Pair-aDate

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Pair-aDate

Postby jwhouk » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:30 pm

This is a continuation of the older short story, Horse Sense".

Dusty nursed his Wheat IPA as he waited at the bar. Dressed in what he termed "semi-casual" – a sport coat over a polo shirt and dress slacks – he scanned the bar again for what seemed the millionth time since he arrived at the place.

The brew pub, known as the Main Street Brewery, had opened to rave reviews a few months earlier on the north side of the Mississippi, opposite the Saint Anthony Falls. Its popularity had waned a bit in recent days, but the place was still packed as it was a Friday night.

Granted, it wasn't the "meat market" that the Cerberus Club was, but it was also a relatively safe place to meet for an online date. It'd been Aunt Marge's suggestion to use that new paranormal dating app, Pair-aDate, to get back into the dating pool.

He considered for a moment. It'd been three years since that little incident with the head of MIB. That was the mother of all nightmare dates. He'd been put off of dating since. Of course, having to work on finishing his degree and going through the academy had helped taken his mind off of things.

Now, though, it was his first significant time off since working for the Wisconsin DOC at Lincoln Hills. And he really didn't want to spend it holed up in his apartment, burning through his Netflix queue again.

He considered his watch again. She'd been the only one to agree to a date, after swiping through hundreds of entries. Since she was from the Twin Cities area, she had suggested this place – mostly as a "get to know you" manner in a non-para setting. The idea had suited him, and they'd agreed to meet here at 6 for dinner and drinks.

That was a half-hour ago.

He was about to consider his options when he saw the main door to the pub open. A couple of people came in – none matching the photo he had of the girl from the profile.

He sighed, downing the last of his drink, and turned to hand off a twenty to the bartender. No need to keep a tab when you're not sticking around, he thought.

Dusty braced himself against the chill of the early March weather in Minneapolis as he considered his options. He could hoof it on over to the Cerberus Club, but that would mean the possibility of running into Brandi again. Rumor had it that she was dating someone now, but he wasn't about to chance it.

The T-wolves were in Memphis, so taking in a game was off the list. The Wild were out of town, too – Nashville, if the crawl he'd seen on the TV in the bar was correct. The movies at the Mill City Theatre, just down the block, were all ones he had no interest in paying to watch.

He crossed over at the corner of 3rd and Main, figuring he'd just take the portal in the St. Anthony's Falls park and head back home. Not like it was the first time he'd been stood up on a date.

Just before he took the stairs to descend down to the Falls from street level, he heard the rumble of a car engine. A blue and white Mustang GT was navigating the narrow street, trying to avoid others who were milling about near the Saint Anthony shops.

Dusty thought nothing of it at first. He'd seen plenty of guys who gunned the motor on their "compensation machines" as they tried to pretend it was high school all over again. Hell, he'd been guilty of it in the past, too. How many times he'd "scooped the loop" in Chippewa Falls? And, when that got too boring, he'd done it down in Eau Claire, too.

He was about to take the steps down behind the power station when he caught a glimpse of the license plate on the Mustang: WNG WMN. Normally, this wouldn't have made him bat an eye. However, the screen name of the woman he'd contacted on Pair-aDate… was "WingWoman."
Last edited by jwhouk on Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby jwhouk » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:32 pm

He turned back to the street and watched as the GT stopped for some pedestrians. The last of them crossed in front of the car – and he could clearly see the woman from the profile behind the wheel.

Without even realizing it, he waved her down – and she maneuvered the Mustang curbside, a bit ahead of him. Trying not to look too eager – or relieved – he sidled up to the passenger door of the car.

The window slid down as he approached. "You must be Dusty?" she asked.

"And you must be Ari," he replied. "Nice car, by the way."

"Thanks. I got held up in traffic on 394, and couldn't figure out where to park."

"The lots are in back, up the hill on Second," he said. "I can show you?" He motioned to the door handle.

Ari's face went from mild surprise to cool consideration. "Don't try anything funny," she retorted, clicking the unlock button.

"Wouldn't dream of it," he stated as he slid into the front seat. He buckled in quickly, even as a truck behind them laid on its horn. Ari made a general waving motion back to it as Dusty pointed ahead to the next intersection.

