Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Short Story - When We Talk About Love

I picked up my jacket and stormed out of the restaurant after ten minutes. Tom got up and ran after me. The waiters and other diners looked at us strangely but I did not even give them a backward glance.
“So where are you going?” Tom asked as he caught up with me. “All the other restaurants along this road are fully booked”

“I know you wanted to make Valentine’s Day special” I replied, pausing to catch my breath. “But to me, love is more than this - showing up when it suits you and making excuses.”

“Linda, I think you are over-reacting”.

“I’m not!” I shouted, drawing curious looks from passers-by and a man selling flowers at the stall on the corner.

“Please calm down”, Tom said. “I know you are upset but please….

“Look at this Tom” I cut in angrily. “You ignored my calls last weekend when I needed you, but then you turn up at my office this evening with presents and a dinner reservation for two. What am I supposed to think?”

Tom sighed and ran his hand through his hair.

I had to admit, he looked good this evening. He was coming from the office and he looked sharp in his suit. When he showed up at my office and told me where he was taking me for dinner, I was secretly impressed with his choice of venue for the dinner reservation. I had been thinking of trying the same restaurant for a long time but I was holding out for a special occasion. It had looked particularly warm and inviting from the outside this evening. The staff had replaced the normal bright lights with soft glow lights and placed red roses on the tables. The tables had been rearranged specially to create little cocoons for lovebirds dining out tonight. In all, it looked like an environment where love would blossom and it would have been really special if Tom had not upset me last weekend.

“I’m sorry Linda” Tom sighed. “But can we go back to talk inside? It’s cold out here”

I paused for a few seconds, searching his face to read his emotions.

“Okay” I finally relented. I let him take my hand and lead me back into the restaurant. The waiter at the door raised his eyebrows when he saw us coming back in. Tom sheepishly asked if we could have our table back.

“Of course sir,” he replied, beckoning us to follow him. “This way please.”

We got back to our table and sat down again. The waiter set the menus before us and took our drinks order. Tom ordered his drink and an expensive bottle of wine for later. But I was in no mood for anything fancy, so I just ordered mineral water. I faced Tom squarely and started speaking as soon as the waiter left to get our drinks.

“Everything was going fine until last month” I accused. “You seemed to go cold; you cancelled two dates and started making excuses when I tried to see you”

“Linda, I told you that the past month has been quite hectic. Between moving to my new place and getting promoted at work, I have been really busy”.

I raised one eyebrow. “Busy? You have always been busy since I met you, that is not a good excuse for ignoring me last week and the weekend before that”

Tom and I had been dating for just over a year. Even though we really liked each other from our first meeting, our relationship had gotten off to a rocky start. I had been sceptical about starting a relationship with him at first. While we were still getting to know each other, I found out he had a very clingy ex-girlfriend. Her name was Kerry and she did not want to admit that her relationship with Tom was over and he was now seeing someone else. In my opinion Tom had been rather too easy on her, still taking her calls many weeks later and gently trying to persuade her to let go of their relationship. I guess, in his defence he couldn’t help being the perfect gentleman. Even though I thought it would have made things easier if he had been firmer with her. Eventually three months into our relationship, she got the hint and drifted away quietly.
Then I got to know she resurfaced last month. And that was about the same time Tom started acting suspiciously. I wanted to trust Tom and believe that everything was alright between us. But the last time I visited him at home, I found something that worried me. At first I thought it didn’t matter, but I decided to confront him now. I figured out that if he confirmed my suspicions, then I would break it off with him and move on with my life. I have had to deal with worse situations than a break-up on Valentine’s Day.

“Everything will be okay soon you’ll see” Tom was saying. I thought he sounded nervous.

“You have become very secretive.” I said. “I can’t believe you bought a new place without telling me.”

“Linda you know I explained that I didn’t want to tell you about the house initially, in case the sale didn’t go through”

“Yes, but the last time I was at your old place, I asked you if you were moving soon, and you said no”

“At the time I wasn’t so sure. You know I had just been promoted at work, I was working longer hours and I still had a lot of loose ends to tie up” Tom said pleading with his eyes.

I decided to take a softer line with him, but I still had to get to the bottom of the issue bugging me.

“I understand that, but we have always agreed to let each other know what’s going on in our lives no matter how busy we are. How can we have a good relationship if we don’t communicate?”

Just then the waiter brought the drinks and asked us if we were ready to order. Tom suggested that we should go for the Valentines Day special set menu and I nodded my agreement. The waiter left and Tom reached across the table to take my hand.

“Linda, I love you and I really want our relationship to work out” he said softly.

“When you talk about love, what do you mean? Open discussions or secrets?”

“I…well...alright, open discussions”

“And love includes faithfulness doesn’t it?”

“Yes it does”

“Then what about her?” I countered.

“Her… who?” he said, seeming confused.

“Kerry” I finally said.

He took a deep breath. “Linda, she is out of our lives for good.”

“When was the last time you heard from her”

“Three weeks ago”

I had to ask. “Did she call you?”

“Yes she did, and she called from a number I didn’t recognise. If I had known it was her, I wouldn’t have answered the call”

I shook my head. It was like my fears were being confirmed.

“Believe me Linda. Kerry was just calling me to say she was moving to Australia and nothing more”.

That was a surprise. “She said that? So she’s moving half-way across the world?”

“Yes, she has a new job and a new boyfriend. She actually sounded very happy to tell me that”

I heaved an inward sigh of relief but this wasn’t over yet.

“Okay, one more thing” I said. “What about the jewellery?”

The look on Tom’s face said it all.

“How did you know about that?” he choked.

“I found the receipt” I said calmly. “Now just go ahead and explain that too”

“Excuse me for a minute” Tom scrambled from his chair and hurried off towards the bar.
I saw him talking to the bartender, and pointing at our table. I looked away because even though I had imagined this, I couldn’t have imagined how it felt to be betrayed by Tom. I had trusted him too much, I thought to myself. I decided to leave the restaurant before I burst into tears.

Just as I got up, Tom came back and held my hand.

“I’ve got something for you,” he said reaching for his pocket. “I was going to wait till later, but I should do it now”

He paused and said, ”Linda, will you marry me?”