A Flash Fiction -
Tears form at the corner of my eyes as I manage to keep a smile that isn't too big; I don't want to show my teeth like in a dental ad, or too small. I once read that a genuine smile involves both the muscle around the mouth and the eyes. Am I doing it right?
Now I fear that a tear will betray me if I blink, and he'll think I'm crying. I take a sip of water from the glass the waiter just filled—bad idea.
"That's how I understood that this job was not for me," says Juliano as he looks straight into my eyes without adding a word. I guess he's waiting for me to say something.
"Wow! That's crazy," I answer, hoping he doesn't notice the beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I'm glad I put my hair in a ponytail so they don't stick to my neck or, worst, to my face.
"I know! So I couldn't stay another day and asked to see my manager right away and quit."
Juliano's enthusiasm was one of the first things I liked about him. I remember when he came to my shop to buy flowers for his sister's birthday. He had no clue what to choose and asked for my help.
"I want something colorful and big. You know? So it's like an explosion of colors," he exclaimed as he moved his arms out with his fingers spread, reminding me of two twinkling stars. "Can you do that?"
I liked him right away with his curly hair and brown eyes like two hazelnuts. Yum. When he returned two days later to tell me how much his sister loved the bouquet, he also asked if I would go for a coffee with him as a thank you. I thought my heart would stop. Today was our first night out. There is no way I will ruin it.
"You don't like the food?" he asks.
I don't know how long I've been lost in my thoughts. What if he said something important?
"No, I love it. It's delicious. I'm just a slow eater."
"You're sure? Because we can order something else if you don't like it."
"Really, it's perfect," I smile, taking another bite and internally bracing for the worst. For a moment, it's fine. Maybe I just overreacted before. A few seconds later, it hits me again.
When Juliano asked me where I wanted to go for dinner, I just answered, "Surprise me."
I had no idea we would go to an Indian restaurant. I'm pretty sure he is Italian. I imagined the warmth of a small family-owned restaurant, the dim light, a serenade playing in the background, maybe even someone playing the mandolin. I already knew what I would order, a lasagna with its rich filling and cheese that I would be able to eat with bread. Focaccia is my favorite. Instead, I find myself sitting near some six-armed Goddess laughing at me as I sweat through my silk top.
Although the place is big and loud, it's pretty fancy. Juliano didn't look at the expense, and here I am, not eating my meal. I wish I had looked at the menu a little longer, but I didn't want to look indecisive while Juliano didn't show any hesitation. When the waiter inquired what I'd like to eat, I said, "I'll have the same." Now my mouth is on fire! Is it the spices? Or the chili pepper? I can't hold back the tear.
Juliano stops in the middle of a sentence and reaches for my hands. His eyes are big with concern as he scrutinizes me. This is it; I ruined our date.
"Are you ok? Is something wrong?"
I cannot hide it anymore as another tear slides down my cheek. "It's just so spicy," I choke out. My throat burns like hell while my cheeks fluster with embarrassment.
Juliano's face lights up, his mouth curves into his distinctive smile when his eyes get so small I cannot see his pupils anymore as he begins to laugh.
"Thank God, you find it spicy too. I cannot even taste the chicken."
"I know!" I reply between two bursts of laughter.
"Maybe I should have let you order first and taken the same as you."
Oh, Juliano. He doesn't see that tears of joy are now streaming down my face.