The tinkling of silverware on plates and the murmur of conversation filled the air in the Proud Vaults, a very spacious, moderately upscale restaurant. Lots of high balconies in white with lush green ferns arched overhead, and skylights let in the sun at 3pm on a bright Thursday afternoon.
"This is really nice," said Terrence Michalik, flapping his linen napkin once before tucking it on his lap.
The woman across from him, Kitty Lassalle, nodded enthusiastically. "I used to come here all the time, when Pete worked in the kitchen. It was great: he'd make 'mistakes' and have someone box it up and cart it out to me." She knocked back a large mouthful of red wine. "That's how I got my love of chicken alfredo, as my thighs show." She laughed.
Terrence smirked. "No, no! You look great, Kitty. How long's it been since we hung out?"
She rolled her eyes in recollection. "Two years... two and a half. I dated Pete for just under two years."
"You're not with him now?"
"Nah, ditched him. It was a good two years of getting high and playing Nintendo, but I grew out of it." She shrugged and studied a couple at the table beside theirs. "I hear you're still with that woman..?"
"Yeah, Phoebe. You introduced us at that office luncheon back in '13, when you were working at that law firm−"
"Castillo, Schneider & Schwartz. They were kind enough to wait until after the holiday season to fire me, I guess." One crimson lacquered fingernail ran along the stem of her wine glass. "I really sound like a winner, huh? Fired from a second-rate law firm, dated that idiot stoner for two years." She looked up at her friend. "It all went downhill when I dumped you, didn't it?"
He cleared his throat. "It sounds like a rocky streak, but look at you now. You're doing great, working at that fashion store you always used to lust after. You've taken care of yourself. Never stopped working out?"
Kitty stretched out her legs to the side, wrapped in tight jeans, as though admiring them for the first time. "No matter what. I always worked out, no matter what else was going on in my life. Can't believe I stayed with stupid Pete Leehy so long! Just sitting on his ass, bag after bag of nachos... man, I wish I could go back and do some things over." She looked up at him and blushed a little. "So, how's you and, uh..."
"Phoebe. She was your friend back then," he said with a little firmness in his voice.
"Phoebe, right. I dunno, lost touch with her, guess I forgot about her. How're you two doing?"
He showed her a basic, unadorned ring in white gold. "We're engaged, for one."
Kitty choked on her ice water and mopped up her face with a pistacchio-green napkin. "Well, congratulations, Terry! Really, I'm happy for you. That's what you want?"
He smiled but looked down at his plate, avoiding her eyes. "It's what I've always wanted. You knew that."
She tried to laugh the tension off. "Yeah, well, sorry you caught me in my wild-child phase. But do you ever−" A waiter rushed up with a refresher of breadsticks and two salads. Terrence tried to eye the food appreciatively while Kitty gave the interrupting staff a hairy eyeball. "Terry!"
"Yeah?" His knife kept smearing butter-product down the length of a breadstick.
"Do you ever think about us, about what we used to be like?"
"Well, sure. I think about the past." He laughed a little. "But that's what it is: the past."
Kitty bit her lip and ran her fingernail around the rim of her wine glass. It was her second, and she never had been a heavyweight drinker. "I think about us a lot, Terry. I think we were good together."
He looked up, no smile on his face. "Until you dumped me because I wasn't enough of a bad-ass, you mean. I don't want to get into this, Kitty, let's just have a nice lunch."
If she heard him, she ignored that. "I loved what you could do with your hands. Pete had weak hands and he lost interest way too soon. Do you still give massages?"
This got a long sigh from him. "Only to my fiancee, not that it's your business. How's your salad?"
"Fuck my salad, Terry. I miss you. Tell me you miss me."
He tried to rebuke her but the words choked in his throat. All she got was the start of an angry expression, then a slack jaw, and then he returned to his breadstick.
