Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sweet and Sour


The restaurant hummed with conversation and was bathed in warmth and delicious smells from the kitchen. Waiters and waitresses fluttered around to tables and then back to the kitchen like bees heading to flowers then back to the hive. Small Chinese symbols of good fortune and happiness hung on the walls and sat on the tables. Groups laughed, discussed, and fought in both English and Chinese.

Ted and Cindy verbally jousted at their table – furious and sending cutting remarks flying with reckless abandon. Cindy’s eyes flared viciously as Ted smiled a cruel smile and took a victory gulp of beer still thinking about the most excellent point he just made.

“That was low. Really low, Ted.” Cindy’s lip curled into a sneer. “You knew we were old friends and that’s all.”

Ted replaced his glass then shifted forward in his chair. “You’re saying you didn’t play grab ass with him?” He arched a brow.

Cindy let her brow relax and leaned back in her chair. A smile played on her lips as her eyes locked on Ted’s. She licked her lips, and then whispered, “I was confused at the time, Ted. I’m not used to being with a man that I’m sexually attracted to, you know?” Her eyes narrowed. “I went with the feeling. And, I have to say, I’m glad I did. It was the first time in months that I’ve felt alive.”

Ted hissed, “Well played, Cindy,” and leaned back in his chair. His hand rested on his glass.

A busboy approached and slid two glasses of water in front of Ted And Cindy and smiled and awkward smile.

Ted continued to stare at Cindy and barked out, “I’ll have the orange beef and we’ll take the spring rolls.” Ted reached for his water and took a sip.

The busboy stared blankly, not understanding a word. It was his first day and all he was supposed to do is handle water and dishes.

Cindy kept her eyes locked on Ted. She was seething, but choked out, “Shrimp and oyster sauce. With Rice. Please.”

The busboy continued to stare, then he wandered off through the mini-maze of tables and back into the kitchen without understanding a word the couple had said to him. They were so mean looking.

Ted and Cindy remained locked in a silent struggle of hate for a moment, then something shook Cindy at the core.

This same thing had happened with Robert – an ex from the year before. This anger. This hate that came from somewhere deep inside of her. It was the same anger that she saw between her parents. The idea that she was turning into the same, angry person that her mother was scared her to death.

Cindy blinked, then looked down at the table. This wasn’t what she wanted. Wasn’t what they used to have. She wasn’t sure when it changed, but it was vastly different than when they first started seeing each other months ago and it was seemingly out of her control. This needed to be defused like a bomb. They were such good friends, but to listen to the conversation you would think the exact opposite. Something needed to be done. Something to defuse the situation. Reset.

Cindy looked up – her eyes wide and filled with horror. “OH GOD!” She clutched her throat and tossed herself out of her chair. She hit the tile floor harder than she planned. Pain shot through her arm, but she kept the play acting up, clawing at her throat and gasping.

“Cindy?!” Ted was up like a shot and down on one knee by her side. “What’s wrong? What happened?” He pawed at her throat and tried to see what the obstruction was, if any.

Cindy drew in deep breaths and tried to pace herself. She wondered what she had. What sort of illness was she playing at? She’d have to improvise. “Throat,” she gasped. “Water.”

Customers hovered around and belched out words of wisdom.

“Keep her head up!”

“Bend her over a chair!”

“Smack her back!”

Ted looked horrified. He reached for the first glass on the table and knocked it over in his panic. He focused and managed to grip the other glass of water and bring it to Cindy’s lips. She gulped at the liquid as small groups of diners filled in around her to see if they could assist.

Cindy allowed herself to calm down, showing that the magical illness was gone. She nodded and let Ted help her to her feet and into the chair again.

Ted stroked her forehead and cooed over her softly. “Are you ok, Baby?”

Cindy looked into his eyes and saw it. Something was back in his eyes. She whispered, “I think I’m ok, Ted.” She gripped his arm and frowned slightly. “Can we…get out of here? Go for a long walk and talk? Please?”

Ted saw something in her eyes now. Something he had not seen in a long while. Suddenly, things seemed more in focus. More important. Less petty. He smiled and brushed hair from her face. “Sure, Baby.”

Cindy’s arm throbbed. She could barely move the limb without pain shooting through it. Her eyes watered and she wasn’t sure if it was due to the pain in her arm or the warm feeling she had back for Ted and his care for her.

Ted dropped a twenty-dollar bill onto the table, waved off the service staff that asked about Cindy with a smile, then the two of them walked out arm in arm.

After an hour of serious talking, the two of them seemed back on track and on the same side again. They both agreed that they needed to be more attentive to their relationship. Treat it with a little more care and respect.

They talked some more as they drove to the emergency room and had Cindy’s broken arm set and slipped into a cast.

Ted stopped and got a movie on the way home for them to watch, then ordered Chinese food for the two of them after getting Cindy snuggled in on the sofa.

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