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  • Writer's pictureJay F. Servedio

The Birthday Dinner

Rachel wasn’t ecstatic about Egidio’s for dinner, being that her and Cole go there often, but she appreciated the gesture from her soon-to-be husband. Cole on the other hand, thought there wasn’t a place with better food for miles and was ready to dig into some Chicken Amalfi with his bride-to-be. Twenty-nine: that’s how many years Rachel had spent on this earth, the last six being with Cole, with the last year and a half engaged to him. They got to the front door of the Italian steakhouse, and she forced a smile to match Cole’s. He opened the door for her, planted a kiss on her cheek as she walked by him, and her smile started to shift into a genuine one.

Tonight, could be a nice night, she thought to herself.

The pair walked up to the hostess station, and met eyes with Sam, the hostess who’s white name tag blended in rather well with the eggshell colored dress she had on. She met them with a smile.

“Hi…Sam” said Cole.

“Hi! Welcome to Egidio’s. Do you have a reservation?”

“Yes, it’s Ruspino, party of four.” Rachel’s eyes grew wide after hearing that. She looked to Cole.

“Four?” Cole’s smile grew a bit bigger.

“Surprise.” Rachel tried to conceal a frown. This was supposed to be a romantic evening between the two of them. Who else could he have invited? But then she recalled something her mother mentioned over the phone a few weeks prior: her parents wanted to come visit for her birthday. Rachel didn’t really think it was practical, or probable. Who flies from LA to Charlotte on a whim? Would Cole really take the time to pull something like this off? With her hopes slightly lifted she came back to reality.

“Great,” said Sam with the realest smiles of the night so far. “The rest of the party is already at the table, so you guys can follow me.” She picked up two menus and started off into the restaurant. Cole took Rachel by the hand, shot another smile her way, and the two followed the hostess.

The dining space was obnoxiously well lit. In the past, Cole had called it ambiance; Rachel called it a “piss-poor idea.” If it was brought up to her, Sam would’ve agreed with Rachel, but since it wasn’t, she just led the couple in silence. Rachel kept her eyes peeled for her parents, but the further back they walked, the less confident she was that they were there. Cole tried to conceal his excitement but failed to do so.

“I think you’re gonna freak out when you see who’s here.” That gave Rachel a little bit of hope… hope that was ripped away from her when she saw Mike, Cole’s college roommate, and his girlfriend, Faith seated at a table for four and waiving like a couple of ostriches attempting to fly. Of all the people in the world, why did it have to be two of the people she hated most. Cole ran past Sam to “dap up his boy.”

“What is UP, Broseph Stalin?” Mike said to Cole.

“Nothin’ much, sexy man, how the fuck you been?” Rachel found her counterfeit smile and threw it on just in time to hear Faith say-

“OH MY GOD, HELLO GORGEOUS GIRLY, HOW. ARE. YOU?!” she took Rachel by the hands and jumped up and down. Rachel used every ounce of restraint in her body to not bury this woman. It immediately became clear how little effort was put into the planning of this birthday dinner.

The hoopla lasted for another minute or so before the two couples took their seats and got the chance to order drinks. Moscow mules for the men, a cosmo for Faith, and gin on ice for Rachel. It was gonna be that kind of night. She did more listening than talking for about thirty minutes. Not by choice, but by designation. One Gin became three and the orders were taken for entrees. Rachel ordered ribeye. Not because she wanted it, but because Cole suggested she get it so they would be able to split that and his chicken Amalfi. She hated chicken Amalfi.

While she was talked at, she began to think: This was how the last three birthdays had gone. Three years ago, was when the effort came to a halt on Cole’s part. Three years of mediocre birthdays, mediocre sex, mediocre dates, and a mediocre memories.

Try saying that five times fast, she thought to herself.

