I did not eat seafood. Not that I didn't "eat" seafood, but I didn't really like seafood. I had a very limited palate. I grew up eating chicken, rice, and vegetables. The chicken was prepared in different manners, but the rice was always brown, and the vegetables always overcooked. The only seafood I had experienced was imitation crabmeat that smelled disgusting and often occupied a portion of our fridge. I have no idea what my mom did with the crab but think she ate it straight out of the package. Yuck. I had tried shrimp before, and didn't mind it - but it wasn't anything that rocked my world.
I stared at my heaped plate with a mixture of digest and dread. The waiter was busy affixing a white bib around Brad's neck, a second waiter headed towards me with the same intent. I held up a newly manicured (damn those looked good!) hand to ward him off. He halted with surprise.
"Ma'am - your dress." He held up the bib like it was a burnt offering. This exchange drew Brad's attention, and he stopped, mid-crack, his head coming up and peering at me over his bib causing a unladylike giggle to start to rise. I swallowed it down and looked at Brad.
"I, err… don't like seafood."
"Lobster?? King Crab?" His face twisted into an unbelieving scowl.
"Well, we didn't eat a lot of seafood growing up and..."
"Have you ever had it before? Lobsters, crab, oyster?" Cinderella was about to be exposed.
"Well, no. I've had crab before, and didn't like it." Imitation crab, but crab's crab.
He beamed and reached across, pushing my plate closer to me and waving the bib-carrying waiter forward. "I--err - no really..." I said feebly, as the waiter affixed the ridiculous bib around my neck.
Brad pushed a ceramic bowl with a candle that heated melted butter towards me. "Dunk the pieces into the butter, and then eat," he urged, his heads already covered with dripping butter. “You’ll love it.” I hesitantly pulled a piece of the soft meat out of the pre-cut lobster shells and dipped it in the butter. His eyes never leaving me, he followed the meat to my mouth to be sure that I ate it. I tentatively put the meat on my tongue and gently chewed. The feathery consistency didn't sit well with me, and all I tasted was butter and bland meat. I swallowed, the blob of buttery meat slipping down my throat with a thick glug. Ewww. I fought a grimace and smiled in my best ladylike manner. "Hmmmm…" I said.
"That's the best lobster in town," Brad beamed, beside himself with glee. "Go on! Try the crab!" His dug into his pile with reckless abandonment, and the waiter came and refilled our champagne glasses. I took a generous sip of champagne and faced the plate again. Looking past the ridiculous plate, I looked with despair at the tower - made for four and towering on the table in between Brad and I. I practically had to look around it to see him. The bottom rung of the silver tower was empty when they had delivered it, but was now being filled with the empty lobster and crab claw shells.
Fifteen minutes later, Brad sat back with a satisfied groan. "I have been dreaming of those claws for weeks." He met my eyes with a Cheshire grin. "Well? Was I right or what?" I smiled at him over my champagne and empty plate.
"It was very good Brad. Thank you."
"I don't know how you look so put together. I always feel like I need a bath after eating this stuff." He wiped his face with his napkin and pulled at his bib, breaking the plastic tie. "Should we get another or do you want to go ahead and order dinner?"
"Dinner please," I said quickly. Brad's eyes looked at me for a moment, then he shrugged. "Sounds good to me."
The waiter appeared, and began pulling the silver trays off of the tower, starting with the top tray. Uh-oh. I had anticipated them taking the entire tower at one time, as they had brought it to us. My mind raced with something to distract Brad with. Shrimp platter gone.
"I was thinking Brad…"
Clams and oysters level gone.
"maybe tonight, after the show…"
Lobster level taken.
"we could, ahhh." Don't look down!!
The large silver platter that had housed the tangled pile of Snow and King Crab legs was lifted, exposing the plate of empty shells. Empty shells and expensive meat. The big hunks of crab and lobster meat I had carefully hidden, under the guise of placing my shells in the plate. The meat, which had been strategically hidden from the side view, was now in full exposed glory; crab and lobster stretched out like bathing beauties on South Beach. Brad completely ignored my sentence - not that it was going anywhere - and stared at the shell plate in bewilderment. The waiter leaned over and examined it, puzzled.
The light bulb clicked in both of their heads at the same time and they turned in unison to stare at me. Eyes wide, frozen in my seat, my hands twisted in my lap as I tried to think of something to say. Brad broke the silence before my head found a solution.
"You hid that?" he asked, his head tilted to the side, his eyes unreadable.
"I didn't really like it," I lamely responded. "You seemed so excited and my plate was so full…" I trailed off.
"Jesus woman!" he quietly and happily thundered. Happily? I was confused. He grabbed his bread plate and quietly scooped up the offensive pieces, plopping them onto his plate. He grabbed the still-lit butter stand and moved it back in front of him. A second waiter appeared with a replacement bib and Brad sat up so that he could tie it on. Once the trash plate had been rummaged through, by both Brad and the server, who shot me a look of sophisticated disdain, it was carried away and Brad and I were left alone. Just us, my leftover seafood, and the glow of drawn butter. Brad was beside himself with amusement.
"Why didn't you just say you didn't like it? I would have been more than happy to eat it all myself Julia."
"I did say I didn't like it. You were so pushy about me eating it, and so enthusiastic about it. I didn't want to disappoint you." I sounded like a freakin' child, but it had come out of my mouth, no point in trying to put it back in.
"I'm not your father, Julia." His grin faded slightly but he kept his tone light. "You don't have to do as I tell you."
I set my chin and stared at him. "I know Brad. I don't do everything you say." But I doubted my own words. I had let him talk me into a lot.
"Does our age difference bother you?" His face serious, I tried to keep the grin off my face but his intent face, peering at me over his plastic bib, with butter dripping off his fingers - my grin broke through.