By Mandy Gray
Tap, Tap, Tap.
Sarah tapped the spoon on the side of the sugar basin. The growing rhythm caused the couple in front to turn their heads. The young woman gave a loud tut, then turned away to continue her conversation with her partner. Sarah put the spoon back onto the saucer and studied her watch. She had been sitting here for forty-five minutes; he was half-an-hour late and her patience was wearing thin now.
Looking at the empty cup in front of her, Sarah pondered whether to order another coffee or to just get up and leave, and forget the whole blind date thing. It was turning into a really bad idea and Sarah was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with it.
She was unlucky in love. Had dated in the past, but nothing serious. Almost gotten engaged once though, but that relationship had ended badly. A classic case of infidelity, on his part, with her best friend, now her worst enemy. Sarah had tried to steer clear of men after that and concentrated on her career as a primary school teacher. Once bitten, twice shy, comes to mind. She had almost succeeded in her plan until she was pushed, none too gently, into this date.
Sarah looked down at her watch again and then gave the room a quick scan. She looked over to an elderly waitress, who made eye contact and hurried over to the table. The waitress took a note pad and pencil out of a pocket stitched onto the front of her crisp, white apron.
"More coffee?" The waitress asked, eyeing the neat pyramid of sugar cubes Sarah had constructed on the table.
"Yes please," Sarah answered, quickly putting the cubes back into the basin.
"Have you been stood up, dear?" The waitress asked in a sympathetic voice, and scribbled down Sarah's order in her note pad.
Sarah's eyes shot up to look at the waitress, who was smiling down at her. She was sure there was a hint of sarcasm in the old woman's voice.
"No, I'm just early," Sarah said, defensively.
"Well, never mind then dear, I'll be back shortly with your coffee."
Sarah stared after her and frowned with disgust. 'cheek.'
She really wished that she hadn't listened to her cousin Rachael. Rachael's match-making had got her into trouble before, so she didn't particularly like blind dates. She had realised long ago that Rachael seemed to have one mission in life, and
that was to marry Sarah off to an eligible man. Sarah recalled the first time her cousin had arranged a blind date, and she shuddered at the memory.
* * *
Sarah had been eighteen at the time and had a crush on Peter Marsh, a student at college. She was painfully shy and wouldn't dream of taking the first steps to ask someone for a date. Rachael was more outgoing, however, and being a busy body, had arranged a blind date with Peter. Sarah's nerves had been on edge all that day and as she was getting ready to meet the man of her dreams, Rachael had arrived with a bottle of wine.
"For medicinal purposes only," Rachael had said. "Just a glass of wine to calm your nerves."
But, she wasn't calm, and it didn't stop at one glass. Four glasses later, taken on an empty stomach, Sarah had been ready to conquer the world, or so she thought. She sat in the crowded bar waiting for her date to arrive and her head started to spin. On seeing him approach her table she stood up to greet him. She must have stood up too quickly, as a terrible feeling of nausea came over her and she clapped a hand over her mouth. It was too late; she promptly vomited all over his shiny shoes, totally ruining them and passed out on the floor. Sarah couldn't remember how she got home, but the next day she was full of remorse and embarrassment and avoided the man of her dreams like the plague. That was seven years ago and hadn't seen Peter since.
* * *
Now Sarah was waiting for another blind date, and although she was older
now it still didn't stop the feeling of dread settling in the pit of her stomach. Originally Rachael and her husband Mark were supposed to be here, it was to be a foursome. Fate had intervened however, and Rachael had gone into labour, three weeks early with their first child. So it was now that Sarah sat alone waiting to meet Mark's much talked about work colleague.
They had stuck to the original plan of meeting in the restaurant; Sarah thought she might feel better if she knew who she was looking for. Rachael had grinned like a Cheshire cat and said "you will know when you see him," and being the romantic that she is gave her a sketchy description of him as being, tall, dark and handsome. Sarah had laughed at the description, but secretly she couldn't wait to see for herself.
Sarah had her hair cut and styled for the occasion, hoping to make a good impression and arrived at the restaurant early and was shown to a table in the corner. She'd had nervous butterflies fluttering around her stomach all day. She left the table five minutes after arriving at the restaurant to check on her hair in the mirror, hoping that on returning to her seat he would be there, but of course he wasn't.
