Fiction logo

Seconds

The man became still when a woman entered the dining area. She looked around with her purse nervously clutched in front of her as if she were lost.

By Teralyn PilgrimPublished 3 years ago 6 min read
1

The man sat alone in the restaurant at a round table in a nook with a cushioned bench. The place where he had chosen to sit was dimly lit and secluded from the other guests, though many of them still noticed how jittery he was. He could hardly sit still, as if the bench were made of rocks and he couldn’t get comfortable. His leg bounced, and it made a taptaptaptap on the floor until he put his hand on his knee and it stopped. The man took a comb out of his back pocket and smoothed his hair, which was salt-and-pepper gray but not balding, and put the comb back. The napkin wasn’t perfectly straight, so he adjusted it.

“Waiter,” he asked, “Could you bring me the wine menu?” His leg started bouncing again.

The man became still when a woman entered the dining area. She was in her mid-forties, with high shoes, in a dress of perfect blue, and she looked around with her purse nervously clutched in front of her as if she were lost. He raised his hand, then thought better of it and stood up instead. She recognized him and approached with her purse still held in front of her.

“Hi,” she said.

“Molly, you look fantastic.”

She blushed, scoffed, and grinned all at once.

“Come, sit down.” He couldn’t pull out a chair for her because he’d chosen a bench, but he did stand aside and gesture grandly to her seat.

She said, “Oh, um,” and took a small step forward and then backwards, like it was a practice step, before she giggled uncomfortably and scooted into the bench. He sat on the other side and he seemed to be bigger somehow, like his pleasure in seeing her had made him swell in the chest.

“I can’t believe you called me,” Molly said. She tucked some loose hair behind her ear. It was shoulder-length and layered. One of the smaller locks had fallen on her face. He noticed, but didn’t reach up to fix it.

“I got you these,” he said, and he presented her with a bouquet bursting with roses from underneath the table.

“Oh! Charles. Thank you. They’re lovely. Um…” She turned to one side and then the other, looking for a place to put them. The bouquet was too large for the table.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have…” Charles said, and he held his hands out like he was about to take them away, but didn’t.

“I don’t think you usually give roses in the restaurant,” she said.

“I’ve never done this before.”

“Maybe at the house is when you’re supposed to do it, when you pick me up? Then I could put them in a vase.”

“Right. It’s just, I didn’t pick you up, so…”

“They’re beautiful. I love them.”

“Yeah?”

“Of course! I just don’t know where to…”

“We can put them back under here.” He took back the bouquet. Her fingers held onto the vase a second too long and the two of them pulled against each other. Embarrassed, Molly released the flowers and watched as he put them back under the table and out of her sight. She finally pushed the lock of hair from her face.

When the waiter came to take their orders, Charles announced that they would be having lobster, their finest wine, and two slices of chocolate ganache cake for dessert. “This is a special occasion,” he beamed. “It’s our first date.”

She looked at him and tilted her head to the side.

Charles leaned his forearms against the table and said, “So, tell me about yourself.”

“Tell you about myself?”

His phone made a ding! from the table and he glanced at it. Charles frowned.

“Do you need to check that?” Molly asked.

“No, it’s nothing. Anyway, tell me. What have you been lately?”

“Ah. Well, Tom took me sky diving a month ago.”

“Sky diving!” He whistled. “I never in a million years could have imagined you sky diving.”

“It wasn’t easy for him to convince me to go,” she laughed. The same lock of hair had fallen in her face again and she tucked it behind her ear. “He just wants me to live a little. You know. Try new things.”

“I wish I could have seen that.”

“I wish you had been there.”

His smile faded and she looked away. The phone made another ding! Charles flipped the phone over and the blinking green light was hidden by the table.

“What about you?” Molly asked. “What have you been up to?”

“Nothing much. Just getting back into things. I’m writing a book,” he said.

Her eye brows shot up. “Really?”

“I’m not trying to get it published or anything. All the guys at the halfway house thought I should write some of the stuff I went through. It helps to get it all down.”

“Maybe I could read it sometime. I mean, I’d like to.”

He shifted in his chair. “It’s really just for me and the other guys.”

“Right, of course. Sorry.”

“Tell me what else is new,” Charles said.

“Um, let’s see. I’m repainting most of the rooms in the house.”

“Oh,” he said. He hastily added, “That’s great. I’m sure they look great.”

“I think you would like them. Maybe not. Lisa talked me into it. She said people nowadays paint all the rooms the same color. It’s a light brown.”

“That’s different.”

Molly shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t know. Tom says she has good taste. It's the style now, and that raises its value.”

His face fell. “You’re selling the house?”

“No! No, I’m not. That’s just what she told me. I don’t know why I said that.” She sipped her water and put the glass down. She ran her thumbs through the icy condensation.

“How are Tom and Lisa?” asked Charles.

“They’re good. He misses you.”

The phone made another ding!

“I’m going to just turn this off,” said Charles. His face and ears were red.

“Is it Avery?” Molly asked.

“Yes,” he admitted. “She’s having a hard time. This is her second divorce.”

“Yours, too.”

Charles cleared his throat.

“I liked her,” Molly said.

“Seriously?”

“She got you clean.”

“She did do that.”

“What happened? Between the two of you.”

“Nothing happened,” Charles said. “I got clean, and...”

She stopped breathing. She waited, but he wouldn’t finish his sentence. He shrugged instead.

“And what?” she prodded.

“And I realized.”

"What did you realize?"

He looked down and fingered a chip in the table’s edge. “I miss you.”

“You miss me?”

Without looking up, he said, “I’m still in love with you.”

“Charles.” She took his hand without thinking, a natural impulse, but they froze when their skin made contact. He ran his thumb along the back of her hand and she watched it.

“What are we doing?” Molly asked.

“I’m taking you out on a date.”

“Are you asking to get back together?”

“No.” He took his hand away and shook his head. “No, I do not want to pick up where we left off. Where we left off was horrible.”

“But his is silly,” Molly insisted. “Going on dates when we have a full-grown son, and you left Avery to be with me?”

“I was a terrible husband to you.”

“You’ve changed.”

“I’m changing. There’s a lot about me that I haven’t liked for a long time. I need to fix me, and I want the two of us to start all over.”

“Is this necessary, though?” Molly asked, and her finger gestured in a circle around the restaurant.

“Has anyone ever bought you flowers before?” Charles demanded. “Anyone? Have you once, in your entire life, had a man present you with a bouquet of flowers?”

Her eyes filled with tears.

He took her hand again and cradled it between his palms like a baby bird. “I want to start over,” he said. “I have to do it this way.”

This moved her so much that she leaned forward and lifted her chin. Before she could reach him, he pressed his lips to the top of her head and pulled away.

“I don’t kiss on the first date,” Charles said.

Love
1

About the Creator

Teralyn Pilgrim

Teralyn Pilgrim has an MFA in Creative Writing from Western New England University and a BA in English from Brigham Young University. Her work has been published in the Copperfield Review.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.