Stefano’s At Seven

Illustration of a lovely Italian restaurant with flowers on every table Illustration: Istockphoto


What happens when the bearer of bad news is late?

I’m looking through the window of Stefano’s and getting a sinking feeling in my heart. It’s Friday night and the restaurant’s full. I’m so mad with myself. If I’d got here at seven, then everything would have been all right. But I’m fifteen minutes late and I’ve ruined everything.

I square my shoulders and weave through the tables to Jeanie. She puts down the glass she’s nursing.

“Felix!” she exclaims. “What are you doing here? This is the first time I’ve ever seen you out of the office.”

I do my best to shrug my shoulders. The gesture’s meant to say that being at Stefano’s is no big deal.

“I hear it’s a great place to eat,” I say.

Jeanie nods. “It is,” she says. “That’s why Paul and I…”

My breath catches in my throat

I feel my hand reaching out to comfort her but force it instead onto the back of the empty chair at her table.

“Do you mind if I join you?” I ask.

This time it’s Jeanie who does her best to shrug.

“No, that’s fine,” she says as her eyes fly to check her mobile phone. “I don’t suppose he’ll turn up now. Even though tonight’s supposed to be our two month anniversary of seeing each other…”

I feel my heart lurch with pity for her. Anger, too. An anniversary’s supposed to be special. How can Paul think that Friday night at Stefano’s is a good time and place to let down the woman he’s supposed to care about?

My heart and mind are in turmoil and it’s hard to know what to do.

Do I tell her or not?

Yes, Jeanie deserves to know the truth but I no longer want to be the one to give it to her. After all, it was only by chance that I found myself in the staff room this afternoon at the same time as Paul and his mate, Steve from Accounts.

I’d have done anything to avoid overhearing him tell Steve he had no intention of turning up for his date with Jeanie at Stefano’s tonight because a certain Monica from Sales had made him a better offer.

It had left me with a problem: what was I going to do with the information?

In the end, I knew I had to tell Jeanie what I’d heard. I couldn’t let her sit all alone in Stefano’s, waiting for him to show up. Especially when she was supposed to be celebrating an anniversary – a detail, incidentally, which Paul had conveniently forgotten to mention to his buddy.

That’s why I’d spent the rest of the afternoon trying to track her down in our maze of offices. And why, when I couldn’t locate her, I’d got in touch with Human Resources and begged them to give me her mobile number. Which they refused to do.

But if I couldn’t get in touch with Jeanie, then how on earth could I save her the mortifying embarrassment of being stood up in public?

It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that an idea came to me. Perhaps if I turned up at Stefano’s a little before seven, I could wait outside for her and stop her going in.

But I overlooked one tiny detail. On Friday nights, parking spaces near the restaurant were impossible to find. So by the time I got here, Jeanie was already sitting at her table.

I sneak a glance at the woman I’ve let down. Minutes go by. Two, three, four… Then slowly she looks up and pushes back her shoulders.

“So, Felix,” she says. “What’s it to be? Pizza or pasta?”

And that’s the moment I know she’s going to be all right

Jeanie’s a strong woman with the confidence to determine her own future.

I smile. “How about both?” I suggest. “That way we can share.”

“Good idea,” she says. “And we can start with a bottle of wine. How does that sound?”

It sounds absolutely great. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night at Stefano’s.

Getting to know the courageous and capable woman who’s called Jeanie Metcalfe is going to be great.

Also in the series:

Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me