January 29, 2012

Agnes's Birthday - Dinner

Continued from here

The maitre d' looked down at his list and then back at Frederick and said, “Party of three?” Frederick said, “Yes, but only two of us are here now. We can be seated, we don’t need to wait.”

“Very good sir, right this way please.”

The assistant smiled as they stepped forward to be led to their table. Frederick smiled back, reaching out and handing the girl the bouquet of rose buds, “Could you please put these in a vase and have them brought to the table? Thank you.” She smiled and nodded.

Frederick put his hand in the small of Agnes’s back and ushered her forward to follow his lead. He led them through the front dining area toward a set of of doors that opened to the back room. Frederick noticed the attention that their passage was drawing, and knew that Agnes was the cause of the stirring. In her little black dress she was very alluring, catching the attention of both the men and the women as she passed by, enjoying the way her body moved. There was a natural flow to the dress, it clung at her hips and accented the shape of her bottom. The hem of the skirt flipped up to the back of each thigh alternately as she took each step and her hair swung in cadence with her arms.

Passing through the doors to the back dining area, they were in a room of surprisingly large size, filled with a half dozen extravagant overstuffed booths along one wall. On the right were heavily carved oak tables with various seating arrangements for parties of four or six. In between was what served as a dance floor and at the far end was a small step up stage cloaked by heavy curtains. Back to the far right was the sitting area with couches and tables, the area where Frederick had brought Agnes on their first evening out.

They were led to a table in the right side of the room; a table for four, but set for just three. The maitre d' held the menus in his hand and gestured with the other, indicating, ‘here is your table’. A server was standing at the far side of the table pouring glasses of water and next to him was the sommelier attending to a bucket filled with ice and a bottle of Riesling with it’s characteristically long thin neck.

Agnes moved to sit down but Frederick put a hand on her arm. She looked back at him and he shook his head and said softly, “Not just yet, hold on.” The server finished setting the table and walked off after exchanging nods with Frederick. The sommelier uncorked the bottle, poured a sampling into one of the wine glasses and offered it to Frederick. Frederick took the glass, swirled the liquid around, sniffed the bouquet and took a small taste. “Superb! Thank you very much.” Frederick sat the glass down, the sommelier poured a second glass, and finished filling Frederick’s glass, and placed the two glasses on the table. Frederick thanked him. He put the bottle back into the bucket and withdrew.

Just then the girl arrived with the bouquet of roses and placed them in the middle of the table. Frederick walked around behind Agnes and pulled out a chair for her, she sat down and he pushed it in. He walked around the table, moving the vase to the back edge of the table out of the middle and proceeded to seat himself, but before he sat down he picked up his wine glass, lifted it in a toast.

“Happy Birthday sweet girl. I hope you have an enjoyable evening and that it is a fitting celebration for you.”

Agnes picked up her glass, lifted it up toward Frederick, took a small drink and said, “Thank you very much Frederick. I am sure it will be, I am looking forward to the night.”

With that Frederick sat down himself and smiled across the table at Agnes. Looking around he could see that the booths were filling up and there was developing a strong background murmur of conversations across the room. He had noticed that they had captured the attention of several parties as they’d proceeded into the room and were escorted to their table.

“Why is there a third setting?”

“Someone will be joining us for dinner. He is a special friend of mine and I wanted him to help us celebrate your birthday.”

A waitress arrived with a basket containing a variety of breads, two shallow dishes and a rack holding olive oil and vinegar bottles. She poured a medium size pool of olive oil onto each dish then poured balsamic into the olive oil. Frederick noticed Agnes’s curious look and said, “Break off some bread and dip it into the mix.”

They sat and quietly drank wine and ate bread, with no conversation, listening to the background music. Just as the waiter stopped by to refresh their wine glasses another man approached Frederick and greeted him. “Good evening Frederick.”

Frederick stood and shook the man’s hand. “Good evening Patrick, I am so glad you were able to join us.”

Frederick pointed to the third wine glass, and the waiter poured a glass of wine for Patrick and ushered him to his seat.

Frederick introduced him to Agnes. “Patrick, this is Agnes, a very special friend of mine and our birthday girl. Agnes, this is Patrick, he is the owner of this restaurant.”

Agnes offered her hand and Patrick kissed it. “Happy Birthday Agnes, I am so pleased that you have chosen to celebrate your birthday here. I hope you have an enjoyable evening, one you will not forget.”

“It is an interesting and exciting place. I have been here once before with Frederick. In fact it was the first place he took me out to, and I confess it was an eye-opener.”

“What did you discover here Agnes?”

Well, sir, it was a place like I’ve never been to before. Before coming to Paris, I was just a country girl and had never ventured far from my hometown, a small town to the south. Since moving here and meeting Frederick I have seen many things that I didn’t know existed and seen things I never knew people did.”

Patrick gave her a knowing smile but simply said, “I am glad you enjoy yourself here.”

At that Patrick turned to Frederick and began discussing menu selections. Noting that Frederick had selected a very nice Riesling, he suggested a couple of fish dishes that he thought they would enjoy. Frederick asked if they had any particularly nice pasta dishes that he would recommend and Patrick mentioned a spaghetti with squash blossoms and an eggplant dish but wondered if they was substantial or festive enough for the occasion.

Patrick turned to Agnes and said, “So, since you are the birthday girl, do you have anything in particular that you would like to have for dinner?”

Agnes smiled back at him, looked at Frederick for a moment, and then back at Patrick and said, sheepishly but with conviction, “That is something that is up to Frederick, he has told me that he will be making all the decisions about the celebration of my birthday. I am a little apprehensive but so far so good, and I do trust his judgment.”

