~~What the fuck am I doing here? Mason has just brought me into the swankiest restaurant I have ever been in. I mean it must cost a bloody fortune to eat here, even at lunch time.
The guy that shows us to our table seems to know Mason because he didn’t even need to check the reservation list when we arrived. Mason seems to be completely at home here; I feel like a fucking fish out of water. I mean a restaurant where you have to make reservations for lunch! And yes, the menu I have just been handed confirms that it is very expensive because there are no prices listed. Read *if you have to ask the price then you can’t afford to eat here*.
I love French food though. I adore French food. How could Mason know that? Is he fucking psychic? I look across the table at his bent head as he studies the menu. The sun is catching his blond hair and lights up his golden curls. He really is fucking gorgeous and he asked me out, why? I really can’t fathom it. He seems to sense that I am watching him, adding to my belief that he is in fact, psychic. He looks up and smiles,
“See anything you like?” he asks, grinning that fucking stupid Chesire Cat grin. I feel my face heating up because I know he did not just mean what’s on the menu. I scowl and return to studying the damn menu and try to get thoughts of what else I would like out of my head. Why am I even thinking things like that?
My scowl turns to an anxious frown and Mason leans across the table,
“Doug, is everything okay?” he asks, his grin has gone and is replaced by a concerned look; it is that same look that made me accept his invitation in the first place: crestfallen and sad.
I don’t want him to think that I am not enjoying myself, because, even though I’m not actually having the time of my life, I am not having a terrible time either. I manage a smile, but it is mixed with a frown,
“Mason, there are no prices on this menu.” I tell him, quietly, and he nods, smiling as if this is normal, “That means it’s going to be really expensive.”
“It is, Doug, but you’re worth it.” He says in that annoyingly bright tone that makes my heart skip a beat.
This is the second time he has said this to me and I don’t really believe it but he says it in such a genuine way that I think I might to have to start. Is he trying to impress me by bringing me here? I’m not certain, because the way the Maitre D’ greeted him it seemed like he comes here a lot. I only hope I don’t do anything to make it difficult for him to come back. He seems to sense my discomfort but does not seem to understand why I’m uncomfortable,
“Doug, we can both afford to eat here, we both get paid a hell of a lot of money to play around with computers all day. Sometimes it’s nice to live a little and spend some of that money on ourselves. Didn’t you ever treat yourself just for the hell of it?”
I think hard. I know I get paid a lot, but I never spend a lot. That isn’t because I can’t, I just don’t really need much, I never have. I shake my head,
“Where I grew up you learned to get by on what you had,” I explain, “because wanting something beyond your means was just a pipe dream.” Wanting clothes that fit and shoes without holes and a full stomach was often a pipe dream too but I think that this is probably too much information for anyone to digest,
“Didn’t you have much money when you were a kid?” Mason asks. He seems genuinely interested. If I tell him the absolute truth he is definitely going to look at me differently. I’m not embarrassed about my background and my routes, it’s just that people like Mason, they just don’t understand and they pity me and I don’t think that I could cope with it if Mason got that look on his face: the look everyone gets when I tell them about my past,
“I grew up in a slum, Mason.” I watch his face for any signs of pity. There isn’t any, instead there is shock and surprise, “We are probably going to pay more for this one meal than my mum had to spend on food for an entire month, for three people. So you’ll forgive me if I get a little antsy about prices and spending money. It’s just that old habits die hard, and up until three years ago when I got this job, I had to watch and account for every penny I earned.” Mason lets out a long deep breath,
“That’s sound harsh.” He said, though there is no pity in his tone or expression, just interest and curiosity, “My parent’s live off trust funds set up by my grandparents. Neither of them have ever had a paid job. They do voluntary work. But they have never had to worry about where the money was coming from and neither have I. I can’t imagine how that must feel.” He leans forward with a grin, “You do know that you could probably afford to eat here everyday and still have pocket change at the end of the month, don’t you?” he says with a twinkle in his eye, and I can’t help smiling back,
“I know.” I say, “It doesn’t stop me feeling guilty about it. I’ve just never been one for extravagance that’s all.”
“You say you’re not one for extravagance yet you live in a penthouse apartment in the most expensive part of town, Doug.” Mason reminded me, smiling affectionately,
“One that was chosen for me, Mason, and belongs to our esteemed CEO. He charges me rent, although I don’t think he charges me the going rate.” I frown, knowing fine well he doesn’t. He didn’t even want to charge me anything but I insisted,
“They want to keep you sweet, Doug,” Mason says, “because you keep them all in a job.” I blush.
I know I do an important job but it’s also a dream job, and most of the time I can’t help feeling that someone is going to walk up to me and tell me it was all a mistake and ask for everything back,
“What made you choose this restaurant?” I ask, to steer the conversation away from me,
“My parents eat here all the time,” Mason explains, leaning back in his chair, “I used to come here with them when I was still living at home. I still join them for high days and holidays.” That would explain the Maitre D’ knowing who he was,
“So is it really expensive?” I ask. He gives me a knowing smile,
“That’s not really your concern since this is my treat.” He says and I am surprised to say the least because I thought that we would go dutch,
“I can’t let you pay for me too.” I say. I know we both make a lot of money, but I also know that I make far more than Mason. I feel just a little guilty allowing him to pay for us both. I’d quite happily pay for him too but he is adamant,
“I’m paying and that’s final,” he says,
The waiter returns and cuts off any argument I might have given to the contrary. He asks if we’re ready to order. Mason goes first, speaking in flawless French and I stare at him in wonder.
I go next and the waiter gives me a look that could sour milk because my bloody Celtic tongue trips over the French words. I never was one for speaking French, but I understand it and I know what I’m ordering, the bloody waiter doesn’t have to be so bloody patronising about it. It is obvious he is sneering at me when he asks me if I am sure I want to order snails in garlic butter. I happen to like them. I give Mason a quizzical look and shrug at the waiter’s snooty attitude. Mason makes a face at the guy behind his back and I fight the urge to giggle. What the fuck? I have never giggled in my entire life.
The waiter, oblivious to our little exchange, then asks if we want drinks and I look at Mason. I would love to order some wine but it doesn’t seem fair that he is paying and driving so he won’t get to enjoy it. I would offer to pay for the wine but I know he won’t hear of it, the stubborn git. He uses those psychic abilities of his again as he says,
“You go ahead and order some wine, Doug, I don’t mind, I’ll have a taste though.” He smiles almost excitedly.
I frown back and ask for the wine list. The waiter gives me a look that quite openly says “I don’t think you can afford the wines on this list.” And he flips me the leather bound folder pompously then hovers over us with that self satisfied sneer on his face,
“C-can we have a little time?” I ask him, because I hate people hanging over me when I’m making a decision. Mason seems to sense that I am feeling uncomfortable and he is glaring daggers at the waiter for the way he is behaving,
“Could you get me a coke?” he asks and I note that he doesn’t say please and he uses a tone that very much reminds the waiter who is in charge, “We’ll decide on wine in a moment.” The waiter looks down his nose at both of us and nods curtly. He spins on his heal and minces off.
I stare at the wine list, trying to concentrate, but I can’t. Suddenly I feel Mason’s hand on mine,
“Hey,” he says, his eyes searching my face, “What wine are you gonna choose?”
“But you’re driving, you can’t have any.” I say, sadly, and place the list back down on the table, “I’ll just have a coke, same as you.” He shakes his head,
“I can have a small glass of wine, since now I really want to know what you’re going to choose.” He sounds excited as he picks up the list and hands it to me.
How can he make something as mundane as picking out wine sound so exciting? But then it is kind of exciting to me too, because it is only in the last three years that I have been able to afford to do this and it is even more of a novelty because I have never had someone to share it with.
I look up at Mason, meeting his crystal clear gaze. I think I might have someone to share it with now. I shake my head and take the leather bound list from him and try to ignore the fact that he is watching me and smiling that fucking annoying smile that isn’t so much annoying as unnerving. This is just one date. I can’t be thinking that this could possibly be anything more than his curiosity about me and once he finds out that I am in fact, not worth the effort, or money, he will find someone else to throw his affections at. For some reason I feel sad even thinking that he might lose interest in me.
The waiter returns with that same snobby look on his face and I feel my stomach clench. He knows. He knows that I don’t belong here, that I shouldn’t even have assumed to come through the door of this expensive restaurant. I find myself shrinking into my seat, any confidence that Mason has given me has suddenly gone,
“Have you made your decision, sir?” he manages to make the word sir into an insult. I swallow and look up at him,
“I-I haven’t yet.” This is because there are too many to choose from, not because I don’t know which one or am worried about the price,
“Perhaps you would like me to tell you the prices to help you decide.” He sneers,
“We don’t need to know the prices.” Mason steps in sounding annoyed,
“I’m sorry, sir.” The waiter sneered, “I misunderstood your hesitation.” He turns to me, “Perhaps sir needs a little more time.” I shake my head and tell him my choice, which is French of course and I trip over the words again. He snorts at my failed pronunciation attempts and repeats it for me in flawless French, “Perhaps Sir might be better off ordering a coke next time, like your friend.” He turns and minces away again,
My face has heated up like a fucking gas fire set to the highest setting and I can see that Mason is annoyed too, and I know it isn’t at me it’s at that fucking stupid snobby bastard of a waiter. People have looked down their noses at me all my life so I should be used to that kind of reaction, but every time it happens I feel that everything I have done to try to leave my old life behind has been undone by one act of snobbery.
