Hillary looked at the restaurant sign and double checked against the card that had been sitting in her wallet for a year. She was relieved that she had got off the bus at the right stop. However, she was dreading at what she might find out inside that Southern cuisine restaurant. She vowed to herself that she wouldn't go to this place while she was in Little Rock for a business trip, but curiosity and a burning desire to see him got the better of her.
Hillary opened the glass door of Aunt Betty's, and a young smiling hostess welcomed her.She directed her to her seat and handed her the menu. She had no interest on the food, so she simply asked for the hostess's recommendation. Hillary could hear the girl mention Southern ribs and mashed potatoes and she simply said yes. The hostess took the order and passed the small sheet of paper to a neighboring waitress. But before the two servers could leave, Hillary made a quick request.
"Uhm, I was wondering if I could speak to your executive chef?"
"I think he is busy in the kitchens right now but I could tell her that you are here," said the waitress in her thick Southern accent. "What is your name, Ma'am?"
"Hillary Rodham," Hillary replied. "Chef de Cuisine of The French Laundry."
The waitress eyes turned wide as saucers.
"I didn't realize we are hosting royalty," the waitress replied. "I'll bring you Mr. Clinton."
"Thank you." Hearing the name "Clinton" made her heart race.
The waitress left her to call Bill. As she waited by herself, she tried to steady her pounding heart. The longer she waited, the more that she regretted coming to Aunt Betty's. She was fidgeting and playing with her fingers. She was imagining a whole universe of scenarios: Bill yelling at her, throwing her out, Bill calling her a slut...Hillary knew that she deserved every one of those things, considering what she did to him (and what he didn't know), but it still killed her to have Bill hate her.
After an agonizing ten minutes, Bill emerged from the kitchen, still in his apron. He sat in front of her, looking not too happy about the entire situation.
"Hi," Hillary greeted softly.
"Hi," said Bill, his face stoic.
"It's been a while," she said. The air was stuffed with absolute awkwardness between the two.
"Yeah, a year," the hint of bitterness was evident in his voice. "No messages or anything."
"I know. I won't pretend that I wasn't being an asshole," she conceded. "And that's what I'm here for. To properly apologize."
"I see now. You came here to tell me that you have a boyfriend and what happened in Vegas was a mistake."
Hillary's jaw dropped, and her heart struck. Indeed, she was about to do those things, but hearing Bill say it with pure, unadulterated hatred tore her to pieces.
"I wish I could say I am here otherwise, but there is nothing else I could say," she said.
"Of course," he grunted. His eyes were on the napkin in front of him as he played with the steak knife.
"I know I'll take a lot for us to be friends again, but I'd really like that. I'd really like to patch things up with you."
"Why?" Bill said grudgingly. "There's no need to embellish things. Let's call it what it is: a one-night stand. A night of pure fucking. No more, no less."
Hillary was hurt by Bill's characterization of their first time together, but she completely understood where he was coming from.
"Alright," she kept herself from crying. "I think we made ourselves clear."
Bill debated whether to stay with her or leave her be, but he decided that staying with her would probably open old wounds. He stood up and left for the kitchens.
When Bill came back to his workstation, he saw his sous chef, Danny placing a couple of ribs on the grill. Bill looked at the orders board and looked at table #42, the table where Hillary was sitting. She had ordered a plate of ribs with mashed potato, a side salad and pumpkin soup.
Bill tightened his apron and went back to work.
"Hey, I'm doing order #583. That's for table #42," Bill called out to no one in particular.
"I've already put the ribs on the grill, Bill," said Danny.
"I'll put a fresh batch. And don't worry, somebody will order the extra ribs."
"Alright," Danny replied, wondering what his boss was up to.
Bill took his basket and went to the walk-in fridge. He took the finest cut of ribs in the batch, a couple of potatoes, the brightest pumpkin and the freshest greens. Though he was already the executive chef and he had a team of chefs to assist him, he decided that he would do Hillary's order all by himself so no one would see that he put poison in her food.
But of course, he would never ever to that, even to his most avowed enemies. And Hillary, she's just a bitch that he met. He wanted to show that he could be civil, unlike her.
