Joseph stared at her prone figure – she lay on a huge towel and bathed in the sun. She might be asleep. He couldn’t really see; her eyes were hidden behind dark aviator shades.
The hot pants style bikini she had on fitted her body like a glove and showed enough skin to tease without being vulgar. He sat down on the sand beside her – as quietly as he could – and just stared. His hands itched to touch her smooth skin.
“Are you just gonna stare at me all day?” he heard her say.
“It’s not illegal to look,” he retorted with a grin.
Pansy’s heart-shaped mouth crinkled into a smile. Joseph loved the mole situated just above the left side of her upper lip.
“So?” she challenged.
“So…” Joseph answered as he lowered his mouth to hers.
The ringing of his alarm clock shattered his dream.
Joseph rolled and buried his head into the pillow in a groan. It wasn’t the first time he had a dream about Pansy – nor was it the first time he was interrupted.
He glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand – 8 a.m.
It was great of his older brother Josh to set it later than Joseph was used to. Josh understood how long a long trip Joseph had taken from Hamilton College to New York City the day before. He didn’t have training and classes until Tuesday, so he was getting more than a few days’ visit to the city. He had the whole weekend with his brother and sister-in-law in New York and had promised to participate in a round of basketball for charity at their church tonight.
As he stared at the ceiling, his thoughts wandered back to just before the alarm clock rang. Just a dream, Joseph told himself, but he was in New York – as close as he could get to his dream.
“Come on,” Josh nudged Joseph. “We can’t win everything.”
They made their way through the hall of the community center. Only a few people hung around – players who participated in the games and volunteers who had to clean up.
Joseph let his irritation simmer down. He hated losing – that competitive streak that developed from years of growing up in a family of boys nagged at him at the moment. He tried to remember that it was for charity. The winning team had been superior, of course, far superior than he realized.
He just hated losing.
His sister-in-law Patricia was waiting for them – she was talking with two women. When she waved at Josh and Joe, the taller of the two women turned around to greet them – Jess.
“Hey, you” Joshua said as Jess greeted him with a hug. “I thought you’d be heading South this weekend.”
“Not until the first weekend of November,” Jess answered, talking about her plan to visit Jeremy in Houston.
She looked at Joseph, who immediately enveloped her in an embrace. “That bad, huh?” she teased. Jess remembered that Joseph – of the three Lin boys- was the most competitive. With brothers like Josh and Jeremy, why wouldn’t he?
“It’s okay,” Joseph smiled, “they were…” but words failed him as his gaze rested on the person standing beside Jess. She was not as tall as Jess – well, not many Asian women were as tall as her.
“Dylan, this is Joseph and his older brother Joshua, who is married to Patricia,” Jess introduced.
“Hi, nice to meet you,” Dylan said as she shook Joshua’s hand.
“Hi,” Josh greeted her.
Joseph was confused. She talked with the clear British accent that he found so fascinating. Dylan had jet black hair to her shoulders. Bangs swept her forehead; a pair of brown eyes peered through a pair of glasses. She had a heart-shaped mouth that was curved in a smile – she almost looked like…
“Pansy had to work late tonight,” Jess explained, “So I volunteered to show her younger sister Dylan the city. “
“Jeremy told me you’d be visiting this weekend,” Jess nudged Joseph, who still had not said anything – and she knew exactly why.
“Uh, nice to meet you,” he finally uttered as Dylan shook his hand. He tried not to stare too much at her and turned his gaze back to Jess.
“I didn’t notice you in the stands,” he said.
“You were on full-on basketball beast mode, that’s why,” Jess laughed.
“No, I wasn’t,” Joseph protested. “If I was on beast mode, we would have won.”
“Yeah, right,” Joshua interrupted. “What do you think, Dylan?”
“It was the first real basketball game I’ve seen,” Dylan grinned, “so I’m not a much of an expert. You did seem to move around a lot,” she told Joseph.
“I had to – it was my job,” Joseph answered her. Curiosity getting the better of him, he asked Dylan, “You’ve never really seen a live basketball game before?”
“Never,” Dylan replied. “I’m more a football fan, I mean soccer.”
Their small group had begun walking towards the doors – Joseph barely registered that he had automatically begun to walk beside Dylan while they talked.
“I heard your brother is a basketball player?” Dylan asked Joe.
Joe nodded. “Jess and he are together.”
“Pansy tried to explain the sport to me once, ‘cause she’d become so crazy about it since moving to New York,” she continued. “You know Pansy, right?”
“She’s one of Jess’s friends,” he explained.
“Pansy said something about a trip to the beach this summer.”
“Yeah,” Joseph answered, just as they stepped outside. He was glad to be out – the slight breeze helped cool the warmth he felt was slowly creeping on his face as a vision of Pansy sunbathing popped in his inner eye.
It felt weird having that in his mind while talking to Dylan.
“Jess and Jeremy’s invite, yes,” Joseph told her.
“I’m jealous,” Dylan shared, “it sounds like fun.”
“It was,” Joseph agreed.
Jess, Patricia and Joshua were walking ahead of them, immersed in their own conversation.
“Hey, Pat, where are we going to grab something to eat?” Joseph asked out loud. “I’m hungry.”
