Chapter Twenty One: Now Or Never
Natalia returned home right when April started. Her March break had been far from relaxing. Although the weather had cooperated most days, it seemed spring was in full bloom, but Natalia's mood wasn't reflecting it. She had manged to keep up her waspish behaviour towards Dallas. Even Derek couldn't get her to lighten up.
Natalia lay in her bed thinking. She had been back at school for a week and there hadn't been much work so far. She had finished the small assignments that had been given to her in class. She was looking forward to hearing from the universities she had applied to. The response from the universities usually came at the end of April, beggining of May.
“Natalia!” She heard her name being called. Natalia sighed and headed down stairs. What now? She thought with a little irritation. “Yes?” She asked as she came downstairs. Natalia walked in to the living room, upon seeing the serious looks on her parents and Derek, she thought she was in trouble. “I didn't do it...” She started. “What are you talking about, honey?” Her father asked. “Nothing.” She muttered quickly.
“Lia, your grandmother is sick...” Her mother started, but her voice faltered with emotion. “How sick?” Natalia asked. “She has double pneumonia.” Her father told her. Natalia didn't like where this was going. “Because of this, your mother and I are going to be going to be going to Kamloops to take care of her.” He told Natalia. “What about your work?” She asked her father. They had only just gotten back from Toronto, and now her father was going to British Columbia to take care of her grandmother.
“Don't worry, Lia. I'll be taking my work with me. I'm very lucky to be my own boss.” Natalia rolled her eyes at this. “Anyway, your brother will be taking care of both you and Dallas. So don't make things to hard on him.” Her mother told her, rather sternly.
She makes it sound like I'm the difficult child...what exactly am I going to do? Natalia thought a little defensively.
“We'll be leaving on Thursday, since it's the earliest flight I could book. So Natalia, remember to be good, and help your brother out.” Her father said to her, ruffling her hair. “Okay.” Natalia agreed, she quickly retreated to her room.
Dallas was having a lot trouble with Natalia. She had made sure that she wasn't in the same room with him for long. Maybe she's scared she'll run out of insults, Derek thought darkly.
He had just come home from practice. Next week he would be spending four days in Toronto, practicing with the first string. He was looking forward to it. Maybe she'll miss me, Dallas thought a little hopefully.
Dallas sat down at the table, he had a plate of food with him. Natalia's parents had left yesterday to take care of her grandmother. It gave him a chance, maybe he could get Natalia to listen to him. He looked through the paper that lay on the table. He flipped through the pages, glancing at the editorials when something caught his attention. There was an ad in it.
Story Book Gardens was having a late night festival to welcome spring. Everyone was invited to join them in the festivities. There would be rides, games, and food. Dallas couldn't help but wonder. How do I get her to go out with me? He questioned. There had to be a way to make Natalia listen. He just had to find it.
Natalia tossed and turned in her bed. She had decided to turn in early. She missed her parents already. Saturday had gone by slowly, she didn't have her mother entertaining her with stories from work.
Thinking of new insults for Dallas was starting to become a chore. Natalia had not been enjoying being home. She had been taking the bus in the morning, and walking home in the afternoon. It was the easiest way to avoid being cornered by Dallas.
Why can't he just leave me alone, Natalia thought.
Natalia froze suddenly. There was a clicking sound. Natalia turned over, thinking her mind was playing tricks on her. There it was again. Natalia's imagination was starting to run wild. What could it be? She wondered. A few years ago she had found brids pecking at her window. That had annoyed her slightly.
When the sound continued, Natalia decided to get up. She pulled her curtains away, only to be shocked when she saw the source of the commotion.
It was Dallas. She saw him throw something at her window again. It made the same clinking noise.
He's hitting my window with pebbles? Natalia couldn't belive him. It was a little amusing, she admitted to herself.
She opened her window. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Let down your hair!” Dallas said to her, when he saw her watching him.
“You know you're going to wake someone up?” Natalia told him, annoyed but amused at the same time. “Yea, well I'll stop now, since the person I needed awake has successfully been awakened.” He told her, he was grinning.
“What do you want, Dallas?” She asked him, she kept the annoyed tone in her voice. She wasn't going to let him think he had her curiosity. “I wanted to ask you if you'd like to come with me to the late night spring festival. It's being held at Story Book Gardens.” He told her.
Natalia froze. So that I can see you with Mollie again, no I don't think so, Natalia thought. “Haven't we already gone through this?” She asked him, coldly.
