Todd checked his watch while he could hear music coming from the bathroom.
“Fuck,” he thought. “We’re definitely going to be late again.”
From their pantry, he pulled out a bottle of wine he’d bought at a bodega down the street specifically for this occasion. It was something they had tasted in Napa on a couples trip months before and knew it would be something she loved.
He heard his name called from the bathroom but was exerting effort into opening the bottle.
“What time did you say the reservation was for?” echoed from the bathroom over what he assumed to be a Chainsmokers remix of something. “8:30,” he responded while removing the cork from the bottle. He didn’t want to rush her for fear of a flare-up argument surrounding the possibility of them being late so he simply continued, “8:30, but I don’t think it really matters if we’re late because the hostess said it was a slow night.”
His phone lit up with a text from John. “Just going out to dinner with Caroline’s cousins,” he texted. “What are you up to?”
Todd began typing and informed John that he’d made a reservation at one of her favorite restaurants for her birthday.
“Oh, yeah,” John shot back. “I forgot it was her birthday – hit me up if you do anything after.”
Todd set his phone face down on the counter and walked towards the bathroom to passive-aggressively check her progress. He debated calling the restaurant and letting them know that they were going to be late but didn’t want her to hear him from the other room.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” he asked with his head poking through the bathroom door. A wave of anxiety came over him as he realized how it sounded. Any time she had asked him that question, it was met with him wondering, “Why isn’t this outfit good enough?” She seemed distracted applying some sort of make-up to her face, so he took the three-second lull as an opportunity to make things right.
“Sorry, sorry, you look great,” he mumbled as a follow-up, “I was just wondering for the sake of time.”
“Great,” he thought to himself. “Now I’m really fucked and she knows I’m trying to rush her.” His eyes peered down and saw her wearing a sequined skirt that looked more suitable for a New Year’s Eve party than it did for a birthday dinner at a steakhouse, but with time being of the essence, any deliberation about the outfit was going to derail the night completely.
“Yeah,” she finally responded to his inquiry about her status. “You like? I’m almost ready.”
He knew “almost ready” meant ten minutes, at a minimum.
“You look great,” he muttered before shutting the door and making his way back to the kitchen. He picked up his phone and responded to John’s text about meeting for drinks later. “For sure, I’ll get at you,” he typed prior to pouring her a hefty glass of red – a gesture he knew would only take more time off the clock but was also necessary considering she’d end up asking for one anyway.
She smiled while leaving the bathroom as she saw he’d poured her some wine. “We need to fucking go,” raced through his mind as he again glanced down to his watch. The Uber wait time was twelve minutes with a surge price of 1.5x, something he didn’t want to pay on top of the price of dinner that night. He knew the only option was to walk.
“I was thinking we could walk to the restaurant since it’s so nice out,” he told her while mentally praying that she wouldn’t mind. His eyes diverted down to her heels which he knew would add at least two minutes onto their walk time.
“A nice romantic walk?” she asked. His heart stopped hoping that it wasn’t a sarcastic statement. “Sounds good to me.”
Relief washed over him while he tipped his glass up and finished the remnants of his wine. The conversation droned on about the dinner while Todd’s mind couldn’t stop from being fixated on their schedule. He wasn’t normally a planner but he knew being too late for their reservation would create a tension with whoever was manning the host stand when they walked in.
“Todd, it’s about time we should go, no?” she asked.
Again, relief. He didn’t want to seem over-eager, but he really had no choice.
“Yeah, we can head out if you want,” he affirmed before taking his sport coat off and leading her out the door. He wanted to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything so before they made their way to the elevator, he decided to check one last time. He felt the pocket of his coat and checked for everything he needed for the night. “Alright, we’re good,” he thought.
Upon the elevator doors closing, he felt her hand reach for his waist and slide into his coat pocket. Wondering what her random display of affection was all about, he kissed her while grabbing her hand that was seemingly fishing for something in his pocket. The elevator came to a halt and Todd exited with some lipstick on mouth that he’d end up wiping off and onto the butt of his pants.
Silence was evident during the first leg of their walk. Todd’s mind wandered and wondered about whether he’d planned enough for her birthday. The dinner was going to be the cherry on top of an already packed day, but he was still nervous that it was missing… something.
“Has your birthday been everything you wanted it to be?” he asked her.
She was starry-eyed and looked up towards him. She seemed to be in a much better mood than normal which almost affirmed to Todd that he had provided her with a truly amazing birthday. “It’s been wonderful – couldn’t be better,” she told him while he smiled. He felt her head rest against his arm as he continued toward the restaurant.
“Crushed it,” he thought.
He again checked his watch. They were late, but not as late as they would’ve been had they called an Uber.
Walking in, Todd approached the hostess and said, “Two for 8:30, sorry about being late.” He looked over to see her on her phone.
“Not a problem,” the hostess told them before leading them to their table. Todd was relieved that her birthday had gone down without a hitch. The restaurant was the perfect combination of busy yet romantic, and he knew a nice bottle of wine and her favorite dessert with candles would be the perfect finishing touch.
She slowly sat down with her eyes fixated on him. “Well, this is so cute, Todd.” He let out a deep breath while her eyes remained on him, which somewhat startled him as he felt like she was waiting for something.
“Everything okay?” he asked her while she smiled and unfolded her napkin. He unfolded his as well while she started to answer. At the same time the words began to come out of her mouth, he heard a text come in before remembering that he hadn’t silenced his phone upon entering the restaurant.
“Of course,” she assured him while he took his phone out of his pocket to reveal a text from John. He glanced at what John had said while his left thumb flicked the switch to silence his phone. What he read shook him —
Uhhh, Caroline seems to be under the impression you’re proposing tonight?
His eyes widened while putting his phone back into his coat pocket. Her hand reached across the table with some concern about the look on his face.
“What about you, Todd? Everything okay?”
He took a long, hard gulp.
“Fuck,” he thought.
“Yeah, of course, everything’s great.”.