Matt followed the hostess to the sushi bar and took a seat near the corner. He nodded to the itamae and asked what the chef recommended. After making his selections, Matt settled back in his chair to survey his surroundings.
The restaurant was fairly busy. He noticed a family with two children chattering animatedly as their young parents smiled attentively trying to follow the conversation. At another table, a couple spoke in hushed tones, the air of intimacy unmistakable. Matt’s celebratory mood began to dissipate as the all too familiar veil of loneliness made its presence known.
Just then the cute young hostess appeared, asking what he might like to drink. His spirits lifted again and Matt ordered a beer, quickly suppressing any feelings of self pity.
“Dude, don’t do this,” he reminded himself. “This is your day.”
Smiling sheepishly to himself, he returned his attention to the sushi bar just as his food was presented. He couldn’t wait to dig in and dipped his nigiri in the small bowl of soy sauce. Tipping his head back, he placed an entire piece of fish and rice on his tongue in traditional Japanese fashion. It was every bit as delicious as he had anticipated and he nodded at the itamae in approval. The jubilance he experienced earlier in the day returned and he allowed it to take hold.
Conversations overlapped one another at the sushi bar. A couple of business men to Matt’s right were engrossed in a serious discussion. To his left was a group of three women, dressed casually but stylish. A few shopping bags littered the floor near their feet. The three laughed and finished each others sentences in the way only longtime friends are able. He estimated them to be near his age.
He hadn’t realized he was staring until the one with the strawberry-blond hair caught his eye and smiled in his direction. She had her elbows resting on the bar, her hands clasped together under her chin. She appeared to be listening as one of her girlfriends described in mock-painful detail the difficulties of trying to keep romance alive in her marriage with a two and a four year old in the house. Matt, himself was trying not to be obvious while he followed the woman’s comedic story but hadn’t realized he had been noticed until the moment the pretty woman’s eyes met with his own. Her head was tipped slightly to her right and he couldn’t help feel that she was teasing him with her gaze. Feeling his face grow red, Matt returned his attention to his food but couldn’t seem to erase the smile from his face.
It felt good, being noticed in such a positive way. As Matt enjoyed his meal, he wondered what more he could ask for. First, there was his huge success in the Kendo ceremony that morning, then being able to share his elation with his best friend, Terri. Now he found himself on the receiving end of an attractive woman’s attention, even if it was only for a moment. Yes, it had been a very good day. He enjoyed the rest of his meal and allowed a sense of contentment to engulf him.
Raising his beer glass to his lips, Matt chanced another glimpse at the pretty woman who had raised his curiosity. The one who had been entertaining her friends with her tales of foiled romance was still at it and the others were laughing freely. Feeling brave, Matt allowed himself to study the one who had caught his attention. She had shoulder length hair, brushed off to one side and she unconsciously swept it from her face periodically as she interacted with her friends. She had beautiful, hazel eyes and long dark lashes and Matt felt warmed by her smile and laughter.
Suddenly, as if she could feel the weight of Matt’s stare, her gaze once again met with his. She hadn’t turned her head and her friends didn’t notice. It was only her eyes that remained unabashedly focused on his. The lively conversation continued without interruption. But her full attention was on Matt. Feeling encouraged by her boldness, Matt refused to allow his eyes to break away. A wide smile engulfed his face as he raised his glass ever so slightly toward her and drank the last of his beer. The woman’s friends were oblivious to the exchange as Matt excused himself from the sushi bar and prepared to leave. Glancing over his shoulder as he headed for the exit, he saw the woman’s eyes still following him and a flirty half-smile on her face.