“Natalia, I'm sorry. I want you to give me a chance to explain.” Dallas said to her, looking earnest. “Really? It looks like you're trying to make me forget about it.” She retorted.
“No, I'm not trying to make you forget. I just want to make it up to you for the party. I swear I'll tell you what happened. Just please give me a chance.” He pleaded with her.
Natalia eyes him wearily. This is a prescription for disaster, she thought with a sigh. Part of her wanted to go and see what he would say, the other half was more than happy to stay in the room and ignore him.
“Are you asking me out?” She asked him. “I don't know, maybe.” Dallas told her, flustered. “Just tell me, is this a date?” She said through gritted teeth. She wasn't risking herself to make him feel better about the party.
“Does it matter if its a date or not?” Dallas asked her. Natalia sighed. He was going to make this difficult for her. “Just answer my question.” She told him. “Would you still go with me if it wasn't?” Dallas asked her. Probably not, she thought. Instead Natalia replied with irritation. “Maybe, I don't know. That's not the point...just forget it then.” She said frustrated.
When Dallas said nothing, Natalia decided it was time to leave it. She wasn't going to corner him in to saying something that he didn't mean. Natalia started to close her window.
“Alright, I'm asking you out on a date.” His words surprised Natalia. “Please will you come with me now?” He said sounding a little hopeful.
Natalia stood there indecisivly. At last she made up her mind. “Nope.” She told Dallas, innocently. “What!” Dallas was beside himself, Natalia could barely contain her laughter. No sooner had a laugh come out of her mouth, Dallas looked at her with curiousity. “So your plan was to shoot me down?“ He asked her. “Actually...yea.” She told him, unrepentantly. “Okay, game's over. Come down please.” He pleaded with her.
“I don't think I will.” She told him. “How much more grovelling do I have to do?” Dallas complained. Natalia laughed. “Do you really want to know?” She asked. Dallas shook his head. Natalia sighed loudly. “Alright, fine. I'll come.” She said. “Great! Now go get changed, and bring a light sweater or jacket.” He told her.
Dallas had a hard time containing his joy. She had agreed to go out with him, on a date nonetheless. Dallas leaned against the hood of his car, waiting for Natalia.
It had all worked out. Derek had gone out for the night. Dallas had suspected that his best friend had been seeing a girl from work. Derek changed the subject everytime Dallas had prodded. It suited him just fine, at least tonight he had a chance with Natalia.
He heard the front door open. Natalia stepped out. She was wearing a black dress. She had black tight pants on underneath. Over top she had pulled on a matching spring jacket, and she had worn ballet flats.
She walked up to him. “Ready to go?” He asked her. “Yes.” She told him simply. Her hair had been pulled into a ponytail. She looks adorable, Dallas thought as he opened the door for her. Natalia sat without saying another word.
The drive to the festival was quiet. Natalia seemed to be mulling over something. No doubt thinking about how to attack me with a barrage of insults if I mess up, Dallas thought.
As they parked, Natalia still hadn't said anything. They got out of the car. Dallas walked over to her. “Well? What do you think?” He asked, as she observed the scene.
It was full of lights, a ferris wheel could be seen in the distance. Everything was lit up.
“It looks amazing.” She said quietly.
“Come on, lets go have some fun.” He said, taking hold of her hand. He led the way.
Dallas made sure she went on as many rides as possible. Even when Natalia complained of being scared of heights, Dallas had dragged her on to the ferris wheel. She had kept her eyes closed the whole time, causing him to chuckle.
“Can we at least going on the 'Swing of The Century'?” Natalia asked, reffering to the motorized swings that were lifted about ten feet in the air, and then spun.
“I thought you hated heights?” Dallas asked, teasing her. “That one looks more secure than the cage of the ferris wheel.” She replied, giving him a dirty look. “Alright, lets go.” Dallas said heading off in the direction of the ride, with Natalia in tow.
As soon as Natalia had caught sight of how high the ride actually went, she paled. “On second thought...can I just go on the 'Merry Go Round'?” She asked. “After we go on this one.” He told her with the air of finality. Natalia didn't look too thrilled. Dallas made his move. Kissing her lightly on the lips. “You'll be fine.” He reassured her. Natalia didn't try to argue.
