Bran hated blind dates, so the fact he was going to be late for his own didn’t bother him.
Bran had recently moved out of his parent’s house to pursue a job in Brighton six months earlier; but with the exception of a company Christmas party, he hadn’t done much socializing. He was lonely and starting to become depressed; he wanted to make this move work out so finding outlets where he could meet new people was becoming a must. His sister Sansa had suggested that he try a dating app to meet new people, at the very least if he didn’t like the person he would have gotten out of his apartment and have been a part of the real world as it were.
Bran had dismissed her suggestion at the time, but he was desperate for human contact that didn’t involve his work, so he reluctantly took up her suggestion. That didn’t mean he was happy about it though.
Bran looked at the GPS on his phone trying for the fifth time to find the café that his date had suggested they meet at. He looked to his left this time rather than the right and spotted a small sign with the name of the café on it. As he crossed the street his text alert went off, Bran looked down hoping that it wasn’t an emergency; it was from his date.
‘I’ve got a table for us in a back corner; I’m wearing a green jacket, glasses, cream shirt and a smile.’
Bran smiled as he grabbed the door to the Bog café, gazing around he spots a young woman wearing the outfit she’d described in her text in a corner booth sitting across from what appeared to be a stuffed frog.
Taking a deep breath for confidence Bran approached her, as he came abreast of her he noticed that she looked strikingly different than her profile picture; her hair was cropped at her chin as opposed to being piled on top of her head, the glasses really weren’t a surprise, but the silver trident piercing in her right ear was what struck him the most. It shouldn’t have considering his own sister Arya had just about every piercing known to man, much to the horror of their mother.
Bran cleared his throat, “Meera Reed?”
She looked up with a smile, “That would be me, you’re Brandon Stark right?”
Bran nodded, “Um, just call me Bran everyone does.”
Meera gestured to the seat across from her that was occupied by the stuffed frog, “Go ahead and move Mr. Chuckles and have a seat Bran.”
Bran reached for Mr. Chuckles and realized that he didn’t know where to set him, “Um, is there somewhere you want me to set him?”
“Oh just hand him to me I’ll set him with my bag.” Bran briefly noted that her bag was a backpack that was pretty deflated with a variety of books on top of it; she’d been sitting here a while.
“I hope you weren’t waiting for me too long.”
Meera shook her head, “Not at all, my day job is tutoring students with varying degrees of disability and privilege, so I’m either stuck in a campus library or I end up here all day. I much prefer to be here, free refills on drinks.”
Bran smiled at that, her profile had said she was an English studies major. “So are you a student at one of the universities around Brighton?”
“No, I’m done with schooling. I most defiantly do not want to go back it was like living in a nightmare.”
She considered him for a moment, “What about you, are you from Brighton?”
“No, I’m from Bath originally, I moved here a few months back for work.”
The waiter chose that moment to check in on the pair and offer Bran a menu but not Meera.
“Have you already ordered?” Bran asked as he perused the menu.
Meera chuckled, “I’m here so often that if I ask for a menu the cook comes out to see if I’m ok.”
“A creature of habit then,” Bran mused eliciting a soft laugh from Meera, which he decided he liked.
“I guess so, but I tend to be a simple person at heart.”
Bran nearly arched his eyebrow at that remembering her trident piercing, and continued to look at the menu. “So what would you recommend for a newbie like me?”
Meera tilted her head, her playful expression sharpening to something more intense, considering him.
“That depends you’re not a health nut or a vegan are you?” Bran shook his head no, “In that case I’d say go for a halloumi burger with onion rings with whatever you like to drink.”
Bran smiled then saw that the waiter was leaning on the wall near the booth across from them with a slight smirk on his face, he unnerved Bran a bit but he endeavored to shrug the feeling off.
“Jojen,” Meera said to the waiter, “stop skulking and add some onion rings to my order please.”
Jojen nodded pulling his pad of paper from his apron, “Are you ready to order as well sir?” the smirk growing slightly.
“Yes I’ll have a halloumi burger with chips and a coffee.” Jojen nodded and left with their orders.
Meera leaned back in her seat, arms loosely crossed over her torso, “I’m not sharing my onion rings with you.”
Bran laughed, “I wouldn’t ask you to, I’m allergic to onions you see. I swell up like a beach ball if I eat them.” Meera’s face was a comical mixture of horror and shock but she quickly recovered.
“So you mentioned that you moved here for work?”
“Yeah, I work for a privet aerodynamics company that specializes in rockets and space travel. I run the schematics mostly.”
“Don’t you have to have a PhD for that sort of thing?”
“Yes.” Bran said simply, noting how her gaze had narrowed. “I graduated with honors last fall. I started university when I was 13.”
Meera’s face relaxed and she was silent for a minute, “I have a duel masters in English studies and Mass communication,” She offered.
“Sounds like fun.”
She shrugged, “It can be, I don’t have a firm job because I’m not going to put myself on television, and I’m too much of a free spirit to confine myself to a classroom; though my Mum says I’m more of a maverick. I have a side job of photography to go along with my tutoring and I do some freelance writing on occasion. I like to keep my options open.”
“You literally just described what my sister does, with the exception of she didn’t go to school, and is a pilot, and co owns a pub on the side.”
Their drinks arrived then and their waiter told them their food would be out shortly. They let the silence laps between them.
“You mentioned your sister do you have any other siblings?” Meera asked at length.
“Yeah, I’ve got three older brothers, two older sisters, and one younger brother.”
Meera gaped at him, “Your parents raised 7 children.”
Their food arrived before Bran could answer and they tucked into their food as he did.
“Technically I’ve only got one older brother, the other two are foster brothers, and one is my cousin his parents died when he was a toddler, the other one kept going back to his own parents until CPS just decided that it would be best for him to just leave him with our family.
“What about you, you mentioned your parents is it just you and them?”
Meera shook her head as she finished chewing her onion ring, “No I’ve got a younger brother.” When she didn’t elaborate Bran decided to leave it at that.
Their date continued like that talking and laughing; Bran couldn’t remember the last time someone had been able to get him to open up so quickly. He generally wasn’t open with people who weren’t his immediate family. But it was easy with Meera she didn’t seem to be a judgmental person and was open and frank with him. They ended up leaving just before closing, laughing at a joke Bran had told.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of the café Bran noted how dark it had gotten and hoped that Meera didn’t intend on walking home.
“Do you need a ride, I don’t have a car but we could split an Uber if you would be ok with that.”
Meera looked up at him with an amused expression, “My brother gets off work soon and I’ll ride home with him, thanks though.”
“Good, good, my Mum would have killed me if she found out that I let my date walk home in the dark.”
Meera laughed, “So what do you think about a second date?”
Bran’s heart leapt, he liked Meera she would make an amazing friend if that’s all they were destined for.
“Sure, I’d like that.”
Meera nodded, “OK you pick this time and I’ll make sure my nosey brother is busy.” Bran gave her a confused look so she elaborated, “Jojen, our waiter, he’s my younger brother. My Dad made me a deal that he wouldn’t do bodily harm to any of my boyfriends if I had all my first dates at this café where Jojen conveniently got a job. The system has worked pretty well so far.”
Bran nodded pleased that someone was looking out for Meera. “I wish I could do that for my sisters, my older one has had some that need to be booted from the planet.”
Meera laughed at that shaking her head, Bran smiled back at her.
“So I’ll text you when I have an idea for when and where?”
“Sure, I look forward to it. I’ll see you later Bran.”
“Night Meera have a safe trip home.”
Bran watched as Meera rounded the corner towards a parking lot as he pulled out his phone to order an Uber for himself, making a mental note to get Sansa something special for her birthday.