Sunday 3rd May 2009by Tina
The night I met up with Ashley again, I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. Ashley was a good friend of mine since college, and when our paths crossed again I asked her out, just to catch up. This time, she asked me out, and since I had nothing better to do, I said yes.
We were at Conti’s, waiting for our dessert and laughing about something, the way we always do. That was the thing about Ashley, it’s so easy to make her laugh. At least in my case. Maybe it was because we had so many things in common: sports, action movies, traveling and even the same dessert choice. It was really comfortable being with her, but that was that. No sparks, even if I tried looking for it. I liked her enough, but not too much so I was careful not to make her think of other thoughts while we were together.
But I digress. We were laughing about something when I spotted someone familiar enter the restaurant. It was Ruth, my colleague. She was all dressed up and was with another guy. Another new guy, since he must be the fourth one I’ve seen Ruth with for the past four weeks. I smiled and wondered who set her up with this one.
I watched as the two of them sat on the other side of the restaurant, carefully observing the guy’s moves. He pulled Ruth’s chair out for her before sitting down himself, and they seemed to be caught in a lively conversation. Ruth’s facial expression looked interested this time, which was a far cry from her bored, annoyed and incredulous ones previously. I tried to catch her eye, but she was too engrossed with her companion that she seemed to hardly see anyone else.
“Ian, are you listening?” Ashley’s voice broke into my thoughts. I blinked and looked back at her, and I could see a hint of annoyance in her face. There was something at the way she looked at me that made me feel uncomfortable, like my little bit of inattentiveness was unacceptable.
“Sorry, Ash. I saw someone from work come in.” I apologized.
“Well, pay attention, okay?” She smiled and just like that I was forgiven. If I wasn’t mistaken, she actually fluttered her eyelashes at me and this is really getting too close for comfort. Fortunately, our dessert arrived just then and I was glad for the distraction.
We were halfway into our dessert and Ashley and I were trying to figure out the difference between baking soda and baking powder and whether it was used in our cake when I heard some gasps and a noisy clatter, like utensils falling to the floor. I looked up, curious. My eyes immediately zeroed in at Ruth’s table, and was surprised to see another girl standing by their table. For a moment I thought she was just standing there, talking to the guy Ruth was with but when she moved, I noticed that she was actually pulling Ruth’s hair back, tugging every now and then as she spoke.
I looked at the guy, who half-stood from his chair, hands out and talking slowly, like he was trying to soothe an angry dog. I winced as the girl pulled at Ruth’s head once again, clearly not soothed by whatever the guy was saying.
I guess I was too focused at the hair pulling that I didn’t see what was on the girl’s other hand. Ashley saw it first, and I felt my skin grow cold when I heard her exclaim, “Oh my gosh, she’s holding a knife.”
I straightened up and true enough, she was holding one of the steak knives, waving it crazily in the air and pointing from the guy to Ruth. The guy was finally standing up, angry and fearful at the same time.
“Nica, we’re over okay? Let Ruth go.”
“Tsk, wrong words, buddy,” Ashley said, shaking her head. She looked around the restaurant. “Isn’t anyone from the staff going to stop this?” She wondered out loud.
I hardly heard her and before I knew it, I was already making my way to them, my mind quickly thinking of the best way to get Ruth out of that situation. Her eyes were wide with fear as she watched the knife go dangerously close to her neck. I knew I had to act fast before that Nica girl does anything.
And then I knew what to do.
“Hey man, sorry I’m late. Thanks for accompanying my girlfriend while she waits for me.”
I walked straight to the guy, giving him a friendly pat on the shoulder before turning to Ruth. Nica’s grip from her hair had loosened and she had quickly stood up and away from her. Nica — who is a cute Chinese girl who might look pretty if she smiled but right now she just looked crazed — eyed me suspiciously, as if she didn’t believe what I said was true. I walked over to Ruth, gave her a quick peck on the cheek and reached for her bag under the table.
“Honey, let’s go?” I added, offering Ruth my arm. I met her eyes and saw that she looked confused and scared, nothing that I have ever seen her look like before. I prayed that she wouldn’t deny my presence there and that she’d take my arm, or else we’d all be busted. Nica still held the knife, and she was still dangerously eying us all.
Thankfully, Ruth, slipped her arm through mine, and we headed out of the restaurant. I could feel all eyes on us as we did and there seemed to be a silent sigh of relief as we got out of the door.
Once we were out, it took us exactly ten steps before I remembered that Ashley was still inside, and I had not yet paid for our food. I quickly led Ruth to one of the benches across Conti’s, and ran back inside, only to find that Ashley was gone and the manager waiting for me with the bill in his hand.