Sitting on the edge of my seat, I feel a churning in my belly. He’s opposite me, all yearning eyes and wringing hands. We’re at dinner, a fancy degustation restaurant in the CBD. Linen tablecloths and napkins, silver cutlery, fine glassware.
The churning inside me is not from the food. He’s cleared his throat at least ten times. Checked his jacket pocket, too. He’s planning a surprise, but it won’t be. Poor love, he’s the one who’s going to be surprised.
‘What do you think so far?’ he asks.
‘Of the food?’
‘Oh, well. Tiny portions on big plates always seems a bit pretentious to me.’ I chuckle, he smiles, so I continue. ‘I couldn’t even recognise what we were eating for our first three courses. Or pronounce them.’
‘Do you want to stay?’
‘Sure. We’re here now. Might as well stay and see what else comes our way.’ I see the waiter approaching, balancing two more enormous plates as he weaves around the other diners. ‘Speaking of…’ I mumble.
‘Ma’am. Sir.’ The waiter nods as he places the plates in front of us. He gives us the spiel which makes no sense to me. I catch familiar words: zucchini flowers, balsamic, but all else is a mystery.
He picks up the knife and fork, but places them on the plate. ‘Maggie,’ he says, wringing his hands again.
Oh god. Here it is. The moment I’m dreading. I have to let him down gently. He reaches into his jacket pocket. I start to shake my head, a move I hope he understands as something close to let’s not spoil what we’ve got.
‘Why are you shaking your head?’ he asks, his eyebrows shoot high up his forehead. He waits. He’s expecting me to answer.
‘Well,’ I say, drawing out the word, taking up time. ‘I have a bit of an upset tummy. Perhaps we do need to leave.’
‘I see,’ he whispers. He’s crestfallen. Looks like he’s just been told his dog has been run over.
‘Excuse me for a moment. I’m just going to use the toilet.’
When I come back to our table a note is next to my plate. ‘What’s this?’ I ask, picking it up.
The words on the paper are not what I’m expecting. In fact, a note is not even close to what I was anticipating.
‘What do you mean?’ I croak my question, after I’ve read it.
‘I think it’s pretty clear.’
‘I thought you were going to ask me to marry you.’
He laughs, loud and long. Diners look our way, smile. ‘No,’ he says, still laughing. ‘You’re the last person I’d spend the rest of my life with.’
‘Then why are we here?’ I lift my chin up, defiant. I know he was planning to. I just know it. There’s a ring box in his jacket, I’m sure.
‘I’m not sure. In fact, I’m leaving now. You can stay or go. Whatever you want.’
He stands and walks away, leaving me at the table with my mouth gaping wide. And the bill.
Bastard. He surprised me after all.