"John are we almost there? Iím starting to get tired. And Iím pretty sure that Iím starving."
He turns his head and gives me an Ďare you kidding me?í look and says, "How can you be tired? Iíve been carrying you for the past fifteen minutes."
I give his shoulder a light poke. "And whose fault is that McBain? You told me to meet you for lunch and dress casually and I did. Itís not my fault that you didnít tell me to wear shoes that I could hike in and the heel on my sandal broke."
"You know, I told you on Valentineís Day to look up the meaning of surprise. Did you ever do it?"
"Iíll have you know that I did. And just because I know the meaning doesnít mean that I have to like them."
"You know what I think? I think that youíre just mad that you have never managed to plan a surprise for me without me finding out. I keep on telling you that Michael loves surprises and he loves to talk . You do the math."
"Math was my worst subject in school. I always got A-minusís."
"I oughta drop you right here just for that."
I kiss him on the cheek and beam at him. "Maybe you oughta, but you wonít. You donít want the big, bad puppies to come get me."
John turns his head and glares at me. Two weeks ago, we went camping with Marcie, Michael, Bo and Nora and after it got dark, a puppy from the neighbouring camp site wandered onto ours and I picked it up to return it to itís owners. Well along comes John, who heard it whining, and he freaks out because he got the idea that I was playing with a raccoon or something. Why he thinks I would do something that dumb, I donít know. We still havenít stopped making fun of him.
"Youíre lucky that weíre here or I would abandon you in the woods."
John comes to a stop and I slide off of his back. Right in the middle of a field of wild flowers is a blue blanket with a picnic basket, two champagne flutes and a bottle of champagne. I look over at John with barely concealed tears in my eyes.
"You did all of this for me?"
"All of this and more. But thatís for later. Sit down."
"What do you mean by more? Whatís going on?"
"Well, right now Iím trying to convince you to sit down so that we can have lunch. I think I should be allowed to eat since I am going to have to carry you back down the hill."
John takes my hand and leads me to the blanket, helping me sit, then he takes a seat beside me and opens the picnic basket.
"Whatís for lunch Gourmet-nator?"
"You and your jokes. Weíre having grilled salmon with roasted herbed potatoes and I got those apple turnovers that you love from the bakery."
"Wait a minute McBain. What did you do? It had to be something big. Did you kill my dog?"
"You donít have a dog."
"Yes I do. A cute little Shih-Tzu. Hint, hint."
"Iím not buying you a toy dog. If you want me to get you a dog, it has to be a real one. Because I know that youíre gonna make me walk it and Iím not about to become the laughing stock of the LPD. Me as big as I am walking this tiny little thing."
I pout and bat my eyelashes at John, but heís carefully avoiding my gaze while heís sharing out our food.
"Fine. Iíll buy my own dog. But you still have to walk it."
"I am not having this conversation right now. Eat."
I open my mouth to respond and he sails a fork full of salmon into it.
"That is really good," I mumble.
"Arenít you the same one who calls me a pig when I talk with my mouth full of food?"
Iím so hungry that Iím all but inhaling my food, so I donít really have much to say. John looks on, amused as the food in my plate swiftly disappears. When Iím done, I put the plate on the blanket beside me and grin at John.
"So, McBain, when do I get my dessert?"
"Here, you can have it now." He hands me a turnover, wrapped in waxed paper. Itís not really what I was talking about, but I gratefully accept. We eat in silence for a few minutes, just enjoying each otherís company and the scenery. This is the first time in over a month that John and I have been able to get away in the middle of the day to just have lunch. And thatís only because we both have the day off.
I inhale as much air as my lungs can hold and let it out with a sigh. John turns to look at me. "Whatís wrong?"
"Iíve missed you. Iíve missed this."
Any other man probably would have been confused, but not John. He wraps his arms around me and smiles. "Me too. I wish we werenít so busy all the time."
"Well at least for the rest of today, weíre free to spend time together. I donít even have my cell phone with me. I left it at home on the charger."
"Youíre going to need my cell phone then. I have another surprise for you, but you have to go on a treasure hunt first."
You have got to be kidding me. Our first day off in weeks and John wants me to go on a treasure hunt? By myself?
"Yeah....no, I donít think so."
"Evangeline, come on, please. Would I voluntarily separate myself from you unless this was something really important?"
Okay, so he does have a point. And he has that ultra adorable pleading look on his face, the one that I find it absolutely impossible to say no to.
"Against my better judgement, Iím going to let you have your fun. But I better find a lot of treasure McBain, or I wonít be happy."
He gives me a mysterious grin and says, "Iím sure youíll find a few things that you like. Iíll give you the first clue when we go back down. For now, I just want to enjoy being together."
We talk and joke around for another hour before descending the hill where John deposits me in my car and leaves me with a folded strip of paper and his cell phone. I get my sneakers from my gym bag in the trunk and exchange them for my sandals, making a mental note to take them to the shoemakers to get the heels fixed. They were way too expensive and way too comfortable to give up on.