After guiding the car to the parking lot across from the Saint Anthony Falls Center, the pair made their way back to the brew pub. She continued to be apologetic as they were seated and given menus; work had been a bit more than hectic that week, and she'd had to tie up some loose ends before leaving.

Before he could ask where she worked, the server had come over and took their orders. She decided on the prime rib with a baked potato; he ordered the vegan burritos with salsa.

"Oh, boy, I'm sorry," she said as the server took their menus. "I forgot you were vegan. I'm sorry, I just had this craving for some prime rib…" He held up his hands against the protestations.

"It's fine, I'm used to it. I don't force my dietary issues on others. Though I'll admit, the baked potato sounded enticing." He finally took a good look at her. "You mentioned your workplace?"

"Oh, yes," she smiled back. "I'm the COO at Richer Engineering, over in Minnetonka. We deal mostly in restorations and refurbishing of older Land Rovers, among other things."

"Richer Engineering – why does that name sound familiar?" Dusty mused.

"Well, we have done a few high-profile projects in the last few years," she began. "There was that DeLorean…"

"No, no, it's something else… Wait, did you say a DeLorean?"

Ari only nodded in response.

"Hm. My uncle owns a DeLorean. Fit it with a twin-turbo inline-six he salvaged from a combine. He doesn't take it out much, but I bet it'd give your little pony car a run for its money."

"Never heard of putting a tractor engine in a sports car," Ari mused. "Putting them in a truck, though…" Her reply was shortened by the server, bringing them their salads.

They exchanged some further small talk about life – the weather, road construction in the Twin Cities, the new Prince museum in Chanhassen. It was at this last point that she revealed her love for Paul McCartney. He professed to be more of a George Harrison fan, mostly as he played guitar on occasion. She seemed truly intrigued by this by the time the entrees arrived.

The pair dug in, enjoying the pub food and ambience – though they both commented at one point that it was a bit too loud for their liking. He suggested that perhaps they could take a quick walk down by the Falls before dark. She declined, but did suggest that there was a Caribou Coffee a few blocks up the street.

He deferred to her wishes. Calling for the bill, he insisted on paying. This got a wry look from her, but he thought nothing of it. Shortly thereafter, they were walking down Second Street toward Central, and soon they were at the Lund's Grocery where the coffee shop was located.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby jwhouk » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:34 pm

The shop was much quieter – and also shortly due to close, which the barista mentioned after taking their orders. She mentioned there was a seating area upstairs in the Grocery, which was open 24 hours. They took her up on the idea, and after collecting their drinks the pair climbed the stairs to the balcony seating.

"Not as loud here as it was at the pub," Ari commented as they settled in. She tilted her head slightly in contemplation. "You know, I just noticed something – you are a big one." This got a chuckle from Dusty.

"Clydesdale genes," he said, sitting down carefully. "Which brings up a question I couldn't figure out from your profile – what kind of, you know, para type are you, exactly?"

"It's a bit difficult to explain," Ari said, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. "I'm not what you'd exactly call a 'normal' para – if that makes sense," she added quickly.

"Obviously," he said. "I got the feeling from your correspondence that you were more or less 'set up' on Pair-aDate?"

"My profile was put there by a friend of mine," she said with a hint of annoyance. "She was told about it by a friend of hers… and they immediately schemed to get me set up, like you said." She sighed briefly. "What about with you?"

"Meh, I'd heard about it from a few relatives of mine. I'd been out of the dating pool for so long, after taking the job in the DOC…"

"DOC?"

"Yeah, I work for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, over at Lincoln Hills School." He raised his hand up in resignation. "You might have heard a bit about the problems we've been having there."

Ari's brain went into overdrive as she considered this bit of information. Does he know that one balding guy who Al isn't exactly enamored with? She dismissed the thought with a shrug.

"I don't follow that kind of news that close," she lied. "It gets too depressing."

"I totally agree," he said. "But with the amount of overtime I've been forced to work as a new staff – well, I haven't had much time to consider dating."

There was a pause as they both contemplated the situation.

"So we both end up downloading the app, setting up profiles – and boom, here we are." Ari shrugged. "Welcome to the 21st Century, I guess."

"Mmm-hmm," was his response between sips of his latte. "The newest way for paranormals to experience maximum human awkwardness." The two of them both chuckled at this.

