The taxi pulled up outside the restaurant, the automatic door beeping as it slowly slid open to release the man within. He was jumping to get out and track down the table he had booked yesterday for this critical occasion.

His brogues clacked loudly on the pavement with every step, the volume matching his intensifying sense of pressure. Dressed his best suit, which he had dusted off from his wardrobe the previous evening, he readjusted the neck of his yellow and purple striped tie, for what felt like the hundredth time. It was a Christmas present from his girlfriend. The suit brought back vivid images of his University graduation 5 years ago, which from his memory, was the last time he had donned such sophisticated attire. It was safe to say that this was not his go to, daily outfit. His usual comfort lay in between the realms of his ‘slightly loose and casual’ blue jeans to his ‘slightly less loose and smart’ black jeans. But tonight, of all nights, called for the extra mile. He had even attempted to polish his shoes, which he somewhat achieved by knocking a few lumps of dirt off. As he entered the Italian restaurant, with its sign in looping, slanted letters spelling out Fantasticos, he felt the weight of the all-important little velvet box press into his chest from his inner breast pocket. This was going to fix his mistake.

The door swung closed behind him as he was blasted from above by the hot air conditioning entrance curtain, causing his carefully crafted hair flick to come tumbling down. He fixed it back with a well-practised brush of his left hand and approached the restaurant host. Dressed all in black, her face transformed instantly upon his entrance, from a straight lipped glare at her computer, to a shining, toothy, welcoming smile reserved just for customers. Perhaps the teeth double as a display of threat, maybe as a warning to customers who are all too ready to complain.

“Welcome to Fantasticos”, she beamed, “Do you have a booking for tonight?” she continued, with her hands poised above her computer.

“Yes”, he rushed “I’m Joey. Joey Mell”. Since when did he speak like James Bond? His felt his embarrassment increase, his face flushing red, imagining that everyone in the restaurant was watching him squirm under the pressure of speaking his name.

“Perfect, I have you down for a table of two for 7 o’clock. Would you like to be seated now or wait for the rest of the party to arrive?”, she rattled off in a rehearsed way.

“I’d like to sit down now please”, he replied. He wanted to inspect the table. On his way here he envisioned elegant red and pink flowered bouquets on the tables, nestled between the salt and peppers, softly brushed in candlelight from wax dripped candlesticks, which would poetically mirror the flame of their love. He prayed the love still burned as brightly in her as it did in him, even with all his blunders.

Unfortunately, the musings of our imaginations are called dreams for a reason, in that they often do not reflect the truth. Placed on each table was an identical miniature cactus plant, not exactly the romantic symbolism he had envisioned, lit along-side by tea-lights in multicoloured glass jars. He had nothing against mini cacti, real or fake, or multicoloured jars for that matter. The real culprit was his nerves getting the better of him.

He followed the host as she turned away, guiding him in between tables to a half-crescent booth with plush red leather seats at the back of the restaurant, his shoes clacking after her. This will do.

He took a seat, scooting along the bench to the centre of the booth to give him a full view of the door, so that he might catch Rebecca the moment she walked in.

A stocky waiter with long arms and curled black hair approach him and said with a fake Italian accent “Bonjourno! Dining solo on this a-beautiful night, sir?”

“No, actually I’m just waiting for someone”, Joey mumbled at the cactus.

Smiling, the waiter gushed, “very-good sir, can I get you a drink while you wait? A fine Italian wine, perhaps?”.

“No, no, I’ll just wait”, Joey stated more resolutely this time, hinting to the waiter that he wanted to be left alone. Getting the message, the waiter walked away, dropping his smile immediately once his face was turned away.

Joey wiped the sweat of his brown, again straightening his tie. He checked his watch. It read 7:03pm. Any minute now she would come gliding through that door, all bottle blonde and sunshine, ready to bless him with her boundless supplies of love. At least, he hoped she would. He tried not to think about the last time they spoke, the disappointment crushing her face and the way she looked down, unable to meet his eye. He had left his phone alone for only a second, but that was more than enough time for her to find the pictures, to glance at the messages which were too painful for her to read in full.

But I love her, and she loves me, he convinced himself, I can make this right, she always wanted to get married. He reflected on the cosy nights they had spent together, cooking fajitas, watching romcoms, and cuddling. How could she say no to that? They fit together like a key and a lock.

He waited until 7:20pm until he sent a questioning test message “where are you?”. It bounced back, the way all his other previous messages had. He cursed in anger. Surely, she had got one of the letters he sent her. He had hand delivered them all especially to her address, to make absolutely sure she didn’t miss them, with promises of redemption, a change of ways, and dreams coming true if she met with him here, now, at the restaurant.

He waited until 7:45pm, when the waiter came over and said in a short tone that they could no longer keep the table for him, if he was not going to order. He slammed his fist on the table and stormed out of the restaurant, the eyes of everyone truly upon him this time as he swept out of the door. The cool night air felt good against his hot face, his heavy breath steaming in the evening air. He took his phone back out and started typing a message to Alice. The girl from the pictures. He wasn’t going to suffer in isolation, not the way Rebecca was. It was her fault for not turning up and not letting him explain himself. Ignoring his letters. Treating him like a villain. He wasn’t going to let himself dwell upon his minor mistakes forever, just because of her.

“No plans tonight. Can I come round?’, he texted Alice. 

May 22, 2020 17:51

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Crystal Lewis
05:23 May 30, 2020

As someone who has witnessed cheating partners, I feel like this gets into the mindset of one quite well. I think this was a well-written and easy to read story. :) P.S. I love your name !


Foxtrot Campbell
11:21 Jun 04, 2020

Thank you very much for reading! :)


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