Days turned into hours; hours turned into minutes; and minutes turned into moments. Soon, I was off to New York, my skin tingling with the giddiness of a school kid awaiting ice-cream on a sweltering summer’s day. When I hopped off and noticed Daniel for the first time, my wide-eyed enthusiasm turned into a longing. It was like I was super-hungry and a succulent roast that just came out of the oven from a hefty duration of slow cooking, juices flowing and everything and I was getting closer and closer towards it. Oh, listen to me, I’m comparing Daniel to a roast!
“Hi,” I breathed into the hollow of his neck as I hugged him. He felt so warm.
“Hey beautiful,” he replied. “How was the flight?”
“Terrible,” I feigned a pout, “I’m never coming back.”
I gasped and nudged Daniel. He laughed raucously, his head lifted back and his mouth wide.
“Honestly, though, it was alright,” I shrugged. “Nothing special.”
Daniel squeezed me at the waist. “Definitely something special.”
I smiled and squeezed back. “Definitely.”
We wasted no time. I got off from having to go to work on Friday night to set air-sail around noon. When I landed in New York we only had little time to prepare ourselves for dinner. Daniel didn’t even let me know, and when I asked him why we were scurrying around like autumn leaves in the heavy set wind, he said that he thought he told me that we had dinner reservations sometime between the week after he left California and the bumpy cab ride to our booking.
“I’m sure I would have remembered,” I said. “I would have at least put a little effort into my outfit.”
Daniel sighed and rolled his eyes, for the fiftieth time. Considering I’ve been saying it so many times. “You look fine.”
“I’m barely wearing any accessories!” Daniel grinned and winked at me. I pointed at him in warning. “Don’t even allude to a pearl necklace joke.”
Daniel chuckled and then softly held my wrist. “You’re wearing the diamond bracelet,” he offered. “That’s all the accessory you need, really. In my opinion. Oh, wait, how are the kids these days saying it? ‘I.M.O’?”
I laughed. “Oh my God, don’t ever do that again. And you’re practically a kid too.”
“It’s ‘O.M.G’, babe.” I meant to nudge him with my elbow, but the dip in the road caused more force than I intended and I ended up puncturing Daniel a little more than I wanted. “Oww,” he said, rubbing the spot.
“Sorry,” I said.
“You owe me a kiss for that.”
I smiled and then peeled myself up towards him. Our lips met and in that moment I realised I was hungrier for him than any slow cooked mamma’s-type-roast in the world. Daniel tasted heavenly.
“Speaking of kids,” Daniel started, “your birthday is coming up soon.”
“It’s in October,” I said.
“Still, I like to plan ahead.”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s on Halloween. It’s a party in itself; no planning required.”
“Wouldn’t hurt to consider a few options.”
Daniel shrugged. “I don’t know. What do you really want for your birthday?”
I faux-pondered for a moment with my head tilted and my index finger resting on my chin. Then I grinned as I turned to Daniel. “A pearl necklace.”
Daniel burst out laughing, scaring the driver. After apologising to the driver, he kissed me. “Nicely done, grasshopper.”
I shook my head. “Sun Ce.”
“Fine,” Daniel smiled. “I give in. Sun Ce.”
The restaurant Daniel booked was so formal that I felt unbelievably underdressed. I couldn’t help but feel the stares of certain patrons riding up and down my outfit. I imagined their thoughts coated in an insanely obnoxious French accent; one that could only be exaggerated since most of the French people I’ve met in my life have only ever been nice. The exaggerated one I tend to hear is in movies and cartoons; reminiscing about Steve Martin as The Pink Pather definitely did take my mind off the stares. Took one hell of a side-track to get me comfortable, that’s for sure!
“I’m sorry, sir, we’re all booked out tonight,” the hostess said, making no effort to refrain from openly appraising Daniel I might add. She was one lip-lick away, like a seducing harlot, from getting a facial smack down from me.
“Under Daniel,” he said confidently, his hands in his pockets and his back straight.
The hostess looked through her book and then pursed her lips; after crossing his name out, she led us to our table.
Then the waiter came. “Would you like to hear the specials for this evening?”
I nodded. “Sure.” I never know what to say when they ask. Has anyone ever turned them down? Unless they really know the menu, I don’t see that happening.
After my initial disappointment of not hearing a roast come out of the waiter’s spiel, we ordered and waited.
“Oh,” Daniel said to the waiter. The waiter stopped in his tracks and then came back in an instant.
I was so used to informalities that hearing someone call someone else a ‘sir’ made me feel like I was in nineteenth century England. Tea and crumpets for everyone!
“Is Chef Rosin here tonight?”
The waiter’s eyes widened a fraction. “Yes, Chef Rosin is serving tonight.”
“Please send him my best.”
“Whom is this best from, may I ask?”
I had to bite my lip to keep myself from snickering by the way the waiter asked that question.
“Tell him Daniel, from Richard and Daniel. He’ll understand who it is.”
The waiter nodded and then trotted off.
“’Daniel from Richard and Daniel’?” I asked.
“My father and I know him. A little inside joke about how family businesses are usually titled something like ‘David and sons’. Chef Rosin’s son works in this establishment as well.”
“Passing on the common tradition.”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get too far away from that common tradition. Wasted a few years at UCLA.”
“Oh come on,” I said, hoping to brighten the mood, “it can’t have been a complete waste.”
Daniel smiled, his eyes filling with light. “You’re right. That’s where I met my girlfriend.”
I grinned and reddened. “Aww shucks.”
“I wasn’t talking about you,” Daniel laughed.
I smacked him on his hand. “Daniel!”
