My smile fades a little as I see my dad making his way down the bleachers for me… alone.
"I’m so proud of you, honey… So what would you like to do to celebrate?" My dad asks cheerily as he reaches me and immediately wraps me in a comforting hug.
"Hmm… How about frozen yogurt?" The smile on my face returns to its original width and seems to have a mind of it’s own as I take in the sole remnant of family I have left.
Truth be told, I do have more family, but we’re not on the best terms as of late.
They just abruptly stopped talking to me all together a few months before my nineteenth birthday; which was only a little over a week ago now.
I sent them their tickets in the mail for access to my graduation ceremony, but I guess they couldn’t be bothered enough to show up and support me with their unconditional love…
"That sounds great!" He says, drawing me from my thoughts as he pulls back and rests his left hand on my right shoulder, "Lets go. I’ll meet you at Daddy Yo’s" he adds with a smile.
"Beat you there!" I challenge as I suddenly turn on my heel to run back to my truck.
I giggle to myself as I hear my dad call out, “You’re going down!” hearing his feet quickly hit the ground in the direction of his car as well.
The whole ride over is spent calmly nodding along to the beat of the music and thinking to myself about how my family seemingly abandoned me all of a sudden, with my progression of age.
I arrive at Daddy Yo’s soon after leaving the school - seeing as it’s close by - but laugh to myself as I see my dad already in the parking lot, leaning his back up against the trunk of his 2005 Chrysler 300 C, in his victory, with his arms folded over his chest.
The parking lot is unusually packed, for the first time since it opened there are no unoccupied parking spaces; strange.
I quickly drive up within talking distance of my dad to let him know that I will have to park down the street a little and meet him inside.
He nods understandingly before hitting the lock button on his remote key and strolls inside; stuffing the keys into the front-right pocket of his jeans.
I watch him through one of the large windows as he makes his way to a moderately sized booth in the back, seeing as more room was available in contrast to the front, and begins to wait patiently for me; twiddling with a menu.
I quickly head out of the parking lot - to keep the wait as short as possible - and make my way down the street, simultaneously peering over at each passing parking lot; the past three being packed as well.
"What the hell? Is everyone in Santa Monica getting frozen yogurt today? Lord help me not to pull a ‘Madea’ and make room with a forklift…" I sigh in frustration just as I conveniently spot an unoccupied parking space.
I can’t contain my burst of excitement as I start laughing triumphantly to myself and zoom into it; quickly come to a relieved stop.
I shift it into park, kill the engine, put on the emergency brake - out of paranoia and sheer habit - and check my appearance in the small flip-down mirror before grabbing my chapstick from my bag.
I look back up to the small mirror and apply it to perfection; I cannot go one minute without chapstick… preferably Vaseline with Cocoa Butter.
I find myself actually taking a second to look at my reflection for once.
I’ve never really been one to care for how I look, appearance wise; I don’t like wearing makeup or care about styling my hair.
But tonight there is a unmistakable glow about me; the affirmation that I’m finally free from the social hell, and immaturity of high school, flowing through me.
My eyes seem to have shifted into an even lighter turquoise - something I never even thought possible, as my eyes match that of a vibrant Hawaiian ocean - my lips seem to be a shade darker, my skin brighter, and my hair falls perfectly passed my shoulders and stops just above my ribs.
I look closer at my eyes - noticing all of the little intricate features - the outer rims of dark blue, vivid inner turquoise, and rings of rigid gold rounding my pupils; all encased under a dark frame of long, thick eyelashes.
I actually feel confident about my appearance for once.
I climb down from my ‘mini-mountain of a truck’, as my friends call it, before locking it and dropping my keychain over my head; settling around my neck and resting against my chest.
My confidence seems to show through my walk as well - just barely noticing as my hips sway back and forth once I started walking - owning the sidewalk like my personal catwalk; a certain bounce in my step.
I quickly make my way up to the four way intersection standing between me and Daddy Yo’s.
My stomach starts to grumble in anticipation, like it knows I am getting closer and closer to the frozen yogurt.
Cars zoom by as I reach up to press the button that summons my delivery through the crosswalk, but I’m distracted by a pair of footsteps sounding close behind me before I could reach even halfway.
I casually look over my shoulder, behind me - while simultaneously proceeding the rest of the small distance to the button - only to see a man standing diagonal of me; a comfortable distance set between us.
I can’t help myself as I subtly lean my head slightly further over my shoulder to get a better look at him; grazing over the circumference of the button with the pads of my index and middle finger.
