“What’s going on?” Jason’s intuition about her was impeccable always.
“Nothing”, she said, trying to get over herself.
“You look angry”, he insisted.
“I am. That Zach is a total jerk”.
She didn’t reply. Somehow it was hard to call him a doctor.
He pulled her closer.
“I’m spending the night with you and don’t want an angry girlfriend. It’s our day off tomorrow. And next week”, he mimed flying, “We are leaving for San Antonio”.
“I can’t come”, she said, annoyed that he would mention it.
“I’m just tricking you into saying yes”, he winked.
She immediately felt bad for how this was supposed to be their trip away and had been changed completely due to her commitment to her father.
She remembered Caroline’s advice about following her heart sometimes. She remembered David telling her to go and then visibly relaxing when she announced her absolute refusal to go.
Oh God! What’s this pickle that I’m always in. Never a dull moment for me. She thought.
They got in his car and Maggie rummaged through his albums to see what they’d listen to.
“You know”, she looked at him, “We haven’t picked out a song for us”.
“A song”, she said like explaining to a child. “Our song”.
“Oh okay”, he said, nodding his head but not exactly getting what she meant, “We should have a song”.
“Yes”, she said, excited at Jason grasping so fast, “Our song. Something that would bond us forever. It would be our song to make up to and dance to and eat to and sleep to…..”
He let her talk. Maggie had become much chattier since the initial days of their relationship. She had become more spontaneous. She brought so much peace to him that just a casual car ride with her was the epitome of a fabulous afternoon out.
The truth was that going home without her had taken the wind out of his sails. He had looked forward so much to introducing her to his mom and sisters. They’d have loved her. And he wanted her to meet Tracy and…..
“This is our song I’ve decided”, she screamed like she had made a huge discovery, “Quit playing games with my heart”.
He laughed at her choice.
“Backstreet Boys?” He laughed again. “But promise me this is our song in private. In front of sophisticated company we have to have a slightly edgier band”.
“They’re edgy”, she countered, “It’s either them or no one”.
“Okay, sweet thing”, he said, snaking his hand around her waist and pulling her closer, “What do you want to do? We have tonight, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”.
She inhaled his scent. How come he always smells so sexy, she thought with overwhelming desire for him.
“What do you want to eat?” He nuzzled her hair.
“Can we change into something nice and go to a bougie place on Lexington?”
He laughed softly.
“What would something nice be for me?”
“You can wear my nice underwear”, she deadpanned.
“Thanks a lot, Maggie, but then what would you wear?”
“I have more”.
“Or you could go commando”.
“Or I could wear yours”.
“No way are you wearing mine”.
“Okay. Then you can’t wear mine either”.
“You’ve already offered”.
“I’m retracting my offer”.
“I’m still wearing it”.
“I’m not allowing you to”.
“I don’t need your say-so”.
“Jason”, she said, kissing his neck and slipping her hand in his shirt collar, “For as long we are together, as a rule of thumb, you need my say-so for everything”.
He pulled her closer. Their car swerved dangerously to the left momentarily but he expertly steered it back and put his mouth briefly on hers.
“For as long as we are together, huh?” He asked with a twinkle in his eye, the warm sun on a winter afternoon shining in his rugged face, “So that would be forever”.
Her heart warmed. She felt like she had walked towards something her whole life and now had found it. She had searched for warmth with a breeze of hope and love. She had longed for long walks by the ocean, hand in hand with someone who could feel her soul. She had looked for him in so many places that had finally run out of where else to look and when she had least expected, he had come to her.
How did I find him? She asked herself, unable to believe her fortune. So many people are looking for a treasure. And I found it. But I never found anything. I never got anything. I have never been lucky. Then how did I get so lucky?
Moments like these were also almost always a stark reminder of the brother she had lost. The brother that her parents talked so little of. Who seemed even more distant since she had moved out of her parents’ house. Scott was always in her heart.
Will I ever find him? She asked the heavens. Show me a sign! I don’t want to wait for him my entire life and then find out that he left this world many years ago. Dear God! If Scott is alive, please bring him to me.
She realized they were at her apartment and Jason was deftly parallel parking his car.
She jumped out as soon as the car stopped.
“You’re wearing something pink”, he ordered.
He had never asked her to wear a particular color. She realized with overwhelming dismay that she had nothing in pink.
She didn’t want to tell him that however and decided to check in her closet before telling him.
They walked in her apartment hand in hand and she made a beeline to her closet as Jason jumped in the shower.
She had nothing in pink. Not even a tank top.
