She walked in and I swear to God every eye in the place was on her from the word go. She walked in that way that all women who know they’re beautiful walk; eyes down, peering up through lashes, face impassive but for the hint of a smirk at the jaws she can hear hitting the tables.
I pulled back her chair, took her coat. She slipped into her seat like water pouring into a glass, smiling at the nobody she was with, waiting for him to hand her the wine list. Every man in the room was wishing he could be that nobody, waiting for her to breathe him, finally, into existence.
She ordered the pinot, the fish. Sauce pooled around the potatoes in a moat that she dipped morsels into. She removed fish from the bone effortlessly, never taking her eyes from the nobody, talking a little and smiling, politely at first, then for real after the first glass. I had to hand it to her; she knew exactly what she was doing. She had the whole room following her every move, all the time seeing nothing.
From behind the bar I watched those elegant white fingers dip into the jacket hanging over the chair behind her. She slipped a handful of keys and a Swiss army knife into her bag. She laughed demurely, then stood up to visit the ladies.
I found her in the car park, striding up and down, pushing the button on the keyfob to see which lights came on. She flushed when she saw me and I saw her mind working frantically as she stepped towards me.
She stopped, her face inches in front of mine, breath coiling against my cheek. She’d been caught and she knew it. She had one last trick to play out. The question was, would I let her play it on me?
“It’s cold” she said in a sultry voice that belied the temperature. She leaned in. My hands reach out, gripping her freezing shoulders. Her hands clutched my sides and our lips were inches, fractions of inches apart.
It pays, I thought, to be vigilant sometimes, and leaned in to reap my reward.
Only then she cried out, her voice high and helpless and beautiful in the night air.
Suddenly the nobody was there, grabbing my lapels. I held up my hands, desperately trying to think of something to say, but she beat me to it.
“Christopher! I came out of the ladies and he was in the car park pressing the keys to see which car they belonged to. I...I think he stole them! I came out to persuade him to come inside and he grabbed me. Christopher, thank God you were here!”
Christopher’s fist landed on my nose. I staggered, fell and heard the clatter of a handful of silver keys and a Swiss army knife falling out of my jacket onto the concrete. I watched Christopher drape his coat over her bare beautiful shoulders, her face turned to his, a picture of distressed innocence.
And as he turned away to lead her inside, she gave me a cat-like grin and a slow, seductive wink.