The Shape Of Oliver Wright: Part 3
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Oliver had learned exactly nothing from his last date. Except he absolutely should not stare at other women when he was trying to impress the woman he was with. But that should have been obvious.
He cupped the coffee mug in his hand, letting the warmth seep into his chilled fingers. The weather had turned cold and rainy again, even though it was nearly summer. His phone buzzed, and he flipped it over to reveal the latest message from Natalie.
Abort mission! This is a terrible idea!
He grimaced and turned the phone back over. Clearly, he should not have told Natalie about his latest plan.
Oliver took a sip of coffee and attempted to calm his nerves. He glanced around the coffee shop, waiting for Emma to arrive. He thought she might like this place. It was cozy and cramped inside; the walls lined with an eclectic mix of paintings by local artists. The comforting smells of strong coffee and fresh-baked pastries surrounded him, and he breathed them in. He certainly felt more relaxed here than he had at the noisy bar. Maybe that was a good sign.
His phone buzzed again.
What good could possibly come of this?!
Natalie scolded him through the phone.
Plenty of good could come of this, he thought, tossing the phone into his bag like a petulant child.
The bag was new. A leather satchel he had stuffed with a few random books to make it appear like he needed it. He was a Ph.D. student, after all. Well, Ethan was, anyway. Ethan also wore dark-rimmed glasses that Oliver pushed up his nose. He rolled up the sleeves of his button-down shirt to reveal Ethan’s forearms. He wore a watch so he wouldn’t be late for his classes.
Oliver was losing track of where he ended, and Ethan began. He shook his head, clearing the confusion from his mind. He wouldn’t stay in this form for long. This—he had decided last night after much debate with himself—was merely a fact-finding mission.
A few harmless dates to get to know Emma would leave him better prepared to date her as himself. He really didn’t see what Natalie was getting so hysterical about. It was the perfect plan. No different than searching through years worth of social media posts… perfectly innocent.
He looked up as the door to the shop opened, letting in a gust of cool air. Emma pulled the hood of her bright yellow raincoat off her head. Her curls sprang to life around her face. She spotted Oliver right away, and he raised a hand in greeting. She smiled and gestured to the counter, walking over to grab her coffee before joining him. Her sneakers squeaked in the quiet shop.
Oliver stood when she came to the table and pulled out a chair. Ethan prided himself on being a gentleman.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Emma said as she shrugged out of her coat.
“You as well.”
“So, Professor of Russian literature, that sounds…interesting.” She smiled at him, her eyes bright in the dim room.
He cleared his throat. He had chosen the most obscure topic on purpose, hoping she wouldn’t have any desire to discuss it.
“Uh, it can be.” Oliver drummed his fingers on the table. He was going to have to get much better at lying if he planned to keep this up. The conversation faltered.
“I actually just started a new job,” she offered, filling in the silence.
“Excellent!” Oliver’s voice was too loud and too enthusiastic for the moment, but Emma grinned.
“Thanks, it’s kind of my dream job. I’m excited.”
“That’s wonderful. Congrats,” Oliver said at a much more subdued level.
Emma shrugged a little, her curls bouncing around her shoulders. She told him about the job as a tour guide at the art museum downtown, but Oliver forgot to pay attention. He was too busy wondering how Ethan would react to each detail. He didn’t seem the type to get overly excited about anything, so by the end of Emma’s story, he was nodding and murmuring quiet words of affirmation.
Emma raised a quizzical eyebrow, assessing him. Perhaps a serious intellectual was not her type after all. Or maybe serious intellectuals were more interesting when they actually knew something about what they claimed to study and had more to add to the conversation.
The rest of the date dragged on in fits and starts. Oliver was sure he sounded like some sort of malfunctioning robot as he struggled to find the balance between what Oliver would say and what Ethan would say. By the time Emma stood to leave, announcing she had to meet a friend, which Oliver was sure was a lie, he breathed a sigh of relief. The date was a categorical failure. Again.
Maybe Natalie was right. But even as that thought flickered uncomfortably through his mind, he was already wondering if perhaps Emma would prefer a more laidback date. He glanced at the man in the corner of the coffee shop who sat sprawled in his chair. Oliver could smell the patchouli from here. His shoes were, without a doubt, made from entirely vegan materials. Oliver tipped his head. He could see Emma next to a guy like that. Maybe. It couldn’t hurt to try.
Featured Image by Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash