Our glasses clinked over the wine and our third date. Kailey was a pleasant, if not a little pale blonde, who had it not been for the wine would likely be a little quiet and reserved. Not that I had ever seen her that way. Perhaps it wasn’t the wine at all; perhaps she was finally opening up to me. She did agree to let me make her dinner in my home, after all.

Our last two dates had been what I could call slightly below average Tinder affairs. Meet at a bar, have a drink or two too many, separate Ubers home, and a late night text goodnight. She wasn’t exactly old fashioned, but I suppose what is nowadays, anyway?

“This wine is fantastic, but it’s running right through me,” she slurred with a giggle. “Where’s your ladies’ room?”

“My ladies’ room?” I laughed. “Well, you certainly can’t go in there, but the bathroom is the first door down the hall on the right.” She rolled her eyes and groaned a bit. “Well, I am sure you’re quite popular, Roger,” she said with a wink trotting off out of sight.

I watched her walk away.

It took her quite a long time to return and I had begun to worry. Could she be pooping? God, I hoped she wasn’t pooping. Nothing is more unflattering to a woman’s aura than the thought of her pooping or menstruating. Strangely enough, urine never bothered me as much. Don’t get the wrong idea; I am not a fan of urine and frankly find the idea that there are individuals out there, consenting adults or not, that enjoy such a thing absolutely abhorrent. The things some people do simply disgust me.

She finally returned a good ten minutes later with a big smile on her face.

“Roger, let’s play Truth or Dare,” she said. I didn’t want to play Truth or Dare and responded, “Oh, I’m not so sure about that. What’s your end game here?”

“It’ll be fun!” she rubbed her hands together.

“And just how will it be fun?”

“Come on! Didn’t you used to play when you were a kid?”

“I didn’t real—”

“And..” she cut me off mid-sentence, grabbing the half-empty bottle of wine. “Maybe afterwards we can play spin the bottle.” She laughed loudly. It was unflattering. I hated it.

The prospect of sexual engagement with Kailey had clearly crossed my mind; the unspoken rules of dating say that the third date is the intercourse date. She was in my home, after all, so it felt fair I should put up as little resistance as possible to her silly idea. Kailey was quite a bit younger than me; ten years younger. I should only be so lucky. Besides, the last few girls I had been out with left a bad taste in my mouth.

“Fine. Where do we start?” I conceded.

“Truth or dare?” she asked.

“I suppose I’ll start with a dare.”

“Oh well, that’s not fun!” she laughed.

“How is it not fun?! You gave me the option you know!”

“Because, Roger,” she paused. “I know your secret.”

I panicked. What could she possibly know—or think she knows—about me? Why was she so gone so long? Was this bitch rifling through my things? Was she not in the bathroom at all? Is this just the drunk ramblings of a 23-year-old girl? I had to stay calm; I didn’t want to look like a lunatic. Whatever it was, she clearly wasn’t turned off by it, as embarrassing as it may be.

“Well, I’m sorry, Kailey but the rules are pretty clear. I choose dare.” I smirked. She chuckled a bit, drinking more. “Then be that way. I dare you…” she paused, looking around the room pondering. She clearly had expected me to take her bait and choose truth. Her eyes settled on my bookshelf. “…to read one of those books like it’s a Shakespearian play!” She was very pleased with her dare and leaned back in her chair.

Without hesitating, I walked to the bookshelf. “Wait!” she said. “You have to pick the book with your eyes closed.” “But that wasn’t part of the dare,” I replied. She leapt from her chair and ran to cover my eyes. Her small stature forced her to stand on her tippy toes. I crouched slightly. This was cute. I imagine this is the type of thing parents tell their kids about.

I felt around the bookshelf for something that seemed vaguely familiar, though frankly, it had been a while since I had read anything. It was mostly for show these days. That creep John Waters really made an impact on young girls. I doubt they had ever even seen any of his films; they just loved the quote. I wondered if she could feel my eyes rolling just thinking about that goblin.

Finally, I got my hands on something and pulled it from the shelf. She started to laugh. “Oh, this should be good.” Removing her hands from my eyes, I was able to stand properly again. She was right; it was Joy of Cooking. “Oh geez,” I sighed. “I mean, a dare is a dare, but you’re gonna get it for this.” I opened up to a random page. It was spinach fettuccine with smoked salmon and asparagus. I held the book far from my face in one hand, knelt to the ground with my chin up facing the recipe, and with my most exaggerated theater voice, began to read.

