It was a necklace with a delicate white gold chain and a stunning black onyx pendant with white bands running through it dangling from the center of it. There were two small diamonds on either side of the onyx and I knew at a glance that it must have cost a fortune. I felt one of the tears in my eyes spill over onto my cheek and I turned around to go find Alex. I didn’t have to look far; he was standing in the doorway behind me, smiling.
“Alex! It’s all so beautiful, but it’s too much, really.”
He came over to me and took the necklace from my hands. He took it out of the box and held it up to my neck and said, “I saw it and I couldn’t stop thinking about how pretty it would look on your gorgeous neck.” He stepped sideways so that I could see the mirror as he held it against my skin and said, “Look, I was right. Please accept it, Vicki. I would never buy you anything that I didn’t want you to have or that I didn’t think you deserved.”
I was speechless. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. When I finally let him go, I voiced that thought aloud. I saw him furrow his brow and for a second I wondered if maybe he’d never seen the movie, but then he took my chin in his hand and tipped my face up towards him and said, “Do you know what the big difference is?”
“I’m not Julia Roberts?” I asked, kidding… sort of.
“No, you’re not,” he said. “You are ten times as beautiful, first of all. Second of all, she played a call girl in that movie. You’re much, much more than that. You’re my son’s mother and you’re my… I hate the term girlfriend, it seems so juvenile, and I just don’t like it. But you mean so much to me, Vicki. I look into your eyes and I just feel it… it’s like… Damn!”
“What? What is it?”
“I don’t want to scare you.”
“Scare me? You’re scaring me by not saying it.”
“When I look into your eyes Vicki, I feel like I?
??ve found my soulmate. I love you… I’m in love with you.” The lone tear on my face was joined by about a hundred more. After a few seconds it was a torrent and I could hardly see his beautiful face through them. “Please don’t cry… I’m sorry.”
I had to sniff and like a six year old, I used the back of my hand to wipe my tears away as I said, “Oh no! Please don’t be sorry. They’re happy tears. I’m so happy! I love you too, Alex. I just wasn’t sure how you felt about me.”
He grinned. I melted. “I love you. I want you. I need you, and when Cassandra is out of our lives I want to put a ring on your finger. I’m not going to do it yet because I don’t want anything to take away from that moment.”
I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Did he just say he wants to marry me? I threw my arms around him and he held me until I was able to get my tears under control. Most of them ended up all over his shirt, his shoulder was soaked. He lifted my head with a touch and pressed his soft lips to mine. He kissed me deeply and passionately and for the first time in my entire life I finally knew just exactly where I belonged.
He took me to Santa Monica for dinner to a place called Mélisse. It’s a French/American restaurant, and probably the nicest place I had ever been inside of. The outside looked like a picture of a French Bistro. It was wood and glass and had a big, green and white striped arbor over the entryway. There were potted plants on either side of the door and as soon as we entered we were greeted by a chic-looking hostess dressed all in black.
The walls of the restaurant were a deep purple color and there were beautiful gold lights all around the top of them that pointed towards the ceiling. They let off enough light to eat comfortably but still allowed for a romantic ambiance. The tables were all covered with white linen table cloths and set with fine silver and linen napkins. A hand-blown blue glass candle holder sat in the center of each one and a votive candle cast a glow across each of the patron’s faces. Fine artwork adorned the walls and a silver bowl sat in the center on a fine wood table filled with ice and chilling champagne.
“It’s so pretty in here!”
Alex smiled, “Yes, it is. The food is fantastic too.”
The hostess led us to a quiet corner of the restaurant to a small table near one of the windows that opened up to the man-made pond outside that had what looked like a handcrafted wooden bridge going across it and real ducks swimming and white lily pads floating. It was amazing. Alex didn’t take the seat across from me, instead he took the one next to me and angled it so that we were facing each other and close enough to touch knees.
Alex took my hand in his and brought it to his lips and said, “That dress looks beautiful on you.”
I smiled. “Thank you. I love it.”
He winked at me and said, “Thank you for agreeing to come out.”
“I needed this,” I told him. The waiter brought us a wine menu. I’d pumped enough milk for Michael for the night so that I could have wine tonight; Alex knew exactly which one to order.
The waiter brought the wine back and poured us each a glass after Alex tasted and approved it. After he’d gone away again Alex said, “Have you been to a restaurant with a tasting menu?”
He smiled gently and said, “Basically we just order for two and they bring the food out in courses. It’s a lot of food so if there’s something you don’t like, you’ll likely be able to find something in the next course.”
“Oh, that sounds like fun.” He smiled. It was an affectionate smile and I didn’t feel like he was judging me at all for not knowing what a “tasting menu” was. It was one of the things I’d loved about him back when I was just his employee as well; he never seemed to judge people based on their background or social status.
Alex wasn’t kidding when he said there was a lot of food. Most of it, I had to ask Alex what it was, but he patiently told me what each thing was and after a while I wasn’t even embarrassed to ask him. For our first course we were served sweet pea soup, sun-choke chips and a whipped black truffle. There was also egg caviar which I’d never tasted and a soft poached egg with lemon-chive crème fraiche and American olestra caviar. There were turnips, young tatsoi, truffle-lime vinaigrette and Maine diver scallops. There were leeks, cardoons, beech mushrooms, Buddha’s Hand, crème de brandade, seared foie gras, red butter lettuce salad radish, grilled scallion vinaigrette, wagyu beef tartare smoked tomato emulsion, capers and puffed rice. My personal favorite was the white asparagus “Cocotte” and the morel mushrooms with yellow wine sauce. The second course was as ridiculously long. It was all yummy, but it was so much food. The whole time I worried about how much we were wasting and I thought about Cook and his soup kitchen. I wondered if people like Alex who had grown up with excesses realized how much food was wasted at a place like this on a daily basis, and how many hungry people were in the city. I didn’t mention it to him now. It wasn’t the time or the place, but it was something to think about for the future. I am so lucky and so is my son… I’d love to be able to give back the way that Cook does.
We ate until I was so full that I thought I would have to be rolled away and while we ate, we talked about anything and everything. Alex asked me if I could go anywhere in the world, where would I like to go. I didn’t have to think about it, I said, “Ireland.”