Romance IV

2:18 a.m., Belmont and Sheffield. They're standing on the corner, deciding just where the evening should go from here. She reaches for his hand while he looks up and down the street, his "um"'s and "well"'s doing a poor job of hiding how badly he wants to impress her.

Nice shoes. He remembered to wear nice shoes. Someone told him that once; that women notice these things. Of course he didn't believe it but figured there was no use taking chances. Truth be told, he'd spent a considerably long time agonizing over his outfit for the evening, doing his best to make himself worthy of the company of this beautiful girl who, for whatever reason, decided after so long that yes she would like to go out with him this weekend.

Across the street, he sees the groups of alcohol-fueled young men and women stumbling their way to and from home. Two teenage boys dressed in black are walking together, one's face covered in blood. "We'll get 'em back," the other says. "You're going to be okay, I promise." The bloodied boy starts crying.

Past them walk two men, hand-in-hand, the taller one dressed to kill in stilettos and a black mini. "You look great tonight," one says, to which the other graciously responds "I know."

From the corner, he hears a young man and an even younger woman yelling at each other. She calls him a tactless jackass; he calls her a self-centered bitch. The two get into a cab together, riding off into the night to yell and curse and make amends the way only drunken lovers can.

The whole time, she watches him, watches his eyes dart from scene to scene, watches these little moments register with him. Always looking, she thinks. You don't have to look. I'm right here.

He feels her pull softly on his arm and steps back closer to her, takes her other hand in his. She leans forward and kisses him softly on the lips. The world falls silent and he can't hear the yelling or the laughter or the slurring or the scores of people, just the soft sweet voice of this beautiful girl.

"We should get out of here," she says.

He says nothing, just smiles and looks deep into her eyes before touching his lips to hers once more.

2:18 a.m. The night is young.