“What looks good to you?” Sean asked, peeking over the top of his menu.
Sapphire eyes sparkling over her own menu, Lauren answered, “Everything. I can’t imagine anything here not being totally delicious.”
Sean thought Lauren was even more stunning than usual, her simple Armani jacket and dress accentuating graceful natural lines, her glowing shoulder length hair full of life. And he loved the way the light danced on her eyes. Though enjoying the pleasures of her beauty and style, Sean was even more impressed with her obvious wit and intelligence, impressed and intimidated.
He’d long known her reputation and had read quite a few of the articles she published in the trade magazines. When Lauren came to work for his company he was surprised to find that she was about his own age. She’d been there for a few weeks when they were introduced at Gwen’s reception. Something clicked.
That “The Lauren” everyone was talking about said “yes” when he asked her out blew Sean’s mind. The evening had to be perfect.
The maître d seated a couple at the next table. “I eat here every time I’m in town,” the man shouted as if to ensure everyone heard. “Choose anything on the menu.”
Their new neighbor was attempting to wear a threadbare, ill-fitting suit. His thin graying hair, slicked over a bald spot, gave his wide face a comical look. He smiled eagerly at his companion, whose painted face appeared no more than 12. She studied the menu with a bored nonchalance while unconsciously picking her nose.
“What do you suggest?” Sean’s attention was immediately drawn back to Lauren.
“Anything on the menu is good,” Sean said, “but this place specializes in meat. Not that the seafood is bad…”
“You must eat here every time you’re in town.”
“Well, this is only the third time I’ve been here. I asked…” He noticed the twinkle in her eye and realized she was teasing. He smiled back. He could feel the heat of his cheeks flushing red.
“Did I tell you how beautiful you are? I can’t believe I’m with someone like you today, my 60th birthday.” The neighbor was still speaking distractingly loud. His young date, not looking at him, answered, “I’m having the Beef Wellington.”
Sean shot Lauren an embarrassed glance, but she was studying her menu, an inscrutable smile on her face.
“Jacqueline!” Sean looked up as an impeccably dressed man strode past him to the next table. “Jacqueline! Your mother and I have been worried to death for months! Where have you been? What are you doing here? I’ll tell you what you’re doing; you’re coming home with us immediately!”
She didn’t look at the intruder. “I’m staying here. I’m an adult and can do what I please!”
“You, an adult?! You’re only 16 and know it! Does your, um, companion?”
“Hey, take your hands off of my date!” Mr. Bad-hair-flip said.
The father gave his daughter’s escort an icy glare. The man had started to get up, but settled back down. The father wrapped his jacket around Jacqueline’s shoulders as he gently but firmly led her to his waiting wife. Letting out a little cry the mother threw her arms around the girl. Jacqueline immediately started sobbing and buried her face into her mother’s chest as they walked out.
“Monsieur will be dining alone?” The waiter asked the now single man.
Mr. Bad-hair-flip pushed out from the table and said, “I wouldn’t eat in this pig sty if you paid me!” After bumping into Sean and Lauren’s table he stomped out.
Though his stomach was turning summersaults Sean looked at Lauren as if nothing had happened and said, “The Beef Wellington looks good tonight…”
Cutting her giggle short Lauren looked up. Sean realized they had company.
The wine steward stood erect, presenting a bottle; a busgirl with him was holding two large wine glasses. Sean started to protest before being informed that it was courtesy of the house, “with strong apologies for the disruption. We assure Monsieur and Madam that we care for their privacy and comfort.”
Sean looked at the proffered bottle. “’96 Lynch-Bages,” he announced to Lauren and let out a low whistle.
A few minutes later, fine Bordeaux in hand, Lauren proposed a toast, “To be with someone like you on my 60th birthday.”
“I hope by then I won’t need your father’s permission,” he answered as their glasses clinked.
Lauren’s eyes sparkled smilingly over her glass.
The evening suddenly seemed perfect.
Please read the Story’s Origins