Here we are again at Cilantro and Sage, a beautiful restaurant with views of the Potomac River. Back or in future days, when social distancing wasn’t a thing.
At the end of the story you’ll find recipes for roasted broccoli and brussels. If you hate broccoli, you might just change your mind after trying it roasted. Trust me. 😉
Happy Birthday To Me
“Cilantro and Sage? I can’t believe you remembered how much I love this place. Thank you,” Ella says, dimples appearing in her cheeks, her brown eyes shining. She glows in her lavender dress.
She’s certain his remembering is a sign. He does love her. She holds back though, remembering that Charlene said men hate gushing. She just wants to enjoy tonight, knowing he’s put forth the effort to get reservations at her favorite place.
“It’s so cool that they do a vegetable plate. I’m thinking the roasted broccoli, the brussels, garlic mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes. And maybe the carrots. Or the eggplant. No, definitely the carrots.”
She grins at him, notices his utter absorption in his menu. He doesn’t make eye contact. While an uneasiness wants to rise in her, she shrugs it off. It’s her 28th birthday. Nothing bad could happen, right? She quells the negativity.
“What are you thinking about?” she asks.
He lifts one shoulder. She’s not sure if that’s a shrug or a tic.
She scans the meat portion of the menu she doesn’t usually look at. “I bet you’d like the meatloaf.”
“I can’t,” he says.
Her eyes dart up. “Oh. Well, obviously you don’t have to eat meatloaf. They’ve got a steak au poivre. I bet that’s great.”
He shakes his head, his eyes squinting at her. “I can’t do this anymore.” He jerks his hand between her and him.
She swallows hard. “I’m sorry?”
“It’s been three months. I think if anything was going to happen between us, it would have happened by now,” Jared says.
Ella glares at him. Now? On her birthday he’s bailing? He couldn’t have pretended for a couple of hours? Said this tomorrow? In a week? Who does that?
She straightens her shoulders, the napkin on her lap, the fork next to her appetizer plate. She nods.
“I’m going to enjoy my birthday dinner. Right now, the only way that seems possible is if you leave. Thanks for making the reservation,” she says. Her eyes focus on the bar, the bartender filling drinks. She straightens the napkin on her lap, again.
He stands up, throws his napkin on his plate. “If you tried to be sexier . . .”
She blanches. Hurt. She doesn’t watch him leave. Despite the music from the pianist, she continues to hear “if you were sexier.”
The waitress returns, removes his plate.
“You like dirty martinis?” the waitress, a blond with big blue eyes, asks.
Ella shakes her head. “I’ve never tried one.”
“I’ll bring one to you. On the house. For your birthday. Remember, most men are scum.”
And, Ella enjoys her first dirty martini. She decides she really likes olives. Next, she abandons herself to the vegetarian comfort food of her dreams: roasted broccoli, garlic mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, and honey glazed carrots.
On her second dirty martini, her eyes meet those of the bartender. She lifts her glass and nods. He grins. Damn, but he’s cute.
In another place and time, perhaps inhabiting another body, she might risk him. She sips her drink. Hell, maybe she’ll inhabit that other body tonight.