"Our first date?" Andy said to the camera, and a goofy grin lit up his whole face. "Only the most romantic date ever," he said.
Next to him on the sofa, Haley gave him an incredulous look.
"That was not romantic," she said. "It was torture."
"Not to me," Andy said, grabbing Haley's hand in his. "I was there, you were there, it was perfect."
"Hardly," Haley said, rolling her eyes and giving the camera a stern look. "I was on a bad date with a second-rate Andy and he was out with a screechy lady. Nothing perfect about it."
Her face softened a little as she looked down at their intertwined hands and the gold band around her finger.
"Ok, things got better after that. And maybe it wasn't all torture. Just most of it."
"See? Told you it was the most romantic date ever."
Defeated, Haley shook her head.
Looking at the half-empty coffee mug between her hands, she replayed her conversation with Jackie. Who had she agreed to go on a double date with, exactly? She had no idea. Except that he was "perfect for her" and "ridiculously good looking". Why the guy wasn't already taken if he was such a catch, Haley wasn't sure.
"So, who is he? Does this wonder man have a name?" she asked Jackie, who looked a little perplexed.
"Adam, Anthony, Andy, something with an A, I think. He's Derek's friend. I've seen his biceps and abs, and they were fine. If Derek and I weren't together, I'd... never mind."
Wait, Jackie was setting her up with a guy she didn't even know?
"What does he do?"
Jackie shrugged. "I don't know. I think he works with kids. Derek didn't tell me. You're not backing out, are you? I promised Derek we'd double date."
Good body, good with kids, possibly named Andy... No, it was very unlikely him, but Haley couldn't help feeling a single hopeful butterfly in the pit of her stomach. How many years had it been? Too many. Maybe..?
"No, I'm good," she said, taking a sip of her lukewarm coffee. She put it aside.
Jackie began talking about a work-related incident, something about a demanding customer and pink dresses, but Haley couldn't concentrate anymore. In her mind, she went back a few years, to the last days she had been with Andy, and smiled to herself. Then she fastforwarded to the days when she was in her room, sitting on her bed, her heart broken into pieces. To this day, it still ached a little inside.
She had dated others after Andy, even gone so far as to almost love one of them, but something had been missing. Something that was still missing. Maybe she could get it back?
"Are you even listening?" Jackie's voice broke her reminiscing.
"Hi, I'm Andre, Andy for short."
"Haley," she said, trying her best to not show the mild disappointment she felt. It was her own fault for expecting the impossible. "Nice to meet you."
He was nice to look at, Haley admitted. Jackie hadn't exaggerated that part. And he worked at a kindergarten, so the part about working with kids was also correct. It just wasn't the right Andy.
She tried her best to seem interested and turned on the dating mode she had used before with dates she wasn't completely into. For a while, it seemed to work well enough.
"So," she said. "What are your future plans?"
Nice, wide topic. As long as she nodded at semi-regular intervals, she would be fine.
Haley's eyes wandered around the restaurant. There was a loud company of maybe six or seven sitting behind her. She heard the clinking of cutlery from somewhere, and all around her there was a low chatter of inaudible conversations. To her right, she saw an elderly couple enjoying a glass of something bubbly. Was it their anniversary?
Her gaze moved further, and she heard an annoyingly grating voice from somewhere behind Andy, but his shoulders were so broad that she couldn't see.
Andy said something about New York, and Haley focused on him, feeling a hint of guilt for being so absent-minded.
"New York's great," she said. "I'd love to visit it again."
That was enough for Andy, and he began talking about two of his old friends who were married and lived in New York. Haley tried to listen to him, but the grating voice distracted her. She tilted her head sideways a little to see who it was, and she saw the long black curls of an unfamiliar woman. She was about to point out the woman to Jackie, to make a remark about her voice, when the woman moved a little and Haley saw her dinner company.
Haley's plate clinked when she dropped her cutlery.
