Kate locked the door of the bookshop as quickly as she could and jogged to her car. She had an hour to prepare for her dinner date with Aidan. He was taking her to the nicest restaurant in town—a small, overpriced Italian joint. Kate wanted to shed her work clothes like a skin, so she could wear the black dress her mother had bought her last Christmas. She had been saving it for a special occasion and felt that a date with Aidan would qualify as such an occasion.
Kate shrugged off her polo shirt, while kicking her khaki pants to the corner of the room. Slipping the dress over her head, Kate wondered why her mother hadn’t called to let her know that she had arrived at her hotel.Maybe her flight was delayed. Kate scrambled through the shoes in her closet until she found the black pumps she was searching for. Other than graduation, Kate hadn’t worn the Cole Haan pumps that her father had Fedexed from New York. Her female classmates had gasped in delight when Kate lined up for the graduation ceremony. Until then, she had no clue her shoes had cost three hundred dollars. “That’s my dad for you”, Kate had told Elise later, “Only he would spend that much on something I care nothing about.”
Thirty minutes later, Kate walked awkwardly to her car doing her best not to break her ankles in her shiny black pumps. Adjusting the rear view mirror, Kate checked her teeth for lipstick. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d worn lipstick. This has to be serious, she thought to herself. Passing inspection, Kate backed out of her driveway and made her way to the Italian restaurant on the edge of town.
Arriving fifteen minutes early, Kate decided to text her mother’s cell phone. She still hadn’t received a call from her. Flipping her phone shut, Kate made her way inside the restaurant.
“Table for one?” An elderly hostess asked Kate with one eyebrow raised.
“Uh, no. I’m expecting someone else. He isn’t here yet.” Kate returned.
“Right this way, dear,” the woman piped cheerfully, grabbing two menus from a basket sitting on top of the nearby banister.
Glancing over the menu, Kate felt her phone vibrate. Reaching in her small black satin handbag, Kate checked the incoming message. It read: Just arrived. Last flight was delayed. Love you, Mom. Kate sighed with relief. Now she could enjoy the rest of her evening without having to worry about her mother. Kate checked the time on her cell phone. Aidan was two minutes late. Kate’s mother would say it was a sign. Kate wasn’t that particular about punctuality. She had arrived early because she was nervous and excited. Does that mean he isn’t nervous or excited? Ten minutes passed, then fifteen. She had just started worrying that he might not show up when the bell on the front entrance sounded. Glancing up nervously, Kate strained her neck to catch a glimpse of the person walking through the door. An older couple walked hand in hand up to the front counter where the hostess greeted them with the same smile she had offered Kate upon arrival. “Great”, Kate muttered. She was beginning to think she had been stood up. She shifted in her seat, grabbed her handbag, and was getting up from the table when she saw him. He walked towards her gracefully, his stride long, a curious smile playing on his lips.
“Going somewhere?” he asked Kate as she sat back down. She could feel her face burning.
“I actually thought you weren’t coming,” she laughed nervously.
“My apologies. It started raining and I’m afraid I lost my way. The rental car didn’t come with a GPS, and I’m not sure the hotel’s directions were entirely accurate.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” Kate stammered. With all her worrying, she hadn’t even noticed that it had started raining again.
The hostess hurried up to take Aidan and Kate’s drink order, and then returned with a basket of hot bread. After placing her order, Kate started to ask Aidan a question, but was interrupted by a scream from the front of the restaurant. Aidan jerked around in his seat, searching for the source of the scream. A second scream, louder than the first, ripped through the air, raising the hackles on Kate’s arms.
“Stay here, Kate,” Aiden whispered as he hurriedly arose from his chair.
Confused, Kate had no choice but to obey. The lights flicked once, then twice. Total darkness descended on the restaurant. Kate could hear commotion in the front of the restaurant, but could hear no voices. The noises sounded like pots and pans overturning, perhaps in the kitchen. Kate snatched her phone from her bag and tried to use it as a flashlight. Too scared to venture from the table, Kate pulled out her chair and hid underneath it. She was just about to dial 911 on her phone when she heard Aidan’s voice.
“We need to go…now,” he demanded.