Before The Date – Part 2, by Terry Lane

In the first part of this story, Larry is buying hamburger at the convenience store getting ready to have a woman over for dinner.  Here’s her simultaneous side of the story:

Sarah stood in front of the bathroom mirror, nose close enough to the glass to almost touch it.  She scrutinized her eyebrows, tweezers in hand, but there weren’t any errant hairs worth plucking.  A loud rapping on the other side of the door startled her – “Come ON, Sarah!  I have a date to get ready for too, ya know,” Claire bellowed into the thick wooden door.  

Sarah jumped back from the mirror and rolled her eyes.  She flung the bathroom door open to see an equally surprised Claire with her arm poised in the air, hand in a fist, ready for another round of loud rapping on the door.  She almost rapped on Sarah’s forehead.  “It’s about TIME.  God,” Claire said as she pushed past her to assume her position before the mirror.

Sarah stood in the doorway, arms folded across her chest as she watched as Claire put on her lipstick and run a brush through her hair.  She thought, ‘I wouldn’t exactly call this a DATE.  If it WERE, the dude would actually take me to a restaurant.  God, why am I doing this again?  Oh yeah, I’m getting someone to make me dinner, for a change.  I shouldn’t have too many expectations of a dude I met in a bar.  I hope his idea of a ‘home-cooked meal’ isn’t like some Hamburger Helper or some equally detestable bachelor food.’

Claire broke her train of thought.  “So, who’s this Larry guy anyway?”

Sarah leaned against the door jamb.  “Some dude I met at the Kit Kat Klub last night.”

Claire turned TO her, shaking her head and eyebrow raised Spock-esque style.  “I do NOT understand why you hang out at that place.  It is such a dive.  How do you expect to meet any men of quality and substance there?  It is SUCH a meat market.”

Sarah said, “Oh come on, it’s a fun place.  I love playing their new video bowling game.  And Larry seems pretty harmless.”

Claire replied, “Yeah…and that chick on the news last week thought her date was a cool dude too, until he didn’t like the text message she sent a girlfriend while on their first date and he tried to strangle her with her seat belt.  You just can’t trust anyone these days.”

Sarah said, “Claire, don’t be such a cynic.  That dude didn’t even have a JOB.  Larry works for the University, some kind of programming-slash-computer geeky thing.  I just didn’t get that kind of vibe from him.  Plus, he was pretty acceptable in the sack,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows.

Claire dropped her brush in the sink.  “Oh my god, Sarah – you slept with him already?”  Claire pushed past her and stomped down the short hallway to her bedroom and continued to berate Sarah, still leaning against the door jamb.  “I do not want to get one of those 3-in-the-morning phone calls from the police department that they’ve found you in a ditch someplace and I have to come down to the morgue to identify your body.”

Sarah could see a little corner of Claire’s room from the angle she had.  Claire had taken off the red blouse she was wearing and tossed it onto the pile of clothes in that corner of the room by the closet.  Sarah smirked to herself…she secretly nicknamed that corner The Not Worthy of Adornment Pile of Shame.   Claire was opening and closing drawers dresser drawers.  “So, where are you meeting this Loser Larry?”

“He’s having me over to his apartment tonight.  He said he wants to fix me dinner.  That’s rather sweet, isn’t it?”

Claire popped her head out of her bedroom, now wearing a glittery black sweater.  “More like your last meal before you get offed.  Where does this dude live?”  She ducked back in.

“Just across the river, about a block from the lake.  It’s a nice neighborhood.  I’m tellin’ ya, he seems like a nice guy.”

Claire snorted.  “Just make sure you write down his address and phone number for me before you leave, alright?”

Sarah sighed, turned and went into her own room across the hall, returning with a pair of low-heeled slings.  She hadn’t worn tights in a while, they felt itchy against her freshly-shaved legs.  Damned cold weather…she dropped her shoes on the hardwood floor and returned to the bathroom.  She reached up under her dress and pulled her tights down around her ankles.  She pumped some lavender lotion into her hands and rubbed it into her calves, one leg at a time.  “Claire, you really need to chill out.  Not every dude out there is a psychotic murderer.  Seriously, I think you’ve been watching too much CSI or something.  I promise everything will be fine.”  Unless he kills me with his bachelor cooking, she thought.  She cupped her face with her hands, took a deep whiff and smiled.  She loved the smell of lavender.  She put a foot on the toilet seat and rolled her stocking leg up to her crotch, then the other, then wriggled the panty part up over her hips.  “You need to give SOMEONE a chance or you’re going to wind up being an old maid.”

