.. Thank you.”
As the server walked away from his table, Jeff glanced back down at the tenders resting atop their french fry bed. He had no idea whether they were actually great — he hadn’t taken a single bite — but they looked great enough, the same Sysco breaded chicken whatevers available at any other pub. Fingers here, strips there. They were hard to screw up.
One place once had the nerve to call them “cutlettes”. Fkers.
Catherine hadn’t looked at him once. You know how you can feel it when you’re being watched? That happens when you’re purposely not being watched, too, if you think about it.
The side of her fork against her plate made a dull clicking noise. It drowned out the thundering silence.
Jeff glanced around the rest of the tavern. A bartender made small talk with a regular she clearly didn’t like. Two servers giggled next to a computer terminal.
A man and a teenager sat transfixed by a soccer game. Foreigners, probably. Jeff chuckled to himself.
He felt Catherine’s gaze on his temple.
“What’s so funny?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Fine. Jukebox hero. Stars in his eyes. That’s what I was laughing at. Those two over there.”
She didn’t understand.
“Do you need a box?”
Jeff looked up at the server. He didn’t. “Yes, that’d be great. I think we’re ready for the check.”
“OK, I’ll bring that right back for you.” Catherine smiled at the server, who returned minutes later with a styrofoam box and a receipt with the words “Thank you” emblazoned on the bottom, punctuated with a heart.
Jeff paid in cash. He gave the server $40 on a $31 bill because who asks for just two dollars back.
He looked at Catherine. “Shall we?”
“You know, I just don’t get it.”
“So I’m an ‘it’ now.”
“Ugh. You know what I meant.”
Catherine’s forehead scrunched in a way Jeff would have described as “furrowed”, but she hated that word, so he didn’t say anything.
“I just … orange Starburst? I tell you I love that you make me feel comfortable being who I am … and you tell me you love that I don’t eat the orange Starburst.”
“But it’s true, Jeff said. “Would you rather I lied and told you I love eating half as many red Starburst because we have to share?”
Catherine shook her head (but not in a manner as to suggest she was responding to his question), got up and took her jacket from the chair. Jeff helped her put it on.
They left together, without the chicken fritters, without the styrofoam box.