Bill took the cut of rib and put it on the grill. Suddenly, he felt out his element. He had been making these ribs for years but somehow, he was doubting himself. What if he overcooked the ribs? What if it didn't have the usual melt-in-your-mouth texture? What if it was underseasoned? Sure, Bill was the executive chef and he didn't have to make these on a daily basis but he felt that his uncertainty was not because of his lack of practice. No. He was so familiar with the dish that he could make it with his eyes closed.
He didn't want to admit it, but he very well knew what was making him feel insecure: He wanted to impress Hillary. He wanted to impress the girl who broke his heart so that she would see that he was a better man that she thought to be.
He toiled in the kitchen for a good twenty minutes, pouring his heart and soul into the juicy ribs, the creamy mashed potatoes, the crisp salad and the hot pumpkin soup. He felt like it was as good as any of his other dishes, but he was still nagged by his self-doubt. Bill, sweating profusely, called a waiter and told him to take the food to their VIP guest.
The waiter did as he was told. Bill wiped the sweat off his face. He should go back to the main kitchen and assist his staff, but he was being stubborn today. He decided to freshen up a little and go outside to check on Hillary’s reaction.
When he emerged from the kitchen, the sight in front of him made his heart stop. Hillary was licking her lips as the barbecue sauce drizzled from the corner of her mouth. She then pouted her lips ever so slightly as she swallowed her entrée. Vivid images of Hillary licking her lips, her mouth laced with another substance flashed inside Bill’s hand, making him blush profusely in the middle of the restaurant.
To Bill’s misfortune, Hillary turned his head to his direction and caught him red-faced. Hillary mistook it for his rage and felt guilty that he was being hospitable despite what she had done. She wiped her mouth with a napkin and asked for the bill.
But before the waitress could even give Hillary the bill, Bill called the waitress and told her that Hillary's meals were on the house.
Hillary insisted to the waitress that she would pay, and Bill, coming from the other side, overruled. The poor, confused waitress stood in the crossfire of the two chefs who wouldn't relent, but the impasse was broken when Bill said, "I owe you. You gave me free dinner. I am just returning the favor."
The waitress happily walked away. Hillary was relieved that Bill didn't bring up anything beyond that dinner. It was that part of Las Vegas that she was fondly remembering without feeling guilty. Indeed, it was one of her happier memories from that trip"
"Fine," Hillary relented. "Thank you."
"It's the least I could do. I am just hoping that this is my last favor to you," Bill said, sitting on the chair opposite hers. "I hope you don't blame me if I want to maintain a distance from you."
"Not at all," Hillary lied, feeling the sting of Bill's words. "I would stay away from myself if that's possible."
"I don't mean it that way, but I am just protecting myself, you know?"
“I know,” Hillary replied, sighing. “Well, I guess I have no reason to stay here. I am intruding already.”
“I can’t say I’d want you in my house, but here in the restaurant, you are welcome to stay. We are always happy to accommodate guests.
Hillary felt another stab in her chest, to she tried to make the conversation light-hearted. “Which is why I am wondering why this restaurant hasn’t earned its Michelin star yet.”
“Well, actually…” Bill began to blush.
“You know something that I don’t,” Hillary began to smile.
“The guys from Michelin had already visited us last week. We are very optimistic that we can get that star,” Bill proudly told Hillary.
“That’s great! I know you’d get it.”
“Thanks. The team has been very great.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. These ribs are the best I’ve ever tasted in my life. Bar none,” Hillary said glowingly.
“You are too kind,” Bill tried to be modest.
“I am just saying,” she replied, “that these ribs are worth the trip.”
“Well, I won’t stop you showering praises on my ribs,” Bill chuckled nervously. “I can give you more, if you like.”
“No, no. I’ve already troubled you enough. But I wouldn’t say no to the recipe."
“Not in your lifetime, Hun,” Bill said without thinking. It didn’t take long for them to realize that he had just said, and it made them both feel uncomfortable.