“Hey babe,” she came to. “Do you want your present?” Material things never really mattered to her: she always loved giving gifts more than getting them, especially if the ones she was getting had no thought behind them. But for all his faults, Cole had always been a rather thoughtful gift giver… at least that’s what she told herself. There was always a reason behind why he got her what he got her. A cute, stupid reason, like when he got her the FUNKO POP figurine of Nathan Fillion from Firefly, even though she’d never seen the show, because like Nathan’s character, he thought she too would soar to great heights in life. She always appreciated the intention. She saw a potential silver lining.

“I’d love to.” She said with a smile and slurred speech. Cole went into his jacket pocket and pulled out a box the size of a phone. The grin on his face was one of pride and joy. There was a warmth in his eyes that made her think of the better days they’ve had together. Cole handed her the box.

“Open it up.” She looked down at it. There wasn’t any wrapping paper. But there were words: ACAPULCO GIFTS. Cole and Mike had gone on a “work trip” to Mexico. He wouldn’t have just gotten something on a whim there, would he?

She opened the box and inside was about the last thing she would’ve ever expected: a shark tooth necklace. Her brain stopped working for a second.

Cole heard the aww’s and how sweet’s from the other side of the table. He knew he had done a great job.

Rachel said nothing.

Cole was surprised by how much Rachel must’ve loved the necklace. She was speechless!

Rachel had gotten him the leather Tom Ford jacket he was wearing right now, for HIS birthday. That jacket cost her a paycheck. She knew he wanted it because he wouldn’t shut up about it.

Cole knew he had outdone himself this year.

Rachel knew Cole wasn’t going through any financial trouble. Not only did they live together, but she did his taxes. He was bringing in at least a-hundred-and-five-thousand dollars a year.

Rachel’s eye twitched. She looked to Cole. He still had that smug grin on his face.

Mike began to take mental notes. He wanted to become the kind of man for Faith that Cole was for Rache’. He had an iron will for putting up with a chick as kookoo as her.

Rachel’ stayed silent as her eye twitched again.

Now Mike and Faith were uncomfortable.

“Hunny?” Cole could see something was wrong. Did she have too much to drink again? Maybe it was her period?

Rachel had obtained a new perspective in that moment: She had taken him on vacation for birthdays. To other countries. She’d missed work to take care of him when he had gotten sick, on multiple occasions. She tried anal sex with this cockalorum because “he wanted to know what the difference was.” And she got nothing in return.

“Sorry about the wait folks, who ordered the lamb?” The food was there. Faith raised a hand and her plate was brought over. Then came Mike’s. Then Cole’s stupid chicken Amalfi. Last came her steak… and steak knife. Serrated. Sharp. MADE IN TOLEDO, SPAIN engraved in the side of it… the thing could probably cut through bone.

“Try on the necklace before you take a bite, babe.” Cole was hoping he hadn’t upset her. Maybe the laptop she wanted would’ve been a better-

Cole never got to finish thinking that thought to himself because the next thing he knew, Rachel had plunged the sharp Spanish blade into his throat. Blood shot out instantly. Mike and Faith jumped back, their screams filled the restaurant. Rachel twisted the knife to the right then ripped it out of Cole’s jugular. It flowed like a red river, waves of blood pounded on Faith’s face and dress as she stood in shock. Rachel didn’t care. She dropped the knife on the table and walked out just as people started to notice noticed.

“Good Heavens!” a man screamed from a few tables over. Cole dropped to the floor as the blood still poured. Faith fainted. Mike looked on in horror as his friend bled out. Sam called nine-one-one. People panicked and screamed and ran and cried for a good three minutes

Rachel walked back into the restaurant, walked over to the corpse of her fiancé, went into his jacket, and pulled out the keys to his Mercedes.

“Sorry about the mess,” she said as she walked out.

She got into the car, still rather buzzed from the Gin.

She was just going to drive as far and fast as she could.

She’d figure it out.

Go somewhere new.

Start over again.

That’s what she told herself as she pulled out of the parking lot, blew past the stop sign, and drove right in front of an oncoming semi-truck.

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