Story 35

Soft instrumental music playing in the background created a romantic environment. She watched as red wine was being poured into the glasses and in one of the glasses she could see the sparkling diamond ring. She was excited. The bartender finished filling the glasses and she carried it to the table of the couple in the farthest corner of the dining hall of the hotel she worked at.

She could not stop herself from smiling. Stop it, she told herself. She did not want to give away too much and ruin the surprise for the man who was proposing marriage to his beloved.
She placed the glasses on the table and excused herself. Returning back to the bar she continued watching as the couple picked up the glasses and started to drink, she got excited when finally the woman saw the diamond ring and screamed in surprise making every head in the hotel to turn in their direction.
Next, the man did something very romantic, right there and then he bent down on his knee and proposed and when the woman nodded and started to cry; everyone started to clap. She clapped, too.

“Here, this one is for you. On the house.” The bartender said and winked. He knew she was sucker for romantic gestures. So, in her little glass of wine he had put in little something. She sighed audibly and took a sip of the wine.
“I should not be drinking while on the job.” She said as she took another sip.
“Whatever! I am happy for them and I am celebrating.” She added as she took another sip and rolled her eyes as she saw the little something at the bottom of the glass.
“When would you stop doing that?” she asked with feigned anger.

“When you say yes.” The bartender said and grinned.
“Never going to happen.” She said gulping down the wine and the plastic ring along with it. She then removed the ring from her mouth and placed it in the palm of the bartender.
“Eww.” He reacted and reached for the tissue kept in the drawer and wiped the ring and his palm.
“That’s what you get for playing that trick on me every time someone proposes in this hotel.” She said and smiled.

“If you know what all this is about, why do you play along each time?” The bartender asked.
“For the free booze.” She said and winked. She left the bar and walked into the kitchen. Arranging the plates meticulously on the tray she walked out of the kitchen and towards the table of the couple who were kissing passionately oblivious to the surrounding crowd.
She cleared her throat before walking closer to the table and placed the plates in front of them.
At the end of her shift, she changed her clothes in the waitresses’ locker room and stepped out into the cold dark night. She waited at the gate of the hotel and looked over her shoulder a couple of times before her lips curved into a smile.

“Hey” she said to one of the chefs, her friend as he walked towards her.
“Hey.” He said as he held her hand and they started to walk.
“Yet another proposal today, I heard.” He said looking at her. “You are blushing.” He added. “Why are you blushing?” he questioned.
“I am not blushing. It’s too cold.” She said as she slipped her free hand into the pocket of her coat.

They walked in silence until they reached her house.
“Good Night” he said and kissed her on the cheek.
“See you tomorrow.” She said and walked towards the door.

She loved him and he did not know; or perhaps he did and pretended not to know, she thought as she changed into comfortable clothes. He was an ambitious person and wanted to start his own restaurant soon. She was waiting for the day when he would quit the job and then she would step out with him.
She thought about the bartender. He was a good friend, too. But, he was not ambitious, he did not have plans. He was happy with whatever little he had. He made her laugh with his silly jokes. The plastic ring he placed in her glass of wine was just that, one of his silly jokes meant to make her laugh because he knew, watching the proposals changed her mood. He was a friend, he cared, she did not love him nor did he.

The doorbell rang and she was pulled out of her reverie. She opened the door and before she could see who it was at the door she felt hands on her waist and moist lips on her lips. And, even with closed eyes she could tell who it was. She could never forget the perfume. He kissed her, slow and soft at first and then came the hungry kiss involving the tongue. She felt his hands moving from her waist towards her back. He stepped inside the house, still kissing her and closed the door with his foot.
They were breathless when finally he moved back to look at her.

“Now you are blushing.” He said as he removed his coat and shoes. He moved in to kiss her again and she let him. She kissed him back with all the pent-up feelings she had for him.
He held her hand and led her to the bedroom.
“I love you” she said as he began to undress her. He kissed her neck and moved his hand over the strip of the bra and as he unhooked the bra and took it off, her body reacted in anticipation and she failed to notice that he had not said it back. He had not said he loved her too. He took her to bed and made love to her.

The next morning when she woke up, he was not in bed. She searched for him in the house but he was gone.
Maybe he was in a hurry, she convinced herself as she made breakfast and coffee for herself and then got ready to go to work.

Once she had changed into her work clothes she walked to the kitchen to find him. He was not at work. She asked other chefs where he was and was shocked to hear what one of them told her. He’d quit his job. He had been planning it for a long time and had told the management in advance that he would leave soon. He had plans to move out of the city and start his own restaurant, but no one knew exactly where.

She tried her best to keep her emotions in check, she could not cry, not when she was working. She would not humiliate herself in front of co-workers.
She rushed to the washroom and splashed water on her face.
I am not going to cry, she convinced herself and then she started crying.
After a while she wiped her tears with paper napkin and washed her face again. She wiped her face with some more paper napkins and regained the professional composure before walking out of the washroom.

“What’s wrong?” the bartender asked the moment she walked to the bar.
“Nothing.” She lied.
“Do you see that man.” He said pointing towards someone sitting in a corner. Someone who was busy kissing a woman.
“Not another proposal!” She said truly frustrated.
He looked at her, surprised and then replied, “No. Not a proposal. Just watch.”
As the man stopped kissing the woman and picked up his glass to drink water, she gasped. “Is he not the same man from yesterday?” she asked.
“Yup. And, that’s not the same woman.” He said pouring a drink in her regular glass.
“There’s some leftover wine. Here, this one is for you from me.” He said as he pushed the glass towards her.

She was not in the mood to play their game but she needed the free booze. She gulped down the drink quickly and expected to feel the plastic ring on her tongue but she did not.
She looked at him and saw that he was staring at her. His gaze spoke volumes. In his eyes she could see her pain. He understood. He knew. He knew all this time that she loved the chef and still he played the joke on her. She finally realized that the plastic ring had never been a joke.

“Disgusting man.” She said looking towards the man in the corner seat who had started kissing the woman again but she did not know it for sure whether she said it for the man who had proposed some other woman yesterday and was kissing another woman today or for the man who had slept with her one night before shifting base and starting a new life; without her.

“Some men do not realize the value of what they have.” These words made her turn her head towards him. Their eyes met and in his eyes she saw his desire, the desire that had perhaps always been there, masked by care and concern of a friend.

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silent whispers

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