Are you for real? “Restaurante De Lemus. Latin?”
“You like Latin food, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I love it,” I mumble. Again with the clichés. If he wanted to eat Latin food we could have just ate at my house.
Take deep breaths, Marimar, I reiterate.
We pull up into the restaurant and park.
“Do you think I should take my sweater?” I ask.
“Umm, yeah. You might want one, restaurants are usually kind of chilly.”
I already unbuckled myself and am out the door when Sage reaches me and closes the door for me. Sage opens the restaurants’ door for me and we both walk in. The cool air engulfs me. We pass through one more set of doors leading into a larger room. This room is downright cold.
The receptionist greets us warmly. She has red hair, freckles, a kind face, and a warm smile — she looks likes she’s in her twenties. Her name tag reads, Ruth Anne. Ruth Anne leads us towards a couples table, Sage requested, in the non-smoking section. Barely anybody is in this section. Now, we’ll have more privacy and less noise to bother us.
Sage pulls out my chair for me. Any harsh feelings I was harboring towards him before melt away.
“Someone will be with you momentarily,” Ruth Anne says, before turning to leave. Sage thanks her. A few seconds later our waiter, a spindly teenage boy with windswept tuffs of hair, appears; giving us our menus before leaving.
“May I take your orders?” our waiter — whose name tag reads; Carter — asks. When his eyes fall on me he gives me an awkward, crooked smile.
“I’ll have the Enchilada Grande and a coke,” Sage says as he hands him his menu.
“And you miss?”
“The same please, thank you.”
Carter nods and walks away.
“So, how do you like the place?” Sage asks. The room looks nice and expensive. I hope he didn’t use all his money on me. I’m already impressed by his manners.
“It’s nice, thank you,” I say sweetly, giving him a warm smile. “You know, you didn’t have to go all out. A burger place would have sufficed.”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry, besides, you are totally worth it.”
I blush, deep red sets into my cheeks. I can’t help but look down, embarrassed by his charm. He’s good.
“Here are your two cokes; the meal will be out in just a few minutes.”
I sip my coke as I rack my brain for a good question to ask.
“How did you know about this restaurant?”
“A friend of mine told me about it.”
“Why do you ask?”
“I just thought that you might have taken your ex here.”
“Nope. Never been here in my life,” he says. “Let me ask you a question?”
“Is this your first date?”
“What makes you think that?”
“First of all, girls don’t usually say you can take me for a burger, that’s not how it works. Now I figure you either had some crappy boyfriends or you haven’t ever dated. That, and every other guy who ever tried to ask you out is buried in the basement of your old house.”
I laughed so hard I almost blew coke out my nose, causing me to become utterly embarrassed. I quickly pull myself together. “You’re very perceptive.”
“Mmm-hmm. Why is that? I mean I bet — I mean I know you had a lot of guys interested in you?”
“I wasn’t interested.”
“So, you’re telling me you weren’t interested in one guy? And you say you aren’t picky?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Alrighty then, let me ask you another question.” He hesitates.
“Why did you accept my offer?” What should I say?
“I accepted because … I thought you might be a nice guy and you don’t seem like a wuss. You still took me out even after you met Papa. All of the guys that knew my Papa wouldn’t even think about asking me out —” I blurted out that last part. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I totally blew that whole, guys-find-me-desirable thing.
“How can that be?”
He couldn’t let that one go. “Like I said, they were all too afraid to ask with Papa around giving them the third degree.”
“That’s why he put out all the stops for you. He wanted to see if you were going to go anywhere.”
Carter shows up with our food, preventing Sage from responding any further.
“Here are your orders, call me if you need anything,” Carter says directly to me, causing Sage to glower.
“Thank you,” we both answer in unison. Sage tries to mask his annoyance, but his eyes say it all.
The smell of the food is completely tantalizing to my senses. My first instinct is to take a bite, but seeing the steam, I tear a piece of enchilada off with my fork and I blow. I take a bite to test the heat. Mmm, it’s not bad. The cheese is creamy, and the meat has flavor. Tasty. But nothing compared to Mama’s authentic Guatemalan dishes.
“Tasty. How do you like it?” I ask looking up at Sage. His face is red, and his eyes are watering. He must have taken a bite without blowing. I bite my lip to stifle a laugh, though I can’t help smiling.
“Mmm, it’s good. I just burnt my tongue is all,” he answers hoarsely.
“Didn’t you see the excessive amount of steam hovering over it? Didn’t you see me blowing on my food,” I laugh, hardly able to speak.
“Nice. Kick me while I’m down.”
“Now you know why you don’t scarf down your food.”
“Rub it in,” he says before taking another bite.
“Great. I can’t taste anything.” I laugh even harder, he joins in.
“So, tell me about yourself?” he asks after I compose myself.
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything, you can start by your favorite color.”
“Army Green. Favorite food?”
“Mama’s Guatemalan enchiladas.”
“I’d bet they taste better than here. Mine is a steak and a baked potato. Movie?”
“Bourne Identity. Hmm, book?”
“Little Women. Your turn.”
“The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. Flower?”
“Chocolate. Especially, Nutella.”
