Symptoms

Mike tipped the pill bottle into his palm, swearing when a few of them dropped to the floor. 

"Ugh," he groaned, picking up one that had rolled under the bathroom cabinet. He dumped the toothbrush out of his cup and filled it from the tap. He popped a few into his mouth with a practiced swallow and replaced the lid on the bottle.

A knock sounded on the door. "Michael, are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah, I'll be right out." Mike returned the pill bottle and gave the toilet a flush.

He opened the door, coming face to face with Anya. "Ready to go?" he asked with a grin.

Anya looked into his eyes, a concerned expression on her face. "You sure you're okay?"

"It's our second date and you really want to start talking about what I'm doing in the bathroom?" He touched her hair and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Come on, we have a reservation to make."

Mike wrapped an arm around her shoulder and ushered her out the door. 

Anya giggled. "So, where are we going?" 

"I would love to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

They made their way down the stairs and exited the building onto the sidewalk. Anya's firey red heels tapped a sweet rhythm on the pavement. The sun was just fading behind the west city skyline, the horizon pink and golden in its wake. 

"So I guess we'll take your car then?"

"No need. Our destination is just a few minutes' walk up the street."

"It better be. These shoes were not made for walking." 

Mike threw his head back and laughed. But his expression changed as suddenly the world spun and pain exploded in his head. He doubled over, hands clutching at his scalp.

"Michael? Michael!" Anya's hand rested on the small of his back. "Maybe we should just order in."

"I'm fine. I took some aspirin, just hasn't kicked in yet." Mike straightened, wincing as his head throbbed with each movement. Then gradually the pain began to fade. "I'm okay. Really. Just a headache, I get them all the time. Just up ahead."

Mike started walking, but Anya hesitated. 

"Come on. Come on!"

They entered  a small vintage diner, complete with cracked vinyl booth seats and records populating the walls. A juke box crooned in the far corner. Anya took it all in with a smile. "This place is amazing."

"I hoped you'd like it. The apple pie here is to die for."

They found a booth by the window and Mike ordered them milkshakes to start.

"You bring all your girlfriends here?"

"Girlfriend. Singular. I don't know if you could tell by my online profile, but I spend a lot more time with computers than humans."

"That's a shame. The humans are missing out." Anya smiled and sipped her milkshake.

"I don't really want to bore you with stories of my old girlfriend, but I never brought her here. I don't think she would have appreciated the..."

"Ambience?" Anya supplied.

"Yes. Exactly." Mike held her gaze as long as he could before he had to look away. Their food arrived, breaking the comfortable silence.

"Here we go, Michael. Two toasted house sandwiches and your apple pie just has to bake another ten minutes or so." 

"Thanks, Leslie."

The waitress grinned, but instead of returning to the kitchen, pulled up a chair. "So aren't you going to introduce us to your friend?"

Mike rubbed his jaw and stammered. "I-uh, well-"

"I'm Anya," Anya volunteered. 

Leslie cracked her gum, large silver hoops quivering in her ears. "You his sister?"

"No, actually. I'm his date."

"Hey, Jack, you were right!" Leslie called in the direction of the kitchen.

"Leslie, thanks very much for serving us, but do you mind giving us a little... privacy?" Mike asked.

Leslie raised her eyebrows and made her way back to the kitchen.

Anya laughed and plucked a fry from his plate. "How long have you been coming here?"

"I've spent a many a late night here, especially when I was studying. Now I come by once or twice a week. Again, usually with a computer, not a girl. So you'll have to excuse their manners."

As the light faded from the sky, they ate and talked. Anya asked him about his work, and he responded with questions about her studies. Her dream, she confessed was to be a journalist. He admitted his dream was to be the first successful white rapper. Their pies came hot from the oven, with a melting blob of ice cream on top. 

"This," Anya remarked with a mouth full of pie, "is the most amazing thing I have ever tasted.

"And it is addicting, let me tell you. I swear they put nicotine or something in it because I can't go more than a few days without it." 

Anya laughed. The sound rang in his head, making him wince. He looked up to make sure Anya hadn't noticed, but she was busy digging into her dessert.

"Mike, this is really great. I am having so much fun, and you - you are so sweet."

Mike, suddenly overcome with pain and nausea, could not reply. His only thought was that he would not vomit in front of a girl he actually liked. He had to get to the bathroom. He pushed his plate away and tried to stand. 

That's when everything went black. 

The End

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