It was 6:23.
It was 7 minutes before Harrison Todd said he would arrive.
Seven minutes before Mirabelle would have an answer to the question that haunted her for much of the afternoon: Did Harrison Todd, indeed, invite her on a date?
Mirabelle was a bit hesitant to believe that a guy like Harrison would want to take out someone like her, awkward and uncomfortable, but April was sure the conversation included a dinner invitation. She had insisted Mirabelle dress for the occasion, lending her friend a flowered dress with ruffled cap sleeves and a pair of stylish sandals.
Mirabelle felt awkward in the ensemble and fussed with her appearance in the bathroom. She leaned into the mirror, staring at her face for a final inspection.
She brought an unpainted fingernail just beneath her lash line to wipe away an invisible mascara smudge and used her thumb to wipe away any excess lip gloss. She flipped her signature braid to the front and pulled off the purple elastic that held it together. Her fingers quickly moved through the hair, releasing a cascade of brown waves down her back, as she walked toward the front of the bakery.
The lights were off but Queen Pin still seemed bright and airy, the evening sun flooding through the windows and the lights of the dessert case casting a glow. Mirabelle had made sure there were plenty of grasshopper whoopie pies and a few cupcakes and cookies in the event Harrison didn't want the day's dessert.
She set a plate on one of the tables nearest to the counter and pulled out a chair, tucking the skirt of the dress underneath her as she sat. Mirabelle crossed her slender leg and immediately her right foot began to fidget. The heel of the sandal tapped on the leg of the table, the beat speeding up as the seconds slowly ticked by.
Tap, tap, tap.
Knock, knock, knock.
Mirabelle propped her head up on her right arm and looked at the slim brown leather watch on her left wrist.
6:28. Two more minutes, she thought.
Tap, tap, tap.
Knock, knock, knock.
Mirabelle looked to her right and jumped.
Peering through the front window was a pair of blue eyes and a mop of perfectly tousled blond hair.
She quickly pushed her chair from the table and moved to the door. She unlocked the door, opened it and there he was. Harrison Todd.
"Hey," Mirabelle said, softly.
"Hey yourself," he said. "I was beginning to wonder whether you were going to let me in."
He was wearing a green checked button-down shirt, sure to be the shirt he wore at the office, and a pair of purposely worn jeans. Standing on the steps, just a few feet from Mirabelle, his scent was intoxicating to Mirabelle.
"Oh . uh . I thought . um . I thought it was the sandal clapping against the table. April lent them to me and they make so much noise," Mirabelle stuttered, taking a few steps back to allow Harrison to walk through the threshold.
Harrison walked into the bakery, brushing past Mirabelle. She could feel herself shudder as his hand grazed hers. She could feel herself holding her breath, trying to hold the scent of him in for just a brief moment longer.
"I don't think I'd give them back," Mirabelle heard him say, turning her body to look at him.
"They look quite nice on you," Harrison said, smiling his perfect smile. "So, where would you like to go for dinner?"
"Well, Dash-In is just across the street or there's JK O'Donnell's around the corner. Or ... "
"Or," Harrison said.
"Or, one of my regulars mentioned he owns a restaurant. The Waynedale Tavern," Mirabelle said. "It's Italian. Is that OK?"
"Italian? OK? I think it's more than OK," he said.
"Oh, good. I'll just grab my sweater and my purse," Mirabelle said, darting behind him and through the bakery's stainless steel doors.
She returned moments later, a brown clutch underneath her arm and a yellow cardigan draped on top. Harrison was now standing by the table where Mirabelle had been sitting, his fingers tracing the outline of the plate that she had put there.
"So what are these? Another delicious Mirabelle confection?"
"I almost forgot about those," she said, moving around him to pick up the plate. "They are date bars."
"Date bars? I didn't realize dates had a special dessert."
Mirabelle could feel her cheeks burn red as she looked at his grin.
"Oh, not date bars but date bars, you know, made from dried dates. I found the recipe in one of my gran's old cookbooks."
Harrison nodded, obviously amused by the flustered Mirabelle.
"I did make them for you, though. Take 'em."
He picked them up with his right hand and extended his left toward Mirabelle.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked.
Mirabelle nodded as Harrison took her hand and led her out of the bakery.
After a 15-minute car ride that was only mildly awkward, Mirabelle and Harrison arrived at Waynedale Tavern, a nondescript building nestled among a cluster of small businesses on Lower Huntington Road and just down the street from Waynedale Bakery.
"I hope this is OK," Mirabelle said, walking slowly toward the building. "I didn't realize .
"I didn't think it would be ."
"You didn't realize it would be like such a dive?" Harrison offered.
"Something like that."
"Don't worry - the places that look the worst usually taste the best," he said reassuringly and led Mirabelle into the restaurant.
Inside, Waynedale Tavern was dark and cozy. The walls were covered in wood paneling and photos of what was sure to be the "old country."
"Just two of you this evening?" asked a young girl dressed in a white tuxedo shirt and black pants.
"OK, right this way. I have a nice little table in the corner," she said. "If that's OK, of course."
Harrison looked at Mirabelle, and she could feel herself melt as his blue eyes blazed.
"That would be great," he said, his eyes still on Mirabelle.
The hostess grabbed two menus and navigated around the tables of the half-empty dining room.
"Is Eugene or Wade here tonight?" Mirabelle heard herself say.
"Eugene never comes in much anymore. Usually just Friday nights," the girl said. "Wade was here but had to rush off."
"Oh," Mirabelle said, nearly running into the girl who had stopped in front of a table. "That's a shame."
"Well, enjoy your dinner."
"Oh, we will," Harrison said with a smirk.