In heart of the city’s super rich district, Chez Pierre was a hidden, reservation-only place that boosted the most tasty and authentic Italian cuisine. When Derrick and I were Derrick and I, we frequented this place as if it were our own personal kitchen.
And after years of abandoning that kitchen, everything was as we left it: small, intimate place settings illuminated by candlelight, crisp, white linen tablecloths draped over every table, simple and elegant china bordered in gold. Adding to the already plush atmosphere were the soft hums of whispered conversations.
“Ms. Sandoval, what a pleasure to see you here again.”
Pierre, the owner, the host, the legend, kissed me on the cheek and then on the other. We traded pleasantries and a brief chat before he led me to our usual table, the one tucked away in the darkest, coziest corner.
I followed him through the main dining area where the regular-not-so-important people ate. Around a pillar, in an almost secret room, was the V.I.P. section, the area where we always ate.
And there he was, Derrick Cook, a little older looking, but time had been good to him. Real good. He looked more rugged, more male model, with chiseled features and an adorable cleft in his chin. His amber eyes studied me from my head to my toes and back again. He winked one of those babies in approval and I winked back. Standing in an impeccable classic Hugo Boss single-breasted suit, he dripped with sophistication. I held my breath when I saw the Armani tie, the cream textured one I bought him for his birthday, tied in a perfect Windsor knot around his neck. The closer I walked toward him, the bigger the smirk on Derrick’s face. His right hand was stuffed in his pocket and as I approached, he took it out, took my hand and kissed it before kissing me on the check.
“You’re beautiful. As always.”
Dinner with Derrick was always an event. The best of everything—food, service, chef, table, wine. He knew how best to charm a woman out of her mind and her clothes and he wasn’t subtle about it either.
“I have to admit, I was excited about this evening. Now I’m through the roof,” he said pulling my chair out.
“Why? Are you expecting something tonight?”
“Just the pleasure of your company.”
Derrick sat down across from me and we stared at each other. Just stared. For the life of me, at that moment, I didn’t remember why we ever broke up. He was exactly what a glamour guy should be, successful, confident, cocky, and sexy. Of course a multi-million dollar bank account didn’t hurt either. The more we stared at each other, the more I felt the back of my neck and my cheeks grow warm. I was blushing and nervous! I was actually nervous looking at this man of men who was winning me over quicker than I wanted to admit. We should just bypass the pleasantries of dinner and Derrick should take me home right now. Fred could shot that damn arrow tomorrow morning.
“Were you surprised to hear from me?” I asked breaking the staring contest.
“Not really. I knew this day would come. You were the perfect woman for me. You still are.”
Just as I started to blush for the 100th time, the waiter came to take our order. I reached for the glass of water to take a sip before looking at our waiter.
“Oh!” I exclaimed, almost choking on a piece of ice. “It’s you.”
Standing in a white waiter’s jacket and black bow-tie was hot pizza delivery guy, formerly hot stranger boy, and now hot waiter man. This look was cleaner than the others I’d seen him in. Not that he wasn’t hygienic before but his grooming stock increased big time. His chestnut hair was combed and slicked back as if he stepped out of the shower 10 minutes ago. He stood up as straight as a board and, except for the tiny smile that was emanating from his pink lips, Jake, aka Teeth, looked uncomfortable.
All of a sudden so was I.
“Hello again, madam.” He answered with a dry and even tone.
What? No “hey, love”? No salute? No eye twinkle? Lame. Robot Jake wasn’t fun at that moment and I was sad about that. Just then, Derrick leaned in and asked about the brief interaction.
“Derrick, this is Jake.” I said pointing at him. “We keep running into each other. Actually, he ran into me.”
Jake suppressed a laugh and then coughed. “Nice to meet you, sir.” He readjusted his stance. “May I take your order?”
What a disappointment Jake was! Where was that guy with the killer smile, the laid back demeanor, and the much awesome tattoo on his forearm? I missed him.
Stop it, Marty! Jake is the waiter. Derrick is the date. Pull yourself together or you’ll end up alone with 100 cats all named Pinwheel.
