“Which dress should I wear to our fancy dinner tonight?” Alyssa asked excitedly, holding up two dresses, that as far as Eric could tell, were completely identical.
“Definitely the one on the left.” He said with confidence, knowing that his opinion didn’t matter so much as it mattered that he appeared to have an opinion. A more naïve man would have said something like “you look beautiful in anything,” and would have then spent 15 more minutes sitting on the couch waiting for her to choose the right option. Despite not having any actual clue or care which dress looked better, his confident lie had helped her make a decision quickly. Eric grinned to himself as he took a sip of the Glenlivet he held in his hand. This may be their first anniversary, but it was not his first rodeo.
“Mmmm, I don’t know. I like the other one more. Sorry babe, but I trust my taste over yours.”
Eric rolled his eyes as his girlfriend disappeared into the bedroom to finish getting ready. Not taking his eyes off the TV where two college basketball teams he had no affiliation to were playing, he yelled at the Amazon Echo, asking it what time it was. “The time is 7:08pm.” Alexa responded in her soothing voice, immediately followed by another, less soothing voice.
“Shit!” Alyssa yelled from her room. “Eric, I’m not going to be ready in time. Can you call the restaurant and see if they can push our reservation to 8 instead of 7:30?”
Eric sighed, partly with annoyance, and partly with satisfaction. Annoyance that, as usual, they were running late, but satisfaction that he had had the foresight to make the reservation for a half hour later than he had told Alyssa. “Great work, Eric.” He thought to himself as he drained his glass, the scotch burning in his stomach and elevating his already-too-high sense of self-worth. “As if I could just call The Lexington House and ask for an 8pm reservation on a Friday night.” He scoffed at the idea. “Shit, I had to get this reservations three weeks ago.”
“Sure thing!” He responded cheerily.
* * * *
“Anywhere here on the right is good” Eric quipped from the backseat as their Uber driver wordlessly pulled over to the curb. “Wait – don’t move!” He whispered to Alyssa, who looked at him with confusion. Her question was cut off as he hopped out of his seat and jogged around the Dodge Neon they had ridden in to open her door from the outside. “Oh my god, you’re so cheesy.” Alyssa said with a laugh as she took his hand and allowed herself to be helped out of the car. Eric laughed as well, and pulled her close as he shut the door behind her and they walked into the restaurant.
He was feeling good. He had two scotches in his stomach, a five-course meal to look forward to, and of course, a beautiful girl on his arm. He couldn’t believe they had already been together a year. It seemed like just a few weeks ago that she had met him for their first date still wearing her work scrubs. His eyes traced her black dress. As much as she had looked good in scrubs, she had kicked it up a notch for their anniversary. Suddenly, dinner was the last thing on his mind, as he wondered how soon he could get her back to her apartment.
He felt her nudge his ribs to knock him out of his reverie. “I’m sorry, what was that?” He said to the hostess, who was looking at him with a bemused expression. “I asked you what name the reservation was under, sir?” She repeated. Eric gave her his name and knew immediately from her expression that something was wrong.
“I’m sorry sir,” the hostess said with what appeared to be a sincerely apologetic expression. “Our system shows that your reservation was for last night, not tonight.” Eric swallowed hard. “That can’t be right,” he said incredulously. “I’m sure I made it for the 14th, there’s no way – “
He was cut off as Alyssa spoke up next to him. “Eric, today’s the 15th.”
“Shiiiii…” He trailed off, remembering where he was. He looked imploringly at the hostess, and asked a question, knowing full well what the answer would be. “You don’t happen to have any tables for two available, do you?” The hostess shook her head ruefully. “I’m sorry, but no. We don’t have any seats available for tonight.”
Eric stared at her for a moment before his eyes slid over to Alyssa, who was staring back at him, the disappointment evident on her face. “Fuuuuck,” he thought. “How did I mess this up? What kind of idiot doesn’t double check the dates on a fancy anniversary date?” His anger at himself directed outward as his he continued through his thought process. “But also, how does this restaurant really not have any open tables for two. I know it’s a Friday night, but still. I guarantee they’ve had some cancellations or no-shows. Shit, there’s probably other idiots like me that think their reservation is tomorrow.”
Suddenly, he had an idea. He knew how to save this night, but it would cost him. “How much cash do I have in my wallet?” He wondered as a smile began to form on his face. “I’m pretty sure I have at least $80. I’m sure that can convince this girl into giving us a table. People do that all the time, right? I mean, at least in movies they do.” He looked back to the hostess and swallowed nervously.
He leaned in and spoke in a hushed tone as he reached into his jacket pocket for his wallet. “Hey, so I know you said there aren’t any available tables, but I was wondering if you could maybe look again?” Eric opened his wallet, his heart dropping as he realized he had much less money than he had previously thought. He looked at the hostess’s face, knowing already that his plan was doomed, but too headstrong to stop. Holding $47 in mixed bills between his pointer and index finger in a way that he hoped made it look like more money, he quietly extended his hand across the podium.
Eric, Alyssa, and the hostess all stared at the money in frozen silence. The restaurant that had been raucous and lively just moments before now seemed as quiet as a museum. The hostess narrowed her eyes. Eric widened his. “Oh fuck. This isn’t going to go well.” He thought, a realization that he came to far too late.
The hostess spoke in measured tones, completely devoid of the friendly manner which she had previously used. “I’m sorry sir. If you’d like to make a reservation for a later date, you can do so on our website.” Her eyes flicked past Eric, who slumped backwards, and on to the party behind him. Like an animatronic character on a Disney ride, the pleasant expression returned to her face as she spoke, welcoming them to the restaurant. Eric grabbed Alyssa’s arm and fled the scene, stopping only as they stepped back onto the sidewalk.
He couldn’t bear to look at her expression. Not only had he ruined their anniversary by making the wrong reservation, he had doubled down and acted like a fool. He began talking, sure that Alyssa was going to cut him off and tell him that she was heading home.
“Shit, I’m sorry. I probably –“ Eric’s voice caught and he looked up as he heard Alyssa erupt beside him. Was she crying? No, she was…laughing? He looked at her in bewilderment as she threw her head back and cackled. “Did you…” She doubled over again, unable to finish her sentence. As she lifted her head back up she wiped tears from her eyes. Still giggling, she continued. “Did you seriously try to bribe that girl with like eight crumpled dollars?”
Eric’s face flushed with shame, confusion, and relief as he tried to stammer out a response. Suddenly, he was laughing too, both of them holding on to each other and wheezing in hysterics as they laughed at the absurdity of the last 30 seconds. He was sure they must look crazy, but he didn’t care. He looked over at his girlfriend who met his gaze and leaned up to give him a kiss.
“Aww, thanks for trying to bribe a hostess for me,” she said with a grin. He hugged her close and responded. “I’m sorry I messed up the reservation. I know you were looking forward to it, and – “ Alyssa cut him off with a smile. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I was just looking forward to being with you. Let’s go back to my place and order a pizza.”
Eric smiled. “Happy anniversary.”