Unsure of when she'd return home, I decided to have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant within a block of her apartment to help pass the time. The chicken and mushroom plate that I'd ordered proved to be more filling than I had expected, and during my contemplation of where the restaurant staff could have gone Wendy called to say that she had just gotten home from a study group meeting. She offered to meet me at a neighboring café (the same one I spent so much time earlier this week), and from there we went back to the restaurant so she could order something to eat. Once again the service was atrocious - a notorious feature of this particular restaurant - but Wendy eventually received her dinner while I munched on the remaining rice from my own order.
After finishing our food we walked back to Wendy's apartment where, along the way, I was told that it was so chaotic inside that I couldn't come any further than her front doorstep. Because of her severe stomach ache over the preceding week she hadn't done any cleaning, and even my protestation that, as a boy, I was used to dirty and messy environments wouldn't change her mind. Wendy made a comment on how my insistence to come inside to give her a gift - the whole point of our meeting that night - was starting to worry her. I joked about how she didn't have anything to worry about as it wasn't like her present was alive - which she misheard, immediately starting to fret over some mysterious animal that I no doubt had hidden in my backpack. One of the things I had with me was actually a sand dollar, although I don't think Wendy's apprehension was reduced when I corrected her and said my gift was most assuredly dead.
Still, she didn't slam the door in my face when we reached her apartment, which was certainly appreciated. I gave her the sand dollar first; she had never seen one before and was quite surprised to hear that they're relatively common along the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, although less so now than what I remember as a kid. My second present for Wendy was a lei made from wrapped caramel candy rather than flowers. Two girls from my CES 380 class last semester were also members of the Pacific Islander Club at the university and had made a large number of candy leis for the winter graduates from the club - so many that they gave me a dozen extras that they weren't able to eat themselves.
After telling Wendy that it was a traditional custom for the gift-giver to put the lei around the neck of the recipient she tilted her head forward slightly, and as I was reaching forward to complete the exchange I added that there were also occasions when a kiss on the cheek would also be given. I could hear the hint of a giggle escape as Wendy made an "Ohhh" sound and told me how nice that sounded to her, and after all that build-up who was I to disappoint her?
We stood talking at her front door for a few minutes after that, and following a few tentative attempts at saying goodbye Wendy asked if she could hug me before I left. You probably don't need any hints by now to know what my answer was to that question. After that we wished each other a nice night, with Wendy going inside to sleep while I went back to the café to spend more time reading ...