"What?" the blond in front her asked, startled. "We don't have to eat there if you don't want," he said.
Haley didn't know what he meant by 'there', but she didn't have the mind to ask him, because she was still staring at the other man two tables away from them.
Had he always been that good looking?
"Haley. Haley. Haley," an insistent voice repeated somewhere in her periphery, and when the cloud of black curls came between her and the real Andy, she turned towards the voice. Jackie was giving her a frowny face.
"Sorry," Haley said, picking up her fork with a slightly trembling hand, feeling her heart race. "I just thought of something I wanted to tell Andy," she said, trying to come up with words that would make any kind of sense and feeling that she was failing massively.
"I'm..." she began, looking at a puzzled Andy. "I'm thinking about working with kids. I've been a babysitter. So, you know, I've done some work with them."
'Screwed' was the word she was thinking.
"I'm keeping it as an option," she said instead. "But isn't it hard work?" she finished, cutting herself a huge chunk of chicken and stuffing it in her mouth so that for a blissfully long moment she wouldn't be expected to speak a single word. She made a 'mmmm' sound and gave him a quick, awkward smile.
From his face, her eyes darted to his right where she could see half a head of bouncy, black curls. She leaned a little to the right, hoping she didn't look too unnatural. But the real Andy was hidden behind her.
Come on. Come oooon. Notice me.
The eye contact felt like a heavy jolt in Haley's stomach, and for a brief moment she wasn't sure if she was going to be sick or if she was just really happy. Maybe a bit of both.
Andy looked surprised and frowned a little, but then his expression changed back to regular. Like he hadn't seen anyone meaningful at all. How annoying, Haley thought. Did she mean that little to him?
But then Andy said something to the black-haired woman and adjusted his chair until he was sitting in direct eye contact with Haley. He gave her a little smile, and to her surprise Haley felt herself blush.
"Everything all right?"
Andy, her date Andy, was looking at her.
"Yes! Yes, I'm good," she said. "I just remembered something. How's your food?"
There hadn't been a connection between Haley and this Andy to begin with, but now it felt like even the tiniest remains of hope had disappeared. All Haley wanted to do was to ditch the company, this wrong Andy, and Jackie and Derek. But she couldn't. Not to mention the other Andy was apparently on a date as well, and there was no reason to believe Andy would ditch her.
"Will you excuse me," Haley said and stood up.
She started to make her way towards the bathrooms and, as she passed Andy, she gave him an intense look, hoping he would get the hint.
She walked around the corner to the bathrooms, stopping next to the ladies' room. A heavily perfumed woman came out and walked past her, disappearing around the corner.
"Hello, Haley," she heard a familiar voice, and she was looking at Andy's face. He looked a little hesitant, standing several feet away from her, and Haley wasn't sure if he was as excited to see her as she was.
"You're not in Utah," she said.
"No," he agreed.
"How long have you not been in Utah?" she asked.
"About.. fifteen hours," he said. "Give or take a few minutes."
"Ah," she said. "So you haven't moved back here. That's good to hear."
"Is it?" Andy said, looking a little taken aback.
"Is it what? Oh, no, I didn't mean it like that. I just thought maybe you moved here forever ago and you're deliberately avoiding me."
"Never," Andy said, and he took a step closer to her. He was close enough for her to touch him, but she resisted the urge.
"So," she said, looking towards the tables. "Your date sounds interesting."
"You heard her?" Andy asked. "I guess Linda has a fairly loud voice."
There was a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"I'm thinking of moving back here," he continued. "We might start a camping programme for kids."
Haley's heart skipped a beat, then another. She saw herself raising her arm and giving Andy a double pat on his arm, as if she were patting a dog, and nodding.
"Good for you," her voice said as she nodded. "Well, it was nice seeing you. Enjoy your date. I'm going to the bathroom now."
She turned around on her heels, opened the door and marched to a cubicle where she crashed against the closed door, wanting to scream.
