Suzette stared lovingly at her beloved sitting across the table from her. It was Sunday, so they were on a date. She raised a finger and traced along the outline of his chin, gently lifting off a track of bread crumbs. Hmm! His curly brown hair bobbed up and down as he munched his sandwich, and he nodded as if agreeing with something,…the sauce? Or the water he tried to gulp down, with a cloud of…ick! – flowing from his mouth into the glass. And the sticky little finger prints that he left behind after he set the glass down. He wiped his mouth with the back of the other hand, the one holding his sandwich. A piece of it fell onto the table cloth. No, no, use the napkin! It lay nicely folded at the corner of the table, utterly neglected….Suzette came to a sudden realization.
“What the hell was I thinking when I decided to go out with you?” Ruddy almost died choking.
“I could have gone out with some cute guy with a car – and manners – and he wouldn’t drool all over everything in a nice restaurant like this – unlike you.” Ruddy finally found the napkin and coughed loudly into it. Pretty Suzette pretended not to notice.
“I….I’m sorry,” Ruddy stammered out. He looked at Suzette’s eyes, her lips pouting. She looked angry. What did he do this time? She kept talking.
“And look at you! Not cute at all! How come you’re still wearing jeans and sweatshirts like some high schooler? Why don’t you try dressing up for our dates once in a while? And when you go to work, your suit’s always a mess. I’m surprised your boss hasn’t said anything yet.”
“Actually, Ben’s been saying–”
“See? So you already know you have a problem!”
Ruddy couldn’t answer. He knew he wasn’t as smart or as good at those things as Suzette. He tries his best to iron his shirts. He knows how to do that, at least! They never flatten out completely. He doesn’t know how Suzette does it. When she does his shirts, they’re always perfect. Or, if he forgets to take them out of the dryer, and if he needed to wear one to work,…well. Suzette would go crazy if she found out.
He took another bite of his sandwich. Suzette looked really pretty today. She was wearing a nice dress with flowers on it, and it was green. He liked her hair, too. Blond, wavy, pretty hair, and tied up kind of complicatedly, with a flower in it. It looked real – the flower – but she said it was fake after he had asked her if it was from her garden. But she lived in an apartment with no garden, so Ruddy had no idea what he was thinking when he asked that.
She was also moping now. She was mashing her fish with her fork. Some of the bones started sticking up. She picked them out and stuck them onto the rim of her plate.
“How long have you been chewing? Swallow, already,” she said. Ruddy swallowed. She picked up her glass to drink. He also picked up his glass and took a big gulp. Suzette looked away as she drank.
He finished his sandwich. She almost finished her fish, then made the waiter take it away.
He asked her, “You didn’t like the fish?” She didn’t answer (she was pretending to not hear him.) He decided to try something else.
“You know, on Friday, Angelo told me he was surprised that my sister was blond. I couldn’t figure out what he meant, so I asked him, and he said that he always sees my sister pick me up from work. And then I said, ‘That’s my girlfriend,’ and then he started laughing at me and said, ‘Oh, I guess that means I can’t ask you to introduce me, then.'”
Suzette grinned, but she tried to hide it. Ruddy was encouraged.
“Then he turned around and yelled at Heather, ‘Heather, we can finally stop worrying about trying to set this guy up!’ And then Heather blushed and looked around cause she didn’t know what was going on. And I didn’t know what was going on, too, cause I didn’t think they were trying to set me up with anyone–”
Suzette started chuckling, covering her mouth with her hand. Ruddy couldn’t figure out exactly what she was laughing at, but he laughed along anyways.
And when the dessert menu came, Suzette ordered the key lime pie with freshly whipped cream. He ordered the same: it turned out to be really good.
At 8 in the morning the next day, Suzette came by Ruddy’s house as always to drive him off to work. She rang the doorbell impatiently. He opened the door, and she saw that his shirt was only half tucked in, and his tie was on backwards. She closed the door behind her, and took a deep breath.
“Why the hell aren’t you ready yet!” she said. Ruddy shuffled his feet and scratched his head.
“I was trying to iron this shirt,…” He tugged at it a bit, and it pulled out of his pants completely.
“Let me do that thing. Tuck in your shirt.”
She turned him to face her. Her head was just under his nose, looking down. Ruddy smelled something nice, sweet perfumy. She smelled warm.
“Tuck in your shirt! Don’t just stand there and daydream.”
She had undone his tie and was redoing it. He tucked in his shirt as best as he could. It was probably still sticking out somewhere.
“Oh, come on, now.”
She was done with his tie. She spun him around, took off his jacket, flopped it in half onto the entrance table. She spun him around again and started tucking in his shirt.
“Still just a kid, aren’t you?”
He stared down at her, kind of helpless, dazed and groggy. Done the shirt, she looked up at him and started to fix his collar. He turned his head just a bit and managed to kiss the back of her hand. She lightly slapped his chin, with the scent of her perfume still lingering behind. She turned towards the door.
“Come on, put on your jacket. We’re going to be late.”
He took his jacket and put it on as he followed her out. He made sure to lock the door properly.
“Suzette, you know I love you,” he said loudly.
“Hurry up and get in the car!” she shouted back. The wind was throwing her hair into her mouth. She brushed it back.
But inside the car, Ruddy could see that her ears were a little red, and Suzette was grinning happily, all the way to work.
“Let’s have dinner again tonight,” she told him as he climbed out.
“Okay,” Ruddy replied. As always, she waited at the entrance so that she could watch him go inside, then wave at him when he turned around to wave back, before driving off to her own job.
“Pretty girl, Rudolf,” Angelo said miserably. “You really are one lucky guy.” Ruddy beamed and blushed with pride, because he thought so, too.