He stood up from the stool and reached for something on the counter. Then he made his way towards me. He was wearing a black, fitted, very expensive suit; his shirt was a crisp light blue; his black silk tie was loosened, and the top two buttons of his shirt were undone.
When he finally reached me, he extended his hand. My clutch was lying on his palm. I reached for it, and my fingertips lightly brushed against his skin. Remembering his hands touching me in my dream made my insides tighten, and my face warmed at the thought. I looked up at him, and he seemed amused. “Thank you. I appreciate your going out of your way to bring me my belongings.” I nervously smiled.
He flashed that dimple again, and my smile widened. “Have you eaten Mia?” The question puzzled me, eaten?
When I thought about it, I realized that I hadn’t eaten since yesterday, and my stomach was aching with the realization. “No.”
“Well, will you join me for dinner? I haven’t eaten since noon and would love for you to accompany me. There’s a little Italian restaurant a block or so away from here that we could walk to. It’s a very nice evening.” I didn’t know what to say. I was still confused about what happened last night and in my dream.
Oh God…well maybe I can get some answers. Looking past his shoulders, I tried to catch Jeremy’s attention for guidance. He wasn’t paying attention, though. Marcus followed my eyes and turned to face Jeremy who was busy texting away. “Jae, I’m going to take Mia out to feed her real Italian food. You want to come?”
Jeremy looked up from his phone and smiled, “Nah man, if this text goes well, I think I’m going to have a visitor tonight.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“Very well then, see you soon, if not Friday.” Marcus grabbed my elbow and dragged me out the front door.
Before leaving, I snapped my head around to Jeremy; he waved at me then returned to his text. What the hell just happened!
I breathed for the first time since leaving my apartment when we stepped outside. It was still light out, and the cool air was perfect. There was no need for a jacket, but if I were wearing one, I wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable either. I relaxed once the light breeze swiftly blew by. Marcus was beside me near the curb, but he kept his distance from me. Looking down as we walked, I managed to speak. “So where are we going?” I asked, trying to avoid the uneasiness I was feeling. He, on the other hand, seemed calm.
“It’s called Romano’s. It’s a small mom and pop shop, nothing fancy, but the food is amazing. Everything is homemade, even the pasta.”
“Mmmh, that sounds good. I don’t remember seeing it around here, is it new?” I asked, since I was brave enough to finally look at him. Even his side profile was gorgeous. Tracing his features with my eyes, I noticed the perfect line of his nose, his plump lips, and the perfect structure of his jaw line. I could have stared at him for hours and not gotten tired of that face. He licked his lips before responding, causing the muscles between my legs to tighten. Looking away, I proceeded in a faster pace, trying to distract my thoughts.
“No, it’s been there for almost twenty years. It’s a very small place. You’ve probably passed it a few times on your way to school but never noticed it.”
Nodding, I remained silent for the rest of the walk.
We approached a small brick corner building. On the door handle hung a small blackboard sign with Romano’s written on it with white chalk in cursive. He opened the door and let me in. It was a very tiny place; it held about twenty small round tables, maybe fewer. The place was empty, but each table was draped in white linen and decorated with a few lit tea lights. The dark wood floors matched the chairs, and the exposed brick wall gave the place a warm feeling. The lights were dim, and if I hadn’t just walked in from outside, I would’ve thought it was at least ten o’clock at night. It was a very lovely place.
A small bell rang when the door closed behind Marcus. My eyes searched for a hostess or waiter. A moment later, a short overweight man appeared through a double swinging door from a room in the back, which I guessed was the kitchen. Marcus swiftly passed me and headed towards the man. The older man’s face brightened at the sight of DeLuca. He raised his arms to greet him with a huge hug.
“Ciao, come stai?” The older man’s voice was loud and enthusiastic.
“Bene, e voi?” To my surprise, Marcus spoke clear Italian. I didn’t understand a word he was saying, but it sounded sexy.
“Mi sveglio ogni giorno ... chi è questa bella donna” The man looked at me with a huge grin while motioning his hand in my direction.
Marcus looked over his shoulder at me and smiled before returning to the man and replying, “Un mio buon amica.”
The man nodded and waved his hand for me to come over. “Oh, ben venuto su ho a sedere alcune speciali”
The man turned and began to walk away. Marcus waited till I met up with him; he placed the palm of his hand on my lower back. The very small gesture felt intimate, and I was sure he didn’t mean anything by it, but the touch sent a burning ache through my veins. I concentrated on anything else but that touch as we followed the man. We were led up a flight of stairs and into another small room full of tables and chairs set similarly to downstairs. We walked across the room till we were in front of glass doors. The man slid the door open and led us onto the balcony that overlooked the park across the street.
There was a small table with two chairs on the tiny balcony. He motioned for us to sit down, and with a strong Italian accent and broken English, he struggled to speak to me, “Friend of Marky, friend of mine. Please, enjoy.” He was such a cute man, short, with full grey hair that was neatly brushed back. He wore a black t-shirt tucked into his black pants with his belly overlapping his belt. He also wore a gold chain necklace.
I smiled at his friendliness. “Thank you.” He nodded with a huge grin and headed out the door.
“He’s a very nice man.” I turned my attention to Marcus whose stare was gentle and passionate.
“He was good friends with my grandfather. My dad used to bring me and my brother here all the time as kids. I haven’t been here in a long time, and since I was in the area, I figured it would be nice to visit.”
The older man returned with laminated menus and a pitcher of water. He poured water into our empty glasses. He asked a question, and Marcus looked at me, “Would you like some wine?” I shook my head rather too quickly. It made him laugh knowing that I consumed enough alcohol last night to last me an entire week. He responded to the man who then left.