Continued From Friday, July 6, 2012
At dinnertime, Terry descended the stairs of the beautiful old guesthouse wearing the peach floral sundress she had found on the sale rack at Target the previous fall. She’d draped a light sweater over her shoulders, and wore daring—for her—two inch-heeled white sandals she’d bought for a bridesmaid stint two years before and hadn’t worn since. She pulled in a deep breath, and followed the sound of cheerful conversation to the dining room. It would, she knew, require all the courage she could muster to dine solo.
Stepping into the tastefully decorated room, she avoided making eye contact with the other guests. A small unoccupied table, framed by a pretty bay window, beckoned from the far side of the room. Lowering her chin, she aimed for it. In her mind, everyone around her gaped in horror at her single-woman-diner audacity. She felt like Scarlet O’Hara entering the party in her red sequined harlot gown.
Reaching the table, she lowered herself onto one of the chairs. Where oh where was Melanie Hamilton Wilkes when she needed her?
She picked up the menu card, wishing it was large enough to hide behind. Glancing around, she relaxed a touch. No one stared or seemed to be whispering or pointing. This might not be so bad. Her stomach rumbled in reminder that it had been hours since that school-kid lunch on the beach. The food here had an outstanding rep. She might as well enjoy it.
“Will someone be joining you?”
She jumped a little, startled by the sudden presence of a man in black pants and a crisp white shirt standing next to her. Her chin rose as she forced a confident tone. “No. Just me—”.
“Oh, hey…we meet again.” The server’s face lit up in recognition. “Terése, right?”
The cute beach slacker guy worked here? Her heart threatened to do a bongo concert right on the spot. What was she supposed to do? Admit to her lame charade from earlier? She glanced around. What if the other diners heard her trying to pull off that fake accent? Would that relegate her to the pretense of being Edith Piaf for the entire weekend?
“Uh…oui.” Her voice shook. “And you are…Curt, n’est pas?”
N’est pas? Did she even remember what that meant?
His smile indicated a genuine pleasure at her recall of his name. “Yeah. I didn’t realize you were a guest here. How’s your stay been so far?”
She rolled in her lips. Couldn’t he just take her dinner order and go away? Why was he making her engage in tortuous small talk?
“It has been…how you say…divine.”
Great. Now she sounded like a pathetic cliché. How you say…. Sheesh!
“Good.” He grinned. “I mean bon.”
She forced a pathetic little smile. Terrific. The guy actually knew some French. He had to see right through her. Was he making fun of her?
He pointed to the menu card, which she now clutched between her fingers. “Have you had a chance to decide? The sirloin is out of this world, but the chicken’s excellent too.”
How was she supposed to eat with her stomach in a French twist? Her eyes skimmed over the dinner crowd. This was really getting awkward. She had checked in as plain old Terry. The owner of the guesthouse, not to mention several other guests, had already heard her speak in boring Americanese. What was she getting herself into here?
“Chicken,” she blurted out, putting an unnatural emphasis on the second syllable, as if that would save her credibility.
He seemed pleased. “Tomato bisque or salad?”
“Salade.” And a mask, so she could conceal the fact that her face was turning a shade of red to rival that bisque.
“Great.” His nod seemed polite and professional, with just a hint of friendly camaraderie. “I’ll be right back with that salad and some of our home baked bread. Wait till you taste it.” He started to turn, then stopped himself. “Of course, you would know good bread, right? Coming from Paris.”
She closed her eyes as he walked away. Boy, Terry. You’re sure proving Jay right. She could just hear him—‘The way you act is a reflection on me’. Wasn’t that how he had phrased it? An embarrassment. That’s what she was.
A lilting laugh from across the room drew her eyes up. Curt stood next to the pretty young woman who had introduced herself earlier as Lily, the owner of the guesthouse. He had clearly said something she found amusing, and she rubbed his upper arm affectionately as they parted ways.
A huff escaped through Terry’s nose. They seemed a little familiar for a boss-employee duo. Clearly the cute boy from the beach had already found his summer romance. Why did that realization coil her stomach just a tad tighter?
To Be Continued on Friday, July 20, 2012
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