This is a monologue I wrote for myself but never actually performed. I was going to be a nice woman who ran a posh restaurant and told stories about her favourite (or least favourite) guests. I wonder if it’s worth turning into a short story?
The Lovely Couple
They first came into my restaurant about six months ago, this lovely couple. She was tiny and delicate with big, brown eyes and he was just the opposite, big and blonde and athletic. It was easy to see it was their first date. They talked in eager little spurts with long silences in between. Then they both started talking at once and laughed and said “go on”, “no please you go on”. The young man spent ages discussing the wine with Jean-Claude and when Jean-Claude poured some for him to taste he swirled it around the glass, sniffed it, sipped it and rolled it on his tongue. I could see the girl was very impressed. Well it was good wine, my sommelier knows his business, but I honestly don’t think that young man would have had a clue if it had been Plonk du Village avec antifreeze. Jean-Claude and I had a little bit of a laugh about it but we liked him for it really. The girl didn’t even taste it! They both ordered the Salade Tournaisienne to start and then he had the Paillardes de Poulet à la Créole and she had the vegetarian. When I offered them the dessert menu I could tell she was dying to have one but she turned it down. Girls always do on a first date. They don’t want the man to think they might put on weight.
We didn’t see them again for about two weeks. I could see straight away that things had changed. They were really in love now. They spoke less but their eyes said more. He held her hand across the table for most of the evening and didn’t even bother to taste the wine. He ordered the blanquette de veau aux pamplemousses and she had the veggie again. But she ordered the Torte de truffes au chocolat avec mousse de champagne for dessert and fed little tastes of it to him from her spoon. At one point he leaned across the table and kissed a little bit of chocolate off her lips. They left very soon after that.
The next time they came in was to celebrate their engagement. She was glowing with happiness and kept holding her hand out so the diamond on her finger sparkled. I thought about sending them a complimentary bottle of Moet & Chandon but then I remembered she didn’t drink alcohol. They started with my risotto de truffes blanc, then he had the lapin aux poireaux and she had the veggie, for a change! They both ordered the soufflé au citron which takes ages so I sent over some coffees while they were waiting. She thanked me very nicely.
We were very busy over Christmas so I’m not sure if they were in at all over the holidays. But I do remember one Friday in early spring. They came in with a much older couple. I should think they were his mum and dad because the man was big and blonde like our young man. No one spoke much and when they did they were very frosty. I saw our girl wipe her eyes with a tissue when she thought no one was looking. They ordered the set menu but no one ate anything much. After dinner the young man gulped down a 1952 Armagnac in one go and asked for another. Our girl just sat quietly kneading a bit of candle wax over and over in her fingers.
So I wasn’t really surprised when, a few weeks later, the girl came in with another man. She looked embarrassed and I think she tried to persuade him to take her somewhere else because they had a bit of an argument outside on the pavement. When she came in she said hello to me and I noticed at once that there was no ring on her finger anymore. I gave her a hug and Jean-Claude kissed her on both cheeks. Her new man looked surprised and angry. I suppose he wanted to impress her and it was a bit annoying that we all knew her so well and made such a fuss of her. Well, I can’t say I took to him. He was rude to my waiters and argued over the bill. Honestly, everyone adds an optional service charge these days! He doesn’t have to pay it if he doesn’t want to. That’s why it’s called optional! Anyway, just as they were starting their entrées I noticed our young man walking past the window and he stopped and stared through the glass at her like he’d seen a ghost. I will never forget the look in that poor young man’s eyes as long as I live. Well she looked up and saw him and went as white as a sheet. I thought she was going to faint. But the man she was with just went on gobbling down his steak and pomme frites and didn’t notice a thing.
I had to be away from the restaurant for a few weeks soon after that. My mum wasn’t very well. It was her heart. In the end they couldn’t save her. And then there was only me to make the funeral arrangements because really it had been just the two of us for so long. Yes it was very difficult to let her go but you don’t want them to linger when they’re suffering do you?
Last night our young man came in by himself. I was so upset. It all happened while my mum was so ill and I hadn’t been reading the papers or watching the news or anything so it was a complete shock to me. You see, our young man had been on a bus when a bomb went off. He was a real hero. He was helping some other injured passengers to escape when the second bomb went off. Oh he looked a mess. His lovely face was all scarred and one of his legs was gone. The empty trouser leg was pinned up with a safety pin like they do.
I didn’t know what to say. Well you don’t do you? Anyway I gave him his usual table and he and Jean-Claude had a good long talk about the wine. I was just taking his food order when suddenly the door just flew open and she came running in. He looked up, shocked, and she just stood looking at him for a moment with the tears pouring down her face. Then she ran to him, knelt down by the side of his wheelchair and laid her cheek on his one knee. His hand was shaking when he reached down and softly touched the hijab that covered her long black hair. He said “Don’t cry Jamila, I’m all right.” And then I started to cry and Jean-Claude got teary and the other guests were on their feet applauding and cheering.
I don’t think anyone ordered anything else to eat all night but we did a roaring trade in champagne. The whole restaurant rejoiced with them because, if there is one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that you have to grab what joy you can in this life and they really are such a lovely couple.