Tony's Italian Villa

Written in response to: Set your story in the lowest rated restaurant in town.... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction Teens & Young Adult

“You know this is the worst restaurant in town, though, right?”

The soles of my sneakers slap the sidewalk, a sharp contrast to the heel’s of Dale’s loafers clicking along beside me.

“Well, technically, I guess it is.” Dale says, a smirk crossing his face.

“Technically?” I ask, rhetorically. Or maybe incredulously. 

The spring wind has blown my hair into my face as I turned to look at Dale. He’s staring straight ahead, still smirking, so I look ahead, too, and tuck my hair back behind my ears. Once I’m out of my parents’ house, out from under their thumb, I’m cutting my hair short. I don’t care if they think girls are supposed to have long hair, I can’t stand it anymore.

“Dale,” I try to keep the lecturing tone out of my voice. “Do you want me to pull out my phone? Do you want me to show you all the one-star reviews where people said they gave this place one star only because they couldn’t give it zero?”

“Rayanne,” Dale shoots back, mocking my tone. “Just trust me on this.”

“Trust you. Ok, sure.” I want to spout off all the reasons I should trust him. The anecdotes from the more than ten years of our friendship to show exactly why I shouldn’t trust him. But I can’t. Dale is totally, entirely trustworthy. As a friend, as a person, as someone who is choosing our dinner spot tonight. He’s never steered me wrong. I sigh instead.

Dale nods beside me, accepting my defeat on this point. “Do you want to know why you should trust me?” Dale is eager to tell me why, I can hear it. I can feel it radiating off his brown leather coat. I can smell it, well, maybe that’s just his usually muskiness. But is smells a little extra smug and confident tonight.

I sigh again. “Tell me.” I brace myself for all of his anecdotes about the times he has been trustworthy, to a fault. I can even think of some good examples in my mind, but don’t want to help prove his point.

“Because you’ve never been to a magician’s restaurant before.” He says it simply, plainly, still the hint of smugness, but not his teasing or condescending tone that I’m well familiar with.

“Because I’ve never been to a magician’s restaurant,” I do use my mocking voice. Because of course I’ve never been to a magician’s restaurant. “You haven’t either.”

Dale looks at me now, his left eyebrow raised. That mastery of his facial muscles always making me burn up inside since I have so little of mine as to not even have a poker face.

“What?!” I spit the word at him, staring straight into his eyes to try to detect any hint of a lie, of a joke or prank. “You haven’t either, right?”

It’s at that moment we arrive at the lowest rated restaurant in town, our destination for the night, Tony’s Italian Villa. It looks like an average neighborhood, mom and pop restaurant: red door with paint slightly peeling, red and white striped awning, neon Open sign glowing in the window, through which you can see the hostess, bored at her stand as there are exactly zero customers inside.

Dale turns to face me now as we stand on the sidewalk in front of Tony’s Italian Villa: home to the pizza popper pie and the most one-star reviews I have ever seen. “I want you to open the door, take one step inside, let the door close behind you, then come back out.”

I just stare at Dale now, both of my eyebrows raised since I can’t raise just one because of the aforementioned lack of specific control over my facial muscles.

“I know you trust me. I don’t have to ask if you do. Just do it and then when you come back out, I will show you something truly amazing. Something you’ll barely be able to believe.”

“I do trust you,” I say, staring down at my sneakers. I really have no reason not to. But this just seems like too much. “What’s going to happen when I go in there?”

“Probably the hostess will look at you with a bored look on her face,” Dale says. “Maybe, if this is as big of a cliche as it seems, she’ll be look up from her fake nails and pop a big bubble of gum. Maybe her nametag will say Flo. Maybe Tony will be behind the bar, wiping it down in slow, bored circles with a rag that looks more dirty than clean.”

“But nothing crazy or magical, right?” Do I trust Dale? Absolutely. But I have a lot of questions swirling in my head at this moment. I’ve never been to a magical restaurant. But has Dale? He makes it sound like he has. But if he has, that means he’s a magician. And I know everything about Dale. I’ve known him since we were six years old when his family moved in across the street from mine and my mom insisted I walk with him to school the next day. And he’s not a magician. I don’t think.

“Nope. It’s just Tony’s Italian Villa in there. Lowest rated restaurant in town. Not much to see. But I want you to see that first before I take you where we’re really going.”

“Oookkkk,” I draw the word out a little as I reach out and push open the Villa’s door.

As soon as I get inside, I’m smacked by the smell of canned spaghetti sauce. Nothing sophisticated about that smell at all - straight out of the can like when I make myself dinner. My sneakers stick to the gritty floor and a little bell on the door tinkles, announcing my arrival. There’s no Tony at the bar and the hostess’s is Cathy. But she does look up from her fake nails, chomping on a big wad of gum.

I give a weak smile, turn around and flee before Cathy can say anything to me.

“About what we expected,” I say to Dale once I’m back on the sidewalk with the Villa’s door closed behind me.

“Ok, now,” Dale hesitates here. I look down and see his hand slightly extended from his side, palm up. I know what he’s going to say. I know why he’s nervous to say it. Despite our 10-year friendship, physical contact has been very limited, especially in the last three years. There have been constant boyfriend-girlfriend rumors since we were about eight and inseparable even then. We’ve always easily denied and shrugged off those rumors because there’s never been even an ounce of truth to them.

I don’t make Dale say the words. I grab his hand.

“Watch this,” he says, pushing the restaurant door open.

And we step into an entirely different space. A different world, it feels like. I smell garlic and spices I can’t name. My sneakers glide across a marble floor. The lighting is stylishly dim rather than a flickering fluorescent. There’s no hostess, no bar, just high top tables with groups of people surrounding them. And food flying in on plates, landing in front of them.

I look at Dale, still holding his hand. Griping it quite tightly, actually. 

“Have I never told you?” Dale says with a broad smile. “I’m a magician.”

April 16, 2022 00:01

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