The smell of Indian spices filled the air and the bright lights aimed at key spots on the walls provided a soft glow that was pleasing on the eyes. . The chill of the outside was held back by the massive grills and the flames they gave off. Chefs cooked, the wait staff brought dishes out and the customers chatted and ate away at their meals.
The restaurant was packed. Tables were tight and the self-services area staged clashes between those waiting for chai tea and those trying to get utensils and glasses.
The tall, thin, dirty-blonde returned to her table with two cups of chai in hand. “Place was packed over there.” She wore spandex pants with a large sweater over them. A colorful scarf rested around her shoulders.
Her companion glanced over her shoulder, took the proffered cup of chai. “Thanks for braving the crowd.” She smiled and smelled the cup.
“Sure.” The woman sat and sipped her chai. She blurted out, “Thomas – he has real issues with this, of course - strong, assured women.”
Jessica had to think for a moment, then remembered the conversation that took place before Stephanie had left to go get the chai. “Oh, the game, right?”
“Yes indeed.” She smiled wide. “He had major issues with the game. He had to Lord over us – claiming that he was the best player and the most skilled.” She rolled her eyes. “Real issues there.”
Jessica nodded. “Seems so?”
Stephanie tapped the table with her forefinger. “He has problems with strong women. He can’t handle having a powerful woman in his life.”
“A lot of men can’t.” Jessica tore off a hunk of naan and dipped it into her sauce. She paused. “Did he say that to you?” She popped the bread into her mouth.
“Of course not. No, see, this happened when we went out the other night. I told him that he needed to turn off his iPhone. He was checking it and I didn’t want to carry on the conversation without him being present.” She sipped. “I said that he needed to turn off the phone.”
“After a minute – yeah.” She laughed. “But, he made a stink over it. Said that it was something about work and people needed him or something.” She snickered. “But, he just had an issue with me telling him he needed to do it. Real woman issues.” She shook her head and picked at her food.
“Still seeing him?”
“Tomorrow.” She sipped. “We’re supposed to go out.”
“Well, that’s something.” Stephanie dragged another bit of naan over her plate.
“See, it all stems from his family.” Jessica leaned back in her chair. “He was an only child, right? His family was one of these “lovey dovey” families where the dad was making cakes and things and he put so much love into it that Thomas thought the world was like that. The whole family went around LOVING each other all the time. He thought that everyone he met was going to be as loving and nurturing.” She giggled. “Like some lamb?”
Jessica didn’t miss a beat. “So, here I am and he freaks out. He can’t handle a woman with power. Someone who’s not going to just sit and look pretty for him.” Unconsciously, she ran a hand over her face. She felt the wrinkles on the over tanned and rough skin there and her hand fell to her cup. Somewhat oily, her hair dropped over one eye and she brushed it back behind her ear.
The man at the table next to them smiled to the girl across from him and asked if she would like more chai. She asked for water and he excused himself and took his cup over to the chai container.
Jessica glanced around the room, then looked back to Stephanie – searching for something to say. She was somewhat frantic, feeling that the space left by the lack of words was going to swallow her up. Shove her back into some dark place.
“How was the party other than the game incident?” Stephanie blinked and waited.
Jessica smiled. “Fine, really. I mean, Thomas was Lording, like I said. But, other than that, things were fine, I guess. I mean…” She frowned.
Stephanie raised her eyebrows. “What?”
Jessica looked into Stephanie’s face – searching. Something flashed in her head.
Thomas wasn’t going to call her on that iPhone of his. She was sure of it. The party, the last words, and the promised call tossed away like some used tissue. It dawned on her out of nowhere. She felt defeated. A smile played at the corners of her lips as she looked at Stephanie.
Jessica smiled. “You know what?” She slapped the table lightly. “I’m not calling him back. Not going out with Thomas again. He can keep his issues and his phone.”
“Oh?” Stephanie cocked her head to the side.
“No. He if has a problem with me being a strong, confident woman, then to hell with him. I mean, who needs that, right?” She laughed. “Not me. I’m not going to stop being who I am, am I?”
“Well, you shouldn’t have to. “ She glanced at the man returning with the chai and water, then looked back into Jessica’s bright eyes.
“Yeah, I don’t need that in my life.” She managed a smile. “Wanna go?”