The maître d’ looked up from his clipboard and called to the crowd gathered along the sidewalk, "Jack? Party of two? Your table is ready."
The waitress showed them to their outdoor table, leaving menus and promising to return shortly to take their order. It was a beautiful day, and well worth the half-hour wait for the table with its view of the park.
Even after the couple had been seated, they were both visibly tense. The couple had only been dating for a little over a month and there were still those awkward, uncomfortable breaks in their conversation when they were alone.
They were still smiling and talking softly, when the young girl walked awkwardly up to the table. The first thing they noticed was that the girl was very pregnant--she was obviously due in the next week or two.
"Jack?" the girl asked. "What is this?" From the anguished look on her face, she was obviously hurt. Her voice was both angry and pleading. "Who is she?" she asked, pointing to the seated woman.
The young woman sitting across the table looked first at the young girl, then back at Jack. With wide eyes, she asked, "Do you know her?"
Jack had not moved since the young girl had walked up to the table, his pale face seemed drained of blood as he began to stammer. "I...I..I d-don't know..." he began.
"Jack!" the pregnant girl wailed. "I've been calling you for weeks! I've left word at work, I've left messages on your machine. Why won't you answer my emails? You've been avoiding me ever since you found out we were going to have a baby! I love you!"
By now, the young girl was crying profusely. As the tears ran down her face, Jack just sat there slowly shaking his head.
On the other side of the table, the young woman leaned forward, pointing at the man's ashen face. "She obviously knows you, Jack. Who is she?"
"But I've never seen her before...," Jack began.
The pregnant woman interrupted, practically screaming, "Jack! You are the father of our child!"
Conversation had all but stopped in the restaurant. At every table, people strained to listen to the drama, while trying, unsuccessfully, to appear as if they weren't listening. No one looked at the three people at the central table, but heads were tilted carefully to catch every word.
By now, both women at the table were crying. The young woman jumped up and ran from the table, out onto the sidewalk and down the street, only a few feet ahead of Jack as he ran after her.
The young girl carefully lowered herself into a chair at the table, and buried her face into a cloth napkin. The waitress came up and placed a comforting hand on the girl's arm. "Would you like a glass of water?" she asked.
The young pregnant girl just nodded her head as she continued to sob into the napkin.
By the time the young man arrived, the young girl was more composed and was repairing her makeup as the young man carefully moved through the crowded chairs to her table.
"Been waiting long?" he asked as he leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"No," the young girl smiled as she answered. "I just got here."
As he sat down, he glanced toward the long line of patrons waiting for a table. Turning back to his girlfriend he asked, "Then how did you get the table so quick?"
"Silly! People always give a table to a pregnant woman!"