Told you I would eventually get out of the fairy tale type stories. Below is proof of my claim.
Big thank you to Missa for helping me decide between my two endings and to Jason for helping me decide on a proper title. (Also, I sent this story off for consideration. They declined. *shrugs* Your good luck then bc I can post it!)
To say her date hadn't been going well would not have accurately described Miranda's sentiments. She had only agreed to it in the first place because it was her best friend who set the whole thing up. Miranda figured if anyone could set up a good date for her, Terry would have been the person.
So, Saturday night found her in the local restaurant bar near her house. Miranda's date had left her waiting an hour before showing up. He seemed surprised to see her when he did saunter in.
"Oh, you're here early!" Was his only reply when he moved in to the booth on the same side as she was sitting, causing her to shift closer to the wall.
"Actually, we were supposed to meet at seven." Miranda put her purse between herself and her date to stop him from crushing her against the paneled wall.
"Girls are always late." The man she knew was named Lance, waved his hand in a dismissing gesture. "You probably just got here yourself."
"I've been here since 6:50." Miranda used her right elbow to once again stop his urge to be sitting nearly in her lap.
Lance laughed, showing off what Miranda had always called a 'million-dollar smile' in reference to the fact his parents had probably paid for dentists and he, no doubt, paid for teeth whitening services. She had never seen such white and perfectly aligned teeth in an untouched mouth.
"Yeah, I'm sure you were." Lance grinned and let a distinctly predatory gaze wander over Miranda. She fought hard to repress a shiver. She regretted wearing a nice dress. If she had known, she would have opted for a pullover shirt and jeans, if she had come out at all.
"You sit here looking pretty while I go order a drink." He looked at her half-empty drink glass. "Another for you?"
Miranda shook her hand and pulled her glass closer. There was no way in hell she would let that guy give her anything she couldn't see prepared with her own eyes. Not with the creepy vibes he was giving off in just the few minutes they had been talking.
Lance pushed out of the booth and made his way to the bar. Miranda grabbed her phone and started frantically texting Terry.
Where did you find this guy? Miranda texted. He's like a stereotype of every sexual predator you see on TV. Why did you think I'd like him?
Miranda waited for a response while eyeing her date. He, for his part, was eyeing every woman who passed him.
Terry had told Miranda about Lance when the two friends last met for dinner at their favorite diner in Maudit, Louisiana. They had started the Sunday tradition not long after they met in junior high. Back then, Miranda remembered, people thought she and Terry were going on weekly dates. Of course, back then most people had erroneously assumed Terry was a boy interested in dating girls.
"I could set you up with Lance Pierson. He's one of the top ad execs in our company." Terry said after letting Miranda bemoan the state of her love life. "Handsome, has money...you might like him. Anil and I can even take Tyler for the night.”
"If he's handsome and has money, why is he still single?" Miranda toyed with the meatloaf on her plate.
Terry shrugged while she took a sip of her root beer float.
"Why are you still single?" She asked, not quite meeting Miranda's eyes when she said it.
The conversation had then moved to Terry giving Miranda a rundown of the handsome coworker. On top of having immense personality, as Terry put it, Lance was downright gorgeous.
"Green eyes you want to stare in to all day long." Terry said. "Dark wavy hair, beach tanned ski and a smile that will melt certain articles of clothing right off."
"Does Anil know you have the hots for this guy?" Miranda teased. "It sounds like you'd rather be the one going out on a date with him."
Terry had smiled and looked out of the plate window to their left. The smile on her friend's lips made Miranda's heart ache in a good way. Terry had been through so much in her life and Miranda knew she would never be aware of the full extent of it. Terry had once told Miranda that she would have gone through it all over again if she knew Anil was waiting at the end for her.
Miranda envied the relationship Terry and Anil had. It was one she wanted for herself but never seemed to be able to find. It was that hope that lead her to telling Terry to set her up with Lance.
Now Miranda was glaring at her phone, waiting for Terry to explain herself. She was willing to give her friend the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Lance was different at work, many people were. Maybe Terry had never seen past the handsome and enigmatic facade Lance put on for clients.
Terry still hadn't responded by the time Lance came back with his drink. Miranda had been sure to move to the end of the booth seat, nearly falling off in her attempt to get Lance to sit opposite her. He frowned when he realized she would not budge before slapping on his smile and moving across as if it had been his plan all along.
