The server was very pale, with dark hair and the white shirt, black trousers, and full black apron that all the servers at Le Péché wore. He wasn’t our server— ours was a curly haired blonde, but he tapped me on the shoulder as I was raising a fork of duck confit with vanilla foam to my lips.
“Excuse me madam,” he said discreetly, into my ear, so that even my husband, celebrating with me our tenth anniversary with this ridiculously expensive night out, could not hear. It had been a tempestuous ten years, with ups as high as the stars and downs that took us to fiery depths, and everything in between. It was somewhat of a miracle that we were happily marking our tenth year of survival together. “Would it be terribly inconvenient if we moved your table?” the server asked me.
“What?” I said, “Why?”
In the same low tone, the dark server said, “We’ve had a small complaint. One of our guests does not like having you within their line of sight.”
“What?” I said again, certain I’d misheard, and waved off my husband’s enquiring face and stopped him speaking.
“I’m terribly sorry, madam, but they don’t like the way you look,” said the server. “I assure you we will place you where you will be extremely comfortable.” He nodded towards the corner near the shuttered window, where an intimate table for two, surrounded by tall potted plants, apparently awaited us.
My husband Rob followed the server’s hand and eye, and looked at me with an expression of bewilderment.
“I’m too ugly to sit here,” I told him.
“Madam,” the server said with only the slightest hint of distress. “It is only a matter of ensuring all our guests are comfortable and can enjoy the riches of Le Péché.”
“That is absurd,” said Rob, his voice just loud enough to attract the attention of other discreet diners, at their discreet, comfortable, candle-lit tables.
The server looked around nervously. “Please accept a bottle of champagne, as our guests, when we’ve settled you at your new and very comfortable table.”
I stood up. It was impossible to discern who among the “guests” might have lodged a complaint of this nature, as everyone was a dim, shimmering, discreet shadow. I looked for my friend Matt’s bald pate— he might just pull a stunt like this. No subtle lighting reflected off a shiny head.
Rob told the server we would not be paying, and so the manager appeared, and feigned shock at our situation, before accepting our departure as inevitable and inviting us back for a VIP dining experience.
“At that table?” I asked. “The one in the corner where I would face the wall?”
“Madam,” said the manager, bowing formally. “Our VIP service takes place at a specially set table, in the kitchen, where you have VIP access to all that goes on in a fine kitchen of the highest calibre, and where the chef himself serves each and every course!”
We stormed out.
In the car, as we drove to Wendy’s, I stared at myself in the mirror embedded in the visor. A plain woman with pretty eyelashes and nicely formed brows, stared back at me. “What the fuck,” I said to Rob. “Am I ugly?”
“Darling, don’t be silly,” Rob said. “But hey, that VIP table sounds kind of cool. Should we call them back?”
That’s when I realized there was no such thing as a miracle.
- Original Prompt: Cringe