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Sabrina didn’t have to get out of bed until six thirty, but she always sets an alarm for six a.m. She spent those thirty minutes in bed, resting, before the chaos of the day overwhelmed her. Her mother once found her in bed, resting, and laughed at her. What do you need rest for? She would say. You just woke up. You should already be rested. To which Sabrina replied: You don’t get it. She didn’t try to explain herself to her mother. She doesn’t yearn for her approval.

On mornings like this one, when Sabrina is extra sleepy, she scrolls on her social media looking for something to jolt her awake. Something surprising or even slightly upsetting. Something small, though. She didn’t want to be too upset, but she did want a reason to face the day, to either prove to herself that she can still turn her day around, or to carry that feeling with her and still get things done. This morning, what upset her was a photo of one of her high school friends, someone she hadn’t spoken to in years, vacationing in Greece. What business does she have going to Greece? She probably doesn’t even know where in Greece she is, if asked to point it out on a map.

Sabrina had only slept for five hours because she had been eagerly awaiting her second date with Michael from Tinder. On their first date, last week, Michael asked her out to one of his favorite coffee shops. He knew she loved coffee, which she thought was very considerate. He pays attention. How rare it is to find a man that pays attention.

For their second date, they both decided that going out to eat was the perfect second date activity. Sabrina suggested that she pick a restaurant, since he chose last time. Did you not like my choice of coffee shop? Michael asked. No, of course I did. But I’ve been wanting to go to this place for dinner for a while. Sabrina sent him the Yelp page of the restaurant. To this, Michael responded: Alright, meet you there at 7? Sabrina beamed.

Michael texted her last night, at two in the morning: looking forward to our date ;). She grinned at the message, pleased at the butterflies in her stomach. She was excited and she was glad that her body agreed with her. She spent ten minutes deciding what to text back. She wanted to say: so am I! But she was trying to be cool and nonchalant. So she moved on to: oh that’s today? Hahaha. But no, that was both corny, and so far from the truth that it becomes a lie rather than a non-truth. In the end, she decided to say: see you tonight :).

“Happy Friday!” Her boss sang out as he walked past her desk. Sabrina smiled at her. I hope it is, she thought to herself. I hope no one ruins it for me.

Sabrina works as an administrative assistant for an advertising company. Which sounds much more important than it is. In reality, she runs around and gets coffee for those in her office who have bigger roles — which is basically everyone. She was once asked to bring coffee to an intern. She walked around with her shoulders slumped and her face red for the rest of the day. How embarrassing it is to serve unpaid employees. She felt more eyes on her than usual that day. People who were probably judging her and laughing.

But she liked her job. For the most part, anyway. She liked not sitting at an office for eight hours a day. That must get really boring. And she liked being able to attend meetings and judge other peoples’ work without the pressure of presenting anything herself. She sometimes came up with campaign ideas, and then imagined what each person at her office would think of it.

That’s been done before.

Too tame.

This is why you’re an assistant and not a writer.




For most of the workday, Sabrina did the usual: run around, get coffee, print things, fax things, staple things. Until three o’clock, when she had to attend a meeting with her boss. This meeting is with a potential client. It’s a big one, her boss told her, so make sure you’re more precise and exact than usual. Sabrina nodded but her stomach dropped. Had her work not been precise and exact? Oh, God. I’m going to get fired, aren’t I?

She felt nauseous for the entirety of the thirty minutes between her boss telling her about the meeting and her attending it. Her stomach rumbled and she excused herself to the restroom three times.

Once inside the meeting room, Sabrina tried to compose herself enough to steady her shaking hands. She asked what everyone would like to drink, and the two execs from the other company started with a grande . . . which meant she had to run to Starbucks. The Starbucks across the street. Which takes ten minutes to get to, and another fifteen to get the coffees and back. She looked at her boss, who just nodded and mouthed: Be quick.

Sabrina managed to get back in record time, fourteen minutes, but kept her arms plastered to her sides so that they didn’t see the sweat stains forming there. Her boss took the coffee from her, smiled and said: “Thank you.” Sabrina smiled back nervously.

She took it that the meeting went very well, judging from her Boss’s disposition, which was more upbeat than usual. Sabrina can typically guess someone’s mood with ninety percent accuracy. She knew how to identify the minor, yet very important expressions and tones of people, often being able to gauge when someone was mad at her before they said anything. She considered it a skill: avoiding getting hurt by always anticipating it. That way she is never surprised when she is abandoned or disappointed, because she has already detached.

Her work day ended early, at four-thirty, when her boss walked out of the office and wished her a good rest of her day. Her boss leaving meant that she could leave. She knew that this was good. She wasn’t going to get fired, she was only overthinking things. Relief flooded her and she relaxed into her body, feeling five pounds lighter.

