My brother’s latest setup landed me on a disastrous date with his friend Stewart, and we were stuck at a swanky restaurant with an unpaid bill. As tensions escalated and the manager threatened to call the police, I realized just how far Adam had gone, leaving me to wonder how we’d escape.

“Jess, you gotta meet this guy,” Adam said, grinning like he had just discovered the secret to eternal youth. He lounged on my couch, flipping through channels.

“Who’s this guy?” I asked, not looking up from my laptop.

“Stewart. Works with me. Real stand-up guy. Stable job, nice car, the works.”

I rolled my eyes. “Another one of your brilliant setups?”

“No, seriously! He’s different. You’ll like him. Plus, he’s been asking about you.”

I sighed. Adam’s track record with setting me up was abysmal, but the way he spoke about Stewart piqued my curiosity. “Fine. But if he turns out to be another dud, I’m never listening to you again.”

Adam smirked. “Deal. You’ll thank me later.”

I spent the next few hours meticulously getting ready, wanting to make a good impression despite my reservations. By the time I was done, my apartment looked like a war zone of makeup and clothes. My nerves were on edge, but Adam’s encouragement kept me on target.

Stewart picked me up in a shiny sedan that looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. As I slid into the passenger seat, I couldn’t help but notice the clean, leather smell and the subtle hum of the engine.

“Hey, Jess, right?” he said with a smile that seemed genuinely warm.

“Yep, that’s me. Nice to meet you, Stewart.”

“Likewise. You look great, by the way.”

I blushed, feeling a bit more at ease. “Thanks. So, where are we headed?”

“Thought I’d take you to this new place downtown. Fancy, but the food is incredible.”

“Sounds good,” I replied, trying to hide my surprise. I wasn’t used to such upscale outings.

The restaurant was like something out of a movie, with charming, low-key decor, but oozing luxury. I felt underdressed in my carefully chosen outfit. Stewart seemed completely at home, though, chatting easily with the host and leading me to our table.

“This place is amazing,” I said, looking around in awe.

“Only the best,” he replied with a wink. “Order whatever you like.”

The menu made my eyes widen. Everything was outrageously expensive, but Stewart waved off my hesitation. “Don’t worry, it’s on me.”

I smiled, grateful and flattered. Our conversation flowed effortlessly. Stewart was charming, funny, and intelligent. I found myself laughing more than I had in weeks.

The evening was perfect until the bill arrived. Stewart handed over his card with a confident flourish, still in the middle of a joke. The waitress returned, her expression uneasy.

“I’m sorry, sir, but your card was declined.”

Stewart’s face dropped. “That can’t be right. Try it again.”

She did. Twice more, with the same result. Stewart’s charm evaporated, replaced by a scowl. “This is ridiculous. Do you even know how to use the machine?” he snapped.

Other diners began to glance our way. I felt my face burn with embarrassment. “Stewart, maybe there’s a problem with the card. Do you have another one?” I suggested, trying to defuse the situation.

He glared at the waitress, then turned to me. “I swear this never happens. Someone must have screwed something up.”

Stewart looked at me sheepishly, “Do you have any cash on you?” he asked.

I was taken aback. “I told you I can’t afford this place. I don’t have this kind of money!”

Stewart’s eyes flashed with anger. “You think I planned this? Please, just pay the bill, Jess.”

I crossed my arms, standing firm. “No. I don’t have the money. This was your idea. And Adam’s, I should add. He said you had a good job and lived the high life.”

The tension at the table was thick. I could see the waitress shifting uncomfortably, the manager now standing by her side.

Stewart’s face twisted in frustration. “Unbelievable.”

I felt angry and humiliated. “I’m going to the bathroom,” I muttered, needing a moment to collect myself.

Inside, I leaned against the sink, taking deep breaths. My phone buzzed in my purse. A text from Adam: “How’s it going?”

I stared at the screen, debating whether to reply. How could I explain this disaster? I splashed water on my face and tried to steady my nerves. I had to go back out there and face the music.

Stepping back into the dining area, I could see Stewart still arguing with the waitress. The manager was now involved, and the tension was palpable. I walked back to the table, my heart pounding.

“Everything alright now?” I asked, my voice steadier than I felt.

Stewart turned to me, his anger barely contained. “They’re saying my card’s no good. Can you believe this?”

I swallowed hard. “Maybe we should just leave.”

