It was during the summer and I was working as a waitress at a swanky restaurant. The first time he came I noticed him the moment he walked in. He didn’t notice me as he made his way over to the table where a group of people were already seated. I finished serving at the table I was at before I made my over to them.
One of the women smiled and said to me in English, “Everyone is here now so you can take our orders.”
“Yes.” I took them orders and when it was his turn, I glanced up at him, my heart lurching as our eyes met. Now he knows I exist. He looked very sophisticated in the charcoal grey suit, light grey shirt and matching tie. His hair was combed back adding to his elegance. A quick glance at his hand told me that he wasn’t married. He spoke in a soft, cultured and deep voice. There was a few beautiful women at the table, one of them Asian. I wondered if one of them was his girlfriend. I hoped not although it wouldn’t have made a difference if he were single. He wouldn’t be interested even though he was South African like me. He was Asian and I was Black.
After I finished taking the orders, I left. When I returned with their drinks, I tried not to look at him immediately. I set each drink down as the conversation flowed, mingling with laughter. I noticed the Asian woman looking at him and after I set her drink down, I looked to see if he was looking at her too and was startled to find him looking at me. I took care setting his glass down. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by spilling the drink. “Dankie,” he said with a smile.
I smiled back. “Jy is welkom,” was my breathless reply.
On my left, I heard the Asian woman remark, “Zhège nǚhái duì nǐ tài yǒushànle” and she gave me a nasty look. I don’t think she approved of our little exchange. I left. When I brought their orders, I saw her glare at me. As I set her plate down in front of her, I said, “Qǐng xiǎngyòng” and was pleased to see the shocked expression on her face.
He looked amused. After I put his plate in front of him, he thanked me again but this time in Mandarin.
“Bié kèqì,” I said before I went away.
I was sorry when the woman who spoke in English asked for the bill. I hated to see him go. Hopefully he will come again–alone. I took the bill and they all said goodbye to me and thanked me for my service, except the Asian woman who avoided looking at me. As he walked by me, our eyes met and held for several minutes and then he was gone. The rest of the afternoon dragged.
I thought about him for the rest of that day and all of today. I kept hoping that I would see him again. And I did. He came several times–sometimes with a group and other times with a White woman.
I was so disappointed when I saw him with her. From her accent, I could tell that she was French. She was an older woman, probably in her mid to late forties, elegant and beautiful. I could tell that she liked him. Did he like her too? Perhaps, he did which was why he brought her here for lunch on more than one occasion. Perhaps he had dumped the Asian woman for this one. This woman was much nicer and friendlier than the Asian woman but still, I wish he wasn’t with her. I think I hid my disappointment very well. I was very professional when I served them. I was pleasant. Several times, I caught him staring at me but I just smiled and did my job. I wished he wouldn’t bring her there. It was so hard seeing them together.
One afternoon after my shift was over, I stood outside of the restaurant, debating whether to go straight home or go for a walk along the waterfront. I heard someone say, “Nǐ hǎo” and I turned, my heart skipping a beat when I saw that it was him.
“Nǐ hǎo.” He was casually dressed, wearing a white shirt over a white tee shirt and grey pants. I tried not to stare and acted nonchalant.
“I was hoping to catch you before you left,” he said.
“You caught me just in time.” I was floored that he came here specifically to see me.
“What’s your name?”
“Adaliya. What’s yours?”
“Liang. Are you on your way home?”
“I was thinking of going for a walk along the waterfront before heading home.”
“May I join you?”
“Sure.” I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. I felt as if I were dreaming.
We walked silently for a few minutes and then he asked me in Afrikaans, “How long have you been working at the restaurant?”
“This is my first summer working there. I’m starting my first year in university in September.”
“Are you nervous about starting university?”
“A little but I’m very excited about it.”
“Which university is it?”
“University of Cape Town.”
“What are you going to study?”
“You’ll like UCT. I attended it eight years ago.”
“What did you study?”
“Actuarial Science because I actually like it and there is a high demand in South Africa for people with actuarial skills. I’m working for a law firm.”
“The woman I see you with some times at the restaurant, does she work at your firm too?” I felt I was being nosy but I wanted to find out who she was and what sort of relationship they had.
“No. Her son and I attended UCT together. He died a couple of years ago. She and I kept in touch and whenever she comes to Cape Town we have lunch. She’s a very nice woman. Her family doesn’t approve of her friendship with me, though.”
“So, it’s just friendship?”
“What about the other woman, the one who didn’t appreciate my friendliness toward you?”
“She worked at my firm but she quit a week ago.”
“Oh.” I wanted to know if he had a girlfriend.
“I’m not dating anyone,” he said as if he had read my thoughts. “What about you?”
I shook my head. “I’m not dating anyone either.”
“Would your family have a problem with you dating me?”
“No. Would yours?”
“I don’t think so.” He stopped and faced me. “You know the first time I saw you, I wanted to ask you out but I wasn’t sure that you would be interested.”
“I never thought that you would be interested in me.”
“Mrs. Boucher encouraged me to come and see you. She could tell that I was interested in you and she was under the impression that you were interested in me too.”
“She–she was right. I’m glad you followed her advice and came to the restaurant this evening to see me.”
“So am I.” He looked past me and suggested, “Why don’t we have something to eat here?”
I turned and saw that it was the Karibu Restaurant. I have passed it many times and always wondered what it was like. Here was my opportunity. “Sure.”
I followed him inside. He asked for a table outside since it was such a lovely evening. Most of the diners there were tourists. He had Bobotie and I had the Peanut & Honey Sesame Chicken. For dessert, we both had Koeksisters served with ice-cream. We talked and talked. He gave me lift home and on the way, we made plans for a second date.
Last night, Liang asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes. The big day is set for the Saturday after I graduate from UCT which is a month from now. I’m beside myself with excitement. The restaurant where I met him is catering our wedding. After my first summer job with them, I worked other summers there. They are like family to me. Since my father died years ago, Mr. Dlamini, the restaurant owner will give me away.
Tonight, Liang and I are having dinner with his parents and mine. I have no doubt that it’s going to be another very pleasant evening. Liang’s parents warmly accepted me when he introduced me to them a month after we started dating. And my parents welcomed him with open arms when I took him to dinner at my mother’s request. Our honeymoon will be in Bora Bora, thanks to Mrs. Boucher who insisted on giving us such an extravagant wedding gift.
Tomorrow, Liang and I are going to look at apartments. We both agreed that we should get a bigger place for when we decide to start a family. We’re in his studio apartment now. It’s huge and has beautiful views over the quiet tree lined square below and the Cape Town cityscape. I’m standing at the window when he walks up from behind and pulls me in his arms.
Smiling, I lean against him as he wraps his arms around me. Outside the window, the sun is setting. Soon we will be watching many sunsets together for the rest of our lives. I can’t wait.
He whispers in my ear, “Ek het jou lief.”
“Ek is lief vir jou ook.”
He turns me around so that I’m facing him and then, he lowers his head and kisses me. I put my arms around his waist and kiss him back. When the kisses become too steamy we break apart and high-tail it out of there. We haven’t made love as yet. We decided that we were going to wait until we were married. Another reason why I can’t wait for us to be on our honeymoon.
We hold hands, swinging them as we walk to the restaurant and I can’t help thinking as I glance up at him and as he smiles down at me, “I look at you and see the rest of my life in front of my eyes.”
Source: University of Cape Town