Date Night by Megan Heise

“Bad news, good news,” I text Jude. She calls back:
“He’s not coming?!?”
“No, he had a family dinner thing.”
“Nah it’s okay, I’ll tell you everything tonight. You’re my new date to Wayne Brady tonight!”
Did I pick her up? Did she come get me? Did one of us make a show of holding the door open for the other or did I just honk at the bottom of her driveway? Did we take my dad’s Lumina or her Volkswagen? She drove to my house and I drove from there?
Somehow, we get to Taco Bell, close to the theater, and cheap enough for high school students. I order my usual – one Cheesy Gordita Crunch, one Beef Supreme Chalupa, one order of Cinnatwists, and one medium Baja Blast Mountain Dew.
“So come on Slice!” she says. “What did he say?!”
“Okay, well…let me just play you the message.” I pull up Nate’s voicemail, and hold it between her ear and mine. I hear the message play for the umpteenth time, searching it for different clues each time: “Hey, Megan. Uhh, I’m sorry, I can’t come tonight, I have to have dinner with my family tonight. I’m not going to make it.” I hear how dull his voice sounds, could he be disappointed, let down, sad that he couldn’t make it tonight?
“He actually called me!” I squeal, grinning. “What do you think?”
“He’s definitely disappointed,” she replied
“Really? You think so?”
“Uh huh.”
“But like what makes you think that?”
“Well,” she said, looking around and lowering her voice to a whisper, even though we were practically the only ones in the room, “his away message tonight said ‘this really sucks.’”
“…what sucks?” I ask, and she answers with silent, knowingly large eyes. “This sucks?” I clarify. “What did he say say?”
“He said, ‘This sucks!’”
“You think he meant this?”
She shrugged. “Seems like he was really disappointed.”

What then?
I can’t remember
Not a single tangible thing
Honestly I didn’t really think about it then
I was distracted by Nate. Did he like me or did he not?
There were butterflies in my stomach. That feeling of pre-vomit. I couldn’t wait to call him after. Nate was most important.
We loved Wayne Brady, Jude and I. But still I’d have chosen Nate over her. Nate, a boy I’d asked out a week ago, who couldn’t remember to ask his parents until that day.
Surely I knew, right? That I should be grateful. That I had something — someone — special sitting next to me? Didn’t I?
Surely I appreciated the friend who put her life on hold for me.
I knew how special she was, didn’t I?
And I told her, right?
“You’re the best”
“Thank you”

After the show, we’re all grins, rehashing our favorite lines and sketches, impersonating Wayne’s impersonations.
“I think I’m gonna call Nate,” I burst out. She’s still finishing an impression. “Should I?” She shrugs. “Well should I call him or not?” She doesn’t answer. “Okay, I’m going to call him, then, and then we can go home, okay?”
“Ooookay Slice! Go get him!”
My parents’ camera swings precariously from my wrist as I fish in my purse for my phone. His number is still there from the voicemail, and I take a deep breath and call. It’s a cool late autumn night – just a light jacket against the breeze. I walk along the cement tiles, stepping from one to another, avoiding the cracks, walking caddy corner in lines and circles, circumnavigating illuminated fountains in the theater courtyard.
He picks up. “Hey, Megan.”
“Hey! How’s it going?”
“It’s ok, how are you?”
“We just got out of the show, it was amazing! I’m sorry you couldn’t come.”
“Yeah, me too, I’m sorry”
Jude walks around the perimeter of the courtyard, on the other side of the fountain
“It’s ok, we’ll just have to do something another time.”
“Yeah, okay.”
She catches my eye and I give her the thumbs up.
“Okay, well great! I have to go, but I’ll definitely see you another time!”
“Yeah, okay, see you!”
I hang up and grin at Jude, recapping the back and forth.
“Thanks for coming with me,” I say, bumping into her tenderly.
“I’m the best date you’ll ever have,” she says, and bumps right back.