TBD (or, As Time Goes By)

Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Start or end your story with two characters sitting down for a meal.... view prompt

47 comments

Romance Contemporary American

Part I: Seated for the meal



It was the third time they’d been out for dinner together during the past month. Spring was in the air—and perhaps—so was something else. While Hobohemia had nowhere near New York City’s abundance of gourmet eateries, the neighboring city across the Hudson River that they could see from the restaurant table they had just been seated to dine that evening, it still had some great spots to offer. The location he had chosen for them, with her consent of course was no exception.


After one dry Grey Goose vodka martini each (ordered with a solitary olive and a bit dirty yet not obscene), they chatted away amicably while awaiting the appetizer. Since the maître d' had suggested the baked brie in puff pastry served with mixed greens, apple and pear slices, then drizzled with a honey Dijon dressing, and with silent co-conspiratorial nods to one another, they mutually agreed to go with the flow of his tasty and worthy suggestion.


Before the appetizer arrived the already helpful member of the establishment’s servers had returned with a bottle of a sparkling 2016 Pointe Brut wine from Long Island. With an apparently rehearsed faux flourish, the young man proceeded to pop the cork and pour them each a glass, before leaving the bottle to chill in the slim, chic-looking wine cooler atop their linen-clothed table. Toasting before drinking they clinked their glasses together as they each said, “To you!”, and then enjoyed the effervescent elixir. After lowering her wine flute, she told him how she loved the way the bubbles tickled her nose, and although he didn’t share this tiny tidbit with her, he loved how she loved that.


Timed to perfection, at the end of the appetizers, their entrees arrived next. She had ordered the sautéed filet of trout with capers, lemon and butter sauce, and he, the magret de canard; a boneless breast of duckling with shallots, raisins, and port wine. While these culinary delights elicited lusty “Oohs!” and “Aahs!” as they were devoured, they managed to save enough room for dessert, and thus complete the repast with slices of strawberry rhubarb pie.


Being still only mid-March, and the sun had set by the time they had exited the restaurant, she accepted his chivalrous offer to walk her home on that pleasantly chilly moonlit evening.


Part II: You must remember this; a kiss is still a…


It was merely a short, ten-minute walk from where they had dined to the front of the building where she lived in Hobohemia. Most of the world was still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, so for a few awkward moments they just stood at her doorstep in the quiet night air until she finally broke the silence by saying, “You know you can kiss me if you wanna?”


“Yeah,” he replied before reluctantly walking away, “I do.”


Confused as she now lowered her cloth face mask, she questioned while following him, “What?”


“I know I can kiss you.”


“And…”


“Well, isn’t that what you wanted to know?”


“I don’t know anymore, do you?”


“What?”


“Wait a minute!”


“What??”


“So?”


“So, what?”


“Do you wanna?”


“Oh, Jesus Christ! Do you just want me to kiss you?”


“Do you?”


Spinning back around to face her, and taking a few moments to think it over, he answered, “What if we just wait and kiss the next time we go out?”


“Well, how do I even know if I’d still wanna kiss you the next time we go out?”


“Are you saying there’s a shelf-life expiration date on this kiss you want?”


“I didn’t say I wanted a kiss. I only wanna let you know that if you were thinking about kissing me and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about you trying to kiss me, that just to take some of the pressure and uncertainty out of it for you of not knowing, I figured it was better to simply let you know that you could and that I’d be okay with it, even if you didn’t do a very good job of kissing me.”


“Hold on now! You think I’m not a good kisser?”


“I don’t know! And I won’t know until we kiss, but it looks like that’s not ever going to happen now. I wasn’t even going to say anything, but I got my second Moderna vaccination shot today on the off-chance you were finally going to take this whatever-we-have to the next level of this-is-where-we’re-going and kiss me tonight.”