Once they had gotten off the 'Merry Go Round', Dallas lead Natalia to the food stands. Before they could even reach one, something had caught her eye. “Look at that!” She exclaimed. Dallas turned to see a soccer net set up. The prizes ranged from huge stuffed bears to small stuffed frogs.
Without knowing, Dallas headed off with Natalia in the direction of the net. Food had been forgotten.
“Hi! For two tickets you get three chances to shoot into the net at three different distances. If you get all three in, you can pick your prize.” Said the lady managing the stall.
Dallas handed her two tickets. Natalia watched him, as he took the three soccer balls from the outstreatched arms of the woman. This couldn't be so hard. He had been practicing these things for a long time.
Dallas aimed the first ball, and scored it into the net. Natalia looked on in amusement. He got the second one in from a longer distance. Natalia had a smile playing on her lips. “Please go in!” Dallas whispered as he placed the last ball at the third distance. He aimed and kicked. The ball swerved neatly into the net. He heard Natalia cheer.
Dallas gathered the balls and walked over to where Natalia and the woman were. He handed the balls back to her. “So what would you like as your prize?” The lady asked him. It didn't matter to him.
“Which one do you like, Natalia?” He asked. Natalia looked stunned at being asked. “I don't know, there are so many of them.” Natalia told him indecisively. Dallas looked for one that he thought suited her. There was a medium sized bear. It had soft light brown fur, with a pretty ocean blue tie. The blue looked just like Natalia's eyes. The brown reminded him of his own. “Can we get that one please?” He asked the woman. She smiled, and handed the bear to Dallas. “Hope you enjoy yourselves. Thanks for playing.” She told them, as they walked away.
Dallas handed Natalia the bear. “That's for you.” He told her with a smile. “Thanks.” Dallas saw her blush as she cuddled the bear. He looked over to the food stall, his mind had changed. He took Natalia's hand and led her to the car.
Natalia sat in the passenger seat, with the bear in her arms. The fur was soft. She patted it once more. Dallas was driving. She had no idea where they were headed.
It wasn't until Dallas parked the car, that she actually paid attention to her surroundings. They were outside a restaurant. Natalia left the bear in the car, as they headed into the building.
“What was so bad about eating at the fair?” Natalia asked. Dallas turned to look at her. “If I'm taking you out on a date, we're not going to eat at a food stall at a fair.” He told her, before asking the host to lead them to a table for two. “Preferably near a window.” Natalia heard him say.
When he turned to look this time, Natalia wore a confused expression on her face. “What? I know you like sitting near windows.” He explained. “Oh...” She muttered. “Why? What were you thinking?” He asked her. “I thought it was so you could jump out when the bill came.” Natalia said, she grinned. “Ha...ha...very funny.” Dallas muttered.
Once they sat down, they looked over the menu. Natalia couldn't help but peak at Dallas. Her night had been enjoyable so far. If she was honest, it had been wonderful. Natalia noticed that she was staring at him and quickly retreated behind her menu.
When the waiter came around, Dallas looked up at her. “What would you like?” He asked her. Natalia didn't have much of an apetite. “I guess I'll have the chicken wraps.” She told him. “Are you sure?” He asked her, with an eyebrow raised. “Yes. I'm not really hungry...” She replied. “I'll have the salmon.” He told the waiter after giving Natalia's order and asking for two glasses of coke.
As they waited, Natalia deliberately looked at the floor. She didn't know what to talk about. She stared at the pattern the tiles made.
“So are you having a good time?” Dallas asked her tentiatively. “Yea...” She told him. There was silence again. The waiter had popped up with their drinks.
Thank you, Natalia thought. She nervously sipped on her drink.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” She asked quietly. Natalia watched Dallas for his reaction. “Yea, I finally got you to come with me and your not insulting me as much. That's always a plus.” He told her with a grin. “Funny.” She muttered.
Once dinner had been brought to them, they ate quietly. Natalia was at a loss, what was there for her to say without making things too awkward.
“So how was your March break?” Dallas asked her before she could think of anything. “It was...normal.” Natalia said cryptically, in between mouthfuls of her chicken wrap. “What about yours?” She asked, out of curiousity. Dallas shook his head. “You don't want to know.” He told her, trying to brush it off. “No, I do. So tell me. How was it?” She pushed.
“It was boring.” He told her quickly. Natalia could tell he was avoiding talking about something. Natalia left it at that.
“So, Natalia,” Dallas started. Natalia looked at him. “Tell me what books do you like to read?” Dallas seemed to be genuinely interested. Natalia masked a look of disdain. She could see he was trying to break the ice. “Well...” She began.