"So...you work with Terry?" Miranda had no idea what to talk to this guy about, but the leering silence was getting to her.
Lance took a swig from his glass before answering.
"Yeah." He shrugged off his answer. "Enough to say hello to her when I drop off something for accounting. She told me she had a hot friend who was looking for a date. Thought maybe we'd hit it off, I guess."
Lance leaned over the table making Miranda instinctively push back. She hated herself for the sudden movement and even more when Lance's grin widened.
"You shy or something?" He asked. "Terry said you were outgoing and fun."
Miranda had to keep her upper lip from curling in disgust at his tone.
"Look, I think this was a bad idea." Miranda grabbed her purse and moved to get up. "I don't think we're going to get along."
Lance's grip on her arm was sudden. Miranda knew she was in a public place, but that hand was strong enough to snap bone. She looked at Lance, who was still smiling, completely calm exterior but his eyes were hard. Miranda let her body relax and Lance's grip loosened.
"Look," he was still smiling as he let go of her arm. "I think we just got off on the wrong foot. Why don't we get a proper table at the restaurant, have some dinner, then I'll walk you home.”
"W...walk me home?" Miranda barely controlled the waver in her voice.
"Yeah, I know you live only a few blocks from here." Lance sat back in the booth and swallowed the last of his drink. "Terry told me to pick this place because you didn't live far. Tern street, right? Little yellow house right at the end of the road, next to the wooded lot? I passed it as I was driving over."
Miranda was now quaking. Her road was a dead end. As Lance had said, her house was the last on the road with her backyard being a wooded lot that eventually ended at river. There was no 'driving past' her house. This man knew where she lived, had been to her house already. Miranda had been in bad situations before with men, but this was the first time she had ever been on the point of terror. The only thing that kept her from tipping over was that her Tyler was safe at Terry’s.
"Dinner?" Lance got out of the booth as he spoke. He reached down to Miranda and 'helped' her stand. To any outsider, the gesture would have seemed sweet, if not downright gallant. They couldn't see how tightly he was gripping her upper arm. Miranda knew there would be a red mark when he finally let go.
Lance herded Miranda through the small partition separating the bar from the restaurant proper. He gave his name to the waiter, who checked a list, smiled and immediately escorted the pair to a quiet little corner table. Lance didn't let go of Miranda's arm until he had seated her.
The waiter gave them both menus and took their drink order before giving them time to consider their meal choices. Technically the waiter took Lance's drink order since he had decided he and 'the lady' would be sharing a bottle of red wine. Miranda had never developed a taste for wine but didn't argue.
"I need to...to...I'll just be a minute." Miranda rose from the table when the waiter departed.
Lance gave her a hard look but kept his toothy smile.
"Need to powder your nose?" He asked. "Bathrooms are behind us. Don't take long!"
Miranda walked calmly to the restroom but started shaking as soon as she had closed the stall door. She looked at her phone, but Terry had not responded to her messages. Miranda dialed Terry's number, but the call went straight to voicemail.
Unsure of what to do, Miranda just sat on the toilet a while longer. She knew she had to go back in there, but it was the last thing she wanted. Other than Terry, she had no one to call. Her own parents had moved to Massachusetts several years ago and Miranda had realized how few friends she had. She briefly thought about grabbing a ride from her app to Terry's place but realized there was no way to walk out without Lance seeing her.
Miranda took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom. She had to go through with this date until she could find a safe way out.
Lance looked slightly annoyed but managed to get his smile back when Miranda sat down at the table.
"Took a while." He poured her glass of wine. "Waiter came while you were gone. I ordered you a salad. I know you girls like to eat that rabbit food on first dates. Don't want anything too heavy in your stomach."
His wink was suggestive, which would have infuriated Miranda if she hadn't reached her capacity for it. At this point, she was just in survival mode.
Lance talked about himself and his accomplishments until their food came. As he had said, Miranda was given a house salad with no dressing on the side. She noticed he had ordered a large steak with heaps of sides. The smell of the cooked meat made her stomach rumble.
"Are you sure this thing is cooked all the way?" Lance looked suspiciously at the waiter. "If I see any pink in it at all, I'm sending it back for a new one."
The waiter nodded and assured Lance he had given the chef the information. The steak was cooked all the way through. From the near charred surface of the meat, Miranda would believe it.
