Zoe with Two E’s

Here is Chapter 11 for my attempt at National Novel Writing Month. Enjoy.

The next day Collin and Zoe exchanged text messages. They also friended each other on Facebook. Collin resisted the urge to Facebook stalk her too deeply. He looked through some of her recent pictures and then stopped when he encountered pictures of her and her most recent boyfriend. If there was something that he was curious about, he would ask when she came over. Zoe and Sam were coming over for dinner on Sunday night.

“You’re inviting more ladies to come over?” Raf asked. “That’s awesome. However, we have a slight problem.”

“Oh,” Collin said. He was in the middle of preparing a pork roast for his slow cooker. “You think I’m moving too fast?”

“No, man.” Raf clarified, “Your new woman has the same name as my ex. That could be confusing.”

“So how do we distinguish between the two?” Collin asked.

“How about old Zoe and new Zoe?” Raf suggested.

“No, because old Zoe isn’t a part of my life. There’s only one Zoe in my life.” Collin refuted. “How about your ex gets to be Zoe with one E, and the Zoe that I’m interested in is Zoe with two E’s? That way if I ever get a phone call from your ex, I will know whom I am talking to by the caller ID.”

Raf laughed. “Ok, just looking out for you.”

Collin seasoned the pork roast and placed it in the slow cooker. He then added a can of vegetable broth and four orange halves to the container. The cooker was set to warm and would cook for about six hours. Then he would remove the oranges and add barbeque sauce to the softened meat.  He would steam fresh broccoli and prepare white rice in his rice cooker to be served with the slow roast pork.

Zoee had informed Collin that she had problems eating chicken and beef, so that’s why he was preparing pork for the dinner later that evening.

Now all Collin had to do was wait until 7pm when Zoee and Sam were coming over and try not to overthink things and make himself weird. He decided to tidy up Raf’s house.

– – – –

7pm. Raf’s house was tidy. The food was ready and waiting. Collin and Raf were sitting at the kitchen table. Raf was drinking a beer, Collin was not. He didn’t want to risk being too relaxed and not read Zoe’s signals correctly. He would see if she wanted a beer then he would have one two. The kitchen smelled like fragrant barbeque sauce. Collin was hungry, but he hadn’t eaten much all day. He was afraid of becoming gassy and bloated. Worse still, he didn’t want to have to poop when Zoe and Sam were around.

Collin was wearing a grey long-sleeved shirt that his brother had given him with a pair of jeans. The outfit seemed appropriate and casual for a dinner, but Collin had spent half an hour trying different combinations of his clothing before deciding on this particular outfit.

Raf and Collin were listening to a music mix that Collin’s brother had shared with him: Smalltown DJ’s Best of 2009

While you wait for the others…To make it all worthwhile…All your useless pretentions…Are weighing on my time…

Soon there was a knock at the front door. Collin went to open it. Sam and Zoee came in bundled in their winter apparel each carrying their purses and a bottle of wine.

“Hello, Sam. Hello, Zoee.” Collin greeted. He smiled at the two women, but his smile was especially genuine when he greeted Zoe. She smiled demurely back. 

“Sorry, we’re a little late.” Sam said. “The cashier at the liquor store seemed a little off her game. Probably a late night. Whatever you cooked, Collin, it smells delicious.”

“Thanks, Sam. Can I take your jackets?” Collin asked. 

The ladies gave him their jackets, but kept their winter hats on, not wanting to tousle the careful arrangement of their hair peeking underneath their hat. Zoee was wearing a fuzzy sweater and a pair of jeans that hugged the shape of her legs. 

“You look nice.” Collin said to Zoee.

“Thanks.” She said. “You do too.” Both Collin and Zoee were a little nervous about this first interaction between them. Lots of smiles and silence as they were figuring out each other. 

“What about me?” Sam asked in mocked indigination, “Or am I day old fish?”

“No,” Raf piped in as he casually leaned against the entry way to the kitchen. “You look especially lovely.” 

“Why thank you fine, sir.” Sam said impersonating a woman of high society. “You’re going to make a lady blush.”

“Alright,” Collin said. “Let’s eat.” He placed the jackets neatly on the two wooden lounge chairs in the reading area that separated living room from the kitchen. Above the chairs was a disco light that he had bought before Christmas. It was for ambiance when he would throw parties at Raf’s place.   