As far as I’m concerned that waiter can go and fuck himself. He’s so far up his own arse anyway it wouldn’t be too hard. I mean I am embarrassed, but I can live with it because the guy will eventually have to concede, that I probably know more about wine than he does and even though my spoken French is atrocious, I understand it perfectly.
I can see that Mason is really bothered by the guy’s behaviour. Is he bothered because he’s worried about me or is he bothered because he is worrying whether he can ever come back here to eat again? Didn’t he say his parents eat here a lot? He leans across the table and I know by his expression that he is going to say he wants to leave because he is embarrassed,
“I’m so sorry, Doug.” He says and I close my eyes and swallow because I’m sure I know what is coming next. He doesn’t say anything next and I open my eyes to see that he has actually left the table.
I look around frantically but I can’t see him anywhere. He left without even saying good bye or anything. Was he so embarrassed by my ignorance and that waiter’s behaviour towards me? Has he just gone; eventually realising that I’m just too much like hard work?
Oh God! I said I could live with being looked down on by that arsehole of a waiter, but what I really meant was that I could cope with it if Mason was there. Now he’s gone, what the hell am I supposed to do? I don’t want to explain to that mincing nightmare that my date just left. Was he my date? I don’t even want to explain that either.
I feel panic rising in my gut. He drove me here; how the hell am I going to get home? A taxi will cost a bloody fortune and I don’t know the bus routes. I take a deep breath because I can find out the routes on my phone. There’s no need to worry, no need to panic. You’re in a strange place but you can get home, Doug, just stay calm and look up the bus routes on your phone.
Breathe and look at your phone.
Shit, I can’t even see my phone because my eyes are all blurry. I wipe the back of my hand across them and try again. That’s better. I connect to the free WiFi and search for bus timetables. My fingers are shaking as I find what I need and then I stand, trying not to look around me, knowing that everyone will be looking at me, the fish out of water; the guttersnipe street rat that thinks he can just waltz into a posh restaurant and be accepted and not be kicked out on his arse.
I know they’re all going to be staring at me because my date abandoned me in the first five minutes out of embarrassment. I slump my shoulders and leave, walking for the door and not looking left or right and not looking back either.
When I get out of the door I run. I run to the nearest sidewalk and then run some more until I find an alleyway that I duck into and lean against the wall to steady myself.
I feel like I want to be sick and I swallow hard to stop the nausea. I’m shaking from my head to my toes. There is a fucking reason why I never come out; why I never accept invitations from anyone and why I shouldn’t have accepted this one. Mason has found out the hard way what it is that keeps me so isolated and so alone.
It’s not that I don’t like social situations; it’s just that social situations don’t like me. I have tried to be sociable in the past: tried and failed. There are some people that will just never fit in anywhere and I’m one of them. I try to better myself and then something like this happens and I am suddenly a little kid again, dressed in raggedy clothes wearing shoes with holes in the soles. The kid that doesn’t speak because he’s too afraid and everyone thinks it’s because he’s stupid. The kid that is never picked for teams because his clothes are always so dirty and he stinks. The kid that gets thrown out of shops because they automatically think he’s going to steal something because if he’s dressed in filthy rags then he mustn’t have any money. That’s how that waiter made me feel just now.
I turn and lean back against the wall. My breathing is a bit more even. I check in my pocket for my wallet and sigh with relief when I feel it there. I look at my phone again to see where I have to catch the bus. I am going to have to get several to get home, but at least I will be able to get home. I have the route planned out in my head.
I am about to go and find the nearest bus stop when my phone vibrates. It’s Mason, calling me. Why? Is he calling to say he is sorry for leaving? Or is he calling to say he’s sorry for ever asking me out in the first place? Do I want to answer it? I take too long to decide and it goes to voicemail. I sigh, if he leaves a message I’ll listen to it later.
