Fiction Contemporary Romance

* * *Warning: Profanity where appropriate * * *

How much you wanna bet?

Well, let's see, Brandy. How about a hundred dollars and one weekend of catering, without question, to the winner’s every wish and desire. 

Define “weekend.”

Friday midnight to Sunday midnight. Whoever breaks first, loses.  And we have witnesses. Just look around.

Maybe, but nobody sober. Should that even count?

Why not? I’m certainly not sober; you’re definitely not. You grin like a pirate when you drink; everybody knows that.

Arrgh, that'd be so.

So, are you game or not?

Run down the rules for me one more time.

You said you believe you have one of the fastest minds in the room. I say let’s put it to the test.

I remember that part. Get to the contest.

I just want you to remember that you brought this on yourself, Brandy.

The rules, please?

Every word that comes out of your - and my - mouth must be the opposite of what it is you – and I – are really thinking. Even if we’re not in each other’s presence, the rules apply until and unless one of us breaks.

The ol’ honor system, eh? You trust me?  

Well, that depends. Have you enough? Honor, I mean? If not, if you really don’t think you’re up to it . . .

You’re on! But only if you really think YOU're up to it.

Doubt me at your peril, Dandy Jones. All right, then. Let’s shake on it. Not like that. You think you’re Elvis or something? You’re gonna make this easy for me, Brandy.

All right, put ‘er there!

Everybody seeing this?  Let the games begin!

Nah, I changed my mind.

Oh, you tricked me, Brandy. I guess the game’s over.

Oh, stop!

* * *

Hey, Brandy.

Well, goodbye to you!

Jeez. You still doing that?

No, I quit.

It’s a stupid bet. You know that. 

Well, it's not like I’m not stubborn, or gifted, or anything; I can stop anytime I want.

Care to prove it?

I will. Once I've lost, I will. 

I know what you’re really saying, you know.

Of course not, I don’t know anything.

Have you honestly kept this up since the party yesterday?

Not at all.

Well, I’m impressed, but equally disturbed. Brandy, you can’t keep this up. It’s crazy.

When Dan decides he’s not going to pay me, then I will continue saying the opposite of what I’m thinking. Misunderstand me?

Well, good luck then. I wish I could follow you around and see how all this backfires.

Oh, yes, I’m sure it will.

Well, thanks for the mental gymnastics.

Just be sad you have the agility. Hiya!

Good grief, Brandy.

* * *

Stephanie, have you seen Brandy today?

She’s at her desk.

I thought maybe she was out. I haven’t heard a peep out of her.

Well, she sent a group text saying she’s just not herself and she's feeling challenged. I assume she might be coming down with something. I’m sure she just wants to keep to herself. Best to let her be, I think. Just in case.

I hope she’s all right.

Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll pass.

* * *

Hey, Dan! Whassup?  You okay? What’s with your . . . you mean you can’t . . . don't try, okay? Really?  All right, well, then don’t try. You need anything, just let me know. You think you should go home?  You sure? You’re a trooper, man.  Let me know if it gets any worse, okay? Okay. I'm here for you.

* * *

Ugh. I don’t really want to see you tonight. Definitely not for dinner. I didn't even want to ask. And it's not a date.  

That would really suck. It's not like . . . you wouldn’t be trying to trick me.

You have it all wrong. I simply can’t wait to see you win this thing.

That’s not what I thought.  So, I beg you not to give me a time or place.

I wouldn't think of it. Certainly not D’Angelo’s. You can count on me not to pick you up on time, like 6:00-ish.

And you can count on me not being home.

I really hate the sound of this. Positively dreadful.

The worst.

I won’t see you then.

Nope, me neither.

* * *

Yeech, I must look away. You look awful.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look this bad.

I don’t want a table or a booth if you’ll be there, too.

Neither's all right with me. I don't want to be seen with you.

Don’t look, the hostess is avoiding us. By all means, speak up.

“Good evening. Table for two, for dinner?”

Well, no . . .

“Oh, would you prefer a booth? Let's take a look. Yes, there happens to be one available. If you'll please follow me.”

* * *

So, what don’t you want? I’m broke and have zero credit.

