I looked back and forth between the two of them. Neither of them was looking at the other. Jeff was looking over the kitsch and memorabilia nailed to the restaurant walls while Mallory traced swirling patterns in the sauce left on her plate. Jeff coughed. Mallory’s fork clinked. “I’m sorry,” I said, though I didn’t know what for.
“You’re fine,” Mallory said, licking some sauce off her fork and setting it aside. Her cheeks were flushing red.
Jeff was smiling. “I’m the one who should be sorry,” he said. “Crashing girls night.”
“Oh,” I waved, “it’s not—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Mallory interjected, turning to look out the window, or maybe at a reflection.
“You can stay if you want,” I offered. “We were thinking of having dessert?” I tried to catch Mallory’s eye, but she just shrugged and turned her attention back to her empty plate.
“I’ll get going,” Jeff said.
“Okay…” I said, confused.
For the first time they made eye contact. I was aware that I couldn’t fully grasp what was transpiring, but now I felt the depth of it. “If you want,” Mallory said.
Jeff nodded, drummed his fingers on the table. Then he was gone.
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox