"Would you like to start with some appetizer, ma'am?" The waiter questions as he pulls a chair for me. I settle down on it, and place my purse behind me before shaking my head at him with a small smile.
"No, thank you. I'm waiting for someone."
The waiter nodded and slips away, leaving the menu on the table for me to skim through.
I check my watch, 7:44pm. I know I came here way early even though Sam and I were supposed to meet at 8, but I sincerely felt bad when I stood her up last week on our date and figured it would be a little sweet of me if I did this.
I fish for my phone in my purse and decide to text her.
Work finished early. I'm here now. U?
Sam's the type of person who checks their phone every now and then, so I know she's pretty busy at work when I haven't received a text from her immediately.
I place my phone down and take a gander at the interior of the restaurant I reserved just a few days ago.
There are only a few people inside, but I figure the rest are on their way. I glance at the couple situated just adjacent to our table, and a smirk crawls its way to my lips secretively.
Ah, new couple, I thought. The way they're holding hands overtly on the table, with their eyes crinkled from the wide smiles they're throwing each other, it's clear they're in their honeymoon phase.
Then without my permission, my mind drifts back to when Sam and I had our honeymoon phase.
We were broke and rebellious college kids with cigarettes as our coping mechanism from all the stress Architecture has thrown our way. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's how we met, too.
We were at a party one night, and she needed one so I offered. I wasn't expecting anything in return, just a simple 'thanks'. I didn't expect her to ask me out while she's high, nor did I expect myself to agree whilst on the verge of being high.
I never even know until now why she fell for me because of that, but I won't complain.
Our first date has to be the worst first date in all mankind because we simply forgot we scheduled it. Sam texted me that day with a simple 'Dude, pls tell me you forgot today bc I did'. And I replied with a: What's today?
And that was that. We laughed it off like what usual teenagers do, but we never rescheduled it. We simply made it as it is and the next date was our second date.
My phone buzzes on the table and I pick it up when I see Sam's name flashed on the screen.
"Hey, where are you?" I ask her, checking my watch. "It's almost eight now —"
"Honey, I don't think I can make it . . ."
I hold my breath and wait for something to happen — maybe for her to tell me it was just a joke and that she's on the way or something. But when it's clear she isn't going to take that back, I simply stare down at my empty plate and wonder how my appetite vanished already.
"Kate? You there?"
"Mhmm," I simply respond, "Do you — you think you can make it before eleven or twelve . . . ?"
"Will the restaurant be open that late?"
"I don't know, Sam, but if you say you can make it, I'll make them stay open that late." I hope she doesn't notice the bite of my tone, or how I'm gritting my teeth while saying that.
Sam sighed heavily on the other line, and for a moment, I felt guilty for being mad at her. "Sorry, love, but I think we need to reschedule. Dean's been tormenting me these past few days because our intern sucks and he says it's my fault because he's under my department."
"What time will you be home, then?" I raise a hand, beckoning for a waiter to come clean up though there isn't anything to clean in the first place.
"Might have to do his work all night since James' at the comfort room, crying his eyeballs out all because I raised my voice at him," she bleats. "It's like taking care of a child, I swear."
I visualize Sam seated in front of me right now, rolling her eyes whilst explaining, and the image sort of consoled me. Then reality kicks me in the butt and I frown.
The same waiter that accompanied me comes close with his clasped hands in front of him and smiles at me, "Yes, ma'am?"
"Hi, yes, I don't think my partner will make it tonight, and was wondering if I could reschedule?" I query.
He nods kindly. "And when would that be?"
"This Friday . . . ?"
"Mike will call in a meeting on Friday," Sam chimed in on the phone.
"Thursday?" I venture.
"I'll be doing OT that day."
I roll my eyes and look back at the waiter. "Actually, I'll just call ahead, thank you."
"How about Saturday?" Sam asks, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes once more.
"Sweetie, I have been working on Saturdays since forever," I deadpan.
"Right . . . I forgot about that," she murmurs.
I try my best to ignore the jab of that particular sentence. I also try my best not to think about those days when Sam would make reservations any day but on a Saturday all because she knows I'll be working on that day.
I simply tell myself mentally that she's just tired from work, and that it's okay.
The waiter seems to notice the uneasy tension, but knows better than to comment on it — as he certainly should. But I give him a small smile just in case.
"Feel free to reschedule at any time, madame. I'll be taking these with me then," he tells me politely, grabs hold of the plates that weren't used, then bows his head as he excuses himself to leave.
I almost forget about my call with Sam when she speaks up again, "How about Sunday?"
"The waiter's gone," I tell her flatly, the fact that she forgot my work schedule not leaving my head even after I tried to not let it get to me.
"Oh? Oh, well. By the way, you know I hate it when you call me 'partner'. It's like we're in a relationship that's purely for —"
"Business, yes, I know," I say halfheartedly as I grab a ten and place it on the table before standing up and flatten my dress.
