Sunday, July 20, 2014
If you’re sitting in the Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House, that is, if you’re sitting in the big semi-circular window, then you have an all-embracing view of the harbour and the bay with Sydney’s skyscrapers (none of them overly tall) in the background. If you fancy eating the chef’s signature dishes then you order his raw yellowfish tuna in a basil and mustard soy seed sauce vinaigrette, followed by blue-eye trevalla roasted on an etuve of baby summer vegetables (trevalla is a butterfish from the Antarctic). Chilled sake is a good accompaniment. You finish up with Valrhona chocolate cream. This is chocolate ice cream and gelato mixed with praline ice cream and caramelised candied pecans, and is much admired.
The young couple sitting at table 5 have ordered these dishes, although the girl had been tempted to have the vanilla bean crème brulee with green apple sorbet. Maybe next time. Their heads are close together when they are not eating and they smile at each other a lot, although they seem a little sad. From time to time he places his hand on hers.
“So when do you have to leave?’ he is asking.
“Term starts again on the 16th. So I must leave next weekend,” she replies. “And you? When do you go back?”
“I’m almost finished here now, so I can go pretty soon. I wish neither of us had to go.”
“Yes,’ she says. "So do I. But you will come to Prague soon, won’t you?”
“Of course I will. As soon as I can. As soon as I get the go-ahead from my client. Maybe I’ll be there for your concert!”
“Yes. Please try.”
The young man looks well in his dark suit. He has an amiable face and a confident manner. But the girl, she is a beauty. Truly lovely. Auburn hair piled high on her head, a slender neck with tendrils curling onto it, a heart shaped face, dark eyes under arching brows, a mouth which almost pouts, a feminine and gentle manner…. The young man’s mobile buzzes. He groans.
‘Excuse me,’ he says, raising his eyes to heaven, and looks at the screen. It is a text message. ‘Ur Uncle Edward seriously ill. Pls call asap.’ and it gives a London number.
“I have to make a call,” he says. “It’s urgent. Won’t be long, I promise.” He strides off to the foyer.
A waiter clears the dishes, smiling at her. When he has gone she puts her elbow on the table, rests her chin in her hand, and looks out at the bay.
In a corner of the foyer, the young man calls the London number. It is his uncle’s solicitor. His uncle wants to see the young man as soon as possible. He is very ill. The young man walks slowly back to the table and the girl. He knows he has to go to see his uncle, without delay. They were very close. But it is difficult to leave her, the girl sitting looking pensively at the bay. She is so beautiful, he thinks, still surprised that she should be with him.
“Oh," she says. "I am sorry. For you and for me…” He takes a long look at her as though trying to record every detail of her face.
“I’ll come to Prague as soon as I can.”