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“I’m thinking of a number between one and fifty. You get three tries to guess what it is.”
“Ugh, I hate guessing games! I’m not a mind reader, you know?” It’s a good thing you aren’t. Then this wouldn’t be as fun.
“Just give it a shot. After all, what do you stand to lose?” Probably a lot more than you realize.
“Ok, ok, fine... let me think for a minute.” Your blonde hair brushes the edge of the table as you lean forward, a few translucent strands attaching themselves to the condensation on your glass. Your eyes flicker back and forth across my face, as if the answer may be hidden in a mole or a wrinkle... not that I have such imperfections. You wouldn’t know that though. This is our first time meeting face-to-face, after all.
“Thirty-two?” you blurt out finally, confidently. A smirk tugs at the corner of my mouth.
“Wrong,” I say, and immediately your face falls. I rush to reassure you. “You still have two more tries to get it right though. Concentrate. You can do this.”
“I don’t see why this is so important,” you sigh and flop back in your chair. Your eyes are on the table now, a frown creasing your lips. Clearly it’s important to you that you win, even if you don’t understand the point of the game in the first place.
“It’s fun. You can tell a lot about someone based on the guesses they make. Maybe I’ll get to see a glimpse of your brain at work.” I can’t hold back a chuckle at that. You don’t realize just how true that statement may turn out to be.
“Men and their guessing games. I had a guy come up to me at the bar, he tried to guess my middle name. Thirty minutes in and he wouldn’t let me give him a hint. At first I thought it was a weird attempt at flirting, but after the first two guesses I think he wanted to prove a point.” You look at me again, a glimmer of frustration in your eyes quickly turning to one of amusement. “As if I’d be so impressed by him getting it right that I’d go home with him.”
“Did he ever get it?”
“No,” you snort. “Who would guess a twenty-five year old’s middle name is Winnifred?”
“It is unorthodox for someone so young.”
“It was my grandmother’s name.”
“I would’ve been impressed enough to go home with him after that,” I say. You burst out in a laugh, and I notice your shoulders shake when you find something truly amusing, when you’re not faking it to be polite. “Well now that you know we all enjoy them, why don’t you give my little game one last shot? Maybe you’ll get it right. Or maybe you’ll get it wrong and I’ll have to go home with you anyway.”
“If the stakes are so high...” you look at me, then away around the diner, looking for clues. As if I’d make such an amateur move, picking a number that would be so easily found out.
“Twenty-seven?” you finally answer without turning your attention back to me. You’re starting to look bored. I thought it would be fair to give you three shots, but if you don’t want to take them then who am I to object to your wishes?
“Wrong again. One last try. You’re so close, I know you can do it.” My hand flutters around my pocket. I can feel the outline of a small, hard object raised against the fabric. Not yet... but soon.
“How is everything?” A waitress in a tacky, red checkered apron approaches our table. My fingers slip away from my pocket. I barely stifle the urge to scowl at the interruption.
“Everything is amazing! Thank you,” you respond to her in a cheerful tone. Your face is split into a wide, friendly grin.
“Need anything? A refill? Extra condiments?”
“We’re good. You can go now,” I snap without looking at the waitress. You shoot a glare at me, surprised at my abruptness. I can’t be bothered to care. Sometimes people need to be told when to butt out, lest something bad happen to them. You never know when someone’s had enough, when they’re one wrong word away from reaching the boiling point. It’s safer not to test anyone.
“In that case, enjoy the rest of your meal, sir,” the waitress spits without looking at me. “If you need anything darling, feel free to grab my attention,” she says to you with a smile before clacking away to the next table.
“That wasn’t very kin-“
”You were going to make your last guess,” I cut you off before you can finish. Now you look annoyed, like you no longer care about getting the right answer. You really should care.
“If it means you’ll give up on this pointless game.” I want to correct you, to remind you that there is a very important point, but you lapse into thought again and so I keep my mouth shut. I reach towards my pocket once more.
“Fourteen,” you guess after only a few seconds. My hand falls away from my leg.
“Correct,” I say, a slight edge of astonishment in my voice. “Congratulations, Hannah. You’re the first one who’s gotten it right. And right when you were about to run out of lifelines.”
“Hmm,” is all you say in response. You’re trying to hold onto your annoyance, but I can tell by the way you bite your lip that you’re pleased with your victory. And rightfully so.
“Looks like we’re done eating. I suppose we should wrap this up.” I see the waitress who approached us earlier two tables over and I signal her with a wave. She doesn’t make eye contact, but I know she saw me from the corner of her eyes.
“Oh, yeah, I guess we can finish up here. Want to go somewhere else and get a drink?”
“Can’t,” I answer, “I go in to work early tomorrow. I have to be back home soon to take care of some things before I go to bed.”
“Oh,” you breathe out in disappointment. “Some other time then.” I nod vaguely in response and pay the waitress when she brings the check over. You chatter away as I help you put on your coat and walk you to your car.
“So, maybe we can meet up again on the weekend? Sunday, my place, one o’clock? I’ll text you the directions. We can figure something out the day of, but there’s this band I wanted to see playing in the park around three. One of those pop up gigs, they’re not really well known, but I like them.”
“Yeah, maybe.” I shrug. “Have a good night Hannah,” I say before shutting the car door for you. I step back to the sidewalk and watch you pull away. You wave goodbye. I lift my hand to vaguely wave back, but my attention is elsewhere now.
Once your car has disappeared out of view, I turn around and walk to the next block. The area is desolate, the roads closed due to construction and the sidewalks littered with discarded equipment. I stop in the middle of the walkway and reach into my pocket. I pull out the object I had lying in wait, to be used if you hadn’t guessed the right number. I didn’t think you would. I flick the switch and the blade pops out, shiny except for a spot of rust near the tip. I lick my thumb and rub at the spot but it smears. Not rust then, blood. I must’ve gotten sloppy with the last one. She refused to guess after the second attempt. Maybe she would’ve been like you, maybe she would’ve gotten it right on the third guess if she’d tried. But then I would’ve had to let her go, like I did with you, and where is the fun in that?


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