Partially to settle the argument and partially to merely shut her up (or so he may have told himself), he lowered his own cloth face mask before gently drawing her into his arms, met her soft lips with his own, and then tenderly planted a long, slow kiss upon those lips. And as if engaged in a choreographed pas de deux dance of love, and in perfect unison, their mouths opened, tongues darted forth, and the unpaired pair kissed for the first time. 


“So, did I make the grade when it came to kissing you?”


“I don’t know,” was the reply as she readjusted her face mask in its original position.


“How can you not know? Did your mind wander somewhere else while we were kissing? Or, was the kiss so bad you immediately erased it from your mind?”


Turning from him, the woman began to walk away as she said, “What if we just wait and I’ll let you know the next time we go out?”


“What?” the man asked, “Well, how do I even know if I’d still want your answer the next time we go out?”


“Are you saying there’s some sort of a shelf-life expiration date on the answer you want?”


“No, I guess not.”


Taking a few more steps away from him while lowering her mask again, then turning back with a playful Mona Lisa smile pasted on her flushed face she paused for a brief time before demurely telling him, “Alright then. Hey, you know you can kiss me again if you wanna, so you can—you know—find out sooner than the next time we go out what the answer is?” 


It was, after all, the age of the Coronavirus, wherewith the new norm even a kiss was no longer just a kiss, or a sigh just a sigh. And that, no one can deny. Thus, with a heart full of passion he’d concluded that he was done with talking, and set about to kissing her again, and again, and again... 


June 26, 2021 02:58

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47 comments

Stevie B
03:59 Jun 26, 2021

AUTHOR'S NOTE: A tip of the hat once again to Ruth Porritt (aka Superman's Daughter) a fellow writer here on the Reedsy platform whose comment on my story, "Death by Wasabi", about regretting that the two protagonist had not hit it off by the end of the tale. Well, Ruth, here's your happy ending (and those reading this please just get your minds out of the gutter - I merely mean how "TBD" concluded and not the usual idiomatic and salacious double entendre connotation associated with some people's massage parlor visits!). Again, since the "T...

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Ruth Porritt
06:42 Jun 27, 2021

Thanks Stevie, for thanking me, but you've got the talent. (Truly.) Yes, also, a huge thanks goes out to Laura. She is the nicest person, and is a great encouragement to all of us.

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Stevie B
12:36 Jun 27, 2021

Ruth, credit is due when credit is deserved. Thank you as always.

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Ruth Porritt
06:37 Jun 27, 2021

Hello Stevie, This romance story is delightful! :) It's nice to read something that isn't salacious or horror-based. Really. (Recently, I have been watching The Conjuring, The Girlfriend Experience, and Women who Kill. LOL, I did not plan this order. It just happened.) I also enjoyed the Casablanca reference in the title. The two main characters have good chemistry, and I haven't read a romance that references COVID. (before) Have you written romance novels? (Apologies if you already have.) I am curious, because I know there is a huge ma...

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Stevie B
12:49 Jun 27, 2021

Ruth, Thank you as always. So happy you picked up on the Casablanca connection, especially the use of a few lines of lyrics from its immortal soundtrack song. To be honest, I'm rarely sure of what genre what I do falls into. Personally, I believe it's merely a mash-up of parables about growing up, growing old, getting over yourself, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. With kind regards & do good always, sb

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Elle S
18:15 Aug 09, 2021

Hello, Stevie B. You have such a great sense of humor! Lol. I always experience a much lighter mood after having read one of your pieces. Your grammar is impeccable and your vocabulary is vast. Love it. I love this story so much I just had to comment. The ending is awesome. Short as it is, it's very descriptive of events that haven't even happened between the two yet. Very suggestive. Stirs the imagination. All in all, there's a lot of depth and rawness in your stories, but the ever-present lace of humor surrounding them always lightens...

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Stevie B
18:23 Aug 09, 2021

Leseka, thank you for your thoughts and kind words. Personally, I have found contributing to the Reedsy Prompts have been a huge help in developing my own writing skills, as I'm sure you will too have found. Keep on writing, posting, and interacting here - it certainly pays off!

