Molly was laughing as she walked out of the cinema. John was reenacting the most hilarious part of the film, which had been hilariously awful despite the reviews. She imagined people had definitely been bribed to write those reviews, or else they must have been shown a different cut of the movie. She was laughing so hard that there were tears streaming down her face. She knew John was funny but she had no idea he could be so hilarious.
“Oh, they should have just paid you,” she said when she caught her breath. “The film would have been a million times more watchable.”
He chuckled at that. “I wanted to be an actor when I was younger,” he said. “Thought about trying out for the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art but I loved cooking more so I went to culinary school for that, and then uni to be able to teach. But I did community theatre in university for fun.”
“Oh, you’ll have to tell me about that,” she said with a wide smile.
“I will, definitely,” he said with a nod. He looked around. “You know, we’re close to The Four Quarters. Have you ever been there?”
Molly shook her head. “No. What is it?”
“It’s a pub and an arcade. There are all sorts of games you can play, old arcade games and pinball games and things like that. A lot of them take pound notes but some of them you have to swap out for quarters, which is where the name of the place comes from. And while it’s not a nice restaurant, the food is rather good pub food.”
“I think that sounds better than a fancy restaurant,” she said, her eyes bright. “I used to play games like that all the time when I was a child and I love them.” She linked her arm through his. “Lead on, MacDuff!” He gave her a wide grin and then they began to head towards the nearest tube station. They got on the tube and chatted as they rode to the stop nearest the pub, and then got off and walked to the pub. Molly liked the look of it right from the outset, and when she walked in and saw the place she got even more eager. She took in all the games and had a hard time trying to figure out where to start. But her rumbling stomach chose for her, and she looked over at John. “I think I need food.”
“Then we can get food first,” he said with a nod. They made their way over to where they could place their orders and Molly looked at the menu. So much of it looked appealing, to be quite honest, even if it was all hot dogs and bratwurst mostly. She ended up being adventurous and ordering the curry wurst over fries and a side of red cabbage slaw, and John got an upgraded cheese dog made out of beef with bacon on it as well and a side of chili cheese fries. They both each got a draft beef of their favorite lager as well. When the food came Molly took a bite and realized it was quite good, definitely among the better pub food she’d had.
They carried their food to a table and looked at the games. “Anything catching your eye?” Molly asked.
“I’m a pinball fanatic,” John admitted. “I absolutely love all the games here. On the weekend I come here and spend a small fortune on pinball games. I mean, I don’t have a girlfriend so...”
She smiled. “Well, perhaps I can join you some weekends?” she asked.
“Is that an invitation for a second date?” he asked.
“This first one is going quite well,” she said with a nod. “If it keeps going well, I would love to come back here with you.”
“I’d like it if you did,” he said with a grin of his own. “But...maybe after a proper date first?”
“If you insist,” she said.
“I do,” he said with a nod. He had some more of his food. “I’m glad we agreed to do this. I didn’t think you liked me the way I liked you.”
“I felt the same way,” Molly admitted sheepishly. “I never thought either of us would admit it. I’m glad we did.”
“Me too.” He watched her eat some of her food and then nudged his chili cheese fries towards her. “You should try these.”
“Oh! Alright. And try the curry wurst. Or have you had it before?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I’ve never had it,” he said, reaching over with his fork to take a bite. “It’s good. Never thought I’d like that combination. But I do like weird things.”
“Oh?” she asked, taking a bite of his chili cheese fries.
He looked embarrassed. “One of my favourite food combinations is fish fingers and custard.”
She considered that for a moment. “I can’t see the appeal, but considering I like boxed macaroni and cheese, tuna and mushy peas all mixed together with grated cheddar on top, I don’t think it’s all that strange.”
He grinned at that. “Well, that’s good to hear. Most people turn their noses up and start making gagging noises.”
“I always say to each their own,” she said.
“And this is why I like you.” He raised his glass towards her. “To weird food choices.”
“To weird food choices,” she said, tapping her glass against his. They went back to finishing their food, occasionally swiping bites from the others plates, and when they were done Molly followed John to his favourite pinball game. John left for a moment to get quarters for it while Molly looked it over. It seemed fairly fun looking and moderately complicated, and she was rather excited to give it a try herself. When he came back she saw he had more than enough quarters for them to play for quite a while.
He put in four quarters and began to play. Molly watched in fascination as he expertly guided the pinball down the chutes and along the various sections by pressing the buttons. He was really quite good at it and it was obvious he spent a lot of time playing this particular game. She watched his score get higher and higher until finally, the ball went through the middle. He grinned in satisfaction as the game asked for his initials for a high score and Molly was surprised to see that most of the slots already held his initials. He turned and saw the look on her face. “I play this game a lot,” he said.
“I can see that,” she said.
“Why don’t you try?” he said, moving out of the way.
She nodded and then stood in front of the pinball machine. He put in four quarters to start the game and she pulled back the lever to send the ball out, but she pulled too hard and much to her horror it didn’t go back. “Oh, bloody hell,” she said. “I broke your game.”
“It’s alright,” he said soothingly, going over and putting his hands on her shoulders. “I’ll tell management I did it. We don’t need to say anything about you playing the game.”
She felt relieved and went to turn and kiss him on the cheek, but when she looked up at him she felt overwhelmed by a different urge. She stood up on her toes and then kissed him softly, feeling a bit nervous as this was her first kiss ever, and after a moment he hesitantly put his hands on her waist and kissed her back, keeping the kiss nice and light. It was actually quite pleasant even if it was completely unplanned, and they ignored the people around them for a moment as they lost themselves in the kiss. When she pulled away, she looked up at him with a shy smile. “I, um, thought you deserved it.”
“Thanks,” he said, blushing but not letting go of her. “I should go tell management.”
“You should,” she said, still not moving.
“I should,” he said. Then he seemed to snap out of it and reluctantly let her go. “I’ll be back. Quickly. I promise. Be right back.” He turned and nearly ran into someone, and she giggled as he apologized profusely and then gave her a grin before going to find someone to tell about the broken machine. After a moment she leaned against it, smiling to herself. She definitely wanted a second date now. And a third, and a fourth, and as many more as she could get.