“No, not today.” I replied as the waiter walked the last few steps of his approach. He offered a half-smile of recognition, a slight, almost imperceptible raising of his left eyebrow and a subtle nod of deference. I was seated alone, at my favoured table, in the recess towards the rear of the left wall of the restaurant. Positioned slightly to the right of the centre of the semi-circular table, I could see the majority of the main dining area, the entrance at the front of the restaurant and the bar along the right wall with the white double doors that led to the kitchen at its end. The walls were expensively decorated in cream with a cardinal red damask pattern. Each wall had a generous smattering of artwork: renaissance style oils, nudes and cherubs abounded, many in intricately detailed gold frames. The floor bore a dense maroon carpet woven with a rich golden rose design. The tables, all fully patronised, were a variety of shapes and sizes, from three-foot squares for two, to large circles eight feet across for groups of up to a dozen, each covered in pristine white cloths, freshly pressed and starched before the service. Artfully dispersed around the floor, providing diners with the perfect balance of intimacy and the collective experience of dining in such surroundings, each table had at its centre a delicate arrangement of red anthuriums, white gerbera daisies and pink carnations. Polished silverware glistened and elegantly fluted glasses reflected the light from the four large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The chairs’ mahogany frames were highly polished, their high backs oval with plush crimson velvet cushioning, their luxurious seats finished in the same weighty fabric. Behind the solid, impressive bar, its brass foot rail gleaming, the barman, in brilliant white dress shirt and black bow tie just as the waiting staff, busily prepared a cocktail. As he expertly sluiced and mixed ingredients selected from an abundance of bottles on the shelves fixed to the wall, the gregarious and extravagant movements seemed out-of-place in such reserved surroundings.
The low hum of conversation from my fellow diners was accompanied by the tinkling of ice in glasses, the sounds of cutlery softly dragging on the perfectly white china plates and occasionally laughter pealed from one table or another. The air in the room was calm, formal but relaxed, perfectly engendered by the maitre d’ as he glided from one group to the next, exchanging pleasantries with individuals at each table, ensuring all was well with their meals. As I looked around the room, absorbing these familiar scenes once more, I could feel the waiter next to me, expectant, poised to receive my order, when something in the atmosphere shifted. It wasn’t obvious, it wasn’t announced, rather something almost primal, instinctive, a moment of collective awareness shared by all in the room. Everybody’s attention was drawn in that same moment to the entranceway as the tall, elegant woman entered and exchanged a few words with the maitre d’. As she looked around the restaurant, searching for her intended companion, her striking looks took my breath away. Even from across the room I could see the blue in her eyes as they danced with happiness and a sense of mischief. Her eyebrows were thick and shaped into long arches, her lips full and scarlet, her skin pale and smooth. Her platinum hair, parted on the left, cascaded in waves below the shoulder. She wore an elegant diamond necklace with a central stone which matched her pear-shaped diamond earings. Her black silk satin dress, which showed her slim, lithe figure was long and embroidered with black sequins. Her shoes, with a low heel, were also black and displayed a small silver buckle. The maitre d’ gestured towards the rear of the restaurant and escorted her across the floor in the direction of her seat.
As she traversed the floor she seemed to float, her soft steps barely impressing upon the deep carpet. Her dress shimmered and her diamonds sparkled, catching the lights and exploding with a brilliance that betrayed their clarity. Her luminescent beauty filled the room with moonlight, it entranced me, it blinded me to everything else as the chandeliers, the oil paintings, the very walls were lost in her hypnotizing, silvery light. I stood, enchanted by the bright blue eyes and the white fire that lay behind them, by the slightly embarrassed smile and by the demure tilt of the head of the lady who now stood before me.
“Perhaps a little champagne?” I said.
“Of course, Mr Tavistock.” replied the waiter. “Welcome Mrs Tavistock, and congratulations on your ruby wedding anniversary.”