Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SUSHI FOR ONE: Original chapter 8

I found this yesterday and had completely forgotten about this. I had originally plotted a different set of dates for Lex in Sushi for One and one of them was Duane the Dweeb. He got combined with/switched to George in a later revision, and I rewrote their date scene, but I found the original scene tucked away in my computer.

For those of you who haven’t read Sushi for One, don’t worry, this won’t ruin the book for you. For those of you who have read it, you’ll hopefully get a chuckle over some jokes I didn’t include in the chapter 8 that’s in the book.

I’m also giving away the last of my author copies of Sushi for One over at Goodreads! Click here to enter (you must belong to Goodreads to enter). Ends September 20th.

All she wanted to do was dump him.

Lex Sakai glanced at the Mark Dacascos look-alike sitting across the table from her, pasted a long-suffering smile on her lips, and felt her lipstick crack right down the center of her bottom lip. She couldn't believe she'd made the effort to dig out her makeup and paint it on for this dork.

"Oh, Duane, you crack me up." She couldn't fake a convincing giggle, but she tittered credibly.

Duane had seemed like such a nice guy when her brother Richard brought him to family dinner a few weeks ago. Well, nice and drop-dead gorgeous with that long, lean face, sharp eyes and rock-hard body.

The end of date number two decided it for her. She shouldn't have answered "Yes" when he asked to kiss her goodnight, but who knew his hands would grow to the size of baseball mitts and play catch with her fanny?

She was rarely at a loss for words. She'd never been "speechless with fury" and had thought it was a silly expression. But every scathing thing her brain thought stuck in her throat and she could only stand there choking while he walked away.

Tonight would be her revenge.

Earlier that evening, she called him. "Duane, I'm running late here at work. Can I meet you at the restaurant?"

"Sure, I made reservations for seven o'clock at Crustaceans. On Santana Row, across from Valley Fair shopping mall?"

He knew she grew up here in the San Francisco bay area, but treated her as if she could get lost in her own house. She swallowed a growl. "Great, I'll meet you there."

As a result, her escape vehicle lay ready in the parking lot.

She had crammed her wallet under the front seat to hide it. Then she put on her game face and prepared to cajole and charm him. When the bill came, she would feign shock that her wallet was missing. "Could you pay for me? I'll pay you back."

Then once they left the building: "Duane, sweetie, kiss off."

It was the perfect plan.

Granted, it wasn't the most honest scheme. Okay, so it was downright dirty.

But his tickling fingers had made her feel filthy. That was a good enough reason for her.

She laughed at Duane's inane joke about fruit flies and ignored the twinge to her conscience. God wouldn't want her to repay evil for evil. To harbor unforgiveness.

To shaft the raunchy lecher for taking liberties. She would relish the look on his face...

He droned on about more fruit fly trivia. She clenched her teeth to keep her jaws from yawning wide.

Wait a minute, did he say what she thought he said?

No, no, no. She hadn't been paying attention. Maybe she was hearing things. There wasn't a sexual innuendo in his comment about a fruit fly's--

Duane flashed a million-dollar smile. A knowing twinkle blipped from his eye.

Lex's jaw plunked open like a big-mouthed bass, but she couldn't make it close. She probably had the same wide, glassy-eyed look as a stuffed fish.

"Excuse me?" She sounded like a toad with pneumonia.

"Don't tell me you've never heard about it? Fruit flies..."

Listening to it the second time made it sound even more lewd. She'd love to connect her pointed-toed mules into a certain part of his anatomy. They were killing her feet anyway.

She managed a strained smile. "How do you know all these things? You must be so smart." Oh, gag me. "Do you read a lot? Have you read the bestseller by that Asian author, Long Duck Ding?"

"No, my sister did..."

Diversionary operation successful.

While he regurgitated his sister's thoughts about the controversial novel, Lex's mind wandered. Maybe she'd just bag the plan and tell him off now. Why waste her whole evening?

She jumped when she felt a rasping movement against her pantyhose-clad calf.

Unless this seafood restaurant happened to own snakes that slithered up guests' legs, Duane was just asking to get decked. With a two-by-four. Or maybe the baseball bat she kept in her trunk.

