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Milo suddenly felt as though he was rooted to the spot and standing in a bright spotlight. He realized all at once that he had been holding his breath and let it out slowly.

Amanda turned to look at him, “I don’t know, Milo,” she said after what seemed like several eternities. In actuality, it was only a few seconds. “Let me check something.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and began tapping and swiping through her schedule.

She’s going to say no, thought Milo desperately, she’s not inter- Amanda put her phone away after another couple of seconds and said, “Oh, I’d like that. Where do you want to go?”

He blinked, as though he hadn’t quite heard her. After a second or two he said, “I was thinking of the Diner Downtown, ummm, say on Saturday?”

Amanda thought for a second. Milo realized that he had been holding his breath again and slowly exhaled. “OK,” she said at last.

“Great,” said Milo. “I’ll meet you at your at your building, say at 11:45?”

Amanda nodded, “OK,” she said again. “I’ll see you on Saturday.” Her phone pinged She pulled it out of her pocket again. “That’s my ride,” she said. “I’ll see you later.”

If Milo hadn’t broken his ankle skiing at Bluster Mountain over the Christmas break, he probably would have skipped all the way home.

The next week seemed to Milo to be almost interminably long. Sara, of course, was jubilant at Milo’s news.

“So, how was school today?” ask Brigitte over dinner.

Milo shrugged nonchalantly. “Not too bad,” he said. He paused suddenly feeling a little self-conscious, then said, “I asked Amanda to go out with me.”

Sara squealed in delight. “Did you really?”

Milo nodded. “I’m supposed to meet her at her building on Saturday at 11:45,” he said. “We’re going have lunch at the Diner Downtown.”

Neal gave Sara a nudge. “Looks like your little brother has a date,” he said a with a grin.

“Oh, it’s not a date,” Milo protested, “we’re just going out for lunch.”

Sara chuckled. “Are Zack and Melissa going with you, little bro?”

Milo flushed slightly, “well, no,” he admitted after a long moment.

“Did you tell them that you were thinking of asked her out?” asked Sara slightly mischievously.

“No,” replied Milo slightly confused. He hadn’t, now that he thought about it, and he usually told Melissa everything. That’s not like me, he thought. At the time he suddenly felt the strange fluttering sensation in his stomach return. Was it a date or not? he wondered to himself. I always thought that a date was supposed be romantic. This is just lunch.

Sara seemed to have guessed Milo thoughts, because she said, “it doesn’t have to be romantic to be a date, little bro.”

The following Saturday dawned bright and clear. Milo got up, blearily shook the sleep from his eyes and stumped down the hall into the bathroom. After showering and brushing his teeth. Milo went down stairs for breakfast.

“Morning, little bro,” said Sara from the kitchen table. She was half way through buttering several pieces of toast.

“Morning Sara,” said Milo with a stifled yawn, still in his bathrobe. He walked over to the pantry and opened the door. It came off in his hand. He pulled a screwdriver out of his backpack and quickly reattached it, then he reached in and pulled a box of cereal off of a shelf. Milo took a cereal bowl down from a shelf and then took down a second one after the first one cracked. He poured himself a generous amount of cereal and added milk and sugar. Milo was halfway through his bowl of cereal when Martin entered the kitchen. He was still dressed in his pajamas and slippers.

“Morning kids,” he said to the kitchen at large.

“Morning Dad,” said Milo, between swigs of his orange juice.

“Good luck on your date with Amanda,” he said.

“Thanks Dad,”said Milo as he drank the dregs of the milk in the bottom of his cereal bowl, “but it’s not a date.”

Sara chuckled, “no,”she said, “it’s a date.”

Martin looked back and forth between his two children. “Well, I’m staying out of this one,” he said.

