Isabelle arrived early at the Moroccan restaurant and was shown to her table by the waiter. It was a freezing cold Saturday afternoon so she had sensibly dressed in as many layers as possible. Her fingers fumbled nervously with the buttons of her jacket and she realised that her throat had gone as dry as the Sahara. It wasn’t even a real date and she was beginning to panic as if she was a fourteen year old again. She took a small mirror from her purse and checked her reflection to make sure her eye-shadow had stayed where she had put it a half hour before. It was fine. But maybe she should fix that massive glob of eyeliner hanging off her eyelash? She took a tissue from her bag and delicately removed it. All was well with the world. She could relax now that she wasn’t completely hideous, well except for those massive bags under her eyes.
The waiter brought over a jug of water with a sprig of mint floating inside it. She watched as he filled her glass. Isabelle took a generous gulp as soon as his back was turned to calm the butterflies in her stomach. She should never have agreed to meet this guy but the girls in the office were insistent. He was lovely they insisted. He’d be a good match for her they said and besides, she hadn’t had any interest from a man in forever and she wasn’t getting any younger. Days of berating from her colleagues had eventually broken down her defences and she’d eventually agreed and made the effort to dress up to try and break her cold streak. It would allow her some peace from the constant nagging.
A man entered the restaurant and looked around slowly. The place was practically empty with just a couple and their friend playing catch up in the far corner so it didn’t take long for him to conclude that she was his date. He walked over and looked her up and down:
"You Isabelle?” he asked.
“Yes. You’re Brian?”
“I suppose so.”
He took off his long black leather coat, exposing an unwashed black hoodie and a slight beer gut.
“What sort of food they sell here?” asked Brian.
“It’s Moroccan food. I heard it was good.” said Isabelle, defensively.
“Moroccan? Like Falafel? Fecking hate it. Foreign muck.”
Warning lights stared flashing inside Isabelle’s head: “No, like tagines and cous-cous. That kind of thing.”
“I don’t know what those are, but I’ll give them a try.” said Brian, trying to show that he was open minded.
Thirty seconds in and this is already not going well. thought Isabelle.
Brian sat down without another word and studied the menu. Isabelle did likewise, trying not to make eye contact in the hope that the date ended as quickly as possible. Brian kept looking up from the menu and staring at her chest before returning to studiously srcutinising the document as if the secrets to eternal life were contained therein. It made her feel extremely uncomfortable. She decided not to have a starter.
The waiter returned and asked for their order.
Isabelle had barely gotten a syllable out when Brian interrupted her;
“Yeah” he said. “I’ll have the Chicken tagine.”
Isabelle ordered a lamb dish and searched her mind for possible conversation topics. Brian stopped staring at her chest for a fifth of a nanosecond and said:
“You know, you look a lot like Sharon from Battlestar Galactica. Do you watch it?”
Isabelle panicked internally: What’s a Battlestar Galactica? “I’ve never seen it.” She said finally.
“Really?” said Brian in shock. “Well, that’s a complement. She’s like the second hottest chick in it.”
“Second hottest?” queried Isabelle.
“Yeah, but I mean, the hottest is number six. Tricia Helfer. But she’s completely smoking. Like, She was a model, I think.”
“Oh. That’s interesting.” said Isabelle, without any enthusiasm.
The waiter arrived with their food and they busied themselves eating. Brian ate like the food was in danger of going stale, particles of couscous flew in every direction.
“This has got raisins in it.” announced Brian.
“It said so on the menu.” advised Isabelle.
“Those things give me wind. I’ll be farting like a trooper if I eat them.”
“Nice to know.”
“Well, I don’t want to embarrass myself…you know…later.” Brian smirked.
Crap! Does he think this is going well? Is he expecting sex? Doesn’t he realise that this is the most awkward date ever? thought Isabelle.
She returned to her lamb and finished her plate. The food was great at least.
“We getting dessert?” said Brian.
Isabelle thought long and hard. She’d sneaked a peek at the menu earlier. The idea of a white chocolate cheesecake or Apple and Banana fritters was tempting but she’d rather get out of here.
“Sorry, not me. I’ve watching my figure.”
“I can understand why you’d do that. I’m doing it as well.” Brian smirked again.
Isabelle’s skin crawled.
Brian stood up and went over to the bar. He asked for the bill and was handed a slip of paper.
“Here Isabelle!” He shouted after he had read it. “Your half comes to twelve euro.”
Isabelle took the required amount from her purse and handed it to the waiter.
“I need to go to the bathroom before we leave. Meet you back here when I’ve pushed one out?” asked Brian.
“Sure.” replied Isabelle.
Brian walked down to the back of the restaurant where the toilets were. As soon as Brian was out of sight she grabbed her coat, ran for the door and didn’t look back. Those bitches in the office were going to get a piece of her mind on Monday morning.