The truth was that Maggie didn’t have any money left at the end of the month. She paid a good amount towards the debt and the rent. Then she had groceries to get and cafeteria lunch to pay for. She had had to spend even more on transport since David’s illness because of all the odd times she had to go back and forth between the hospital and her apartment. She had anxiously waited for her work to start with Holly but hadn’t received an email or an assignment. She knew it was per diem work but she needed it and was fast recognizing the need for a steady second income if she really wanted to make a dent in her parents’ debt. David’s illness had put things into perspective again. A perspective that didn’t factor her into it at all. It was all about the constant hustle that life was.
But, tears came to her eyes, why did she never have anything for herself? Here she was, a physician who was a resident, living by herself and was still having to be careful with money and expenditure. She wasn’t a big spender but the occasional indulgence had been hard also. She didn’t pay for anything beyond the essentials. Jason never let her pay for food when she was with him and had actually paid towards groceries since he had been staying with her. Even though he was staying here for her.
Why can’t I have a nice outfit for a romantic evening? Tears fell more freely. The stress of David’s health, what it meant for her future and the elusive nature of any happiness that had ever touched her came forth in full force. I can’t go to San Antonio for a trip I’ve paid for and moved mountains to change my vacation to be with Jason. I can’t even wear a pink outfit. What is this atrocity?
I’m being stupid, she finally decided. It’s not a big deal. I can wear something else.
She rummaged in her closet some more and found a peach-colored outfit with little cap sleeves and a seductive hemline that swung around her knees.
She sensed someone’s eyes on her. She turned around. Jason was watching her.
“Why’re you crying?” He asked quietly.
She didn’t know what to say. The lifelong yearning for things had become emblematic of how bereft she had always been. It wasn’t about things. It was about how she could never even get the smallest thing in life to go her way.
“I don’t have a pink outfit”, she said, her voice cracking as more tears fell down her face.
He pulled a bag from behind the bedpost. He drew out an expensive-looking pink dress that looked like a cross between a cocktail dress and a sundress and had a matching shrug with it.
She stared at it wordlessly. Her mind was numb. Did he get it for her?
“Here”, he came forward and handed it to her, “I’m grabbing some crackers. Take your time”.
Silently she undressed and put the pink dress on. Somehow her eyes took the color of the dress. She was mesmerized at her reflection in the mirror.
Am I really so beautiful? She asked herself. Or is this because I’m Jason’s woman?
She put the same heels on that she had worn at Becky’s party and went out in the living room.
“I’m ready”, she said, a slight shiver of anticipation running through her spine.
He turned to look at her. He felt the breath knocked out of his body.
Maggie was beautiful. There wasn’t any doubt about that. But she had an ethereal quality of innocence and truth. She had a halo of quiet class around her that defied her humble background. She was fit to be a queen. He thought how he got so lucky to have the most honest girl in the whole world and said a little prayer.
“You look beautiful”, he murmured.
“When did you get it?” She asked, not moving at all.
“Two weeks ago”, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her, “When we were still going to my place together. I wanted you to wear it when you met my mom”.
“Why did you want me to meet your mom in this?” She said, finally closing the distance between them. “Does she like this color?”
He shook his head. A sad smile played on his lips.
“I’ve just never been proud of much, Maggie! Never! I’ve been ashamed of so many things so many times that I just wanted to show you off. You’re my big achievement. Someone who makes me so proud to call her my own. And pink is my favorite color on you”.
“I’ve never worn pink before”, she said softly.
“In my mind”, he said, sensing her getting close and feeling like they’d lose control, “You’re always in pink”.
Her mouth came down on his. Many moons changed around them. Highlights from the last ten Super Bowls were on but they were drowned by the roaring passion of their love. Maggie’s body folded into his and his arms tightened around her.
“When you said that you wanted me to dress in pink, I was mortified to disappoint you”.
He stroked her hair.
“I’d never ask you to do something that I know you couldn’t. Never! I don’t test people like that and I don’t put demands on them”.
“I know, Jason”, she said, grateful for having found him and dizzy with the constant miracle that their love was. “I know. You said I make you proud. The truth is you make me feel loved and wanted. Like a man wants a woman. Like a heart wants a soul. Know what I mean?”
He kissed her lips again,
“I know exactly what you mean. I wanted to bring you to my place to show you something that’s close to my heart and yet so far. I guess I just wanted to share something with you now than later. Something that changed me into the fearful man I am now. I wasn’t like this always. I took risks without thinking and never weighed my chances. Now I’m afraid to breathe wrong. Many years ago I lost someone I had never met but they were a part of me.”
She was perplexed but knew that he had many relationships in Texas and assumed that this was a particularly close relationship that he mourned from time to time. He did describe it in cryptic terms and even though she had asked before, he hadn’t said anymore.