The waitress' approach saved his life.

"I'll have the crab wonton appetizer, caesar salad, and the garlic roasted crab with garlic noodles."

Hm, at least he had good taste in food. "I'll have the same." Lex handed her oversized menu to the waitress.

"So, Lex." Duane leaned his elbows on the table, causing it to rock toward him. Lex rescued the candle before it tipped.

"So, Duane."

"I'm glad we're having dinner tonight." His smile glowed golden in the romantic lighting.

"Me too."

"This is my favorite restaurant."

"Yeah, I like it too."

"But, you know, this just isn't working."

She did a double-take. "What?"

"You know, us." His bright smile didn't even falter.

No way. This wasn't happening. She began to wish she'd let the candle drip into his lap.

Maybe she misunderstood. "Uh...what do you mean?"

"You're a nice girl and all, but I only asked you out because of your brother."

The room darkened. A blood-red haze blurred his face in her vision. "Did Richard tell you to do this?" She could barely spit the words past her gritted teeth.

"No, but I thought it would make him happy. Seeing as how you're still single."

She spoke as slow and measured as a speech therapist. "And-what-is-that-supposed-to-mean?"

He finally seemed to understand the danger of his situation. "Well...I uh...thought you might be lone--I mean, bored. Want a little fun. A little flirting." He winked. "A few nice dinners."

She couldn't speak.

The idiot kept talking. "Richard always seems to be going out, enjoying himself. Lots of pretty girls, parties. Thought you might like a taste." He beamed at her in friendliness mingled with condescension.

She wondered how she could dispose of his body.

Okay, she already knew Duane's loser status. But the smarter thing to do would have been to wait until after dinner to give her the heave-ho. They hadn't even gotten their appetizers. Now the entire evening would be uncomfortable. Dodo-head.

She could walk out. She had been contemplating it only a moment ago. Breathe fresh air, clear her head, shake the dust from her shoes.

Or she could endure the evening and stick him with the bill. This place didn't exactly have McDonalds' prices.

Escape or revenge?

Freedom or suffering?

Peanut butter sandwiches or garlic roasted crab?

The waitress swept by with a steaming plate. Rich, briny crab, nutty brown butter. Her stomach growled.

"Let's just finish dinner and part friends." Granted, it came out sounding a bit strangled, but Duane smiled and tucked his napkin into his shirt collar.

The crab wontons arrived nestled in a butter lettuce leaf, blonde deep-fried dumplings. As she pierced one with her fork, its bubbled surface flaked pastry onto the stainless steel tines. The outer shell crunched against her teeth while the satiny, cheesy filling melted on her tongue. A ribbon of sweetness from the fresh crab lingered in her mouth.

Duane ate a wonton with relish. "I had a girlfriend who could make these."

Lex bit her tongue. The pain made her start and drop her fork with a clatter against the porcelain plate.

Had no one explained to him that praising past women while on a date was like heckling the enemy football team?

Her next wonton didn't taste quite so divine.

He looked like he would expound on the master-chef girlfriend as soon as he finished chewing. She needed a tangent. "Do you cook?"

"I make a jambalaya that women swoon over..."

Could the man ever say something that didn't involve other females? She listened with half an ear to his masterful feats of culinary genius.

The caesar salad arrived, aromatic with garlic, studded with caramel-colored anchovies. The crisp lettuce popped in her mouth with freshness. The perfect balance for the wontons, and a way to ready her palate for the crab to come. The dressing sizzled with flavor.

Speaking of cooking, she had heard caesar dressing was easy to make. She should learn how, since she ate a salad once a day as part of her fitness program. She wasn't anal about her diet--hence the heart-attack dinner tonight--but she usually ate and exercised to keep herself in prime condition for her competitive volleyball leagues.

Duane also kept himself in great shape. One of only a handful of things they had in common.

He cut an anchovy. "Salads are a great way to lose weight."

That was random. "Um-hm."

"But you need exercise, too. Increase muscle mass, increase metabolism."

Where in the world was he going with this? "How often do you work out?"

