Stood Up

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Tim’s date wasn’t going to show.

The reservation was for 7 o’clock and it had gone half past. Tim had arrived something like twenty minutes early, so he was almost an hour into a glass of water and had nearly memorized the menu. The waitress who seated him had checked on him a few times, so he’d felt compelled to explain he was on a blind date which was looking less and less promising. She assured Tim there was no rush. It was early yet on a cold Friday evening and the restaurant was quiet enough that they didn’t need his table.

Tim checked his phone again. He wasn’t expecting to see anything new and he didn’t.

He called the waitress over again. She was pretty, petite with tied back dark hair and hooped earrings. She wore the same uniform as the rest of the waitstaff: white shirt, black trousers and apron. She had been flirty earlier on, but Tim figured either that was a requirement of her job, or she just felt sorry for him. He considered asking her to join him, but he had inconvenienced the poor girl enough already. Just because he had shaved, worn a new shirt, and used actual product to tame his unruly dark hair, he didn’t imagine he was so irresistible that he could just initiate a date with a stranger in the middle of her work shift.

“I think it’s just me,” Tim said trying to sound humorous as the waitress arrived at the table. “I’ve been staring at this menu and I’m more than ready to order if that’s ok?”

“Fine by me,” she said with a pretty if professional smile. “What can I get you?”

“Something alcoholic, definitely. Strawberry Kopparberg if you’ve got it please.” The waitress nodded and scribbled on her pad. “Then I’ll have a rump steak, medium. Can I have sweet potato fries with that?”

“Certainly,” she said cheerfully to her pad as she continued writing. “Anything else?”

“That’ll do for now, thanks.”

“Great, I’ll be back with your drink in just a sec.” She took the unused menu from the other side of the table and Tim handed his over, happy to be rid of it. He watched her head back to the bar and then looked casually around.

A couple had been seated at a nearby table. Tim had seen them as the waitress brought them past earlier. He had started focussing intently on his menu so he wouldn’t look like he was creeping on them as he sat alone.

The woman had been slim, blonde, in a blue dress. She wasn’t sat there at that moment, just her coat draped over the chair and a glass of wine on the table. The guy sat facing away with a beer in one hand and his phone in the other. Tim couldn’t make out what was on the guy’s phone, but he was tapping away intently. Suddenly, with a glance over his shoulder, the guy put his beer on the table, jumped up from his chair, grabbed his jacket, and headed for the door. Tim watched bewildered as the guy left the restaurant and disappeared up the street.

The waitress returned to the table, placing a bottle of cider and an empty glass in front of Tim. He thanked her, his attention returning to the room.

“Did the man at this table just leave?” she asked.

“Uh, yeah. I think so.”

“Rough night for dates, huh?” she said.

“Excuse me?” said Tim, more out of confusion than anything. She wasn’t even looking at him. He followed her gaze in the direction of the restrooms as the blonde woman returned to her table. She looked at the guy’s abandoned chair and beer, then looked at the waitress and Tim.

“We think he’s gone,” said the waitress.

Tim wasn’t sure how he’d been drawn into this, or even why the waitress was involved for that matter. The blonde was looking at him. She was probably thinking the same thing.

He noticed her then though, all at once. She had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Her blue dress hugged her slim figure, starting on her shoulders with a V-neck that hinted at her smallish breasts, and ending above the knees, revealing most of her slender legs as she stood in strappy blue heels. Tim couldn’t imagine bailing on a date with her.

“Did he say anything?” she asked the waitress.

“I don’t know, I didn’t see him go.” she said, and they both looked at Tim again.

Tim still wasn’t sure how he had ended up as part of the conversation but whether it was because he was lonely, or whether he just couldn’t resist trying to help a pretty woman, he just went with it.

“I think he was on his phone,” he said, “then suddenly he went. He didn’t say anything. I wasn’t talking to him. I only saw because I was looking towards the bar.” Tim didn’t want to speculate. The guy might have returned at any moment. “Maybe it was an emergency?”

“Probably he had a better offer,” the blonde said in response. Tim couldn’t imagine that was possible. “Oh, well,” she continued, turning back to the waitress, “saves you a phone call, now I don’t need rescuing.”

Things started to click into place in Tim’s head at last. The two women knew each other.

“Sorry, hi, I’m Becky by the way,” said the blonde, smiling at Tim.

