Coyote straightened the jacket of his suit slightly as the doorbell sounded. He stood outside Lorelei's apartment – a run-down old building hardly better than a shack – dressed in his best black tuxedo with a great spray of sunny yellow lilies resting in the crook of his arm. His black hair had been trimmed just this morning, now held back by a dove gray ribbon tied at the nape of his neck (rather than splashing haphazardly around his shoulders, like it usually was), his nails newly manicured, and his copper-colored skin freshly scrubbed and smelling of some rare, obscenely expensive cologne. As far as he was concerned, he looked pretty damned near irresistible.
Lorelei threw open the door. She was a short, raw-boned woman with pin-straight black hair down to her waist and dark, narrowed eyes. Her skinny legs poked out of old red shorts, her scrawny arms extended from the sleeves of a stained t-shirt. Despite this, she might still have been pretty had she not been wearing the exact expression of a house cat just back from a surprise plunge in the family pool. Her clavicles rattled menacingly at him as she cast a cursory glance over his outfit.
"Who died?" Was the first thing out of her mouth.
Coyote looked down at his clothing, and his shiny, shiny shoes beamed gleefully back up at him. "No one…" He replied, sounding like a child who had shown his mother a picture he drew of a dinosaur and been told "what a nice airplane!"
She looked skeptical. "Then what's with the suit?"
He quickly recovered and grinned, resisting the urge to strike a super-hero pose. "I'm taking you to dinner!" Proclaiming this, he grabbed the bouquet of lilies by their stems and held them out to her. Lorelei took them awkwardly.
"Thanks. Where to?"
"I have reservations at the Tsarina." This sentence came with much smugness and patting-on-the-back.
Lorelei laughed. This was not the predicted reaction. "Yeah, like I have anything to wear to that place."
"What do you mean?"
She gave him a measured look. "Coyote, I know you have more money than you know what to do with, but I don't have the cash to blow on dresses I'll never wear. Some of us have got rent to pay. Thanks for the flowers." She began to shut the door.
"Wait!" He checked his watch. "We have forty minutes before we have to be there. I can drive us somewhere and buy you something to wear!"
THIRTY MINUTES LATER
Coyote let out a sigh of relief as they pulled up to the restaurant. They both slid out of the car, Lorelei now wearing a new green gown from the Formal Femme clothing shop. "Tag." He said quickly as he looked over and saw a red price sticker poking out of the neckline of her dress. She reached up and yanked it out, tossing it behind her. Her new high-heeled shoes clacked loudly, and she gave them an irate glance. Walking forward, they both took note of the place.
"Seems kind of… empty, doesn't it?" She asked.
He looked around. The patio out front was bare of chairs and tables, but then again, the Tsarina opened the patio and closed off the interior of the restaurant for lunch, then reversed this for dinner dining. It could be that they had simply pulled in the chairs and tables for the evening. Still, the inside of the restaurant looked dark. They approached the front door and saw a small note taped to the wood. Coyote leaned over and squinted at it, reading aloud: "New location. … Something-something, two nine, something, Meadowsweet Avenue."
"The handwriting is atrocious. But… twenty-ninth and Meadowsweet? That's halfway across town!"
"It'll take us half an hour to get there!"
Coyote checked his watch again. "Then we'd better get going."
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
"Do you see it?"
Coyote was desperately twisting in the driver's seat, craning his head to try and see a sign of the new Tsarina. They had reached 29th and Meadowsweet Avenue, but there was no telling what side of the street it was on. They had pulled into the southern parking lot, now wandering aimlessly in a maze of a strip mall. Lorelei leaned over, her face smooshed against the window glass, and suddenly gave a cry.
"Over there!" She pointed a bony finger at a softly glowing sign on the opposite corner of the street. Coyote allowed himself a moment of triumph.
And then the car stopped.
It just shut off without warning. The whole thing. No engine, no radio, no blinky lights around the speedometer. Nothing. He turned the key. Silence.
"It's an electrical problem." Lorelei stated numbly.
"Oh, okay." They waited a moment, staring.
"So go fix it." She prompted. He turned to her incredulously.
"I don't know how to fix cars! You fix it!"
"Why would I know how to fix it?"
"Well, you knew it was an electrical problem."
"When a vehicle shuts off for apparently no reason, I know it's an electrical problem. That doesn't make me a freaking mechanic." She blustered, waving her arms. Coyote consulted his watch once more.
"We're only ten minutes late. If we run, we can still get there in good time."
"Yeah, run. Now help me push this into a parking space."
FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER
They bolted along the crosswalk, Lorelei's pumps hindering her gait even as Coyote pulled her by her hand. Drivers in their cars gawped at the two of them, which wouldn't have been that bad if Lori hadn't, at that moment, misjudged a step and fallen on her belly. Her hand still in Coyote's, she dragged him down with her, and they collapsed into a well-dressed heap on the side of the road. Coyote was the first one to recuperate, although he recovered only to find that he had twisted his ankle slightly and could feel a dull throb of pain at his knee. Lorelei was fine for the most part, except that the heel of one of her shoes had snapped off and was laying a good three feet away from her foot. They got to their feet and stumbled to the sidewalk to fully diagnose their injuries.
"Anything broken?" Coyote asked, rubbing his knee.