“I’m sorry,” he tried stifling his laugh, “it was open and I just had to go for it. I really meant the prelude to that joke though.”
I rolled my eyes and smiled, even though I found it funny as well, I didn’t want to show him. “Well thanks. And for that, you owe me a kiss.”
Daniel grinned and then sat up. I mirrored him and we leaned across the table for the kiss. His lips laid on mine as soft as silk. We were the type of couple that can do PDA, but we were definitely not into overboard, drown-into-each-other-type PDA. In public, that’s just gross! After all, we were at a classy place and people want to eat, not watch a sex show materialise before their eyes.
The waiter came back in no time, looking more eager to please the second time round. Following behind him was a handsomely dressed young man; younger than most of the waiters in this room.
“Compliments of the house, Chef Rosin has offered a ’69 Merlot,” the waiter said. “Along with his best.”
The handsomely dressed young man held up the Merlot and poured the excess right out of the bottle and into our glasses.
“Thank you,” Daniel said.
I was too tongue-tied to speak. I didn’t know a grape from wine; but I did know that the ’69 Merlot was off a certain level of extravagance usually reserved for people like J.Jo or Diddy! Daniel accepted graciously, and took a sip, offering his own set of compliments.
“Aren’t you going to try?” Daniel asked when the waiter and the young man disappeared.
I nodded, slightly spaced out. The Merlot ran down my throat smoothly, pecking its sweetness here and there. I could have sworn this was ambrosia!
“This is amazing,” I said as Daniel watched me with a lingering curiosity I had seen many times before. “I don’t understand how amazing everything is.”
Daniel chuckled. “I’m glad you’re enjoying the night.”
“And it’s barely started. I can’t even wait to see what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
“Speaking of which,” Daniel said when our starters came. I tried refraining from gobbling down each piece of food like a gremlin, “there’s a charity benefit tomorrow night. Brian is hosting; you remember Brian?”
I nodded. “Slightly. One of your ex-roomies right?” the name was familiar, but the face attached to it was nowhere to be found.
“Right,” Daniel confirmed. “Anyway, that whole ALS ice-bucket challenge is making its rounds and has finally hit the people of Facebook.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I saw Janet and Stanley do it with Jodie.”
“Well, Brian, and I really, have been noticing that some people don’t even donate to charity afterwards or before. They just do the ice-bucket challenge. So Brian has been thinking about doing this charity event to get people to pay as well as ice-bucket-it-up.”
“Do I have to dress fancy?”
Daniel shook his head. “Not entirely. It doesn’t have to be too formal. It’s only on a rooftop somewhere; I’m not too sure where but I know it’s not at his apartment.”
“We’re not going to be dousing ice-water on unsuspecting people on the street are we?”
Daniel laughed, trying to contain the food about to pop out of his mouth. “No, of course not. We’re not that crazy.”
“Okay,” I nodded, smiling, “just checking.”
“So you’ll come?”
“Of course I’ll come. Can I just pay though? Not sure how I’d feel about being cold for most of the night.”
“I’ll keep you warm.”
“Aww-can I still pay?” I grinned.
Daniel shrugged. “If you want, but I suggest taking this as a charity event-slash-new experience.”
“I’ll think about it.”
There was a certain lull in the conversation; kind of like when a breeze on a sunny day suddenly stops, and everything is quiet. It was kind of unnerving, but I didn’t want to seem too paranoid by asking about it. Was there even anything to ask about?
“There’s also something else I should tell you,” Daniel said, hesitantly. I guess I didn’t have to ask about the lull in the conversation after all.
“Okay,” I said, my tone urging him to continue.
Daniel cleared his throat and then lubricated with our new friend, Merlot. “Samantha is Brian’s girlfriend.”
My throat clogged at the mention of her name. Daniel only looked at me from time to time when he stated that, now he was looking at me intently, trying to read my reaction. How could I have reacted, honestly? I was only heating up and staring back at him. My ears were burning; my lips, suddenly dry and feeling like sandpaper. My hands were clammy, I tried wiping the palms from my wrist up to my forearm to get rid of the moisture, but there was no use, it just wouldn’t go away. These nerves would not go away. This reaction to merely Samantha’s name would not go the fuck away.
“Brian assured me she wouldn’t be there,” Daniel rapidly fired. “I promise you, I would not go if I knew she would be there.”
“No matter how good the cause?” I asked in a teeny tiny voice.
Daniel’s eyes softened and he reached out for my hand. “Not if it made you uncomfortable. Either way, I’d want to avoid her at all costs; the first thing I did was ask Brian if she’d be there and he said that she wouldn’t. If she was, I’d donate in some other way.”
“We’d make our own ice-bucket challenge experience.”
A comforting smile sneaked its way on the corner of Daniel’s lips. “In the convenience of our own home.”
“Probably in the bathroom.”
Daniel smile wider. “So it’s easy to clean up.”
I exhaled loudly, my cheeks blown up to the size of a blow fish’s. “I guess I’m fine with that.”
“Are you sure? We can back out any time you want; I have no problems with that.”
I shook my head. “No, it’s fine.”
“Any time,” he assured.
I nodded weakly. “Got it.”
Daniel paused to stare at me, and I wondered what he thought. “I’m going to go and send a more personal regard to the chef. Do me a favour?” I lifted an eyebrow in waiting. “Sit here and think about it seriously, and take your time. I want you to be alone with your thoughts so you can truly feel comfortable about this.”
“Okay.” It might be a good idea.
Daniel kissed me on the top of my head and then walked in the direction of the kitchen. For the entire time of that moment, my mind was plagued with the harrowing infection of ‘what if’s…’