I’d like to end this fiasco with a gin martini with a twist. I need not say it, but I really hate this place.

I'm sure it feels the same about you. I think I’d rather die than have a Bullet Rye Manhattan on the rocks. Makes me sick just thinking about it.

Sounds horrid. I wouldn’t dream of changing my mind and having one, too.

That is one insane thought. This is really no fun at all.

Frankly, I despise the whole thing. Thoroughly.

I don’t know why we’re not better at this! Stunning lack of imagination, you think?

We obviously have slow doughy brains that don’t work so good; faulty wiring at the base of it.

Well, and I always knew you were a dumb shit from the start.

Be reckless and keep your voice up. The waiter’s heading away from us.

“Good evening. I’m Richard, I’ll be taking care of you tonight. May I start you off with cocktails?  Oh, I see. And are you pointing . . . is the house brand to your liking? Right here, next to . . . no. Ah, then Bullet Rye? Of course. Two? Perfect. Is that . . . of course. I’ll give you time with the menu and be back with your drink order.”

Ugh, I’m so unhappy. This is no fun at all!  I could cry!

No, I’m just as bummed as you are. So, what don’t you want? What looks bad?

Ooh, I hate everything! I couldn't care less what you think!

* * *

“Good night. Hope you enjoyed your time with us. We enjoyed having you. Hope to see you again soon.” 

“Strange couple.”

“I thought at first they were mute, but then I could see them talking to each other. A complete mystery.”

“You never really know what goes on between two people, do you?”

“Not sure I’d want to. He did leave a generous tip, I noticed.”

“That’s what matters.”


* * *

Well, Dan, what a horrible evening. The moon is so ugly; don’t even look at it. Just awful.

I really wasn’t thinking of parking the car like over here. How about we ignore each other, and the scenery?

No, that’s not good. Terrible idea. You're rather clueless.

I really wasn't wondering, but do you want to stop what we’re doing?

I’m confident I know exactly what it is you’re saying, and I’m sure it’s not intended to be a trap.

Of course it’s a trap. I don’t really want to know what you think; I haven’t thought about it at all.  Okay, well, I’m not surprised you’re staring at me like that and I'm not questioning why.  It's not like I really care what you think.

Why don’t you just keep on talking, maybe louder, so I can completely stop enjoying this shitty evening.

(Long silent pause)

Uh, Dan?

No, I don’t think it’s a police car.

I'm not thinking so either. No, no, it's definitely not!

Hey, so why are you frowning like that, so unhappy?

Oh, it's not at all that I'm sensing victory or anything. I have every confidence you’ll handle this situation perfectly because, after all, you're so quick on the draw.

Oh, so I don't see, and I have no idea what you're talking about. I suggest you don't watch this.

Game on, Sport. Don't count your cash.

Let's not hold our horses. Doesn’t remain to be seen, does it? I had no idea you could be so lovely and supportive in tight situations. What a pal.

I’m an absolute angel! You didn't know that?

(Knock, knock)

“Roll your window down, sir.”

(Window rolled down)

“May I see your license and registration, please?”

(Pulls out wallet, opens glove compartment, hands officer)

“I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

Oh, Dan, this is so terrible! I'm so scared - for you.

Yeah, well, thanks for the encouragement, Angel.

I wasn't thinking just now that I hope you don’t have $100 on you. I’m positive you won’t be settling any bets tonight. Hmm, I’m not sure what I want first. Haven't given it a thought.

You’re so beautiful when you think you’re losing a bet, I imagine you don't know that.

I hate you, too, bubbie.

“All right, sir. Here's your ID. Everything appears in order. There’s been a rash of armed robberies in this area. I suggest you two head elsewhere if you want to . . . talk.”

(Dan gives the officer a smile and a thumbs up)

“You people don't talk much, do ya? Yeah, all right then. On your way.”

Aw, too bad, looks like that hundred and I will have to part ways, after all, booby.

Booby? You do have a way with words. You’re really such a . . . gem of a guy. And just now? You got so not lucky.  Arrgh.

You’re not implying anything personal from that lucky comment, are ya?

Course I am.  I'd definitely get turned on because I'd come so close to losing money and the opportunity to own a genie for a weekend; then to have it suddenly not be mine, all not mine.

