9: “Wow, fancy seeing you here!”

Emma set Griffin up on a date. Regrettably, he didn’t know that was what was happening when he agreed to go. She had prefaced it as a night out with her and Jesse. Naturally, wanting to spend as much time with her as humanly possible, Griffin readily accepted the invitation. These kinds of situations were perfect because she was the one who had reached out and extended the invitation. He felt it was less creepy if she was the one who invited him. He wasn’t sure how true that really was, though. Luke assured him it was just as creepy, but Luke was grumpy as hell and Griffin was prepared to take his opinion lightly.

Griffin and Jesse met Emma at the restaurant she had specified, only to discover that she had brought her roommate Gemma with her. It was very clearly intended as a double date. Plus Emma had told him numerous times how great she thought he and Gemma would be as a couple. Griffin had met Gemma a few times and, though he wasn’t opposed to her a human being, he had never been all that interested in her. He was sure this was at least partly because of his feelings for Emma, but he also didn’t think that he and Gemma had very much in common. For instance, he spent most of his free time watching various sporting events. She had once told him, in great detail, about a pottery class she was taking so that she could learn to make her own mugs to sell at fairs and markets.

Griffin made it roughly twenty minutes into dinner before he fled to the bathroom and called for help. Emma and Jesse had made sure that he was sitting directly across from Gemma and they kept talking in soft voices so that Griffin had no other option but to converse with Gemma. Since they had approximately one thing in common, that being Emma, the conversation had been more than a little stilted. Griffin was prepared to say that it had run dry after only twenty forced minutes together. They hadn’t even ordered their appetizers yet. He’d already had one pint, was currently waiting for another, and he didn’t think he would able to leave the dinner without drunkenly making an ass of himself or doing serious damage to his liver.

He called Bear first, but he didn’t answer. Griffin vaguely recalled him having plans with some other friends. He considered calling Bill or maybe Ward, but both seemed unlikely to be free on a Friday night. Bill might’ve been, but the chance of him being willing to leave his home was almost as low as the chance of him getting spectacularly drunk and crying once he made it dinner was high. So Griffin called Dylan under the hope that he would be willing to come save him, possibly with Godfrey, Luke, or both in tow.

“’Lo?” Dylan answered the phone, chewing. He was constantly eating. Griffin was amazed that he didn’t weigh four hundred pounds.

“Emma and Jesse have tricked me into a double date with her roommate Gemma,” Griffin explained immediately. He’d already been in the bathroom for a suspicious length of time. He would have to make his phone conversation with Dylan concise if he wanted to keep up appearances.

“Emma and Gemma?” Dylan returned. “That’s stupid.”

Griffin wasn’t inclined to disagree. Emma and Gemma claimed it was charming, but he wasn’t so sure that was the case.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Listen, I need you to come to the restaurant we’re at and pretend like you just happened to show up for your own meal. Then you can come sit with us and save me from having to talk to Gemma about crafting all evening.”

Dylan was quiet on the other end for a moment, save for the sound of him chewing.

“I can’t show up to dinner by myself,” he pointed out after a moment. “That would be so obvious.”

“Well, bring Luke then,” Griffin suggested hurriedly. The longer he stayed in the bathroom, the more suspicious it would be when Dylan finally did show up. Alternatively, it would make it seem like he had dysentery or some other horrible toilet-related illness.

“How likely does that seem?” Dylan asked shrewdly. The thing was that it actually seemed fairly likely that Luke would agree to go if Dylan asked him to. If Griffin asked Luke himself, there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that he would turn up. Dylan, however, had this inexplicable power over Luke. It was the reason he could get Luke to cook him dinner all the time.

“Or Godfrey,” Griffin offered in a last-ditch attempt at saving himself. Dylan was quiet again, save for his chewing. Then he sighed deeply.

“Alright, fuck it, whatever. Where are you?”

By the time Dylan finally turned up at the restaurant, both Godfrey and Luke in tow, Griffin had finished his second pint and had ordered a third. Their table had a plate of nachos in front of them and Gemma was still trying to decide what she wanted to order for a main. Griffin couldn’t tell if she was pleased with his presence or not. She certainly wasn’t making any effort to hurry things along. It seemed unfathomable to Griffin that she would actually want to spend time with him seeing as how they’d struggled to find a topic of conversation both of them could participate in. In the end, the best they could come up with was cars and they weren’t even talking about cool cars. They were talking about Griffin’s own beige Honda CR-V that his mother had gifted to him after buying a much nicer car for herself. Griffin was running out of things to say about Hondas. His big talking point was that he’d heard some Hondas were expensive to insure. It was about the most adult thing he’d ever uttered, it wasn’t alluring in the slightest, and he hated himself a little bit for even thinking it, let alone voicing it out loud.

“Wow, fancy seeing you here!” Dylan said with far too much enthusiasm and pointedness for it not to be obvious to at least Jesse, but likely also Emma, that Griffin had called him. Jesse gave Griffin a very unimpressed look, which Griffin studiously ignored.

“Would you guys like to join us?” Emma asked graciously. Luke’s facial expression very clearly said he would rather have his toe nails ripped off over the course of eight hours, but he pulled a chair over from a neighbouring table and sat down anyway. The wait staff wouldn’t like that, not to mention it was now incredibly cramped at their table for four. Godfrey had pulled up a chair at the end between Emma and Jesse, which left Dylan and Luke to share the small space at the other end between Gemma and Griffin. Luke’s right knee was digging into Griffin’s thigh. Dylan, meanwhile, was grinning at Gemma. She seemed uncomfortable, not that Griffin really blamed her for that. Dylan could be truly unnerving.

After dinner had ended, two pints and an entree later for Griffin, he and Jesse made their way back to their apartment, leaving Emma and Gemma to head to theirs and Godfrey, Dylan, and Luke to go home to theirs as well. The evening hadn’t been a total disaster, but it surely hadn’t been the success Emma had been picturing. Gemma and Griffin had not had a love connection to last the ages. On the other hand, Gemma had managed to talk to Dylan about succulents for a good thirty minutes, which was approximately thirty minutes longer than Griffin would’ve been able to discuss it.

“Emma just wants you to be happy,” Jesse told Griffin as they walked home. The irony of the statement wasn’t lost on Griffin.

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