When I saw him for the first time, I knew I had to have him for dinner.
It was in the ripe red of his mouth, the plush of his lower lip. The hollows of his cheeks were little inlets for his amusement, surprise dusting his high cheekbones from the shadows of his lashes.
“What, me?” was his answer, a laugh paused at the corner of his mouth. “I don’t even know you.”
I should have been embarrassed, but I wasn’t. I was under a thrall – his thrall. This beautiful, angled boy, with a halo of dark curls and pianist’s fingers. He touched his throat when he spoke, as though nervous I might tear it out with my teeth. As though inviting me to tear it out.
“Please,” I clarified. His prominent knuckles flashed over his sternum with the absent invitation of his hands – rip it out, they said, taste it. He was agreeing to my invitation without words, his hands beckoning even as his red mouth hesitated.
“… Okay. But only because you look posh, and I’m hungry. But I’m not down for anything weird.”
I thought about him the entire subway ride home. It wasn’t until I was three stops from my door that I realized he never gave me his name, nor did he ask for mine. He’d only wanted the address – he’d taken it with those eat me fingers, punching it into his phone as he repeated my words aloud.
“Seven o’clock,” I’d told him, before reconsidering. “Maybe six – seven is dinner time.”
An hour was enough time. An hour to find a recipe, to think of a way to impress him. To honor him.
My fingers ached from my grip when I released the pole at my stop, but it wasn’t the ache of overuse. It was something closer to unsatisfaction – I had been thinking of his throat, the flex of tendons and muscle as he laughed at me with that red, ripe mouth.
I was methodical in my kitchen, thinking back to all the meals I had made before. I wanted to get this one just right – I wanted to impress this boy.
Saffron, for his sensuality. Rosemary, to immortalize our evening. Plums, to mimic the shape of his mouth. A glaze, sticky and spicy, that would shine dark as varnish on his ivory skin, pool into the secret coves of his cheeks.
When the doorbell rang, the air was thick with the opiate scent of aromatics sizzling in pans. My heart felt hot and swollen. I decanted a bottle of dark wine into two glasses and imagined.
“Hey,” he said when I opened the door, glancing over my shoulder with naked curiosity. “I don’t usually do this, but you seem okay – damn, what are you making in there? It smells fantastic.”
I stepped aside and summarized my efforts for him. I wondered how my house looked through his eyes – old-fashioned, expensive. Dark. He was a smear of brilliance against my carefully curated backdrop, the thing that didn’t fit. Watching him move across my canvas made me feel drunk.
“What’s the dish?” he asked, shrugging off his coat. The wings of his shoulder blades shifted beneath his thin t-shirt, straining against the fabric like trapped, living things. I didn’t answer him.
Instead, I handed him the wine and tried not to stare as his throat clenched with every swallow. My jaw ached like my fingers had, petulant with disuse.
I let him finish the entire glass before.
It was a wet, red thing, and I held him close as I obeyed the invitation of his fingers. My own against his chest and felt his heart beat up to meet their press. His glass shattered on the stone floor, the dark red of his wine kissing the dark arterial shade in a violent swirl. It was over quickly – six fifteen. Dinner was at seven. I moved with purpose.
It was a complicated dish, but I had gotten the sense that he was a complicated boy.
I worked until it was perfect. I plated it to perfection. I set out the dishes, one for me, one for him. I helped him into his seat, careful to avoid the ribbons of red spilling from his chin, arranging him until he was comfortable and patting his lovely knuckles once.
I sat down and he was staring at me, wide-eyed. It made me smile, bashful, but only just – I wasn’t used to the unbridled attention. He made me feel exposed in a way that I liked, his mouth parted slightly like overripe fruit that had burst a seam.
“Thank you,” I told him with a hint of nervousness, the inevitable bloom of self-consciousness that came with a first date. “For joining me for dinner.”
He said nothing, but the sweet drip drip of sentiment from his throat onto his plate was answer enough.
I smiled down into my plate and took a delicate bite of his braised, silent heart. He tasted like new romance.
Despite the earliness of the evening, I felt confident there would be a second.