“Tim,” he responded, standing ataşehir escort bayan to shake her hand.

She gestured at him and the waitress. “How do you two know each other?”

“Oh, we don’t,” said Tim, “honestly, I’m not sure why I’m part of this conversation.”

“Ronny,” Becky chided the waitress, nudging her shoulder, “are there any other customers you want to randomly involve in this?”

“Sorry Becks” she responded sheepishly.

“Aw, I can’t stay mad at you,” Becky said laughing. “Anyway, I guess I’ll take off as well. I was already planning to make my excuses and leave after all.” She started towards the chair where she had left her coat. “Thanks for your help Tim. I’ll leave you to your evening.”

“Sorry Ti-, uh, sir”, Ronny the waitress added to him, “I’ll be back when your food’s ready.”

“That’s no problem,” Tim replied. Then emboldened by the conversation’s familiarity, he called to Becky, “you’re welcome to join me, if you’d like. You know, since we’re all friends now.”

She had glanced at the empty seat opposite him a couple of times while they were talking. Whatever the reason, it was unusual to see someone sitting alone in a restaurant on a Friday evening. She looked at him but didn’t respond.

“I was supposed to be on a date too,” Tim explained. “Don’t think it’s happening, but I’ve just ordered food anyway. No pressure, but if you’re hungry?” Date or not, if he could spend an hour enjoying a steak in the company of this attractive woman, it would be time well spent.

“What if he comes back?” she said, gesturing to the door where her date had disappeared.

“Well, you can get him to pay for his beer for a start.”

Becky picked up the abandoned bottle and looked at it thoughtfully for a moment. Then she looked at Ronny the waitress, who shrugged.

Tim moved round to the other side of his table to pull out the chair for her and, armed with the beer, her wine and her coat and bag, Becky came to join him.

She was a few inches shorter than Tim in her heels. He smelled the sweet scent of her perfume as she moved past and he caught himself thinking about brushing her hair aside and kissing her neck as he stood behind her, his eyes tracing the line of the zip that ran down the back of her dress. He shook his head and she thanked him as he pushed the chair in behind her. She smiled at him as he took his seat again opposite her.

“What are we on, starters or mains?” she asked.

“Mains,” he said, “I wanted to eat, but I didn’t want to be here by myself all night. Do you need a menu?”

“The usual,” she said to Ronny, still hovering nearby. The waitress smiled, nodded, and wandered off towards the bar.

“Come here often?” Tim asked, still trying to inject non-threatening humour into everything he said.

“We live just up the road.”

“You and, Ronny is it?”

“Yeah, it’s short for Veronica. We’ve been flatmates for years, right around the corner so we eat in here a bunch. I only bring dates here when she’s working so she can rescue me if I need it.” Of course, her trip to the restroom had been to ask Ronny to call her so she could get out.

“Why did you need rescuing from your date tonight?” Tim asked, though he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“I think he was onto a promise that didn’t require wining and dining first,” she answered calmly, “probably with some girl called Kirsty since that’s what he thought my name was when we met up outside. I hope she gets what she needs from him tonight. I expect that’s where he’s gone.”

“Rough night for dates, indeed.”

“What about your date?”

“Oh, no idea,” Tim said picking up his still silent phone and pushing it into his pocket, “it was a blind date with a friend of someone from my gym. She didn’t turn up. I haven’t heard anything. Can’t say I’m too upset about it.” He saw Becky’s eyes move over him when he mentioned the gym: approvingly, he hoped. He liked to look after himself, but he didn’t have obvious bulging biceps. He went to the gym a few times a week for an hour or so, and he had to mix up his workout to stay interested. The guy who had abandoned Becky had just been skinny, so Tim hoped that wasn’t exclusively her type.

“What are you drinking?” Becky asked.

“Cider. Strawberry and lime flavoured.”

“Oh, were they out of cranberry juice?”

“Oh, she’s funny, isn’t she? Funny, and a bit cruel.”

“No,” said Becky pretending to be insulted before adding in a low sultry voice, “I’m very friendly.”

They laughed together. The conversation between them seemed easy enough, though Tim knew he would be trying hard to impress her. It felt like they were flirting, but maybe she, like her friend, was just content to engage in small talk with anybody in the vicinity.

“Are you using that glass though?” she asked. He passed the empty glass to her and she poured the remains of the beer into it. “Not letting this go to waste if I have to pay for it.”