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Elle S
19:11 Aug 09, 2021

Thanks for the piece of advice. I most certainly will :)

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Stevie B
19:12 Aug 09, 2021

You're welcome.

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Jill Campbell
14:07 Jul 09, 2021

I enjoyed this short story and was drawn in, but hoped you also wanted a constructive critique, so here goes: Sentences in Part 1 were sometimes awkward in being too long, but that got remedied in part 2. I'm not a foodie. The descriptions were good, but could be shorter, with fewer, but more succinct adjectives so that it doesn't slow down the flow or distract to food cravings while reading. The second part, dialogue was excellent. Good job.

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Stevie B
14:13 Jul 09, 2021

Jill, thank you for that constructive criticism. It was very helpful. Glad you enjoyed the story in general.

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14:13 Jul 08, 2021

The best part for me is their dialogue. It was just so cute and funny. It's nice and refreshing to read a romance story here. Great job!

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Stevie B
14:24 Jul 08, 2021

Ifechukwude, thank you very much. Truth be told I've been seduced as often by words as by physical attributes.

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Ramona Taylor
03:20 Jul 08, 2021

What a sweet, modern romance! I loved it and the whole dealing with face masks, cracked up at the expiration date line. What else could we do in the face of so foul a thing as pandemic but to laugh in its face? Please tell me that there is that restaurant and menu as that is exactly what I want to order from martini to pie. Which entree? Both! I plan to visit mid March.

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Stevie B
12:18 Jul 08, 2021

Ramona, there is indeed: http://www.courtstreet.com (the menu posted there is guaranteed to get your tummy rumbling with hunger!). It is my #1 favorite spot to hang out here in Hobohemia. In fact, I dedicated my 2nd published novel to them ("The Freaky Fungal Family Tree"), and it pops up as the setting in a multiple of my short stories in my upcoming book, "Beneath a Lazarus Moon". My other preferred hang here is The Madd Hatter, which coincidentally is the setting for a novel I'm now completing. titled "Alice". I guess I not only have a "t...

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Kendall Defoe
15:42 Jul 07, 2021

Very timely... I suspect many a relationship will be like this... Well done!

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Stevie B
16:21 Jul 07, 2021

K, thank you for those kid words. and yes, that first kiss can be a killer!

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Michael Martin
03:30 Jul 06, 2021

Very nice... you set the scene well, and the dialogue in the 2nd part was very fun to follow and felt natural. The only thing that felt a bit off was the mention of the Moderna shot, specifically calling out which shot brand... since the rest was so naturally flowing and fun to read, it felt a bit jarring. Not that it couldnt happen, just seemed out of place with the rest of it. My favorite line here was "...although he didn’t share this tiny tidbit with her, he loved how she loved that." Something incredibly poetic and truthful in that...

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Stevie B
12:07 Jul 06, 2021

Michael, thank you ever so much for your comment and observations. Regarding the reference to Moderna; oft times my characters simply speak for themselves, say what they want, and disregard their creator's previously planned dialogue. Go figure...

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Michael Martin
12:39 Jul 06, 2021

Ah... are your stories all true stories? I thought that your writing was just really well done, super realistic and natural dialogue... but it would make sense if they're all true stories. (Even then, they're incredibly well written, as it's incredibly easy to make a real event sound boring).

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Stevie B
12:59 Jul 06, 2021

I consider my work to be true fiction where within I enjoy blurring the lines between reality and fantasy to tell an entertaining tale. My response, to clarify, was simply a cryptic way of saying that when I get into the zone of my character's thought and speech process they many times will, thankfully, begin speaking for themselves.

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Michael Martin
13:23 Jul 06, 2021

Understood. Hopefully my comment wasn't taken as a slight on your piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Keep it up.

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Stevie B
15:10 Jul 06, 2021

Michael, not in the least. IMHO, in art the only slight in a response is the response of silence. Please, continue to comment and critique, for I value all shared suggestions.