Dallas was thankful that dinner hadn't been a disaster. Although he wished he could have asked Natalia more about herself. Dallas thought she had gotten to know him more than he had found out about her.
He was driving once more. He looked at the clock, it read eleven thirty. The weather was still pleasent but a light chill had set in. Everything was going according to plan.
Dallas stopped the car in front of a meadow. He turned to see Natalia giving him a questioning look. “It'll be fun.” He told her, unbuckling both of their seat belts. He grabbed a bag from behind her seat.
Once outside of the car, Dallas took her hand and led the way. The path had been lit by the light of the moon. The stars were twinkling in the night sky. He walked with Natalia to a clearing.
Dallas had been here many times in the past, He had come here to think when he had been accepted to UOC. He had come here when he had started at UWO, he had even come here when he was about to start the training camp...especially during the last stages. He had snuck to this spot during many sleepless nights.
Dallas pulled out a plastic sheet and laid it on the ground. On top of that he put a heavier blanket.
“You dragged me out here in the middle of the night...to sit in the middle of no where?” Natalia asked him, looking at him with slight annoyance.
“Yea, now come.” He ignored her sarcasm and pulled her on to the blanket.
Laying on his back he dragged her down next to him. Holding her hand and looking up at the beautiful wonders lighting up the sky.
He could feel Natalia relaxing next to him. “It's such an amazing view.” he heard her mumble quietly. “I know.” He told her, facing Natalia.
She looked at him. Her blue eyes spoke volumes even in the dark. It was obvious what she wanted to know.
The whole night he had whisked her off, first to a fair and then to a restaurant. She was looking for answers. Dallas knew she needed them. Natalia was someone who liked her life in order, she wanted the answers to justify being with him at this moment.
“Natalia, I don't have feelings for Mollie.” He told her bluntly. Honesty would be the best policy with her. “Then why...” Before she could ask, he interrupted.
“I don't know...I think Adam or Gabe might have invited her as one of their dates. I didn't think she would come after me.” He told her. “Really?” Natalia looked at him, her eyes were narrowed. Dallas sighed.
“I thought she had forgotten about me.” Dallas said, looking at Natalia. “I didn't expect her to come. Just like I didn't expect you to show up. The next thing I know is that Mollie told me she wanted to talk and she led me to the balcony and then she kissed me and your right there. You popped out of no where.” Dallas said quickly.
“What makes you think that I'm going to believe you?” Natalia asked him. She was laying on her side, facing him, arms crossed.
Dallas had known she would say something along those lines. He had an answer waiting for her.
“Because you know I wouldn't hurt you on purpose, Natalia. After everything...you know I would never do that to you.” He told her ernestly.
“And why wouldn't you?” The question came unexpectedly. Dallas blinked hard.
“Because...I have feelings for you.” He told her. He carefully gauged her expression. She looked surprised.
“I've been meaning to ask you, I just want to know if you feel anything for me?” He asked her quietly.
Natalia was quiet. Dallas could hear his heart beating. He wondered if she heard it too.
“Dallas.” She said softly. “I think...I do.” He couldn't believe what he was hearing.
Dallas didn't wait for her to say anything else. His hands made their way to hold her face. He brought her close to him. It was then their lips met. His brushing over hers. All Dallas could feel was the strong sense of relief.
Natalia lay staring at the stars. It had been a long time since she had felt so at peace. She was content. She couldn't ask for anything more. Dallas was playing with the hand that his was entwined with.
Natalia couldn't help but laugh. It was amusing to see him act so...different.
They had been talking. He had told her why he had quit playing all those years ago.
“Every time top teams came to scout players...only the coach's favorites would be on the field. Not me, not any of the really good players. It was like he was being paid under the table.” He had told her. “It came to a point, that when he asked any of us second stringers to play; we instantly knew that there was a less prominent team scouting players.” Natalia had seen the hurt in his eyes.
“So the day we were going to have scouts from Spartak Moscow come...the coach came up to me and asked me to play. I said I quit...I had had enough.” Dallas told her. “I wasn't just going to go to any team...especially one he thought was beneath his favorites. So I walked away, and continued my studies.”
When Dallas had finished, Natalia had felt awful about the way she had treated him at the beggining.
Natalia looked up at the twinkling stars.