I’m about to put my phone back in my pocket when it vibrates again. This time it’s a text from Mason. What the fuck?
I read it,
Doug, where the hell did you go? Call me please.
What does he mean where the hell did I go? Where the hell did he go more like? I press my voicemail key and listen to his message,
“Oh my God Doug, you left? Shit, I am so sorry about that waiter, I went to have a word with him and the manager, I was so angry, but when I came back you’d gone. No one even remembered you leaving. I even checked the bathroom but you’re not there. Doug call me, please, Jesus, I am so sorry about that guy, I could’ve fucking punched him.”
I stare at my phone in shock. Mason just swore, and he never swears. He sounded really upset and I feel stupid for even thinking that he would abandon me. How could I even think he would be so insensitive when he has been nothing but sensitive since we first met? My God I am such an arse.
I walk out of the alley and get my bearings. I begin to retrace my steps, surprised at how far I have actually come. I press the recall key and put my phone to my ear,
“Doug? Oh thank god.” I have never heard someone sound so relieved to get a call from me,
“M-Mason.” I manage to say before my voice clams up. What the fuck is the matter with me?
“Doug, where are you honey? Can I come and get you? I am so sorry about what happened.”
“Y-you don’t have to come and get me, I’m coming back to the parking lot.” I manage to say and I hang up wondering at what Mason just said to me. Did he just call me honey?
I can’t even think about that right now. I will later and then I’ll tell him just how fucking annoyed he makes me feel when he calls me all these stupid pet names.
It is now fucking obvious that he didn’t abandon me, he went to fight for my honour, and almost got into a fight because that waiter was so rude to me. I feel so fucking stupid that I even thought he could abandon me. I have done him a real disservice by even entertaining the idea that he would do something so terrible.
I round the corner and step into the parking lot. Suddenly I am attacked by two long slim arms pulling me into a tight embrace. I just stand there as Mason buries his face in my hair and whispers my name. He clings to me like he’s never seen me in months,
“I was so worried about you,” he says, and his breath is hot on my head. I can feel his body pressed against mine and I can smell his aftershave, a spicy, slightly cinnamon scent. I’m not really thinking straight because if I was I wouldn’t now be wrapping my arms around him and balling my fists into the back of his shirt. I can only surmise that I am caught up in his relief, because why else would I want to hug him so tightly?
“Why did you leave?” Mason asks me, releasing his hold and allowing me to breathe a little easier. He is frowning but not in anger; in confusion,
“I-I don’t know.” I say. How can I tell this lovely man that I thought he had abandoned me? It will hurt his feelings. He takes one look at me and takes my hand as if it is the most natural thing to do in the entire world, and he leads me back to the car,
“I am so fucking annoyed about the whole thing.” I hear him telling me, but I am actually concentrating on the feeling of his fingers laced with mine, “My parents eat here all the time. When I told the manager he was totally shocked. I think that waiter just started this week and I think he just got fired.” He continues to speak as he opens the door for me step into his car. This involves leaving go of my hand and I fight the urge to whimper. What the fuck is that all about?
“When I got back to the table and you were gone,” Mason continues his little update, “I thought you must have gone to the bathroom so I waited but I just got this bad feeling so I went to look for you.” He shuts the car door and walks round to his side and gets in, continuing again, “When I realised you weren’t there, I couldn’t believe you would have just left, but then I wondered if you might have thought I had left, since I didn’t tell you where I was going.” He turns to me now and he is waiting for me to respond when I have actually only been half listening to him.
I stare down at my shoes and I feel so fucking terrible because I did think he had left. I know why I thought this too, it is just another one of those childhood things,
“I’m sorry.” I say to him, because I can’t think of anything else to say. Nothing else will come out of my mouth anyway because my throat has closed up.
What the fuck? You are not a little kid again, Doug. Jesus, this isn’t a Saturday night spent waiting for your dad outside a pub and then realising he has gotten so drunk he’s forgotten you and gone home without you. Mason didn’t abandon you and even if he had you would have been able to get home, not like then when you were too young to remember the way home and it was dark and you were scared. I realise that there are tears falling down my face,
“Doug, Jesus Christ.” Mason cries out and pulls me into a hug, “What the hell?” he whispers into my hair. He has no idea why I’m crying and I have no idea why I’m crying. Well I do but I have no idea why I would cry about it right now, in front of him for fuck’s sake.