“I’ll get this,” said Tim automatically, chivalry escort kadıköy getting the better of him, before hastily adding, “I mean, either way I asked you to join me, and I was expecting to pay for two meals tonight so I’m happy for it to be my treat.”

“Let’s see how we get on,” she replied, letting him off. “Besides, I think I’ll need to finish one of these drinks before I’m ready to talk about what else you were expecting from your date tonight.”

“Let’s say I didn’t expect anything, but I’m open-minded.”

“Fine, then I’m open-minded too.”

Ronny the waitress returned with their meals. Tim thanked her as she put the sizzling steak platter down in front of him. Becky’s usual turned out to be pan-fried salmon in a white sauce with an extravagant-looking salad. Ronny asked if everything was ok, looking at Becky in particular. Tim knew she meant with the company, not with the food so he let Becky tell her “yes”.

“How did the two of you meet?” Tim asked Becky as Ronny disappeared again.

“We worked together at my first job when I was in school. McDonalds. Been best friends ever since. She’s moved up a little bit in the service industry now.”

“Are you still a restaurant worker?”

“No, I went into admin instead, that other noble pursuit. I’m an account manager now at a packaging company over at Greenvale Industrial.”

“Oh, wow. I’m in admin too. I work at JP Barnett’s, the warehouse over the bridge. We’re practically neighbours.”

“Oh, yeah. What a fantastically dull thing to have in common,” she laughed, “let’s get together sometime and share data entry tips.”

As far as a first (or second?) date could go, Tim would have been willing to give spreadsheet comparison a chance. The conversation turned to work things for a bit as they ate. Tim let Becky steal a few of his sweet potato fries as they both tried not to be too enthusiastic about the joys of logistics and packaging solutions.

They both tried the beer and didn’t think much of it, so they ordered another bottle of cider and glass of wine when they finished the first ones.

The restaurant was starting to fill up and get noisy around them. Rather than shout, they leaned more in towards each other. They laughed at each other’s jokes and Becky occasionally responded by touching Tim’s arm across the table. Their body language gradually synced. They held eye contact and mirrored each other’s movements. Tim was content to let her do more of the talking so he could just sit and watch her but she kept asking him questions back and he noticed the way she brushed her hair behind her ear and rested her cheek on her hand when she was listening to him.

As Tim was getting to the halfway point of his second bottle, he brought the conversation back to where they had started.

“So, how has the dating thing been going for you? Aside from tonight’s hiccup, of course.”

“I think tonight turned out pretty ok actually,” she smiled, not meeting his gaze.

“That’s nice of you to say, and I completely agree,” he replied, “and I’m happy to pretend that you didn’t ignore my question if you’d like me to.”

“Oh, you just want everything from me right away, don’t you?” she asked, feigning indignation while Tim avoided eye contact this time. She sipped her wine for a moment, and he waited for her to either answer his question or turn it back on him.

“It’s silly really,” she continued. “For a long time, I haven’t really bothered about it. It used to be romance, or what passes for it would just happen. I’d meet someone at a club, or a party, or through friends and I could just see where it went. I didn’t need a relationship because I had my job, my close friends, my family. It became more of an effort without me noticing and I didn’t make the effort.

“Then I got the invite to my school reunion. I started reconnecting with my school friends online and most of them are married, and some of them have kids. Granted, most of them married their boyfriends from school so they had a head start, but I sort of got in my own head about it. So, I started, you know, looking. Gotta admit though, I still only made half an effort. I’m on Tinder, not any proper dating sites. Hence the situation I started with tonight. The dates are usually a little more successful, but either way I’m still single.”

“No problem with being single,” Tim said, hopefully sounding supportive. “Better to find the right person, than settle just because other people do.”

“Is that your problem?” Becky asked, “High standards?”

“Actually, my story’s sort of like yours. Except I used to be a bit of a, what do they call it, serial monogamist? If one relationship ended, I’d just jump into another one and then they’d be less and less good. I stopped doing that and then just never really went back. Work, friends, family, like you said.

“Then my little brother got engaged; they’re getting married next spring. I was fine with it, but then people just started trying to set me up with any random single woman they bostancı escort know. Friends of the family, friends of friends…”

“Friends of acquaintances at the gym?” Becky offered.