– – – –

Collin, Raf, Zoee, and Sam had finished eating dinner. Zoe had taken a smaller portion of food, which Collin suspected she would. After all, few women ever truly ate to the point of being full on a first date. However, she did go back for a second smaller helping, so Collin knew that was a good sign. Zoee also had a small glass of white wine with her meal, so Collin felt comfortable drinking a beer in front of her.  

Raf was going to smoke a little pot after the meal, and Sam was happy to partake. Collin and Zoee didn’t smoke, so they decided to head to the living room where they could talk alone. 

“How was dinner?” Collin asked when they were seated.

“Amazing.” Zoee answered. “Where did you learn to cook?”

“My mom is a good cook. I think I inherited my abilities from her. Cooking just comes naturally for me. I find it relaxing. What about you?”

“I like making pasta. However, anything with meat kind of grosses me out. I would become a vegetarian, but I love seafood too much.”

“Me too. The seafood part, not the vegetarianism.” 

Sam’s and Raf’s laughter could be heard from the kitchen. 

“So why did you ask me out?” Zoee asked looking down and playing with her sweater. “I didn’t think you were interested in me the other night. You didn’t talk to me.”

Collin laughed. “You were at the other side of the table. Plus, you were with Renzo. I didn’t know what the situation was.”

Zoee nodded. “Renzo and I are friends from dance. Plus, he has a boyfriend.”

“I figured that out. That’s why I asked Sam to talk with you. Why did you agree to come over tonight?” Collin asked turning the tables. 

“There was something about you that I liked. You were confident and serious. You talked to everyone—except me.” Zoee teased.

“I explained myself.” Collin said smiling.

“I know. I liked the way that you talked with people. It looked like you were really listening to what they had to say.” Zoee was looking softly at Collin, but she was still playing with her sweater.

“So, I know that you are in dance, and that you are studying TESOL like me, but what else do you do?” Collin asked.

“Well, I’m studying Japanese. This fall I’ll be going to Japan for a semester.”

“Oh, wow.” Collin said enthusiastically. “Hajimemashite. Collin desu.”

“Sugoi!” Zoee exclaimed. She then proceeded to speak in her must more expansive Japanese. Collin only knew the one phrase to introduce himself. 

“Sorry, Zoee. I used up all the Japanese that I knew.”

“That’s ok. How did you learn that phrase?”

“I spent two months in Japan. Before my second son was born, so that was 2001.”

“What were you doing there?” Zoee glossed over the fact that Collin mentioned his sons. 

“I was staying with a friend. He thought that he could get me fulltime work at a private school. I ended working only a few hours a week, and we spent the rest of the time drinking.”

“Still, that must have been an amazing experience.” Zoee added.

“It was.” Collin confirmed. “I’m going to get another drink. Can I get you anything?”

“Just some water.” Zoee said. “I don’t want this wine going to my head.” She was still nursing the glass of wine that she had earlier with dinner.

“Ok, I’ll be right back.” Collin smiled and headed to the kitchen. Raf and Sam were sitting there talking. Sam was leaning on the table towards Raf fully and laughing at his stories.

“You kids playing nice?” Sam asked Collin.

“Yes, Mrs. Dibbs.” Collin responded using her last name. He retrieved a beer from the refrigerator and then poured a glass of water from the Brita. Then he headed back to living room with the drinks.

“Here you go.” He said handing Zoee her water. He then placed his drink down and went to Raf’s living room stereo. “You want to listen to some music?” 

“Sure.” Zoee responded.

Collin then proceeded to plug and iPod Shuffle into the aux in port. The Shuffle was a gift from his brother for Christmas. It only held a portion of his MP3 collection, but Collin had programmed it with the dance music that he would play for his party guests. Collin would play something with a beat but sultry: “Shelter (Them Jeans Drum Edit)” by The XX.

The drum machine beat kicked in. 

Collin held his hand out to Zoee. “Would you like to dance?”

“Sure.” She said smiling and put her water down. 

I find shelter, in this way…. Under cover, hide away… Can you hear, when I say?… I have never felt this way

Collin led Zoee to an open area in the living room. He held both her hand lightly, just enough to guide her and give her space, to sync her movements with his.

