He arched his scarred eyebrow at me, as if to say, I'm not so sure about this, but he took my hand anyway. We walked together to the big oak door, and Jax pulled it open—
To reveal total darkness.
"I think there's been a mistake," Jax said quickly, closing the door again. "They must be closed. The door's open, but it's dark in there."
I smirked. "Just go in anyway. Remember that night you blindfolded me?"
A wry half-smile spread to the corners of Jax's lips. "They say payback's a bitch."
"I thought they said turnabout was fair play. So get in there!"
"Yes, ma'am," Jax said, his eyes crinkling with amusement as he stepped inside. I followed close behind.
When the door closed behind us, it was darker than I'd have thought possible. No light came in through the door, and no windows let in any of the Southern California sun. As I stumbled forward, a woman's voice emerged from the darkness: "Welcome to Opaque," she said, calmly. "Do you have a reservation?"
"Yes. Hewitt, table for two," I said, squinting into the darkness but unable to see even the outlines of her face. I slowly put my hand up in front of my face and realized I couldn't see it either.
"Have you ever dined with us before?" the voice asked.
"Are you still serving even with the lights out?" Jax's voice called out.
"Sounds like a newcomer!" Her reply had the sound of a practiced pitch. "Here at Opaque, we believe that seeing isn't everything. We're a pitch black restaurant: no light fixtures, no windows, no flashlights. When you don't rely on your eyes, your other senses sharpen. I'll get your server in just a moment, and then you'll head to your table."
"Huh," Jax's voice floated toward me. "Total darkness. I guess they don't have to worry too much about presentation."
"And more importantly," I said, "welcome to the one place we can eat in Los Angeles without your face ending up splashed on every tabloid in town."
He snorted appreciatively. "Good point." I glowed inside—my idea had worked perfectly, and I'd thought of it completely on my own while going crazy from the downtime. I had another surprise in store for Jax, but I planned to save that one for later in the evening.
Another voice emerged from the black emptiness in front of us. "Welcome," the deep, masculine baritone said. "I'll be your server tonight. Follow me this way—most guests prefer to put a hand on my shoulder so I can lead them to their table."
Jax sounded a little annoyed. "Can't we just follow your voice?"
"That's . . . not usually wise, sir. You could trip if you go off-course. We definitely advise holding on."
"Fair enough." I heard the sound of a hand touching the fabric of the waiter's shoulder, and I reached out until I felt Jax's arm. Making our way across the dark space with small, hesitant steps, we both breathed an audible sigh of relief when the waiter came to a stop and gently guided our hands to chairs.
Sitting down, I once again tried waving my hand to see if I could see an outline. Nothing. They really weren't kidding about the pitch black part. I'd somehow thought that I might be able to at least see where Jax was, but only the sound of his breath reassured me that he was there.
"I wonder how the waiters get around," Jax said. "Are they wearing night-vision goggles or something?"
I reached out on the table, searching for his hands. "They're actually blind," I said, sliding my fingers around his. "I looked this up the other day. The restaurant found out that sighted waiters kept spilling, making mistakes—they couldn't get used to it no matter how long they tried. People who were blind from birth did just fine."
"Huh," said Jax, sounding thoughtful. "Makes sense, in a way. For people who can see, there's a loss of control from darkness. But blind people have learned how to control the darkness—how to harness it so it's not a disability."
"When I was a kid, this would have been my nightmare," I said ruefully. "I was terrified of the dark."
"It's pretty weird how kids are afraid of the dark, isn't it?"
"Weird?" I said, confused. "I don't know. I've always figured it was just one of those primal fear things. You know, like, caveman stuff. Fire good, dark bad."
"But we all start in the dark," Jax said, his voice quiet and thoughtful. "We start where it's dark and warm and protected. When we see the light for the first time, we're so scared we cry."
I blinked in the darkness. Was Jax talking about babies? A mental image flashed in front of me: Jax holding a newborn, his scarred brow raised to make a googly face. My heart started beating just a little faster, and I wished I could see the expression on Jax's face. Without it, I had no idea what he was feeling—I felt in the dark, in more ways than one. Was he thinking about the future, or just making conversation?
"So why do you think a newborn is scared of the light, but a three year old is scared of the dark?" I asked, curious about his answer. It seemed like the darkness had loosened his tongue, and after the last few days I was glad to hear him get lost in thought.
"I think it starts when—"
The waiter's voice interrupted us. "I've brought your first course of the evening. Your place settings are in their normal places in front of you, forks on the left, spoons on the right. No knives—liability reasons."
Jax and I laughed nervously, but he continued: "Many people find that eating with utensils is difficult in the dark. All our dishes may also be eaten as finger food if you wish. Keep in mind that no one will be able to see you eating with your fingers—it can be your secret."
I could hear dishware and glasses clinking onto the table, and feel the cool breezes as servers set our dishes down, but without any visual aids, it was impossible to tell what had been put on the table in front of us. "This is kind of exciting," I whispered to Jax.
"Bon apetit," the waiter said, and his footsteps moved quickly away.
I felt around the table for my fork, found the handle, and then extended my fingers until they were touching my plate. Probing gently with a finger to find where the food was, I suddenly found my fingertip sticking to what felt like a spider's web.
"I think I found it," I said, picking up the spider's web with my fork. It was heavy, I could tell, with something inside it that was soft and yielding. My fingers were still sticky from the web.
From across the table, I heard Jax's fork clink against the plate. "What the hell is that?" he muttered.