"Three times a week minimum, but I usually try to make it more often."

"Do you play sports?"

"I'm taking kickboxing right now. You should try it, it's fun."

She'd seen a boxing match once with her cousin Justin, and the guy getting pummeled looked like a raw tri-tip roast. She knew kickboxing was different, but...no thank you. "Maybe, sure."

"It's great exercise. You'd tone your body a bit."

Uneasiness and suspicion caused a prickling at the back of her eyeballs and a humming along her jaw. "What do you mean?"

He flashed a smile that would charm the knife away from a serial killer. "You'd fit your clothes better and feel great about yourself."

Lex didn't say anything for a long time. A weird emotionless feeling had descended on her. She blinked, wondering what her reaction should be.

Gee, I ran five miles yesterday, and the day before that I did lateral movement drills in the sand. Not enough toning?

You know, I didn't care much for sparring sports, but you're making me rethink that.

My life has been completely changed by your sensitive insight into my weight and self-esteem.


She looked down at herself. She valued comfort over fashion, but she never thought her clothes made her an eyesore. Both her pleated khaki slacks and her tucked-in chambray shirt had ballooned out from her waistband when she sat down. She had believed looser fitting tops hid her salt-cellar boobs, but maybe it hid more than that.

She also knew that her bone structure wasn't exactly delicate. Her wide-enough-to-birth-a-ten-pound-baby hips always made her stand out from her petite, size-zero-jeans cousins.

Wait a minute, what was she doing? She'd let his comments make her doubt herself. If he didn't think any girl over one hundred pounds was "fit," she'd show up puny Mr. Three-times-a-week...

He must have charmed the waitress, too, because she appeared once more and saved him from excruciating humiliation. She whisked away the salad plates and presented the crab with a flourish.

Hot, pungent aromas steamed Lex's face as she leaned over the plate for a long, ecstatic breath. An exotic mix of spices melded with the warm richness of browned butter. The crabs had probably been caught this morning, because only a whiff of brine reached her nose. Her mouth watered.

She lifted the top shell and a sweet tang of the sea seduced her senses. She picked out a forkful of feathery meat and took a bite.

She magnanimously forgave Duane for his unmannerly mouth. He was the reason she sat here in pure bliss.

He nattered on about fat cells, he checked out the mini-skirt on the woman sitting at the next table, and she thought he called her Alicia once.

He could call her Big Bird for all she cared. If she was Hindu she would have reached nirvana.

"Hiya Lex!"

She plummeted straight into hell.

Her cousin Mimi posed beside their table. Her sleek black dress revealed every curve of her tiny, four-feet-eight-and-three-quarter-inch body, while her perky C-cups squished under the low, tight scoop neckline. She flashed perfect white teeth framed by lipstick that screamed "Red Light District."

"How nice to see you here, Lex." Mimi tossed her signature ponytail of shimmering ankle-length hair. Lex had to crush her napkin to keep from grabbing it and yanking.

Mimi promptly ignored her, as usual. She sidled up to Duane. "Hi, I'm Mimi, Lex's cousin."

He seemed dazed by the jiggling mounds waving in his face. "Duane."

Her mesmerizing, half-lidded onyx eyes drew close to him. "You seem familiar. Have we met before?"

Wait a cotton-pickin-minute. What was Mimi doing? If the two-hundred-pound hunk of steroid-built muscle glaring at them from across the room was any indication, Mimi already had a tidy armful. Why go after Lex's measley lamb? She sat forgotten on the other end of the table, feeling like a lump on a couch watching a bad soap opera.

Duane lived up to her abysmal expectations with a delighted smile. "I promise, I wouldn't have forgotten you if we had."

Mimi flashed a mouthful of blinding pearly whites. "Are you sure? I could have sworn I saw you at a naked coed Ultimate Frisbee game."

His answering look smoldered with wicked glee. "Oh, darling, I would only flaunt this body for a private audience."

Lex tried not to gag. A gurgle escaped. After Duane's toning statements, he wasn't exactly on Lex's favorite people list, but she expected at least some semblance of consideration while she remained within reasonable distance. Like three feet away across the dinner table.