Collin knew how to cook, and he knew how to dance. He taught himself both skills the same way. He would read recipes or watch dance videos, he would try things out, he would build his repertoire, and he would just enjoy himself. He would listen to a song, find its rhythm, and move with the song.

Zoee was a trained dancer. She had studied different styles of dance from an early age. She was used to more elaborate routines, more use of studio or dance space. She could perform by herself, with a partner, or with a huge ensemble on stage.

However, this was different. This wasn’t just moving to a beat or performing for another person. This was private and intimate. This was courtship. Two people getting to know one another by the movements of their body, learning each other’s rhythms, sharing space with another other.  

And I’ll cross oceans, like never before… So you can feel the way I feel it too… And I’ll mirror images back at you… So you can see the way I feel it too

Collin was gently leading Zoee. Step. Sway. Step. Sway. Step. Step. Zoee followed Collins lead. Step. Sway. Step. Sway. Step. Step. 

Zoee’s guard was lowering around Collin she was becoming comfortable with his lead, feeling the cues of his touch for the next move, the next direction. Collin was being gentle, giving her the time and space to build her trust in him, to want his direction, to see where they would go next.

Maybe I had said, something that was wrong… Can I make it better, with the lights turned on

The song came to an end. 

Collin said. “Follow me.”

Collin led Zoee into the reading room. He turned off the lights and turned on the disco ball. Colors swirled around the room. The kitchen lights were still on and beaming into the dining room. However, Sam noticed the transformation of the reading room from study to dance floor.

“Uh, dance party? Yes, please. Come on, pappy.” She said to Raf and pulled him into the next room and switched off the kitchen light to complete the ambiance. Collin cued up “Animal” by Miike Snow. The song opened with a simple chord progression. Then…

There was a time when my world was filled with darkness, darkness, darkness… And I stopped dreaming now… I’m supposed to fill it up with something, something, something… 

Zoee didn’t know the song, but it was instantly catchy, and she started to dance from a place of joy. Collin took a moment to ease into the song and into Zoee’s movements. Their eyes met, and they resumed their gyre of seduction. 

Sam and Raf just felt good from the food and pot. They were just dancing to have a good time.  

In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody I knew before long long long ago…But I’m still trying to make my mind up… Am I free or am I tied up

Collin gently touched Zoee’s side to guide. He could feel her firm core underneath her soft sweater. She didn’t resist his touch, and he used this contact point to sync up their movements. 

“You having fun?” He asked to confirm this advance. 

“Yes.” She said smiling. 

“Good.” Then he spun her around, and they danced back to back. He moved her with gentle pressure. She pressed back against him, keeping the rhythm, sharing physical space with him. This was as close as they got the rest of the night. Collin had more intimate dance moves, but he wouldn’t try them on this night. 

The dance party continued for five more songs. Then Sam and Zoee had to go. There was still school tomorrow.

Zoee was slightly warm from the exertion. She was dancing in a sweater and hat, after all.  Collin was a little sweaty too. He went to the kitchen to get him and Zoee a glass of water. When he came back, the ladies were retrieving their jackets. He gave Zoee her glass.

“I had fun tonight. Thanks for coming over.” Collin said.

“Thanks for inviting me. Dinner was excellent. And, you can dance.” She said in a sincere manner.

“I know a move or two.” Collin said, underplaying his abilities. He smiled her. She smiled back. “Would you like to have dinner with me this weekend?”

“You going to cook again?” She asked.

“No. I’d like to take you out for dinner. How does seafood sound?” Collin inquired.

“Sounds yummy. I’ll let you know if Friday or Saturday works for me. I still don’t know which night I’ll have dance rehearsal.”

“Sounds like a plan. Let me know.”

Zoee took a final drink of her water and handed the glass back to Collin.

“Toodles.” She said seductively and backed towards the door.

“Night, Big C. Night, pappy Raf.”  Sam said, and the two ladies exited the home of Raf and Collin.

The house was quiet again, but the energy of the evening still reverberated. Collin started to put things away. That went well, he thought.

“Nicely done, man.” Raf complimented his friend.

“Oh, that?” Collin said underplaying the events of the night. “I know a thing or two.”

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