Originally I was going to make you wait for Ash and Ginger. Nica has a scene coming up, and Crank is, well, cranky over being blown off. But those scenes won’t take place after dark, and boy, wouldn’t I look foolish if I left Ash and Ginger at the coffee shop all day when she only gets a ten minute break? Feel free to thank your merciless bosses who’d never let you disappear for the afternoon, even for a cute boy.
Ash couldn’t breathe. He felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. What a scientific paper that would be – make a coffee shop into a vacuum by planning to confess a gigantic secret. He laughed, but then remembered she’d have no clue why he was laughing and cut it short. Despite his nervousness, he knew he sounded a tad bit crazy. And maybe he was, thinking this was a good idea. Any of it. Dating. Telling a stranger he was trans. Thinking anyone who didn’t already know him would accept it. Fuck, his parents knew him all his life, and they couldn’t.
Ginger squeezed his hand, bringing his focus back to her. She smiled, part sweet and curious and part wary and concerned. “What is it?” she asked, and she might have meant what he wanted to say, or why he was suddenly acting like a crazy guy who missed his afternoon meds.
Ash opened his mouth, but couldn’t speak. With his free hand, he picked up his coffee and sipped at it. It’d grown cold as they’d talked. Talked so much. Clicked every which way.
Don’t blow it now.
But she’ll find out eventually.
Maybe she’s not interested in more than a friend. I need a friend.
“Whatever it is, Ash, you can tell me, or not.” She smiled. She was beautiful when she smiled.
“It’s… hard.” He swallowed the lump in his throat.
Get it over with now. Don’t wait.
But if she gets to know me better first…
A disgusted look in her eyes will hurt more.
“As long as you haven’t killed anyone, I can’t imagine anything that would make me not give you my phone number. So whatever.” She shrugged her pretty little shoulders, and rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand. Her expression brightened, and she said, “Why don’t you walk me back to the office? You look like you need some fresh air, and I need to get back to my month end reports.”
Ash had his doubts over whether it was the best choice, but he’d already decided, and if he didn’t say something, it’d eat at him until he did. Hours. Days. Weeks. It wouldn’t matter. It’d crawl under his skin until he took it out on a vampire or blurted it out untactfully. The vampire idea appealed in that moment, but dusk was still hours away, and he tended to be sloppy when his mind was distracted. Tonight would not be good, or safe, hunting.
Unless… tell her!
Ginger was standing now, looking at Ash expectantly. “Coming?” She held out her hand, and only then did Ash realize he wasn’t holding it anymore.
Now or… Just now.
“I’m transgender.” Ash stared hard at the table. It anchored him. There, he’d said it, but he wasn’t ready to see the look on her face. He wanted to remember her laughing and smiling, and getting along with him more than any other person he’d met in… forever. If he stared at the table long enough, she could walk away unseen, and he could savor the memories up until those two words came out of his mouth.
She hadn’t moved away. He hadn’t been sure at first, but then, despite his effort not to see her, out of the corner of his eye, he saw her crouch down beside him. Her small hand landed on his thigh, near his knee, and her long, slender fingers squeezed gently. The touch was so kind, so gentle, that he couldn’t help but look up.
“Thank you,” she whispered softly when he met her gaze.
“I’m sorry,” he said just as quietly. “For wasting your time.” He looked at the table again, but the surface couldn’t hold his attention. She had moved, but not to stand up and run, instead to lean closer.
“Ash, look at me.”
He did. Her face was inches from his. Her eyes met his and held none of the pity or disgust or anything that he’d braced for. Instead, she smiled, and he knew it was not forced because her eyes crinkled and sparkled when she truly let her emotions free. He smiled back, glad that he’d noticed that – that he’d been watching her so intently to learn the difference between a regular smile and an I-like-you smile.
“Thank you for trusting me with that,” Ginger said.
He blinked. Sure, her smile said she wasn’t disgusted, but could she be supportive and understanding too? It was too good to be true. He must have read too much into her words. Afraid to sound foolish, he remained silent. Instead, he covered the hand on his thigh with his own, and nodded once.
Her smile widened, and he couldn’t be sure, but he thought she might be holding back a laugh. He frowned and opened his mouth, but wasn’t sure what to say. She had him completely tongue tied after not having to think a moment about a topic to discuss during their entire coffee date.
“You’re adorable,” Ginger said. “So confident and outgoing all along, but now, suddenly this adorable little introvert. Oh!” She covered her mouth with her hand. When she lowered it she smiled shyly. “I’m sorry, not little. I know guys don’t like that, though it’s probably closer to a pet name than anything serious when girls say it. Like we need an extra word and little and cute go together and…” She laughed then, waving her hand in front of her face. “Never mind me. I’m just nervous. Since you suddenly seem to think I might not want to continue, I feel it’s up to me to ask you to dinner tonight, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked a guy out before. How am I doing?”
And with her brief rambling giddiness, the self-imposed spell broke over Ash and his true nature rose to the surface once more. He smiled and brushed his fingers lightly down her cheek. He was nervous still — he hadn’t tried dating much at all – but he liked her, and it would seem he couldn’t chase her away so easily. Instead of answering, he leaned in and brushed a light kiss over her lips. It was so quick and light she didn’t have a chance to kiss him back.
“Hey!” Ginger pouted, her lower lip sticking out. It looked comical. Ash laughed. Her pout turned to a frown, but the corner of her lips curled upward. She couldn’t seem to help the smirk. “Don’t you laugh at me, buddy,” she said. She poked his shoulder.
When Ash stopped laughing, Ginger leaned in again and whispered, “Do that again. I’m ready this time.”
He did, and this time, she caught him with an arm around his neck, and held him still so she could return the kiss with a quiet urgency that spoke more than words could ever say. That kiss said: You stupid boy, how could you think I’d walk away?
He wasn’t sure how he could’ve thought that either. Not anymore.