As Sarah McCarthy placed her simple silver necklace around her neck, she wondered how she got herself into her situation. She bit her lip as she continued to dread the night that was to come.
All she wanted to do was buy fruit. If she knew that a simple trip to the store would land her a date, she would have settled with her lettuce. Now she was going on a date with Samuel Jason.
She sighed as she thought of him. Even at a glance, anyone could tell that he had a good head on his shoulders. He was all every woman looks for in a man: tall, handsome, kind, respectful, and respected.
Sarah was browsing the aisles trying to complete a simple task when she was approached by Sam. At first, he greeted her as any stranger would, a simple shy “Hi,” and introduction. The two walked around the store for awhile, stopping to get what they needed every now and then.
With Sarah only having a simple hand held basket, Sam was pushing a half full shopping cart, which would later be full by the end of his trip. At the end, she didn’t not like him. Of course, there were many things about him that set her off edge.
I’m going on a date with a single father, Sarah though, staring at herself in the mirror. The fact that he was single, along with being a father did not bother her. Over the years, dates had not gone well with Sarah. Taking in consideration all the stand-ups and a**holes, she tried to give up dating all together. But tonight, Samuel Jason had somehow managed to pull her in.
Stop, she told herself, glaring into the mirror. It’s fine. There is nothing to be worried about. There is no way in the world this will go badly. It’s impossible.
Sarah went to go put on her best rings. Already on the first date, he was taking her to The Clover, a very fancy and exquisite restaurant. At first, she didn’t believe that he was going to take her there. It took months to get a reservation. That was where most of her fear was pitted. If she showed up and there was no reservation, she would simply die.
She looked down at her rings, her eyes drifting to her nails. Her habit of biting her nails was gnawing inside her. She clenched her hands in a fist and refused to fall into her temptations.
She gave herself one last look over in the mirror. It had been so long since she put on her little blue dress. She was still contemplating whether she should let her hair down, but panic had the best of her, she left for the restaurant early.
It only took her a few minutes to drive to The Clover, the entire time full of panic, dread, regret, followed by self tough love. But even after all the reassurance and scolding, she still bit the inside of her cheeks in anticipation.
Once she arrived at the restaurant, she was 15 minutes early. She walked up the steps, lush green plants surrounding the steps.
She opened the doors, stepping into the exquisite restaurant. It was if the entire building was painted with gold. Soft piano music floated through the air, adding to the calm feel of the restaurant.
“Welcome to The Clover. Do you have a reservation?” a hostess greeted her.
Realizing she was much too early, she stuttered on her response. “Uh, I think so. It might be under Samuel Jason, but I’m early so I can just-”
“You’re table is already set up, Miss,” the hostess said sweetly, looking Sarah up and down with her eyes. She knew something that Sarah didn’t know, but she was too overwhelmed to figure out what.
The hostess lead her to her table, the best table in the restaurant. Across the room, a man in a suit played piano so patiently, his eyes were closed in focus, his body swaying to the music.
Sarah took a seat, and the hostess walked away. The strange thoughts of the hostess left Sarah’s mind as she started to focus on the events that were about to unravel.
Sarah transitioned back and forth from slouching over in nervousness to scolder herself to sit straight up. As the clock ticked down, so did her sanity.
It was five minutes to the official time date. Accusations started to swarm in Sarah’s head. A good man like that would usually come to the restaurant early, right? Maybe he’s not as good as I thought, Sarah thought.
She thought back to all the Rom-Com movies that she had ever seen, which was way too much for any human to watch. In most of them the woman was there first. That managed to calm her down a little bit, but her stomach felt heavy.
Six minutes later, Sam was officially late. No big deal, she thought. He’s probably kissing his kids goodbye or something, right? That’s what parents do, right? How many did he say he had?
She occupied herself with trying to remember the information he gave her about himself. He had two little girls, age five and seven. From the pictures they seemed very cute. He never said where he worked, or what happened to the kids mother.
Probably late, Sarah thought, surprised at herself for thinking such a dark thought. She blamed the Rom-Coms.
She pulled out her phone. Five minutes late. She bit her lip, looking glancing around the room to see if he was anywhere.
