She set her phone down on the bathroom counter after receiving a text from Caroline.
“Yeah, suuuuuure she’s going out to dinner with her cousin who’s in town tonight,” she thought to herself while putting the last touches on her hair for the night.
“Todd,” she called out, “What time did you say the reservation was for?”
She could hear him clambering in the kitchen before he responded, “8:30, but I don’t think it really matters if we’re late because the hostess said it was a slow night.”
This was further proof to her that Todd had something up his sleeve. She had expressed earlier in the week that she didn’t have any intentions of making a big deal of her birthday this year; at least not like last year’s debacle. But Todd’s elusiveness throughout the course of the week triggered thoughts of, “Maybe he’s throwing me a surprise party,” or better yet, “Maybe he has a question to ask me.”
The plan, at least to her knowledge, was to go to their favorite Italian restaurant near her old apartment for dinner and then end the night with drinks at a recently opened speakeasy-style bar that had gotten rave reviews on Eater.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Todd asked after poking his head through the bathroom door. He quickly fumbled his words before clarifying, “Sorry, sorry, you look great – I was just wondering for the sake of time,” though deep down he did think that her sequined skirt might be slightly overkill for what was otherwise a very subdued and classic restaurant.
“Yeah,” she shot back. “You like? I’m almost ready.”
Todd affirmed that she looked great and lightly shut the door to allow her time to finish up.
“Just as I suspected,” she told herself. “He’s so nervous about everything right now.”
Exiting the bathroom, she returned to the kitchen where Todd had a glass of her favorite red wine poured for her. “I was thinking we could walk to the restaurant since it’s so nice out,” Todd told her. She took this as stalling despite the fact that it was around 65-degrees outside which was, in fact, unseasonably warm.
“A nice romantic walk?” she questioned with her mind wandering about what Todd could possibly have planned for the way there (or at the destination itself). “Sounds good to me.”
Todd checked his watch and put his hand through his hair before taking a long sip of his wine. He asked what she was planning on ordering that night only to be met with her usual plate and a “or whatever they have special.” This spawned a conversation about what they should get as an appetizer, but she mistook it for Todd simply trying to distract her and throw her scent off the trail for whatever he had planned.
In an effort to test him, she proclaimed, “Todd, it’s about time we should go, no?” She figured putting the pressure on to be on-time (for once) would amplify his anxiety about the night and be telling of just how big of a deal he was going to make of her birthday dinner.
He again checked his watch. “Yeah, we can head out if you want.”
She put on a light jacket that she had purchased especially for the occasion while Todd took his sport coat off a dining room chair and prepared himself to leave the apartment. “Forgetting anything?” he asked as she slid out the door.
“Uhhh,” she hesitated, “Nope, I think I’ve got it all.”
“I wonder what he was implying,” she wondered as they approached the elevator. “Wait, am I forgetting something?”
As they reached the first floor, she was still fascinated by the idea of what they were about to encounter together. She wrapped her arm around Todd’s waist and intentionally put her hand in his coat pocket to see if he’d flinch for fear of her finding something she shouldn’t see. Calm and steady, Todd put his hand in the pocket with her and grabbed it, sealing their elevator ride with a kiss on her cheek.
With his usual head nod to the doorman and a “have a nice night,” they were off.
“Has your birthday been everything you want it to be?” Todd asked half-way through their walk. He started her morning with breakfast in bed and gifted her a cooking class at the lunch he’d planned, so any answer other than “it’s been great” would’ve been slightly devastating to him considering the effort he’d put in.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “Couldn’t be better.” Though, in her mind, her vision of the birthday also included one of two things – a surprise party or a proposal – neither of which had happened. Yet.
Approaching the restaurant, Todd again checked his watch to notice that they would be arriving at 8:40 – ten minutes late.
“Why do you keep checking your watch?” she playfully inquired. “Got somewhere to be?” She laughed before Todd said, “I just want to make sure we aren’t going to be too late.”
As they approached the hostess stand, her eyes couldn’t help but scan the entirety of the restaurant looking for a trace of anyone she knew. She pulled out her phone as the hostess said, “One moment please,” to see if she’d received any texts during their stroll. But to no avail.
“Right this way,” they were instructed only to be led to a two-person table (rather than the fifteen-person wine cellar room she had originally anticipated).
“Well…” she hesitated while sitting down, “This is so cute, Todd.” He could tell she was let down by something but was afraid to ask for her to expand on her thoughts.
“Everything okay?” he finally asked, now realizing that she was expecting something larger-scale.
“Of course,” she assured him. Because with one birthday surprise ruled out, there was only one left. .