Tess absentmindedly tapped the side of her coffee mug as she sat and waited. Her slouched posture belied her boredom as elbow and hand propped up her head. The free hand was living life to the fullest as it fiddled with cutlery. Her mood made her look out of place in the upscale eatery as other groups of people chatted merrily as they ate.
She had watched with noted envy as other couples came and left together over the course of the hour she had spent waiting. It had been over a year since her last relationship; if a few months of semi-casual dates with the same man could be classed as a relationship that is.
Her eyes wondered to a couple across the room. She watched as they laughed and made awkward attempts to touch each other's hands as they spoke. Clearly a first date – and one that seemed to be going well at that. "I wonder where she got those cute shoes?" she mused as her eyes fell to the floor.
Tess noticeably perked up as a tall, handsome man entered the front foyer. She slowly sank back into her waiting pose with a soft moan however when a fabulous woman entered behind him and took his arm in her own.
"Of course," she muttered. "Of course he's with her. Of course that wouldn't be him. I could never be that lucky."
"Another coffee, miss?" asked the kindly waitress that had been making regularly scheduled visits to her personal bubble over the last hour.
Tess managed a little smile and shook her head. "I'm sorry. Maybe I should just get the bill and call it a night."
The waitress had a knowing look in her eyes as she lightly placed a hand on Tess' shoulder. "How about five more minutes. Maybe he got lost."
Tess looked down and felt her cheeks flush a little. "Is it that obvious?"
The waitress smiled a little bigger. "I've been at this for several years now. I know this won't help, but you're not alone."
Tess tried to smile at the comment, but nothing came of it.
"I know what might help a tiny bit though," the waitress continued, "and I think I've got one small slice left in the back too. Just wait a moment longer, I'll be right…"
The waitress had turned and almost run into the chubby, nondescript man standing behind her.
"Apologies sir, I didn't see you standing there."
He gives a little nod but doesn't look at her. Instead he holds up a slightly crumpled photo and asks, "Tess?"
Tess' head jerks up at the sound of her name and she awkwardly stands to greet her blind date. "Um, yes. Hello. I'm Tess," she says. After a brief pause, she extends her hand to shake. "You're Tom, I take it?"
He nods slowly, then gingerly places the tips of his fingers in her palm. She manages a little smile as she squeezes and shakes his clammy hand.
"I'm sorry I'm late. I ate some bad shellfish earlier," Tom explains as he sinks into the chair opposite her.
"Oh yes. That's the worst," she agrees as she re-seats herself. "There's nothing worse than that." Except for being on a date with the drab looking man across the table from her she's guessing.
Had it really come to this? Accepting a blind date from a man that had messaged her twice on a popular online dating site? He looked thinner in his picture and had better hair. Perhaps his mother had combed it for him and made him smile for the photo. Or maybe it was yet again the dark magic of Photoshop being used against her. She made a mental note to make friends with someone that knew how to use that program.
Tom managed to look up from the floor long enough to fumble with a compliment. "I like your… shirt."
"Oh? My blouse? This old thing? Thank you. You're sweet." She hated how she defaulted to 'prim, proper and polite' whenever she needed a wall to hide behind. At this point however, she would have gratefully accepted some sort of interruption to the evening. Like a natural disaster. A tornado perhaps. Or maybe an earthquake. A big one. A really big one.
"So…" she continued, desperate to move the night along, "you're into computers and such?"
"That must be… interesting. Do you use them every day? I'm not very good with them. That must be very interesting." Where had that nosy waitress gone? Surely she would be able to read the signs here and provide some sort of escape hatch. Tess would have taken a trap door beneath one or both of them at this point.
Tom studied her face for a moment, then looked down at the floor. "We don't have to do this if you're not into it. It's OK. There were lots more girls on that dating site."
Tess cocked her head to the side and her jaw hung open a tad. Did he really just say that to her? She felt her cheeks flush a little as she struggled to contain her emotions. "Um, Tom…" she started.
She is interrupted by a large burly man in a suit rushing up to their table. "Oh, maybe this guy was supposed to be my date all along. I'd take him over Captain Dullard here in a heartbeat," she thought to herself.
The large man bent over and whispered something into Tom's ear. Tom listened, then sat straight up. Tess sat up a little straighter as well. Something had come over Tom and he was suddenly a very different person. The sad, dumpy looking man had been vanquished in the blink of an eye and been replaced with a new Tom. This Tom had an intense look and an air of confidence about him.
He locked eyes with her and spoke in a hushed, even tone. "I'm sorry, Tess, but I've been made. Thank you for putting up with this charade. The bill has already been paid. Best of luck to you. Goodnight." And with that, Tom rose and began quickly striding for the door.
Tess struggles to process the last thirty seconds as best she can. She finds herself almost involuntarily reaching after him. "W… wait!" she managed to croak. "Will I ever see you again? Are you a secret agent or something? Can we have dinner again later? Wait!"
The last part of her sentence was drowned out by the fully loaded Apache helicopter that was now hovering outside the restaurant with its rocket launchers pointed at Tess' table.