I saw the waiter approaching and panicked; I knew I didn’t have much time left. I had been trying to tell Laura all night, but hadn’t gotten up the nerve yet. I was just waiting for a sign from her, something to tell me that yes, she still cared and that time hadn’t run out on us. But right now, that’s what I needed: a little more time.
The waiter was a tall man with a ponytail. He smiled when he stopped at the table. “Would you like anything else?” he asked. “Coffee, or maybe some dessert?”
I looked at Laura. I needed her to order something, anything, just so I could keep her here another few minutes.
“Um, actually dessert sounds good,” she said after a moment. I relaxed a little.
“Great,” the waiter said. “I’ll give you a minute.”
I looked at Laura as she perused the dessert menu. I had noticed earlier that she was wearing her hair a little differently and I thought about telling her how nice it looked but for some reason I didn’t.
“See anything good?” I asked after a minute.
“Lots of things,” she said. “But I think I’ve got my eye on the tiramisu.”
I immediately thought about our first date. We had gone to a small Italian restaurant and Laura had suggested we get some for dessert to share. When I had returned from the bathroom, most of it was gone and she had a little guilty look on her face.
I smiled; things had been so great then, and I just knew they could be again. Could Laura ordering the tiramisu be the sign I had been waiting for?
“Tiramisu, huh? That does sound good,” I said. “Maybe we could share it.” I saw her expression change slightly and realized I was wrong.
“Um, I’m actually on kind of a diet, maybe I’ll just get a small piece of carrot cake instead.”
I wanted to tell her she didn’t need to diet, that she still looked as great as she did when we had first met in college, but again I stayed quiet.
When the waiter returned, Laura ordered her cake. For some reason, although I really didn’t want to, wasn’t in fact very hungry anymore, I found myself ordering the tiramisu.
“So, Brian,” Laura said after the waiter had left, “you were saying something about a job before? Something in office maintenance?”
I cleared my throat. “Uh, yeah, it actually looks pretty good. I mean, the money’s not great to start and the hours suck, but it’s a foot in the door.”
“That’s great, Brian. I’m glad to hear it.” I noticed her glance at her watch.
I swallowed hard. “Um…I’ll be right back.”
She nodded as I slid out of the booth. I quickly walked to the back of the restaurant and into the men’s room. I turned on the sink and splashed some water on my face. I looked at myself in the mirror. I had shaved in a hurry and the skin right below my chin was red.
What’s the matter with you? I asked myself. Just tell her, tell her that you’ve changed, that things would be different this time. Tell her there’d be no more messing around, no more lying.
Just tell her. What are you waiting for? I stared into my slightly blood-shot eyes.
“A sign,” I whispered. “I just need her to give me a sign.”
I yanked a few paper towels down from the dispenser and dried my hands and face. I took one last look in the mirror and swung the door open.
When I arrived back at the table, Laura was just starting on her cake. I slid into the booth and noticed the tiramisu. It looked a little lopsided, like a couple forkfuls had been removed.
I looked at Laura and smiled; I think I had my sign. Now I could finally tell her.
I watched Brian walk to the bathroom. He seemed nervous, edgy tonight, I thought. He also looked different — a little thinner maybe. It had only been about a month since we had last seen each other but it seemed a lot longer.
I could tell he had been trying to say something all night and for some reason he seemed almost relieved when I said I wanted dessert.
I did feel a little guilty accepting his invitation to dinner, had almost said no after he had stammered for a minute on the phone, I didn’t want to mislead him. But I realized it would be a good time to tell him my own news, that I had met someone and we were moving in together. But so far I hadn’t been able to get up the nerve to tell him; I just hadn’t found the right moment yet.
A minute or so after Brian had gone to the bathroom, the waiter brought the desserts. When he put the tiramisu down, I was suddenly reminded of our first date at that little Italian place Brian had taken me to. Their tiramisu was so good I had eaten most of it before he had gotten back from the bathroom.
I smiled; things were so new and exciting then. And the first couple years were really great. But it all seemed to change so quickly. Looking back, I wasn’t even sure Brian had ever truly been honest with me about anything.
I glanced at the tiramisu on the table; it looked a little strange, slightly misshapen. Just then Brian came back. He looked at the tiramisu and then at me and smiled.
I knew I had to tell him now.
I can’t believe they ordered dessert. First they come in twenty minutes before we close, then they order the cheapest things on the menu, milk them for an hour and now dessert, that’s probably another half hour. Yeah, that four dollar tip is really going to be worth it, I’ll finally be able to pick up that new car I’ve had my eye on!
Now I think I will tell them I dropped their tiramisu on the floor.
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Portland Fiction Project
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