I had to talk to Miranda again. But I didn’t have her phone number; I didn’t even have her last name. The morning after whatever happened with us had passed in surreal silence, like we both hoped I’d leave before she noticed me.
I skipped my stop on my first bus home from work and let it carry me as far as it went along the Ave, to the bar where I’d met Miranda in the first place. From there I retraced my steps to her apartment building, a straight mile away. I waited at the bus stop there until I saw Miranda stepping off the 72. It was a long shot, but it was the tail end of rush hour, and I got lucky.
I called her name, and she started walking faster. I went after her. “Miranda, I need to talk to you.”
She got as far as the door of her apartment building before turning to face me, without opening the door. “What do you want?” she asked. She had her apartment key tight between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand, the signature weapon of the women’s self-defense class. I took a big step back.
What was I supposed to say? I think we were set up by a vampire? “Okay,” I tried. “I don’t know what’s going on with us, and it could be nothing—that’s not the point. I think someone’s been seriously screwing with both of us.”
Miranda relaxed a little. “I don’t want to talk here.” It was getting dark and I didn’t blame her.
There was a well-lit, mostly empty Burrito Marinero across the street. We picked up the conversation there.
“Can I preemptively say that I’m sorry?” I opened.
It sounded lame halfway out of my mouth, and for a moment she looked at me exactly like I was afraid she would. Then she said, “I don’t know why I did what I did with you, okay?”
“Yeah. I think…” I didn’t want to say what I actually thought; I tried something more plausible. “I think maybe there was something in our beer. Nick and Sig, they switched to soda pretty early on. What do you know about Nick?”
“He’s your fucking friend.” She glared.
“I don’t know what he is,” I said. “I know him from a martial arts club. I don’t really know anything about him.”
“You think he…”
“I’m working on it.”
“I know him through Chelsea,” she said. “She asked me to come out with her that night. I didn’t know it was Nick’s idea until later.”
“What’s the deal with him and Chelsea, anyway?”
Miranda sighed. “Friends with benefits, I guess? He’s been bad for her.”
“How bad?” I asked.
“Bad enough to make her sick. He’s like malaria for her, no joke. He disappears for months at a time, and I’m the one she calls to cry over him, but then she starts getting better, like her old self. Then he comes back and they get back together. I don’t know if she stops eating, or what—she gets like she was the other night.”
“Anemic,” I mused.
“Yeah, you could say that. Look,” she said, “I should get going but—I’m going to regret this, but maybe we should exchange numbers in case…”
“We need to talk?” I finished.
We traded numbers. As she was putting mine in her phone she said, “This might feel less mysterious and creepy if I knew your last name.”
“It’s Reyer,” I said.
“Lee,” she said. “Like Bruce.”
Submitted by Corodon Fuller