After weeks of cajoling, I’d finally got her to agree to a dinner date.
The clincher was my suggestion I would cook for her. She looked surprised at my confidence in my ability to cook anything beyond boiling water.
I made the announcement in my kitchen. The room was its usual silent self until Alex spoke.
“Really?” he said, “you convinced her, did you?”
“Yes,” I replied feeling proud of my accomplishment.
“What are you going to cook for her?” he asked already sceptical.
“I thought a three course, gentle entrée, slightly but interesting main and a soft and luscious dessert,” I said reaching for my recipe book.
“An entrée? That’s daring for you.”
“I’m thinking tapas, simple but effective. A gentle blend of flavours to set the right mood for the evening.”
“Yes, good idea, easy to make, usually can’t go wrong with that. And a main?”
“Ginger chicken on an Asian Slaw. A winner every time.”
“Good choice and dessert?”
“I’ll make a pavlova roll. Line it with fresh thickened cream, strawberries and passionfruit, makes my mouth water thinking about it.”
“You want the special dressing tonight?”
“No. It caused no end of trouble the last time. Now disappear while I start my prep. I have to concentrate and you hanging around will only distract me.”
My dinner guest was a work colleague whom I’d taken a shine to in recent months. It had taken me a long time to get her to see me in the same light. But I was proud of my persistence, and tonight I was going to make an impression. I just knew it.
I spent the day cutting, chopping, mixing, tasting I wanted everything just right.
My Asian slaw was a dish that I had to prepare some hours before dinner. It was all about slicing the cabbage, spring onion and apple, mixing it together and then adding the slaw dressing, heated, poured over the dry slaw and set in the fridge until needed. I’d never had a bad slaw yet.
Alex and his special dressing. There was nothing special about it really unless you accepted the fact it did have a marked hallucinogenic effect and in such a state you could not be certain of your actions. It was how he got his kicks, but tonight I was having none of that. This was going to be me, all me.
With everything in place, I awaited the knock on the door. I’d taken particular care with the table setting, even ironing the table cloth.
Then it happened. The gentle knocking, the introduction to my dining room, the selected wine, the seating, the entrée, each dish proceeding with polite but earnest conversation. The evening was going well when I noticed Alex standing in the kitchen. He was looking at the Asian Slaw I had taken from the fridge to warm to close to room temperature.
The look in his eye told me he didn’t like my guest. In his hand, I knew he’d be holding some of the special dressing. As I made my way to him, I watched him drop in a few drops, reseal the bottle and slip it into his pocket.
“How could you?” I whispered furiously he even dared to show his face when he knew the evening was important to me.
“Just helping out. I know how these things go for you. Pleasant at first, comfortable and then descending into embarrassing awkwardness.”
“Get out!” I hissed hoping she at the table would not over hear us.
Later when the dinner was over, and she’d been all over me with culinary gratification I pondered if she’s have felt the same without the aid of the dressing.
By evenings end she wanted another date. This time she insisted I allow her to cook for me. I accepted. The date was set.
As I went to bed that night, Alex slipped a bottle of the dressing into my hand.
“You’re going to need it next week.”
I slipped it into my pocket hoping I’d forget about it by then but knowing it was a failsafe.
I worried all week with Alex goading me about my past record with women. I made a decision, on the way to her place the next week, I dropped the special dressing in a bin as I crossed the park.
In doing that Alex who had been walking with me offering advice, turned and went home.