The 'restaurant' Dan chose to take her to was an absolute dive of a place. So much so that Jane, after being an unhealthy combination of thoroughly amused and justifiably disgusted, chose to keep her jacket on so that the skin above her strapless top wouldn't touch the back of the grease-covered chair.
Right when Jane had gotten home (after a torrential downpour happened to occur at the exact moment that she stepped outside) she had thrown herself into the shower. As was her habit ever since she was a little girl, Jane began mentally calculating the time it would take her to do all the things she needed to do before Dan arrived.
Okay, it's six o'clock now. I can take a 20 minute shower, take about 30 minutes to dry me and my hair…make up, that's another 10 minutes…so when all is said and done that leaves me an hour to find something to wear and clean the place up a bit.
Dan had shown up at ten past eight, which had immediately caused Jane to second guess her decision to go out on this date in the first place. Punctuality was very important to her and she couldn't abide lateness in herself or in other people.
Dan had redeemed himself only a little when she opened the door to find him standing there with a bouquet of lilies for her. Then, after a short car ride in something that was so old and rusted Jane could on assume was a Toyota, they arrived at some restaurant called Johnnie's; a place which looked like a respectable enough joint from the outside but upon entry should have been immediately condemned.
The roof looked like it was hanging on by a thread and the slightest breeze would send it caving in. It was too dimly lit to properly make out the worn red carpet that stretched wall to wall across the entire floor, but Jane was willing to bet it was stained beyond belief. In fact, she would have put good money on that fact that if she had a swab kit right at that exact moment, and she had taken a sample of the carpet for lab testing, she would find not just traces but gratuitous amounts of blood, alcohol, sweat, tobacco… probably semen…
They were following a waitress (who seemed to be having just the kind of day Jane was having) to a corner booth away from the other customers. Jane hovered above the seat as she slid into the booth, trying very hard not to make contact with any of the cracked material until she had to sit down. "So…" she started trying not to show her disgust at the slightly hardened slimy thing that was stuck to the middle of the table, "Do you come here often?"
Of course, she meant it as a joke. What kind of person would come here ofte Probably someone who had already contracted all the STD's known to man, her subconscious fired back at her. She figured Dan had probably heard about Johnnie's from a friend (not a very good friend albeit) or had driven past it and thought it was somewhere much more…date-esque. He, however, surprised her with his enthusiastic reply.
"Yeah! All the time. I think the atmosphere is great!" From the look on his face and the way he lit up at the mention of the atmosphere, Jane wondered momentarily if perhaps he was Johnnie himself, trying to get butts in the seats by going around inviting unsuspecting women to his hole-in-the-wall shamble-shack and roofie-ing them before dragging them to the back room and beating them to death.
Of course, the reasonable part of her timidly brought to light the fact that if he were trying to get 'butts in the seats' he probably wouldn't be killing anyone.
Jane looked at him sideways. She thought the atmosphere was toxic at best. However, Dan looked completely serious. Letting that go, Jane moved on to another topic. "So, what do you do for a living, Dan?" Normal people on dates ask that, righ Yeah, sure. Normal people also visualize the guy they're out on a date with putting roofies in their drinks and murdering them in cold blood, her mind spat venomously back at her.
Oblivious to Jane's inner turmoil, her companion smiled into his drink as he took a slurp of something the wait staff had incorrectly labeled as champagne. "Well… I'm currently.. In between jobs." Noting Jane's skeptical glance, he hurriedly expounded. "I used to work for data entry. It was boring… tedious. My boss was a jerk. I don't know… it just wasn't me. I'm not really too much of an 'office' guy" he accentuated his statement with air quotes around 'office'. "So I'm trying to branch off into something a little more… exploratory."
It was a loaded answer, but then again, Jane couldn't really complain. She had plenty of those herself and, after all, she had asked him a loaded question. But before she could ask him to go more into depth about his future plans, he was asking her the same.
"What about you? What do you do for a living?"
"I write mystery novels. Well… I try to write mystery novels. I've done a couple, but nothing really stuck. I don't think I've really found my niche yet." It was the standard excuse she gave everyone when they asked if she had written anything they had read. She hadn't found her niche yet. She would pump out something heart wrenching, so glorified, so very soul numbing one day. Just as soon as she found her niche.
The rest of the meal passed in semi-awkward silence, neither one of them really landing on anything interesting to talk about. Jane was always more than embarrassed about her lack of career and, to be honest, she wasn't all that into Dan anyway. I mean, yeah the guy had looks going for him but that was pretty much it in her opinion. He was late, jobless, boring, drove a piece of shit car, had terrible table manners, and no idea what taking a girl out on a date entailed. All in all, it was pretty much the slowest 45 minutes Jane could ever remember having to endure.
After dinner, Dan asked Jane if she wouldn't mind splitting the bill; a deed which she was more than happy to do, regardless of the fact that it is totally un-date-like. One of the last things she wanted right now was to be indebted to him.
It's staring to get chilly again, Jane noted with dismay as they stepped outside. She pulled her coat tighter around herself and tucked her chin down into the fleece-lined collar of her pea coat. She spotted Dan's car right off. It wasn't particularly original, but she blamed her instant sighting on the promised relief of being out of his company as soon as humanly possible.
Now, hold on, her subconscious glared at he Was it really that bad? ne thought about that for a moment, mentally tallying all the pros and cons of the night. She had been knocked to the ground by someone she was curiously stalking, asked to dinner, been picked up late, was taken to the shabbiest place she had ever set foot (not to mention eaten food) in, and was now being forced to ride home with the same person who took her on said date in a vehicle that she would probably need a tetanus shot to forget.
On the other hand, there hadn't been anything particularly hateful about Dan himself. In fact, that guy seemed pretty solid. She liked that he seemed to be of a similar mind to her (aside from the taste in eating venues) and he did seem like he meant well… No, the night could have ended up worse.
Be that as it may, the ride home was mostly tinged with a heavy silence. A few times Jane tried to think of something to say, and she imagine Dan was doing that same if only to alleviate this awkward tension between them.
When they rolled up to Jane's apartment, she was out of the car before it came to a complete stop and bounding down the walkway toward her front door with Dan quickly at her heels. He caught up with her as she stopped to unlock the door. "Was it that bad?" He asked her laughing, and she thought she could hear slight hurt behind his chuckle.
Jane looked up at him and searched his eyes. "No. It wasn't really that bad." The two stared at one another for what seemed like forever before Dan sheepishly turned his face away.
"I think this is the part where I get to kiss you goodnight."
Jane smiled softly and put her hand on Dan's crossed arms. "I'm sorry, Dan it… it doesn't feel like it's there."
Far from seeming put out with her admission, Jane thought she saw Dan visibly relax. "Oh thank God, you feel it, too! Yeah… I'm sorry I just…I'm not everybody's cup of tea I suppose."
Jane shook her head and smiled at him. "Maybe not, and I don't think I'll ever have those feelings about you, but I think we could be really great friends."
Dan nodded enthusiastically. "That sounds like a wonderful idea." He leaned in and grabbed her in a crushing bear hug. "I'll see you around, Jane." He quickly pulled back and fished around in his pocket for a moment. "Oh, hold on. I'll give you my number. Maybe we can hang out at the library sometime. Do some mutual research."
"Sure, I'd like that." And she watched him write his number down on a scrap of paper and hand it over.
"Here you go. Call me if you ever need anything." He smiled at her lopsidedly and turned back towards his car. Jane watched him go and, as he was sliding behind the wheel of his beater, allowed herself a final parting acknowledgement.
"Have a good night, Dan."