"There's no shame in missing me, you know, Terry." She grinned, bright teeth gleaming between her red lips. "I—this'll sound silly—I kept myself in shape for you. That's what I told myself. Every time I went to the gym, even in winter: 'This is for Terry. Gotta look good for Terry.' Silly, right?" She rubbed her shoe against the side of his leg, and he didn't pull back soon enough.
"Kitty, seriously, knock it off."
"Tell me you don't want this, Terry." She leaned back in her chair to knock back the rest of her wine, proudly showing off her round, firm breasts. They weren't large but they were perfectly shaped and stood out beneath her sweater-blouse. "Remember my nipples? You used to−"
"For fuck's sake, Kitty!" His iron chair scraped against the tile floor and he tossed his napkin onto the seat of his chair. "I'll be back. I gotta... I'll be back." The angry clopping of his leather shoes was lost in the ambience of the restaurant.
Kitty sat up and watched him go, a deep frown forming on her face. Some of the other patrons watched Terrence storm off, then looked back at her with delighted grins, tremendously entertained. She flipped them off and sulked over her empty wine glass for as long as it took an attentive waiter to zip over and offer her third drink.
Halfway through it, she looked up and saw Terrence wasn't returning yet. He had to come back, his jacket with his iPhone and wallet was hanging on his chair. Glancing around the room, she noted that all attention had drifted from their little drama. She leaned in her chair and tugged her large purse out from under her chair.
"Better be worth it, dammit," she muttered, simultaneously fishing around for something in her purse with one hand and tugging her ex-boyfriend's salad in front of her with the other. "For $35,000, you better be worth it," she told the little blue bottle, freshly retrieved, "and you better be worth it," she told Terrence's salad, over which she sprinkled three or four drops from the bottle. She'd gotten it capped and hidden again before Terrence returned from the restroom. He found her well into her third glass and sighed.
"Is it going to be like that, Kitty?" he asked, seating himself. "Because if it is, I'll just leave you with some cash, and don't bother calling me again."
"Come on, I'm sorry, Terry," she slurred. "I know you'n Phoebe are a thi-i-i-i-ing."
Absently he pulled his salad back from where Kitty sat and dug in. "Look, of course I miss you. Do I think about you? Yes, sometimes. Were we good?" He looked up at her, sucking in a leaf of arugula. "In many ways, you were fantastic. Happy? I miss our sex." He broke her gaze and returned to his salad. "But that was a very long time ago. You hurt me, I've picked up the pieces, and I'm moving on. It's high time you did the same."
She made acknowledgment noises but watched him carefully, as he was careful not to look up at her.
"You've got a lot going for you now, Kitty. You're not that thrill-seeker you were back then. You've kept in shape, you've got a job you love, you booted that stoner out your life." The side of his fork broke up a large clump of bleu cheese, half of which he pushed onto a slice of chicken. "I'm sure things are turning around for you. You'll find someone awesome, I'm sure."
Then the fork slipped out of his hand. He swore and looked at it, and then he slipped beneath the table's edge. Kitty's eyes widened: before her gaze, Terrence's body started to reduce, diminish... shrink. Normally 6'2", he reduced to the size of a large child before his little head went down beyond the tablecloth.
Laughing, Kitty leaped out of her chair and rounded the table. There was a pile of Terrence's clothes and, amid them, a tiny little Terrence. He was stark naked and staring up at her, his tiny brown eyes blinking.
"Well, what do you know," she said, slipping his jacket off the chair and scooping up his clothes. "It was a reasonable investment after all." She chuckled as she stuffed his garments into the oversized purse she brought for this occasion. "Oh, Terry, I told myself before I came here that I was going to have you no matter what. I just wish it−"
When she returned to his chair, where she left him, she caught a glimpse of his tiny naked butt flinging itself over the opposite side of his chair. A customer had been walking by, a young woman in boots and fishnet, and Terrence sailed briefly through the air to clutch the top of her shirred leather boot. In two easy strides, the woman was past the table and heading out the door, with Kitty's minuscule ex-boyfriend hanging onto the top of her boot for dear life.
"Fuck!" said Kitty.