I crossed my fingers behind my back and looked down at the floor to avoid any possible eye contact with Josh or the stranger. You know, sometimes you wish that you had a superpower to freeze time, become invisible or to just sink into the ground, well for me that moment was spent wishing for the exactly same thing.
"Hi, Josh. It's nice meeting you, I am Derek." The stranger replied.
I lifted my eyes and saw them shaking hands and I pinched myself because it was hard for me to believe that this was truly happening. For a while, I thought I was hallucinating but then the stranger who called himself Derek continued, "We were sorting some wines out here for dinner tonight. Ummm... am sorry but we'll have to go because we have people waiting at my place and we're hosts so we can't be late you know. It was nice meeting you both." He said with a smile.
I stood there frozen for a moment but Derek brought me back to reality, "Honey?" He turned towards me "See, this is the perfect wine alright. I guess we're all sorted, we should go."
I blinked rapidly to regain my focus and said, "Oh alright! Just put the wine in the cart and I'll get the billing done. You go and get the car." I said and he put the wine in my cart and waved a final goodbye to Regina and Josh and left.
"Guess, I'll see you later guys." I said to Josh and Regina.
"Ya, let's catch up sometime. Take care Emma.'' Josh said with a smile on his face and concern in his eyes.
As for Regina, well she just gave me a small smile before I turned away. Guess she wasn't over all the drama that I did earlier.
I went to the billing counter and settled the bill then headed towards the parking lot where I saw Derek standing next to his car. He was checking time in his watch as if he was waiting for someone. I walked towards him and said, "Hey!"
"Hello! Have we met?" He said jokingly.
"Ya just a few minutes ago." I laughed.
"Ahh... well seriously what was it?" He jumped straight to the point.
"Well, I told Josh that I was here with my boyfriend just an excuse to excuse myself, but he happened to chase me all the way down to the wine corner and when he asked me where my boyfriend was I - I couldn't help but to point towards the next man standing which turned out to be you, of course. Trust me it was all a reflex you know, I didn't mean to put you in a pickle like that." I blurted.
"Listen to yourself, I wasn't the one who was in a pickle." He replied and smiled again.
"Well, yes you are right. Seriously I apologize for causing you any embarrassment. And this.." I said as I pulled out the bottle of wine that he picked out earlier. "..is for you. A little gesture for your help. You saved me from all the embarrassment that I could have faced had it been anyone else."
"Well, I just played along you know. I don't think I deserve such an expensive wine in return, I guess just a cup of coffee will be fine." He said and smiled again. This time his smile grew a little wider and his gray eyes shined. " I thought you weren't gonna cash it in, I mean it is a really expensive one. You still sure you wanna give it to me?" He added.
"For saving my poor soul in there? Without a second thought!" I said and handed him the wine bottle.
"Nah - I cannot accept that."
"I don't even know your name yet and my mother told me not to accept anything from a stranger!" He starting laughing again.
"For starters my name is Emma Wilder and yours?"
"Hello miss Walters, my name is Derek Hughes." He said extending his hand towards me.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Hughes." I said shaking his hand and then we both burst out laughing.
"Thanks for the wine."
"Thanks for saving me."
We stood there awkwardly for a few minutes and then I said, "I better get going. I actually have some preps to do. Thanks again."
"You're welcome and thanks for the wine." He passed a small smile and then I turned back and reached my car.
After I got back home, I found Nat sitting on the couch reading a book. She smiled when she saw me and got up to help with me all the grocery bags.
"Wow! You are surely hosting one hell of a party here, aren't you?" She said looking at all the stuff.
"I met Josh." I said in a quickly.
Nat stood frozen for a second and said, "I want every single detail."
"Get a cup of ice cream and meet me on the couch and swear you won't tell this to anyone, not even Rose because telling Rose means telling Nick which means telling Josh and I don't want that."
"Wait-wait-wait! Telling Josh? He met you... he already knows he met you. Let me get that ice cream quickly because I can't handle the suspense anymore."
After we settled down on the couch, I told her everything from Josh to Regina to getting unnoticed to Derek.
Nat heard the whole story quietly though her expressions changed wildly when the Derek part of the story started. After my story ended, she sat there quietly for a few minutes and then exhaled deeply but remained quiet. I waited for her reply, growing impatient with every passing second.
"Say something Nat." I finally said because I couldn't hold my patience any longer.
"You are in deep trouble lady." She said.
I stared at her in silence for a while and said, "What do you mean Nat.. how is this supposed to put me in trouble?"
"Well, how can you forget?"
"Rose has her birthday next Wednesday, does it ring any bells."
And then it hit me! Since we were young all of us had this pact that we'll celebrate our birthdays together. Me, Rose, Nat, Nick, and Josh we all promised that no matter where we'll be, we won't miss each other's birthday. This also meant that on Wednesday we all will be meeting again and I'll have to face Josh.
"Well it rang many bells. But can't I just tell Josh that Derek is busy somewhere or... or we broke up?" I said.
"You can tell that Josh for sure but it would make you seem stupid and moreover what are you going tell Rose, huh? If you can't tell her the truth than how are you going to sell her a lie?"
"I am in deep trouble." I nodded.
"Told you!" Nat replied.
"I think I just need a bit time to think. Nat please do me a favor and don't tell Rose anything until I think of something. Okay?"
"I won't but you gotta think fast."
I nodded and stretched my arms. "I think I should relax a bit okay. See you at dinner." I said and stood up from the couch.
"Hey Em?" Nat said suddenly. "Why don't you call this Derek guy and ask him for a favor again."
"I don't have his number plus, I won't do that Nat even if I had.
I gave her a forceful smile and then got into my room. I sank into my bed and buried my face into a pillow and all of a sudden I started crying.
'What have you done to me Josh?' I thought to myself as the stream of tears continued falling from eyes and then suddenly a blanket of darkness covered me and I fell into a deep sleep where I dreamt of me and Josh and what could have been!
@amit- The fact that Josh didn't contact her is a mystery in itself.. keep on reading to know the answers. And as for your guess let me tell you that sorry but it's wrong. Anyway, keep reading to know everything.
@anonymous - Thanks for waiting for this chapter. You are somewhere near the answer but not entirely correct.