Being dismissed early meant she had an extra thirty minutes to get ready for her date. She planned the night on her way home. Her commute was an hour long, which meant that she would be home at five-thirty, but she gave herself an extra ten minutes in case something went wrong. She anticipated showering from five-forty to five-fifty-five, dry her hair until six-ten, style her hair and do her makeup until six-forty, and get dressed and out the door by six-fifty, which meant that she would be at the restaurant at exactly seven. Still, she texted Michael letting him know she might be running a bit late — just in case. She didn’t want him to form a bad impression of her this early.

Haha, getting ready already? Someone’s excited. He texted her.

No, hahaha. I just need to run a quick errand after work. :) She texted back. She wondered if he thought she was a freak and a liar. Butterflies crowded her stomach. Sabrina ended up being ready by six-twenty, powered by her anxiety about the date, and her anxiety about being late for the date. And also by her anxiety about the date going badly. She prepared some questions to ask him in case the conversation gets dry at any point, and then she googled: what to expect on a restaurant date, and checked out three different links about the topic. They tell her to put her phone away during the dinner, which again triggers the butterflies in her stomach. But she wrote the questions down in her notes! How will she know what to say when the conversation stops?

Michael had been nice on their first date. She tried to remember details about it, which were hard for her to make out. She remembered how she felt rather than what actually happened. She was certain Michael asked her about her friends, which she was thrilled about. He cared about her personal life! He wanted to meet her friends! She asked him about his friends back, and he gave her glimpses. Some guys’ names she didn’t remember, something about playing ball, something about high school.

She had spent most of that date fixated on herself. Does she look good? She tried to imagine how her face looked to him. She reacted accordingly and correctly. Smiled when he made a joke or started laughing, mirrored his body language, sipped on her drink gracefully, fixed her hair when it fell behind her shoulder.

“You’re so pretty.” He had told her at some point. She grinned and thanked him, relieved that her efforts had been acknowledged.

She thought about that comment for the rest of the week, and again prior to their second date. He thinks I’m pretty! I hope he doesn’t ever change his mind. What if I have food in my teeth? He won’t find me pretty anymore. Oh, god. I forgot to consider that! I need to eat something soft and light, so that stuff won’t get stuck in my teeth and my breath won’t smell. I also need to take smaller bites, and—OH! I should bring floss . . .

They met outside the restaurant at five past seven. Sabrina had got there at six-fifty-nine, but Michael texted her, saying that he was running a bit late. No worries! She texted back. She saw him walking down the street but looked away immediately, busying herself with her phone so that he didn’t think she was looking for him. Too eager, too desperate! She needed to look cool. Nonchalant. Chill.

I don’t need him, I don’t need him, I don’t need—

“Hey!” He took wide strides toward her, catching her off-guard. She wanted to give him a once-over, but he quickly hugged her with one arm. One of her arms got stuck between them awkwardly. She cringed, imagining what they look like to a passer-by.

“Hi! How are you?” Sabrina asked him. He pulled away, and she looked at his outfit discreetly. He was wearing a red t-shirt and black jeans and Vans. She compared his attire to her own and immediately felt embarrassed that she was overdressed, in her little white dress and heeled sandals. They looked like they were going to different places. Like they didn’t fit. People were probably wondering what he’s doing with her. She’s trying too hard.

Once inside, she noticed that most people were well-dressed, more like her than like him. She then looked at Michael and smiled, feeling embarrassed for him. “Hey, I made a reservation for seven. We’re a few minutes late, sorry!” Sabrina told the hostess, her voice barely louder than a whisper.

“Follow me.” She told them, leading them to their table and setting menus down. “You made a reservation?” Michael smiled, settling into his seat across from her. The restaurant was dim and his face was lit by the candle in the centre of the table. Sabrina felt embarrassed again, at the seriousness of the restaurant. It’s more of an anniversary restaurant than a second-date one. She should have let him decide. She should have been more laidback. He probably thinks she’s very serious.

“Yeah,” Sabrina smiled at the candle. “I just—I don’t know. People say this place gets busy. I just wanted to make sure we had a table.”

“Well, that’s thoughtful.” He smiled, which slightly reassured Sabrina. Thoughtful is good, right? The opposite of thoughtful would be thoughtless, which Sabrina didn’t want to be. So it must be good . . .

“How was work today?” Michael asked. “Come up with anything interesting?” She met Michael on a dating app, and didn’t expect to ever go on a date with him, so she lied about her job. Well, she didn’t exactly lie. She told him she worked in advertising, which was true. But when he assumed she was a writer, she didn’t deny it. It made her look more interesting. What kind of a loser would she sound like if she told him she worked as an assistant at an advertising firm?

