Emma’s hands were shaking as the waiter handed her the fancy menu. She really liked this guy, and the thought of a real adult relationship, with feelings, terrified her. She avoided eye contact as she scanned the meal options on offer.
‘I won’t bite, you know.’ Emma peered over the top of the menu. ‘I know, I’m just nervous, that’s all.’ Dave laughed before replying. ‘What’s there to be nervous about? We have already seen each other naked.’ Emma couldn’t argue with that. ‘That’s very true, good point.’ He reached for her hand across the candlelit table. ‘From what you’ve told me, you tend to go out with dickheads. I’m one of the nice guys Emma, and I really like you.’
Blushing like a virgin bride, Emma squeezed his hand in return. ‘I have always been afraid of commitment. I guess it scarred me after my mother left. My dad was absolutely crushed, and so was I. It nearly destroyed him. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive her.’
Dave’s kind eyes were empathetic as he smiled at her and gently stroked her hand with this thumb. ‘My parents split too. I was sixteen at the time, but it still had a profound impact on my life.’ He poured Emma a generous glass of red from the one hundred dollar bottle of wine that the waiter had brought to their table as he continued. ‘The older I get, the more I realise there are two sides to every story, and nothing in life is black and white. Try not to be so hard on your mum.’
Oh shit. He is sexy, smart, and bloody wise. God help me. Emma excused herself and headed to the ladies room. She missed her mum more than she cared to admit and was scared of giving in to Dave’s charm, in case it lead to a committed relationship. Emma felt like all of her suppressed emotions were rising to the surface, closing in on her, and it was hard to breathe. She needed to talk to a friend. She dialed Miriam’s number.
‘Hey girlfriend, what’s up?’ Emma shuffled on her high heels, into the nearest stall, and closed the door. ‘I’m on a date with Dave. You know, the guy from the bar the other night. I finally caved in and agreed to go to dinner with him.’
Miriam sounded confused. ‘So, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Am I happy or am I sad?’ Emma burst into tears as she ignored a concerned ‘Are you OK in there dear?’, coming from somewhere over by the row of marble lined sinks.
‘Oh crap, I don’t know Miriam. I really like him, he is nice, but what if it gets serious?’ Miriam whispered back in Emma’s ear. ‘So what if it does? Would that be such a bad thing?’ Rummaging through her handbag, Emma found a crusty old tissue and dabbed at the liquid eyeliner running down her flushed cheeks. ‘Why the hell are you whispering?’
Emma was now straining to hear Miriam at all. ‘You know Gerald from accounting? Well, we went out for a drink to discuss the advertising budget and one thing led to another. I’m not proud of it.’ The shock in Emma’s voice was hard to disguise. ‘Gerald? Married with three legitimate children, Gerald? What the fuck, Miriam? Are you with him now?’
‘Listen, Emma, if you like this guy and think it could be something real, make the right choice. Take it from me. Stop running away from what scares you.’ She knew Miriam was right. ‘You don’t want to end up like me. So scared of commitment that you end up in bed with a married man, who I work with might I add. I am nearly thirty, for Christ’s sake, and am still acting like a teenager. You are only twenty-three. There is hope for you yet. Give this guy a chance. Let him in.’
Emma continued to offload to her friend as she could hear Miriam escaping the lion’s den, quietly closing the door behind her. ‘Well, it will be slightly awkward when I see him at work tomorrow.’
‘It’s not just this thing with Dave, I miss my mum. I feel bad that we haven’t spoken for a couple of years, but I am so angry at her. I wish I could talk to her about all of this. A girl needs her mum sometimes. I used to talk to her about everything and she would listen, she never judged. I’ve always loved that about her.’
A few seconds of silence followed before Miriam spoke. ‘It sounds like you have a lot to think about, and you should probably get back out there before poor Dave thinks you’ve done a runner and scampered out the toilet window.’
‘Attempting to climb out any window in these heels would be near impossible, so I think he is safe there. Thanks for letting me vent. You’re a good friend.’
The girls hung up before Emma returned to a very relieved looking Dave.
Unpublished Work (c) Hayley Walsh 2020