This time, I decided to combine all three of the last Fiction Weekend Prompts all in ONE story. Read the results below.
Dee Dee Parker was a fury; she only looked like a calm, middle aged woman finishing her breakfast coffee in her elegant dining room overlooking San Francisco Bay. Her empty porridge bowl sat on the polished wooden dining room table near one of the silver candelabras. On the other side of the table, Neil Parker was shuffling through a stack of papers from his briefcase sitting open on the table, his phone tucked between his shoulder and his ear while talking to his secretary about mergers, liability another corporate jargon in preparation for a major meeting this morning at nine.
DeeDee’s anger was not at Neil; or not only with Neil. But it was the morning of their 25th anniversary, and she’d hardly been able to say a complete sentence to him this morning without being interrupted by yet another phone call from his office. It wasn’t even eight am, and she’d hardly seen him all week. She deeply resented the intrusion of his work week into their lives so early in the day. She loved Neil; he was smart and kind and she was proud of his success. But today he looked exhausted and old and he was only 55. He had always been generous to a fault, too trusting and easy to take advantage of, and too inexpert at setting boundaries, but this morning was one time too many. He was avoiding her eyes; he knew how much she hated their meals being interrupted by phone calls when it was almost the only time they saw one another these days.
He’d made millions for his stupid employers, but all they ever seemed to do was criticize his decisions and demand justification for everything he did, and then keep calling endless meetings the purpose of which were obscure to the participants. All of which forced him to bring work home and have his evenings swallowed up by work he was unable to do during the actual work week. She had hauled Neil to Hawaii over New Year’s, but both of their brief vacations had been spoiled by frequent business phone calls, too. She wished she could whisk them both off to some remote, lovely tropical island with primitive telecommunications. Neil needed to relax on a beach somewhere where he could neither be found by his office or make any attempt to telecommute.
“DeeDee, I’m sorry about all these phone calls, I have to go, now,” Neil said, pocketing his cell phone. I’ll see you tonight at Modesto Lanzoni’s.”
“All right, I hope the meeting goes well, dear.” She stood up and gave him a hug and kiss to fortify him for the onslaught of nonsense she knew he could expect from Pete McAdam, the company owner and CEO as soon as he arrived in the office.
“I have to make sure it does,” Neil admitted. “Pete could let the whole deal fall through with one idiotic statement. But we’ll see you tonight and have a proper anniversary celebration.”
A mental klaxon went off in DeeDee’s brain. “What do you mean ‘we’ Neil?”
“Er… Pete and Heather will be joining us, tonight,” Neil admitted, pulling on his coat. “Modesto Lanzoni’s is her favorite restaurant, so Pete invited himself and Heather.”
DeeDee planted both fists on her hips, feeling as if her blood had turned to molten lava. “Oh no, they won’t! Neil Parker, I’m damned if I’ll share my husband with your idiot boss and his ditzy trophy wife on our only twenty-fifth anniversary!”
“He put me on the spot and I couldn’t say no, DeeDee—“
“Oh yes you could have!”
Neil’s phone rang and out of sheer reflex he reached into his pocket, still avoiding her eyes.
“If you answer that, call I’ll throw your damn phone into the Bay. You’ve got to learn how to set boundaries, Neil. Those two jerks horned in on my birthday party last October. I’m damned if I’ll spend our anniversary with them, too. We’ll go somewhere else for dinner tonight and let Pete and Heather wonder where we are!”
“That…won’t be possible, DeeDee. See, I’ll be driving over to the restaurant with them after work. I was trying to tell you to meet us there when Janet called about the meeting.”
“I’m sorry about all this, DeeDee, really. But I do have to go. We can go out to lunch tomorrow just the two of us to make up.” He reached again for his phone which had continued to ring, but DeeDee grabbed his wrist.
“Oh no, you’re not fobbing me off with that, Neil. We’re having a proper anniversary dinner tonight alone. I don’t care who has to die to make it happen.”
“You could get me fired!” Neil edged out of the diningroom and into the foyer, only pausing to snatch his brief case on his way out.
DeeDee followed him in a stiff-legged stalk of pure outrage. “Good. Pete takes merciless advantage of you as it is. Start your own business and hire all Pete’s best people. They’ll greet you as a liberator. And Pete might learn to appreciate you even if it is too late. ”
“Look DeeDee I really do have to go, now. I’ll try to explain things to Pete about tonight.”
DeeDee leaned against the closed front door, listening to Neil’s car start and the engine sound growing fainter as he drove down the street. It was clearly up to her to get rid of Pete and Heather tonight. She went into Neil's office, planting herself in his desk chair before pulling the phone close and dialing.
“Modesto Lanzoni’s, this is Gualtiero. How may I help you?”
“Hello Gualtiero, this is Mrs. Parker speaking. Listen, I need a reservation for two for dinner at eight tonight.”
“But Mrs. Parker, you already made a reservation for tonight weeks ago.” Gualtiero sounded bewildered. I’m so sorry, I’m not sure if another table can be found—Friday evening is always so busy—“
“I realize that Gualtierro, but it’s important,” DeeDee cut him off and explained the situation.
