Love Behind the Mask Part Three
By Trish Hubschman
Ben hired another waitress, Lisa. She’s nineteen and in college. She was going to be working part-time at Marco’s, half a day Tuesday and Thursday and all-day Saturday and Sunday. Her weekend schedule allowed me to take off alternate Saturdays. I loved it. Well, it gives me time to run needed errands at home. On the flip side, it actually took away from time with Tony. He’d been working at Marco’s the past three weekends. We saw more of each other, though we weren’t spending time together, not alone. He worked a full-time nine-to-five job during the week and was here on weekends because of me. He was the sweetest man, but the craziest too.
It was Sunday, between the lunch and dinner rush. There weren’t too many people in the restaurant. I was leaning over a recently-occupied table wiping it down. I heard some commotion coming from the kitchen. I looked up in the direction of the swinging doors. It was probably none of my business. My job was out here. But Tony was in there and he was my guy, and I felt a stab of concern. He was working here because he wanted to be near me, so I decided it was my business.
I left my damp rag on the table and pushed through the swinging doors. Ben and Tony stood facing each other. Victor had taken the day off. I stood there and watched dumbfounded as Tony made a sign to Ben. He funneled his left hand and stuck his index and middle finger into it, then pulled them out swiftly. He pivoted on his heel, then made the similar sign to me, except he only stuck his index finger into the funnel and pulled it out. He walked past me and out of the kitchen. My mouth hung open. I didn’t know what happened.
“What did he just say?” I asked Ben.
Ben was red-faced. He threw his arms up in the air. “He’s finished, gone. Your boyfriend just quit.”
I took a quick intake of breath. “I guess I should see what that’s all about.” I turned and left the kitchen. Tony wasn’t at any of the tables, so I assumed he was outside. I headed to the plate-glass door and pushed through it. The sunlight was bright. It hurt my eyes. I glanced around the near-empty parking lot. Tony sat in his Hyundai. When he saw me, he reached across the passenger seat and pushed the door open. I climbed in. “You okay?’ I asked.
He bobbed his right fist up and down to indicate that he was. “I can’t work with Victor. He has a habit of flipping back and forth from Italian to English while giving me instructions,’ Tony said. His tone was becoming harried. I understood what he was saying. I had to keep from laughing. Tony was Italian himself. I think he read my mind.
“My grandfather sometimes spoke Italian when I was a kid, but I could hear then. By the time I went deaf, gramps was gone and everyone else in the family spoke English, so I learned to read lips in English, and I do American sign language,” he said. “That’s the only way I can do it.”
I understood. ‘And Ben said there was nothing he can do about Victor?” I asked. “He won’t talk to him about the problem?”
Tony shook his head. “Ben said Victor is who he is, and we can’t tell people how to speak.”
That outraged me! he’s wrong, Tony. Victor knows how to speak English. There’s no reason he can’t be asked to stick to that language when you’re here because of your hearing loss.”
Tony smiled. “you’re incredible,” Dana,” he said, taking my hand off my lap and bringing it to his lips. he kissed it. I felt warm inside. Our eyes were locked together. The moment was intense.
I had to pull away from it. “What now?” I asked.
He thought about it. “I guess we both go back inside and finish the day. You come here tomorrow. I don’t. Next time I come to Marco’s after today, I’ll be a customer.”
I laughed and nodded. I reached for my door handle. We both got out of the car and went into Marco’s.
Dana took a dinner break around seven and sat down at an empty table. I slid into the booth across from her. I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted to be with her. Her mask was pushed down below her chin. “You know,” she began. “I’m going to miss having you around here. Times like this are so special.? She waved her hand across the table.
I think I left my mask in the kitchen. I smiled. “Hey, we’ll still have alternate Saturdays together.” I put my hands together and made a circle with hem. “We can have some fun, and we’ll go out to dinner Monday and Tuesday nights.” I glanced around and made a face. “Not to Italian though,” I added. Dana laughed. “And next Saturday you’ll be getting the second shot of the vaccine. I’ll pick you up for it like last time.”
“You’re very sweet,’ she said. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. “That was a start and I hoped it led to more.
True to word, we went out to dinner the next two nights, Monday for burgers after she got off from work and Tuesday to a nice steak house after I got home from work. Saturday morning, I was at her house at nine-thirty to take her to the shot location. We went through the same routine as last time.
“How do you feel?” I asked when I pulled the car to a stop for the fifteen-minute rest.
“I’m okay,’ she said. “It didn’t hurt.” I was happy about that, but I still wanted her to take the weekend off from work in case she showed any side effects. “I’m fine,” she said again fifteen minutes later. “Let’s go home.” We went back to her house and sat beside each other on the sofa. We held hands, while watching I Dream of Jeannie on TV. It was captioned.
She tapped my shoulder to get my attention. I looked at her. “Do you like me, Tony?” she asked.
The question surprised me. I thought about it, then shook my head. “No, I don’t like you,” I said. I pointed to myself, then crossed my closed hands over my heart, lastly, I pointed to her. I was telling her I loved her.
She didn’t respond at once. Slowly, maybe it had to sink in first, her face brightened. “How come you haven’t kissed me?” she asked.
That was a good question. Why hadn’t I kissed her? Probably because I as afraid she could reject me. I wanted to tell her I was a jerk, but I didn’t. “Do you like me?” I asked. She shook her head and repeated the sign I had just done with her. Oh, did that make me feel good! “Then I think maybe I should kiss you.” I put two fingers beneath her chin and bought my lips lightly to hers. Dana wrapped her arms around my neck and moved in for a deeper kiss.
This was more than definitely the start of something very big.
Trish Hubschman is the author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series: Tidalwave, Stiff Competition, Ratings Game and Uneasy Tides. Tracy is a Long Island private detective. Her sidekick, Danny Tide, is the leader of the rock band, Tidalweav. Tracy is hired to find out who set fire to Danny’s tour bus. While doing this, more dangerous things develop.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She is deafblind and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, author Kevin Hubschman, and their dog, Henry. Her website is www.dldbooks.com/Hubschman/