Flash Fiction – ‘Dinner at La Palma’
Chichi couldn’t concentrate on the Excel report she was working on, she still had an hour till she could log off and head home. She was giddy with excitement and could hardly contain herself, it was her birthday today. Turning 33 wasn’t really a milestone age, but a birthday was a birthday right? Cake, gifts, food, and lots of people telling you how amazing you are. Even if you knew they were lying through their teeth.
All that aside, there was something super special about this birthday, this was the first birthday her boyfriend Jude had actually remembered. Simply put, Jude was horrible with dates. Always has been, probably always will be. They’d been dating for a couple of years and each year he succeeded in forgetting their anniversary and her birthday. But today was different, she could feel it in her bones. Today he’d been the perfect romantic man. It begun with him sending a text message early in the morning informing her that a reservation had been made at La Palma Bar and Grill, and that she needed to be there by 7pm. La Palma was an upscale restaurant in Ikoyi that took pride in it’s secluded, lush surroundings. Nothing said romance more than that.
Her phone buzzed and she quietly slipped away from her desk to take the call.
“Happy Birthday Sweetheart!” Dara screamed into the phone
Dara was Chichi’s cousin and closest ally. They were born a few weeks apart, and had practically grown up together. They took time off each year to travel somewhere exotic. It was on one of their annual holidays they had met Jude and Chris, who were now their boyfriends.
“I’m sorry I’m calling so late in the day. How are you?” Dara asked.
“Oh it’s alright Dara, I’m good! I’m actually glad you called, I can hardly contain myself” Chichi replied.
“Oh really? Spit it out, what’s up?”
“Well it’s not much, but you know Jude’s annoying habit of forgetting important dates?” Chichi began.
“Not as annoying as how you pretend to listen to people when you’ve blanked out, but yes I do, keep going” Dara countered.
“I’m being serious Dara, listen, he remembered my birthday today. He’s made a reservation for us at La Palma this evening.”
“Oh wow! That’s posh”
“That’s not all, he sent me a bouquet of roses. Jude actually made the romantic gesture of sending me roses at work. I mean I’m excited and shocked all at once!”
“Oh my goodness Chichi, that’s so beautiful. Are we talking about the same guy who got you a laptop case as a Valentine’s present last year?”
“Exactly! It’s so surreal. The note on the card simply says – ‘To the girl of my dreams’. Dara I’m so moved I want to cry, Jude has never been this romantic. I’m so stunned I don’t know what to say to him.”
“Well, all I can say is I’m mighty impressed with this new version of Jude! Chichi, please make sure you look stunning for dinner. I have a strong feeling this will be a night you’ll never forget. ”
Chichi heard footsteps approaching and quickly wrapped up the call. She took a deep breath and walked back to her desk. The dozen red roses still sat looking gorgeous on her desk. They stood out from the rest of the bland office decor. Dara had said the words she had been thinking all morning, she had wanted someone to verify that she wasn’t over thinking things. She checked the time and saw she had 10 minutes to go. Chichi was determined to get to La Palma on time tonight because it was going to be a night to remember. Jude would finally pop the question.
The outdoor terrace of La Palma was dotted with evening diners enjoying the cool Lagos breeze. The smell of spicy, grilled beef and fish filled the air while the live band played soulful, West African music.
Chris picked up the little black box and tossed it from palm to palm as Jude watched him silently. Jude couldn’t believe it was finally happening. They’d been best friends since they bumped into each other at basketball practise in high school, and now 20 years down the line Chris was taking the bold step to propose to the girl of his dreams. They’d always had each others backs so Jude wasn’t surprised when Chris enlisted his help in planning the proposal.
“Are you nervous?” Jude asked.
Chris stopped tossing the box and turned.
“Heck yes” He said with a chuckle “It’s almost show time and she’ll be arriving any minute from now”
“I figured as much with all your fidgeting. You’re doing the right thing, Chris. Dara is an amazing woman and you’re perfect for each other.”
“I just hope everything goes according to the plan. She sounded suspicious when I called to ask her to grab drinks with me here, but I don’t think she suspects I’ll be proposing.” Chris replied. “I’ve also spoken with the live band and they confirmed their cue. Once dessert appears, they begin playing her favourite love song. By the way, does Chichi have the roses yet? She remembers her cue and all?” Chris asked.
“Yes sure, I sent her a reminder of the place and time. I also got an alert that the roses had been delivered. I ran the entire plan by her last week and she was cool with it. Dara’s sister will walk up to your table with her bunch of roses, then Chichi will do the same with hers, at which point you’ll kneel down and pop the question.” Jude answered.
Jude had noticed that Chichi hadn’t been particularly ecstatic when she heard about the proposal, she kept agreeing to everything like she was on autopilot and only gave a bland “I’m happy for her” before returning to her phone. It was obvious she was in shock and probably even slightly jealous that Dara was the one getting a proposal, as she and Jude began dating first. He felt bad about it and tried not to bring it up again all week, only sending the text reminders to give her an opportunity to pull out if she wanted to.
It wasn’t like he didn’t want to commit to a lifetime with her, he just needed more time to prepare himself. Proposing just made everything so final. It was like putting the last nail in a coffin.
“I’m glad she’s okay with it happening on her birthday though” Chris said.
Jude’s head snapped up.
“What’s the date today?” he asked quietly.
Chris stared at him in unbelief.
“Please don’t tell me you forgot her birthday… again”
“Oh no, no, no, no” Jude began repeating as he stood up quickly.
It was 6:55 pm, not much time time to salvage the birthday with a present or surprise of any sort. No wonder she wasn’t excited about the proposal. It all made sense now.
“Chris, what should I do? Help me out here, bro”
But Chris was staring at his phone, he had just received a text from Dara.
“I know Jude’s proposing to Chichi tonight. You tried to hide it from me cheeky monkey! But I figured it out! I’ll be there in a second. PS: I brought champagne as well. Love ya!! xxx”
“Well, I guess there’s only one thing you can do Jude,” Chris said with a smile as he placed the little black box in Jude’s hand.