“He’s a Wild, Wild West kind of guy, and she’s…” Aaron starts out, chuckling to himself as he struggles to find the rest of the words to accurately compare our friend and the guy she’s just recently begun seeing.

“She’s like a Material Girl,” interjects Mia, giggling along with Aaron.

“You guys don’t know. ‘Wild, wild west’…” Beatrice mumbles the last remark, rolling her eyes at both Aaron and Mia. She kicks the side of Aaron’s shoe.

Aaron laughs some more, before trying his best to compose himself. On his phone he scrolls through Dustin’s Instagram, the so-called “wild, wild west kind of guy” that Beatrice has just finished telling us all about. Aaron pulls up the most recent photo Dustin has posted, which is one of him in full cowboy attire at a concert with his friends; beers in all their hands, of course. In his next post he holds a sizable largemouth bass which was twenty-three inches in length. Mia covers her mouth out of disbelief and Aaron is done with his scrolling after seeing Dustin’s fish picture.

“This guy is as southern as they get B. He probably has a farm, with cows and chickens, tractors, and shit…” contests Mia. “Imagine walking through his muddy yard, that reeks of manure, in your five-inch heels.”

Beatrice looks to me desperately, “Blake. What do you think?”

“Well.. when’d you meet again? That first date didn’t sound TOO bad,” I comment, looking first to Beatrice and then around the bustling downtown streets.

“Two weeks ago. And it really wasn’t! He opened every door. At the restaurant, he even pushed my chair in Blake.”

“And they say chivalry is dead.”

Mia giggles as well, but she rolls her eyes, “shut up Aaron! I can’t even remember the last date I had where a man opened all the doors and pushed my chair in for me. In the same night.”

Beatrice persistently points at Mia, and we all join in on the laughter. The early afternoon suns’ rays warm my back and I consciously straighten my posture as our waitress comes out onto the cafe’s patio with a fresh pot of coffee. We all take turns making eye contact with one another as she approaches us, Aaron smirking. He shuts off his phone.

The young girl smiles brightly when she reaches us and we shuffle to allow enough room for her to reach all our cups, Aaron and Beatrice passing theirs so that she wouldn’t have to bend over us.

Two weeks pass and we’ve heard no new bad news about Beatrice’s country boy. Beatrice has never been the relationship-oriented type, which made it all the more shocking for our friends that Dustin has managed to keep her attention this long. I sit with Beatrice and Aaron on Beatrice’s living room floor while we wait for Mia to get home from work.

“He wants to make me dinner tonight,” Beatrice begins.

“Another date?” Aaron looks up from his phone slowly, “You’ve been on two now, right? You’re gonna go to his house?”

Aaron’s wide eyes and raised brows show he is thinking of countless more questions for the interrogation that he’s just begun with Beatrice.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

“I don’t know. He murders you and feeds you to his hogs?” Aaron retorts.

I laugh quietly, but Beatrice scoffs; “Aaron you are feral. It’s not like I’m spending the night, and I’ll leave after I’ve finished eating. I will be fine.”

“Okay Beatrice, but if he ends up being a weirdo I don’t wanna be getting a call!”

“Fine. I won’t call or text after, and I’ll fake my death on you,” Beatrice jokes sarcastically to Aaron.

“Okay, no, shut up. If you make it out alive: you’re telling us all about it tomorrow.”

The savory aromas of garlic, rosemary, and thyme fill the air as Dustin lifts the cover up off a pot to stir the meat inside. The quiet noise of bubbling oil can be heard as another pot holding freshly mashed potatoes sits vertically on the stove. On the counter to Dustin’s right is a bowl of assorted steamed vegetables; carrots, broccoli, and the like. It all seemed safe enough to Beatrice, and it smelled good too.

“Dinner is almost ready,” Dustin says this, not looking back, as he attentively transfers the braised meat to a platter. Two fine china plates positioned across from each other are on the dining table where Bea sits.

“Ooh. Perfect. It smells delicious,” Beatrice says half-heartedly, sneaking a peek at the time on her phone. “What’re we having again?”

“Beef, mashed potatoes, carrots- I made a whole bunch of vegetables.”

Dustin brings the platter to the table and sets it in the center before hurrying back to get the bowl of vegetables, and the mashed potatoes, which had since been transferred to a bowl also. Beatrice nods satisfactorily as she places her phone under her thigh, sliding her seat to be closer to the table. Dustin finishes setting the table and using the large serving spoons he takes his portions of mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Bea does the same in turn, but once she finishes, Dustin slaps the beef onto her plate for her.

“Thank you for making all this,” Beatrice looks to Dustin sincerely.

“Oh, anytime, anytime. I love to cook.”

She eats her potatoes first as she and Dustin discuss his love for cooking, and in inevitable connection, his love for hunting and fishing. He spoke of meals made with duck, and horse, he spoke of spit-roasting boars. She starts to wonder about what the weirdest things that he could possibly have concocted before may be. Of course, Beatrice wouldn’t know the first thing about cooking– she’s spent her life being catered to by her parents and by her parent’s personal chefs.

A surprising lack of fat covers this beef, which is not very red when considering that beef is a red meat, but Beatrice pays no notice as she stabs a piece with her fork and takes her first bite. She over exaggerates her enjoyment as she stabs at another piece, bringing her fork to her mouth. Beatrice finishes off her vegetables before making her way back to the remaining meat on her plate. Something is not right with it, but for the life of her Beatrice cannot determine what. She wants to ask what he has done with it, but afraid to offend him, she decides to stay silent for a while longer. Dustin finishes his plate rather quickly in comparison to Beatrice, but seems not to mind as he continues to find topics to talk about with her; which consist mostly of his own interests. In between the time that he finishes and the time that Beatrice takes her final bite, Dustin has already invited her to go fly fishing, whitewater rafting, and he has invited her to have dinner with him again. Beatrice expresses as much interest as she can for someone who has none, and for someone who has increasingly less as this date goes on. She pushes her plate forward once she finishes her meal.

“This is not beef. What is it actually?”

“It’s beef! I made it special for you.”

“Do you think I’m some stupid city girl? It doesn’t even taste like beef, Dustin. So just go on and tell me what it is.”

Dustin looks to his feet briefly, then back at Beatrice who is waiting impatiently.

“It’s… well…”

“It’s what? What is it?” Beatrice demands.