"Each couple has ten minutes to chat and get to know each other. To make things less stressful for everyone, no contact numbers should be exchanged. At the end of the night, give us the name of the person you would like one of our coordinators to give your information to. Refreshments are available at the far end of the room, and the restrooms are upstairs. Enjoy your night!" shouted a red cheeked woman in her late fifties to the room of anxious singles.
While fidgeting in her chair, Quinn had determined that she was as dateless as losers could possibly come. Why else would she be speed dating in the damp basement of a local Catholic church she did not even attend? She stared from table to table, taking in male prospects and her female competition; she felt uneasy with both.
A bell dinged, and the noise of shuffling feet and moving chairs filled the room.
"I'm Quinn," she said with a smile to a light haired man in a tweed jacket and jeans.
She disregarded the feeling of familiarity she felt when she looked at his face. She had never been to a speed date before; she couldn't possibly have seen the guy before.
"I'm Pete. What do you do?"
"I'm a bank teller at the Bank of America on... Oh God..." Quinn clapped her hand over her hand. "Mr... Bingham?"
"Oh! Oh Jesus!" he cried, suddenly coming to the same realization. "Quinn? Gallagher?"
"Hi Mr. Bingham," she muttered in mortification. A dark blush crept behind her ears and throughout her face. "Are you still teaching Algebra II?"
"Calculus," he said with a wince. "BC Calculus."
A leaden silence settled over their table as they both stole glances at the timer. There was still over eight minutes remaining. The persistent tick of the timer and chatter around them made them feel even more uneasy.
"Aren't you married?" Quinn asked.
Mr. Bingham's wife had been her high school volleyball coach. If there was a reason divorce was created, the overbearing and Amazonian woman known as the Megalith was it. The team had spent most of their seasons wondering how such a nice man had gotten roped into a marriage with Coach Fields. Quinn's face turned even redder as flashbacks of high school returned to her.
"Sam and I divorced last year."
"I'm sorry," she said. "This is horrible... I-I mean... That's horrible. Your divorce."
"This is pretty bad too," he said. "I don't usually do this. These. Speed dates."
"You must be what? Twenty four now? Is that how long it's been since your sophomore year?"
"I'm twenty seven, actually."
"You certainly look different," he remarked.
"You don't," she blurted. "I mean... It's not a bad thing. You just don't look-"
"It's okay. I knew what you meant."
"Could we just be quiet for the six minutes we have left?"
"Yes. That's a fantastic idea."
They disengaged eye contact. Quinn had never felt so exposed in jeans and a blouse in her life; she wished she had opted for a flannel nightgown. As the minutes ticked by, Quinn crossed and uncrossed her legs, assured that the worst part of the evening had ended. Nothing could be worse than being paired with a former teacher.
She leapt out of her seat like a cannon as soon as the bell rang again. After a rushed goodbye, Quinn rushed to the next table, nearly snowballing into her seat.
"Slow down. I'm not going anywhere," said the man already seated across from her.
Quinn offered an apologetic smile, only to realize that the man didn't seem to be teasing. She assumed that he either had a spectacularly odd sense of humor or he was entirely serious.
"Hi," she whispered.
She flinched as she watched him swiftly crush a passing cockroach with his heavy, dirt encrusted boot.
"What's your name?" he asked with neither enthusiasm nor curiosity.
"Quinn. What's yours?"
"Quinn," she repeated more loudly.
"No, I heard you. What kind of a name is that?"
"Isn't that a guy's name?"
"It isn't exclusively for guys," she replied curtly.
"I was just curious."
She frowned and glared defiantly. Within a matter of moments, however, she had lost her air of cool at a swift and sudden realization. The man seated across from her was missing his right arm.
Quinn's manners were instantaneously superseded by morbid curiosity. She had never seen a person missing a digit, let alone an entire limb. While his left arm was whole with the black long sleeve rolled back several inches, his other arm was entirely gone. Only the limp shirt sleeve indicated the irregularity. Quinn met his heavy stare when she finally looked back to his face.
"You about done?" he asked. "Or do you need a few more minutes?"
"I-I'm... I'm so embarrassed. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare and act like such a... Such an asshole. I'm sorry..."
She smiled again, unable to think of another way to break the tension that had grown infinitely since her enormous faux-pas. While he did offer a small smile, Quinn had the feeling that it was more of a sinister smirk than a genuine smile. Neither spoke. Her attention soon drifted towards the chattering tables around her.
"Don't have too much fun, Blondie, " Owen said.
Quinn twitched at the unexpected comment. "What?"
He tilted his arm towards her to show his watch. "You've been staring at that table over there for the past five minutes."
"Oh... Sorry. " She cleared her throat. "Wh-what do you do for a living?"
"I'm a writer," he said.
He nodded dully. "Really."
"What kind of stuff do you write?"
"I'm a bank teller," she said.
"Have you ever written a story about a bank teller?" she asked, desperate to find something to occupy the few minutes that remained.
"No. Have you ever seen a writer cash a check?" he replied dryly.
The shrill bell interrupted her response. His chair scraped unpleasantly against the floor as he pushed it backward. Quinn was surprised by how tall he stood. She held his gaze for the brief moment before he walked away, but he left without another word.
"Here you are, Quinn," said the woman who had spoken earlier that evening. "This is your contact."
Quinn took the small pink slip from the woman's soft hands and flipped it over. There was only one name and phone number: Owen McGovern. 734-555-8108. She whispered her thank you and walked away in the same gloom she had arrived in.
"It's strange," the woman said.
Quinn turned "What is?"
"I expected a laundry list of numbers for a girl like you."
Quinn blushed. "That's very kind of you."
"Don't worry. Maybe next time."
"Oh... I-I don't think there'll be a next time. I don't think this speed dating thing is for me."
"Aw. Well, I'm sorry to hear that." The woman clicked her tongue with maternal disappointment. "If that's so, be sure to give that man a call. Might as well get something out of tonight. Even if it's only one date."
"Yeah. Definitely," she said.
She waved weakly and climbed up the stairs, out of the church, and into her car. She crumpled the pink slip in her hand, deposited it in an empty cup holder, and began to drive home.
Author's Note: Thoughts?