“You’re always hungry,” Patricia retorted, “just like your brothers.”
“Do you have any preference, Dylan?” Jess asked.
“No, I can eat anything,” she answered.
“There’s a sushi bar near here,” Joshua suggested and everyone agreed.
Jess observed Joseph and Dylan talk and laugh together during dinner. She remembered a moment during their trip to Asia when a Chinese TV host asked Joseph why he never smiled. Joseph does smile – he just didn’t like the cameras and all the attention. Jeremy had learnt to adjust to it, but it was still difficult for Joseph, who preferred not being in the spotlight. Everyone in the family was adjusting, of course, but Jess had always felt protective of Joseph. His friendship with her younger brother Jonnie made him a part of her family – just as she had been a part of the Lin household because of her friendship with Jeremy.
Dylan was the same age as Joe and judging from the conversation the two were having, they had more than that in common.
Joseph sat and noticed the subtle similarities Dylan had with Pansy – and the differences. Pansy made him nervous and tongue-tied; he had somehow thought she was slightly intimidating.
With Dylan, Joseph did not have to try too hard; she was easy to talk with. She was talkative in an easy-going way that made him comfortable.
Dylan was talking animatedly about Halo 4 and DOTA 2 – there was a twinkle in her eyes that showed how much enthusiasm she had for the game. They had just discovered their common interest in video games and on-line gaming. Who would have thought that she was a gamer – not me, thought Joseph.
They’re done eating dinner, so they’d soon part ways – which Joe wasn’t so keen on doing just yet – so he decided to do something about it.
“Dylan, do you have plans after dinner?” he asked.
Patricia, Jess and Joshua all turned to look at him, surprise on their faces.
“What?” Joseph said. He could feel a blush coming. “I was thinking that if Dylan did not mind, we could visit a video arcade Jeremy once told me about.”
“I’d like that,” Dylan smiled, “Not that I mind having you with me today, Jess, but you must be tired from work as well.”
Jess smiled. Dylan was smooth; maybe she wasn’t that different from Pansy, after all. “No problem. It’ll give me time to make a certain phonecall,” she laughed.
To Joseph, she said, “As long as you make sure she gets home safe. Otherwise, Pansy will kick both our butts.”
“I will,” Joseph promised.
“Hope it’s okay,“ he asked his brother and sister-in-law.
Joseph nodded and said, “You can have my keys to the apartment, so you can just lock yourself in.”
“You distracted me!” Joseph complained.
“All’s fair…” Dylan answered.
“Well, I was winning,” he laughed. “I never thought you were that sneaky.”
“What you get for underestimating me,” she countered.
They left the noise and stuffiness of the video arcade and stepped out into the cool night air.
“This was an awesome date, Joseph,” Dylan said. “I can’t remember ever having that much fun in an arcade before.”
Joseph was quiet. A date? Of course, he was on a date! He mentally shook his head – he was on a date with Dylan without realizing it. Idiot, he chastised himself.
“I had fun, too,” Joseph answered.
“You sound like you don’t believe that,” Dylan observed with a crooked smile.
“Oh – I do mean it – it just took me by surprise,” he explained. “I mean… we barely know each other.” Joseph took a deep breath and decided to be honest. “Somehow, I feel like I know you.”
“Really?” Dylan smiled.
As they walked down the street in search of a cab, Dylan suddenly said, “I’m not used to it either – being comfortable with someone I just met.”
They just looked at each other and smiled, just as a cab stopped by the curb.
“So, you’ll be here for a whole week?” Joseph asked, while their cab drove to Pansy’s address first.
“Yeah. Pansy is taking a few days off to help me visit some colleges.”
“I have to go back to Hamilton on Monday,” Joseph said with a twinge of regret in his voice.
“We can still meet, you know,” Dylan said.
“How will we meet when you live on another continent?” Joseph asked.
“On-line,” Dylan replied with humor in her voice. “My handle is D-Mize; my Vietnamese name is Dao-Mai.”
“Dao-Mai?” Joseph repeated.
“Yes,” Dylan said, “The name only my parents and grandparents call me.”
“Understood, Dylan,” Joseph smiled, “My handle is JoeLinsta.”
“Do you mind exchanging numbers?” he asked on impulse.
“Of course not,” Dylan replied.
They exchanged phones for a few minutes to code in their numbers on each other’s phone.
“Where did the name Dylan come from?” Joseph asked curiously.
“My love for Bob Dylan,” came her prompt reply.
As the cab slowed to a stop in front of Pansy’s building, Dylan said, “Thanks again, Joseph.”
He got out of the cab with her – to say goodbye.
“It was my pleasure,“ Joseph said and extended his right hand.
Dylan took his hand and on impulse stood on her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Josh was still up – studying as usual – when Joseph arrived at the apartment.
“I don’t have to ask how your evening went,” Josh commented.
“Then don’t,” Joe answered with a grin as he headed for the guest bedroom.
His phone beeped a few minutes later.
Sweet dreams. D-mize.
He typed a quick response and lay staring at the ceiling for a while. When he succumbed to sleep, he dreamt of smiling brown eyes behind eyeglasses.