Milo finished his breakfast and deposited his bowl, spoon and juice glass in the kitchen sink and went back upstairs accompanied by the usual clatter of falling objects. He brushed his teeth again, cracked the bathroom mirror in the process and unexpectedly spent a considerable amount of time agonizing over what to wear. In the end, he chose a a white button down shirt, navy blue dress pants, his black loafers, red bow tie and his usual sweater vest. He finished getting dressed and quickly pulled a comb through his hair. Milo rummaged through his closet and pulled out his blue and purple ski jacket. He pulled it on, shrugged on his backpack, tugged his matching ski hat down around his ears and pulled on his heavy winter gloves. Danville had experienced a January thaw in the couple of weeks between Christmas and the start of the winter semester, and some of the snow had melted, but it was still cold outside. Milo double checked his wallet to make sure he had money and his transit pass. Milo took a deep breath, his stomach was fluttering nervously again and walked casually down stairs.

As Milo passed the kitchen, Brigitte was sitting at the kitchen table studying a set of plans and sipping a cup of tea.

“Bye Mom, “ called Milo, as he passed.

Brigitte looked up as her son passed the kitchen door. The coffee mug in her hand cracked and she suddenly had to move her drawings to keep them from being splattered by hot tea.

“Milo,” she said, “don’t you look nice.”

“Oh, thanks, Mom,” he said. “I’m meeting Amanda for lunch.”

“Oh, I forgot that toady was your date with-“

“-It’s just lunch, Mom,” Milo interjected.

“Right,” replied Brigitte, “well tell Amanda that I said hi.”

Milo nodded. “OK, Mom,” he said. He gave his mother a kiss. “I’ll see you later.”

The bus ride from the bus stop at the end of Milo’s street, which normally took around twenty minutes, today took almost forty-five minutes. Milo had to change buses three times. The first time, the bus’s engine died four blocks from his house. The second time, the bus driver narrowly missed a garbage truck going in the opposite direction, skidded off the road and plowed into a tree. The third bus stalled in the middle of an intersection when its battery died three blocks from Amanda’s building. Milo got off and walked the three blocks in about ten minutes.

Milo pushed open the door to Amanda’s building, stepped into the small anteroom and pulled out his phone. He quickly tapped through his contacts and found Amanda’s number. He tapped her number and put his phone to his ear.

“Milo?” she said after a second, “Are you downstairs?”

“Hi, Amanda,” replied Milo. “Can you buzz me in?”

“Just wait right there, “ she said, “I’ll be right down.” As she spoke, the door chimed and swung open and Milo stepped inside. The lobby of Amanda’s build was large and spacious. The floor was covered with blue-grey granite tiles. Clusters of furniture dotted the space and large windows let in the late morning sunlight. Milo unzipped his jacket, took off his hat and gloves, shrugged off his backpack and sat down in a chair to wait.

He had only been seated for a few minutes, when the elevator door chimed open and Amanda stepped out. Milo stood up as though he had sat on something. He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to calm the nervous fluttering in his stomach. “Hi, Amanda,” he said. Milo suddenly felt as if he were a little overdressed. Amanda was wearing her usual magenta pant suit.

“Hi, Milo,” she replied. “You look very handsome.”

Milo coloured slightly. “Oh, ummmm……thanks.” Did she just call me handsome? he thought. He began casting around for something nice to say to her in return. “Your hair looks nice today,” he said after what seemed like several eternities, which only lasted a few seconds. As soon he said it, Milo felt as though he could have kicked himself. Really? he thought, “Your hair looks nice today?” Why not talk about the weather?

A pink tinge to match her clothes appeared in her cheeks. “Ummm…thanks,” she said. “It’s just my usual style.”

“Oh,” said Milo, “right.” He slung his backpack over his shoulders. “Let’s go,” he said.

The Diner Downtown sat on the corner of Maple Street and 9th Avenue, five blocks away from Amanda’s sleek, post-modern looking apartment building. It only took Milo and Amanda ten minutes to walk from the lobby of her building to the diner. The Diner Downtown was a low red and white building with a welcoming two tone blue awning, large windows and a slowly revolving coffee cup on the roof. Milo held the door for Amanda and they went inside. They sat down and the waitress came by with menus.