I look at the strip of paper in my hand and smile before opening it and reading the clue. All that is on the paper are the words, "Afternoon delight." and a picture of a chair. It takes me a few moments to figure out what itís referring to, and then I have to laugh thinking back to that eventful afternoon in my office. Only a divine intervention kept us from getting caught, which would have been very embarrassing.
I start up my car and drive the short distance to my office. When I get there Iím a little confused because everything looks completely normal, but I remember the picture of the chair on the clue and check underneath the one in my office. Sure enough, thereís another clue. "Iím part of your name, weíre one in the same, I watch people run and children play all through out the night and day."
Well. If this is some sort of test to see how smart I really am, Iím definitely failing. I get a notepad and a pen and write my name out in block letters. At least I know that. A lot of people run at the high school nearby my old apartment, but the students who play there can hardly be called children. Most of them, the guys at least, were taller than me. People do run at Angel Square Park, and children do play there, so it has to be... the angel statue in Angel Square Park. Something tells me Iím going to be doing a lot of running around today.
The angel has a blue Mylar balloon tied to itís wing, and so I take it down and after removing the clue, I give it to a little girl who looks grateful to get a balloon for no reason. I did want to keep it, but she looked a little sad and the way her face lit up when I gave it to her made it worth it. Besides, I know many Llanview residents would be taken aback to see me walking down the street with a silly grin and a balloon tied to my wrist. I can see the headlines now, "Love Drives Llanview Lawyer Loopy!"
The next clue reads, "Coffee cups, hamburgers and Roger Clemens." That was easy. I walk over to the diner and do inside.
I look up and beam at Carlotta. "Hi Mrs. Vega. How are you?"
"Iím fine Evangeline, and you? Though judging from that smile on your face, Iíd say you were doing pretty well."
"Youíd be right."
"Can I get you anything?"
"John sent me on a treasure hunt, and one of the clues led me here. Did he leave a clue with you?"
Carlotta dips her hand into her apron and hands me a piece of paper. "Here you go. Anything else?"
After the high calorie lunch I just had, I shouldnít even be considering this, but I figure Iíll work it all off by the end of today. "You wouldnít happen to have any guava tarts left, would you? Or are they all sold out? I know Iím not the only one in Llanview who loves them."
Carlotta smiles. Weíve built up a bond these past few months over her guava tarts, which are amazingly good and made from scratch. I have one most mornings for breakfast. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but better than nothing.
"I saved one just for you since I knew you would be coming in today. And donít bother paying, itís on the house today."
"Thanks Mrs. Vega."
She goes into the back room and while Iím waiting for her to come back, the bell above the door jingles and Michael walks in the Diner.
He looks up, smiles and walks over to the counter. "Hey Evangeline. Whatís up?"
"Nothing much. Howís Marcie?"
"Oh sheís great. Sheís at some sort of book meeting; sheís supposed to be meeting me here. You waiting for John?"
"Um no. But I had to make a quick stop here and Mrs. Vega went into the back to get something for me."
"Oh! Thatís right. John sent you on a treasure hunt. Have fun kid," he says, walking towards a booth when Marcie walks in.
The rest of the day pretty much goes the same way. I follow the clues and end up seeing someone else I know that knows about the treasure hunt. By 6 p.m., Iíve gotten an oversized honey-coloured teddy bear, a new watch with a heart shaped, red faceplate, a large bag of mini Snickers bars, a bouquet of red and pink roses and a "Bad Boys 2" DVD. My last clue leads me back home where a red dress is laid out on the bed, with an index card on top of it. I pick it up and read aloud.
"Evangeline, put this dress on (please), I didnít know what shoes you wanted to wear, so I left it up to you. Meet me at the entrance of the Palace in an hour. Love you, John."
I shake my head. John has his moments when he annoys the hell out of me but he can be so romantic sometimes. I take a shower and lotion my skin carefully with a new scented body souffle that I picked up today. I retrieve a pair of strappy red sandals with a 3 inch stiletto heel from my closet. Which isnít easy since it seems that John was trying to find a pair, but was stumped by so many choices, and he made a mess. I collect shoes, belts and pocketbooks like some people collect stamps, in every size, shape, colour and style. At least Iím not as bad as my mother, who had someone design belts and pocketbooks specifically to suit her.
I get dressed, put on my shoes and think about doing something with my hair, but at the last minute, I decide to leave it down. A pair of gold love knots completes my outfit, and Iím ready to go.
Twenty minutes later, I hand my keys to the valet and walk into the Palace. Immediately, I grin, seeing John in his best suit.
"So McBain, whatís the special occasion?"
"Canít it just be that I want to show my girlfriend how much I love her?"
I kiss him and respond, "I suppose thatís acceptable. You look nice."
John holds me away from him, spinning me around. "You look good enough to eat. In fact, you smell good enough to eat. Like...lemon meringue pie. Did you bake?"