Derrick nodded and ordered for both of us before I even had a chance to look at the menu. I didn’t even know what he ordered just that it involved him speaking in a language other than English and it was all slathered in white wine reduction sauce. I began feeling the slightest bit unhappy and I didn’t know why. The night was going to so well. Boy and girl reunited and it felt so good. Derrick wanted to rekindle our romance, now, right now. Not in a week or a year but when it counted the most, here and now. Chemistry was happening at Chez Pierre and now it was fizzling, at least with me. Thankfully, I could tell from Derrick’s I-want-to-devour-you stare, the feeling wasn’t mutual.
What was I thinking? I needed to concentrate on getting that loving feeling back. It was just that Jake’s presence took me by surprise that’s all. In the past two days, I had run into him three times and each time it was in a different capacity. So obviously, I was rattled; I expected to see just any old waiter. And of course he wasn’t himself! Hello! He was just doing his job, that’s all. It was, after all, Chez Pierre.
The rest of our date was smooth, so very smooth, until Derrick had to step away for a very important business phone call.
Now I remembered. Derrick was Mr. Work-a-holic. So many meals were interrupted by the business phone call, meetings, and faxes. Ugh! It was all going so well, too. I could overlook that. After all he was running his own business. Who else would be taking those phone calls? It was the price of genius and I would learn to live with it.
At that moment, Jake came by to fill the glasses.
“Hey love,” he whispered under his breath. “Sorry so formal. The gig and all.”
I sat up and my insides jumped with joy. There was the Jake I knew.
“That’s alright, I understand. So how many jobs do you have?”
He chuckled, the wine bottle cradled in his hands. I could see the hint of his tattoo hidden under his jacket’s sleeve. “Only two. Trying to pay for my last semester of grad school.”
“What are you studying?”
“My MBA. Almost done.”
“Impressive but waiter and pizza delivery jobs pay the bills?”
“They do for now,” he winked as he placed the bottle back on the table. “I’ve gotta get back to my other customers now. Have a nice rest of your date, Marty. See you around, love.”
Jake marched back toward the kitchen. Seconds later, Derrick returned, still handsome and still charming.
And there it was again. Spark. Derrick looked at me and I looked at him and, dare I say it, we were undressing each other with our eyes. Then Derrick raised his right eyebrow. Yup, he was intrigued by me and I loved being his mystery.
This was it! I hope Fred was taking aim. I wanted a couple of beats. I didn’t feel anything. Wait, was I suppose to feel something? Fred never mentioned that. Surely something would be felt. An overwhelming sense of love or attraction. But nothing was going on inside of me.
“Shall I get the check?”
“Of course, I’ll meet you out front.”
I excused myself from the table to go to the ladies room. Once I was in there, I looked under the stalls. No one. Running to door, I locked it.
Still no cherub.
All of a sudden, Fred popped right in front of me holding a plate of lasagna and a fork. His chin was covered in Mariana sauce as was the napkin tucked in front of his black collared shirt. Except for the mess, Fred looked downright dapper with his khaki slacks. His hair was slicked back, making him look less like a car salesman and more of a Casanova.
“Doesn’t that always happen? Just when you’re on a date, there is a mortal needing your help.”
Fred waddled toward the sink counter, placed his plate on top and removed his soiled napkin from his shirt. He waddled back toward me, stuffed his hands in his pockets and gawked at me.
“Hello! Making a connection, a spark with a beautiful man out there! Shoot the freaking arrow already.”
Rolling his eyes, Fred took out a small contraption, a two-way pager looking thing, from his pocket. Using both of his hands, he played with the buttons for awhile.
And here I thought the Gods would upgrade to an iPhone already.
Fred put up a finger telling me to wait. When he finally closed the two-way and stuffed it back in his pocket, he looked at me.
“Nope. It’s not him.”
“What? You’ve got to be joking! He’s feelin’ me, I’m feelin’ him. If there were any more sparks out there this place would be on fire.”