“I’d better go,” Hillary stood up, breaking the awkward silence. “It’s been a lovely meal. You can visit The French Laundry sometimes. You know, to experience the first-class tasting menu.”
“If I can get out of here for a vacation,” Bill replied. “If we get that Michelin star, people will surely flock.”
“I understand,” Hillary smiled, “but it’ll be nice to see you at the French Laundry as a guest.”
“One day,” he promised.
“Alright. I better go now. Take care Bill.”
“You too,” he replied.
Bill watched Hillary walk away. He couldn’t help but feel empty. He had a nagging feeling if he simply let her go without a fight, she would be gone for good, and he wouldn’t get the closure that he needed, the closure that she owed him. She would no longer be in his life, nor her sweet smile, her beautiful eyes or her perfect being.
Bill ran to her, still not wanting to let her go that easily.
“Where are you staying in Little Rock and until when?”
Bill looked up the ceiling of Hillary’s hotel room, panting and wondering how he ended up like last time. A few hours ago, he went to her hotel to ask her out for coffee after he had finished his shift. He simply wanted to get some closure. But what Bill expected to be a night of catharsis became a night of passion and ecstasy. Bill didn’t realize how relieved he was when Hillary was back in his arms, moaning and thrashing under him. Every thrust inside her brought him joy. She was clinging onto him like he was her lifeline, and they were about to fall into a deep abyss. In her deep throes of passion, Hillary said multiple times that she missed him, and based on the way she sucked his cock, Bill had no doubt that it was true.
And then there was Hillary, sleeping peacefully as she clung into his body, her head resting on his chest as if it was a pillow. Once in a while, Bill would play with her hair or occasionally kiss her head.
Bill wondered if this was yet another mistake. Hillary had all but confirmed that she was still seeing her boyfriend, yet there she was, sleeping in his arms again. He was beginning to think that all she wanted from him was sex, and she was simply using his body. And yet again, he was tripping all over her, as if he didn't learn the lessons of their past.
Hillary began to stir when the sunlight hit her face. She stretched her arms and legs before looking up to him adoringly.
"Good morning," she said.
"Good morning to you too," he said. "Slept well?"
"Very much, thanks to you."
"How are you feeling?" he asked, trying to get a hint of where they stand.
"I am feeling refreshed. You are a great lover, Bill."
"I am glad."
Hillary caught that stoic tone, and she knew why he was speaking that way.
"I know what you're thinking, Bill," she said as got up from bed. "You think I used you again."
"I wish I could say otherwise. But you said so yourself. You have a boyfriend and you don't seem to have plans of breaking up with him anytime soon."
Hillary remained silent. What could she say? After all, he was right.
"Well, I better go." Bill got up from bed and began to dress up. "For what it's worth, it was a great night."
Of course it was, Hillary thought bitterly. They both orgasmed at least three times last night, not counting the times when they randomly touched each other in the night.
Hillary was in no mood stop him or to help him fix himself. She simply sat in her side of the bed, looking at the opposite direction, not wanting to see Bill leave. She only knew that she was still there by the sounds that he made.
After a while, Hillary heard Bill say "I'll be going" but she didn't respond. In another universe where she wasn't tied to another man, she would have had her in bed everyday, waking up to the beating of his heart and to his radiant smile. But, alas, it was not meant to be, and she had to live with what she had.
Hillary heard Bill open the door, prepared to let him go, or at least her mind was. But her heart wasn't quite there yet. Just as he was walking out of her life forever, Hillary thought of something. She suddenly blurted out "wait!", quickly got into her robe and rummaged something from her bag. She pulled out a small card and hurriedly handed it to Bill.
"My card," she said, panting. "Whenever you need anything, I'll be at The French Laundry. No matter what happened last night and this morning, my offer still stands. You can visit anytime. I can help you with anything. It's the least I could do."
"I doubt I'll go to you for anything because I should keep as far away from you as possible," he said, looking at the card, "but thank you anyway. You are a generous person with a big heart. It's just that I don't belong in yours."
Yet another stab in her chest. "I know. Take care then."
Hillary watched Bill leave for the elevator. As she did so, she was this close to making a call to Sean to tell him that they're over.