"Ha! With the way you had me running around all day? Itís a new lotion. Lemon meringue body souffle."
"Oh well. A man can dream. You ready to go sit down?"
We get seated and a waiter comes over and takes our orders. I order the orange glazed Cornish hens with wild rice and John orders roast beef with twice baked potatoes.
"So, are you going to be able to eat, or am I going to end up getting a doggy bag for most of your food?"
"I didnít eat that much today."
John raises his eyebrows. "Sorry. So did you like your gifts?"
"Yes. I have no clue what they were for, but I loved them."
"I told you, I just want you to know how much I love you and how happy I am that youíre in my life."
"Donít make me cry, John. Iím not wearing waterproof mascara and I donít want to end the night looking like a raccoon."
"Youíll still be beautiful. Youíre always beautiful to me."
"Even when I yelled at you for two hours straight when I found out it was your birthday and you didnít tell me?"
I was so mad at John that I actually cried. I was mad at myself afterwards, but for crying out loud! Who doesnít tell their girlfriend that itís their birthday? I eventually forgave him when he told me the reason why he didnít tell me.
Our food arrives shortly and we dig in, stopping occasionally to ask or answer a question. For dessert, we order a slice of chocolate turtle cheesecake, but after one bite, I let john have the rest. Iíve already had way too much sweets for the day.
John looks at me with a serious expression. "Do you know what today is?"
"June 14th. Why?"
"A year ago today, you kissed me for the first time in this very restaurant. My life hasnít been the same since."
"Uh-oh. Sounds serious," I tease. John doesnít even crack a smile, and come to think about it, he looks ill. "You know John, if you didnít feel well, we could have gone out another night."
"Iím not sick. Just a little....never mind. Let me finish okay? Donít say anything until Iím done."
"Every day, I wake up next to you and I wonder what I did to deserve such a life. Even when you get mad at me, I feel lucky that you care that much about me. When we met, I was spiraling out of control, but you. You made, no make me whole and you give me a reason to smile. This morning, I woke up next to you and I realized that tomorrow is the start of the rest of our lives. And I donít want to start it without knowing that youíll be my wife."
In one fluid movement, John is out of his seat and on bended knee in front of me. A few people from neighbouring tables have turned around to look and out of the corner of my eye, I notice Antonio at a table not too far away, grinning encouragingly.
"John, what are you doing," I whisper. "You better be tying your shoes."
He smiles. "Evangeline, will you marry me?"
OMG! Somebody pinch me because I must be dreaming. Or hallucinating.
"I-I...oh my goodness John! Yes! Yes a million times!"
Tears are gushing out of my eyes and Iím nodding, so theyíre splashing everywhere. Amidst deafening applause, John slides the ring on my finger. Itís a princess cut diamond set in platinum.
"I can not believe that you, Mr. Privacy did this in public. In the middle of the Palace."
"Well this place is important to us, so...wait a minute. Arenít I going to get at least one kiss?"
"One kiss? I think I can do so much better than that." And I do. I reach over and kiss him, only pulling away when the roar in the dining room gets insanely loud.
"Well damn Vange! Do you ever come up for air?"
I turn towards the sound of the voice and leap out of my seat. "Layla! What are you doing here?"
"John and I have been keeping in touch since your birthday. I was supposed to come then, but I couldnít make it. But I had to come for this, no matter what. Though maybe I shouldnít have since youíre an only child and all."
"Well when the story I told John took place, I was an only child."
"And she told me about you later. Sheís always talking about her baby sister the actress, so I knew sheíd be glad to see you and everyone else?"
"Everyone else? What are you talking about?"
John looks sheepish. "Well, in an act of presumptuousness, I invited your family and most of my out of town family and all of our friends already in Llanview to a barbeque celebrating our engagement. But donít worry, itís two days from now."
"When you decide to do things big, you really do them big, donít you McBain?"
"Yeah. I figured you were going to have enough to plan later on, I could at least do this by myself."
"Oh, youíll be doing a lot of planning too."
"Iíll count on it. Excuse me," he says, as his cell phone rings. Itís too loud to hear anything, so he goes outside onto the terrace.
"Layla, Iím so happy you were here when John proposed. You donít know how happy that makes me."
"Are you rubbing it in, since I donít have a man?"
"God Layla, no! I just meant-
"Relax Vange. I was joking. Iím so happy for you."
I notice John coming back from the terrace, the smile wiped off of his face.
"Hey, whatís wrong? If you have to go into work, itís okay. Layla and I need to catch up on our gossip anyway."
"Itís not work. Itís your mom."
"She canít make it?"
"She was in an accident."
I sway and grab a chair as all the blood drains from my face.
(A/N: sorry for the odd attempt to rewrite history, but I really like Layla and I think she can add a lot to this story. Thereís a lot of stuff to come for these soon to be newlyweds, stay tuned.)