I pull away and wipe my eyes with my hands. I take a deep breath and stare back at my shoes,
“I’m sorry, Mason, could- could you just take me home please.” I can’t look at him. I am so fucking embarrassed. I know he will take me home, I know he would probably do anything I ask him, but I could just as easily get the bus now I know which ones to get, “It’s not out of your way is it?” I don’t want him to be inconvenienced any more, since I’ve already ruined lunch.
He doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t start the car. I steal a glance at him to look for an explanation. He is just staring at me as if I have two heads or something,
“Do you want me to get out?” I ask in confusion, since he put me in here, “I can get the bus home.” Mason shakes his head, his confused frown deepening,
“Why would you even think I would let you do that?” he asks me and I grimace. I’m doing him another disservice. I look away to avoid the hurt in his eyes,
“Doug, will you stop apologising? Jesus, this isn’t your fault it’s that fucking stuck up prick of a waiter in there that started it all; the fucking stuck up snob. He should be apologising, not you.”
It’s my turn to stare because Mason has just sworn more in one sentence than I have heard him swear ever,
“What?” he says, still scowling, “What are you staring at me for?”
“Did you secretly go to the Doug Mackenzie School of swearing to learn all those nasty words?” I ask him and he looks at me in shock and then a wry smile lightens his face,
“Why? Don’t you like to hear what you put my ears through every day?” he asks me with a mischievous twinkle in his eye that makes me want to…..well let’s not even go there eh? I purse my lips,
“It doesn’t suit you.” I tell him softly, “You shouldn’t swear. You’re too nice to swear.”
“You think I’m nice Doug?” his smile broadens and I feel my own lips twitching at the corners since things seem to be getting back to normal.
Then he puts his hand on my knee and I jump a mile. Well maybe not that far but I am startled by the contact, even though I have accepted him hugging me and holding my hand. He removes his hand almost immediately and I see shock and hurt in his eyes. I don’t even know why I reacted like that. I find myself apologising again,
“Stop it.” He says to me in a tone I have never heard him use before. He is actually waving a finger at me, “Doug, just stop apologising okay?” I nod, feeling like I have just been told off by a teacher, “We have to decide what we are going to do.” He says, “You asked me to drive you home, and I will, but we still need some lunch because I am fu…” he stops and gives me a sideways glance, his hands on the steering wheel. We both smirk and he continues, “Because I am starving.”
“So am I.” I tell him, because I have not actually eaten since yesterday suppertime.
“Okay.” Mason says, “Now that we’re in agreement we have two choices: we can go get a burger somewhere, or,” he stops to regard me with his crystal blue eyes, “We can go back into that restaurant with our heads held high and get spoiled rotten by the manager because we were treated so badly by that ass of a waiter.”
I stare at him, wondering that he even wants to try going back into that place with me. Then I remember what I was going to order and my mouth begins to water. I know it would have been delicious,
“Do you really want to go back in there with me?” I ask in amazement,
“Of course I do.” He says, completely flabbergasted that I should even ask, “That is if you want to go back in.” he looks at me so intently. His blue eyes are so fucking crystal clear and his face is full of anticipation as he is asking me what I want to do.
I am thinking about it when his stomach suddenly gives the most enormous growl. Mason’s eyes widen in embarrassment that his body has betrayed him so badly. I cannot help myself as I look into his eyes and see the embarrassment and the amusement there. I laugh; more a chuckle really, and my hand moves automatically to his cheek. He laughs too,
“If your stomach had to vote, where would it go?” I ask him, my thumb stroking his cheek,
“Back in there.” Mason answers, but he sounds a little distracted as he leans into my hand.
I suddenly realise what I am doing and withdraw my hand but I cannot forget the expression on his face: so soft and so full of hope. Did I put that hope in his eyes? Did I make him look at me like that? I don’t know how, because all I did was touch his cheek. I look away embarrassed that I have let my guard down so much with this guy and I hardly know him,
“Let’s go then, before my stomach joins yours in a fucking protest march because we haven’t fed them.” I say and he chuckles.
We both climb out of the car and walk back to the restaurant. As we reach the door I hesitate. Will everyone be watching us? Will they know what that waiter did? Will they all think I’m not supposed to be there? Then Mason slips his hand into mine to tell me that I have every right to be there; that he doesn’t care if people are watching us and that fucking waiter can be damned.
I look down at the fingers that are linked with mine and decide it is not an unpleasant sensation to be holding someone’s hand and I don’t want to pull away. I look up at Mason and he has a small smile on his face; waiting for me to say I’m ready. I gaze into his blue eyes and nod; suddenly thinking that I’m ready for anything if he is there with me.