The sound of a clerk calling for a bagger over the PA interrupted what seemed to be a longer-than-normal silence between the two.

"Well," Dusty said finally, "if you want, I can show you back to your car."

"Uh, yeah, that – that'd be fine," she said, taking a last sip from her coffee. "I don't have far to go, thankfully."
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby jwhouk » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:40 pm

The two walked back to the lot where her Mustang sat, the silence between them saying volumes. He was thinking she wasn't interested, especially since he'd run his mouth about where he worked. She was thinking he was distant and aloof – and probably didn't want to deal with someone as strange as her.

Before they reached the car, Dusty noticed something in the twilight, across the street from them.

"Isn't that the Machine Shop?" He pointed across 2nd Street to a two-story building on the corner, situated behind the old Pillsbury Mill complex. "Where they had that messy incident a few years back?"

Ari felt the urge to freeze up descend upon her, but a quick closing of her eyes and the humming of a certain tune kept it from overwhelming her.

"Uh, yes, a nasty situation," she said, not realizing she was singing to the tune of Let It Be. "A few friends of mine were at the scene."

Dusty was more surprised by this revelation than by her sing-song voice.

"Really? My cousins were part of the wedding party. My aunt as well."

This caused Ari to stop – but not out of fear. She took a long look at him as they stood behind her GT.

That nose. And the face. He can't be…

"I… I didn't catch your last name again?" she asked.

Oh great, now she's figured it out – nice going, blockhead, he thought to himself. "Uh, well, it's Dustin Alexander. I'm not…"

"You," she pointed a finger at him, "have got to be related to my boss's wife. I don't suppose your aunt is named Rosalynd, by any chance?"

Shit.

"Uh, well, yeah, but we're not very close…" he protested.

Ari just threw her hands up in the air.

"Oh, great," she said to no one in particular. "Sterling gets me all excited about this dating app, and it turns out she's just set me up with one of the Alexander clan. Oh yeah, just what I wanted, be some sort of gold digger."

Now it was Dusty's turn to be confused. "Wait, what?"

"She probably thinks it'd be funny, a shop where everyone's related. Feh to that." Ari didn't realize that her talons were starting to show.

Dusty's confusion slowly turned into anger.

"Wait… you think, that just because my last name is Alexander, that I'm born into money or something?" Ari's exasperated look was all that he needed as the answer.

"Now look here," he stated between grinded teeth. "My father and Buck's father had a falling out a long, long time ago. As a result, my family became the black sheep of the Alexander clan – with little if any money to our name. My dad had to pay his entire way through college, while building up a farm hundreds of miles away from the family homestead in a completely different state." He accentuated that last statement with a few good points of his finger.

"I had to pay my way through school – and still have a crapload of college debt to pay off – and even though I'm working a relatively well-paying job, I've been forced to work so much ordered overtime that I haven't had time to think, let alone have some sort of a social life.

"The only reason why I agreed to meet here in the Twin Cities was because there was a portal nearby, and I lucked into getting an apartment with a Library portal built-in." He turned to look at her in frustration – then noticed she had frozen up.

"Are you okay?" he asked, concerned.

Ari's eyes opened after a moment, then closed with a sigh.

"I have some… issues… with that place," she quietly explained. "That is, the hub of the portal system. It stems from something that happened… long ago, now. Something I regret deeply."

Dusty's face contorted in confusion. Ari put one hand on the roof of the Mustang to steady herself as she continued.

"Years ago, I challenged the… uh, lady in charge of that place…"

"You mean the Libr…" Ari cut him off.

"Don't say it, please don't. It's part of the problems I have. Anyways – I challenged her and tried to kill her at her wedding there a few years ago. As a result, I was banished from that place – and as a result, I was forced to forget about it as well. I and my sisters, who had helped me," she added.

"Wait – if you were from… there… then that means you're a Sphinx?" Ari shook her head – more in disagreement than in trying to forget.

"No, I'm not that. Not... not anymore. I… I think the technical term that's used is called… seraph."

Dusty paused to consider that.

"An angel?"

Ari only nodded.

"Long story short, I got exposed to something that converted my… uh, former nature into that of an angel. It also cost me my job. After a year of working customer service jobs at Target, I'd finally landed a job working security for your family's business." She sighed in recollection. "The only thing that kept me from crawling back to my sisters in shame – again – was your Uncle-in-law."

