It started with roses, chocolates and teddy bears: All three of the guys we matched up for our Valentine's Day blind date contest brought gifts for their dates.
The couples we -- and you -- chose: Brian Baldowski, a senior at A.R. Johnson Health, Science and Engineering Magnet School was paired with Miranda Story, a junior at Westside High School; Simon Moore, a senior at North Augusta High School, was with Alison Fields, a junior at the Academy of Richmond County; and Heath Bryant, a junior at Hephzibah High, was with Ashley Walker, a junior at Greenbrier High.
Shivering in the cold wintry air, making timid small talk, our gang waited in front of Chili's for everyone to arrive. Most were a few minutes early; Brian was right on time at 6 p.m.
We filed into our table, girls facing the guys, and they started to chat over their Sprites and mozzarella sticks.
"We talked about school and music," Simon said later of his talk with Alison. "We found out we were both on student council -- that's kind of cool -- and we like a lot of the same bands."
Heath and Ashley discovered they both liked swing -- the music and the dancing -- and had each taken a few lessons.
"But if you want to get really good you have to really want it," Heath said. "It takes a lot of practice."
Brian and Miranda talked about escapades in speeding golf carts and the joys of work-release programs that let you leave school early to go to a job. He helped her wipe barbecue sauce off her hands when her baby back ribs got a little messy.
Everyone played the name game -- "Do you know (insert name here)? I think he/she goes to your school."
"I was going to ask you if you knew someone I knew, but I don't know anybody who goes to Hephzibah," Ashley told Heath, stirring her grilled chicken pasta around in her plate.
"I don't think I know anybody who goes to Greenbrier," Heath answered.
When we got to Regal Cinema, with its notoriously crowded parking lot, Blast From the Past was just starting. We walked in quietly during the first scene and sat in the second row from the front -- boy-girl-boy-girl.
A romantic comedy about a boy (Brendan Fraser) who's born in a fallout shelter in 1962, when his parents retreat underground, thinking there's been a nuclear holocaust, Blast From the Past shows the world through his innocent eyes as he returns to the surface in 1999.
It was a good date movie, the gang agreed -- lighthearted and entertaining.
While no one may have found the love of their lives because of our matchmaking, all said they had a good time.
"She was kind of quiet," Simon said of Alison. "But I'd go out with her again. She was really nice."
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