Copyright© 2009 by Lazlo Zalezac
The tables in the restaurant had been arranged in a giant U with the guests seated along the outside. The staff moved around in the center filling wine glasses with practiced ease. It was obvious by the arrangement of tables that this was more than just a little field trip by the students from the culinary school.
Across the room from where Molly was seated, a woman and a young man were seated side by side. The young woman moved awkwardly in her chair for a second and then sat up straight. She handed something to the young man seated beside her. Unable to believe what she had just observed, Ellen asked, "Did that woman just hand her panties to that man over there?"
"Probably," Molly answered. She looked across the room at the young man who was now glowing bright red.
Watching the young man looking at the present from the rather aggressive woman, Ellen said, "He's got the same haunted expression on his face that you have."
"He does look like I feel," Molly said. She glanced around the room nervously.
Ellen leaned forward and watched the couple with open interest. She had never observed anything like it in her life. The woman's hand snaked under the table. Ellen sat back and said, "I swear she's got her hand in his pants."
"It wouldn't surprise me," Molly said. She continued to watch every corner of the room nervously.
The attractive woman stood up and took the hand of the man with her. She pulled him out of his chair and led him out of the room. Ellen said, "I wonder where they are going."
"The coat room," Tony answered in a matter of fact voice.
"Why would they go there?" Ellen asked. She noticed that the man's fly was open.
"Think about it," Tony answered.
Molly was afraid to relax despite the fact that Mark was nowhere around. There was an empty chair beside her and the Senator was chasing off anyone who even approached the seat. She muttered, "Where is he?"
"Who?" Ellen asked still staring at the door where the couple had exited.
"I don't know. Why did you ride here with him?" Ellen asked. She had been waiting for Molly by one of the limousines and had been surprised to see her get into the car with Mark.
"I don't know," Molly answered with a whimper.
Tony said, "It is the O'Toole charm."
Tony's wife, Maria, said, "Resistance is futile."
Molly said, "I want to go home."
"We're at the Dirty Skillet of New Orleans. It is a five star restaurant and serves some of the best food in the world. Relax and enjoy the meal," Ellen said trying to cheer up her partner.
"Half of the people in the room are related to him," Molly said looking around. She now had the business cards of a nutritionist, general practitioner, and a gynecologist in her purse. The discussion with the gynecologist was particularly unsettling. The woman had talked about how much fun Molly would have as the mother of a dozen O'Toole children.
"Yes," Molly said. "Victoria tried to warn me."
"About what?" Ellen asked.
"Once a member of the family decides on a person, the whole family moves in to make it happen," Molly said.
"Who is that woman feeding Chef Rupert and what is it that she's feeding him?" Ellen asked watching the action taking place across the room.
"I believe that's Chef Mary O'Toole and I have no idea what she is feeding him," Molly said after looking in the direction Ellen had pointed.
"Look at the expression on his face. It must taste like heaven," Ellen said watching the action with fascination. She had never seen anything so sexy in her life.
"Where is he?" Molly growled while glaring at the empty chair.
"Who?" Ellen asked.
"Mark O'Toole," Molly answered.
"Missing him?" Ellen asked in surprise that Molly was concerned about Mark.
"The suspense is killing me," Molly said. She looked around carefully before taking a sip of her water. The last thing she wanted was to be surprised while taking a sip. She said, "This is like sitting at a theater watching a horror movie. The music keeps getting louder and more threatening, but the monster doesn't show up. The tension just builds and builds until you are ready to snap. Then all of a sudden the monster bursts onto the screen and you scream."
"They are playing Mozart. Cassation No. 2 in B Major if I'm not mistaken," Ellen said after listening to the background music for a moment. It wasn't exactly the kind of background music for a horror film.
"I'm waiting for the monster to arrive," Molly said ignoring the comment about the background music.
"You're letting this get to you," Ellen said.
"I don't want to scream," Molly said. She picked up a fork and polished it her napkin.
"What are you doing?" Ellen asked.
"I'm cleaning. I always clean when I get nervous," Molly said. Her eyes were locked on the door to the kitchen.
"I noticed that you also clean when you get angry."
Molly said, "I feel like a sacrificial virgin about to have my heart cut out of my chest and fed to an angry volcano god."
"You're a virgin?" Ellen asked.
In a louder voice then she intended, she said, "I said that I felt like I was a virgin sacrifice; not that I was a virgin."
Tony leaned over and said, "I'm sure that Mark will be very cooperative when it comes time to sacrifice your virginity."
"Be quiet," Molly said sinking into her chair.
Ellen asked, "Are you sure you're a Senator?"
"Quite sure," Tony answered with a smile.
Molly jumped when the door to the kitchen opened. Ellen said, "Calm down, Molly. You can handle him."
"That's easy for you to say."
"Here comes the food," Ellen said sitting up straighter in her chair.
"We didn't even order," Molly said. It took the staff just a few minutes to place the appetizers in front of the assembled group. One of the waiters placed a simple plate in front of her. Molly stared at it for a second before she asked, "Is this a joke?"
"Ah, someone spelled out Mark Heart Molly with the sauce," Ellen read. "That's so sweet."
"I'm going to send it back," Molly said pushing the plate away.
"You've got to taste it," Ellen said.
"This is a five star restaurant. I'm sure that it tastes great," Ellen said eyeing the dish with interest. The plate contained a row of small circles of bread. Each piece of bread was decorated with individual toppings. Below the circles of bread was the message spelled out in a dark sauce of some sort.
"You're probably right," Molly said. She took her fork and drew a line through the heart.
"Ah, you added an arrow pointing from him to you," Ellen said.
Molly snapped, "No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did." Turning attention to her own appetizer, Ellen speared a little of her food on her fork. Taking her time, she slipped the morsel into her mouth.
"How is it?" Molly asked.
"Oh, this is great," Ellen said.
Molly looked over at the appetizer placed in front of Ellen. It was a simple slice of roast duck on endive with cheese. It did look very good. She looked down at the plate in front of her. She wondered how she was going to eat it. She didn't have long to wonder.
A hand slid into view and picked up one of the appetizers. She looked up and saw that Mark was leaning across the table. She hadn't realized that he had been the person who had set the dish in front of her. He smiled at her and said, "Close your eyes and open your mouth. Prepare to taste loneliness."
She said, "Get away from me."
"Close your eyes and open your mouth," Mark said gently.
Molly rolled her eyes before closing them. She opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue. The small slice of bread dropped onto her tongue. She chewed for a moment and then swallowed. Disappointed by the dish, she said, "That was kind of bland."
"I agree. Loneliness is kind of bland." Picking up another one, Mark said, "This is a taste of foreplay. Close your eyes and open your mouth."
Half the women in the room leaned forward to watch while Molly tasted the morsel Mark feed her. It started the same way that the last one had, but a sudden flavor started building in her mouth. She said, "Interesting. I kind of like it."
Picking up another one, Mark said, "This is the taste of building passion."
"Like I believe that," Molly said.
"Close your eyes and open your mouth."
"Close your eyes and open your mouth."
She closed her eyes and opened her mouth. Mark put the morsel in her mouth. She chewed it. Two indefinable flavors chased each other around her mouth. It was a remarkable sensation that left her desiring more. She said, "Oh, my."
By this point, everyone was watching while Mike held out another little piece of food. He whispered, "This is the taste of the throes of passion."
Not quite trusting him, Molly closed her eyes and accepted the morsel. She took one bite and nearly jumped from the chair. The flavors were balanced but danced on her tongue. The flavors left her mouth and a warm sensation spread across her body. Her cheeks flushed. It took her a minute to calm down enough to say, "Incredible."