Miller holds a PhD in French literature from
© 2006 Margot Miller
The hostess leads Jenny and Silas toward the back of the restaurant, to the section where the nicest tables are. Silas is grave, despite silver curls whirling above his ears. He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and lets his wife pass in front of him. Jenny, a rounder bundle, is tidy in a stylish suit and pumps with a matching, somewhat worn, handbag.
"Will this be all right?" The hostess lays the menus on the table and holds a chair for Jenny.
"Actually, I think we might be more comfortable in the other part of the room," Silas, who is still standing, says quietly. The hostess is surprised. These are the nicest places, but she picks up the menus.
"This way, please."
Jenny looks at Silas, confused, and gets up to follow.
When they are seated Jenny says, "What was the matter with the other table?"
"Colette, my ex-wife, is sitting back there. I thought it might be awkward."
"Oh, I see." But Jenny didn't see, not really. She had a view of her predecessor from where she sat.
"What will you have?" Silas addressed the menu.
"It's a small town, Silas. I'm sure I'll meet her sometime."
"The salmon's always good here. Would you want to split a meal?"
"We can always take home what we don't eat. You have the fish. I think I'll have lamb tonight."
Silas and Jenny had met when he moved into her apartment building and found her at his door, offering him a chicken casserole. When he returned the dish to her he told her he'd eaten the poulet-en-croute all week, and then he invited her out to eat. Jenny knew little about Silas's former wife, except that she was an artist of some kind. Silas had been silent on this long-over part of his life. There had been no children and so no reason to talk about his former life.
Jenny glances around the corner at the woman wearing an expression of quiet concentration; she is sketching, or possibly making notes, in a bound journal.
As she eats, Jenny suddenly remembers something she's heard or read somewhere: we can't give what we don't have; what we have already denied to ourselves we deny to others. It was Jung, she thought. Why did she know that? She glances at the slender woman sipping a glass of red wine, giving her thoughts to paper, absorbed in her process. Jenny turns to Silas, who is leaning over his plate because he always rests his left arm in his lap, presumably to keep his elbow off the table. His mother must have admonished him as a small child about elbows on the table. Glancing again at the figure at the back of the restaurant, Jenny wonders, what had Colette wanted that had not been available?
The waitress comes to clear away the plates.
"Can I get you a dessert menu this evening?" she asks while stacking the dishes on her arm. Silas looks at Jenny and waits. She would like to have the profiteroles but she feels the urgency of his silence; he wants to leave before the languid figure sitting at the back does.
"Not tonight, thanks," Jenny sighs, and looks over Silas's shoulder at the ex-wife, still there, still making marks on her page.
"Just the check, please," Silas smiles tightly and takes out his wallet to have his credit card ready to pay the bill. When it comes he hardly looks at it and hands the card and the leather folder back to the waitress.
Jenny gets up to go to the Ladies' Room, curious to have a closer look at the woman at the back. She sees Silas, holding his breath as she slips by him, and leaves her hand on his shoulder for just a moment longer than necessary. The other's eyes meet Jenny's but give no sign of recognition nor receive any. When Jenny returns, the dark head with its short waves of auburn hair leans into the soft chair back; the eyes are lowered toward a glass of Pinot Noir, suspended in her hand.
Silas has signed the chit and is standing with Jenny's coat on his arm. She shrugs it on while looking at the woman with her glass of wine, whose gaze meets Jenny's with just the slightest smile in her eyes.
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© 2006 SubtleTea Productions All Rights Reserved