“Smoked salmon, although-ith…uh….doth not usually an Italian ingredient make, tis now often found within one’s pasta sauces in both…uh….Italy and thou…ists…own….United States.” Kailey was giggling at this point and had poured more wine. I continued. “A little doth goeth a far way. Any more thicker, thine uneven end cuts shall be perfect for one’s sauce.” Thankfully, Kailey stopped me. “Okay, that was horrible, but I guess Shakespeare probably wasn’t much of a chef.”

“Oh, that reminds me: I should go check on dinner.” I placed the book back on the shelf. Kailey was a silly girl. Making my way into the kitchen, I was a little less unsettled by what she had said about knowing my “secret.”
The panic attacks, though mild, were frequent. The episode at the bar with Kailey last time had me washing my face in the bathroom four times just to calm down. I must have looked sweaty the whole night as a result. I guess it went well enough, though.

I found myself standing at the oven, heart racing, fiddling with the knife I had used to cut the onions and carrots earlier. I regained my composure, taking a peek into the oven and checking the temperature of the roast. Almost, I thought. Surely I can’t stall in here for another 15 minutes. Maybe she’ll forget all about this stupid game. I can’t dare her to kiss me or something juvenile like that.

Reluctantly, I put on a happy face, returned into the dining room, and had a seat. Kailey was looking at the bookshelf, but when I returned, had a seat herself.

“So! Your turn.” She leaned in.

“Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” she said, gazing directly into my eyes like only a young woman can, full of confidence that she is most certainly in control of everything in this room, if only due to her young beauty.

“Alright, then,” I paused. I could feel a wave of anxiety flush over me.

“The food is almost done, by the way,” I said.

“That’s great. I’m starving.” We both paused for a second before she continued.

“So what do you want to ask me, Roger? Anything. I’m an open book!”

“What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?” I replied, thinking it was sort of a stupid question.

She got a sad look on her face for a brief second, looking down at her wine. Had I fucked up? Had I ruined her mood? Before I had time to think, she looked me straight in the face. “When I was 13, I was walking home from school.” She looked down at her glass again, twirling it. “Usually, I would have taken the bus, but I had gotten in trouble for smoking cigarettes in the bathroom.” Her face met mine again as she began to wave her hand a bit. “I don’t smoke anymore. I know you don’t like smokers. I mean, I don’t either, I was just…a stupid…stupid kid,” she continued. “A man in a van offered me a ride. Like I said, I was just a stupid kid. It wasn’t even that long of a walk; I was just in such a bad mood that I didn’t want to walk home. He seemed so nice. I had been told all about stranger danger and all that, but he wasn’t wearing a trench coat or anything like that. He didn’t look dangerous.” I put my hand on hers. “They never do,” she said. “When I opened the door, he grabbed me and tried to pull me in. There was another man in the back who pulled at my backpack. I was screaming and screaming and crying and another man came running out of his house as I either managed to get out of the shoulder straps of my backpack or maybe they let go. I don’t know. But they drove off.”

There was a long pause. Not an awkward one, just…long. She really was opening up to me. This was clearly a story she hadn’t told a lot of people. “So what happened after that?” I asked, breaking the silence but hopefully not rushing her or making her uncomfortable.

“They never caught them. There wasn’t a license plate and I don’t know how I never noticed that.”

“You were just a kid.”

“I know, but ever since then, I have tried to be alert. The worst part of it all, though…”

Kailey was stoic, fixated on the last of the red wine in her glass.

“In the back, beside the man….I saw piles of shoes.”


“Little…girls’ shoes.” She took a deep breath. “Roger, I wasn’t their first victim.”

DING! The timer in the kitchen rang.

“I’m…so sorry,” I said

“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry that got really dark.” She laughed, snapping back into a more cheerful reality. “Sorry about that!” she laughed again, not uncomfortably, just strangely. “I am starving!”

I was a little uncomfortable, but she seemed fine, so I made my way to the kitchen. I removed the roast from the oven and made us each a plate. When I returned to the table, the wine was empty. Kailey was again in good spirits. She took a bite and swallowed.

“You know, Roger, I still know your secret.”

She took another bite and I knew she was lying. I think she’ll pair nicely with asparagus.