It's only half past six and I had already started pulling ingredients out of the cabinets to prepare to make what needed to be a dinner beyond the regular vegetable stir fry and rice or quesadillas that I put together most nights. I was having trouble deciding where in the process I should be when he arrived. Should I be pretty much done and have the table set and ready? No, that would be incredibly formal and leave no room for cute, awkward small talk. 

I paced back over to the refrigerator, clutching the handle and deciding whether to open it again or not. Should I start when he came so we could talk while we cook? No, I invited him over so I should at least be headed in some semblance of a direction by the time he gets here. I opened the refrigerator door and pulled out the mushrooms, tomatoes  and all the other vegetables I had bought the night before in anticipation of this dinner. I knew exactly what the menu was going to be. I had spent two hours on the Food Network website the week before looking up perfect date foods. Hopefully nothing would take me by surprise, but in cooking new recipes, it seems like things always did. 

As my hands mechanically began to wash and chop the vegetables one by one, my mind drifted, thinking back to when we had tea at the local coffee shop. For six dollars he paid for our tea that I could have made equally as well, if not better, in my own apartment... But "casual" first meetings are usually better conducted outside of personal dwellings. It's more about getting a feel for first impressions, finding out what you have in common, and deciding if the person is someone you would be interested in pursuing further. 

He had told me about his interest in photography and how his parents had him have an annual photoshoot for his younger sister while she was growing up. He showed me some of the photos of her -- colorful scenery, rich, natural lighting, and an adorable model. I was thoroughly impressed. I had told him about my passion for dance and how I couldn't imagine my life without it. He smiled at this with a smile that reached his eyes. He said he was a dancer in college too, though he hadn't danced much since then. It had been an important part of his life back then, but things got busier as he got older. Typical growing up stuff. 

I put the chopped tomatoes and peppers aside and started on the green onions. 

He was genuine in his laugh and his compliments and his interest in me. He had a way of making me feel comfortable to open up even though I had just met him two weeks ago. He dressed impeccably and with a unique style, a delicate cross between classy and cool. He was calm and relaxed when he spoke, but still made jokes and had depth in his laugh. He was everything I had been looking for, but I knew from experience not to get my hopes up too soon. I looked forward to getting to know him more, and I hoped that he did too.

I put potatoes in the oven to start baking. Done with all the prep work, I washed my hands and glanced at the time. I only had an hour left until eight. It seemed like such a short time, but I knew my stomach would turn a million times in those sixty minutes. I went into the bedroom to change into the dress I had picked out for tonight. It was a navy blue shift dress that I intended to look elegant but still casual enough to wear it well without any shoes. I carefully retouched my makeup from this morning, adding some extra color to my eyes and lips. I'm not one for half hour makeup routines, but they say it should just accentuate your features so I just put on whatever kept my face looking natural. 

I checked my phone and saw a text from him reminding me playfully that he was bringing dessert so I shouldn't worry about it. He had said it was something he was famous for among his family and friends. I was intrigued as to what it might be. It made my heart jump that he could cook too. 

I put on some of my favorite pop ballads at an ambient volume on my speaker. That and the low yellow light of my lamp would set a nice mood in the apartment --  casual but with a clear intent. I headed back to the harshly lit kitchen and started sautéing the onions, tomatoes, peppers and spinach, adding a nice array of spices and herbs that would elevate their flavors. I had bought a bottle of red wine a few days before that a friend had recommended. I put that on the counter and figured I would ask him to open it, to prevent myself the embarrassment of being unable to. 

As I started to mix together my filling and stuff it onto the portobello mushroom caps, I remembered that he'd probably ask to help out if he cooks at home, and that'd be a good way to keep things light and casual before dinner. He could help with the salad -- an easy, non-messy part of any meal to be a part of. As I put the tray of stuffed mushroom caps into the oven, I heard a knock on my door. I quickly washed my hands, smoothed my dress, and fixed my hair. I took a deep breath and walked over to the door. No matter what happened, I was sure it would be a great night. 

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