“So you do understand if I’m to get a private dinner with my husband, and teach that awful man a lesson into the bargain, I have to get a second table for two as far away as we can get from our original reservation? There’s a hundred dollars in it for you.”
“What a coincidence, Mrs. Parker,” Gualtiero purred in the phone. “A nice little table for two just opened up on the other end of the diningroom. We’ll look forward to serving you tonight.”
“You’re a genius, Gualtiero. Thank you so much.”
Calmer, and feeling a grim satisfaction at the successful implementation of the first part of her plan, DeeDee hung up. She went upstairs to dress for her hair appointment, wondering if she had time to pick up her dinner dress from the dry cleaner beforehand. From the neck down, she meant to look flawless, tonight. And from the neck up, she had the hat.
“Hey Neil wake up, you wanna drink?” Pete jabbed him painfully in the ribs. “He’s waiting on your order.”
“Sorry, sorry. I’ll have a double sapphire martini with two olives please, Gualtiero.” Neil was relatively sure he saw sympathy, and something else in Gualtiero’s distinguished face as he nodded and wrote down Neil’s order. After the exhaustion of the week, the frustration of the overlong and fruitless meeting and being stuck with this pair at what should be his private anniversary dinner with DeeDee, Neil figured a little alcohol was very much in order to dull the pain of trying to make conversation with Heather at Pete.
Heather had a three minute attention span that shrank to about a minute when she wasn’t the topic of conversation. With violet eyes, caramel hair and the figure of a ballerina after serious breast augmentation, she was a physical prize yes. But how was it that Pete could spend time with her without going batty? But then, maybe when they weren’t in bed, they just watched one another’s mouths move until it was their turn to talk again in a way that passed for communication between two extremely self-centered people. Neil thought Heather’s voice sounded just the way a stoned and hyper white poodle would sound if it could talk. It was bad enough that she spoke an unbroken stream of vapid and rapid new age jargon, but she kept talking in fast circles, repeating herself with infuriating predictability. Her whinnying laugh gave him a headache. Although whenever Neil tried to answer one of her questions, she would interrupt his response with a new question that completely changed the subject. He took a discreet but thankful pull at his martini when the waiter set it down on the table beside his plate of spinach salad.
“Hey Neil, are you okay?” Heather blurted all at eyeing him over the rim of her margarita which looked like a particularly toxic 7-11 slurpee. “You seem really out of it, tonight. Your aura is like, pond scum green.”
“Probably because he let that deal slip through our fingers at the meeting this morning,” Pete accused, sounding jocular although his brown eyes were cold.
Tonight can’t get any worse, it just can’t Neil though in desperation. To be blamed for the failure of the merger deal because of Pete’s own big mouth and absolute failure to do any of the preparation work necessary to make the deal pushed close to saying the words that had been on his tongue all day; “I quit.” He dug his fork into the salad, drawing a deep breath to gather his courage before saying them.
“There you are, dear! I’ve been looking all over the restaurant for you!” he heard DeeDee’s voice carol off to his right. Neil turned and looked, then painfully dug the tines of his salad fork into his left cheek at what he saw. She meant to be seen and heard tonight; otherwise there was no possible explanation as to why she was walking as slowly as Queen Elizabeth greeting the populace, and speaking loud enough to be heard by everyone at the surrounding tables. Or, although she wore an elegant little black dress and a strand of pearls, all the diners were watching her pass with faces that reflected the full human spectrum of shock and hilarity.
For once, even Heather had stopped talking, her perfect mouth hanging open in shock; Pete was gawping, eyes popping as DeeDee stopped to stand between Neil and Heather’s places.
“So kind of you to invite Neil for a drink while he waited for me, Pete,” DeeDee continued in that unnaturally carrying voice. DeeDee, who hated to call any sort of attention to herself in public, now had the eyes and ears of this half of Modesto Lanzoni’s main dining room. How could they help staring at a woman wearing an impossibly large, but very life-like crab on her head? A hat that looked as if it could have been the prop for a 1950’s B-grade science fiction horror movie?
“ Neil will have told you, we make a tradition of having all our anniversary dinner at Modesto Lanzoni’s, so I’m sure you’ll both excuse him. “Neil, come along dear, and bring your martini, the waiter can bring your salad,” DeeDee ordered him with a smile. “Gualtiero has our table ready. Enjoy the rest of your dinner, Pete and Heather.”
Neil followed her away, martini glass in hand, concealinghis grin until he was positive Pete couldn’t see his face. He hadn’t felt this grateful for a rescue since his mother’s timely appearance while Brad Kravitz, the school bully, was talking about giving him a black eye back in second grade.
“That’s that,” DeeDee declare with satisfaction, removing the crab from her head, and stowing it under the spare chair.
“Where did you find that thing?” Neil asked, leaning back to let the waiter set down his salad plate.
“At a garage sale just before Halloween one year,” DeeDee answered, studying her menu. “It certainly did the job, tonight. But I can’t help but wonder if a lobster might have been even more effective.”