Applying to uni and quitting my job had been easy. Telling Tony is the hard part. Aunty Mabel booked the restaurant and left her credit card to foot the bill. When I told Tony to meet me here, there was a note of panic in his voice.
"But Kat," he wimpered
"Isn't our anniversary in May?"
"Yeah" I replied.
"Aunty Mabel's treat." Sure, thanks, Aunty Mabel. Why don't you just stand with an axe over my head the whole night? How can I enjoy dinner knowing I can't leave here without telling Tony?
I've been in agony all day over when to break it to him. If I tell him too early, it might ruin the meal, but if I tell him too late, I might have a stroke.
Kat's been acting weird all day. She was fine this morning. Well, with someone who's always comatose until her third cup of coffee, it's hard to tell, but nothing seemed odd.
Until she rang me at 11 o'clock. She hasn't rung me at work in years, not even to say if she's working late. Then she tells me we're coming out here for dinner. I mean... What's the occasion? Our anniversary isn't until May.
I know Kat puked that morning after Jess's wedding, but that was the booze. She can't be pregnant, she doesn't look happy enough. But something is up. She's too quiet. I know we don't talk like we used to, but she's usually got something to say. And when we go out alone, she usually overcompensates and I can't get a word in edgeways.
Tony reached across and gave Kat's hand a squeeze and gave her a reassuring smile. Kat looked blankly, cast her eyes down, lifted the corners of her mouth and put her hands in her lap.
"Um... Tony..." She looked up at him.
"Excuse me, Madam." It was the waiter. Kat hadn't noticed his approach.
It looked divine. Kat wanted to eat it. Every morsel. Lick the plate, even. But she knew she wouldn't do the chef any justice if she hadn't told Tony. She'd be too nervous to stomach any of it.
If Tony reacted badly, if he left, she could stay and eat it all. His too, maybe. Then she could walk home alone. She could tell him she'd stay to give him some space.
Tony looked at his food. Gave it that appraisal, followed by that look of satisfaction. The one when magnificently presented food is put in front of you, and the smell hits you. A visual and sensual masterpiece.
He tucked in. Stuck his fork into the chicken breast and broke off a succulent mouthful with his knife. He lifted his fork to his mouth and paused. The magnificent pause that can only truly be appreciated on the first mouthful. The sensation of expectation when the aroma hits your nose, enters your consciousness. You know it's going to be good, your tastebuds have swung into action, but you pause for that one extra moment.
That was his mistake. It gave Kat an in. She had looked longingly at her own food, taken a breath, looked up at Tony. He hadn't put it in his mouth yet. He couldn't choke. If she waited, she could get lost in their alternating mouthfuls and not have a chance again until dessert. If they had dessert. It had to be now.
"Tony, I have to tell you something."
Tony put his fork down, complete with the untouched piece of chicken. By the time he gets to eat it now, it could have cooled and lost some of its power. He had already been denied the crescendo of that first mouthful. Nothing could be worse.
He looked up, sighed and answered coolly: "What, Kat?"
"Well..." He could have swallowed by now, been cutting the next bite, even.
"Kat, you don't normally mince words. Please don't do it now. Something's been wrong since the middle of today. We're in a lovely restaurant with spectacular food waiting for us. Get it out so we can enjoy the rest of the evening."
Tony's soliloque had caught her off guard. As if her finger had slipped onto the trigger, her words came out like an automatic rifle.
"I've been accepted. I'm going to uni. I start next week. I'm staying with Aunty Mabel. I'll get my own place. When I find a part time job. Nobody knows yet. Except Aunty Mabel, my boss and now you. Surprise." Kat faked a smile at the end to accompany her fake joke.
Nothing could be worse than being denied that first morsel.
"Kat, that's great!" Tony said, putting his fork in his mouth before she could reply. He needn't have rushed.
Tony chewed slowly, swallowed, took a sip of wine. Kat still hadn't said anything. Tony was torn. Should he have another piece of heaven, or should he reach for her hand, show her he meant what he had said.
Kat's hands were still in her lap. He started to break off another piece of chicken.
"Oh bugger." He thought, and reached under the table, finding her knee.
"Kat," he said, giving it a squeeze,
"I mean it."
It broke his heart to see the woman he knew, always so confident, now so puzzled, so confused.
Tony wasn't good at compliments. He still hadn't figured out how he managed to win Kat. Infidelity would never be an option, there was no point in trying. He usually botched up trying to tell Kat when she'd cooked a good meal. It happened so often you'd think he'd worked out a formula by now. But the look on her face, the uncertainty, it told Tony it was time to dig deep.
"Kat, Honey, you've been vacant for months. You hate your job. It annoys you that you know you can do your boss's job, probably better than he can. You've been unfulfilled. You need a challenge. You're far too young and bright to be stuck in this secretary-homemaker rut you're in.
"What are you going to study?"
Slowly but surely Tony drew Kat out. He got her talking about her course, encouraged her. Numbed her self doubt.
They hadn't interacted like this in months. As they left the restaurant and walked home, Tony reached for her hand. It was a beautiful night: clear sky and a radient full moon. Kat didn't know when she stopped noticing the phases of the moon.
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5