Daniel managed to hide his panic and pretended to casually browse the menu. As he looked at the menu options, he was mentally computing what he could order with the nineteen dollars and fifty-two cents cash which he carried in his pocket. As it turned out, what he could pay for, tax and tip included, was not very much. Yet, if he ordered a green salad and a glass of tap water only it would be all too obvious what his pathetic financial situation was.
After a moment’s contemplation of etiquette, he decided that it didn’t matter. Since the restaurant luncheon was at Suzanne’s invitation, he was sure that the accepted, non-written protocol was that the onus to pay was on the inviter and not the invitee. Suzanne was likely to pick up the tab. Then again, he felt that he had to consider the gender factor. If the waiter served the man with the check, which they still tend to do in this day and age of supposed sex equality, then things could get very embarrassing indeed. The waiter hovered, still smiling but looking a tad more impatient. “Do you need a minute?” he asked.
“Yes, please,” responded Daniel in a gentle, yet commanding tone. As the waiter shuffled off, Daniel kept his eyes on the menu and mentally wondered how best to ask Suzanne if she was actually paying for this meal.
“Have the steak,” Suzanne helpfully suggested. “They’re known here for their steaks.”
“You’re having steak, Suzanne?”
“Can’t decide between the tenderloin and the filet mignon. I had the tenderloin here last time and it was exquisite.”
“Nice,” said Daniel, as he looked at the exorbitant menu prices for both.
“If we both order one of each, we can split them,” Suzanne suggested.
“We could do that,” Daniel replied unconvincingly. “Don’t know if I’m in the mood for steak, though.”
The waiter returned and again beamed a smile at Daniel. “Decided on anything to drink?”
“A glass of water would be great. To start with,” Daniel said before realizing that there were already two poured glasses of water on the table, complete with ice and a slice of lemon in each.
“Certainly,” said the waiter, “domestic or imported?”
“Domestic is fine,” said Daniel, wondering what in the heck he had just ordered. At that moment, before his internal panic became external and obvious, Daniel realized that he just had to come out and ask her. So, in as neutral a tone as he could muster, he blurted his query. “How are we doing this, Suzanne? Is this going on your business card as a business expense, is this a business lunch… are you paying?” Daniel asked, all too quickly, his words jumbled together.
Suzanne looked at Daniel for a few beats before answering but it was unclear to Daniel what she may have been thinking.
“Oh, no, honey,” Suzanne said with just a slight hint of human feeling, “I assumed we were going to go Dutch.”
Daniel wasn’t sure if his agent saw his Adam’s apple take an impromptu and uncontrolled leap into the base of his throat but he knew he had to stall with a thoughtful facial expression as it might be a moment before he possessed the ability to speak again.
“Is that a problem?” Suzanne asked.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.