"John, do I really have to keep the blindfold on?"
"Itís not detrimental to your life or health, but in a word, yes."
I snicker as Evangeline reaches out to swat me, but totally misses. She pouts and says, "Just you wait. Iím going to get you back."
"Be my guest. You can even blindfold me if you want."
Evangeline grins devilishly. "You have a thing for blindfolds donít you?"
"No, I just donít believe you when you say that you promise not to open your eyes."
"You know I donít like surprises, John."
"I promise you, that youíll love this one."
I really hope that she does. Ever since a week ago, when her Mom left, Evangeline has been a little sad. Even though I got her Valentineís Day present a while ago, I wanted to do something extra special for her. A couple of days ago, I saw an ad for a brownstone for lease, and since Evangeline and I have been throwing around the idea of moving in together for a while, I went to check it out.
So after a nice dinner at Audrey Claire, a Mediterranean restaurant in Philadelphia, I told Evangeline that I had another surprise and blindfolded her. What I wasnít expecting was the bad traffic, and weíve been in pretty much the same spot for the past fifteen minutes, which is probably why Evangeline is starting to get antsy.
"Iím taking it off John."
"I hope youíre not talking about the blindfold."
"Donít quit your day job. Youíre no Robin Williams."
"And the lady strikes again. Ouch!"
"And Iíve got more where that came from."
I donít have a comeback, but I do have a pretty good distraction.
"I completely forgot, I bought you some candy."
"Ooh candy! Where is it?"
I reach over and pull the heart shaped box of candy out of the dashboard and hand it to her. I didnít actually forget about it, but after buying the chocolate, I felt ridiculous and a little cheesy, so I didnít give it to her. But thank God for chocolate, and Evangelineís enormous sweet tooth. The candy keeps her occupied until we arrive at our destination.
I park the car in front of the house and turn off the engine, rolling my eyes as Evangeline whispers, "Finally. I thought weíd be driving around until daybreak tomorrow." I love her, but she can be so dramatic at times.
As weíre walking towards the house, I stop and say, "You have to hold my hand now. Thereís about 5 steps up."
"In kindergarten, I almost fell for that at Danny Warnerís birthday party. Luckily for me, his sister hated frogs and she screamed when she saw it in his hand."
"Yeah, well, Iím not Danny Warner. Though I can see why heíd be so desperate to hold your hand that heíd try to trick you into it. You were probably a very beautiful kindergartener."
"John, he tried to get me to touch a frog."
"Hey, at that age, we guys think that all girls dig amphibians. He probably really liked you and I can bet that you screamed and refused to ever talk to him again. Poor guy."
"Oh yeah. I definitely ruined his life. Are we doing this or not?"
"Youíre the one giving me a hard time about holding your hand."
Evangeline slips her hand in mine and squeezes gently. "Lead on Lieutenant McBain."
I use the key that the real estate agent lent me to open the front door and then I circle around Evangeline, replacing the blindfold with my hand.
"Okay. Iím gonna count to three and then Iíll uncover your eyes. Ready?"
"One. Two. Three. You can look now."
Evangeline glances around the immense foyer, with itís high vaulted ceiling and the beautiful mahogany staircase, with itís carved posts and risers and gasps. "Oh my God. This place is gorgeous, John!"
"Wait until you see the rest of the place."
The foyer led into a huge room with polished hardwood floors, French doors that lead out to an outdoor eating area and herb garden, and a large fireplace.
I point out a random spot in the room. "Youíll finally have space to put your piano."
Evangeline turns to me with an excited smile. "This place is ours?"
"If you like all of it, then you can sign the lease. And if you donít, we can just keep looking."
"I donít think that weíre gonna have to keep looking. Just tell me one thing. Is the kitchen big?"
"Why donít you go see for yourself?"
That is one aspect of this house that I know for sure that Evangeline will love. The kitchen is almost an exact replica of her own, only itís much bigger and some of the appliances are more state of the art. And as an added plus, it has an island, which is something that Evangeline really wanted for her own kitchen. I donít really know why, but whatever it takes to make her happy... and from the excited squeal that I can hear from the kitchen, I would say that she is pretty happy.
