Eyes Across A Room
Outside the restaurant, Jake watched the people as they went about their daily business, ‘little worlds within worlds’ he thought. Each one with their own agenda and each hurrying through life and love with equal disregard. Perhaps his own job was making him more cynical, changing him into someone he didn’t like very much these days.
Jake turned his attention back to the restaurant, it had been a few years since he’d seen it and now, the fading green and gold paintwork, announced loudly that it was struggling to survive in the current economic climate. But then, he mused to himself, ‘we’re all struggling to survive in some way.’
The owner went by the name of Mario, though his real name was Jason Hall and he was no more Italian than the cheddar cheese he used to top his pizzas. He was a small, corpulent, but gregarious man, who greeted his customers like they were family, regardless of whether they had actually been before. That was his way - always the same smile and the inevitable welcome. “It’s good to see you again.”
Outside, where Jake waited, the weather was cold, the trees swayed and danced under the cool night air. Summer had ended and it was the time of year when wild winds started to undress trees with the insensitivity of a hasty window dresser.
A quick stamp of the feet and Jake felt the circulation tingle as he began to feel his feet again. He continued to watch the restaurant whilst sitting on a bench donated to the council. Its tarnished plaque read, ‘In loving memory of our Elsie.’
Jake smiled and inwardly thanked “our Elsie”, for the place he’d found to sit awhile and remember.
Suddenly, the door from the restaurant opened and four customers spilled out laughing, chatting amongst themselves, cracking jokes and recalling memories about each other.
“Bl**dy nostalgia,” the older member of the group complained, “why does it hit you, when you least expect it?”
Mario’s cheap red wine had worked its magic again, some things never really changed.
A brief look through the window revealed that the décor had also failed to keep pace with the passing years. The faded velvet seats, had worn to a shine in places and the crisp white linen cloths on the tables were also worn, but clean…. Mario still had some standards. And ‘that’ table, lost in a quiet corner, the one preferred by many who wanted a quiet, discreet night with a special person; part of the crowd and yet somewhere set aside.
Jake had sat there on many occasions, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, talking through a smoky haze. The days when ashtrays were the norm on all tables and customers smoked like Bette Davis in “New Voyager”, talking and blowing smoke at each other in lazy foreplay.
Thankfully, some things had changed for the better, as a non-smoker himself; Jake had always found the habit annoying. Trying to eat while other diners, who had moved on to brandy and coffee, lit up all around him. Now, he only had to push through the line up of shivering smokers outside restaurants to enjoy a smoke free environment inside.
Well, today he’d waited outdoors long enough and he moved inside and found a table with a good view of the whole restaurant. With a wince, he noted that there appeared to be a stag party of some fifteen or more men determined to get drunk and talk about football. A typical stag night the sort he’d felt obliged to attend on occasion himself. Mario’s was full tonight, plenty to watch and observe; he could always rely on “people watching” for entertainment, but the football talk soon bored him rigid and the inane conversations relating to the so-called “beautiful game” left him unmoved.
Across the restaurant, a party of four sat; the usual formation of two couples out for a night together. Perhaps old friends or two sisters with their partners, four people just chatting away. However, as the willowy blonde stood up, the lights reflected on her black dress and it sparkled like a night full of stars. Her lustrous hair slid seductively over one eye; she had obviously spent time getting ready for this night out.
Jake was soon bored again, the football conversation around him was relentless and getting louder – a real pi**ing up the wall competition was in full swing. His eyes, however, were drawn back to the woman in the shimmering dress, sheer and fitted like a mermaid’s iridescent attire, Jake caressed her curves with vicarious appreciation as she walked towards the bar.
She spoke to Mario briefly, but her voice didn’t carry above the background noise as she stood at the bar.
Jake’s table was behind her and he saw her looking covertly in his direction, her eyes focused on his reflection in the mirrors behind the bar. A smile played across her face and he noticed her chest lift slightly as she took a sudden breath. Then, with a swirl of sweet, expensive perfume she returned to her table and rejoined the group conversation.
“Three nil, three nil, three nil!!” the stag party was obtrusively in full flow now, celebrating Man United’s win at Old Trafford that afternoon. The lads were very drunk, but still able to provide the requisite wolf whistles and unnecessary comments as the woman passed their table.
Another half hour ticked by, Jake was ‘really’ bored now. Then the blonde looked across the room at him, her lips smiled and so did her eyes. He returned her glance and to his amazement, she openly returned his look, her tongue running across moist glossy lips. Was he dreaming? No, she really did seem to be focussed on Jake and for the next hour he continued to play a seductive game with this beautiful, but strange lady. The night drew on, and inwardly he couldn’t wait to get away, the classy blonde was still in deep conversation and hadn’t looked his way for the past fifteen minutes. Even the stag party revellers were calling time on this stage of the evening, drifting and lurching out of the restaurant. Making their way back to homes and long suffering wives, who in all likelihood were not looking forward to their partners return.
Jake stood up to leave and moved to the bar to settle the bill. The blonde woman also rose and made her way to the bar; she paused beside him for a moment, waiting to place an order for more drinks. Her party were still in full flow and absorbed in deep conversation.
“Hi,” said Jake, “Had a good evening?”
“It got better as the night wore on!” she said. “And you?” she purred playfully. “Did you get stood up?”
He realised he hadn’t blended in very well with the stag party and tried his most disarming smile, "I don’t like football, I can think of better games..”
“You have nice eyes..” she shot him a look from beneath long lashes and with the deftness of a magician, she placed a piece of paper in the top pocket of his jacket and added softly, “give me a call!”
“Right..” he breathed in quickly, feeling the intoxicating perfume stroking his senses.
He couldn’t believe his luck, how this was all working out… she was gorgeous and she had just given him her phone number, it was crazy, but it happened.
Just as she was walking away, he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Sara,’ she whispered and headed back towards her party.
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