"Anyone up for dessert?" she asked with a chipper voice as she sat down, looking at the half-full plate in front of her.
"Are you ok?" Jackie asked, and Haley wished she could tell her, but in the present company it would be impossible, so she just nodded.
Jackie leaned in closer to whisper in Haley's ear.
"You like him or hate him?" she asked.
Haley covered the side of her mouth as she whispered back.
"Timing's really bad. Sorry."
Jackie nodded and straightened herself.
"I wouldn't mind some chocolate cake," she said out loud, and Haley loved her for that.
It took a while for them to get their cakes, but when they finally arrived, Haley dug her fork deep into the gooey centre, put it in her mouth and let it melt slowly. Such a comforting taste, she thought. Just what she needed.
Feeling brave enough to face Andy and her date again, she looked at him. He was staring back at her, expressionless, and Haley decided to ignore him. She had had her heart broken once by him, and he had broken it good. There was no point in thinking there would be more Haley and Andy in the future. What was past was past.
"Any chance we might run into each other again?"
It was her date Andy, and for a brief moment she felt guilty.
"Anything's possible," she said with a smile, trying to focus on the cake, then sneaking a peek at the other Andy. He wasn't there. Feeling an overwhelming emptiness inside her, Haley thought he had left for good, but Linda was still there. As Haley looked around, she saw Andy's back just as he disappeared around the corner to the bathrooms.
"Excuse me," Haley said, standing up and rushing after him.
When Haley reached the corridor, there was nobody there, just three closed doors. She paced along the corridor, debating whether she should go to the men's room, but deciding against it. Then finally a man came out, and Haley tried to peek behind him, but she couldn't see anything beyond white tiles.
With a sigh, she leaned her back against the wall.
After a long while, when she was already about to head back to her company, she saw Andy. Again, only a few feet between them.
"Hi," she said, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "About that.." she began but didn't finish. "Sorry about that."
"It's fine. This is a bit much."
Andy took a step towards her, then another, not once breaking eye contact. He raised his hand and touched her cheek with his fingertips. They were warm. Then they were gone.
"He seems nice," he said. "I hope he treats you well."
Irritated that he had pulled his hand away so fast, Haley frowned.
"Your boyfriend. The one you're on a date with."
"Him? He's not my boyfriend. Jackie set me up with him. I've never even met him before tonight," she said.
"That explains the total lack of chemistry," Andy said, and there was a warm smile on his face. "You deserve chemistry."
Haley swallowed, feeling her heart pound a little heavier.
"So do you," she said. "I hope you and Linda are happy."
Andy raised his brows in surprise, then laughed.
"Linda's married with three kids. She and Mark own a camping place. That's why I'm here."
It took a moment for Haley to connect the dots, and by the time she knew what it all meant, Andy's lips were on hers, and his hands were on her hips, pushing her towards the wall behind her. Surrounded with warmth and safety, with familiarity and the overwhelming sense of everything being right again, Haley felt herself smile against Andy's kiss, and then she laughed.
She wrapped her arms around Andy's neck, jumped in his lap, wrapping her legs around his hips, and kissed him like they were the only two people in the whole restaurant.
There came a sound of someone clearing their throat. Haley turned towards the sound and saw Jackie. Embarrassed, she dropped to her feet, but she had her arm firmly around Andy's waist.
"I take it this is the bad timing you were referring to," Jackie said.
"Jackie, this is Andy," Haley said.
"The Andy?" Jackie asked, surprised.
Jackie opened her mouth as if to speak, then closed it.
"I'll give you a moment," she said. "Come back whenever you're ready."
After that, she left, and Haley was once again alone with Andy.
"How long are you here?" Haley asked, afraid of what the answer would be.
"Three days. But I will come back as soon as I can. For good. If you want."
Haley looked at him, at his eyes, and even when she should have felt the remains of her heartbreak, all she felt was safety.