Evangeline comes running back into the living room, laughing as she slides on the floor. "John, I want it. And I think that you like it too, or you wouldnít have brought me here."
"Yeah, I do like this place. But donít you want to see the upstairs before you decide whether you like the house?"
"I guess I was so excited that I forgot that there was more to see. Whatís up there?"
"Thereís two guest rooms, a bathroom and a master suite."
"Well then, letís go check it out."
I stand at the bottom of the stairway, watching Evangeline run up the stairs. Thereís an almost clear picture in my mind of a little girl that looks exactly like Evangeline running up these stairs with the same joyful laugh, turning around to grin at me and ask, "Arenít you coming?" in the same way that Evangeline is doing now. A few months ago, the thought of us having children together scared the crap out of me, but now, it just seems like a normal thought.
After stopping at the realtorís office to sign the lease, Evangeline and I go to her apartment to cool down from the excitement of tonight. But for some reason, that image that I got at the house keeps popping into my mind, and I canít shake it off.
"Do you want kids?"
Apparently, I asked at a bad time, because Evangeline just took a sip of wine and it comes flying out of her mouth. I pat her back lightly, since sheís choking so hard, sheís turning red.
"Um. Wow! Thatís an interesting way to breach the subject. Just pop out with the question."
"Sorry. I wasnít expecting you to be so surprised or for you to have something in your mouth."
"Yeah, well... why do you want to know, today of all days?"
"When we were at the house, I saw you running up the stairs and this image popped into my mind of a little girl that looked exactly like you. And Iíve seen how you interact with kids. All of your maternal instincts just take over. Whatís more important is that I would love nothing more than to be able to have kids with you someday."
"Who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend who says that when God handed out sentimentality, he came late?"
I tickle the bottom of her feet, which are lying in my lap. She yelps and pulls her feet away from me and tucks them underneath her.
"Iím serious Evangeline."
She favours me with a look that says plainly, Ďhow serious can you be if you were just tickling me?í and shakes her head.
"Itís not something that I really thought about that much. But yes, I do want to have kids someday. I guess Iím just waiting for the right guy."
Okay. So that was an honest answer. Not exactly what I was hoping that Iíd hear, but it was what I asked for.
Evangeline scoots over into my lap with a grin and pokes my cheek lightly. I turn my head to face her. "Whatís up?"
"Do you know that you are absolutely adorable when youíre sulking?"
"You know what? Youíre not very nice to me. Not only do you hurt my feelings, but you actually called me adorable? Are you kidding me?"
"You can be totally stubborn, and a pain in the neck sometimes, but I love you and I canít think of a man more perfect to have children with."
"And I definitely canít think of a woman more perfect to have children with, even though, you do have some tendencies towards craziness."
Instead of glaring at me like I expected, she smiles and says, "Youíre right. I must be crazy. Iím in love with you."
"Isnít Valentineís Day a day for us to celebrate our love?"
"Thatís what weíre doing. Just in a very unusual way."
We sit silently for a few moments, wrapped in our own thoughts and recaps of the nightís events.
"Weíre going to have to start getting boxes and packing up our apartments soon."
"Okay. Maybe if we start packing your stuff now, weíll be able to move in a couple of months," I say with a smirk.
"Iím going to pretend you didnít say that."
"Thank you. So other than packing up our apartments, what else do we have to do?"
Evangeline has a look on her face that makes me instantly regret asking that question. The look that she gets when she has a new idea, and thereís no way to stop her once she getís going.
"We need to... go furniture shopping, since both of our apartments came furnished and we have very little furniture of our own. And we need to decide how weíre going to decorate the place, what colours weíre going to paint the walls. On second thought, we should do that before we go furniture shopping. Then we need to buy the paint and paint the walls before we move our stuff in. Oh! I just had a really great idea! We can have a housewarming party after we move, though of course, we donít necessarily have to. But it would be cool if we could have all of our friends and family over to see the new placeĖ
She stops short when she notices me grinning goofily, and stands, glaring at me indignantly with her arms akimbo. "Do you find something funny, Lieutenant?"