“Hi,” she said, “my name Chantel, I’ll be by to take your order in a little while. Can I get you something to drink in the mean time?”

Milo thought for a second. “I’ll have a chocolate milkshake.”

Chantel scribbled his order on her notepad.

“A glass of Pep with ice and a slice of lemon, please,” replied Amanda.

More scribbling. “OK,” said Chantel, “I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

She left to get their drinks and an awkward silence fell. Milo knew he should say something to Amanda, but he wasn’t sure what to say. C’mon, he thought to himself, think of something, anything. He already knew what he was going to order, but scanned the menu again to give himself time to think. A buzzing noise seemed to fill his ears.

“Milo?”

Milo suddenly realized that Amanda was talking to him. “Oh,” he said, “yeah, Amanda?”

“Did you watch any of Cake Splosion last night?” she asked.

“Oh, uhhh, no,” he said, “Sara and I always watch Doctor Zone on Friday nights. We’ve done that ever since I was five. We hardly ever miss an episode.”

Milo thought he saw something flicker across Amanda’s face. “That’s nice,” she said, “that you and Sara have such a close relationship.”

The truth was Milo hadn’t really thought about. He had always taken it for granted that Sara had been in his corner and couldn’t imagine his life without her support.

Before Milo could speak, Chantel deposited Milo’s milkshake and Amanda’s glass of Pep with ice and a lemon slice on the table in front of them. “Are you two ready to order?” she asked.

“Oh, ummm, yeah.” Milo scanned the menu again. “I’ll have a cheeseburger with everything on it and a side of cheese fries.”

Amanda quickly looked over the menu. “Chicken Caesar sandwich and french fries, please.”

Chantel scribbled down their orders. “OK, I’ll be right back with your orders,” she said.

Milo took a long pull from his milkshake. He was trying to think of something to say to her again, and drawing another blank. Why is talking to her suddenly so hard? he wondered. “So, tell me about your family, “ he asked after a couple of minutes of wracking his brain. It had occurred to him that they had been friends for over a year and Milo didn’t know very much about her.

Amanda shrugged. “My family’s not that interesting,” she said. “My mother is an accountant and my father works in the District Attorney’s office.”

“Oh, well that must be interesting,” said Milo.

Amanda shook her head. “He’s a legal researcher,” she said. “Most of his cases are pretty dry.”

“Oh,” replied Milo. He was about to say something else, but Chantel came by their meals at the moment and Milo was secretly relieved. Ordinarily, he has no problems talking to Amanda, but for some reason he suddenly couldn’t string two words together to save his life. It occurred to him to wonder if this Murphy’s Law trying to prevent him from simply enjoying lunch with a friend. He took a bite of his hamburger, trying to think of something to say.

“So, how did you become a Weird Al fan?” asked Amanda. “I’ve never heard his music before, but I found him on iTunes and some of its pretty funny.”

“Oh, he’s great,” said Milo enthusiastically, grateful for something to talk about, “Dad got me into him when I was little.” He paused to take a long pull from his milkshake. “I wasn’t as good at managing Murphy’s Law when I was little,” he shrugged. “I used to hurt myself more, anyway, Dad used to play his music for me to make me feel better.” He had been talking continuously while he had been eating and he speared the last of his cheese fries with his fork. “He taught me to be an optimist, and he’s the reason why I play the accordion. I’m really looking forward to meeting him in April.”

Chantel came by again to collect their plates. “Can I get you anything else?” she asked.

Milo glanced at Amanda, who shook her head. “Just the bill please,” said Milo.

The walk from the Diner Downtown back to Amanda’s building took fifteen minutes. Milo rode up in the elevator with Amanda and they parted company at the door to her unit.

“Thanks for inviting me to lunch,” said Amanda.

“Uhhhh….yeah,” said Milo, “you’re welcome. It was a nice afternoon.”

“We should do this again sometime,” said Amanda.

“I’d like that,” said Milo.

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