The menu is vast, but I know what I feel like trying. Brooke orders a salad which makes me frown.
“It’s a chicken salad,” she says. “With a full-fat dressing too, no doubt,” she adds.
Okay, okay. Not every meal she eats has to be a Trent-sized buffet, but I don’t want her skimping on food just because we’re eating out and I tell her so.
But her face has turned white, holding up the menu to shield herself from something.
“What is it?” I ask, shooing away a waiter who tries to take our order, my own mood shifting suddenly too.
Seeing Brooke so happy and then like this, it’s awful.
“Honey, what is it? Tell me,” I demand, glancing around the restaurant before it all makes perfect sense.
It’s her dad, with what looks like the same woman he hooked up with at the reunion.
They’re oblivious to us, and Mike seems to be in the middle of an animated conversation, putting down his knife and fork to explain something using his hands.
His companion is mesmerized too, in deep by the looks. A large glass of white wine in front of her, only water for Mike.
“We should leave,” Brooke mutters, overlooking the fact we walked straight past them both to get in here.
I want to handle this my way, which is to sit here and enjoy our meal together. It’s a free country, and we have every right to be here as much as they do.
But Brooke’s face says it all.
She looks like she’s about to be sick, so I call the waiter over, and slipping him some money, I ask if we can leave through the kitchen.
“Uh. For fifty bucks I’ll drive you home myself,” he smiles, pocketing the cash and glancing this way and that, he beckons us with a jutting movement of his chin.
Moments later, we’re clear of the restaurant, but Brooke’s still pale, almost shaking.
“Can we just leave?” she stammers. “I mean, can we just go back to your place?”
“Sure,” I agree, not liking it any more than she does, but even less because I know this isn’t how I want Brooke and me to live our life.
It’s a one-off thing. The first day out, give it time.
But Jesus, what are the chances? Of all the people to almost run into.
“We could go someplace else?” I suggest, listening to my belly rumble.
“Trent… Please?” Brooke whines, her teeth almost chattering from nerves by now.
I huddle her close, wrapping my arms around her and kissing the top of her head.
“Of course, let’s get you home,” I tell her.
And so ends our first real outing together. It’s not Brooke’s fault but I’ve got more than one bone to pick with Mike Wheatley now.
First, for thinking I really had anything to do with Naomi leaving him, and second, ruining my lunch date with his daughter who I just claimed as my own.
Come to think of it, I might have things a little back to front on that last point. But still. I’m mad as hell and mostly because I didn’t get to eat when I wanted to.
“It’s alright,” I explain to Brook in the car, knowing how much she can sense my mood, about to suggest we order something in.
“No it isn’t alright, Trent,” she says, her voice cracking with emotion. “I said I would tell my dad. I said I’d deal with him. Truth is, I’m scared to death of him.”
I slow the car, pull over, and take her gently by the shoulders.
“Brooke, what do you mean scared of him?” I ask, feeling my protective instincts starting to boil over again.
But she shakes her head. “Nothing like that, Trent. I’m just so scared I’ll break his heart. We’re like best friends and now…”
I relax my grip on her, putting the car into park and thinking how we can best deal with this.
“It doesn’t all have to happen today, Brooke,” I reason with her.
“You saw your dad, he looks like he’s met someone and he’s having a great time.”
So why can’t we?
I don’t say that but I know she’s thinking it.
“I’ve ruined our day, haven’t I,” she groans, looking like she’s about to cry.
“You haven’t ruined anything, Brooke,” I tell her. “Today’s been the second best day of my life,” I add.
“Second best?” she asks me, looking crestfallen again.
“Yeah. Yesterday was the best day of my life because it was the day I met you.” I pause. “Now, do we still want to go home or can we get something to eat someplace else, on the other side of town?” I ask her, glad when she agrees.
“But only if I can shop some more afterward,” she sniffs, making us both laugh as I pull out into traffic.
“Till you drop,” I promise her, glad to see her smiling. Glad she can pick herself up like that.