She notices how the flickering candle light dances on the restaurant wall, as she adjusts the strap of her dress. She people watches for a moment. But only for a moment, before she is interrupted.
He walks up to the table, flashing a smile he’s probably trying to keep under wraps, but isn’t overly concerned that he can’t.
“Hi. I’m Jack. What’s your name?” he asks, taking a seat in the chair across from her.
“Laura,” she replies with a practiced strained patience.
“Ohhhh that’s it. I had kind of made one up for you.”
“What was it?”
“Distractingly pretty girl I saw sitting here with long hair, an explosive smile and amazing eyes.”
“That sounds hard to remember.”
“And nearly impossible to find on personalized souvenir key chains.”
“You’re a goof,” she says.
“That may be true.”
“Can you believe that we’ve been together for five years?”
“I know! I think I’m getting better looking every year.”
“Of course. I’m hungry.”
A waitress appears. She was pretty once. Possibly very much so. But she looks like she made the wrong decisions with the wrong men, and here we are. Older than her age, but younger than she feels.
“She’ll have the East Coast Burger with sweet potato fries. I’ll have the chicken, but with actual real fries. Thanks,” he says.
“How did you know I was going to order that?” she asks, when the waitress is out of earshot.
“I know everything about you.”
“You do not.”
“You cry at YouTube videos. You think pants are a commie plot. When you read, your face looks like it is trying to memorize every single detail. Always. You wiggle your butt when you mix or stir anything while cooking. When the sun comes in through our bedroom window during nap time, you try to follow where it hits our bed. Like a kitty. Feminism be damned, you only ever want to be the little spoon. You don’t care if your socks match. You eat ice cream straight from the container, but think I don’t notice. And you never, ever question how there is always a back up container, even though you never remember to buy one.”
“Well… that’s…” she says.
“It’s okay to be impressed by me.”
“But maybe I want to be in a relationship where I’m a mystery.”
“I mean, you can go that route. But think about how fucking awesome it is to be with someone you don’t have to explain yourself to all the time. Someone who understands what you’re saying and doing. Someone who not only gets you, and understands you, but loves your for it, not in spite of it. Think about how wonderful it is to have someone on the same page as you.”
“I guess that’s okay,” she says with a laugh. “Prove to me that you know me. That you really know me.”
“You’re jealous of the people doing what you’re doing, but who are experiencing slightly more success at the moment. Then you feel like being jealous is a waste of time. Then you feel guilty because they’re trying their best and their success should make you happy for them. Then you realize you’re wasting more time feeling guilty.”
“I’m going to need more wine.”
He waves to the waitress, as she walks by.
“Hi. Apparently it requires more than a single glass of wine to endure a meal with me,” he says.
“Should I bring an entire bottle?” the waitress asks.
“I appreciate your sass. But this may be reflected in your tip.”
“I can’t walk down the street without people telling me how much they like my sass. I’ll be right back with the wine.”
“You’re the only person I know who has mastered the ability to use charm to keep people at arm’s length,” Laura says.
“I was just getting you some wine.”
“You do it all the time.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean. You let people think they’re getting in, but you control it. You limit how much information you share.”
“Maybe,” he smiles before taking a long drink of water.
“I’m just glad you don’t do it with me.”
“I couldn’t if I tried.”
“Did you try?”
“A little. In the beginning.”
“I was afraid of how quickly I was falling for you.”
“I am pretty adorable.”
“Very. Hey! I thought I was supposed to be me showing you how well I know you. Not the other way around.”
“Just wanted to let you know that you’ve met your match.”
“Oh, my dear, I’m very much aware.”
“You do think you’re quite something though, don’t you?”
“I can’t think of a way to answer that which isn’t completely arrogant, and just as accurate, so I’m going to keep singing Elvis Costello’s ‘Veronica’ in my head until you change the subject.”
“Dork. Fine. Tell me what else you know about me.”
“You want a man who will never stop seeing pretty shapes in the clouds and hearing music in the rain. Someone who can see the celebration in the mundane. Someone who doesn’t need to look for fun, because he always brings it with him. Someone who will always try his best to make you feel loved. You don’t want perfect. You want effort.”
“You get me.”
“And I love you.”
“I’m glad. But you have something… in your nose.”
“Oh crap! Really?” he asks, wiping at his nose frantically.
“Nope. I just like seeing you flustered once in a while.”
“You’re a pain in my ass.”
“I really do love you.”
“Oh I know,” she says, with her voice getting lower. “Thank you.”