“Don’t know what to tell you, Marty. He ain’t it. Now if you will excuse me, there’s a nymph waiting for me to continue our date so…”
“No, way!” I stomped toward him, my hands rolled up in a fist on my hips. “There is something there, still there, between us. You said a connection. We’re connecting all over the place.”
“That may be but the machine doesn’t lie. He ain’t it. I can’t shoot.”
And with that, Fred walked back to his lasagna plate, picked it up and popped out.
Well, what the hell? I was so confused about the whole thing. So not fair! But you know what? Now I don’t care. Derrick was out there waiting for me. Valentine’s curse be damned! There were worse people to be attached to than Derrick. He’s my connection, my spark, and if we hook up tonight, we’ll be back together and that will end this prophecy from the Gods. Not Cupid, or his cousin, or some lava lamp looking hourglass. So there!
Unlocking the door, I made my way toward the front of the restaurant ready to seal the deal. But something didn’t sound right. Pierre usually kept his restaurant’s noise level at a murmur, but yet it sounded louder than it did earlier in the evening. The city’s premier Italian restaurant sounded like a T.G.I.Friday’s on a Friday. I continued to walk. The noise grew louder and ballooned into shouts and plates crashing on the floor. A woman’s shrill cut through the noise like a hot knife through butter as more plates crashed.
As I turned the corner, I froze at a scene so dramatic that it could only be described as something out of a Spanish soap opera. A frenzied woman, screaming at the top of her lungs, flung plates and silverware at Derrick as he waved his hands in an attempt to stop her. Pierre, who is usually so calm, was cursing in Italian and trying to get the woman to calm down. Waiters and busy boys ducked for cover and patrons gathered their belongings as they bolted toward the door. As the woman flung the last dish, Derrick ducked down moments before the gold-rimmed plate smashed into the wall. With her blond hair like a lion’s mane, she searched around for something else. It was at that moment one of the waiters grabbed her from behind and held on for dear life. His mouth formed a “grr” and his light brown hair was disheveled. I could distinctly see the bead of sweat rolling down his nose. The wild woman squirmed against his arms like a floundering fish searching for air. Her dress, which I could easily see was once a Carolina Herrera, was soaked in sauce, noodle and bits of salad. Those same bits of green, orange, purple, and red were sprinkled in her untamed hair. She had a look of a woman ravaged by rage and insanity.
“I want a divorce,” she yelled toward Derrick. Her voice was already showing signs of becoming hoarse. “And I’m taking everything, you cheating bastard!”
“Derrick, what is this?” I asked.
The wild woman’s sharp head movement jolted my insides and they began to quiver with fear. She looked at me as if I had taken something that had belonged to her. Flicks of red swirled in her eyes and if I moved just one inch in any direction, she would pounce on me like Cheetah on its pray.
“I’m his wife BITCH!” Mrs. Cook struggled to get free and almost did. A second waiter grabbed her before that happened. “IS THIS THE WOMAN YOU’RE CHEATING ON ME WITH? IS THIS YOUR LITTLE WHORE!”
Derrick, the man who hours earlier was sophisticated sophistication, was now cowering behind a chair. Slow and steady, he crept up, a terrified look planted on his face. Covered in the same stuff as his wife, he reminded me of a little boy who lost his mother at the mall. He looked at his wife first and then at me. A veil of indecision washed over his face. Or, perhaps, that was the look of a man who was forming an explanation in the time it took for a person to blink.
“I can explain,” he offered, still timid and using the chair as a protective barrier.
Mrs. Cook grunted and wiggled for freedom. The waiters held her tighter.
“You don’t owe me any explanation,” I said. Derrick didn’t move but kept his glance on me. Ms. Cook stood still and watched the scene unfold. “Obviously Derrick, this isn’t going to work. Thanks for an otherwise memorable evening.”
Stepping around shattered glassware and food, I made my way past Ms. Cook but I didn’t dare look at her. She made no attempts at getting free. With special care, I made it down the single step, moved through the now empty main dining floor, and out into the night—into another day of uncertainty.