Chapter 4 – Discovery
Cecil waited patiently at the restaurant glancing at his watch periodically. He was both happy and unhappy to be there. It was a welcome break from his self-centred life and the daily rituals he’d constructed over the years. He was thirty-five and it was hard to venture out of his comfort zone. He couldn’t figure out why Dr Haq had insisted on finding her own way to the restaurant. It made him feel slighted.
When she finally appeared; Beth had instructed her a woman should always be late for a date, Cecil gasped in surprise. This was not Dr Maria Haq, this was an exotic creation. Her olive skin blended in with the attractive black dress chosen by Beth, and a pearl necklace shone in contrast. He felt under dressed by comparison.
The Lebanese family hovering around to take the order stood gaping. They knew her family and had heard of the rift between them and their daughter and knew she was practicing medicine. Was this the same woman though? She exuded confidence as she strode to the table and extended her hand to a mesmerized Cecil. Cecil rushed to pull the chair and seat her then sat opposite.
Cecil couldn’t help it he blurted out, “You look beautiful Dr Haq.”
The doctor blushed, “Call me Maria!” She turned to the waiting Lebanese family and in rapid fire Arabic gave them the order.
“I hope you don’t mind me ordering Cecil but guessed you probably wouldn’t know what to ask for and to tell you the truth I’ve been dreaming about a trip to this restaurant for a long time. Thank you for making it possible. I haven’t been here since my teen age years”
Cecil was puzzled, “Why couldn’t you come here before this evening?”
Maria Haq sighed. “You wouldn’t understand! Let’s talk about your work. What exactly do you do and what was the purpose of inviting me out on a date when you knew the rules. You know, the doctor patient thing.” She chuckled.
Cecil began to relax but couldn’t take his eyes off this beautiful woman opposite him.
“Well I work with corporate clients. We do audits, we offer advice on tax and investments and even get into fringe legal issues on their behalf. I worked my way up to senior management over the years and I suppose I like my work.”
“Tell me about your childhood.” Maria looked appreciatively around the familiar Lebanese décor. She was making small talk while she waited for the feast to follow.
Cecil froze. His childhood! He sat unhappily thinking about how he’d answer her question.
Maria became Dr Haq as she sensed his distress. She turned slowly and studied the man across the table. “I’m sorry, I had no right to ask that question.”
Cecil made a decision. It was time for him to trust someone with his story. After all she was a doctor and this would probably be their only meeting together. He sat upright and regained his composure, then in a matter of fact manner he described his childhood and youth. Watching to see her reaction.
At that moment the food arrived accompanied by rapid fire Arabic and waving of hands. The husband and wife owners hovered over the two of them watching hopefully as they sampled each dish. Cecil and Maria discussed the food and childhood memories faded as they ate together.
But Maria had been thinking while eating and talking while the owners chatted constantly in the background. She took her napkin and delicately wiped her lips, then addressed Cecil. “They’ve been quizzing me about my family and work and are interested in how you are enjoying their food.?”
“It’s the best food I’ve ever eaten!” Cecil responded with enthusiasm.
Maria continued to study Cecil. Professionally she looked at Dr Smith’s work with appreciation, then to her surprise she looked beyond to the man. She liked him! While their background was obviously very different there were elements that were the same. She had to fight to get where she was in life and so did he. They had much in common.
At the end of the meal Cecil asked for the bill which he studied with surprise. Maria detected that surprise and spoke. “Is it too much?”
“No, on the contrary its extremely reasonable, I’m going to leave them a big tip!”
“Don’t be too generous, they’ll double the bill next time you bring me here!” Maria watched for his reaction.
Cecil let that sink in, did she really mean to say that? Then he smiled and looked at her for confirmation.
“Dr Maria Haq, can I have the pleasure of your company at this restaurant tomorrow evening, and the next, and the next?”
“I think I’d like a bit more variety Cecil if that’s OK with you, and I do have other evening engagements from time to time, but whenever you’re free and I’m free I’d very much like to have your company.”
“Now, there’s more of the night to deal with and there are places I’ve never been but would like to. Can you handle a late night?”
Cecil jumped happily to his feet and pulled back her chair to help her up. The owners were busy counting out the wad of notes left on the table and waved in happy recognition of the tip.
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