I sighed, knowing that since I was in this predicament I would just have to make the best of it. After a moment of thought, I sighed again and recited my chosen number.
Oddly enough, there was a deafening silence after I spoke. I turned around to see all of the boys with widened eyes.
Except one, who wore his usual smile.
I blinked at him. “I picked you, right?”
He chuckled in amusement. “Da, devushka.”
Gilbert quickly walked over to me, bending down beside me. “You can repick if want, Fräu,” he whispered.
I raised an eyebrow. “What? Why?” I looked back at the other boys cowering in fear at the sight of the delighted Russian, then rolled my eyes. “Oh, come on, Gil. He’s not that bad.”
Gilbert blinked, turning his head to alternate looking at me and Ivan. “A-Are you sure, Fräu. . . ?”
“Yeah.” I stood up and patted him in the shoulder. “I’ll be fine, Gil.”
He nodded, unsure, and patted my back. “Well then,” he said with a smirk. “Off to your date.”
He pushed me toward the door, and was about to do the same to Ivan, but decided against it. Instead, he simply held his arm out as Ivan walked past him with that smile if his. The Russian reached me and said, “Ready, devushka?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
He nodded back and made his way out the front door, with me on his tail.
We arrived at a local diner about ten minutes later, and we sat down at a booth near the window. A waitress passed by and placed menus on our table. We each took one and scanned it, then the waitress came back and asked us for our drink orders. I ordered Coke, and Ivan ordered water. She finished writing them down and skipped off.
We soon returned to our menus. “Order anything you would like, devushka,” said Ivan as he continued to look through the menu. “I will pay.”
I looked up at him. “Are you sure? I can pay for mine if you want me to.”
“No, it’s alright,” he replied, not looking away from the menu. “It will be my treat.”
I smiled. “Thank you, Ivan.”
He returned the gesture with his usual smile, all the while still looking at his menu. “Vsegda pozhaluysta, devushka.”
A few minutes passed, and the waitress had returned with our drinks and took our food orders. She raised her eyebrows when she heard my order––a relatively large meal for someone my size (i.e. a girl). Still hung up on my order, she turned toward Ivan and took his. She closed her notepad and sauntered off.
A very awkward silence ensued, and I sat twiddling my thumbs as I watched the Russian in front of me sip his water periodically. I watched his face as it calmly took in the drink. I watched his eyes––those cool, almost cold, collected eyes that looked so happy. . .and so sad. They never changed, not anytime I had seen; they always maintained that twisted look of bittersweet content.
Except for one time. He had smiled at me in such warmth that I’d thought it was a completely different person standing in front of me. I wondered why he didn’t smile like that as often. Sure, even I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but I still share my feelings every now and again. Yeah. He really needed to smile like that more––
“What are you looking at, devushka?”
I blinked, mercilessly yanking my mind back down to Earth. “U-Um, nothing. Just thinking. . .”
I scratched my head nervously. “Well, I was just thinking. . .that despite everything, even though something really good happens, you still smile that smile.”
Ivan blinked, but didn’t speak.
Not waiting for him to respond, I went on. “It’s just. . .the smile that you make all the time is just so. . . so empty.” I looked away from his face, suddenly taking interest in the salt and pepper shakers. “I mean, I’m not expecting anything from you, but. . .I think you would look way better with that smile you made that time. . .”
I looked up at him, trailing off the instant I saw his face. The smile he wore on his face now was so warm and kind––just like that time––that I thought I was going to burst. I felt my face heat up significantly, but I mirrored his smile. “Now that’s better.”
He laughed heartily, something I’d never heard him do before. “Oh, devushka. You are very interesting.” He returned to the warm smile. “I am glad you picked my number.”
I blinked, then grinned happily. “I am, too.”