Mimi gave her a sly sidelong look. Can't keep your date's attention, Lex?

Heat rushed into Lex's face like her head had been stuck in an oven. Her chest tightened in pain, and her lungs felt punctured. She gasped for a breath that burned down her throat.

Barbie-doll Mimi always made her feel masculine, awkward, and neanderthal-ish. She hunched her shoulders, trying to shrink within her clothes, make herself smaller, more delicate, more feminine.

"Oh!" Mimi's graceful hand touched her shell-shaped ear. "Where's my earring?" She bent to search the floor, affording a generous view down her dress.

Duane paused a moment to stare down at her like a predatory wolf. Then he scooted his chair back and bent to peer at the patterned carpet.

When his head fell at level with hers, Mimi lifted her chin at him. He also tilted toward her.

She smiled a slow, sensual bedroom smile, as if daring him to move the scant inches between them and press his lips to hers.

Duane drooled.

A spasm squeezed through Lex's chest. She felt both ignored and spotlighted at the same time. Shut out by the two lovebirds exchanging heated glances. Laughed at by everyone else in the restaurant who witnessed the poor plain Jane losing her handsome escort in front of her eyes.

Mimi rose languidly to her feet. A business card appeared between two fingers. Where had that come from? Her bosom? As she tilted it toward Duane, he plucked it from her without breaking eye contact.

She dragged a seemingly innocent finger down her neck in an unselfconscious gesture. "It was nice meeting you, Duane."

"The pleasure was all mine."

Mimi's eyes flickered to Lex. "How do you two know each other?"

Oh no. Lex's whole body tensed like an olympic weight lifter attacking the winning barbell. Her heart, which had stopped beating only a moment ago, suddenly slammed into overdrive. Her hands gripped the edge of the table.

Her eyes zapped laserbeams at an oblivious Duane. Her tongue felt thick and swollen. A short croak shot out of her throat, but it was too late.

"Me and Lex? Oh, her brother set us up."

Lex felt like a leaking tire. Breath escaped from her open mouth and her chest cavity deflated.

Mimi knew.

She'd tell everyone.

Lex would never live this down.

She closed her eyes to block out the sight of Mimi's sparkling gaze and surprised, mocking expression. In her world of warm darkness, Mimi's high, trilling voice cut through.

"Oh reeeeeally?" A giggle. "Well next time, I'll be sure to take advantage of Richard's dating service."

Lex's eyes flew open. She needed to salvage her pride behind some white-hot anger. "Stow it, Skipper."

Mimi's smile hardened. The nickname--Barbie-doll's adolescent niece--reminded her of her one sore spot, her child-like height. No amount of push-up bras and scanty clothing could make her look taller than an elementary school student.

Lex tilted her head toward the far table. "Now be a good girl and go home to Papa."

Mimi turned to Duane and leaned her face in close. "I hope I see you sometime?"

He gave a confident movie-star impression. "You just might."

She sashayed away.

Lex regarded Duane with a neutral face and burning eyes. His smile faltered.

Over his shoulder, she spotted the waitress approaching. She snapped up a hand.

"I need a box." Lex glanced at Duane's untouched crab. He'd been too busy spewing out pheromones. "He will, too."

The waitress nodded and hurried away.

Duane blinked in astonishment. Then he reasserted his radiant charm. "You didn't like the crab?"

"I'm not hungry."

He seemed oblivious to her clipped tone. "That's good. For you, lower calorie intake will definitely--"

She couldn't believe him. "Do yourself a favor and please stop talking."

He halted mid-sentence, his mouth open. He flashed more teeth at her. "Ah...Lex, your brother and I are good friends."

Another lowering suspicion shot tension down her spine. "And?"

"You see him pretty often, right?"

She pressed her mouth together and regarded him with a narrowed gaze.

"Would you mind asking him to pay you back for my half of tonight's dinner? I, uh...I'm out of cash..."

© 2014 Camy Tang

2 comments :

  1. And that right there is why I'm still single. Guys ARE dweebs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! I never went on a date like this but unfortunately it's based on a real date a friend of mine had. Sigh.

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