"I can't stand uncooked meat." Lance said, cutting into his steak while he spoke. "No one with any taste would eat raw meat."
Miranda held her tongue. She preferred her steaks rare, as did most people she knew. As far as she was concerned, the culinary world at large would disagree with Lance. She didn't bother to point this out.
Lance continued to try and amaze her with his own brilliance while she suffered through her salad. She was hungry, and it did nothing to improve her mood. Listening to Lance also wasn't helping the situation.
"So, do you want to go back to the bar or your place?" Lance's voice was low as he signed the receipt.
Miranda wanted to tell him exactly where she felt he could go but didn't. Lance didn't seem like the kind of guy who would take that suggestion politely.
She glanced down at her phone one more time, but Terry still wasn't responding to her texts. Miranda knew this wasn't like Terry who was always glued to her phone. If Miranda wasn't so scared for herself, she would have been worried for her best friend.
It was in the midst of her panic that an idea came to Miranda. The idea wasn't a great one, if she was honest with herself, but it was an option that allowed her to feel some control over the situation.
Miranda, for the first time that night, smiled at Lance.
"Let's go back to my place." She said. "It's getting late and the bar will just get more and more crowded as the night wears on."
Lance was out of his chair and pulling back hers before Miranda had finished talking. She doubted he heard more than her first sentence.
Outside in the warm night air, Miranda convinced Lance to leave his car where it was parked. There were no towing rules for the bar lot and many people who had a few too many left their cars overnight.
Since it was late, they saw no one on their trek back to Miranda's house. Once there, Miranda unlocked her door and let Lance walk in ahead of her.
He looked around her living room, nodding at what he saw.
"I think Terry told me you painted." He waved a hand toward her art supplies that took up the space where a kitchen table would traditionally be.
Miranda nodded but said nothing. She didn't want to discuss her art with Lance. He clearly didn't care but was just making conversation.
"Want to have a drink on my back patio?" Miranda smiled at Lance. He grinned back at her. "There's a full moon out tonight."
"Sure. Whatever you have is fine." Lance went through her living room and let himself the back door. He didn't bother offering to help her get drinks prepared.
Miranda smiled at Lance's retreating form. She waited until he was outside before turning off her living room lights. She left only the light over her kitchen sink on. She hummed to herself as she removed her clothes and carefully placed them on the kitchen counter. Miranda knew her neighbors wouldn't see since her backyard wasn't visible from the road, only the trees.
Lance was going to be in for a big surprise.
The next afternoon found Miranda waiting outside the diner for Terry to show up. She didn't keep her waiting as Lance had, however, Terry didn't make direct eye contact with Miranda until both were seated.
“Anil will bring Tyler with him whenever we’re done.” Terry’s tone was light. “They’re having a boys’ day at the dog park.”
Miranda slapped the top of the table.
"Where were you last night?" She demanded. "I tried to text you about that dumpster fire you sent me to."
Terry smiled and tilted her head down, letting her turquoise hair fall over her face. It was her signature move when she was trying to hide her laughter. Her shaking shoulders gave it away.
"You knew it would be bad?" Miranda was shocked. "You knew what kind of guy he was? Terry, I was terrified! He knew where I lived! I can't believe you did that to me!"
Terry looked up then, her laughter gone.
"Hon, yeah, I knew he was a bastard." Terry said. "But I didn't set you up with him, so you would have a good date."
Miranda's face kept her shocked expression. Terry was her best friend, and this felt like a betrayal.
"Why did you set me up with a guy like that?" Miranda finally asked.
Terry looked around to make sure no one was too close to their booth. She reached out and grabbed Miranda's hands.
"It's been so long since you've been able to just be yourself, especially since Tyler was born.” Terry said. "I thought you might enjoy a night out. Why do you think I made the date for last night?"
Miranda smiled at her childhood friend with full understanding. Terry was like a sister to her and knew the strain of pretending you were one thing when you weren't. It had been a long time since Miranda had let loose.
"Can I assume I won't be seeing the jerk around the office anymore?" Terry asked, already knowing the answer.
"He ordered me a salad." Miranda laughed, her eyes tearing up with the memory. "I got a salad on a full moon!"
Terry laughed with her. The best friends barely managed to gain control of themselves by the time the waiter had come to take their order.
Lance had been surprised the night before, but it had been his own fault. It was a full moon and Miranda had been hungry.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!