First Date, Pt. 1

The man drummed his fingers on the tabletop. He squirmed in his seat. He checked his phone once every thirty seconds, turning it over in his hands, staring at the volume control with mistrust in his eyes.

She’s late. It’s only five minutes, but she’s late. What am I doing here? This whole thing was a mistake. This is going to end bad, bad, bad.

He got up to leave, pushed the chair away from the table, set down the glass of water the waitress had brought him, and then the little bell above the door rang. He froze and looked towards the door and he cursed himself for being so obvious. Like I’m some kind of amateur. Like I’m a kid.

It was an older man, short and fat with curly hair gone silver and guileless smile on his face. Santa Claus with his beard shaved off. The man shook his head and finished standing up.

Someone tapped him from behind. He jumped. The person laughed, a single short note.

“You’re jumpy,” she said. “That’s cute.”

He didn’t turn around. “Jane?”

“That’s right. And you must be John.”

“I thought you were late.”

“Nope. Early. I like to people watch. I wanted to see if I could figure out who you were.”

“Did you?”

She laughed again. “Yeah. You’re the nervous guy.”

The man winced. He exhaled slowly, quietly, and without turning he said, “So, are we going to talk face-to-face, or are you just going to stand behind me the whole time?”

“What, are you afraid I’m going to shoot you in the back?” He could hear the smile in her voice. It put him at ease some, despite himself.

“A little bit, yeah.”

“Oh, come on. Don’t be ridiculous.” She leaned in close, and for a moment he could feel her breath hot against his ear. “I’d never shoot you in a crowded diner,” she whispered. “Way too many witnesses.”

She swung around him and sat down, folded her hands neatly and smiled up at him. She had light brown eyes, light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, skin that was tanned but not dark. Boring nose, boring lips, boring cheekbones. She was ordinary. She was forgettable.

She was perfect.

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