Tequila Sunrise

Fiction Guest Writer // Ari LaColla

Juliana sat alone in the dark green booth, sipping at the drink in front of her. She had ordered a tequila sunrise, orange juice and grenadine cutting out any harsh liquor taste. She felt a bit rude ordering before her date arrived, but it was only fair considering he was supposed to be there twenty minutes ago.

Always nervous about being the late one, Juliana arrived nearly twenty minutes before she and Todd were meant to meet. Although her apartment was only a fifteen-minute walk from the restaurant, she decided to take an Uber, worrying about her safety at night. The reality was, she was a prime target for anyone up to something nefarious. A few minutes after she arrived, Todd texted her. He would be a few minutes late because of a hang-up at work. 

She decided to go in and warm up with a drink before he got there. Exiting the car, the cold Seattle air nipped at her legs. She couldn’t resist the urge to wear her new pleather skirt when getting ready. It hugged her curves in all the right places, and it was worth a bit of cold to be cute for a first date. The waitress sat her towards the front after she walked in, giving her a view of the door. 

Stirring her drink with her straw, she looked towards the entrance, anticipating Todd’s arrival. They had met on a dating app about two weeks ago and had been texting ever since. He was a good-looking guy, a few years older than her. Juliana was still in school, so anyone with a full-time job seemed to have their life more together than her. He even had cute photographs with his family on his profile! After a few days of speaking on the app, they exchanged numbers. They shared about their lives, their friends, and their passions. She usually texted more than he did, but he was busy with work, something she had to respect.

She had been on a few dates from this app before, mostly with boys who were also in college. None of the connections ended up going anywhere besides a few make-out sessions. Her friends usually had better luck in romantic situations, and she sometimes felt left out hearing about their escapades. Maybe this would end up better than her previous experiences?

Todd finally entered, surveying the restaurant to see where Juliana was sitting. He caught her eye, giving her a smile and walking over. He was wearing a plaid button-up shirt and dress pants, very appropriate accountant apparel. Suddenly she felt a bit silly in her pleather skirt and tight blouse. 

“Hi there,” he said, sitting down. “I hope you didn’t wait too long.”

“No, not long at all! Plus, I got to order my drink!” she responded, taking a sip of the orange and yellow drink in front of her. 

“Woah, what is that thing? I much prefer beer over anything… like that.” He waved his hand over her drink as if casting a magic spell. 

Juliana’s eyebrows raised. “It’s a tequila sunrise. It’s really good, and has a lot more alcohol than any beer.”

“Good to know you want to get drunk on our first date!” Todd laughed, and Juliana faux smiled, hoping she didn’t look as uncomfortable as that comment made her. 

She grabbed the menu from the table, looking to see what she would order.  Todd perused the drink list across from her, stroking an invisible beard while he read. 

“What do you usually get from here?” she asked, attempting to eliminate the awkward silence between the two of them. 

“Oh, I usually get something different every time,” he replied, not looking up from his menu.

 Juliana refused to give up on conversation, not wanting to sit silently for an hour. “How was work?” 

“It was good!” he chirped, finally looking up from his menu at her. “My boss picked me to head a special project, so that’s why I was late.”

“Congratulations! Do you know what you’re going to be working on?” Juliana didn’t know much about accounting, but she was interested in hearing about his work. 

“I do, but I doubt you would understand even if I explained.”

Juliana almost had to use her hands to shut her mouth. 

“What are you in school for again?” he asked, not reading her distress. 

“I’m going for graphic design,” she replied, still trying to redeem the conversation. “I want to work in marketing eventually.” 

“Oh, interesting. So art with a real purpose.”

Oh my God. She couldn’t believe this was the same guy she had been talking to for weeks. Was she dumb? Had she ignored a bad signs? Not only were her hopes of this date going well dashed, she was scared to hear what he would say next. 

Her anger was urging her to tell him off, but her innate self-preservation prevented her from doing so. Although they were in a public place now, Todd knew the area in which Juliana lived and could find her social media profiles by searching her name. She really didn’t want to risk pissing his guy off. 

She decided to leave as quickly as possible to avoid any more patronizing. She leaned over to her drink, sucking down as much as possible before she exited. If she had to go on such a shitty date, she might as well get her free alcohol in before she left, after all, she wouldn’t be around to pay the bill. 

Todd was still looking at the menu, completely ignoring her. She lifted her phone, looking at the screen as if she had felt a vibration.

“Ah, I have to take this call quickly. It’s urgent!” She got up from her seat before he had a chance to respond. 

The cold air hit her immediately when she opened the bar door. She had only known this guy for a couple of days, but pure frustration burned in her chest. Her hopes had been too high yet again. 

Not wanting to risk him coming and checking on her, she walked down a side street. When she was satisfied with her distance from Todd and his self importance, she spotted a closed restaurant with a heat lampout front, the perfect spot to wallow in self-pity while ordering an Uber. 

Hypervigilant of her surroundings, she spotted an older woman in dark jeans and a peacoat smoking a cigarette next to the lamp, her brown lipstick transferring to the filter. Julianna picked the cheapest possible ride home and prayed it would get there quickly so she could get home and rip off her uncomfortable date outfit.

“Everything okay?” the woman turned her head towards Julianna but made sure to blow the smoke out of the side of her mouth. 

“I’m alright.” 

“Sorry, don’t mean to pry, just curious,” she smiled.

“It was a bad date.” The drink she’d had earlier and her warm smile encouraged her to overshare. “I just don’t understand why things never seem to work out.”

The woman chuckled softly. “Good to know the dating world hasn’t changed.” She threw her cigarette to the ground and stepped on it with her glossy black heel. “I’ve been off the market for ten years, but trust me, I felt the same way you did.”

Julianna rubbed her arms to warm herself up. “Online dating is hell.”

“I wouldn’t know. That must be your ride,” she pointed to the white Sudan pulling up to the curb. “Get home safe, and then get yourself back out there.”

After she sat in the backseat of the Uber, Julianna pulled out her phone and opened Tinder.

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