"I was just smiling at the way your eyes light up, and the way you babble and wave your hands around wildly when youíre excited."
"Oh," she says, dropping herself back into my lap. "Arenít you excited too?"
"Of course I am. Iím just not really the type of person who worries about furniture and decorating and matching china and silverware and housewarming parties. And it just amuses me how things like planning how to decorate a new home can make you so happy."
"Itís planning on how to decorate a new home that Iím going to share with you, the man I love, that makes me so happy. And since I know how much you like parties, we donít have to have a housewarming party. But we do have to do everything else."
"Thatís sweet, but I happen to know that you love parties. And I donít mind having a housewarming party after we move, on one condition."
"And what would that be?"
"No cucumber sandwiches."
"You again with the cucumber sandwiches? Iím starting to think that you actually really like those things."
"Theyíre not so bad, itís just that they arenít real food."
"John you decide what real food is according to the meat content."
"For the last time. A Gardenburger is not a real burger. A turkey burger isnít a real burger. A burger made with hamburger meat, ie beef, is a real burger."
"Donít knock my Gardenburgers. I happen to know that you like them, for all of your talk about them not being real food."
I try to make my expression as neutral as possible while asking, "Where did you get that piece of information?"
"Letís just say that if youíre ever planning a surprise for me, donít tell Michael."
Michael can keep a secret perfectly well. Itís just that when Evangeline wants to find something out from anyone, she does this thing with her eyes. And when she looks at someone like that, youíre either too scared not to tell her what she wants to know, or you feel bad about not telling her earlier and you spill it all. When you add that to the fact that Michael loves to find new and unusual ways to torture me, Iím just begging for it if I leave Michael and Evangeline alone.
"Looks like Michael wants facial reconstruction surgery for free."
Evangeline laughs and elbows me lightly in the ribs. "Leave your poor brother alone. I donít know why you guys are always torturing each other. Just call a truce or something. On second thought... donít. Itís sort of funny to watch."
"Just for that, I am going to call a truce."
"Aha! I got you! Thatís exactly what I wanted you to say."
Outsmarted by Evangeline Williamson again. My pride is taking a serious beating tonight. Not that I mind. Iím loving every second of it, though I did especially love the look on Evangelineís face when I took the blindfold off. Thatís going straight into the memory box that resides in my head.
"Did you enjoy your Valentineís Day surprises?"
Evangeline squints at me and shakes her head at me with a Ďshame on youí look on her face. "Tell me you arenít serious."
"You did some major damage to my ego, I just thought that you might want a chance to repair it."
"I canít argue with that. I loved my Valentineís Day surprises. Guess what part of today I liked the best."
"The flowers I sent to your office?"
"That comes in third place."
"I give up then. I canít think of anything today that you would like more than the house."
"What weíre doing right now."
Now, Iím confused. And Iím starting to think that maybe I am as dumb as Michael keeps telling me. Itís never a good thing when I start to agree with Michael.
"Yeah, youíre gonna have to help me out with that one, because I donít get it."
"Iím talking about what weíre doing right this minute. Weíre sitting in the couch, weíre both in pajamas and I have absolutely no makeup on. All weíre doing is talking to each other and making plans for our future together, and that to me is the best and most romantic part of tonight."
I smile and pull her closer to me, kissing the top of her head. "Well in that case, I guess I donít have to give you your present then."
She turns to me with an incredulous grin. "Are you kidding? I thought that we were done with the presents!"
"This has been just the greatest 7 months of my life, and I just want you to know how special and important you are to me, not just today, but every day. But today was so ideal for surprising you, because I know that you thought I forgot about Valentineís Day."
"Youíre spoiling me McBain. I hope you realize that youíre setting yourself up."
"I donít mind. I actually look forward to a lifetime of showing you how much I love you each and every day."
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