He is adorned in a dark-red beanie, a long black pea-coat, gray skinny jeans, black converse with typical white laces, and black aviator sunglasses that take up most of his face.
He quickly catches notice of my eyes crawling over him and clears his throat, summoning me back from my curious, and seemingly rude, daze.
"Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare, I was just… Um… Isn’t it a little dark out for sunglasses?" I inquire with an innocent smile and a friendly chuckle as I seem to have forgotten my hand upon the button and also the intent to press it.
He copies my verbal response, and takes part in the small laugh as well, “That it is, but, in all honestly, I’m trying to hide from someone right now.” I nod my head understandingly as his lips part to continue, “My ex won’t leave me alone tonight.” He offers me a shy grin.
He had an astounding British accent, it’s beautiful, yet very rare around these parts.
I momentarily lose myself in the wonder of his foreign tongue, feeling as though it’s a delicacy yet to get enough of, before returning a friendly smile.
Before I can stop it, a small giggle escapes from between my lips at the recognition of the fault in his logic, “Well, dont you think going full ‘ninja stealth mode’ would make it obvious that you’re trying to hide and make you stick out more?” My smile gets the better of me as his grin widens in return; the realization now hitting him as well.
His is a lovely smile; it’s very welcoming and quite endearing, as well as seeming truly genuine.
"You do have a point…" he fades off into a chuckle, clearly defeated under my superior logic. "Ok, well if I show you something, then will you promise me that you won’t freak out or scream?" He asks, just above a whisper.
"Umm… You’re not going to flash me are you? -Because if you do, then I will punch you. -Just giving you a fair warning." I say with a small smirk, although I am slightly put off by the wording of his question.
He laughs again, a little louder now, but seeming slightly more comfortable.
"Fair enough." He raises his hands in front of him in mock-surrender before continuing, "But no, nothing scary like that." He takes a few steps closer, to where we’re shoulder to shoulder, before he slowly looks around in every direction and leans in closer to me.
I don’t know why, but I partially lean in as well; curiosity getting the better of me.
He reaches up to his sunglasses and slowly inches them up to his forehead; revealing the hidden portion of his face.
He immediately slams his eyes shut, as if expecting me to do something crazy, but Instead, I’m just left confused; my head slightly cocked to the right.
"Um, am I supposed to ‘scream or freak out’ now?" I ask jokingly as I quote his own words from before, watching him as his eyes open again and focus intently on me.
He looks almost puzzled all of a sudden as he then takes the glasses off completely and carefully places them into one of his jacket pockets; keeping his eyes on me before parting his lips to speak again.
"Wait…" He leans in a little closer to my face as he looks around hurriedly, "Do you not recognize me?" He asks in a hushed whisper, sounding almost baffled at my lack of identification.
"Well you do look strangely familiar for some reason, but no, I’m sorry, I can’t say I do… Am I supposed to?" I raise an eyebrow in slight suspicion as his eyes widen in exchange.
Next thing I know, he’s taken my right hand into his left - between us - and is squeezing it comfortably.
"No, no, of course not, don’t worry about it. But forgive me for forgetting my manners, I didn’t meant to come off like a total creep. My name is Liam; Liam Payne." he utters with a proud smile and begins to shake my hand in his as introduction; his british accent thickens at the sounding of his own name.
There is a pleasing glint in his eyes; probably the doubled reflection of the headlights passing by and the dazzling lights of the city encasing us.
It looks as though the entire world around us has shrunken into miniature pictures, projecting into the dark gloss of his eyes; quite a beautiful sight to see.
He looks at me expectantly, as if noticing the unforseen confusion dancing around in my mind, but I quickly snap back to our personalized space of reality, “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance Liam. My name is Viddía Mailliard.” I say just as proudly, as I return the firm handshake.
He seems to have taken some sort of interest in me, as his lips always manage to part with the finish of each new sentence shared between us; an interest that’s easily returned.
"Wow, that’s a lovely name you have there! It’s so unique; where are you from? I don’t believe I hear an accent?" He questions, almost excitedly.
"Well thank you, I appreciate that very much!" And I’m originally from France. Viddía is a form of ‘Vidya’; which is - or was - the name of a Hindu goddess. It means ‘wisdom, knowledge, and learning’ in Sanskrit. My mom wanted to be original" I say sarcastically, yet with a reminiscent smile none the less.