Claire poked her head in the bathroom door.  “Better an old maid than a young corpse.  When are you going to be home?”

Sarah looked at her watch.  “Dinner’s at 7.  If all goes well, I should be home by 11.”

And if all doesn’t go well?”

“Then I’ll be home earlier.”

“Fine.  I expect a call if you’re not home by 11:30.”

Claire…you’re such a worrywort.  Geez, even Mom’s not as much of a basket case as you are.”

“Yeah, well, you know what a tough time Mom had dating after Dad left.  Loser after loser.  I’m just grateful she met Joe.  She got lucky.”

Sarah turned to Claire with a smirk.  “I think that’s EXACTLY what you need, sis.  If you don’t put a door on that emotional fortress of yours, you’re going to be the female equivalent of the 40-Year-Old Bachelor.  I gotta get going.”  She smoothed her slinky black dress with her hands and gave herself one last look in the mirror.  She stepped into the hallway and wrapped her arms around Claire’s neck and kissed her cheek.  “I love you.  I want you to know that.”  She pulled back and put her hands on Claire’s shoulders.  “I appreciate your concern, I really do.  But I’m a big girl with my head squarely screwed onto my neck.  I don’t have any big expectations about tonight, it’s just nice to get out of the house.  I promise if there’s as much as a whiff of crazy I’ll lock myself in the bathroom and text you to com rescue me.  Fair enough?”

Claire rolled her eyes.  “Fine.”

Sarah gave her sister a once-over and a big grin.  “Alright then.  You’re looking pretty spiffy for Crochet Circle.”

“Not crocheting tonight.  Liz is out of town and Amber’s sick.  I’m meeting Gina for dinner at Nick’s Asian Fusion tonight.”

“Nick’s…well well well!  Did you win the lottery and not tell me?”

“Nope.  Gina got her bonus check last week.  It’s on her tonight.”

“You should wear a skirt.  Those pants are doing nothing for your girlish figure,” Sarah joked as she gave Claire an over-exaggerated once-over.  Claire is so conservative, right down to her practical penny loafers, she thought.  An old soul.  Claire’s baggy trousers made her look frumpy, and heavier than her 130-pound frame.  She has such a nice bod, she should show it off, Sarah thought.

“My figure won’t be worth noticing after I stuff myself into oblivion on sushi.  I’m not going to wear tight clothes for the sake of catching the eye of some dude.  I’m going to enjoy every moment of my dinner, including the after-glow,” Claire smiled as she patted her stomach.  “Besides, you know I don’t wear dresses while the snow flies.  That’s why God made pants.”

“God didn’t make pants, and you have nice legs.  But nobody’s going to know that if you never show them off.”  Sarah gave Claire one last quick hug.  “I gotta go.  Enjoy Nick’s.  I’m jealous.  I hope Larry’s a decent cook at least.”  Sarah stepped into her shoes, turned and walked through the living room to the front door.  She pulled out a long down coat from the coat closet.  “I might even crash your dinner party if things go south,” she said as she struggled to get her arms into the sleeves of the bulky, unwieldy coat.  Claire stepped behind her, grabbed the coat by the shoulders and helped Sarah get her arms into the sleeves.  “You look great.  Good luck,” Claire said as Sarah turned around and buttoned up the clumsy mandarin buttons on her coat.

Sarah grinned.  “Thanks!  So do you.  Have fun, and keep a seat on stand-by for me, OK?”  Sarah grinned and winked.  She grabbed her keys and purse from the table by the door, checked her teeth in the mirror, and she was gone.

Claire stared at the door for a long while, sighed.  “Yeah.  I will.  Fortress indeed.”  She slowly turned and walked back to her bedroom, her mind flooded with painful memories she thought she had successfully tamped down up to this point.  

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