The clue was in the pudding. Unfortunately, I had ordered the apple strudel. How the hell was I supposed to know it was in the pudding?
Clarice glared at me through her ringlets from across the table. Even after all our years together, she still wore the same glittery, golden eye shadow. The sharp look could only have meant one thing: she couldn’t believe I would have screwed up something as simple as ordering the correct dessert. But again, how was I supposed to have known?
The waitress gently placed the apple strudel on the table between us and glided away to refresh someone’s drink. As my eyes followed her through the room, I was reminded of when Clarice used to serve tables at this restaurant.
Glancing over at Clarice I was brought back to the present day much faster than I had expected. It had been ten years since I met Clarice during my first meal at Le Petit Tableau. She still wears the glittery eye shadow, but almost everything else had changed about her appearance. As my mind rambled on about her changes, Clarice jumped up, shrieked and jerked her glass so sharply her champagne flew out, across me and onto the floor. Her body crumpled like a broken marionette. Astonished, I looked up at her wondering what had upset her.
But, she merely slumped over as her glass gently rolled away from her limp fingers and shattered onto the glistening hardwood floor. Blood streamed down her forehead, across her nose and onto her dimpled chin. I looked around, stunned, confused, and in shock. I didn’t hear a gun shot. I didn’t see anyone coming near us. A waitress screamed from across the room as someone shoved her out of the kitchen door, ran past her and out the front door, into the clamorous street.
I jumped up, threw my napkin onto the floor, ran after the stranger, and stood blinking, outside the restaurant door, trying to adjust my eyes to the blaring summer sun in Houston, Texas. He was gone. My heart was racing, I started seeing more clearly, and tried to focus on hearing sirens. Shouldn’t there be sirens? Why hasn’t anyone called for the police or an ambulance?
I ran back inside, grabbed Clarice’s arm and jumped backwards as she yelled at me in alarm. I looked around stunned. Clarice had sat back up, as if nothing had happening, and was calmly eating her dinner. Her glass of champagne, was filled and neatly sat on the table. I grabbed her warm face and looked for any signs of blood. She hastily removed my hands and demanded to know what I was doing.
The restaurant had gone silent and I could feel everyone’s eyes searching me for an explanation. The wait staff continued upon their mind numbing rounds from one customer to another. The silence jarred me out of my trance. I seemed to be the only person out of place, or maybe out of sync. I apologized to Clarice, picked-up my napkin from the floor and took my seat.
As I glanced back at Clarice, I noticed she was wearing her favorite purple dress instead of the red one we arrived in. I commenced to eat my dessert in silence and realized the strudel had changed into a thick slice of chocolate cake. Thoroughly confused, I continued to stealthily look, at each person in the room.
Hope you enjoyed chapter 1.
~ Anna Campbell