“Absolutely. It’ll be uncomfortable at the wedding being the groomsman who was offered as a sacrifice by the bride to each of the bridesmaids in turn,” he laughed.

“So, are you looking for someone?” Becky asked.

“Like we said earlier, I’m open-minded. I never said no to any of the dates I was offered. Tonight wasn’t the only time I’ve been stood up though.”

“That’s the thing with blind dates, isn’t it? If they saw you beforehand, I’m sure they would all come running.” Becky played with her hair again, but she kept eye contact this time. They just looked at each other for a moment. She leaned in and whispered, “this is the bit where you say something nice to me back.”

“I was trying to think of something cool,” he said, and she rolled her eyes. Tim became aware he might not be thinking with his big brain anymore. “Honestly, I couldn’t imagine earlier what would cause someone to walk out on a date with you, and now I’m really happy that you stayed when I asked.”

“So, this is a date now then, is it?”

“You were the one who said it turned out ok. Whatever this is, I would really like to take you on a proper date some time. Whether it’s our first or second.”

“Ok, I’m in, and I’m glad we worked that out, because I think we’re done here.” She nodded to the empty plates and glasses.

“Did you want dessert?”

She gestured vaguely to the busy restaurant: full tables, people lining the bar, all the waitstaff occupied in various stages of service. “We’ll never get it, but we’ll be heroes if we give up this table right now.”

Tim just wanted to spend more time with Becky, but she had agreed to see him again, so he reminded himself to be cool.

“So, I’ll get the bill then? Probably best if I pay at the bar instead of bothering anyone.”

“Let’s split it,” she said, “I’m not letting you pay for that beer.” It still sat half-finished on the table.

“Okay,” said Tim with his hands up in surrender, “I’m not going to argue with you. I’ll get the next one.”

She gave him some money and said to meet outside, and he headed off to pay. At the bar he found Ronny the waitress who he had almost forgotten about. He told her the table was free and asked for the bill. She asked him if everything was ok. He knew she still meant between him and Becky, not with the food, so he answered with enthusiasm. In fairness, the steak had been almost as good as the company. He paid with his card but handed Ronny a couple of notes as a tip. She deserved it for introducing him to Becky, even if she hadn’t meant to. She thanked him cheerfully as she handed him his receipt and a couple of after dinner mints and then turned her attention back to the other waiting customers.

It was cold outside, and Tim found himself waiting again. Only for a few minutes this time though as Becky joined him and put a hand on his arm. With her other hand, she held her coat closed against the night air.

“Fuck, it’s cold,” she said, then, “oh, excuse my language.”

“Doesn’t bother me at all. That’s exactly how cold it is,” laughed Tim. “Did you see your friend? I paid her at the bar. I guess you didn’t take the opportunity to enlist her help in getting away from me?”

She shoved his arm playfully. “No, I did not call for rescue, but I did see her on the way out and she’ll still make you suffer if you try any funny business with me.”

“Funny business? I wouldn’t dream of it. Well, I would, but respectfully. After dinner mint?”

“After dinner mint? Haven’t heard it called that before?”

“I may not be effortlessly cool, but I’m not that bad.” He handed her one of the mints.

“Thanks, I’ll eat it when my teeth stop chattering.”

“You said you live just up the road? Can I walk you home?” Tim offered Becky his arm. She drew herself closer to him, putting her arm around his waist inside his jacket and he draped his arm around her shoulders.

A little way up the street she suggested they cut through an alley and they emerged the other side on the top end of the high street. They crossed between the last few shops on the street and stopped outside the first of a block of four-story apartment buildings.

“Here we are,” she said.

“Wow, you really do live just around the corner.”

“Yeah, but when I walk home alone, I won’t go through that alley, so it’s a bit farther.”

He squeezed her shoulder protectively and she leaned her head against his.

“So, all of a minute’s extra walk?” asked Tim. “Though, now I wish we’d done that so I could spend a bit more time with you.”

“It’s freezing,” she said into his shoulder, “wouldn’t you rather spend that time with me inside?”

Tim was glad she couldn’t see the expression on his face. He would have thought it was too cold to blush. All the blood in his body had gone to one of two places: his cheeks, and his crotch. The silence seemed to stretch on. Tim was thinking with his small brain again.

“Come on,” she said, tugging at his waist and leading him towards the door, “I don’t wanna freeze to death waiting for you to think of something cool to say.”

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