Wow, you really are terrible at this game, aren’t you? 

I don’t really have to put my whole mind to it, as I doubt you do.  I'm lying but I don’t think we should head back. It’s early.

I’d really hate to kiss you. I don't care what you think.

I think you’d better not.

I won’t.


* * *

“Brandy emailed; said she feels worse than she did yesterday. She’s going to try to make it in tomorrow. Poor kid.”

* * *

“I got a text from Dan, says his laryngitis is worse and he doesn’t want to spread it around.  Says he’ll check in later. I could see it was pretty bad yesterday; hope I don’t get it.”

* * *

You make really terrible toast. The tea is awful, too. You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?  Complete disaster.

I’m glad you’re so miserable. Last night was one of the worst nights of my life, you know.

How would I? I wasn’t here.

Sometimes you make more sense when you’re not making sense.

Well, that makes sense.

I’d sure hate to kiss more sense into you.

Well, then, don’t take my toast away, you heartless bastard.

You are such a witchy bitch.

Yeah, yeah, keep talking. I'm listening.

* * *

I’m beginning to think this contest is stupid.

I’m beginning to think it’s brilliant.

I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

I know what you’re trying not to say.

You do?

You don’t?

Well, I can trust you, am I wrong?

Uh . . . wait a minute, I don’t . . .

Ooh. You weren't, like, tripped up there, were you?

Sure, I am, if that’s not what you’re trying to do.

Poor recovery, Brandy. Very poor.

You’re not welcome. I was in real trouble there, don’t doubt it.

Well, you know how naïve I can be. 

I know nothing of the sort.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I don’t know what you mean by that. Not very tricky.

I mean it, Brandy. I’m not kidding.

Listen, I have no clue what you’re talking about. It’s a pretty feeble attempt though, Slick. Let's just back up.

Brandy, look at me. Let’s stop. I quit.

Oh, you mean you're not all in? Yeah, I buy that.

What I’m trying to say is I’m developing real feelings here. I think that’s more important than this stupid bet, and I mean it!

Oh, that really makes me glad you talked me into this. So you can tell me how much you care about me?

Wait. What?

It’s so not like you to be honest and above-board. 

I'm not . . .

I don’t need or want my clothes!

Hey, enough already! What I’m trying to say . . .

Keep talking, yeah, you’re so wonderful! Yeah, I’m really happy! 

Where are you going?

I didn’t think you really cared.  I’m so glad I ever met you!

I do care! I’m going crazy here! Brandy!

Yeah, well, HELLO, Handsome! 

But . . . Brandy?

(Door slams)

This is all wrong.

* * *

Brandy? Are you crying? What happened? Can I do anything?

Oh, Pam. I didn’t know you were home. Ack. I’m fine, I just feel so stupid and I'm so confused! I don’t know what’s real anymore.

Wait, first, is your game over? Is this the real you talking?

Fuck that stupid, stupid bet. It’s worth a hundred just to end it.

What? You mean you lost?

I honestly don’t know. 

How is that possible?

I don’t know!

Oh, now, don’t cry. Has something happened? 

I don’t know. I think I’m falling for Dan. And because of the bet, I don’t know if he really cares about me or if he’s trying to trick me.  If it’s all part of the game, I’m going to feel like such an idiot and now I have no idea what to do!

Ooooh - kay. I’m not your mother but I am the next best thing. So, is that where you were last . . . ah, ooooh - kay.

* * *

Brandy, may I come in? I brought you some chamomile. 


Feeling any better?

Not really, but I’m glad you’re here, Pam.  Thanks for the tea.  You're a sista.

You know, there’s something kind of Shakespearean about this twisted entanglement you and Dan have gotten yourselves into.  Have you thought of it that way? It’s sort of romantic, don’t you think?

Not feelin’ it. Verbal trickery isn’t exactly poetry. It feels like living in a labyrinth. And it’s hard to tell without an ending just how romantic it is. 

Hmm, or maybe even better, the lack of one.  Ah, there it is.  I thought there might be a smile in there somewhere. Chin up, my friend. Life is but a play . . . or something.

‘All the world’s a stage . . .