“So are you going to tell me why you gave me the silent treatment?” Dallas asked her.
Natalia hadn't been expecting him to ask.
“When did I give you the silent treatment?” She asked him, playing for time.
“Winter break.” Dallas replied. She could feel his eyes on her. Natalia couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. She wished he hadn't asked. Now he was going to know something she hadn't wanted to admit for a long time.
“It was really stupid.” Natalia told him, she couldn't look at Dallas. Instead she kept looking at the sky.
“You said that already. Can you at least tell me why?” Dallas pleaded. Natalia shook her head.
“Natalia, you can tell me.” Dallas told her.
Natalia sighed, there wasn't any way out of this one.
“It was because of Mollie.” Natalia told him. She was already bracing for what he would say.
“What do you mean?” He asked her.
“I thought you liked her.” She told him lamely. “Why?” Dallas continued to question her. Natalia shurgged her shoulders. “Dinner.” She told him.
Dallas was quiet. Natalia didn't want to know what he thought. After a few moments when he hadn't said anything, Natalia turned to face him.
She was surprised to see the look on his face. Dallas was grinning.
“What?” She questioned him. “You were jealous! Over me!” He told her gleefully. Natalia couldn't believe him. She gave him an incredulous look. “Are you kidding me?” She said to him.
Dallas wouldn't stop grinning. Natalia pushed him away lightly. “You like me more than your telling me.” He said to her.
“Your so full of yourself.” Natalia said, in mock annoyance. “I might be, but you like me!” He told her, kissing her .
Dallas couldn't help but enjoy teasing Natalia. He couldn't believe that she actually had felt something for him, so much so that she had freaked out at the thought of him liking Mollie.
He looked at Natalia. She was staring at the stars, there was a smile on her face. He entwined his fingers with hers. Natalia turned to face him.
“I'm glad you said yes.” He told her. Natalia smiled.
“I never said yes. I said 'Alright, fine.' There's a difference.” She told him with a laugh.
“Small technicality. But either way, you're mine now. And I like you just the way you are.” He told her. Reaching to stroke her cheek, Dallas could feel the heat of her blush.
“You're thinking wishfully now.” Natalia quipped. Dallas laughed.
“Uh huh, at least I'm not jealous.” He retorted. Natalia scowled. “Right, so you weren't jealous of Raine? Each time I saw you and Raine was with me, are you telling me it wasn't you who was scowling? So who's the jealous one now?” Natalia shot back.
Natalia had successfully cornered him. Dallas couldn't deny that with a straight face.
“Okay, truce.” He told her smiling. He pulled Natalia closer to him.
It wasn't long before Natalia drifted off into sleep. Dallas promised himself he would wake her up in ten minutes. He wanted to enjoy every moment he had with her. She turned to him in her sleep. Her breathing was deep and even. Her hand was still in his. She had moved her head to rest on his chest.
Dallas ran a hand through her hair. The strands were glowing in the moonlight. Dallas tried to stop his eyes from drooping, but they had become heavy. Soon Dallas had fallen asleep.
Natalia could feel a chill, she wanted to wrap her blanket around herself. When she reached for the blanket, she grabbed nothing. Natalia streatched her hand farther, but she couldn't find it.
Instead Natalia found someone's hand was in hers.
There was light poking at her. She didn't want to get up, but the light wasn't helping.
Natalia opened her eyes, just as Dallas woke up. Sunlight was pouring down on them. Natalia looked to find her head on Dallas's chest. His blond hair tousled, Natalia tentiatively reached out to touch his hair. It was soft to the touch.
Then it hit her.
Natalia suddenly got up. Dallas got up after her. “Oh! We've been out all night!” She exclaimed, turning to look at Dallas. He didn't look as surprised as her, he looked happy and relaxed. “What if Derek notices we're not home?” She asked him, starting to feel panic brewing.
She ran a hand through her hair. The pony tail had fallen out, it was laying on the blanket.
“Don't worry, Derek went out.” Dallas said, as he kissed her. “But, I suppose we could head home now.” He told her.
Dallas got up first and pulled Natalia up gently. Natalia watched him, maybe it was the light, but Natalia had never seen him look this way.
He's gorgeous, she thought as they got into the car. And he likes me for me! Natalia thought happily, as they went home.
"This extract remains the exclusive property of the author who retains all copyright and other intellectual property rights in the work. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced or used by any person or entity for any purpose without the author's express permission and authority."