“Hi, Brenda. I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me tonight.”
It was Stuart calling back after their first date
Brenda was buried in work. It would be great not to have to think about cooking. “Sure,” she said. “What do you have in mind?”
He suggested a sushi restaurant not far from where she lived. “I’ll pay for the meal and you bring the wine. Is that okay?”
“That sounds fair.”
She hung up and went back to working on the proposal of her novel which she wanted to send to some agents. Time flew by. She looked at her watch. “Darnsies,” she said out loud as she realized that the liquor commission would be closed by now.
She could have gone around the corner and bought some depanneur wine but she didn’t want to do that. Cheap wines gave her a headache.
Then she remembered the bottle of red wine which Max, her ex-husband had brought over last week. She hadn’t meant to sleep with him but the urge had been too strong and she hadn’t been able to resist his charm and tenderness towards her.
Their intimacy had always been powerful. But she did feel disappointed when he left knowing that he’d be going to another woman’s bed next week or even sooner. She then made a promise to herself. This was the last time. Promise. Promise.
Max liked investing in good wines as soon as they appeared on the shelf then see how much they increased in value through the years. She’d learned a lot about wine from him and also from her son, Randy who was currently taking his course as sommelier.
Just for fun, Brenda checked the price on the internet of the wine Max had brought over. Eighty dollars. Of course, she knew Max hadn’t paid that much. Still, that was an expensive bottle to bring on a second date.
Then she thought better. “I’ve been working hard for the last few days. I deserve a treat.”
Normally, she would have walked to the restaurant but she purposely took her car. If things didn’t work out she wouldn’t be in the awkward position of having Stuart driving her home and then expecting her to invite him up for a night-cap or whatnot.
Stuart was already pacing in front of the restaurant when she arrived. He looked nice and she forgot what it was about their first date that had annoyed her.
He started to talk about the traffic and how he hated coming into the city because of that. “That’s why I moved out to the suburbs,” he said. “There’s no traffic there. And you don’t have to pay for parking. You know how long it took me to find a parking space? “
“How long?” Brenda asked sounding over-enthusiastic.
“Ten minutes. That’s wasted gas,” he said.
Brenda thought about that and then said, “You sure you put in enough money for the meter?”
“More than enough,” he said. “I once got a ticket that said I was illegally parked on a street that I wasn’t parked on.”
She asked him if he’d contested it.
“Are you kidding? You can’t contest crooks.” He opened the door for the restaurant and Brenda stepped inside, letting out a deep breath and started to remember what had annoyed her about him.
The waiter brought them to their table. Brenda scampered to the seat facing the window. If things got boring inside maybe they wouldn’t be so much outside.
She took the bottle of wine out of her wine satchel and handed it to the waiter. He poured her a taste.
“Nice,” she smiled and watched as he filled up the glasses.
They lifted their glasses to each other.
“To The Impact,” he said.
“What?” she asked.
“The soccer team. They’re playing tonight.”
“Oh,” Brenda said, “Okay. To The Impact.” And she click her glass against Stuart’s.
Stuart then tasted his wine. She watched his face squeeze and his eyes went backwards into his skull a few centimeters. “You sure this wine is good?” he asked. “It doesn’t taste so good.”
She took another sip. “It’s good.”
Stuart tasted it again. He made the same sour face. “Really, it’s strange.”
“It’s not a cheap wine,” she said.
“How much is it?” he asked.
Normally she didn’t like to tell people about the price of her wines but she felt that he ought to know. After all, they were going dutch it was only fair that he know what she was bringing to the table. “Eighty dollars,” she said.
This time his eyes bulged. “Eighty dollars!”
She explained how she hadn’t had time to go to the liquor store and about Max leaving this bottle. Stuart picked up the bottle and examined it as if it were some foreign object.
“This is how you should taste good wine,” Brenda said. She told him how to swirl it around his mouth and even gargle it a bit. That part she was sorry about because the people sitting at the next table gave them a sharp glance.
“Now,” she said, “take a real sip.”
He did and said, “You know it’s not bad. Actually it’s really good.”
It was then that she noticed white foam around the edges of his mouth.
The meal came. It was a good meal but Brenda found herself looking out the window too often and drifting off when he talked about the speed of his computer, “I’m only getting 10MB/s download speed. Normally I get at least 15. Those internet companies are a racket.”
Brenda watched as he filled his glass practically to the rim. He placed the bottle down. She reached for it and filled her own glass.
When the bill came Stuart studied it carefully. “It comes to eighty-one dollars including tax,” he said. “Let’s just say we’re even-steven with your wine.” He got busy scribbling on the napkin. When he’d finished he looked up at Brenda and said, “Your share of the tip is five dollars.”
“How much are you giving in all?” she asked.
“Ten dollars,” he said. “That’s more than ten percent.”
She thought of how hard Randy worked at the bar and how much he depended on his tips to get him through his studies. “That’s too little,” she said. “Let’s leave sixteen dollars.”
“You go ahead and leave the extra if you want. I’m sticking to my four dollars. I don’t believe much in tipping. The owners just should pay the employees more.”
“It would only show in your bill in the end,” she said. “Besides that’s not the reality.” She dug out more money from her purse and placed it in the tray along with the bill.
When they’d finished he asked her if he could give her a lift home.
“I have my own car,” she said and was grateful about that.
As it turned out she had parked it across the street from his car. When they got there Stuart exclaimed, “What’s this? Another ticket?”
“Didn’t you read the sign?” she said, holding back a laugh. “It’s only for parking permits.”
He went close to the sign and looked at it for a long time.
“And you didn’t get any?” he said.
“Of course not. There’s no parking restriction on this side of the street,” she said.
Stuart hesitated then said, “Do you think you want to see me again?”
It would have been easy for Brenda to simply say, “yes, of course, we’ll see each other,” or “I imagine we will” which could misguide . But that wouldn’t have been the truth. And it would have been disrespectful as well. That was not like Brenda.
She looked at Stuart and said, “No, I don’t think so. You’re not who I’m looking for.” She wished him a safe drive home, got into her car and drove away thinking how hard it is finding a good fit.