She shook her head. "No, just my shoe. What about you?"
"My ankle hurts, but not too badly."
"What time is it?"
"I don't even want to know."
They limped pathetically up to the Tsarina, patio empty once more, but light shining out from the windows. They staggered through the door. "Reservation for Drake Gessler," said Coyote, smiling feebly. The maitre'd looked the two of them up and down, noting Coyote's scraped knee, Lorelei's heel-less right shoe, and their dusty attire. He sniffed imperiously, his fingers clickity-clacking over the keyboard in front of him, before turning back to them.
"I'm sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all, "But we gave away your reservation five minutes ago. We assumed you were not going to dine with us after all this evening." Lorelei shot him a look that could shatter glass, and he hastened to mollify her. "-But, but if you'd like to wait for just a few moments, I'm sure we can find you a table!"
FORTY MINUTES LATER
Coyote dimly realized that a waiter had stopped in front of them, and was waiting expectantly, his smile large and plastic. He sat up, and Lorelei's head slid off his shoulder, jerking her back to the land of the living. "We have a booth all set up for you!" The waiter chirped.
"Mnf. Good." Was all Coyote could manage to say, and he stood up. The cantankerous pair followed sullenly as the young man seated them, handing them menus as they finally sat down to eat. "I'm going to be taking care of you tonight, sir, ma'am. Would you like me to explain the menu-?"
"No." snapped Lorelei.
"Oh-kay. Would you like to here my recommendations-?"
"Oh." The man looked abashed. "Well, can I get either of you something to drink with your dinners? We have a very nice selection of wines-"
"Whiskey. Jack Daniels, if you've got it." Coyote interrupted as he leaned forward, elbows on the table, his head resting on the palms of his hands.
Lorelei gave him an apprehensive look. "Um, just water for me." The waiter seemed relieved as he darted off. "I believe it's customary to wait until the third course to hit the hard liquor." She said. He didn't seem to appreciate her humor.
THREE COURSES LATER: DESSERT COURSE
"Er, if you are now ready to see our fine choices of sweets to end your meal, here are the dessert menus." The waiter had returned for one last course, and was standing rather close to Lorelei, not because he was particularly drawn to her, but because at this point, Coyote was amazingly, deliciously, unbelievably drunk. He had been doing pretty well, but it was like all of the sudden it hit him, and hard. The fact that the waiter was more comfortable next to Lorelei than her date was telling.
"Yes!" Coyote said, too loudly. "Bring on the chocolate!" He snatched the menu away and opened it quickly, scanning. "Whoa, hey, whoa, whoa. What's this! It's… the FLAAAAMING TURTLE!" He laughed maniacally.
"Yes… the Flaming Turtle-"
"-is a pot of our wonderful chocolate fondue, mixed with caramel and walnuts. It's very good." Poor thing, he was trying so hard.
"That sounds great." Lorelei forced herself to say. "What kind of chocolate?"
"It typically comes with dark chocolate, but you can request white or milk."
Coyote sputtered. "Pfftpf! He said milk!"
"No, dark chocolate is fine. Why is it called the Flaming-"
"It's flambéed tableside"
"Oh." She shot a look at Coyote. "I think it's best if we not have open flame around him right now. Can we just have it without lighting it on fire?"
"Absolutely. So one Flaming Turtle-"
"-and I'll just bring it with the bill, shall I?" It was all he could do to not run away.
Lorelei looked at her date with equal parts disdain and amusement. At least he was a happy drunk. Wobbling in his chair and giggling like a schoolgirl was far better than some of the alternatives, and it gave her plenty of ammunition for when he would be sober. Flaming Turtle, indeed.
The chocolate came quickly, with the bill set close. "Give me your wallet, Coyote." He fumbled around in his jacket and handed it to her. She pulled out his credit card and decided to find the waiter rather than wait for him to summon the courage to return. She snagged him on the way back from another table. He seemed happy to have been saved from coming back, and gladly ran the card without even asking for ID. Lori got the receipt, looked it over, and began to calculate a twenty percent tip. She paused, looking up at the young man, who had just been ever-so happy to serve before the booze had hit. She scribbled out 34.87 and wrote in 75.00. Coyote could afford it.
The waiter, suddenly much more grateful, offered to call a cab for them as they finished their fondue. Lorelei accepted and made her way back to the table, only to find that her dining partner had vanished. She ran out the nearest door: the back exit. He was sitting happily on the sidewalk, watching the night sky as the cars zipped passed. "There you are. Don't worry, a cab's coming to pick us up. We'll swing back by tomorrow to get your car towed and fixed."
He didn't seem to register her words. His eyes flickered hazily over to hers, and he grinned. "Hey. Hey. Lori. I know what you're thinking-"
"Do you really?" She asked sardonically.
"-I know it would be easy to take advantage of someone who's a little tipsy-" She had to suppress her wild grin, though it pushed through as a crooked sort of grimace. "-but I want you to know, I've still got my self-respect. I've still got my-my-dignity. So don't think that just because I'm sorta dizzy means you can just have your way with me."
At this point, he leaned over and heaved onto the patch of concrete next to him.
"Trust me when I say you're in no danger of losing your innocence, Coyote. Just your dinner."