Day One (just a little later)

3:55, Armstrong's Cafe. And he wasn't in sight.

How did I know? I'd done a quick perimeter check and there was no guy here on his own. None.

Well, I hadn't been stood up. Yet.

4:07, Armstrong's Cafe. Three more minutes and I'd be off. Golden rule, right – don't wait longer than ten minutes? Well, whatever. I'd been stood up on my fair share of these faux-dates, or – blergh. Basically, I was not interested in someone who has planned to waste my time.

The door swung open and a dark-haired male walked in, a strong gait and a cockier smirk. He tipped his head at the waitress, whose cheeks immediately flushed, and decided to locate whoever he was looking for.

Two more minutes. I stirred my cherry milkshake with the straw, trying to ignore how the temptation of the drink had forced me to give up my vegan diet. Eleven day detox down the drain.

"Hello?" A deep voice rumbled from the head of my table.

I looked up from my milkshake. "Can I help you?"

His eyes scampered over my face. "Can I take it that you're my pairing?"

"You're late."

He took that as an invitation to slide into the booth.

"You're not going to apologise?"

I looked up from my shake. "What for?" Confusion laced my tone - if anything, he should be the one apologising. He was the one who has no regard for the time. I could be at home right now, ploughing through a plate of dissatisfying salad while watching Gordon Ramsey call people loaves of bread.

"Well, princess, you ordered without me," he said, motioning towards my drink.

"If you weren't late then I wouldn't have had to," I snapped. What a jerk. This was literally every pairing's nightmare.

He chuckled under his breath, motioning for the waitress with his hand.

"Menus?" He asked when she came, and she slid two down in front of us, exchanging words with Attempt Seven before sashaying away.

I was so happy to not be a waitress anymore.

"So, princess, what are you thinking of ordering?"

I take that back. If being a waitress would take me away from this egotistical arse, then I would leap on the opportunity.

"My name is Nora," I said with a tick in my jaw, hiding behind my menu and glaring at the offerings.

I could feel the amusement radiating off him. Spending a month with this jerk would be painful.

"Good to know, sweetheart."

We let the conversation settle there. I absentmindedly stirred my shake while Attempt Seven hid under his baseball cap. The waitress came, took out respective orders, flashed my companion a slick smile (plum lipgloss was unfortunately totally her colour), and we were left in silence again.

"This is getting kinda ominous," I said, scrutinising his appearance.

His lips tipped up. "In what sense?"

I bought my shake to my lips. "I can't see your face. I don't even know your name."

His smile widened. "Don't wanna act too interested, do you? It's okay sweetheart, I enjoy the chase."

I snorted. "That so, Seven? And I thought I told you my name was Nora, not some other regurgitated name you use on all your hussies."

At that, he actually laughed. "Hussy? What are you, Angel, eighty?"

I tsked at him, peeved that he was making me work for his name - well he would be left hanging, I was above begging people for things I didn't really care for.

The food came and the silence slowly turned awkward. On most of these first meetings, both of my date and I would try to find things we both enjoyed, we would try to talk and we would tell each other things about ourselves. But clearly, this meeting was out of the norm.

"How long have you been in the system?" I asked him, stabbing at my pasta.

He picked at his burger. "This is my first rotation."

Tears streamed down my face as I choked. I was pretty sure my mascara was running - served me right for buying something off the 'Five Dollars And Under' shelf.

Once I had finally calmed down (Seven simply watched me suffer), I took a sip of my milkshake and tried to formulate an answer.

"So how old are you?"

Seven's head wagged condescendingly. "Already wanting my digits?"

"I have your number," I deadpanned.

I doubted this date would last longer than an hour, and a quick look at my watch showed it was nearing 4:35. Only twenty five more minutes of suffering.

Seven was wearing a small smile and I knew he was laughing at me. Well the jerk could just keep laughing - he was the one who had a long way to go in terms of the rotations. With his attitude, he wouldn't get any Pairing. That I was sure of.

"Nora," Seven started, and I shoved a forkful of pasta between my lips. "How long have you been in the rotation?"

"There's a reason I call you Seven," I snapped after chasing my pasta down with a gulp of water.

He watched the condensation slide down the glass. "And nobody thinks it's odd? That you can't just find your own partner or something."

I shrugged. "It's the way we live, I guess. I know back in the olden days there would be less stress to find someone you wanted to be with, but with the population crisis the Pairing scheme is the most logical idea. Why do you ask?"

"No reason."

I looked at him suspiciously. "Surely you would know all of this yourself?" These facts were taught in history classes since we were kids. This guy didn't look that much older than I.

"I like hearing people's opinions," Seven said, which striked me as odd because he seemed to be the type that had no regard for what other people had to say. He would do what he wanted, when he wanted. I mean, he'd come to our first date late with no regard for the time, and he seemed intent on doing the exact opposite of what I desired. So why would he care about what I thought?

"The rotations are how we live, you know? Maybe in a few years we'll no longer need them to survive."

Seven seemed to contemplate what I said before taking another forkful of his meal - I took that as a clear indication that he didn't want to elaborate on the matter at hand.

"But, you know, if you hate them then you could just do the sperm donor route thing. Which I'm sure you know about," I tacked on at the end. His lack of speech felt awkward and something in me said that maybe he didn't know about all of this? But that would be impossible – right?

"And you're okay with that? Like – we're forced to have children no matter what?"

I stirred my shake awkwardly. "This isn't something we talk about," I muttered. "Jeez, what's wrong with you? I knew seven was unlucky." Nobody seemed to be looking at us but I still felt uncomfortable. "Please don't do that again." I stood up and dropped some notes on the desk.

"What – where are you going?"

I blinked. There was an official police force who reprimaided those who questioned The Way. He knew this. What was he doing, trying to catch me out? Did he want this pairing even less than I did – to the point of getting me in prison to get rid of me? I didn't get it and I didn't like it. I was feeling uncomfortable. And he was asking me where I was going? The hell away from him, that's where.

When I stared down at him wordlessly, wholly uncomfortable, and he didn't respond, I took that as a cue to leave.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen between us, but when I could feel the darkness of his eyes follow me out of Armstrong's – when I couldn't shake them off me when I reached the car, twisted the key in the ignition – I got a feeling he was a problem I wouldn't be able to ignore.

A/N: Krissy1100. You are MY QUEEN! thank you for supporting each one of my works. Your comments always make my day - thank you and I hope you like this update too!