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06:54 Jul 04, 2021

I am not one for romances but you made this story comical too. The dialogues were very good.....so gooood!!! The conclusion just made me wanna get a girlfriend too..... Keep doing the good thing >>

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Stevie B
11:32 Jul 04, 2021

Tomfli, thank you for your kind words of support. In my experience, girlfriends can be fun, so if you're not too busy writing all the time I'd suggest getting one. They also can be a great source of inspiration for what you write (all of mine have eventually ended up in my stories-lol).

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Laiba Nadeem
19:28 Jul 03, 2021

Your dialogues are awesome 😎

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Stevie B
22:03 Jul 03, 2021

Thank you, Laiba.

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Shante Mc
15:17 Jul 03, 2021

I love the way you write dialogue. You could tell a lot about these characters just from their conversation. Beautiful story!

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Stevie B
18:07 Jul 03, 2021

Shante, thank you. Since I'm obsessed with talking less and listening more, most of my dialogue I honestly first heard from the mouths of others. So, I can't take all the credit...

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Rie Sanders
12:38 Jul 03, 2021

Nice story. I liked the way the gal reiterated his words, "I don't know...Are you saying there’s some sort of a shelf-life expiration date on the answer you want?" I laughed out loud when I realized this.

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Stevie B
13:32 Jul 03, 2021

Rie, glad you caught that detail. Thankfully, if it wasn't for smart women this Ms. depicted in the story, who know what they want, and how to get it, then men like myself would still be bumping into the walls of the dark caves we'd still be living in.

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23:41 Jun 30, 2021

Nice story! I like how you made it more current by mentioning COVID. I especially like the conclusion! It really wraps up the story, adds more romance, and gives it a deeper meaning. Keep writing :)

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Stevie B
00:36 Jul 01, 2021

Thank you, Silver, and to be honest, I couldn't stop writing even if I wanted to. Every time I try to get out, the words just keeping pulling me back in again...

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05:46 Jul 01, 2021

Exactly!! I feel the same way.

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Stevie B
11:46 Jul 01, 2021

To carry my previously poorly paraphrased analogy another step further, every time I have the wonderful opportunity to publish any of my work anywhere for anyone one to read it almost makes me feel like Tony Montana standing up from the desk and screaming, "OK, say hello to my little friend!"

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16:59 Jul 01, 2021

So accurate!

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N K
07:56 Jun 30, 2021

Yes! I loved this! So heartwarming and I loved the playful dynamic between the two characters. And thank you for always describing the food so well but now I'm really hungry. The way you wove in the pandemic and how it's affected dating was really interesting! Great job!

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Stevie B
12:19 Jun 30, 2021

Natania, thank you as always for your wonderful words and kind support. As with much that happens to us in life it's not merely good or bad, it's what we've managed to mine and take away from it to enrich ourselves that really matters.

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N K
06:38 Jul 05, 2021

That is such a good way of putting it. I couldn't agree more!

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M Forbes
14:11 Jun 29, 2021

I like the setup and the concept. Look forward to reading more from you

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Stevie B
14:34 Jun 29, 2021

Thank you and I hope you do indeed read more of my work.

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Amrita Sarkar
12:24 Jun 29, 2021

I like how the 'new normal' seeped into romance in your story. Well-written!

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Stevie B
13:40 Jun 29, 2021

Well, I guess the old normal is just not working anymore... Thank you, Amrita!

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Ravi Srivastava
05:02 Jul 07, 2021

Hi Stevie, A delightful story. How the Coronavirus is subtly changing the way we think and act is very delicately brought out without altering the tone and tempo of the story. Nice work.

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Ravi Srivastava
05:02 Jul 07, 2021

Hi Stevie, A delightful story. How the Coronavirus is subtly changing the way we think and act is very delicately brought out without altering the tone and tempo of the story. Nice work.

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04:18 Jul 07, 2021

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Stevie B
11:44 Jul 07, 2021

Spam much, Doc?

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