“So tell me about yourself”

David stared at her. It was rude to stare, but he was unable to do anything else.

“Well, I’m a sales consultant.” Caroline pressed her lips together and slowly slid them apart. “We make the batteries for mobile telephones.”

“That’s great.” She said.

He watched her repeat the motion: press and release, press and release. Her lips swelled each time she pushed them together. “That’s great.” She repeated.

There was a void and silence filled it. David stabbed a cocktail stick at the bowl of olives in front of him.

“It’s good hours.” His eyelashes were weighted towards her breasts but he knew this was not a good move. Eyes above the neck. Always keep the eyes above the neckline. It didn’t make sense to him, but he had been on enough dates to know that if he ever wanted a chance of getting any where near her breasts, it was essential that he pretended they did not exist at this point in time. Stupid, he knew, especially when she was displaying her tits to the whole restaurant. Every one else could leer all they wanted, but he had to keep his eyes above her neck.

“That’s good.” She said, pushing her hair back. He noticed that the roots of her hair didn’t match the auburn colour further down. She leaned forward and took a sip of her wine. Her lipstick smeared a greasy stain across the glass, the same colour as the olives in front of them. “I hate getting home late.”

“Yeah.”

David wondered whether he could look at his wristwatch without her noticing.

“Are you ready to order?” The waiter stood, pen poised above a paper pad and grinned at Caroline. Of course he did. Caroline bared her teeth and grinned back.

“We’re not quite ready yet.” She murmured, the words easing out of her parted lips. She sounded as if she was caressing each word, for God’s sakes. “Would you be able to give us a minute?”

“Of course.” The waiter predictably looked at her cleavage. He wasn’t even subtle about it but she lapped it up, tracing a manicured finger up and down the condensation on her wine glass as if she hadn’t noticed.

Fantastic. His date was flirting with the waiter. Not that he was surprised; it had happened before after all. He really should stop taking women to Italian restaurants.

Or maybe he should stop taking women out altogether.

He watched Caroline scrutinise the waiter’s arse as he moved away, before she turned back and pretended she was interested in him. “Isn’t it hot in here?”

“Yes, a bit.”

There was a silence again, where Caroline pushed an olive into her mouth. David wished she would stop needlessly talking, and then they could avoid these long breaks in conversation that made it so obvious there was nothing to say. At least if they said nothing to start with, they could be alone with their own thoughts. It would be especially good if he could put Caroline on mute for the rest of the evening. That way watching her could be a passive activity and not involve the tiresome requirement of conversation. Mind you, he could achieve the same outcome by watching Mena Suvari in American Beauty that was on Channel Four tonight. At least then, he would be able to stare at her tits without offending anyone.

“So what made you join one-heart?”

She was talking again and it had been all of five seconds.

“I don’t know.” He replied. At this point in time, he really didn’t. They all asked him this, this supposedly subtle question, when in fact it was offensively and glaringly obvious that they really wanted to know whether he was an antisocial oddball that still lived with his mum. He could see that Caroline had already come to that conclusion, and suddenly he wondered why he kept going on these God-forsaken dates. He could live with his loneliness, he thought. He would revel in it, in fact.

“My wife died.” He said. He had never been married. But at least it would shut her up.

 

“Oh, God.” Caroline said, bringing her hand to her mouth, so that a mixture of oily olive residue and lipstick came away on her fingertips. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s ok.” David looked down at the table. When he met her eyes again, she had to suppress an urge to reach over and grab his hand.

“When did she…” Caroline shook her head and swallowed. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”

“Three years ago.”

She could have sworn that his voice cracked as he said the words. She felt her stomach contract in sympathy, clenching together with such violence that it felt as if there was no air left in the room, no air left in her lungs anymore.

“It’s ok. Really. I take each day as it comes.”

David looked down at the table again and she searched her mind for something, anything to say that wasn’t naïve, or ignorant, or inappropriate. She came up with nothing and bit down on her lip in frustration.

“I’m so sorry.” She repeated, and bit into her lip again. She could feel the skin pull and crack apart. Blood and saliva erupted at the surface.

“I had no idea…” She began. She could feel her skin peeling under each layer of congealing lipstick. She was suddenly very conscious of her makeup, and rubbed her lips together so that the colour melted and mingled into the splintering tissue. “I can’t believe…”

“Can I take your order now?”

Caroline looked up at the waiter. “We’re busy.” What appalling timing. Weren’t they trained to know when they were interrupting a conversation? David said nothing, but he was dredging up painful memories for God’s sakes, and now wasn’t the time to order starters. She glared at the waiter, still hovering at her side, and rather pointedly turned back to her date.

“David.” She savoured the sensation of his name rolling over her tongue as the waiter stalked off to the kitchen. “Do you want to go somewhere and talk about it?”

“Well, I live with my mum.”

Caroline gripped his limp hand in her own and laced her fingers through his. “You can come back to mine.” She said.

She noticed that the candlelight cast lingering hollows beneath his eye-sockets. “Ok.”

She leaned over and kissed him. She hadn’t meant to, but she hadn’t been able to stop herself. He barely responded at first, his eyes open and hands stiffly remaining on the table, one hand still grasping Caroline’s fingers. Their lips contacted and pressed together and slowly slid apart. They repeated the motion; press and release; press and release. When they broke away, her lips were swollen. Greasy stains gathered around his mouth; viscous, half-solid blots of colour.

She wiped at his lips so that the substance bled onto her hands. “Let’s go.” She said.