She could sense that something was up. She couldn’t smell it on him as if he’d just returned from a strip club, but his demeanor throughout the course of the week signaled that he had made some sort of mistake. She knew his Find Friends had been turned off late Saturday night, but he assured her it was simply because he was at a dingy bar with no cell service. “Fair enough,” she thought.
But her suspicions really started to boil over when he requested a date night. “I just don’t want to go out this weekend,” he told her on Wednesday. “Can we just do a date night and go to bed early?”
This wasn’t a red flag per se, but it signaled that something was up. Something was either going to happen, did happen, or was in the midst of happening. So she sat back and waited.
“Right this way,” the host signaled.
Todd allowed her to walk ahead of him as they headed to their table. After his insistence that they go out to dinner, she found a reservation on Open Table for Bistro Brasserie, a French restaurant that had recently gotten high praise on Eater.
She had gotten her nails done that Friday afternoon just in case. She thought it would be bizarre that she make the reservation for a dinner where something larger was planned, but the simple idea of leaving the restaurant with a ring on her finger clouded her judgment.
As they sat down and were handed the freshly printed menus, Todd immediately set his down on the table.
“Hey,” he told her. “Everything okay?”
He seemed nervous, but at the same time, she seemed nervous as well. Their collective uncertainty undoubtedly fueled the interesting energy between them, but it was nothing a meat and cheese board couldn’t fix.
She affirmed that everything was, in fact, okay before picking up the wine list and asking what he was planning on drinking. She scanned it for any word she recognized. From their wine tasting class and trip to Napa, she had honed in on which wines she could dissect as if she was a sommelier.
“Are you planning on drinking wine tonight?” she asked Todd, who tapped his finger on the menu while scanning the appetizers.
“Uh, yeah, should we just do a bottle?” he asked. “I’ll pick one out.”
Todd reached over and grabbed the list from her with intent. “Interesting,” she thought as he looked it up and down. On one shoulder, an angel whispered to her that he was picking out something special; something expensive. On the other, a devil shouting that he was taking control of the ordering so he could order something reasonably priced; something that was just a few dollars more than the least expensive bottle on the menu. Should he order champagne, though? Well, then they were in for a celebration.
As the waitress approached, Todd’s eyes shifted from the menu. “Uh, yeah, I think we’ll do this 2014 Decoy Cabernet.”
It was a wine they’d had numerous times before, whether it was from their wine club or Whole Foods.
“And I think we’ll also do the meat and cheese board as well.”
Todd was certainly taking control after the night began with a quiet Uber and a 15-minute-late arrival to the restaurant.
“Right away,” they were told before resuming conversation.
“So,” she started, “Apparently the tartare and the duck confit are musts here – do you want to order both and go splitsies?”
She was trying to check his temperature to see what type of mood he was in. If he insisted on each of them ordering their own dishes, it was a clear sign that he was intending to have a more formal dinner. While splitting two dishes wasn’t to be dismissed, it would create a more casual environment for the two – but, it would also leave the window open for a dessert, something that surely meant a celebration was in order.
“Uhhh,” he hesitated, “I mean, yeah, that sounds great to me.” He was looking forward to ordering a steak, but decided the tartare would fill that void. “I’m pretty hungry, should we get a side of pomme frites as well?” She had never said no to french fries before, and she wasn’t about to start now.
“Well don’t you know the way to a girl’s heart,” she gushed somewhat sarcastically.
When the bottle of wine finally came, she fake-swirled it before testing it as if she knew what she was looking for. “Mmm,” she said immediately upon tasting. “That’s perf.” The waitress poured Todd’s glass first and then topped her off before wiping the neck of the bottle and setting it on the table.
“Do you mind if we keep the wine list here?” she asked as the waitress began leaving their table. “I just want to take another look at it.” She secretly wanted to see how much their bottle of Decoy cost while also intending to look over the sparkling wine list. You know, just in case.
“And actually,” Todd interrupted, “I think we’re ready to order as well.” He gestured towards her and allowed her to have the honor of ordering.
“Soooo,” she lead, “We’re going to split the tartare and the duck confit… and I think we’re going to do an order of pomme frites as well.”
The waitress took their menus – not the wine list – and continued towards the kitchen where she’d place the order.
“Are we, like, so fat for ordering all of that?” she asked him. “I feel like we’re going to be absolutely stuffed by the time our entrees come.” Todd assured her that she wasn’t “fat,” while she already planned to simply pick at the meat and cheese board for fear of becoming bloated should she need her photo taken that night.
When it eventually arrived and the waitress explained everything on it – prosciutto, soppressata, brie, gorgonzola, a fig jam, and a stone ground mustard – Todd put an array of everything on his plate while she simply cut small pieces off of each meat to simply get a taste.
“Todd,” she told him, “I’m so glad we did this instead of going out tonight.”
“Of course,” he responded. “I’m glad you finally get to try this place.”
He took a long sip of his wine before refilling it with the bottle that sat beside them.
“Do you want to go home right after this?” he asked. “Or do you want to go somewhere for a nightcap?”
Her heart skipped a beat. In Todd’s eyes, a “nightcap” meant an old-fashioned at the bar across the street from their apartment. But in her eyes, it meant a flute or three of champagne with their friends and family at a hotel bar that Todd had set up weeks in advance. After all they’d been through during the spring and her urgency to take their relationship to the next level, she started realizing that Todd had taken everything she’d said to him in the past to heart.
“I could definitely go for a nightcap, baby,” she told him before putting a small piece of baguette with prosciutto and mustard into her mouth. “So romantic.”
Todd reached over and filled her glass with wine despite the fact that there were still a few sips left.
“Are you trying to get me drunk?” she joked.
“Hey,” he remarked, seemingly out of nowhere. “You don’t have any plans next weekend, do you?”
She perked up at the thought of what he could possibly have had planned. After drawing out a long, “Noooo,” she asked, “What’s up?”
“Well,” he began.
The idea of a romantic getaway outside the city popped into her head. A farmhouse Airbnb, a stay in a bed and breakfast, a spa getaway. Something that would possibly take the edge off of all the mayhem that could possibly transpire as the night went on.
“…it looks like my parents are coming into town and want to do dinner,” he continued. “Do you know where we could take them?”
“Oh,” she bluntly answered, realizing what the absence of his parents in the city meant for her on that very night. With a somewhat somber and off-putting tone, she simply told him, “Well, we could just bring them back here, I guess.”
“No, no,” he told her. “I think we should do somewhere different.”
And suddenly, the plans she’d made in her head for tonight became delayed by just a week. .