======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
Her eyes looked directly at his while the waiter had his pen to paper.
“Uh, yeah,” Todd began while peering down at the menu. “I think he and I are going to do two Sapporos and the second sake flight you have here.” It was the makeshift sake-bomb that he and John had manufactured time and time again every time they went to the restaurant.
She picked up her phone and began typing.
“Todd,” the message said, “I thought we weren’t drinking tonight.”
His phone lit up on the table and, without looking down at it, he flipped it over and kept talking to John who was seated across from him. When the waiter walked to their side of the table, she knew she had no other option.
“I’ll do this Decoy Sauvignon Blanc,” Caroline told the waiter.
“Just a glass?” he asked.
Before Caroline could answer affirmatively, she was interrupted from the other side of the table.
“No, we’ll do a bottle,” she said while handing the wine list over. “Thank you.”
Caroline attempted to raise her brows in approval, but couldn’t because she’d gotten botox earlier that day. If she was able to actually make a face, the look on her face would’ve said it all: “Mama needed a glass of wine.”
Todd took note of what she had just ordered but didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. He knew that understating the importance of her newly-imposed diet was the move. Amplifying the significance of each of them ordering drinks would only further justify the diet in the first place.
Early in the meal, there was already a divide. On one side, the ladies discussed Caroline and John’s impending Whole 30 Diet starting in September. On the other, Todd and John beat the pennant race into the ground.
“I just don’t know how we’ll do it with this fucking bullpen,” John kept saying.
“I just don’t know how John will get through this September 16th wedding without drinking,” Caroline droned on.
Todd felt a slight nudge underneath the table as their drinks arrived. She wasn’t condemning his behavior, but more vying for his attention. “Look at me drinking this glass of wine,” the look on her face said.
“Have you two decided on what you’re ordering?” Todd asked while pouring his Sapporo into a glass.
Caroline looked at the menu for the first time since she sat down. “Why don’t you two order for us and we’ll just all split a bunch of rolls and sashimi?”
Todd looked to John for approval before shrugging and accepting the responsibility.
“So tell me,” Caroline continued, “Do you and Todd have anything planned for September?”
She felt slighted that John and Caroline had been invited to the mid-September wedding of their old sorority sister, but didn’t want to come off as petty when discussing it.
“Ugh, I mean,” she hesitated, “Not really. Like, I’m so glad we aren’t going to Lauren’s wedding next month. It’s just, like, we’ve already been to so many weddings this year so it was honestly a relief that she didn’t include us.”
They both knew this wasn’t true.
From the other side of the table, they heard Todd and John fumbling through the menu. Spicy Tuna, California, Spider, Red Dragon; they simply kept ordering to the point where the girls stopped listening and continued their conversation.
Caroline put her elbows on the table and leaned forward, continuing their conversation from seconds before. “Call me crazy, but I feel like you’ll still be hearing some wedding bells next month.”
“Caroline!” she shout-whispered. “Stop! You’re so bad!”
Todd clearly didn’t hear her assertion, but likely would’ve been annoyed with the expectation that he was to propose sooner than later. Unbeknownst to Todd, John had already shown Caroline a picture of the ring that Todd’s mom had given him, and – surprisingly – Caroline approved despite her suggestion to get it reset.
“Just saying…” Caroline whispered back before getting interrupted by John.
“Do either of you wanting anything to start off with?”
“Uhhhh,” they both hesitated before Caroline chimed in. “Let’s just do this spicy edamame and call it good.”
“And the spicy edamame,” John confirmed with the waiter.
These dinners all seemed to follow the same schedule. Split conversation, appetizers, a second round of drinks, entrees, a third round of drinks, and then a drunken decision to go to a bar that everyone swore before the dinner that they’d never go to. Tonight was seemingly no different.
The rolls were set on the table while Todd and John ordered another sake flight to couple with their fresh Sapporos. The waiter dispersed the rolls evenly throughout their four-top.
“O-M-G,” she stated allowed in shock, “Who ordered the freaking Philadelphia Roll?”
Todd looked to John, the guilty party.
“This is, like, so embarrassing,” she told the rest of the table, which included Caroline who couldn’t stop laughing. “Like, I’m embarrassed to even have a roll with cream cheese in it in front of me,” she continued while John looked on innocently.
“Fine,” John finally inserted himself while leaning over the table, “Here, hand it over. I’ll have it all. to. my. self.”
She handed it diagonally across the table with a disgusted look on her face as if she was about to gag. “Fine by me.”
John rolled his eyes at Todd who was numb to the judgment and more focused on pouring his beer.
As the dinner continued, it was still following suit. “What should we do after this?” Todd asked, a question he’d asked numerous times before. He noticed that the girls’ second bottle of wine was only half-finished and feared what would happen if they finished it all themselves before the dinner let out.
“Circle Bar?” Caroline asked. Again, the bar they’d swore earlier in the night they wouldn’t go to.
“Ughhhh,” she groaned in Caroline’s direction, “I haaaaaate Circle Bar.”
“Well, where else could we go?” Todd asked, only for his question to fall on empty ears. A collective “I don’t know” groan circled the table.
“I mean, fine, we can go to Circle Bar,” she agreed.
“Yeah,” John confirmed, “I don’t really want to go there either but I don’t really have any better ideas.” This was a conversation they’d had a million times in the four years between graduating from college and where they sat at that very moment. Not a conversation they’d necessarily had with each other, but one that felt all too familiar.
After John and Todd split the check and finished the glasses of wine they’d asked for from the girls, they walked outside without saying much. “Todd better not be smoking with John,” she told Caroline. He wasn’t, but he was already in trouble for seemingly doing so.
“I’m def making him quit after the new year,” Caroline told her while trying to position her head to see out the window of the restaurant. “I mean, he only does it when he’s drunk but still. Yuck.”
“Fancy seeing you two out here,” Caroline told them as they exited the restaurant. Todd was immediately met with a drunken kiss on the lips, which was her way of figuring out whether or not he’d smoked with John. He was in the clear.
John pointed down the street before expressing, “Alright, let’s walk down there.”
As they walked in a group, the obstacles on the sidewalk caused them to jumble – mailboxes, newspaper stands, homeless people.
Todd found himself situated next to Caroline about ten paces behind the other two who walked ahead of them just out of earshot.
“Todd,” Caroline whispered, “Shoot me straight.”
He looked over at her pretending to not have any idea what she was talking about.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Uhhhh,” he stammered, “Caroline.”
“When the fuck are you popping the question.” .