Ross’s writing is sensual, brooding, playful, dark and unexpected – and nowhere more so than in this story.‘The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant’ is about love, sacrifice, misogyny, loyalty, sex and death. It does what it says on the tin: a woman takes up permanent residence in her would-be lover’s restaurant to wait patiently for his affection. The building itself cracks, shifts and breaks whenever the lovers touch too much: she’s in for a long wait, as he’s married to his job. So she waits. He sends her exquisite, off-menu dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and she waits. Customers complain about her, and she waits. Staff resent her, and she waits. The couple take great, melancholic pleasure in the simple joy of being in proximity, of having one another in sight, sharing a single kiss each day, but never truly being together. In fact, as the chef goes home each night, the mistress actually spends more time with his wife, the silent but ever-present restaurant. And there’s something quite beautiful about that too.
First published by Nightjar Press in 2015, and collected in Come Let Us Sing Anyway, Peepal Tree Press, 2017, Best British Short Stories 2016, Salt, 2016 and The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, Penguin, 2018. Read it online at the Barcelona Review