“I don’t really do this kind of thing,” Nate squirmed. Across the table, the woman smiled. Pretty.
“And yet here you are!” she laughed.
“And here you are!”
She nodded and looked at her hands. A moment passed.
“I think we ought to – you know – talk or something,” she suggested. “Before they ring the bell.”
“Yes!” Nate agreed. He puffed out his cheeks and expelled air. “I got nothing,” he grinned.
“Why don’t you tell me about yourself,” she peered at his name tag, “Nate?”
“Hello, I’m Nate.”
“And I’m Shirley.” She pointed at her own badge as proof.
They laughed, the genuine laughter of amusement. Nate found he was grinning broadly; her laughter was delightful, like music or something. Her eyes – they laughed too. She really was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen –
“Something wrong?” she stopped laughing.
“No, no! It’s just that –”
“You remind me of somebody. Somebody I used to –”
“You know, you look vaguely familiar too.”
“Yes! You look like a man I used to know. A man I married, in fact. And then, one year, on our anniversary no less, we went out for a drive along the coast road, and wouldn’t you know it, the car ran out of petrol, and off he went, down to the valley to fetch some from a village we’d passed, and when he got back to his car – this was a couple of hours later – there was no sign of his wife to be found.” She looked him squarely in the eye. “No sign of me.”
“No! No!” Nate got to his feet, pushing his chair over as he rose. “Get away from me! Get away from me! You’re not her! You’re not, you’re not, you’re not!”
He covered his face with his hands.
The bell rang. He heard the sounds of people moving around the room. Someone approached his table.
“Hello?” said a woman’s voice. “It’s Nate, isn’t it?”
But Nate wouldn’t take his hands from his eyes. He didn’t want to see her. He didn’t want to see another woman.
Sooner or later, they all turned into that bitch Shirley, the woman he’d pushed off a cliff on their wedding anniversary all those years ago.