Patrick looked back at Frederick and gave him a wry smile, and said, “So, it would seem that you are the man of the hour. Knowing you as I do, I’m not surprised by this. What strikes your fancy this evening Frederick?”

Frederick returned the smile and said, “Let me have one last glance through the menu and see what I might have missed. In the meantime I think another bottle of wine would tide us over until the food starts to arrive.”

At that Patrick gestured to the waitress. She was there immediately and took the wine order. Shortly the wine steward arrived and uncorked a second bottle which he placed in the ice bucket after topping off everyones glasses.

Frederick put down the menu and turned to Patrick, “There are so many wonderful choices I am having a hard time selecting just one or two. What would be perfect for us would be a platter of your chefs favorite offerings of pastas and vegetable dishes. Something we could all share and experience a nice variety.”

“An excellent idea Frederick. Excuse me for a minute while I go to the kitchen and make some arrangements.” Patrick got up from the table and headed back toward the kitchen.

After he was gone Agnes agreed, what a wonderful idea that was because she herself had been having trouble selecting just one dish from several she was curious about. Frederick agreed and allowed as how Patrick surely had a very good idea what would be best although he’d not wanted to impose his ideas on them without allowing them their own choices.

The table fell into quiet as they all listened to the music of the quartet on stage, munched on bread and cheese, and just relaxed. Suddenly Frederick turned back to Agnes and said, “Please, sit up straight in your chair.”

In response Agnes adjusted and stiffened her posture in her seat, with a quizzical look on her face. She was clearly taken by surprise at Frederick’s command. She sat up straight, placed her napkin on the table and put her arms on the arms of the chair, feet flat on the floor. There was a small smile on her face that seemed to speak of self pride at complying perfectly with the instruction while waiting for his purpose to reveal itself.

Just then Patrick returned, beaming, and took his seat. He told them that he had taken the liberty of suggesting a couple dishes that would take a bit longer but would be well worth the wait. Frederick and Agnes both nodded their acceptance of his decisions and offered Patrick a small toast of thanks.

“Did I miss anything?” asked Patrick, noticing the overly formal way in which Agnes was sitting in her chair.

Agnes said, “Oh, no. We’ve just been listening to the lovely music and enjoying the bread and wine.”

Frederick added, “That is right, but I am glad you are back. I was just starting something with Agnes.”

Patrick raised an eyebrow, “Oh?”

And simultaneously, Agnes said, “Oh.”

Frederick gave Patrick a conspiratorial smile and turned his attention back to Agnes.

“Are your feet flat on the floor? Put your hands on the table, fingers interlaced.”

Frederick glanced down under the table and saw her toes, even with each other, a few inches apart.

“Cross one leg over the other, nice and snug.”

Agnes shifted slightly in her seat, looking at Patrick, and then staring at Frederick, but did not move.

“Cross your legs Agnes.”

“But Frederick,” glancing again at Patrick and at the room around them.

In a deeper, more stern voice Frederick said simply, “Agnes,” and glared at her.

For a couple of long quiet minutes, neither moved nor spoke. Then, reluctantly, she shifted around, and complied.

“Good girl. Now, start rocking your upper foot.”

She sat perfectly still except for the slight torquing of her torso as she rocked her upper leg, flexing at the knee. Her pace was steady, just as Frederick had taught her. She stared down at the place setting in front of her, concentrating.

Frederick snapped his fingers and Agnes looked up, “Look at me Agnes.”

Frederick could see the rocking leg was beginning to have its effect on her, looking at her face; he could see her eyes were beginning to glaze over. She continued on as he instructed. Agnes would let her gaze drift away but each time she did Frederick rapped a knuckle on the table top and she looked back up at him. Soon her breathing was becoming more and more ragged and her whole body was tensing.

Noticing her reactions, Frederick said, “Okay Agnes, slow down now.”

“Please, no, Frederick.”

“Agnes, slow down, come back from the edge.”

She slowed the pace of her rocking leg and took several deep breaths.

“Okay Agnes. I want you to stop for now, we can finish this later.”

Frederick had a slight smile on his face, but Agnes was clearly frustrated and disappointed.

Just then, three servers arrived with two large oval serving trays containing several steaming platters and placed them on collapsible serving stands on the unoccupied side of the table. They were each given a main plate and two side plates off to the right side. One of the waiters refreshed the oil and vinegar on their bread plates, while another picked up old napkins and provided fresh linen.

Patrick turned and smiled at the servers and then to the waiter and said, “Serve the lady a goodly portion from that platter,” pointing to the largest on the serving tray, “and then surprise us all with your best suggestions for our first course.”

He then placed his hand on both Frederick’s and Agnes’s wrists and shook them slightly, “Bon appetite! My friends.”


  1. So glad to see the story of Frederick and Agnes continue on....cant wait to read what happens next. You've built this story piece by piece and I love it. Thank you so much for sharing it with me and the rest of your readers.

  2. That was wonderful! It seems like Agnes is enjoying her birthday very much even though there was a bit of humiliation at the dinner table. Can't wait to see how the evening progresses.

  3. I look forward to every installment. Your prose is so rich and satisfying. I can almost smell the roses and taste the reisling.

  4. oh I have missed so much!! the rocking leg..back I go :) read read read. I wish he'd chosen a nice pinot gris from Marlborough, New Zealand..my favourite..but then its not my birthday :)

  5. iam very behind on reading but phew! This was a good one to catch up on. You have a delightful mind...these stories are sweet insights into your inner workings!


  6. Delighted to see a new installment of this story! Love the discipline at the table. Your story is my treat for the day!

  7. Delightful! I love the discipline at the table. Such a treat for the day.