What a fucking agonizing mess. Even though he sat staring at his date as if he was listening very intently, Tomas was a long way away, drifting off in his own mind in an attempt to escape without seeming too extremely rude. He'd already tried to leave twice - couldn't even get to the bathroom without her grabbing him by the sleeve of his arm and acting like maybe they were both going to head into a back room somewhere. Tomas wasn't interested. He happily dabbled in the dating app game - never really with much intention of meeting someone he could spend the rest of his life with, but because it often promised a night of fun or at least some simple entertainment. There were quite a few hits, but when the misses arrived - Christ they were hard to handle.

All things considered, Tomas had a great deal of patience for these kinds of things. But his patience had to fray eventually, and it really hadn't helped that his date - Denise? Deborah? Daniella? - had started the night off by pitching her ten newest app ideas to him. He'd continually tried to explain to her that he didn't own a company that produced apps, and even when he had been at the top of Emerging Inc. they'd never dealt in app development. But he lived in San Francisco, she'd say, he'd probably know somebody. That had been the start of it, and beyond her aggressive foot trying to find its way between his legs at any available opportunity, he hadn't been able to get a word in edgewise, hadn't been able to order his own dinner or drinks, and was just about ready to knock the table over and be done with it and have his publicist deal with the repercussions later.

Thankfully before that could happen he caught sight of a vaguely familiar looking face through the crowd. Somebody he knew, maybe - or, no, somebody Callie knew. That sounded about right, and when he caught her gaze he offered a helpless looking smile-cringe.

As work regularly kept her at the hospital for at least twelve hours at a time, her free time was limited and there was only so much that she could accomplish while trying to stay afloat. Things that could be automated or outsourced were, and that meant investing in things like laundry service and a steady rotation between Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats, all so that Nora wouldn't have to spend her one day off a week cooking and cleaning and other things that fell into the general category of adulting.

Her usual takeout go-tos had all started to taste the same, as they often did when they became a too-frequent habit. At the very least, she could use a change of scenery. Something to make her peel herself off of the couch and get some fresh air, to force herself out into a world filled with people when most of the people she chose to deal with on a daily basis were under heavy sedation. After some hemming and hawing and grumbling, she found herself seated at the bar at a neighborhood spot, nursing an ineffective beer and reading a book on her phone while she picked away at a plate filled with odd fusion tacos that probably shouldn't have seen the light of day.

The book wasn't as engaging as she thought it would be and the food less so; her focus strayed as she tried to eavesdrop on conversations happening around her. Her options seemed to be: friends reuniting while someone else was in town, what seemed to be an odd business dinner, and one of the most awkward first dates she had had the pleasure of witnessing. Obviously, the first date was primo dinner theater-levels of entertainment and she readjusted her seat so that she could get a better view of the disaster unfolding in front of her. Nora smiled to herself at various points in their conversation, bowing her head down so as to maintain somewhat of a low profile, one that was (un)fortunately blown when she made eye contact with one half of that date. It took a few moments to jog her mental rolodex — she recognized him but couldn't remember his name — but she couldn't help but laugh anyway and shot him a knowing smile in acknowledgment. She took a moment to collect herself and come up with a feasible cover story. Plucking the napkin off of her lap and placing it on her bar, she slipped her phone into the back pocket of her jeans and made her way over to the table.

Nora mustered up a few crocodile tears and the weepiest-without-being-over-the-top voice that she could. "...Dad?"

Now this was a performance Tomas wish could be recorded. His eyebrows flew up in genuine surprise when Callie's friend rose up to actually, thankfully help him - and not just by interrupting to say oh, your car is on fire, or something along those lines. He didn't exactly know where this was going but it was a far cry better than where his night had been headed otherwise. "Uh..." Tomas answered at first, too taken aback and too amused at the same time to do much of anything else, and his date's eyes went wide as they flew between the teary girl and Tomas.

"Do you, uh, do you know her?" She asked, her nose wrinkling, her expression slowly morphing from over-eager to trepidation. Tomas looked between her, to Nora, and back again, now collecting himself and doing his best to lean into some kind of part. Any part. Whatever would distract his date long enough for him to escape, or for her to leave, or anything. Not answering his date - at least not right away, anyway - Tomas started to rise from the table, looking at Nora with hesitant concern.

"Belinda?" He asked finally, "Is it really you?" God, he thought, this was next level soap opera. Meanwhile, Tomas' date's mouth was hanging open - not with excitement at some kind of strange reunion, but because she was mortally offended that he had just ignored her.

