Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Ow! (01/07/10)
TITLE: Reservations at Le Rondeau
By Carol Slider
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“Yes, sir, we do understand.”
That edge of asperity was not what I would have expected from a Le Rondeau employee. During a ten-minute phone call, he had blandly replied “yes, sir” to everything I requested.
“Remember,” I repeated. “Perfection.”
“We understand, sir. Many couples have gotten engaged at Le Rondeau.”
You needn’t sound so blasé about it, I thought, but let it go.
Things went wrong from the start. The limo service sent a tacky white vehicle like a leftover from senior prom. Marian looked lovely, as always—but she wore dark red, not the iridescent blue I’d requested to blend with Le Rondeau's decor.
Marian seemed uncommunicative during the drive, but the ambience of Le Rondeau enchanted her. She smiled as the band began to play... that song.
Yes—the very song chosen for the pivotal moment! I charged across the dining room and accosted the manager. The band had its own playlist, he said apologetically, but he would ensure it was also played at the proper time...
I had to be content with this.
Reviewers, I thought critically, had overrated Le Rondeau. Not just the service, but the passable (not extraordinary) food. Marian seemed pensive. She spoke to me without meeting my eyes.
When the waiter cleared the dinner plates, a shimmery spotlight illuminated our table, making Marian’s dress look violently purple. The band played again the chosen song... but where was dessert? I waited—nervous, agitated—until the server finally arrived.
Before the music faded into uncomfortable silence, I knelt before Marian, looked up, and said:
“I’m quite sure you know that I love you. Will you marry me?”
When I first started dating Tad Bigham, some of my friends called him “Tad Bigheaded.” Naturally, I thought they were jealous.
I met him at a downtown lunch counter. He sat down beside me and said,
“Who are you? Why haven’t I seen you here before?”
“I don’t work downtown,” I said, appraising him. Hmm... dark-haired, well-built, conventionally handsome. Not the sort I wanted to discourage at once. “I’m at a conference today,” I added, “but I teach in the suburbs.”
“You’re far too lovely to teach in the suburbs,” he said, and so it began.
I was also conventionally attractive—blonde, blue-eyed, correctly proportioned—and had never lacked male companionship. But Tad was an unknown species: rich, cultured, gentlemanly, and quite willing to accept my ironclad “wait until marriage” proviso.
Tad wanted perfection, and I appreciated that. I went to an expensive salon and updated the hairstyle that he’d dubbed “early cheerleader.” I had my nails done professionally and began working out at a gym. Tad took me to plays and concerts, sporting events and five-star restaurants—and always we had the best seats, the best table.
Then he made reservations at Le Rondeau.
He asked me to wear blue. But when I touched up my make-up, a tiny speck splattered the delicate silk. Regretfully, I changed into the dark red dress Tad had said was “absolutely stunning” when I’d worn it to his office Christmas party.
But as our limo glided away to the restaurant, Tad said coldly,
“Didn’t I ask you to wear blue?”
“I’m sorry,” I grinned ruefully. “I splattered make-up on the blue one.”
“You wore it to fix your face? How idiotic!”
It stung, like cold reality that jars one out of a pleasant dream.
The elevator ride, 50 floors up, almost lulled me back to dreamland. Dining at Le Rondeau, with its deep blue carpet and candlelight and glass-domed ceiling, was like treading the stars. There was a big band, too, channeling the musical spirit of Glenn Miller.
I smiled at Tad, recognizing a favorite song—but he jumped up and dashed across the room, gesticulating wildly at a man who looked like the manager. What had Tad found to complain about?
As course succeeded artful course, I watched his disappointment mount. So many things disappointed him. Even here, beneath this glorious canopy of stars.
When the entree plates vanished, the band began playing the song that had annoyed Tad. A spotlight illuminated our table, and I guessed what was happening even before dessert arrived with an atrociously large diamond upon the meringue.
Then Tad knelt in front of me, as everyone stared.
“I’m quite sure you know that I love you,” he said perfunctorily. “Will you marry me?”
And I said—
But that, O discerning Reader, I will let you surmise.
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