“Who doesn’t love Nutella.”
“My turn to ask you some questions,” I say. What to ask, what to ask? Oh I got a great question. “Why did you ask me out?” I ask shyly.
“Umm …,” nervous laugh, “umm … when I first saw you I felt like I … I had to know who you were and I had to get to know you. So, here we are.” I can’t help but smile. We’re on the same page.
“What else do you got for me?” Sage asks.
“I don’t know … let’s see … hmm … I got one. Not that it matters … I’m just being curious, but … what religion do you belong to?” I ask, biting my bottom lip in anticipation.
“Oh, that’s all. My parents consider themselves Born Again Christians, but I don’t know about me. I do sort of believe in some of the fundamentals like heaven and hell. So I sort of have to believe in God, but a denomination of religion … I’d have to say I don’t have one.”
“You’re not religious,” I recapitulate in disbelief. “I’m glad you said that, because my parents and I are atheists,” I say carefully. I search his face for any signs of concern. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“What do you want me to say?”
“That it doesn’t bother you,” I reply, enunciating each word in vexation.
“It doesn’t, I told you already I wasn’t religious. Did you think I was lying?” I don’t answer, how am I supposed to respond?
“No.” I hope that sounded a lot more convincing to him than it did to me.
“Now I know what you look like when you’re lying.” He points to my hand. I look at the strand of hair in my hand and I stop twisting.
“I was playing with my hair,” I affirm. Damn it, now I’m going to have to make sure I do that often to throw him off my tell.
“Sure you were.”
I sink my teeth into my cheek in concentration, thinking hard on what to say next.
“I know, what kind of career choice do you have in mind?”
“I don’t know actually, I’m kinda undecided. How about you? What are you going to do with your life?”
“My Papa wants me to be a doctor, but I don’t think I have the stomach for that kind of thing. Mama wants me just to find a husband and give them grandchildren. Don’t laugh, but when I was little — like all other kids — I wanted to be an actress. I always wanted to be in the lime-light until I realized that I hate to perform in front of people, so now I guess I’m undecided as well.” I wonder what he’s thinking about.
“I’m all out of questions, your turn.” He takes his time and just stares at me. I tap the table waiting for a reply. What is he thinking of? He’s absorbed in thought.
“How do you like your house? Anything weird happen yet?”
“No, nothing, nada, zip. I think it’s just an old wives’ tale. You don’t believe in all that nonsense do you? You were just telling me that story to freak me out, right? You didn’t think I was going to buy into that story did you? I mean, you didn’t experience anything, or is there something you haven’t told me? Had the house given you the creeps or something?”
“No,” he says slowly, “but I was only really in there for twenty minutes, that’s not long enough for anything to happen. And yes, I do believe that the story is true. And no, I wasn’t trying to freak you out. I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were walking into. If our roles were reversed I would want someone to tell me.”
“Thanks, but I’ve slept in the house for two whole days and nothing has happened to me,” I say dismissing any notion of a ghost haunting the house. I flip my hair back behind me as to say, “We’re done”. If he can’t read my body language then he’s a complete bonehead.
“… I’ve slept in the house for two whole days and nothing has happened to me,” he says obnoxiously imitating me, right down to flipping my hair back. I glare at him. How annoying can he get? He is delusional if he actually believes something is in my house. I’m not even going to mention the nightmare he caused me by telling me that old BS story.
“Haven’t you ever seen paranormal shows? These things take time,” he continues.
“Hmm, I recall you saying that the Realtors and the cleaning crew were the last ones to step into the house, right?”
“And it doesn’t take a month to fix up the house. Only a couple of weeks, and like you said, these things take time. So when did these strange anomalies occur? Three weeks? That’s not a lot of time. Don’t you think?” I look at him with satisfaction that I won yet another argument.
“I never said how long the strange anomalies take to occur,” he declares.
Minutes pass in silence … Sage attempts to start another conversation, but I brush him off with an abrupt yes or no. I refuse to look at him. Why doesn’t he admit he lost? What is it with men and their pride? He gives up shortly and we eat in silence.
“Look, I was only trying to help … I didn’t mean to piss you off. I’m sorry if my words rubbed you the wrong way,” Sage says softly, breaking the silence.
I feel mix emotions stir within me, regret for arguing, giddiness that I won the argument, and the feeling that I should make this right by apologizing as well.
“No, don’t,” this is going to hurt to say, “don’t apologize. I was in the wrong.” That was a big pill to swallow. “You were trying to be helpful and I should have taken it as beneficial. And you’re right, paranormal shows that I have watched have shown that some paranormal activity doesn’t happen within a blink of an eye. I apologize. Forgive me?” I smile wistfully.
“There’s nothing to forgive.”
“Good, ‘cause you’re my ride home.”
He gives a slight chuckle, his eye color lightens.
Time flies by on the car ride home. I don’t even notice Papa standing by Sage’s side of the window until I hear him beating on the glass. “Roll down the window. Now!”
“Marimar, get out of the truck and go into the house,” Papa growls after the barrier is out of the way.
Yep, I think to myself, I am totally going to die an old maid.