"That’s really beautiful, and no doubt it actually is original. I’ve heard of Vidya quite a bit, but never Viddía; It has a different pronunciation, as well as a certain, appealing ring to it." He compliments with a friendly smile.
I find myself gradually inching closer to him, somewhat drawn to his comforting aura, in order to heighten the pleasant conversation.
To my surprise, I catch him subtly doing the same, but neither of us going too far as to make it feel awkward or seem like a moment of an inevitable kiss scene in a movie.
"What about your last name?" he urges politely.
He really does seem to have taken an interest, but I find myself caring less and less as his warm smile is anything but offsetting.
"Well, Mailliard is clearly french, but stems from ‘Milliard’, which is also french. You see, I’m from a long line of stinky frenchmen" I say with a playful wink, fully aware of just making fun of my own self in the hopes of giving effect to the pun.
Thankfully it succeeds, as he follows suit by immediately howling with laughter.
The aura between us has completely shifted from a stranger’s encounter to a friendly, more open and comfortable one, all in the matter of a few short minutes.
It’s quite easy to talk to this man - Liam, as he calls himself - a matter’a fact, I am actually enjoying it.
"Oh, and I almost forgot, you’re correct." It seems as though I caught him off guard, as he now looks at me a little confused.
I smile sweetly before continuing “I don’t have an accent; my parents moved from France when I was practically a newborn, and then continued to move around a lot ever since. The language I was mostly brought up around was english. Aside from the small amount of French between my parents, english just stuck with me the most…. I still know some french though, mais pas trop bien, comme vous pouvez le voir.” I joked as I nudged his elbow with mine, given the new, closer proximity.
He looks at me, almost at a loss for words, “Sorry, but I’m a little rusty in the ‘foreign language department’… What did that mean?” he jokes back as he lets out a joyful laugh.
"It meant, ‘but not too much, as you can see’. It was just a silly play on words to prove I actually do know more than I previously let on" I say simply, basking in my cleverness.
He shakes his head at me playfully before settling back for an expectant look, as if encouraging me to continue with the curiosity behind his own gaze alone.
"… Funny thing is, when I was a kid, they always told it was a game of ‘Chase Me, Catch Me’ and that they were ‘always moving to not get caught’…" I look over my shoulder, in the opposite direction of Liam, in reaction to the sound of skidding tires somewhere nearby.
I waited a few moments before continuing, “But I personally just think they liked moving; lord knows money was never an issue.” I chuckle - mainly to myself at remembering their specific wording - turning my head to look back at him, only to see him as stiff as a board; every aspect of him was now tense.
"Hey, are you alright Liam?" I ask as I place my right hand on his left shoulder, a little worried for the nice new stranger stood before me; straining muscles and clenched jaw, looking almost painful.
"Yea, I’m fine sorry, just cold I guess." He hastily reassures me with kind eyes as he visibly relaxes and puts his hands into his jacket pockets; I dropped my arm back to my side soon after.
"Well hey, I know this is kind of forward but I just graduated high school tonight and I’m here with my dad for some frozen yogurt in celebration… Would you possibly be interested in taking a break from your double life as an under-cover ninja, to join?" I ask with a big smile that reveals my straight white teeth, along with my dimples; a little less then prominent.
He looks taken back by my invitation but quickly responds, “Really? -But I could be some psycho-killer that prays on the young and beautiful for all you know…” He starts, but is interrupted soon after by my uncontrollable laughter.
"Did you really just say that?" My head then rolls back as I struggle over my breath.
"Well it’s true, you never know these days. I mean, I could be two little-people stacked on top of eachother, with an evil plot to dominate the world and force all ‘tall’ people to walk through small doorways for the rest of their lives." He says with a pained smirk, clearly struggling to restrain from bursting out into laughter as well.
"Good one, and nice imagination by the way, but that’s not what I was talking about." My smile widens substantially, "I was talking about the whole ‘praying on the young and beautiful’ thing".
I can no longer control myself as I start to laugh again.
"No offense, but, you don’t exactly look like you could fit the part; unless you were like, a vampire… or a werewolf… or some kind of mythical creature or something crazy like that." I barely manage out my response through strained lungs; feeling as though they may burst open any second.
My eyes begin to water from the strenuous amount of laughter as he looks at me for a second, nervous almost, then suddenly breaks into laughter with me.
Our laughs twist and intertwine into the night sky before dispersing into a fleeting echo not too far off, down the street.
He has a attractive laugh; it’s manly, yet has that slightly girlish tinge to it that makes it so incredibly contagious.
