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Rated: E · Fiction · Romance/Love · #2285914
Fiction: a couple share an Indonesian meal.
"Tuak, tuak, tuak, tuak!" the group sang on the background recording as the waiter set their plates on the table. Nasi goreng, garlicky fried rice, lined each plate, garnished with raw vegetables and a soft fried egg.

"Would you like to try real tuak?" the waiter asked, placing a dish of fragrant sate ajam between their plates.

"Not for me, thanks." Bella's nose wrinkled and flared slightly.

Dmitri wasn't even looking at her. "I will! With two glasses, okay?"

"Okay." The waiter bowed slightly and smiled slightly before adding little bowls of saffron-yellow atjar tjampoer to the side of each plate, and finally a plate of crisp kroepoek.

Bella tasted her rice first. "Delicious!"

"Yeah!" Dmitri beamed. "I've checked out seven different Indonesian restaurants this week, and this one is the best,"

Bella sighed. The song about palm wine ended and was replaced by a tinkling instrumental piece. She took a sate skewer from the plate between them and nibbled at nut-enhanced, peppery chicken. "Perfect," she said.

"Yeah," Dmitri breathed, tasting the chicken. "I feel like I deserve this. I spent all morning working on my Go Fund Me appeal."

"Did you?" Bella savored a saffron-dyed strip of cabbage from her dish of atjar tjampoer. It was just right, not too sweet, not too sour.

The waiter returned and poured tuak into each of two glasses, leaving the bottle open on the table.

"I didn't try the wine, before," Dmitri said. "I wanted to save that to share with you."

Bella's eyebrows arched. "Save? You?"

"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?" He loaded his fork with rice and chewed vigorously.

"I don't know if it's supposed to mean anything." She took another sate skewer and contemplated her plate. "This is excellent chicken."


"I always wonder about the people in the places our restaurants get their ideas from," Bella said. "Somehow I don't think they ate this kind of feast every day. Maybe at some kind of celebration they ate like this. Other days they might have had just the rice and garlic and maybe a vegetable, if they were lucky. They didn't eat the way we do. Didn't get fat the way we do."

"You complaining?"

"Not really," Bella crunched a kroepoek. "Hmm."

"Is it good?" Dmitri took a kroepoek. It tasted good to him.

"I don't care that much for shrimp. You can have all of them if you like."

"So are you going to try the wine? Tuak, tuak, tuak..."

"I might have to drive this afternoon."

"You could taste it," Dmitri grumbled.

"I could," Bella said, "but I'm not going to." She took another bite of nasi goreng. "I saw the price on that bottle, and I'm not going to drink wine at lunch just because you spent your money on it. Dmitri, you're going for a master's degree, right? You're a sophomore. You work thirty hours a week for, what, twelve dollars an hour? You've got to stop eating in expensive restaurants. Seven times this week?"

"You like it, don't you? I mean, I want to treat you to the best."

"Dmitri Houlihan, Crown Prince of Aspirational," said Bella, "I like this meal, yes. I liked the meal we had last week. I like you, too. I care about you. That's why, you know," she made air quotes, "we have to stop meeting like this. If you're going to be bankrupt, or make your parents bankrupt, before you even graduate, you're not going to spend the money on me."
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