Dinner at 8
By Krista Amigone
“That ginger keeps staring at me.”
“Jenna, have you heard a word I’ve said?”
Unfortunately, I had. As soon as Cami suggested Jin’s SenseSea Grill, I knew something was up. This place was reserved for serving me ultimatums after filling my belly with the finest SenseSeafood in town: We should buy a house, We should marry, We should adopt. Tonight was no different.
“So who is it?”
“People don’t dump other people without the next person lined up.”
“Keep your voice down. There’s a little girl right there.”
“And. She. Keeps. Staring at me!” I swiveled to stare down the ten-year-old ginger at the neighboring table. The dad promptly turned the child to her coloring book, as her mom ripped my flesh off with a stare. I was just about to impart the woman with some wisdom about my fist and her face when the waitress arrived.
“Your monkfish with fava bean puree…” She inserted the syringe into my stent, and I watched the lime green liquid zip into my arm. Angry as I was at Cami, the Ginger, and the waitress for wearing that awful shade of lipstick, I couldn’t help but smile as the savory flavor of buttery monkfish hit my mouth. The fava beans followed, and, yes! Roasted garlic! Jin’s really is the best.
“We don’t want the same things anymore.” Cami’s chin quivered, and I bit my bottom lip to stop mine from doing the same.
“She’s not even their real kid,” I whispered. Cami’s head dropped into her hands. “You can see her port clear as day. I mean, they tried to make it look like a birth mark, but there it is on cervical 7.”
Cami couldn’t help but look.
“An older model too. Just stick a thin metal object in there, and their memory is gone: like the person never existed. Seriously, I could use one of your bobby pins and ka-pow!”
Cami’s hand shot to the side of her head where two bobby pins were crossed. “You’re sick, Jenna.”
“Me? They’re the ones who’re sick,” My volume was beyond my control. “They spend all this money custom-making their kid, and they pick a friggin’ ginger!”
The mother stood so fast, she knocked her chair back. The little girl started to cry. My cheeks got hot, and I looked away, closing my eyes as the father threw his Wine-2-O in my face. I licked my lips. Pinot flavor. Yum.
“See what you’ve done?” Cami said, as three waiters cleared the family’s table at hurricane speed. Our waitress followed suit, wordlessly wiping the Wine-2-O off the table in front of me. When she turned away, her port flashed at me in the track lighting like a middle finger. My chin dropped to my chest. I suck.
“I’m sorry, Cami.” I was. “Times have been tough but… I was lucky once. I’ll be lucky again.”
“It’s not about luck.”
But it was ― when you’re lucky, you can see hope everywhere. When the rain turned to sulfur, I assumed humankind would figure out a way to filter it for drinking. When the honeybee vanished, I trusted the greenhouses would be enough to feed us all. And when the oceans died, every single fish gone, I confidently filled out the application for the Ocean Reach Expedition’s role of Robotics Designer. Filled with hope and luck, I was certain I was exactly what the world needed to survive. This was the opportunity I always knew was coming: to be great, to be history, to be a part of every consciousness – both organic and artificial.
Cami was livid when I told her, so I had to do the chores of the transition on my own. I withdrew our bid on the four-bedroom house, wrote a tasteful postponement announcement to our wedding guests, and made the adoption agents find a new home for our in-utero bundle. And then…
A stupid background check: One minor incident involving a test, a cheat-sheet, and a pistol in a teacher’s face rumbled from my past, crashed into my present, and destroyed my future. My degree and my impressive curriculum vitae were nothing in comparison. Instead of a hero, I was a risk factor, a liability, a zero.
It wasn’t fair of me to take out my anger on Cami and our relationship, but it came naturally to ruin everything we had built. Rage feels so good in the moment until you come back to your senses and see the damage you’ve done.
“Cami, please. Give me another shot.”
“Jenna, this was your other shot.”
She was right.
I paid the bill and gave the waitress a two-hundred percent tip.
As we walked from the restaurant Cami let me put my arm around her shoulders, and I pulled her in tight, kissing the top of her head, knowing this was good-bye.
After we’d buckled up, we watched as the latest Mars rocket, filled with seeds for the alien soil, burned up through the orange night sky.
“I forgot that was tonight,” Cami sighed.
“The world’s not over yet, Cam.”
And then, I don’t know what happened. Both of us started kissing, kissing like it was our first date, and her perfumed skin pressed against me. My fingers ran through her wavy hair, and she looked at me and smiled.
“For old time’s sake,” she said.
That was the last moment before I stuck the bobby pin deep into her port, she giving the slightest look of disbelief before her eyes went blank and her head collapsed onto my chest.
With a gentle push, I got her slumped back into the passenger seat and buckled her in for the ride home.
We’d start again tomorrow. Just one more shot. This time I’d be lucky.
Krista Amigone’s short stories have appeared in Sirens Call eZine and Encounters Magazine. She’s also had success writing for the stage and screen. Most recently, her short film, Julian Got the Part, was produced in New York City, and her webisode, She’s So Right! is gaining a steady flow of fans. Krista has been on the writing teams of The Underground Notes, and We Make Movies Sketch Show, and she currently writes for Real Mommy Confessions. Her play, Anna Abock, was a finalist in the NYC One Act Play Festival. Check out her comedy series on Instagram @_ShesSoRight_.
Featured image, “Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” by Ian Burt via Flickr, CC by 2.0