“We’ve been waiting to do this for so long,” she claimed after stepping away from her hug with Caroline in the entrance of the restaurant.
The look on Todd’s face toward John said, “Wait…we have?”
With John and Caroline enduring the brutality of a Whole 30 in September, it made it difficult for them to be as social as they normally are. Only Todd and John knew that John had snuck away after work to sneak in some beers, and giving that information up would lead to death for both parties.
Todd had lobbied to go to a restaurant that served anything but tapas, but against his will, he agreed to go to Heirloom – a newly-opened restaurant in the heart of downtown that was considered impossible to get a reservation for. Unfortunately for him, his other half had received a voicemail letting her know of an opening at 9 p.m. on the coming Friday.
“Soooooooooooo,” Caroline drew out just before placing her napkin on her lap, “Tell me all about this trip you’ve been planning!”
She pretended to blush before beginning her answer. It was, after all, the exact reason she had planned the double date in the first place. John, meanwhile, scooted his chair over about six inches in hopes of getting a better view of the ballgame that played on the only television in the restaurant.
“I mean, I’m so behind on planning,” she told the entirety of the table where only one person was actually listening. “Like, I’ve looked up guides but I don’t want some rando website’s guide to Paris.” She pronounced it “Pair-ee.”
Caroline nodded along.
“I’ve considered posting a Facebook status to ask for suggestions,” she continued, “but honestly, I feel like that’s such a humblebrag. It’s almost as tacky as checking in at the airport before you take off.”
Knowing she did this three months ago before their long weekend in Maine, Caroline made a mental note to delete her airport status when she got home that night.
“Well, I’m sure it will be special nonetheless,” Caroline assured her with her eyes fixated on Todd who stared blankly into the menu that consisted of nothing but small plates – mussels, vegetables with the word “baby” preceding them, meatballs made from lamb, and a $15 grilled wagyu sirloin that sounded good but would definitely underwhelm.
Without acknowledging what Caroline had said, Todd chimed in. It had been nine hours since he had lunch and he was scolded for snacking prior to the meal. To put it bluntly, he was starving.
“Does anyone mind if I wave our waiter over and order some appetizers?” he asked a little too aggressively.
“Ugh, Todd,” she responded, “Can’t we at least settle in and have a glass of wine?”
At that moment, a busboy breezed by their table only for Todd to stop him and plead for a basket of bread.
She tightly grabbed Todd’s hand under the table in a way that tacitly told him to rein it in. Caroline, always the instigator, quickly changed the subject from the food back to their trip to Paris.
“So Todd, what do you have planned?”
He knew exactly what she was referring to but was too hungry to play her game. Instead, he listed off three museums he wanted to go to in order to suppress Caroline’s hints at a proposal. He felt her hand move away from his under the table and grab her napkin on for her to tell everyone, “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the ladies room.” Caroline debated going with her but decided to stay behind to both chastize John for being mentally absent and to lecture Todd about his future responsibilities.
Once she was out of earshot, Caroline leaned in slightly. “Todd,” she sternly said, “You better come up with a pretty good fucking plan.”
“Are we really doing this right now?” he shout-whispered in response.
“Are you going to do it, Todd?”
He visibly rolled his eyes before giving an answer he had planned weeks the second he heard the dinner was happening. “I think that’s up to me to figure out.”
Caroline, clearly acting with a sense of urgency to get her point across before she returned from the bathroom, finished a sip of her wine and reiterated, “Seriously, plan something before I have to do it for you.”
“Please stop, Caroline,” Todd pleaded.
“John told me that your parents gave you a ring for her,” she continued while looking over her shoulder. “I’m going to need to see that before you do anything with it, and honestly, we should probably go ring shopping just in case it’s–”
“Ring shopping? Are you kidding?” he interrupted.
“Uh, yeah, Todd,” Caroline mocked. “Last time I fucking checked, you could afford a pretty damn nice ring rather than some family heirloom.”
He rolled his eyes again and saw behind Caroline that she had left the bathroom and was approaching the table.
“I’m emailing you this week because I know you just leave your iPad unlocked at your apartment for everyone to see,” Caroline said in closing.
“Wait,” Todd hesitated, “What?”
“So!” she said excitedly as she sat back down at the table. “Did we decide on anything to eat?”
Caroline looked down at her menu as if she had spent the duration of her bathroom trip debating what to get. Pretending to have dissected every bit of it, she pitched getting the marinated olives and roasted nuts along with the blistered shishito peppers.
“Uh,” Todd while also looking at the menu, “I’m not sure that’s going to be enough.”
“Oh, so now you know what you want,” Caroline mumbled passive-aggressively. He looked up at her as if he was going to lunge across the table.
Unsure of why things seemed tangibly tense (but not really unsure), she interrupted both Todd and Caroline’s awkwardness to suggest that they order all seven tapas plates in addition to a meat and cheese board. “I did some research online beforehand,” she assured them, “And t-b-h, I think we can probs finish it all. Is that so bad?”
“Nope,” Todd told her. “I’m in for that.”
“Monsieur,” she said to a gentleman standing near their table, “Would you mind if we ordered some dishes?”
Confused as to why he was just referred to as “Monsieur,” he took out his notepad and began scribbling down everything she listed off. Naturally, he told the table that they had made “wonderful choices,” which made sense considering they ordered nearly the entire menu.
But it was while she was ordering that Todd looked down at his phone and saw a calendar invite from Caroline whose eyes were peering down at her illuminated screen underneath the table.
12 p.m. on Tuesday, October 24th. .