The people around her continued their nights, not having to worry about being stood up again at a restaurant. Everyone at the tables spoke quietly, as if their conversation with their person of interest was too private to be heard by a stranger.
Women in expensive dresses and makeup stared into the eyes of men in suits and combed back hair, sharing a connection with each other. Their moments were accompanied by calming piano music that made their night nothing short of perfect.
Sarah sat there, staring at the crazy phenomenon people called love, and bit a nail off.
After eight minutes of Sam officially late, a waiter came to Sarah’s table, snapping her out of her deafening thoughts.
“Wine?” he asked, a bottle in his hands and a professional smile on his face.
“Yes, please,” Sarah said, watching the waiter pour the glass. She wondered what the waiter thought of her sitting down at the table alone.
After the waiter finished pouring Sarah what she now considered her “Forget-me juice,” he grabbed a bowl of free french bread off a cart behind him. “To occupy you during the weight,” he said kindly.
The wine already in her stomach felt heavy. “So it’s that obvious?” she asked, her eyes shying away.
“Fashionably late, Miss. That’s what everyone is going for these days,” the waiter joked. “I’m very sure that the lucky man will show up soon.” He had the same look in his eye as the hostess, but Sarah missed it, her empty gaze on the bread.
“How lucky can he be?” she asked aloud, asking herself rather than the waiter. She took a sip of wine. “I should just leave.”
“No,” he said, more quickly than a usual reply. Sarah noticed this, staring at him in confusion. His face no longer showed the cool, calm initiative it showed before, but a panicked fear. “Give him time, Miss,” he continued, trying to recover from his quick reaction. “I’m sure he has an understandable reason for being late.”
Sarah stared forward, trying to figure out what to do. If she left, she wouldn’t embarrass herself any longer by staying in the restaurant alone. But if the truth was that Sam was late for a good reason, she may miss out on a great opportunity. If she stayed, every minute alone would continue to get worse and worse, bad enough to break her forever. There was also free bread.
She sighed, picking up her wine glass. “It can’t hurt to wait a little longer, I suppose,” she said, taking a sip.
The waiter left, leaving her with her bread and wine. Second by second, minute by minute, his punctuality was being challenged more and more. In her mind, Sarah made up excuse after excuse to defend him.
He’s probably stuck in traffic, she tried to convince herself. Or maybe he lost his car at the mall parking lot. We’ve all done it. Or maybe he forgot the address and he’s tracking it down on his phone. Or maybe he’s pulled over by a cop because he was on his phone looking up the address. Cops pull people over for being on their phones while driving. I can get past a criminal record.
Sarah had been at the restaurant for half an hour, half of the bread, most of the wine, and all of her hope gone. She felt a lump form in her throat. Not now, she thought, trying to push it down. You can hold it in until you get to the car.
Deciding enough was enough, she took the last sip of her wine and stood up from her chair. Nobody turned to look at her, deaf to her problems.
She walked to the front of the restaurant, where she was confronted by the hostess. “Is everything alright, Miss?”
She stopped, twisting her rings. “No, it’s not,” she said, smiling at her own humiliation. She shook her head, burning into her brain that this night was the nights that finally broke her. “Tonight was my own fault. I’m sorry I took up one of your tables for so long.”
Sarah was ready to leave, but the hostess quickly said, “Miss, I’m sure this isn’t necessary. I’m sure there is a perfect explanation to all this.” She spoke with the same modulation as the waiter.
“I’m sorry, but I am done making excuses,” Sarah said, tired and exhausted with herself and her day. “There’s no excuse good enough to make me-” She was interrupted by the eruption of thunder and crackling of lightning. The sound of hundreds of tiny bullets broke into the restaurant, breaking the flow of peace and piano.
Just great, Sarah thought, biting her lip. “Did you… happen to see the weather forecast today?” Sarah asked the hostess, slowly turning back to her.
“Heavy rains,” the hostess answered, just as Sarah predicted. She was parked too far away to get to her car at least half dry. My love life may be damaged, she thought, but there’s no way I’m damaging my interior.