. . . and all the men and women . . .

. . . merely players.’

Indeed, girl. And you and Dan are, and have always been, players.  I’m thinking maybe you’ve met your match.

Or maybe just the opposite.

You’ll have to figure it out, Brandy.  Think on it, sip your tea, I’ll leave you to your Midsummer Night’s whatever.


Yes, that. I’ll be in the kitchen. 

* * *

Hey, Brandy!  Glad to see you back. Feeling better?

Sure.  What’s happening here?

You didn’t miss much. You’ll be back up to speed in no time.

That would be nice.

A messenger left something on your desk yesterday.


* * *

Hey, Dan! Someone here to see you!


In the main room. Go ahead. I’ll cover.

Thanks, man. I owe you.

Yeah, well, she’s pretty fine, Dan.


* * *

(Long silent, awkward pause)

I came to return this to you.

Why? You won, fair and square.

So, uhm, you were earnest, is what you’re saying?

Well, I didn’t know how else I could convince you.

I don’t want your money.  Here, take it. So, then, just tell me straight, it’s over?

Yes and no.  

Oh god, no more word play. Dan, I’m exhausted.

Truce. Let’s call it a draw. 

So, we both win?

That’s what I’m saying.

Can I tell you what I really, really, really wish?


Let’s not talk for a while, okay?

Good deal.


January 30, 2023 19:40

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Sarah Martyn
20:57 Feb 05, 2023

Goodness, the mental focus this required was a lot! But I mean that as a compliment. Seems you doubled down on the prompt for the plot. I quite enjoyed this! I'd love if you read my submission in another prompt, and if you have feedback or want to like it, thank you in advance! It's "When Tomorrow Finally Comes" -> https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/zl376y/


Susan Catucci
23:56 Feb 05, 2023

Of course, I'd be pleased to read what you have - that's what we're here for, And many thanks for your comments, Sarah, So appreciated. Thank you for taking the time! As a PS. if you'd "like" the story, that's always a welcome addition, too. (meant that to be subtle) :)


Sarah Martyn
18:09 Feb 06, 2023

Thank you, Susan! Of course!


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Michał Przywara
00:51 Feb 01, 2023

Ha, this was fun :) It starts off funny, gets hilarious, and then dips into maddening when things go too far (or don't go too far?) lol One line did trip me up tbough: "Once I've lost lose" - seems like one too many words. Great take on the prompt! The restaurant was funny as were the observations of people around them, but the part where it all falls apart was tense. No doubt it would be absolutely maddening keeping that up for a long time.


Susan Catucci
01:01 Feb 01, 2023

Hahaha - great minds, Michal - I just fixed that typo about the lost/lose as you were commenting. Now, THAT's fun! I'm immensely pleased with your reaction; this was a personal leap of faith for me with this one. A challenge to write but without real confidence how it may be received. You made my day and, yes, I really mean it. :)


Michał Przywara
21:48 Feb 01, 2023

I can definitely relate to a gut twisting anxiety about how a story will be received :) The nice thing about this weekly story format is, it's very good for experimentation, because at worst you've written off a week. But you still learn something, and most experiments pay off :)


Susan Catucci
22:42 Feb 01, 2023

Very true, and the community here is a lovely one, with talent and meaningful feedback. We all want to improve and to see our fellow writers do the same. That's all too rare in the world out there. :)


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Wendy Kaminski
01:15 Jan 31, 2023

lol This back-and-forth was cute but I can see how she got exhausted! I lost the thread when Dan started in on the feelings. Don't toy with us, Dan!! - “Good evening. Table for two, for dinner?” - hah Didn't see that coming, did you guys?! That dinner was so awkward lol. Lucky they didn't get kicked out - even luckier they didn't get a ticket later on! - "So, what don’t you want? I’m broke and have zero credit." Probably one of my favorite lines! :) - "And because of the bet, I don’t know if he really cares about me or if he’s trying to ...


Susan Catucci
01:48 Jan 31, 2023

Whew - pick me up off the floor! This was a leap of faith, let me just say it. I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars - you like me? You really like me! I just hope it's not part of a dare. :)


Wendy Kaminski
01:58 Jan 31, 2023

LOL :)


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