Belinda. A poorly timed sniffle turned into a snort at the sound of her new name and she winced as she shook her head in attempt to play it off. "Sorry, my allergies have been so bad, and they get worse with stress, and...it's Melinda, Dad. But that's okay. That head injury, I know," she babbled and sniffled once more for effect. "It took a lot out of both of us."

Exactly who had supposedly suffered a head injury in this scenario was unclear, but she had her character and she was running with it. The direction she was going in wasn't anymore apparent but she leaned into the part and before she knew it, words were spilling out of her mouth. "I just...I didn't know you would actually come to town. I sent the invitation and all, but—" Nora let out a dramatic sob and covered her face with her palms. She hadn't even acknowledged the woman sitting at the table, and she kept her focus on Tomas, knowing that even one quick glance in the wrong direction could make her dissolve into a fit of laughter. "This means so much to me."

"Melinda, right, right," Tomas answered with a cringe that could both count for someone who maybe had experienced a head injury, or was a deadbeat dad, or was absolutely lying through his teeth and had no real idea which way they were going with this story but was all in for seeing it to the very end. His date was still staring gobsmacked, her ire growing with each passing second, and it only grew again when Nora suggested that her 'father' was there for her. "Excuse me--" She started to interrupt, but Tomas leaped forward and away from the table to wrap Nora in a big, dramatic hug.

"Of course I'd come for you!" He sighed, trying to use his best soap opera voice, ruffling Nora's hair and swaying her this way and that and trying desperately not to laugh. "I just -- lost my way! After the car crash... Things have been so hard." Tomas' date had absolutely no idea what was happening, but she was annoyed by it and felt uncomfortable and like she was somehow intruding at the same time, so she made a face and carefully started to slip up from her chair. "Um, maybe I should, uh-- maybe I'll just leave you two for a second, give you some space," she said, though Tomas interrupted immediately with a loud, "Oh, Matilda! I've missed you so much!"

She bit her lip and buried her face in Tomas' shoulder, both for dramatic effect and to mask the laughter that was threatening to spill over. "No, of course," she finally managed to squeak out. "The accident...that was awful. I don't know how you managed to rescue so many people before you went into shock." As the scene unfolded, Nora added the restaurant to the mental list of places that she was a regular at but would need to give a break. At least the reason for this break was because of...this, whatever it was, and not because she'd destroyed an entire dining room in an attempt to fend off some superhuman lackeys.

SShe sensed some movement from the general direction of the woman sitting at the table, but Nora was still determined to avoid any and all eye contact with her and kept up the ruse and took a half-step back from Tomas. "I've missed you so much too, Dad. It just...it means so much to me that you'd come out for graduation. Flights from Brunei to here can't be easy to find. …But it's Lucinda."

Not only was he not noticing that she was leaving, but now things were just getting strange. Had she popped the wrong pills that evening? Tomas' date stared at the two of them and whatever was going on between them with an expression of pure and unadulterated confusion and just a little bit of horror. "Right. Okay. I'm gonna--" She continued, thinking maybe this last ditch effort would get Tom to look at her again, or even the girl to turn towards her, but Tomas was too busy looking up at the ceiling in thought.

"Lucinda? Right. Lucinda!" He agreed, since obviously that was her name, or was it Melinda? Anyway - nobody was keeping track, because the cracks were starting to show on Tomas' face, a smile starting to twitch and grow and grow. His date let out a very cranky huff and turned on her heel to storm away, and Tomas finally started giggling, throwing a hand up to cover his face and tugging Nora in again for a laughter-hiding half-hug. "Oh, God, I'm gonna pay for that tomorrow." He sighed, still laughing, "She's not happy. But thank you. Thank you. You're marvelous."

She didn't need to see that his date had left; Tomas' laughter had confirmed as much and she could hear her stomp away, the mystery date's heartbeat growing further and further into the distance. "Are you sure?" she laughed, brushing her hair out of her face as she pulled away. "If I were her I'd call you just to get the scoop, but I wouldn't want a second date."

Her laughter died down eventually but the smile remained plastered on her face, still amused by the scene that had just unfolded, and admittedly, proud of herself for coming up with such a great distraction on the fly, let alone for being able to keep up with the ruse for as long as she had. "Dude, she was awful. I only heard parts of your conversation, where do find these people?" Nora paused for a moment and her eyes grew wide-eyed. "Wait, was that even a date? Was that a business meeting?