“No,” Sabrina smiled, feeling her face redden. “Mostly attended meetings.” She recounted to him her meeting from earlier, but from the perspective of the client, rather than her own.

“How was your work?” She asked. She forgot what he did for a moment and felt the panic set in, but he started to ramble about how he develops apps for a living. He spent some time telling her about it, while she readjusted her clothes and her hair and made sure to smile and nod.

The waiter came around and got their orders. A white wine for her, a beer for him, a chicken salad for her, a steak and fries for him. She tried to figure out whether he was a I like-girls-who-barely-eat kind of guy, or a I-like-a-woman-who-eats kind of guy. Either was fine, but she needed to know who to be for him. But he didn’t comment when she ordered, just continued to ramble about something. She considered this a good sign. He was probably one of those I-don’t-care-what-you-eat guys.

While he talked, Sabrina remembered how handsome she found him. It’s the kind of attraction that grows on you. He’s not super photogenic, but he’s cute in action. He doesn’t smile in photos, so his dimples don’t show, and he also doesn’t know how to style his hair, so it’s usually a mess until he runs a hand through it. Which Sabrina thought was really hot, how his hair moves up and cascades back down when he drops his hand. She thought about how nice it would be to touch.

She felt like they suited each other. Neither of them was significantly more attractive than the other. People wouldn’t tell her that she was punching, and they probably wouldn’t ask why he was with her, either.

He asked her something and she snapped back into the conversation. “Hmm?”

He laughed, she hoped not at her, and asked again: “do you like that wine?”

“Oh, yeah. Do you want to try it?” She offered him the glass. He swirled it and took a sip. Sabrina thought: Oh, my god, a man that drinks wine? He’s totally a feminist. I can tell. “Mmm,” he furrowed his eyebrows. “That’s nice. Kind of sweet.”

Sabrina wasn’t a drinker, and she definitely wasn’t a wine drinker, so she didn’t think it was sweet at all. She just knew to order wine because it made her look cool. Like she did drink. But she liked the idea that he thought this was who she was, and she said: “Isn’t it?”

Their dinner arrived and she reminded herself to take small bites and chew slowly. She picked up her phone under the table a few times and opened the camera app to check if something was in her teeth.

Her phone remained in her lap. She used it again, but only twice, to look at the questions in her notes app. She asked him, on two separate occasions:

“Do you have any hobbies?” and “what’s your guilty pleasure?”

He responded to the first one with, “I like playing video games sometimes, and on the weekends I hike with a friend.” And for the second one, he shrugged and said: “I don’t think I have one.” Which Sabrina didn’t believe, finding his answer lazy. Think about it! She wanted to say.

He directed the questions back to her, which was nice. It also meant that she could ask him questions that she wanted to be asked herself, so that she can tell him the good qualities and characteristics about herself.

She would pretend to think about the answer at first, saying, “hmm,” and looking away reflectively. Little did he know, she spent the time that it took him to think and respond considering what her own answers would be.

“So, what’s your guilty pleasure?” He asked.

“Not fair. You didn’t answer.” She smirked.


Sabrina groaned. She didn’t want to get into an argument with him, on the second date especially. So she said hesitantly, “I sometimes binge watch The Bachelor.” Which was her first honest answer. She felt nauseous and exposed, as though she had just spilled her deepest, darkest secrets.

Michael scrunched his nose. “Really?” He smiled. “I didn’t take you for that kind of girl.” He took a sip of his beer.

Sabrina smiled, feeling the corners of her mouth twitch. Her heart sank into her stomach and she felt ensuing disappointment in herself, for not being better. For not being the kind of girl he expected her to be. She had failed.

But her mood lifted again when he paid for the dinner. She thanked him and he smiled at her. Once outside, he told her that he would like to see her again and kissed her. It was an awkward first kiss. Their noses clashed and she found his lips to be too wet. But she liked him, and he presumably liked her, and she didn’t want to throw away all of his good characteristics over this one. She could show him how she liked to be kissed eventually.

Once she was back in her apartment, she took off her shoes, popped a couple of Advil’s into her mouth for the migraine, and fell face first onto the bed, satisfied with her successes. Everything went well today. Nothing got ruined. She got what she wanted. A happy Friday, it was.


Mina El Attar

Mina El Attar, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Trinity College Dublin, crafts contemporary short stories that pulse with emotional depth. Her explorations of relationships and friendships, rendered in a captivating stream of consciousness style, invite readers into the intricate landscapes of the human heart. With an innate talent for exploring the intricate human psyche, Mina's stories offer readers a vivid and empathetic window into the complexities of human connection.

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Dec 28, 2023


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