He seemed to be just as confused as I was, looking around and probably making sure no one heard what I had said.
Now that I paid attention to it, there was no one really around, thanks to the secluded place of the table and the space dividers. So no one saw the fiasco that had happened a few minutes ago?
A whole avalanche of stones fell from my heart, and I returned my gaze to my match.
"What I meant to say was thank you. For playing along." I corrected myself, shooting him a small smile.
"No need to thank me, I didn't do it for you. My reputation could be easily ruined by such a mistake, so I'm glad you won't get the chance to make one like that after today." he replied, snippy as always.
Back to his rude demeanor he was.
I couldn't hold myself back from shaking my head and letting out a little scoff.
"Anyways." I changed the subject, well, tried to. I just couldn't think of anything to say, and his staring at me didn't make it better. Thankfully, I spotted the waitress walking up to us with the cards in her hands, and I straightened my back and shoulders.
He seemed to notice the slight change in my position and also got into the role. Our dynamic was almost frightening.
"Oh look dear, the menus are here. Is there anything you can recommend?" I said, smiling warmly at the waitress and fixing him with my gaze, daring him to say the next line. We were almost playing a kind of improvisational theater here.
"I strongly recommend the number 23, darling, it should suit your tastes." I smiled at him, letting my eyes go down to number 23, trying to keep my pokerface.
The whole menu was written in the same language the name of the restaurant was in. Indian.
With a sugary sweet smile, I looked up to him, shooting daggers with my eyes.
He was looking at me with a hint of curiosity in his eyes, and I realized that this was a test. He wanted to see if I would order what he recommended, if I would trust him.
There was an equally high chance of embarrassing myself with something I picked like it was with the one he picked. But I remembered him saying that he didn't want to ruin his reputation, and I decided on my answer.
"Sounds great. I'll take the number 23." I informed the waitress, not averting my gaze from his for even a second.
His curiosity seemed satisfied, although he didn't seem to have expected me to trust him with it.
Holding out his card, he told her what he would take, leaning forward on the table on one of his arms and therefore getting closer to me. The table was medium sized, so it wasn't that grave, but it still sent waves of his scent in my direction.
For two, three seconds, his gaze intensified and seemed to burn into my soul, then I noticed movement to my left and tore my eyes from him to meet the eyes of the waitress. The sparkling eyes.
Oh, she would totally gossip about this to all of her friends.
"Thank you." I gave her a small smile before looking back to Lee Chang for a moment.
I didn't get any response, only saw her walk speedily away from our table. As soon as I deemed her out of hearing range, I turned to him again.
"She is so going to gossip about us to all her friends." I told him, with a real smile on my lips, forgetting who he was for a moment.
"And the staff, I guess." he joined in, and for the first time I saw him smile in earnest.
Blood shot into my face and I tried my hardest not to show how much that affected me.
Why did he have to be so damned attractive? It wasn't fair.
Our mood turned awkward again, as if he remembered who I was, and we sat in silence until our food came, which happened surprisingly soon.
I smiled at the server, looking at my plate curiously.
It was rice with curry and some kind of meat, and a little salad side dish. It smelled heavenly.
When I subtly looked at Lee, he had a very satisfied look on his face, and he seemed irritatingly innocent for a moment. He noticed me staring and his polite mask returned, and I looked away as fast as I could.
The server had left, and I decided it didn't matter if I angered him or anything, after today I would never see him again.
"Looks great, thank you for recommending. I couldn't have ordered without you." I looked at him, courageous because of the fact I'd never meet him again in my life.
"You did a good job acting as if you could've." he just said, letting no emotion show in any way. What had happened? A few moments ago, I could read in this man's eyes like a book, and now he was completely opaque.
Didn't matter, none of my concern. I decided to just let him be and reached out for my fork, before I remembered something.
So instead of beginning to eat like he had, I grabbed my phone and took a photo of the meal.
His head shot up in alarm, as if I was doing something wrong.
"Chill, I'm only sending a picture to my mother. She threatened to make me clean the bathrooms, too, if I didn't send her pictures of this place." I rolled my eyes and smiled when I remembered my mother's instructions. She was a real foodie sometimes, and I knew she would love the decor here.
The muscles in his shoulders relaxed, and suddenly, his eyes were open again.
"Sorry for overreacting. I'm a bit…sensitive about social media and all that." his eyes darted around when he said that, making his nervosity clear. Something had happened to him, and it kind of pained me to see that.
"I'm sorry that you have experienced something like that. Social media can be horrible." Before I knew what I was doing, I reached out and lightly touched his arm. He didn't flinch, but his gaze wandered along my arm to my face, and I clearly saw him putting on his mask again.
He pulled away, leaving me dumbfounded, and I couldn't lie, I was hurt by this.
Didn't matter, I reminded myself, I wouldn't see him again. I pulled back my hand, finally beginning to eat.
The flavor was enormous, and I could barely hold myself back from sighting in pleasure. This was heaven.
About half an hour later, I noticed him staring at me and knew he was waiting for me to finish, so I took my time to eat the last few bites. We hadn't talked even one word during that whole dinner, and I was glad it'd end soon, even though the food was really good.
I put down my cutlery, carefully dabbing my lips clean as not to ruin my makeup, and looked at him.
"Let's split the bill." I didn't want him paying for me, not after I had forced him to go out with me and participate in this more than awkward dinner. He didn't seem to like the idea, and I remembered the image.
"It's OK, really. Well be a very modern example of a couple." I emphasized the word "example", just because I was polite didn't mean I wasn't still pissed and hurt.
He didn't seem to notice, but still seemed hesitant.
"I brought enough money-" I began to say to convince him again, but this time, he cut me off.
"Layla de Costa, daughter of Eliza and Reynold de Costa. Your siblings are Ella and Justin, twins born twelve years after you. You're middle class, living in the south city. You're still in Highschool, in your last year and you plan on going to college. So, from what funds would you take money for a restaurant like this?" He leaned back, almost seeming exhausted with the detailed analysis of my own life and decisions he had just given me.
How right he was. I had taken the money for the food out of my college funds, because I didn't want to bother my parents for more money, after the beautiful dress and shoes.
"That doesn't mean I can't pay for myself. Let's split the bill." I insisted, stubbornly.
He sighted again, and called over the waitress.
"I'll get the tab." He said, calmly overthrowing my decision. Oh no, not today.
"Are you sure, babe? You also got the tab last time, I can pay." I wouldn't let him get away so easily, and I even emphasized the pet name slightly.
The waitresse's eyes grew as big as the plates the food here was served on and her gaze shot back and forth between us, following our verbal tennis match.
"Oh, I couldn't let you do that, baby. You know I like taking you out to eat." His voice was sweet as mine, but he said all that through gritted teeth, even if only I seemed to notice.
"That's too sweet of you. But next time, I'll insist on splitting!" I say flirtatiously, and maybe a bit too excited - but the waitress wouldn't notice, since she didn't know this was our first and last date.
Her face was worth the sweet talking, and I knew there would be many rumors about what I had just said. I had done it out of spite, only to annoy Lee, but the taste of her win had a far more bitter note than she expected. I realized my words and the intention behind them were childish, but I didn't want to be just the nuisance he went out with one time, no, I at least wanted to leave any kind of imprint on his life, even if it was a bad one.
Yet, I couldn't look into his eyes while he was paying, nor when he stepped behind my chair, or when he took my arm. I didn't look at him while we walked out of the restaurant, keeping my chin up but only looking at him out of the very corners of my eyes.
What I didn't expect were the reporters with their flashing cameras that were pointed at us the moment we stepped out of the restaurant.
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