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7:46 p.m., and the snazzy black Mustang pulls up in front of my little house on a back street, this gem hidden in the roughness of the city. It looks kind of funny, the modern, shiny car in front of the small, delicate old house.
Anyway, 7:46 p.m. and the shiny car pulls up out front. The driver gets out. He wears a button-down shirt and jeans, but even though the costume is casual he looks overdone in it. Like he’s trying to pull off too much.
He knocks at the door. I sigh. I met this guy quite by accident and he evidently took a liking to me. He works in a building down the street for a different company, and one day we were waiting at the same spot for the bus. And he asked me on this date. I smile bravely as I go to the door, but all the same, I am not looking forward to this date. He may be rich, handsome and talented, but he’s just not the one. He isn’t the two, either. Hell, he’s not even the thirty-seven.
The next couple of minutes are blurry. I answer the door, smile sweetly, let him in, and make small talk while I put my shoes on. I let him lead me down my own front walk and open the car door for me and talk about himself while he drives me to a restaurant I’ve been to a thousand times before. But I don’t say anything; I just smile dutifully and go in with him. We sit down, are told our server will be with us in a minute, and as he continues to talk about himself I glance disinterestedly over the menu. I’m not really hungry.
“Hey, Kenny, can you cover table 17?” Greg, the manager, asks me.
“Yeah,” I say. “Sure.” Even though I hate this job, and you, too, Greg.
I pass table seven and drop off a couple waters to that stupid couple that comes in here every week. I hope they’re happy in their dumbness. Me? I have never found anybody I wanted to be with, let alone be dumb with.
I head for table seventeen. It’s another couple. I swear they’re everywhere. The guy is talking on like an idiot. I can only see the back of the girl’s head.
“Are you guys ready to order?” I ask, and then I see the girl’s face. I stop talking and stare. She is beautiful. Silky reddish blonde hair falling like a gentle waterfall to her shoulders, big, beautiful blue-purple eyes that look as smooth and deep as a pool. Delicate, lovely face, long, thick eyelashes, beautiful sweet mouth, lovely pale white shoulders. I look into her eyes and she knows what I am thinking. I never knew love at first sight was possible.
“Yes,” says her date, fixing me with a glare. “I’ll have the steak.”
“And you, ma’am?” I say, scribbling away.
“I’ll have a salad,” she says, handing me her menu. Our eyes lock again. Is there, anywhere, anyone more beautiful than this?
“All right,” I say, and go back to the kitchen, dazed, dizzy and smiling. Greg stops me.
“Kenny,” he says. “Sober up, will ya? There’s a job to do here.”
“Sorry,” I say, and go back to work. But though the smile has left my face it is still there, buried deep behind the façade Greg requires.
I am strolling along on air when something occurs to me and I come back to earth with a thump. She had a date. A date who’s practically a celebrity. Even I have heard of the guy. Ben Osborn. The guy has a fortune, extraordinary talents and dashing good looks. Does she know what a catch he is? No, or she wouldn’t have looked at me that way.
I float back and forth between their table and the kitchen all night. I’m going to make seventeen my new lucky number. When I go to clear their table at the end of my shift, she has tossed her napkin over her plate. Unusual. As I take the plate, she looks at me significantly.
I take the plates back to the kitchen, but I keep that napkin. I flip it over and it reads: 123-4567. Call me sometime. Kate.
Kate. What a beautiful name. Call her sometime, she says.
I think I will.
five years later
Kenneth ushers me with a sweep of his hand into the restaurant where we met five years ago. We sit down, and as we wait to be attended to, we talk about nothing and laugh about everything. Kenneth has something up his sleeve but I’m not going to ask him what it is. Secrets are too sweet to tell, sometimes.
A voice speaks over my head. “Hi, I’m Ben, and I’ll be your server tonight,” it says. “Can I get you guys anything to drink?”
“Ah, no,” Kenneth says. “Not yet.”
I agree. “I think we’re still deciding.”
I hardly look at the server, only at his retreating back. He looks familiar, but G0d knows Kenneth and I have been in here plenty of times. The servers must think we’re nuts for coming in all the time.
“Katelet,” Kenneth says quietly.
“Yes?” I say.
“Never mind what?” I say. He smiles nervously and touches his mouth with the back of his hand. “Um…” he begins again.
“What?” I coax.
He shakes his head and reaches into his pocket. “Kenneth?” I say.
I don’t know why it should surprise me when he displays a tiny velvet box in the palm of his hand. “Katelet,” he says quietly, “will you marry me?”
I gasp and stretch my hand out. “Kenneth,” I say, laughing frantically, “you had to ask?!”
He laughs sheepishly and slides the ring onto my finger. I laugh out of sheer wild joy and neither of us has stopped beaming when the server comes back.
“Are you guys ready to order yet?” he asks, almost a little impatiently. I look up. My G0d. It’s Ben Osborn.
I cannot help laughing. “Yeah,” I say. The joy and the irony are starting to give me a headache. “Yeah, I’ll have a water.”
Kenneth orders, then, as Ben Osborn is walking away, “Oh, and by the way?”
Ben stops, turns back, and says, “Something else?”
“Yeah, one thing,” Kenneth says. “I used to be a waiter.”