The restaurant around them hummed with conversation. The dark reds and blacks on the walls and the table cloths gave the restaurant a brooding feel. So much so that anyone who made a slight nose or spoke at a higher volume drew glances from their fellow patrons. Richard finished his meal and calmly placed the knife and fork on either side of the plate. He fought the overwhelming urge to lean back and grab his belly.
“Rude.” Said Rachael to his left. Her curly hair was almost in her food as she looked from his plate to his face a few times before exhaling loudly.
“What exactly is rude about me?” He asked. Rachael looked up quickly and her eyes widened.
“Well, …it’s not general restaurant etiquette to finish before everyone else.”
“That isn’t a rule of dining out. Or dining in. Or dining anywhere! And if it is, it’s ridiculous.” He replied. Rachael looked opposite to the woman sat to his right and back to her plate. The woman kept eating but paused before putting her fork down.
“Apologise.” Martha said. Richard exhaled and closed his eyes as his shoulders slumped slightly. He surveyed her ginger head as she continued to eat.
“My dear Martha. The apple of my eye. Do you remember that long conversation we had some six months ago? I want the exact opposite.”
Martha’s fork clangs down onto her plate and the sound lifts some heads from those close by. Her mouth drops slightly open.
“Can I ask you something, Donna?” He says to the girl opposite. Her short, silver hair shoots up from her plate. She nods.
“Throughout your long and I can only assume agonising relationship, has Rachael ever said that anybody was being rude for finishing their food before the others?”
Donna contemplates this and ignores Rachael’s glare.
“Yes. Plenty of times.” She replies in a small voice.
“Do you agree with her when she has done this?” Martha nudged him with her foot under the table. He moved his seat back slightly and crossed his legs so she could not repeat the action.
“No.” She replies instantly. “There is nothing in any etiquette manual or article that I have come across that says it is wrong to finish early.” A small smile crosses her lips. “And that is one of the many things that has annoyed me about being her girlfriend.”
Donna looks at Rachael and she looks down at her plate to avoid her eyes.
Richard takes out some money from his wallet and counts it a few times before placing three notes in the middle of the table. Donna begins to do the same but underneath the table. He leans back and groans with satisfaction while stretching his long arms towards the floor. He turns to look at Martha who crosses her arms. He blinks slowly taking a deep breath.
“I hope you find someone exactly like you and someone that possesses a forehead befitting of your thumb. And Donna, good luck and all the best in everything that you do.” He said glancing at Rachael. Donna smiles broadly and slips the money she has counted into the shoulder of her dress and finishes her meal.
Rachael slumps into her seat. He stands up and grabs his glass and downs what remains of its contents before leaving the table. He stops, turns, and retrieves the money he just counted and puts it into the inside pocket of his suit.
“You’re not going to pay for your part of the bill?” Martha asks looking up at him. Richard feels his hands shaking in his pocket.
“For two years, I have paid for every drink we have had whenever we have gone on a night or day out. With the only two exceptions being both my birthdays, which I had to convince you to do. And you stormed out of both of those parties. Consider this paying your debt.”
“How…dare you? You…enjoyed doing that for…me. Didn’t you?” Martha said. Richard looks into her eyes and the moment seems to last forever.
“…really?” Richard said. Martha looked for help where there was none before slumping back into her seat and wiping a tear from her eye.
Richard places one hand on her shoulder. She squeezed it before he leaves the table and the restaurant.
“Goodbye.” Martha whispers as Richard kisses her on the top of her head.
“Hold on.” Said Donna. She stands and grabs her bag to leave.
“Donna? Where are you going?” Rachel said as if to an insubordinate child.
“Away. From you. Finally.” Donna said rolling her eyes. Rachael looked back at the table and then to Martha.
“It’s still fairly early, fancy getting responsibly drunk?” asked Richard.
“Definitely.” Said Donna.