all the sweet couples just kind of freaked me out. Can we try again? I'm sorry. Maddy.
I should probably call her. Talk it out. But I don't want to, because why should I? It's not like we were officially dating; the exact opposite, if anything. We very much agreed to take it slow. So I swipe the notification away and, against better judgement, call Emma.
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