PRESS, PRESS, PRESS...I haven't written fiction since elementary school :)
Although I always expected Becca’s tardiness whenever we met, I begin to scan the restaurant for her uniquely bright long blonde hair. The place is busy; almost every table is full of chatting couples and families on this cloudy Saturday afternoon. While the sky hasn’t yet started with the cool summer droplets we depend on to clear out the
Breaking my gaze out the window to my left, I scan back through the restaurant and am surprised to see the waiter standing quite close to my right side with an inquiring look on his face. Slightly dipping my head, I give him a somewhat confused (while also slightly annoyed) side glance from the top of my eyes.
“Yes?” I ask as I wonder how long he has been standing there.
“Would you like more tea?” he responds, fluctuating his voice in a manner that indicates he may have already asked this question once.
“Yes….yeah, please,” I reply softly, slightly embarrassed at my rudeness. He nods and begins to pour the tea. I add, “I’ll order once my friend arrives” indicating towards the empty chair as if I need to explain why I am currently alone. The waiter smiles, and I am pleased to see that his left cheek slightly dimples when he does so. I can’t help but reciprocate the smile, imagining my goofy face smiling back like that of a love-drunk teenager. I am suddenly horribly self-aware of my heavy limbs and awkward position. My posture is slouchy, and I sit up. I can’t quite tell if the waiter is cute, and as my body heat rises, I wonder why with age I haven’t become more calm and confident when it comes to flirting. I am almost thirty and still flirt like an awkward high schooler. My mom had promised that this nervousness would diminish the same time my acne cleared up, my braces came off, and my 80’s bangs grew out. Clearly she had higher hopes for me.
“Uggg. Hey, Kari…Sorry I’m late, but I’m finally here, I really don’t have an excuse, and you know me, I’m always late, did I say ‘sorry’ yet?” Becca rambles her usual obligatory monologue in a whirlwind of clothing and brightness as the restaurant lights reflect off her always perfectly combed blonde hair. Removing her jacket, she turns to the waiter, “And I’ll have a dry Beefeater martini, please. Vigorously shaken and with two olives.” She says the word vigorously in a manner that shows she is extremely serious about this part of her order, while she neatly adjusts her jacket over her chair and fumbles through her large bag of a purse.
I smirk as I watch the waiter glance at his watch and then in my direction. “That’s my cue to switch to wine…How about a glass of your Sauvignon Blanc?” I respond with a devious smirk. The dimple returns as I watch him nod and leave, writing down our drink order as he does so. I catch myself watching him walk away, taking careful detail of the way his other cheeks (the ones without the dimple) delicately move with the slight sway of his hips. His pant legs seem to me to be the perfect length and his walk seems to say that he is both confident and adventurous. Sighing aloud, I watch him stop at another table to remove some dirty plates and again the dimple returns. “That dimple alone must double his tips,” I think, catching myself once again smiling like that uncomfortable teenager of my past.
“Am I interrupting something?” Becca smirks, slightly looking in the direction of the waiter as a smile grows across her lips. I laugh, although I am conscious it may have been closer to a giggle, but Becca doesn’t seem to notice.
Immediately, Becca begins filling our table with amusing stories from her office. Her delicious tales are half the reason we meet every other weekend for lunch; her hilarious accounts fill my hunger for laughter every time.
Although I truly have no idea what Becca is actually paid to do at work, she has a real skill for not only story-telling but giving people nicknames. In college we practically stalked QdobaBoy (Qdoba being the local burrito place across from our dorms and Boy meaning their late-night delivery guy), and then in our spinning class there was Visor who was this intense, but also super-sexy, instructor who always wore a visor despite the fact that we were in a windowless, dim, indoor cycling studio.
The same goes for Becca’s skills in naming her office colleagues. There is Grandma the super-sweet phone receptionist who even occasionally bakes cookies for everyone on special occasions. Then there is Slinky, a guy from another department, who Becca constantly catches in their section of the building, peering over cubicle walls as he slowly saunters by. Becca insists that he may secretly have been hired to spy on employees and report back on which are working and which only check email or stream videos all day. Whether it’s true or not, Becca admits her productivity escalates when she spots him in their area. And, of course, there’s Verde. Verde is Becca’s work crush. A guy with whom she flirts, and who apparently has some of the deepest colored green eyes Becca has ever seen. I have, of course, never met any of these characters, but I have an inclination that I could identify every one of them if I ever showed up at her work.
This week was an especially flirtatious one since for the first time in the two years Becca has worked at her job, her boss, Hairy-Back-Mary, (who is not hairy, but in fact a major beast when necessary), was out of the office on some business meeting in London. Apparently Becca tortured Verde with mischievous sticky notes and inappropriate emails over the entire week. “They were quite creative,” she added with a sly smile and light laugh, and evidently they were, because Verde responded to each and every one with even more creative answers.
Becca said her week went quite smoothly without Hairy-Back’s constant micro-managing. And with her extra time, Becca had tailed Slinky to find out exactly which department he worked in, yet unfortunately his pace was too slow for her to naturally follow and keep an eye on him. This, of course, only solidified her theory of him being a spy. Overall, though, she was productive and had some fun for the first time at work. “Needless to say, I am already dreading this upcoming week. I’m sure Hairy-Back will make up for her time gone by coming into my cubicle to go over everything I did wrong with last week’s paperwork,” Becca adds, rolling her eyes.
I suddenly notice that the waiter has returned. “Can I get you anything else?” he kindly asks.
As with all of my lunches with Becca, I hardly realize where the time goes. We had ordered and drunk two rounds of drinks, eaten all of the bread and our meals. We were now idly chatting at the table that our waiter was probably hoping to quickly turnover.
“Nope, we’re good,” Becca responds with a wink in my direction. Luckily the waiter missed it as he puts the black bill holder down, staring directly at me as he does so. Becca grabs for the bill, “My turn,” she pipes, and I slowly pull my gaze away from the waiter.
“Are you sure?” I ask, trying to think which of us had paid last time.
Suddenly Becca stops. “Hey, Kari…What does this mean? Is this even our bill?” She scans it another second longer, nods and then hands me the bill as she begins digging through her purse. “I’m sure it’s some cryptic message he meant to put on someone else’s bill. But that’s our bill. I always look for my martinis if I ever have a question…” she continues on, but I hardly hear her.
Scribbled in blue at the top of our crisp white bill are the words: “When did you last speak to your husband?” The words jump into my stomach with a twinge before my brain is even able to register it completely. Becca is right, though; this is our bill. To Becca this message seems to mean nothing to either of us, but the question resonates with me until my brain finally comes up with an answer: I hadn’t spoken to nor seen my husband in almost five years.