I feel like I need to do an introduction. Isn’t that what a host would do when they invite someone over. Is it my job to make with pleasantries before you dive into the main course? I’ve never really understood the manners thing.
You know, I’ve said too much already. I’ll just step out of the way right now and let you get into the story…
Kiss the Rose
“Thank you, good bye,” Jim said into the phone. He tapped the screen lock button and shoved the phone back into his pocket. The correct answer would be yes, not a doubt in his mind. But that did nothing for the ball of nerves he felt in his stomach.
He scored reservations at K-12, the restaurant of their first date and now the restaurant where he would ask her to share her life with him. He sat in his Ford Escort, still missing a muffler and waited for her to call him back. Work sucked her in again; she would be late.
They were understanding in the restaurant, surprising really. He expected he would have to cancel the reservations and set them up for another night. But this would do little to fix her schedule. The bank plant that Katie worked at liked to hit the crews with last minute mandatory overtime.
He grabbed the roses, a dozen long stem, from the passenger seat and climbed out of the car. Katie’s last text said she needed to run home and change but she was on her way. He could have waited for her at home, but the flip flop of his stomach made it hard to concentrate. The planned quick shot at the bar would calm his nerves.
“Pretty flowers,” she said. The bar server guided him to a table where he could see the doorway. “Will your date be joining you soon?”
“She stopped off at home to clean up,” he said. “Should be anytime now.”
“What can I get you while you wait?”
“A double shot of Jameson.” He cringed at the look he knew she would give him. “I am proposing tonight. I’m not an alcoholic or anything. Just really nervous.”
Her smile, soft, warm, didn’t dig into him as much as he expected it to. “Congratulations,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
Jim watched the door while flicking at a rose thorn. “Any time now.” He pulled out his phone and checked the time. There weren’t any message alerts, no word from Katie.
“Here you go. Oh, by the way, my name is Sam. Anything you need just let me know.” She set the glass on the table in front of him.
“Sam,” he said. “Has anyone ever asked you to marry them? Gah, I’m sorry. That is way too personal.”
That smile again, he felt so much better when she smiled at him. “It’s ok,” she said. “My boyfriend, Kevin. Well, we’ve been together for a while now. Sometimes I hope he will, but no rush right? We’re both still young and learning about life and stuff.”
“You ever thought of how he might do it?” He sipped at the whiskey.
She leaned against the table. “Haven’t thought about it really. You know how they say little girls grow up planning their weddings? I never really did that. Guess I was always too busy doing other things.”
“Never did much of the girly stuff then did you?” he asked.
Her laugh rich and full, caught him off guard. “I guess I wasn’t much of a girly girl growing up. Can I get you another?”
He finished the whiskey. “I want to steady my nerves, not slip into a coma. Is it ok if I just get a glass of water?”
“Sure, I’ll be right back.”
His phone lit up with an incoming text. “In the parking garage now.”
“Waiting in the bar. Reservations in a half hour.”
Sam dropped off the glass of water then went to a different table. The bar wasn’t crowded far from it. But there were enough people that he couldn’t monopolize her time. Jim reached into his sport coat and felt the ring box again. He considered pulling it to look at it but saw Katie walking through the doorway. He waved to get her attention.
“Hey baby,” Katie said. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him close. “Been waiting long?”
“Not really, I did have a shot though. You want anything?”
She leafed through the drink menu, stopped at the martini list. “Oooo appletinis. I need me one of them,” she said. “Gah, worked sucked today. I can’t believe they made me work over tonight. I told Bill I had plans.”
“They were understanding and pushed the reservation back for us.” He picked up the flowers and pushed them toward her. “I got these for you.”
“I thought so, or maybe they were for our server.” She pulled them close and breathed them in. “I really needed this.”
“Can I bring you anything?” Sam asked.
“I need an appletini like nobodies business,” Katie said. “And can you bring another Jameson for him?”
“Sure thing.” She winked at Jim before she left for the bar.
“What was that?” Katie’s brow furrowed.
“What was what?”
She crossed her arms, hugging tight against herself. “She flirted with you.”
“I don’t think so. Besides they make tips, she was probably just trying to earn her tip.”
“I am sure she was.” She dropped the roses on the table. “Aren’t you going to ask me about my day?”
“Sorry, yes,” he said. “I was just preoccupied for a moment there.”
“I’ll bet you were.” She focused on the bar. Her eyes burrowing into the back of Sam’s head.
“So, what happened at work today?” he asked. She didn’t answer, her attention gone. “Do you think the overtime is going to keep happening? Or might things be slowing down soon? Or maybe I might end up talking to myself now?”
Katie tapped her foot as her eyes followed Sam from the bar and all the way back to their table. “Took you long enough.”
“Sorry, Jack is a little off his game tonight.” She nodded toward the bartender. “Let me know if you need anything else.” She stepped away, avoiding Katie’s glare.
“Why do you always act so mean to them?”
“The slut was hitting on you,” she said. “Like she doesn’t even see me sitting here.” She took a drink from her appletini. “Hell, she probably spit in my drink too.”
“I don’t think she did that. She’s been nothing but nice the entire time I’ve been here.”
“I’ll bet she has.” She glared at Sam again then turned to look past Jim. “Don’t we have reservations to get to?”
“Ya, we should probably go.” He drank his shot and set the glass on the table. “I’ll go pay for the drinks while you finish yours.”
“The hell you will. I am not letting that bitch have a chance at you. I’ll take care of it.” She slammed her drink then stood up. Katie stormed up to the bar, a wave of attitude and angst crashed through the bar.
Jim couldn’t hear what they said to each other but he could see the change overcoming Katie. Her arms gestured with force and wild abandon as she made her point known to Sam. “Not again,” he said. He rushed to the bar when one of her wild swings smacked Sam in the face.
“Calm down Katie,” he said as he pulled her away from Sam. “You are making too much out of this.”
Sam rubbed the red mark on her cheek. “You really need to go before this turns really ugly. I will call security.”
“I’m really sorry about this. I’ll get her out of here.”
“The hell you’ll call security on me.” Katie jump tackled Sam. She swung her first into Sam’s face neck and chest as she Screamed, “I hate you!”
Jim grabbed at her arm to stop her swings, but was punched himself. The punch threw him off balance and he fell back into a table. Jack the bartender rushed around the bar to help pull Katie off of Sam.
He pulled them apart as security rushed into the bar. Two security guards stood between Katie and Sam. As the situation calmed one of the guards noticed that Jim was still on the ground. Motionless and at an odd angle, the guard checked Jim’s neck for a pulse.
The trail of blood that swelled out from beneath him only told part of the story. When they rolled him over they found a fork jammed into his back.