Limp – Episode 4 Dinner Date
The restaurant was within walking distance, but Link kept falling behind. “Go ahead,” he urged. “I’ll meet you there.”
“No, no,” Paige said. “It’s a bad habit…I’ll slow down.”
“Doesn’t my limp bother you?” he asked.
“No. I’d crawl for a hot guy like you.”
Link did a double take. “What??”
“Seriously. You’re adorable.”
“But what about you? You could be with any guy.”
“I don’t want to be with ‘any guy.’ I’ve decided on you.”
“Jesus!” Link exclaimed. “Listen, I’m totally psyched. It’s just that I’d rather be dumped now instead of later. If you have any doubts…don’t feel obligated. Seriously.”
She stopped short. “Link, I don’t date a lot of guys. Once I make a decision, that’s it.”
“Great,” he said happily.
Ernesto’s was a storefront decorated with white lights. A crowd of jocks was overflowing onto the sidewalk. All eyes stared at Paige’s blond perfection.
“Holy shit,” one of them whispered. “Look at that.”
“Hey, Paige,” somebody yelled. “What’ll you have?”
“No, thanks,” she said, pulling Link through the crowd.
“What are doing with that geek?” one of them asked followed by a burst of laughter.
“Ignore them,” she said to Link. “They’re assholes.”
“Whoa! Major bitch alert!” someone shouted.
They navigated past the chaos at the bar to the rear dining room where the walls were covered with photographs of Italy and Italian soccer stars. The space was weakly lit by candles and small lamps…fans whirred overhead. Thankfully, they were seated in a secluded corner.
“What a relief,” Paige said. “That was crazy.”
“Why are you so different?” Link asked, glancing at the bar. “Don’t girls like you usually hang with those guys.”
“Thanks a lot,” Paige said sarcastically. “Because I’m blond, you assume I prefer jocks. Don’t push your luck.”
“I’m sorry, but you defy logic. You’re a hippie in a model’s body.”
“Maybe, but my family’s a bizarre combination. Mom’s a hippie, but dad’s a Wall Streeter. I’m the oldest . . . my younger sister’s a Republican and my little brother’s a musician. He’s in a punk band called The Mollusks.”
“Cool. A marine biologist.”
“Listen, I hope you don’t expect to have sex right away,” Paige said, studying Link.
“Jeez, no,” he said in surprise.
“I just want to be clear about that. We’ve gotta be friends first.”
“Sure,” Link said. “Did I come off like that?” He felt like a total hypocrite. Of course, he wanted to.
“Not exactly, but I’m really attracted to you…it’s just that in high school I rushed into things and had some bad experiences…well, not really bad, but things definitely got off track. I just don’t want that happening to us.”
“No sweat. I’ll take it slow.”
“Not too slow…just ease into it, okay?”
“Whatever, I’m flexible.”
Link was amazed Paige thought he was experienced…assumed he’d come on to her. He only had a few car sessions under his belt…wasn’t technically a virgin, thank god, but wasn’t that confident either. Fumbling quickies hadn’t taught him much…and she expected him to take the lead. Holy shit! Just the the thought of it brought him to the brink and back. He took deep breaths…no way he wanted to come in a restaurant!
Suddenly, an elbow slid across the table between them. It was attached to a slick jock who grinned at Paige.
“I think I’m in love,” the jock said.
“Get the fuck outta here,” Paige said. “Are you blind?”
“Blinded by beauty.”
Link stared in disbelief. Do something, he said to himself, or you’ll look like a total jackass. If you don’t, Paige’ll think you’re a wimp and dump you. It’s now or never!
“Didn’t you hear what she said?” Link shouted. Was he making a fool of himself?
“No, I didn’t. What’d she say?” the jock said smugly.
Link jumped up, sending silverware clattering to the floor.
“Link, chill!” Paige said. “He’s a Neanderthal.” All eyes were riveted to the commotion.
“Get the fuck outta here,” Link said to the jock.
“You want me to do what he says?” the jock asked Paige.
“Yes, if you grasp the concept.”
The guy shook his head and sauntered away.
“You okay?” Paige asked.
“Yeah. What an asshole!”
“One of many,” Paige said. The hostess came over with two glasses of wine.
“On the house,” she said. “Sorry you two got harassed. We’ll make sure he gets the boot.”
“Thanks,” Paige said, glancing over Link’s shoulder. The waitress and hostess were talking to the jock who was angrily arguing his case. Paige caught bits and pieces… “only flirting”… “totally overreacting”…“it’s not fair”… “the other guy made the first move.”
“Our friend’s not happy about leaving,” Paige said.
“No?” Link asked, turning to look.
Their glaring eyes met.
“What are you staring at, asshole?” the jock yelled, heading back toward them.
“Uh-oh,” Paige whispered.
Link stood up to face the inevitable.
“Be careful! He’s really drunk,” Paige cried.
No kidding, Link thought, staring into the bloodshot eyes bearing down on him. This must be the last thing a bullfighter sees before he bites the dust.
Suddenly Ernesto and the bartender grabbed the jock’s arms and pulled him to a halt.
“Whoa, mister,” the bartender said sharply. “We’re calling the cops unless you clear out fast.”
“Get your fuckin’ hands off me!”
There was a tense standoff. Link expected the jock to go totally nuts.
The bartender broke the tension. “Come on,” he said. “You’re disturbing the customers… on your way.”
“Fuckin’ unfair,” the jock grumbled, but headed for the door.
Ernesto approached Link and Paige, and gently rested his fingertips on the table.
“I’m so sorry this happened in my restaurant,” he said. “Are you both okay?”
“I hope you’re planning to stay for dinner.
“Sure, we’re not leaving,” Paige said.
“Good, because it’s my treat tonight. Rosetta, bring them whatever they want.”
“Thanks a lot,” Link said.
“It’s the least I can do,” Ernesto said with a smile,” and I can assure you there’ll be no further interruptions.”
“It’s almost worth the hassle to get free stuff,” Link said as Ernesto walked away. “Me and my friend Rick used to hang outside and beg guys to buy us beer.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Like last year.”
Paige gave him a quizzical look. “Haven’t they heard of fake ID’s in Connecticut?”
“Do I look 21?”
“No, but do you think bartenders give a shit?”
“Normally, no, but I live here.”
“Valid point, but how many bartenders know you?”
“So, what are you worried about?”
“You didn’t seem worried a few minutes ago. You really stood up to that guy and he was big.”
“I had no clue what I was doing.”
“That makes you even braver.”
“Are you kidding? I was scared shitless. Did you see his neck?”
“I’m getting to really like you,” Paige said.
Next Time: Still to come…an encounter with Link’s odd landlord. The librarian’s questions. New dinner plans. Read episode 5.