They are sitting in a French restaurant just off Spitalfield, the one where they went for their first date ever. She never really liked it but still hasn’t gotten around to telling him, the romantic that he is, attaching special significance to it. Frankly she doesn’t care enough anyway, given he is footing the bill. He had suggested having dinner here last night and Christine had found it odd, knowing you had to book this popular place weeks in advance, especially a quiet corner spot like this one. He has to be up to something. Maybe he has something to confess, she thinks. She observes him. He looks nervous, sweat pearls building up on his forehead. So revolting, she thinks. Christine hates sweat.
She doesn’t see his left hand holding on tightly to the little dark red box deforming his jacket pocket, the treasure worth multiple months of his salary that he’s been holding on to for weeks now in anticipation. He had considered the champagne glass ploy, but once saw an episode of “Two and a Half Men” where the unsuspecting girlfriend ends up swallowing the surprise and decided to play it safe. Despite having visualized the moment over and over again, now that he’s here, his mind is a blank canvass. He tells himself all he needs to do is say four little words and go down on one knee without breaking his trousers.
“Would you like some wine tonight with your dinner? Shall I call the sommelier.” The waiter says after having taken the order, but George, his eyes burning holes into the menu doesn’t hear a word. She looks at him, giving off a mental sigh.
“George, do you want any wine? George?” Christine almost shouts pushing the menu forward and down.
“Huh?” George says, his face finally revealed to her again.
“Do you want some wine the waiter asked. I’ll take a glass but if you’re drinking too we can get a bottle.” Christine says, mild impatience in her tone. He is so distracted, what is going on, she wonders.
“Yes yes… Let’s have some wine…” The waiter walks off. His fingers are getting sticky and he starts rotating the box between his fingers. Closing his eyes, the smell of fresh bread left on the table fills his nostrils and he lets his mind wander through time to their first night here. She was so beautiful. She is so beautiful. And soon she’ll be all his.
The sommelier asks the usual questions; what are they having, fish or meat, do they have any preference on region and so on. George answers, his voice so weak, almost a whisper. What is the matter with him? Doesn’t he want to be here? After all it was his idea and she has better things to do than sit at a table with a man who doesn’t appreciate her presence. If he has something to say, he should spill it out soon, she thinks. Short-tempered as she is, she is boiling inside and lets her anger be reflected by picking the most expensive wine on the list, despite her having no idea what it is. Something from France with a high price tag, that’s all she needs to know at that moment. This time she gives off an audible sigh.
He winces at the price but tells himself there’s nothing that can be too much for this special day. He looks at her and for a brief moment he thinks she might be annoyed but can’t fathom why and instead dismisses it, deciding he must be imagining.
As the sommelier walks off, George suddenly shouts out much louder than normally acceptable in a restaurant. “Wait! Before the wine, could you bring us some Champagne?” After all these years, he doesn’t even know she hates Champagne. What is she doing with this man who clearly isn’t listening to her.
The sommelier complies and a few moments later, the champagne appears. Now or never, George thinks.
George raises his glass, readying his left hand. “Darling, there is something I need to tell you…” He says. Here it comes, she thinks. Her brain cells are in overdrive, playing out every scenario there is, more for entertainment than because she really cares. Did he cheat on her? Did he lose his job? Or is he gay? No, He definitely isn’t gay. But then again maybe his high sex drive is just an act to overcompensate for the fact that he really is. Maybe he cheated on her with a man at work and lost his job, now that would be funny, she thinks.
Her trail of thoughts is shattered by a woman’s scream on the other table.
“Oh my god, oh my god, this can’t be happening!”
They both turn to see a man down on one knee extending a blindingly sparkling item. It’s bigger than his, George thinks panicking. The woman is almost in tears. While his voice is too quiet to be heard, her “Yes! Of course, yes!” is more than audible.
Christine rolls her eyes in disgust at this pathetic public display of wanna-be relationship. She leans over and whispers to him. “Proposing in a restaurant, isn’t that so lame.”
George drops back the little box in his pocket. Not today.