I want to tell her that even business partners respect each other not to miss a date, but she'll turn the tables on me because we both know I'm guilty, too.
"Then, why say it?" She huffs on the phone.
"I don’t know. Because it annoys you?”
The doorman pushes open the door for me and I smile gratefully at him before I leave the restaurant.
I marvel at how quickly my mood changes sometimes. I literally just walked in here a few minutes ago, hopeful of the idea of Sam and I spending time together for the first time in months. Only for that hope to be shattered because of her job.
"Have you been eating well?" I ask, swinging my purse in front of me so as to not bump into strangers in the bustling streets of New York.
There's furious tapping on her end, so I assume she's been typing away on her keyboard for hours now. Incidentally, I think of how charming she is when she's able to make time for me whilst in the middle of being deluged with work.
Once again, I feel guilty for being mad at her.
There is silence save for her keyboard clicking, then a, "Mhmm."
"That's good . . . ," I hum in reply, mentally sighing in relief when I finally see our apartment complex at the corner.
"Yup. Anyway, don't forget to resched later," she reminds me. "I'll be busy the whole night, so don't even wait up for me."
"Next time, you should schedule our next date. Maybe then I wouldn't have to worry about whether or not you'll show up."
I know that saying it was a bad idea as soon as it slips from my lips. It came from a part of me that's still bitter from her standing me up. But I would be lying if I say that I regret saying it, though.
We have been busy for months, and we never discussed it.
It's times like this where we did, but it will only lead to an inevitable fight. It's always like this — I schedule a date, she cancels at the last minute, we fight. She schedules a date, I cancel at the last minute, we fight. And I don't know about her, but I'm tired of fighting.
I hope she knows that I feel bad for standing her up because I'm always busy. I hope she feels bad for standing me up, too. But I really do hope one day we'd finally have a date where both of us shows up.
I'm tired of running around in circles with this thing. I hope she's tired of fighting, too.
"Oh, just like how you don't show up when I'm the one who schedules the date?" She barks back. "You're one to talk, Kate."
I guess she's not tired of that, after all.
"Okay, sorry about that. I didn't mean to say that," I sigh, looking side to side to check if there aren't any cars passing by before walking across. "I just . . . When will we go out, you know?"
The furious typing stops, and it kills me not to know what Sam's thinking right now.
Then she says, "Is this . . . Do you — Are we breaking up?"
"What?" I stop in my tracks, a big 'what the hell?' comes from someone behind me before she walks by me, not forgetting to give me an arched brow but I did not mind her. My only thought right now is 'how did Sam come to this conclusion?' "Wh-what are you talking about? I was simply asking you when we'll be able to go out?"
Feeling belatedly embarrassed that I stopped in the middle of a busy street, I resume my pace, albeit faster. If we’re going to have this conversation, I would need to go home and sit on the sofa with a clear head instead of standing here with several distractions.
"S-sorry, it's just — the way you asked me . . ."
"Do you wanna break up?" I question her. My heart stops along with my bated breath as I wait, feeling restive because she’s taking too long to answer even though it’s only been a few seconds.
She scoffs, “Why’d you think I panicked and asked you? Of course I don’t want to break up.”
I blow a heavy sigh of relief. Not because I’ve finally arrived at our apartment building, but because hearing her say this feels like the hefty burden that I have been carrying the whole time has been lifted from off my shoulders.
It feels so good to hear her say that she doesn’t want to break up, too.
I genuinely thought that last week, when I cancelled on our date that she scheduled again, would be the last straw that finally destroys our relationship. We couldn’t find the right time to go out and it almost feels like we’ve been doing it on purpose what with all the rescheduling and canceling.
“Look,” Sam starts, “If we’re not going to break up, then we’ll have to deal with this madness.”
“Huh?” I push open our apartment door once I arrive, kicking my heels off and bending down to place them properly inside the shoe shelf beside the door. “What are you talking about?”
“We keep rescheduling until we both make it — it’s as simple as that, honey. I don’t wanna break up, you don’t wanna break up, so we have to deal with that.”
“Bad timing loves to tease us, you know that.” I put our call on speaker as I change into my night gown.
“Let’s tease it right back.”
I roll my eyes, but a chuckle escapes from my lips. “Whatever you say, Sam.”
“Speaking of bad timing,” Sam groans, “I remember Dean said about going out of town next month for a prospective client — possibly on Jane’s wedding.”
And just like that, my smile vanishes. “Sam, what the —”
“Bad timing, sweetie, it’s all bad timing. But we love each other, right?” Sam let out a laugh, but I can tell that it’s shaking so I know that she’s nervous.
I glance at the clock. 8:30 pm. I wonder if I can walk all the way to Sam’s office to slap her in the face.