"You mean Al?" Ari nodded. "Well, he's not really my uncle, per se. Aunt Rosalynd married into the family… but I know what you mean." He looked her in the eye. "So did Phi… er, the lady in charge of that place, banish you from there?"

Ari shook her head.

"No, it was her mate… her husband." This brought a surprised look from Dusty's face.

"I wasn't even aware she was married," he stated plainly. "Who is he? Or can't you say his name, either?"

She closed her eyes and quietly said, "Neil. His name is Neil. I… have trouble with his full name. He is a mortal human, but he's lived quite a long time. And he… he bested me in combat."

"Combat?" Dusty raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, I guess I can understand that, considering you were trying to kill his wife."

"And unborn child, at that time," she said while trying to hold back tears. "Look, I really don't like thinking about my past very much. Hell, I don't like thinking about my more immediate past with my sisters, either."

"You have sisters?"

"Yes. Last I heard they were working at some meat packing plant in Saint Paul. Fortune hasn't been kind to them. It seems that only by the grace of the gods that I've avoided that." She considered for a moment.

"And that wonderful not-an-uncle of yours." She smiled at that.

"I've not actually had the chance to meet him, to be honest," he replied. "Though I'm on speaking terms with Buck and Rowdy and Uncle Cal, I've not been as fortunate with Aunt Daisy… I assume you know about her paddock name, right?"

Ari nodded.

"My dad didn't attend the funeral of Buck's dad, though I never remember a bad thing about him. Aunt Daisy, I think, only tolerated me the few times I was over there." He stopped to think for a moment. "I don't think I've been over at the Alexander house since I was a colt."

The two stood there, leaning up against the Mustang in the cool spring Minneapolis evening, quietly looking at almost everything except each other.

"You know," Dusty said finally, "we both come from somewhat broken family backgrounds, losing something we once had – but somehow came through the other end." He turned to look at her. "Maybe that's why the app paired us up in the first place," he said with an ironic smile.

She couldn't help but chuckle at that.

"Maybe," she replied quietly. She thought for a moment, then pulled her iPhone out of her coat pocket. "Is your e-mail address still the same as the one on your profile?" she asked.

"Yes, why?"

Ari tapped a few times on her screen, then swiped, then tapped again.

"Because I just sent you my phone number," she said. "I'd… I'd like to do this again sometime, when you're available."

"Well, I'm heading back to work tomorrow, and that's probably going to mean more ordering. So it might be a week or so."

"Just call when you can, okay?" She smiled at him as she walked over to the driver's side of the car. "I'll see you later." She opened the door and was about to get in when she turned back to him. "Oh, and if you see that one older, short, balding guy – the one who works as the MIB liaison? Tell him he needs to bring his Rover in for a maintenance check."

Dusty couldn't help but laugh at that. He waved to her as she pulled out of the parking lot and zoomed back toward Central. With a noticeable spring in his step, he began the walk down to the portal at St. Anthony Falls.

- fin -
Last edited by jwhouk on Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby lake_wrangler » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:59 pm

I can never find the "Thumbs Up" when I need it... ;)

That was enjoyable. Short, but well-written and engaging. It's always a pleasure to see what you guys come up with next.

One suggestion: you might want to not only reference the "horse sense" fic, but also link to it, to save time for anyone who would want to read that one first.
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby jwhouk » Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:05 pm

Done.

This had been sitting for a while, and I just now got some energy to finish it off.
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby Dave » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:04 pm

Nicely written... a good read!

Minor grammatical nit: I believe that "seraphim" is plural. Ari might more properly have said "I'm a seraph" or "I'm one of the seraphim".
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby Sgt. Howard » Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:49 pm

Well... can a Seraph handle the ... anatomy... of a centaur? Stay tuned and see...
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby Atomic » Tue Jul 11, 2017 2:47 pm

Applause, applause!

Good stuff.
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Re: Pair-aDate

Postby jwhouk » Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:16 pm

...I'm scared.

Paul mentioned he's trying a new anime series on Crunchyroll: A Centaur's Life. :shock:
"Character is what you are in the dark." - D.L. Moody
"You should never run from the voices in your head. That's how you give them power." - Jin
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