“I know, right?” She agrees, clicking her tongue.
I try, but I can’t stop staring at her mouth. Her teeth are so white now, they’re almost blue and the effect makes her lips and tongue look like cream soda drenched cotton candy.
Am I missing something? Either I’m imagining our conversation or, all of a sudden, I’m in need of hearing aids. Either way, I cannot believe she’s ordering what she’s ordering. I grit my teeth as I hear her say;
“I’ll have the tomato salad. Ah, is there sugar in the dressing?”
“Yes,” says our server.
“Dressing on the side, then please. Actually, no dressing. None at all. And, oh! No avocado. I know it’s good fat and everything,” she flutters her polished nails, “but I’m completely fat free right now.”
“Yes, M’am.” Patiently accommodating, he explains; “I just want to make sure you realize it will basically be tomatoes then, with a little bit of vinegar, salt and pepper.”
“Yes, yes, fine,” Tasia agrees. “Wait, no oil, right?”
“That’s a given. M’am.” he says, head down.
I’m caught off guard. Only moments ago, we’d discussed chicks who want burgers but order leaves, ladies who ask for side dressing and use the whole portion anyway, women who only drink Skinny Girl cocktails…by the dozen.
Our waiter glances at me and I flush, instantly wanting to change my order. My medium rare New Yorker with sautéed garlic prawns now seems a tad excessive.
But, almost as instantly, I regret my brush with backpedalling.
I want the steak dammit, and the prawns. I don’t want to pay just as much for tomatoes with salt as I will for a real meal. I do not want to be a fake bitch that drinks Skinny Girl. I mean, if I’m gonna drink Skinny Girl, I’m gonna mean it; a three cocktail cut-off, for sure.
“I’m good,” I tell him. I’ll live with whatever kind of fat I’ve ordered.”
“Yes, Miss. Excellent choice.”
“So, anyway,” Tasia starts the moment our server turns his back. “What have you been up to?” Her big, black-lined eyes tilt up and away from her Pellegrino, flickering over various parts of my being.
“Well, the shop keeps me…”
“Did you hear the waiter, by the way? I mean, he pretty much insulted me by complimenting you. Not cool.”
“I don’t think he…”
“He will not be getting a good tip from me,” she continues. “Not cool at all.”
I attempt to distract her; “You know, work, I’m consumed with trying to…”
“Oh my God. I forgot to tell you. Paul and Maxine? They split!” She almost looks happy announcing it and I feel a little sick.
“Weren’t they, I mean, married for like, ever?”
“Yeah, crazy, huh?” She manages to sip her bubbling water and maintain a smug look at the same time.
“Don’t they have kids? How many kids do they have…?”
“Two, three? I don’t know, God. I’m just trying to tell you, they’re done. He found someone else…had it going for a while, like, a couple of years while. So typical.
The corners of her super pink mouth are frothy, cream soda foaming over the side of a cup and I focus on that, not wanting to say regretful things.
“Sad.” I mumble.
Our meals come. Well, my meal and her salted tomatoes.
“Do you have bread?” She questions the waiter.
“Of course, yes,” he replies. “But I thought…”
This is simply tomatoes. I need a little more substance.” Tasia looks to me, expecting empathy, but I shift my glance to the topiary tree behind her. I decide it looks like it’s growing out of the top of her head.
“Definitely,” he replies. “I’ll bring the bread right away.”
“Whole wheat. Light margarine.”
My food looks delicious and the steam rising up, infusing my pores is mouthwatering. The garlic, the butter, the meat…all divine.
“Oh my, can you smell the grease? Insane, right?
What’s insane, I think to myself, is that you’re commenting while slathering even more margarine on top of that already thick layer.
“Maxine,” I interrupt. “Is she okay? Are they, you know, going to try counseling?”
“God, no. Are you crazy? He cheated on her, Em. You don’t recover from that.”
“Well, their history, the kids…anything’s…”
“Ugh! This vinegar is so bitter. How do they get away with this?” She moves her plate to the middle of the table and takes out her phone.
I think back to high school and lunches with Tasia. We haven’t seen each other in years, but not a lot has changed.
“Save me a seat!” she’d shout down the hall the period before lunch, already knowing I would. Just like she knew I’d give her money when she forgot her wallet, like she knew I’d rush to my locker, throw in my books and fight the desire to organize them to save a few seconds, like she knew I’d hurry to the dining hall to snag two stools side by side.
Like she knew I’d wait.
I’d wait while she chatted to Mel and Sean, wait while she flirted with Mr.Polson and wait while she butted the line to get her lunch ahead of mine, fanning the tenner I’d lent her earlier in Troy Danning’s face while she fiddled and fluttered.
“Ah, you’re such a sweetie!” she’d exclaim approaching our table. “Like Sawyer; always waiting for me. You just need a tail to wag. You’re the best, Em.
And with a flip of her ponytail, my head would sink as she’d plunk down her tray, straddle the stool and delve into whatever gossip was happening around us. I was sure to throw my sweater over my own spot, knowing she wouldn’t shoo anyone away if they tried to take it while I lined for lunch.
Looking up from my plate, I see she’s still tapping at her screen. I eat my grease in silence and, I have to admit, I enjoy every bit of it, the calories, the quiet and the calm.
“I bet he wasn’t getting any.” Head still down, she continues. “You know as well as I do, she’s a total prude. Remember when …?”
Wiping my mouth with my crisp, cloth napkin, I, possibly for the first time ever; cut her off;
“I really don’t want to get into it. We don’t know the first thing about their marriage. Speculating is definitely not fair.”
“Well, all I’m saying is…”
Instead of looking surprised when I stand, she squints, her huge, round eyes melding into selfish slits.
“You’ll have to pay, Tasia. I forgot my wallet.”
I swear our server gives me a nod of approval as I fling my purse over my shoulder and walk out the door, head held high.