“I suppose I’ll just wait at my table for either my date to show or the rain to stop,” Sarah said, swiping a piece of stray hair behind her ears.
As Sarah walked away, she could hear the hostess let loose a quiet sigh of relief. Now Sarah knew something was up.
She sat down, staring in the direction of the hostess. She stood behind her podium, flipping though the book of reserved tables. She stood straight, a focus expression plastered on her face.
Sarah brought her gaze over to the waiter who served her earlier. He was now serving another couple, smiling and nodding. His uniform was neatly pressed, his hair combed neatly.
Another clash of thunder boomed from outside, snapping Sarah out of her thoughts. I don’t like this, she thought, suddenly not feeling comfortable. Why were they trying to keep her here.
She turned to her wine glass. It was refilled and full. Sarah gave a silent prayer and took the glass eagerly.
The rain went on for 20 minutes. In 20 minutes, there was no Sam. There was no hiding it now; she was set up.
Maybe one of his friends thought it would be funny, she thought, swirling her wine in her glass. Maybe he thought it would be funny. Maybe God just hates me. Oh well. The feeling’s mutual, now.
The echoing of thunder seceded, the pittering of the rain slowed. Now was her chance. She stood up, pushing her chair in. Before she could take one more step, the waiter walked up to her. “Is everything alright, Miss?”
“I don’t have time for this,” Sarah spat, turning around to storm away. At first, the realization that she was stood up was saddening. Now, she was furious for letting herself be humiliated for so long.
“Please, Miss,” the waiter said, stepping in front of her, his hands up in a plea, “I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”
“I’ve had enough of this,” Sarah said, quietly enough so that the hum of love the others were making wouldn’t be interrupted. “My business is no one's but my own. Get out of my way.”
Before the panicked waiter could say anything against it, someone behind us said, “Oh my God, I am so sorry.”
Sarah turned around to see a out of breath Sam dressed in a white chef’s outfit. Sam took both of them by surprise, but Sarah quickly recovered.
“What is this?” she asked, gesturing to his outfit. “Is this some kind of joke?”
The waiter looked between the two and said, “Well, I’ll leave it to you,” and hastily walked away.
“No, God no,” he quickly explained. “This was definitely not my intention. They said I would get off work early tonight, but we were so busy they wouldn’t let me leave. They promised me a table if I worked tonight and I thought…” he trailed off, staring into her eyes. A sheepish smile crept up on his face. “You look really nice tonight.”
Sarah stared at him, trying to figure out what to say. She had waited far too long, and this was his excuse? I should leave right now, she thought to herself angrily. But seeing him in front of her, flustered and sorry, she couldn’t bring herself to take a step. “You thought what?” she asked in a soft voice.
“I thought I would have enough time to get ready,” he finished, glancing to the side, to embarrassed to look her in the eye. He pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. This was stupid of me. You probably hate me right now, don’t you?”
Sarah stared into his eyes, candlelight dancing in the reflection. The anger and hate inside her subsided. The fact that she wasn’t stood up calmed her. He looked too sincere to be lying to her. She bit her lip. “I don’t think I hate you…”
“We have this table the entire night,” he said, waving his hand over the table. “I can take all the time tonight to try and win your forgiveness. Well, before 11, at least. The babysitter leaves at 11.” Sarah gave a small giggle, which made Sam smile. “What do you say?”
Sarah stared up at him. “I think I’ll let you try,” she said, giving a smile. Sam returned the gesture with a big grin. They sat down, finally starting the over delayed date.
“Before we start anything,” Sarah said, crossing her ankles, “how well do you know your co-workers?”
Sam, turned his head, confused by such an odd question. “I’ve worked with them for years,” he said, trying to find the right answer. “I suppose they’re a family away from home. Why?”
Sarah pointed to the front of the restaurant, where the hostess and waiter were shaking hands and celebrating. Sarah laughed as Sam’s face burned red, staring his coworkers. When the two made eye contact with Sam, instead of trying to hide the obvious, flashed smiles and thumbs up.
Sarah shook her head, smiling at something that was worth much more than a work relationship. As every puzzle piece in her mind were set into place, every plate overturned, Sarah leaned on the table, eager to finally start her date.