This week’s writing prompt from Studio 30+ came in the form of a picture.
The corpulent waitress led them toward a table near the back of the restaurant. Thea was glad because sitting closer to the kitchen made conversation impossible over the noise, and being near the entrance meant any random local might see her on the way in the door. She slid behind the waitress enroute to their table, hoping for some camouflage so no one else she knew saw her on a date with this stranger.
It’s not that Thea was embarrassed to be out with Derek, but she didn’t know him very well yet. Everyone in the town knows everyone else, or at least tries to make everyone else’s business their own, so she hoped for no eyes to be upon her during this first public outing. It was only fair for Thea to become acquainted with her paramour before intrusive onlookers sized him up. She’d get someone’s unsolicited opinion soon enough, so she wanted to make her own assessment first. They would be under the communal microscope by morning as it was.
Thea hadn’t dressed up too much, it was just the Mexican restaurant on the strip. A short floral skirt and silk tank top were appropriate for the warm weather, and wearing strappy sandals was better than donning flipflops. Pastels weren’t usually her style, but Thea wanted to wear her new coral blouse and left her long dark hair down regardless of the recent humidity. She wanted to look nice but not get the guy’s hopes up for more than the night would likely bring.
They’d only actually met the previous weekend at the bar they’d both been frequenting all summer. She had seen Derek there a few times previously but finally spoken to him when he’d once gotten in her way. Thea was a regular there and always got quick drink service, but Derek made the mistake of stepping between her bar stool and the server taking her order. Her friends looked on amused as she slung a slew of expletives at him for almost stepping on her foot, but the profanities only piqued Derek’s interest. He was surprised at the petite time bomb, and her outburst spurred him to ask her to dinner.
Anyone watching the scene unfold might’ve laughed and warned the guy to be on guard. She was a great girl, but he might not be able to withstand her scrutiny. Thea was a tough cookie. Looking on now, a witness would marvel at his courage for asking her out while yet hoping he’d treat her right. Regardless of Thea’s rough demeanor, she was well-liked among her companions and had captured the hearts of many a rough-neck willing to defend her “honor.” One guy in particular would probably say, “Don’t let that little skirt fool ya, buddy,” while he sized Derek up as to how much effort it would take to kick his ass if he got out of line with the young woman.
Luckily the night proceeded without incident. There was smalltalk, getting-to-know-each-other kind of conversation, and a few margaritas. Maybe just one too many, as Thea felt a little woozy licking the salt from the glass rim, a grin on her face when Derek excused himself to visit the men’s room. He left his wallet next to the bill as he pushed his chair back from the table, a bright plastic credit card next to it.
It struck Thea as curious that he would leave it there. She wasn’t particularly paranoid but careful with her belongings and made sure to keep close watch on her purse in public. A friend’s bad experience with identity theft left Thea with a sense of dread fearing the same type of thing happening to her. She wasn’t a thief, but Derek didn’t know that, as they were barely acquainted. Her nosy side took over, though, as she sat staring at the brown leather bi-fold. Myriad information can be revealed from the contents of someone’s wallet, such as whether or not there was a hopeful condom in the confines of its presumptuous pig of an owner.
Her spying instead led to an unexpected discovery. Six, perhaps seven, different credit cards peaked out of the aligned slits in the wallet’s interior. All were brightly colored like the one paired with the restaurant receipt, but she saw the letters S, O and N at the end of the surname embossed on the top one. Derek had said his last name was Murphy. Thea peered over her shoulder in the direction of the bathrooms to make sure Derek was nowhere near and reached across the table to pull the first card up out of the slot.
The name Todd A. Johnson emblazoned the VISA card. Further inspection revealed a Discover card with the moniker Carl Wayne Miller stamped upon it that was next in the plastic pile. A horrible feeling stirred the Chimichangas not yet digested her stomach, and she pushed the cards back into the wallet and shoved it back across the oilcloth table covering.
Thea suddenly wished she’ taken the restaurant at full view upon entering. She wanted to know who else was there that evening, to see if any of her friends were there to help quell her rage. Although she didn’t need saving, she wanted to share her extreme exasperation with someone, anyone, else in her vicinity.
Instead, she sat alone at the restaurant table brooding at the incongruous connection made by accepting Derek’s dinner invitation. She looked up when he returned, straightened her skirt with outstretched fingers, and stood up to leave the table. “Thanks, Derk,” Thea said, reaching out her hand to shake his. “I appreciate you paying for dinner, but I have to go now,” she firmly stated and turned on her heel in a fast retreat toward the exit door.
Derek stood in the foyer, his suspended hand not yet fallen to his side, puzzled at the night’s sudden turn. Thea could hear Mariachi music muffle in her wake with the door closing behind her. Her step quickened and she dared not look back as she rushed toward her car in the darkening restaurant parking lot.
This short is a scene from a bigger piece I have stalled in writing, my yet unfinished NaNoWriMo effort from November 2012.