“What? Just run out without paying the bill?” he muttered. “We can’t do that. Look at their security guard, he’ll catch us for sure. And this looks like the sort of place that’ll press charges to make an example of us.”

I shook my head. “Then we’re stuck.”

The manager stepped in. “Sir, we need to resolve this. Do you have another form of payment?”

Stewart looked at me, desperation in his eyes. I shook my head firmly.

“I guess we’ll have to figure something out,” he muttered, his bravado completely gone.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that the night was far from over, and not in a good way. Sure enough, Stewart started a heated argument with the restaurant’s security guard when he stepped over. Stewart’s face was red, and his voice was rising with each utterance.

“I told you, there’s a mistake with my card! Call my bank if you have to!”

“Sir, if you can’t pay, we’ll have to involve the authorities,” the swarthy security guard warned sternly.

My heart sank. “Stewart, what are you going to do?”

He turned to me, desperation in his eyes. “Jess, I didn’t expect this. Can you help out? Just this once?”

“I can’t. I already told you I don’t have that kind of money,” I replied, feeling trapped and humiliated.

As if on cue, my phone buzzed. A message from Adam: “How’s the date going there, Sister? ;)”

I felt a surge of anger. I showed Stewart the message. “Did Adam know that you couldn’t afford all this?”

Stewart looked genuinely confused. “Well, I don’t know. He just set us up. But — ”

“What’s with the car then? How can you afford it? You need good credit to drive a car like that.”

He sighed, looking defeated. “Adam hired the car for me. Said it would impress you. He also said he’d put money into my bank account to cover the date, but now I’m realizing he never did.”

I turned to the security guard. “Sir, please can we step outside to avoid disrupting the other diners further? I’ll make a call for someone to come and settle the bill.”

Outside the restaurant, the night air was cool and biting. The security guard followed us, standing a few feet away to ensure we didn’t run off. I dialed Adam, my anger barely in check.

“Jess! How’s the date?”

“Adam, what the heck did you do? Stewart can’t pay the bill! It’s huge. You said he was good for it. How could you do this to me?”

He chuckled. “Relax, Jess. Just spicing up your life a bit. Use your card if you have to.”

“Are you kidding me? Get down here and fix this mess. Now.”

“Alright, alright. Don’t blow a gasket. I’m on my way,” he said, still laughing.

I hung up, seething. “He’s coming. Let’s wait.”

Stewart leaned against the wall, looking miserable. “I’m really sorry, Jess. I didn’t know he’d pull something like this.”

I shrugged, feeling angry and exhausted. “It’s not your fault. My brother’s an idiot.”

Adam arrived, his smug grin making me want to scream. “Hey, folks. Problem with the bill?”

I glared at him. “This isn’t funny, Adam. You went too far. Why did you set this trap for us? For your own amusement? It’s totally unacceptable.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “Alright, alright. I’ll pay. Relax.”

Adam sauntered in, and moments later, returned with a receipt. “There. All settled. Happy now?”

“You think this is a joke? You humiliated me,” I snapped.

Adam shrugged. “Lighten up, Jess. It was just a prank. I wanted to spice your lives up a little, give you guys an adventure.”

Stewart looked at Adam, then at me. “I’m really sorry. I had no idea.”

“It’s okay, Stewart. This isn’t on you,” I said, glaring at my brother.

We stood outside the restaurant, the night now feeling heavy and cold. The security guard watched us closely. Stewart shifted awkwardly. “I hope you can forgive me, Jess. I’d like to make it up to you.”

I nodded slowly. “Maybe. I just need some time to think.”

Adam, still grinning, gave me a playful punch on the arm. “Come on, Jess. It wasn’t that bad.”

I shook my head. “You don’t get it, Adam. You’ve crossed a line.”

As Adam walked away, whistling, I turned to Stewart. “I’m sorry about tonight. I didn’t expect any of this.”

“It’s okay,” he said quietly. “I get it.”

We shared a moment of understanding, a silent acknowledgment of the disappointment we both felt. As we parted ways, I felt betrayed by my brother. Stewart, still apologetic, watched me go.

“Goodnight, Jess,” he called after me.

“Goodnight, Stewart,” I replied, my voice tinged with regret.

As I walked home, I realized I needed to reassess my trust in both my brother and those around me. Adam’s pranks had gone too far, and it was time to set some boundaries.

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