Hugo wiped his hands on the paper towel and adjusted the chunky gold wedding ring. He smiled into the mirror and smoothed his hands through blonde hair, straightened his bow tie, and walked out of the changing room and into the restaurant.
Two days on the job at the White Dolphin seafront restaurant and he’d already made fifty dollars in tips. Life was good and the extra money would help with living expenses while he studied at university. He winked at Vivienne, the Maître D, as he passed her. She looked up, a long curl of black hair dropping over one eye, and smiled back through glossy red lips as she flicked the hair back in place. The woman was vivacious and had a great personality, a typical Aquarian who would make a great compatible friend for him, a Leo. The problem was he always had trouble asking for a date.
The experience he dreaded was rejection. As he served the clientele that night he decided to find a way he could capture the emotional trigger of Vivienne. There was definite chemistry, something he, and he was sure she too, felt at his interview. He smiled, remembering the way she asked if he was married after noticing the ring. He had just shaken his head.
At closing time, Hugo asked Vivienne if she would join him for a drink. She accepted with a smile and placed a guiding hand on his elbow, nodding toward the bar. Fragrant scent together with a passing glance from her green eyes set his pulse racing.
“I wanted to explain about the wedding ring,” he said, as they sat sipping drinks. “I shared a flat with my first girlfriend who was studying at medical school. After two years she became pregnant and left the university.” He paused and placed his drink on the bar, then turned to Vivienne. “One Friday she took our old blue station wagon to go buy pizza downtown. As the car passed under a green traffic light it was hit by a drunken truck driver racing a red.”
Hugo winced, closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath as if overcome by emotion. “Our baby died four days later,” he choked. He looked up and realized he had gone too far. Vivienne had tears in her eyes.
Later, after driving Hugo home, Vivienne asked, “Where are the photos of your wife?”
Shamefaced, Hugo apologized. “I’m sorry, Vivienne, I lied. I wanted a date with you. I bought this ring in a jewelers’ I worked at. Customers brought in their old gold with brokenhearted tales of widowhood, being jilted, or broke.” He wiggled his fingers. “This is a dead man’s ring.” He shrugged. “I liked it.”
Vivienne turned away from him, a wry smile across her face. She wasn’t annoyed with him and looked forward to dating him again. He needed a lesson. She would get even.
Author: Ken Burns (NZ)