Cherry Tomatoes

She was looking at me from across the table with beguiling eyes. As soon as I sat down in front of my sterling silver I could feel them on me like hot, incandescent stage lights. They were watching me, sagacious, watching as I picked up my glass of water and brought it to my lips, watching as I wiped the dampness from around my mouth. Curious eyes, they were. Ogling me like I was the first woman they’d ever seen in their life.

And I didn’t dare meet their gaze, despite how easy it would have been. All I had to do was look up — a gesture so innocuous that no one would’ve batted an eye. Pretend to glimpse the clouds, the way the sun was slanted on our dinner table, the ketchup stains on the worn tablecloth… anything that would have given me an excuse to glance at her for even a moment.

Keeping my eyes fixated on the wilty spinach salad in front of me may have been the hardest thing I had to do in my life. And that wasn’t a hyperbole.

Four tomatoes, sliced down the middle. Were they cherry or grape? They looked too rounded to be cherry but had too many seeds to be grape. Maybe they were some sort of heirloom?

“How’s your food, dear?”

I looked up, stunned, feeling more exposed than a bathtub murder victim, body naked sprawled out for everyone to see up-close. For a second I’d forgotten there was anyone else around me. I blinked rapidly and glanced down at my food once again.

I couldn’t bear to glare at those damn tomatoes anymore — all red and fleshy and gushing with seeds, skins wrinkling ever so slightly from the sting of the sun.

This is it, I thought. I’m going to be lovesick all over the table.

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About the Author

My name is Sarah Butkovic and I received my BA in English from Dominican University in May of 2021 and recently received my MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. As a writer, I have published creative and journalistic work within and outside an academic setting, including a news piece in a local Chicago paper. Ray Bradbury is my most frequent literary muse as well as my favorite author.