Silence hung in the air, flapped about like washing on a clothesline. She cursed her friend, Kathryn, for setting up this blind date.
‘What did you say you did again, Billy?’ Ally asked. Her hands were in her lap, twiddling her thumbs under the table. The song What About Me was playing softly over the restaurant’s stereo system.
‘IT,’ he replied. Man of few words.
‘Mmm, that must be interesting,’ she said.
OK, dinner was not going well. Ally wondered about contingency plans. Why hadn’t she organised something with Kathryn. She was new to blind dates, that was probably it. After being with Travis since university, there’d never been a reason for her to date other guys.
‘I loved this song when I was younger. Do you remember it?’
‘What song is it? I can’t hear it,’ he replied. He wasn’t even making eye contact with her.
‘You know, by Moving Pictures,’ Ally said. She’s on a roll now. ‘It starts with the little boy waiting at the counter of a corner shop. Goes on to talk about how it must be his turn in life? Do you remember it?’ she said again.
‘Nah, never much into pop music.’
The waiter approached their table, with one plate balanced on his forearm, the other in his arm.
‘Veal saltimbocca?’ he asked. Ally raised her hand to indicate that was hers.
‘And sir, you must be the chicken cacciatore?’
The waiter gave a slight bow. ‘Please enjoy. Can I get you more wine before I leave?’
Kathryn shook her head, ‘No thank you.’ She was planning a quick getaway once dinner was over.
Billy was already eating. ‘We’re paying for our own food and drinks, yeah?’ he asked, chewing. Kathryn could see masticated meat on his tongue.
‘Sure, we can do it that way.’ She smiled nervously at the waiter.
‘Yeah, I’ll have a house red, thanks mate,’ Billy said. He didn’t even raise his head while he was speaking to the waiter.
Kathryn’s cheeks burned with shame. She glanced again at the waiter; he held her gaze for a fraction of a second, raised his left eyebrow slightly. He inclined his head and moved away from the table.
She looked across the table. Billy’s shoulders were hunched forward, his elbows on the table. He shovelled his food in his mouth as though he feared his plate would be taken away before he had a chance to finish. Kathryn picked up her handbag at her feet, pulled out her purse. She placed a $50 note on the table to cover her share of the meal, slid her chair back.
Billy looked up, shocked. ‘Somethin’ wrong with your food?’
‘Yeah, I’ve been put off eating it. I’m sorry, Billy, this was a bad idea. I’m going home. Enjoy your meal.’