"Well, Viddía, I think I will take you up on your offer after all. This has been one heck of a first impression so far, so why stop it now?" he says as his laugh calms and subsides for an innocent, warm smile, "But could you promise me one thing?" His smile then fades somewhat as well, into a more serious shade of his happiness.
"Depends on what it is." I inquire with a matching seriousness.
"When we get in there, could you please try not say my name too loud?" He inquires in an almost desperate tone of voice.
"Oh, no problem! I understand how ex’s can be - trust me - you’re safe with me." I offer him a reassuring smirk. "Besides I don’t believe letting you get mauled by a crazy ex is very appropriate for starting off the friendship" I giggle like a five year old at the image coming to mind.
He chuckles as well, “Agreed.”
Just then had I realized we’d been standing at a corner of a four way intersection, talking, for about seven minutes.
My dad is going to be upset that I made him wait so long; whoops.
"Well let’s go then, shall we?" I ask, intending it as more of a statement, as I reach up to the button again to access our specific section of crosswalk.
"You know, I’m kind of glad you noticed my glasses tonight" I heard him say beside me as he retrieved the sunglasses from his jacket pocket.
"And why’s that?" I quickly straighten out the bottom of my dress - the result of a nervous tick - at the same time he tugs at his glasses to reposition them to what I assume to be a more comfortable position upon the bridge of his nose.
It’s a simple dress - short and burgundy - draping down to just above my knees.
The sleeves are a beautiful lace reaching all the way down to my wrists.
The top half is snug around my chest and ribs while the bottom half subtly kicks outward, naturally brimming off into the structure of a calm, limp tutu.
It’s quite soft and perfect for the occasion, not showing any inappropriate skin, yet not being too modest at the same time; showing off and complimenting my curved figure without needing to hug me like a girl on prom night to do so.
"Well for a number of reasons actually… if that doesn’t sound totally creepy… But, for one, I would’ve been dodging her all night with no-one to talk to. Two, I wouldn’t have made a new friend. And three, I would’ve had nothing to do as fun as eating sweets with said, ‘new friend’." He smiles sweetly at me before starting across the crosswalk along side me.
"Well those reasons are good by me; Glad I could be of some importance in your once seemingly lonely plans for the night. And to be honest, I’m pretty glad too." I look over to see him already looking at me, his innocent smile on display in reaction to my honesty.
We walk in a comfortable silence for about a minute or two before nearing Daddy Yo’s.
I can see, from the corner of my eye, as he pushes his glasses up further along his nose and then flips the collar of his jacket to rim around him face; almost like a shield.
"Wow, she must really be after you, huh?" the look on his face says it all as he keeps his eyes facing ahead and nods reluctantly.
I don’t know what possesses me to do it, but I suddenly find my hand upon his closest shoulder, again, rubbing up and down encouragingly, “It’ll be ok, she’ll give up eventually, just give it time.” I said with a reassuring smile and a small giggle.
"What do you mean?" He turns his head to look at me, but I can’t see his eyes behind the dark lenses of his sunglasses.
"Well, no one - no matter who they are - has the capability of keeping their preconceived plan of dedication without eventually losing interest and giving up to find something new to peak a different version of their interest in exchange…" I explain further, feeling a bit philosophical.
I can sense Liam’s eyes on me as he slowly nods along with every few words.
"So, all in all, I believe everyone just needs to focus on things that are more progressive, and less trivial… like stalking their ex, for instance" I finished with a playful smirk, as I finally look over to view Liam’s expression; his mouth slightly agape and eyes wide.
My shy giggle in response to his facial expression seems to have knocked him from his apparent shock as he finally speaks, “Wow, Viddía… I’m really impressed, that was quite intelligible.” He says, as his eyebrows start to slowly come back down from practically losing themselves in his hairline.
"Thanks, I try" I flash him a single dimple as I casually play off the flattering admiration.
"You know, I don’t believe you even need to try; I think you’re just smarter than you let on" he lengthens the compliment and I return his smile with my own.
"Well thank you, Liam, I’m flattered." talking to him has become really easy, and truly enjoyable; he seems like the perfect example of a person I would be friends with, given the immediate connection and conversation thus far.
"Well, are you ready for some amazing frozen yogurt?" I ask excitedly - mere moments away from satisfying my hunger, as well as my sweet tooth - as I reach for the handle of the large glass door before us.
"Sure am!" He responds immediately, smiling as he places his hand over his stomach as further evidence