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Hunting Tess

Kathryn Summers
























This was a bad idea.

My legs dangle from the bar stool, moving frequently in something akin to a nervous twitch. I trace the faces of those enjoying a pleasant evening around me and hope my overtaxed brain can relax enough to do the same. Already scouting out all possible exits, out of a habit formed years earlier, I feel the condensation from my water slide down the smooth glass and force myself to breathe deeply. Going on a date is not the end of the world.

The restaurant is one of many in the Boulder area catering to the college crowd, vying for the business of the sleep-deprived and youthful bravado. The Blue Heron must be doing well if the crammed Saturday night is any indicator. The faintest taste of iron touches my tongue and I realize my lower lip was once again the victim of my stress. Nathan suggested the unfamiliar place which is outside the comfortable five-mile radius I set for myself.

He seems nice enough, and as long as he obeys the rules I set for him before agreeing to this date, there shouldn’t be an issue. Though I can’t see it through the mass of people bustling in every which way, I can almost feel my car parked where a hasty retreat can be made if needed.

A blond surfer cut bobbles into view just before Nathan arrives at the table, his weight titling the dangerously wobbly slab as he sits. “Hey Samantha! I’m glad you made it!” he exclaims, shrugging out of his jacket before realizing there’s no place to put it.

Lowering my head, I wait for him to figure out the minor issue without an audience. First dates come with a plethora of emotions and it’s probably too early for embarrassment to be introduced.

“Yeah, parking wasn’t too bad which is nice.”

Beaming a full smile, the most I can reciprocate is a modest half smile that I’m afraid is more of a grimace. Thankfully even with a busy night the staff moves quickly.

“What can I get for you?” the waitress asks, her messy bun shifting ever so slightly with every shake of her head. My stomach growls loudly in response since I’ve had hardly anything all day, but it looks like the raging geyser was drowned out by the lively atmosphere.

“Looking for someone?” Nathan asks after we order.


He chuckles before calling to light my ingrained habit. “I’m pretty sure that’s the third time you’ve surveyed the room. If this doesn’t go as well as I hope it does, I promise you won’t have to sneak through the bathroom window to escape. Besides, the front door will be easier to get through.”

“Been in the ladies’ restroom recently?” I laugh, already having surveyed the high horizontal window in the room on my arrival. While it is perfectly feasible to slip through on my stomach, I’m not sure my white gauzy shirt would survive the trip.

Nathan does a remarkable job of keeping the conversation moving, his easy manner a noticeable quality that has several of the girls in our shared class swooning.

“Dache sure knows when to pump up the pressure,” he says between a bite of smothered curly fries. “I saw Emily crossing the quad while mouthing counts. I almost thought she would break into her dance.”

“If she had would you have joined?”

“Nah. I’m pretty sure she would object to my contemporary style lifting her tap off the ground. It would throw off her rhythm and give me nothing but a metal sole shoe to my shin.”

I grin thinking of petite Emily causing anyone bodily harm, least of all Nathan. She swore she didn’t mind me going out with him, and honestly the only reason I agreed was to get him off my back. After dropping hints all semester, it would be better to get it over with and have him come to the realization I’m too closed off for a relationship. That way he can move on to someone, like Emily, and I can go back to my plan of early graduation.

“Well, Dache is narrowing down his selection for his showcase,” I say, taking a sip of ice water. “He is looking for the best.”

“Which would be you,” Nathan flirts with a half-smile to which I roll my eyes. “Seriously though, you’re the best dancer in class. It’s the reason people want to partner with you all the time.”

“You mean avoid me.”

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he admits, tilting his head back and forth as if debating some grand topic. “Whatever project you work on is always the best, but on the downside, it means whoever in on stage is being compared to you.”

The greatest factor he intentionally overlooks is a spoiled narcissistic red-head who has the male population wrapped around her finger while the female population quivers in fear of becoming a social outcast with a mere word. That’s why I’m often left partnerless.

Working toward a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance was a no brainer. It holds the most appeal even if it is . . . close . . . to my old life.

Desperately wishing to relax, I know I can’t. Not in a public area.

And then I’m reminded why.

The smell is what hits me first. Not decay like you would expect, but a sweetness. Sickly sweet.

The palms of my hands don’t start to sweat like they would have three years ago. I know how to handle these monsters now.

It doesn’t take long for two males to find my table, blocking the front door and the majority of other patrons from view.

“You’re looking well,” the older one leers. Dmitri. A flood of emotions threatens to pull me back into the past, fighting to make sure I don’t escape this time.

My eyes leap from Dmitri to his brother Viktor before landing on Nathan, whittling down scenarios until reaching the

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