They held each other for a few minutes and then he said,
“We have a reservation. Let’s go. This isn’t a sad evening. I wanna party with my girlfriend tonight”.
Her heart skipping at the prospect of a beautiful evening, she followed him out the apartment.
Forty-five minutes later they were ordering at an expensive place in Manhattan, surrounded by sleek-looking men and women.
After ordering for them both, he directed his attention to her,
“Wanna hear some gossip?”
“Always”, she said eagerly, smiling ear to ear at having him all to herself for a full weekend.
“Dr. Brown”, he cleared his throat like he was revealing a big thing, “Is dating a dermatology resident”.
“What?” She screamed, “How did you know?”
“I know that girl”, he said easily, “She and I went to a book signing together when I was an intern. She’s a ball buster”.
“I don’t like that word”, Maggie said, immediately coming to the defense of her kind.
“Don’t get touchy, she really is”, he said, rolling his eyes, “She made me buy a stupid book that cost me five hundred dollars”.
“She made you?” She narrowed her eyes, “Oh! So you weren’t thinking about the money. Just thinking about…”
“Yup”, he said, a self-satisfied smile on his face, “Was just thinking of how far five hundred bucks could get me that evening”.
Maggie slapped his shoulder playfully and they laughed for many minutes.
“You’re a dog, Jason”, she finally said, wiping tears from her eyes. “Girls can make you do any stupid crap”.
“Gosh I love women”, he said, laughing just as much as her. “Honestly, Maggie, even when they break up with me I can’t hate them”.
She laughed harder now.
“If ever you break up with me don’t expect me to not hate you”, she warned him.
“You can never hate me”, he boasted, “You’ll continue to love me and we will fool behind your husband’s back”.
“No way am I cheating on my husband”, she exclaimed and then dissolved into giggles again.
“You’ll cheat on him with me”, he said confidently, “You can’t resist me”.
“No way! I’m gonna tell him and he’ll beat your ass”.
“Who? Your husband?” He laughed more incredulously. “Let’s be honest! If you don’t get married to me then you’ll marry a skinny guy with a nonexistent butt and make tender, sweet love to me in your dreams”.
“You’re really very full of yourself”, she slapped his shoulder again.
He caught her hand and kissed the back of it lightly.
“Why’re you so beautiful?”
“I think the wine is getting to you”, she giggled.
“You have no idea what I’m going to do to you tonight”.
“I have some idea”, she said, pretending to not be affected by the anticipation that was already building in her, “I’ve seen that show before”.
“This one you haven’t”. He said brusquely.
“Pretty sure I have”, she teased.
They were seated in a relatively quiet area of the restaurant that was still quite busy. It looked like an upscale business that smelled of money and class.
“You know”, she said abruptly, “My mom owned a restaurant here when she was younger”.
“Yes”, she sighed, “But then the whole downfall started”.
“That sucks”, he said philosophically, “It sucks to not have money”.
She pondered his words. Somehow it was hard to agree with the significance of money even though she had lived in abject poverty.
“But isn’t it harder to not have family?”
He sipped at his wine. He could sense her mood taking a turn towards reminiscing about Scott. Each time she drank alcohol, all she talked about was Scott.
“You’ll meet Scott one day”, he finally said. “I have a feeling you’ll run into him somewhere”.
“May be”, she said, deciding this wasn’t the time or place to talk about loss and distance. “Right now”, she said, standing up and extending her hand to him, “All I wanna do is be a yankee girl and dance with my Texan boyfriend”.
She laughed uncontrollably at her own joke. He watched her for a few seconds then took her hand and led her to the dance floor.
As soon as they hit the dance floor, the music changed and Boyzone’s “I love the way you love me” filled the air.
Jason pulled her in closer. His expensive cologne mixed with a carnal urge to make him her own again added to her heady abandon. She inhaled in his scent for many minutes as his hands explored her body in the erotic darkness of the dance floor.
“Jason”, she whispered in his ears, “Are we a little drunk?”
He nuzzled her neck.
“Would it be wrong to want to have sex with you over and over tonight?”
“If that’s wrong”, he breathed against her lips, “then I don’t know what’s right”.
She bent her head to the hollow of his neck and kissed him, nibbling as she played with his shirt’s buttons.
He pulled her in but also started to step down from the dance floor and together they stepped out on the streets of Manhattan on a Friday night.
The air was alive with people and the smoke of food. When people wrote about the city never sleeping, they forgot that the city also never stops loving, never stops giving back.
Something fantastic had happened in New York, a place she had called home since she was born and a place he had always wanted to be a part of. They had found love. The paradise that lovers look for, they had found amidst noise, laughter and the pure unadulterated joy of being in the city that never let down.