Arrows of the Leviathan - Chapter 38 - Elite
Daniel held the door and examined the golden, hand brushed script that signified a level of class and sophistication that he was not deeply familiar with. Sana smiled at him as she passed through the doorway, and he followed her in. As the door closed behind them, the noise from the street was immediately cut off, and all that could be heard was the quiet clink of cutlery and the muted conversation of the diners in the restaurant. He started to feel a knot forming in the back of his throat as they made their way into the foyer of the upscale restaurant. He felt self-conscious and out of place.
It was darker inside, away from the harsh fluorescent streetlights, and the dimness lent further intimacy. The dark, rich fabrics, the glint of gilded wallpaper, and the shine off the highly-polished fixtures all showed how very exclusive the place was.
The maître d’ delicately coughed to get their attention. Daniel stepped toward the stand to let him know they had a reservation, one that had apparently cost Sana quite a few markers. The maître d’ gave a nod of acknowledgment, then checked his book and gave Daniel a small smile when he found it. He deftly wound his way through the restaurant, leading them to a table in the far corner. He held the chair for Sana and then left them with a little bow.
“I've heard a lot of good things about this place,” Sana said as they settled in. She had a pleased expression on her face as her eyes flitted around the room, briefly alighting on the paintings on the wall before she returned her attention to Daniel. “I wanted something special to welcome you back home.”
A waiter made his way over and Sana decided on the house wine, which was skillfully poured into hand-blown goblets. Daniel wasn’t much of a wine drinker, but he liked how it wasn’t too sweet or too dry. Neither of them needed to see a menu. Instead, they ordered the house special, for which the restaurant was renowned.
Sana smiled happily at Daniel across the small table, her eyes bright. She could see her lover’s nervousness and tried to calm him a bit. “It is so good to have you back,” she said huskily.
Daniel looked around nervously at the thick carpeting, the delicately embroidered upholstery, the fine crystal chandeliers. This was not his usual kind of restaurant. “Not going to lie, I'm a bit out of my element.”
Sana grinned, looking very amused at his expense. “Relax. A big guy like you?” she teased with a laugh in her voice.
“Are you sure your friends will understand...hanging around with me, a soldier?” he asked, thinking about how some people disdained him for his choices, how some people had gone much further than disdain, especially here in the capital of the country he served with distinction. He was surrounded by the elite, who seemingly had no worries about the state of the economy. They had no businesses to run or jobs to lose.
Sana knew Daniel had seen the worst. He had friends who could not have a healthy relationship or a job. They would never the same, just a ghost of their former selves. Some returning home were incapable of being able to relate to those who had never seen or faced death before. A dear friend who had been the victim of an IED blast had become a hermit, not wanting to see the light of day. Eventually, he took his own life. The very government they served looked down on them, deliberately snubbed them and denied the resources the returning soldiers needed. It abandoned them, leaving them to their own devices, making it even harder to go from soldier to civilian. Daniel was strong, but it was true that he was not the same Daniel he was before he left for war. “I don't care what they think,” Sana said, determination in her tone and the set of her jaw.
That was what Daniel needed to hear, and he relaxed slightly. He knew he had Sana, which was more than enough for him. He didn’t want to talk any more about the war or the economy tonight.
Daniel looked at her as she looked back at him. She was beautiful, here in this grand place, dressed in a vibrant silk gown, her face perfectly made up, her hair smooth and pinned up with a sparkly clasp. But she was just as beautiful as the last time she had done some heavy cleaning, in worn, stained clothes with no makeup and cobwebs in her hair. And he knew he cut a fine figure in his suit, but that Sana looked at him the same way as when he wore a tattered shirt he owned since high school. He was in love with her. He wondered if everyone could see much he loved her, and how much they loved one another. They continued in conversation with brief moments of loving gazes, like a private silent conversation that no one else could ever understand.
The love that Daniel felt for Sana kept him sane, kept him calm. She was what he needed if he was ever going to become a better version of who he used to be.
It felt like no time at all had passed before the waiter brought their food, presenting two sizzling steaks on a platter with a flourish.
Daniel concluded that he was indeed blessed, one of the lucky ones. For the first time in a long time, he felt optimistic about the future and what it could bring. There was a brief, glorious high in which he felt safe, secure, as if all was well in the world, come what may.
And then, it ended.
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