The scent of paprika drifted to her seat at the table across the restaurant, mingled in with a peppery lemon flavor that reminded her of Indian meals she’d finished with John, when he’d pushed the last scrap of naan around the thick sauce in the balti dish and offered it to her mouth.
She’d said no, of course. Shook her head, leant back, giggled.
He’d always wanted to give her more – would have given her his last… his last anything, she supposed. Just to make her happy. If she was pushed, if she was honest with herself, that was one of the reasons why she’d done it. He was just too goddamn eager to give of himself, until after the years he’d given so much there was nothing left. In the end he’d been so devoted to her that there wasn’t much John there anymore.
She glanced at the menu again. Lasagna. Too heavy. Pizza. Oh god no. Ravioli….
She was distracted by a couple of old dears sat at a table a few rows in front of her. They were lifting their menus to read, then placing them down as they found a new piece of gossip to spread, like a pair of Parisian courtiers flicking their fans about in courtship. She wondered if they’d ever get chance to eat.
The one furthest from her gently touched the other, placing her hand on her friend’s Angora scarf and rubbing it gently between her thumb and forefinger. She could almost hear the cooing of a stoked ego, and she instinctively touched the ring he’d given her, rubbing its stone with her thumb and spinning it round her finger. It was only a cheap rhinestone set in blue plastic, bought more as a joke than anything, but she just couldn’t let it go. She felt her hand naked without it.
But she was a better person now. Now she’d done it. Taken charge. She was still young. She’d saved and saved then gone out to the lots on her own and haggled the fat old men down, even though they’d done nothing but stare at her chest when she was asking about the mileage. And she’d closed them. Made them cut the price. All right, it wasn’t a Cadillac, but it was hers. Something she’d done.
And yeah, she liked living alone. She could watch whatever she liked on TV, drink a bottle of wine if she wanted, which, if she thought about it, was getting to be most nights these days…
…God, ravioli was boring. Salad would be better. Something fresh. Yeah, chicken salad, with the dressing on the side…
…And all right, there were some bad days. Like that morning when she just couldn’t get out of bed, even to make a cup of tea. But she worked hard, was entitled to take it easy once in a while. Shit, what’s a few extra hours in bed? And there was no one to moan that she wasn’t up and about.
It was getting noisy; the conversation level raising as more people came in for lunch. She reached for her water to take another sip. A little hit her lips, then the ice jiggled and fell out of any order it had been lodged in, splashing cold water on her face and down her chin.
Some independent woman…can’t even fucking drink properly. What did she think she was doing? It hadn’t been any powerful, independent single woman who fucking cried when she banged her foot on the fucking door then sat on the floor in the living room watching her toenail turn black…
She put the menu down and looked around for her server. Too busy in the restaurant today. She wouldn’t be noticed.