She glanced around at the other diners; the couple in front of her got up to leave, sending her a sympathetic look. Sarah smiled and sipped at the coffee the waitress had brought. Continuing to look around, she saw another couple were holding hands across the table, gazing intently into each other's eyes. At the other side of the restaurant quite near the doors, the tables were set in booths and from her table she could see the profile of a man. Having not seen him arrive; she presumed he had when she was fixing her hair. She could not see right into the booth, but guessed he wasn't alone. The door opened and a large man, with thinning hair, entered, he stood in the doorway and seemed to be searching the room for someone.
'Oh! Rachael, no,' she thought, 'please no!' And then she felt mean. Perhaps he was a really nice man and as they say, looks aren't everything.
Just then a woman called out.
"Over here Ben." And the man turned, waved and walked towards the voice.
The man in the booth looked at his watch and stared at the door, and then he looked around the room. He looked at the couple holding hands for some seconds, and then his eyes travelled on. Sarah held her breath as his eyes connected with hers; he frowned and looked about him again, then back at her. He stood up and started to walk over, she felt her heart beat faster in anticipation.
"Could this be him?" She thought, as she watched him approach. Still not sure, she glanced over her shoulder to see if he could be going to someone behind her. No, there was only her in the corner.
Her cheeks felt hot as she took in his face. Rachael was right, dark hair, dark eyes, framed with dark lashes. Her eyes narrowed as he took the last few steps towards the table, and she studied his face more closely, and her jaw dropped as she recognised Peter Marsh.
"Sarah?" He asked.
She tried to answer, but couldn't, it was as though she had been struck dumb.
"May I sit down?" He asked, indicating to the empty chair opposite her.
Still in shock Sarah just nodded her head.
"I'll take that as a yes." He said smiling, and sat down.
The waitress appeared out of nowhere and handed a wine list to Peter.
"May I recommend the red sir?" The waitress said, "It's a very good ."
"NO!" Sarah shouted, suddenly coming out of her trance. "I mean, no wine for me thank you."
"We will just have another coffee for now," Peter said, and the waitress tutted and scurried away.
"I can't believe Rachael didn't tell me it was you," Sarah said, fumbling with her napkin. 'Oh god, this is terrible. Wait until I see that cousin of mine.'
"Me what? I don't understand." He said, puzzled, but Sarah wasn't listening.
"Look, I'm sure if you had known it was me you would not have come, especially after the last date."
Peter chuckled. "How could I forget even after seven years? Do you know it did nothing for my ego, having a beautiful girl take one look at me and be sick?"
"Please don't remind me."
"I remember you avoided me at every opportunity, I tried to tell you everything was alright but you wouldn't let me near you."
"Well, I'm glad you are here now," she said, smiling at him. "Maybe this date will work, thanks to Rachael being a busy body."
Peter was still puzzled, but he shrugged and glanced over to the empty booth he had vacated. He was supposed to be meeting his ex-wife Carol, for another dressing down. He knew what she wanted to see him about, apart from the obvious free meal at the restaurant; she wanted him to sign over the deeds to the house that they had
shared. But, he decided, she could wait, because the evening was turning out better than he expected.
He looked back at Sarah, who was still fiddling with her napkin and he smiled. This was obviously a case of mistaken identity on her part. He had never forgotten Sarah, how could he after what had happened. He had often wondered what had happened to her after collage, but he had gotten tied down in a loveless marriage and soon Sarah became a distant memory. Not anymore, he had to get her out of the restaurant before her real date turned up, or god forbid, his ex-wife.
They decided that coffee was enough for them and Peter offered to take her to a movie.
"That would be great." She said, as he helped her with her coat.
They crossed the restaurant and Peter opened the door just as a tall, dark haired man came barging in. His hands and the knees of his trousers were dirty; his face was flushed as though he had been running. His car had picked a fine time to blow a tyre. Sarah didn't give him a second glance as she stepped out into the street and Peter hailed a taxi.
Later after deciding on a film to watch, they sat in the darkened cinema waiting for it to begin. Peter leaned close to Sarah and asked, with some amusement lacing his tone.
"By the way, who's Rachael?"
He chuckled as Sarah spun round in seat to face him, her eyes wide and her mouth dropped to form a perfect O. She struggled for composure and was about to speak, but Peter stopped her.
"Sshh, I'll explain later, the film's about to start."