Valentine's Day Lunch
© Hazel Campbell 2015
If you are married or in a close relationship, you know the signs that someone might be moving in on you. Suddenly he is cutting back on meals and wanting more vegetables and fruits in his diet. He is exercising 'for health reasons as he is not getting any younger' etc. He is paying more attention to what he wears – unmistakeable signs he wants to impress somebody.
That year, Valentine's Day would be on a Wednesday. Both of us had grown up in the pre-Valentine's Day outpouring of sentimental gifts and cards and outings. That was something they did in America. But it had started catching on in Jamaica, and the stores and media were trying to make a big thing out of it here.
On Sunday afternoon, as we usually did, he and I went over the coming week's activities. It was a ritual we both enjoyed, discussing meetings and strategy in our different occupations. He was in real estate and I in journalism. We bounced ideas off each other with usually very rewarding results.
Well, that Sunday, he mentioned that he had a lunch appointment with a woman from another agency on Wednesday. Something clicked in my thoughts when I remembered that Wednesday was Valentine's Day.
"You realize," I said, "that anybody seeing you having lunch with a woman on Valentine's Day will think you are a couple."
He gave me a slightly startled look, then sucked his teeth. "You know I am not into that pickney nonsense," he said. "You mean all over the city a man and a woman can't have a lunch appointment without stupid people ...... Jesus!" he exclaimed.
"I would change it," I advised him.
"Come on, darling," he purred. "You can't be serious. We're too old for that nonsense."
"You mean the fire burn out," I teased him.
"I soon show you," he teased back.
But I had been alerted.
On Wednesday morning, I asked, "Did you change your lunch date?"
He gave me his startled look. "It's not a date. And no, I didn't change it."
"You forgot it's Valentine's Day"
"You can't be serious!"
"I am. I better come with you to prevent gossip."
I knew him well enough to know that I thrown him the proverbial curved ball.
"I...I had to make reservations," he stammered. ..."It's at ..." He mentioned the name of the restaurant.
"Oh, I can get a table for three instead of two. You know I have influence."
"You will be bored," he warned. "It's business. A new deal our agencies are planning."
"I am never bored hearing what you are up to." I smiled. "In any case, the food there is good. I'll be eating and watching the love birds at the other tables."
He left before me. I dressed very carefully that morning, a mixture of office wear with a blouse with a flirtatious look that I knew another woman would notice. I knew I had got it right when I reached the office and members of the secretarial pool exclaimed, "Valentine's date?"
"With my husband," I replied, with a smirk, just in case any gossip had already started. In a small society, you never know.
I left my car and took a taxi to the restaurant. It was, as I had expected, decorated with red hearts and cupids and other paraphernalia of sentimental lovey-dovey stuff. I was early. I went in and sat at the bar and ordered tonic water. I needed my head to be clear for this luncheon.
He came in with her, and I waved at them. The expression of surprise on her face told me he had not told her he was expecting me to be there. Coward!
"This is my wife, Melva," he said to her. "Melva, this is Carol from the Arakan Agency. As I told you, we are hammering out a business deal."
I smiled my sweetest smile. She barely managed to conceal her confusion and he was sweating.
This should be interesting, I thought.
We were shown to a table for three, which raised a few eyebrows. The restaurant was full of intimate tables for two. Even the waiter looked at us strangely.
"I pre-ordered." he said.
"I know," I replied. "I added my order. Drinks?"
I could see him trying to pretend that he didn't know what she wanted to drink. It was really quite funny. I had him by the balls and he knew it. I think he didn't believe that I would have carried out my threat to join them.
After a while, they began to pretend to be discussing some real estate issues. I took out a notebook in which I scribbled from time to time. From the curious glances at our table I could tell that there was speculation about whether we were ménage à trois. When I caught the couple at the next table looking at us, I winked at them and they hastily looked away.
Halfway through the meal, he asked."What are you scribbling?"
"Just some ideas for a story," I replied. "I'll tell you later." Later would be all mine, I knew.
They kept up the pretence of discussing business while the meal limped to a close, their food half eaten, their wine barely sipped. I kept up an encouraging commentary. "This is good! Isn't it?" When the dessert tray came around I ordered the gooeyest, red and white cake and ice cream concoction. Neither of them wanted dessert and sat uncomfortably making small talk while I enjoyed myself.
After he paid the bill, I threw my final cup of cold water on any simmering fires between them. "Darling," I said. "You'll have to drop me back at the office. I took a cab here."
I wondered if he would be barefaced enough to admit that he had picked her up.
"Something wrong with your car?"
"No," I simpered at him. "I just wanted to spend a little more time with you."
He wasn't fooled. He knew exactly what I was up to. He turned to her, "I'll go over those figures and get John to call you, Thanks for having lunch with us." I held on to him as we walked away.
She couldn't manage a smile. She also knew that their cover had been blown. I smiled in triumph as I imagined her annoyance at having to call a taxi. I wondered if he would try to explain away my presence and whether she would be placated. Somehow, I doubted it. I rather enjoy these games we have to play from time to time - better than kicking up a fuss and issuing threats and ultimatums.