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Negotiation

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Sand dune with red flowers on it, and a blue sky with wispy white clouds.

New York was the city of restaurants, and Andy wanted to try them all, from the four-star temples written up in the Times to the kebab stands outside the Mirror. When she and Nate had been dating, they hadn’t had the money to go out often, but when they had gone out, they’d eaten well. All the line cooks in the city knew each other, and whenever Nate stuck his head in the kitchen to say hello to the back of the house, amuse bouches and extra tastes of this and that came to their table. With Emily, though, the problem was reversed--they had enough money to get takeout once a week, and splurge on somewhere nicer once a month, but they never ate out for dates.

“Andrea, you know I don’t eat,” Emily had said, when Andy had made reservations at Donatella’s for their first real date.

“Excuse me?” Andy had said. “You’re Assistant Beauty Director now, you can afford to have a pizza.”

Emily had given her a disdainful look. “It’s a question of appearance, not money. I work at the best magazine in the fashion industry. Even though I no longer represent Miranda as her First Assistant, there are still certain standards to uphold.”

“Well, fine, then, what’s your idea of a date?” Andy had said.

They’d ended up in a tiny West Village wine bar, where Andy ordered both the charcuterie and the cheese plates and had half a bottle of wine while Emily critized everyone’s clothing and deigned to eat a tiny wedge of Bleu d'Auvergne, a cornichon, and a dab of mustard.

Six months later, it came to a head when Andy finished a long day at the Mirror and wanted to meet up with Emily for dinner.

“I’m tired and I’m hungry and I need a curry now, or I’m going to kill someone and eat them,” Andy yelled through her cellphone.

“So have the curry by yourself and come over to my place afterward,” Emily hissed back. “You don’t need me there with you to eat.”

“I don’t need you there, but I want to have a good dinner and complain about my day and hear about yours,” Andy said, and suddenly found tears springing to her eyes. “Why is that so hard to understand?”

“This ridiculous attachment you have to social eating is beyond me, Andrea,” Emily snapped. “Why does this matter so much to you?”

“It just does!” Andy choked out. She had a smarter answer prepared, one she’d rehearsed in her head ever since that first date, because she’d known they’d have this fight sooner or later. Sitting down to eat around a table with people was a way of strengthening community bonds, of expressing affection for each other. It was sensual and indulgent and fun. Andy couldn’t get all that out right now, though, so she repeated, “It just does!” and hung up.

Fine. She’d take a deep breath, wipe her face off, and get murgh korma from the Indian place on her block. Then she’d call Emily and they would sit down, talk through their feelings, and find a mutually agreeable solution. They needed to find a solution, because Emily was apparently bound and determined to avoid all dining establishments ever, and Andy’s need to eat wasn’t going to disappear any time soon. Maybe she could start going on dinner dates with some of her colleagues at the Mirror.

Andy’s cell phone rang, and “Emily” popped up on the caller ID. Andy seriously considered hitting the ignore button, but she answered anyway. “What?”

“This having dinner thing matters deeply to you,” Emily said. “More deeply than can be explained by reason or sense.”

“It’s perfectly reasonable,” Andy began, sniffling, and Emily cut her off.

“I will meet you for dinner today. This is a special occasion since you’re apparently going to lose your mind if I don’t, and I’m not going to eat anything. I already had a salad and a Perrier today,” she said. “Is that acceptable?”

It wasn’t acceptable, it was bizarre and unsatisfying and, Andy realized, the biggest concession Emily was likely to make, so it would have to do. “That’s fine,” she said, and grabbed a tissue to start dabbing the tears out of her eyes.

“The things I do for you,” Emily sighed. “Where is this restaurant? Send me the address, and I’ll meet you there.”

“Ok,” Andy said, and paused. “Hey, you know this is our first real fight?”

“And it’s over food? You’re full of surprises. Honestly, I’d expected it to be about your clothes, or some idealistic cause like the plight of the unemployed masses,” Emily said, sounding surprised.

“I live to surprise you,” Andy said, with more bravado than she felt. “I’ll see you in twenty minutes?”

“Yes, I can wrap up this article and leave by then,” Emily said, and she sounded distracted as she continued, “God, the eyeliners this month, you would not believe how overdone they are--or maybe you would, it’s hard to say sometimes...”

Andy grinned and said, “Oh, and thanks, Emily,” before hanging up. She had a dinner date to make.