Before Diana was fully seated she asked Sandra; "So where does a person go to eat without being seen in this small town?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know, somewhere no one will see me. I was thinking something like a cave. Got anything like that around here?"
Sandra laughed; "Can I ask why so maybe I can get a better idea where to direct you?"
"Two guys in just as many days have dumped me."
“It’s really not as bad as you think. I bet there's a valid explanation for what happened.”
Sandra cocked her head and continued; "Hold on, two guys?”
“Yep, it's a long story that I'll be happy to tell you soon, but not here where either one could show up. Help me?”
"I have to at least know who the other guy is?!"
Diana dropped her head in her hands and mumbled, "Alex."
Sandra didn't ask any more questions. She simply jotted down an address and name of a restaurant. Diana took the paper, gave her a quick hug and walked out of the pub fast, just in case Mitch or Alex showed up. How embarrassing would it be to face either man? This trip was becoming more and more of a mistake.
With her sweater pulled tight and hood raised she navigated the streets making sure to walk close to the buildings and avoided the side of the street with Mitch's bookstore. The address Sandra gave her was on a street she didn't know so it took her a bit to find. When she did she looked through the windows and did a cursory check to make sure no one she knew was inside.
When she walked through the doors she was immediately greeted by a host. She asked for a seat in the very back. The restaurant had a short hall with rooms off of each side; perfect for small parties or intimate meals. The host directed her to one of the smaller rooms with just a handful of tables. Only one other person was seated in the room, his back towards her. It was one person too many, but a quick glance into the other rooms showed this to be the quietest one.
The host gave her a questioning look. "This will do fine. Thank you."
As he pulled out her chair she noticed the man in the corner raise his head at the sound of her voice. Surely not she thought. The host handed her a menu and promised to be back in a minute for her order. "Can I go ahead and order a bottle of wine? No sense in wasting a trip." She added a smile and the host smiled back; "Certainly."
As she settled in, she took off her sweater, tried to tame her hair and looked at the menu. She was surprised to find it all in French. She looked around the room, really taking it in and noticed the decor had a definite French feel. One more look at the menu and she chose something she recognized. With that decided she set the menu aside, picked up her purse and found one of the books she bought the other day.
Just as she started to read the waiter showed up with her requested bottle of wine, a glass and a small basket of rolls. As he set the tray down he picked up two sets of silverware but hesitated. "Will you be eating alone?" He asked the question with no judgment in his eyes, but still Diana felt judged. Yes, I'm the lonely foreigner with no friends. Thanks for rubbing it in. Instead she replied, "Are you ever alone with a good book?" This is why she's alone, the lameness radiated from her. She sighed; "Yes, I'm alone tonight."
The waiter set the second set of silverware and wine glass back on his tray and distributed the rest of the items on the table. He asked for her order and left her to her book.
After reading the same page twice she sat it down and tried the wine. It was good, as she'd expected, so when she poured her second glass before her meal arrived she knew the idea of not renting a car while in town was a good idea. Though walking might be an issue. Fortunately she remembered to get Ian and Sandra's number as well as their address... just in case she needed them. And this time she'd not hesitate to contact them.
When the waiter came back with her meal she looked up again and noticed the man across the room hadn't moved. He was still nursing the same bottle of beer he had when she walked in 20-minutes earlier. All she could see was his back and his hands playing with the label. He'd managed to tear off half. He looked just as lonely as she did.
The waiter sat her food on the table, added a few side dishes and asked if she needed anything else. He took a quick look at the half empty wine bottle and asked if she'd need another one before the meal was done. She laughed; "I think I can manage with just the one, thank you." He nodded and walked off.
Her eyes were drawn to the man again. 'I wonder what his story is?' she thought. She took her first bite of the meal and was immediately pleased with her choice. She hadn't realized how hungry she was till she sat back and noticed most of her plate was empty and her third glass of wine was untouched.
When she picked up the glass her eyes met the stranger's across the room. But it was no stranger. Alex smiled hesitantly over at her and slowly stood up. As he walked towards her she tried not to cringe. Why was he here? Why was he coming towards her? And what on earth was she going to say?
"Seems no matter where we go we run in to each other. Do you think its fate?" He looked down at the empty chair across from her and asked with his eyes if he could sit. She gave a slight nod and finished off her glass of wine. Before he was seated she poured the last glass, not once looking at him.
"I thought about getting up to leave as soon as you walked in to give you space. But I didn't want to make you think I didn't want to be near you." He took a drink and mumbled under his breath, "That's the furthest thing from my mind." She coughed in to her glass. Surely she heard that wrong. "I was given the distinct impression that you wanted me as far away from you as possible." Still she didn't look at him.
"I need to explain..." She cut him off. "No you don't. It was out of character for me and the truth is I'm glad you stopped me."
"But I didn't want to stop you." He took another drink, finally finishing off the beer he'd been holding since she walked in. "I didn't sleep last night, arguing with myself. I thought about chasing you down the street. I regretted stopping you before I stopped you. But I didn't want to start something that would only end in a few days or weeks. As fun as the idea of a fling sounds I don't think I can do it without guilt."
Diana finally looked up at him, seeing the confusion in his eyes. "You were right to stop me. This past year has been the worst in my life and the way I was acting is proof that I have more healing to do. I know it sounds clique, but that wasn't me. I've been with one man in my life and the idea of being with another, especially one I don't even know, it was foolish of me. So thank you."
She dug money out of her purse, set it on the table and started to walk away. As she passed him he grabbed her wrist. "Can we please talk some more? I'd like to explain what happened." She looked down at his hand, feeling a tingle run up her arm starting from where their skin met. "You already explained. You don't want a casual affair and neither do I. Again I apologize for my behavior." She gently twisted her wrist out of his grip and walked away. Wanting to run, but forcing herself to move slow.