The Wait by Shaun Nelson

The refreshing blast of cold air from the AC was the only thing that kept them from leaving. The thought of stepping back outside into the high 90 degree heat to look for another restaurant was a quest neither of them was up for at this point.

The restaurant was at the top of countless “best of lists.” Celebrity chef, small plates, modern takes, limited seating; it was an easy decision to make a reservation even despite the high prices. Once they arrived Paul told Ash she could find a spot at the bar and that he would check in with the hostess. As he surveyed the room he saw that the bar was as loud and crowded as the waiting area. The scene clued him in that there might be a wait, even with their reservation, but he did not count on the 45 minutes he was told. When he looked for her he found her in the corner, a ways from the bar, without any drinks.

“How come you didn’t get us anything from the bar?” he said.

“The line was really long and I wanted to snag this seat before someone else took it,” she replied.

“Fine, I’ll go get them. What do you want?”

“I’m good for now, maybe just water… for both of us?”

He knew that tone. She had always reserved a special tone for when she criticized his drinking. “We’re on vacation, we’re not driving and we’re at a nice restaurant. Plus I’m fine,” he replied. He turned towards the bar before she could respond. At first she only broke out the “you’ve had too much” speech at the end of a long night out with friends, but as time went on he found she kept a running count on nearly every sip he took whether it was a champagne toast at a wedding or a pint while watching football.

After he waited at least five minutes to catch the bartender’s eye he ordered himself an IPA and asked for a glass of water for her. He took a couple of quick sips from his beer and told himself to go back, smile and play nice. They had had a good day and had been looking forward to this meal for months. There was no sense in ruining it. However, as he returned he could sense that she had yet to move on from their last exchange.

She called him closer so that she could whisper. “I don’t know what bothers me more, that you walked away or that you got another drink.”
“Again, I’m fine and I’m not fighting with you here. I’ll wait until dinner until I have another.”

“Whatever.”

“Seriously, I just said I would wait until dinner. I’m not about to dump this one out. Just get over it.”

Ash saw a few people looking at them and realized that the whispering had quickly escalated. While she wanted to keep pushing him, she knew the scene it may cause and avoided the embarrassment. Prior to getting to the restaurant, they had filled their day with a lot of walking, a lot of sun and in Paul’s case, a lot of drinking. Rather than take her advice and stick to water for a bit he quenched his thirst with cocktails. Margaritas, beers and mojitos marked the every few block break he insisted they take between stores. Ash stuck to her plan of lots of water. When Paul pushed her to drink, she told him she did not want a repeat of that awful night on their trip to Florida a year prior. Their first full day there ended with her barely able to stand, and eventually she slept next to the bathroom toilet. To this day, she blamed it on the Florida heat.

Paul must have also sensed that half the waiting area was now listening, as he changed the subject. If he ignored all of the table talk, he heard a pretty good playlist coming from the restaurant speakers. “At least it should be a bit quieter when we eat and we can enjoy the music.”

“Yeah,” she replied. She had turned to the window and did not seem to have paid attention to anything he had said.

”What?”

“Nothing, I was just hoping we could actually talk and enjoy each other’s company.”

“Of course we can, I was simply pointing out that they were playing good music.”

Paul had changed jobs six months ago. This decision reduced his stress levels significantly and eliminated his main excuse for being short with her, inattentive, less affectionate, you name it. They both quickly realized, however, that things were not going to change overnight. The arguing continued, maybe not about the same things, but neither could deny it was nearly as frequent as it had been before the job change. They had tried just about everything to be happier at home and thought a vacation might remind them of the fun they could have together. Taking another long pull on his beer Paul knew he needed to apologize, whether he meant it or not, or this was going to go on all night.

As he turned back to Ash and saw her just about done with her water, he cracked his sad puppy dog look that always worked on her and leaned close. He said, “I’m sorry. Let’s try and have a nice meal if we ever get seated. I’m going to get myself some water. Are you ready for a cocktail?”

She turned away from the window and wiped a tear from her face. “I don’t want to fight either, but it keeps happening.”

He leaned in and gave her a hug. “Agreed. We can work on it more when we get home. Let’s just have fun tonight.” She said nothing. He felt more tears on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just… I was going to wait until dinner to tell you. I’m pregnant.”

“You’re joking… right?”

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