By eight, after a day of paper cuts with reindeer and Santa Claus patterned paper, colorful bows and smiles from customers and one or two wailing kids bored from Christmas shopping, Miley was running to get home, get changed and be ready for when Rick arrived at nine sharp.
This time as she swung open her closet door, she didn’t hesitate in wearing her black dress. This time, the outfit looked different to her, it looked how she wanted to look. Nice, simple but with a hint of elegance, just the right thing for a date. And with the shoes Stacey had lent her and the new stash of makeup she had gotten from the samples one of the girls gave her and Stacey, Miley had a great feeling about tonight.
She was applying a final touch of blush to her cheeks, when Rick knocked on her door. Though this would be their third date, or the third time they saw each other, Miley couldn’t contain the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach and went all the way up to her chest, where she pressed a hand.
Miley left her room and went to open the door. The second she saw him, those butterflies took flight and she felt she would start flying off into space with them. He was absolutely amazing, and what was even better, he had that smile that she was starting to think he shared only with her greeting her from the other side of the door. He was carrying a small porcelain pot with hand painted snowflakes on a baby blue background, and inside the pot, there were poinsettias, so red and so cheerful, she let out a sound of delight as he offered the pot to her.
“I saw them today in a flower shop near my place, they made me think of you.”
That was the nicest thing someone had ever said to her in a very long time. And with the days she had been having before him, she felt tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away and said.
“Rick, they’re beautiful. Here, let me take them inside.”
While Miley walked back inside and put the pot on the coffee table in the living room, Rick waited for her outside. She grabbed her coat, her hand knitted scarf her mom had given her last Christmas and her purse.
When they stepped out into the cold December night, the same car that had taken them to the function the other night was there waiting for them. Rick opened the door for Miley and waited until she scooted all the way to one end and then got in.
“So, where are we going?” Miley asked as the car set in motion and began maneuvering the busy streets of Manhattan. Many pedestrians and Christmas shoppers swarmed around them, some in groups others alone, but all with that same pre-Christmas glow on their faces.
“The Ritz. I made a dinner reservation. The chef is said to be one of the best in the city.” Rick announced.
“That sounds fancy.” The first hints of doubt crawled into her mind.
“Do you think that I am dressed appropriately?” Miley glanced at her dress and then at him, and thought the car had gotten very hot all of a sudden.
“You look beautiful, Miley.”
Second nicest thing in the same night, she was flying.
The driver took Fifth Avenue. The stores were still open, and people crowded on the sidewalks, flashes from cameras taking the light decorations from Tiffany’s and Cartier, that big red bow that shone on her face as Miley pressed her face to the window.
The car stopped. Traffic was crazy and by the looks of it, they were going to be stuck in it for quite some time. Miley knew Rick had planned this date, but maybe they could get to their dinner reservation faster if they walked.
She tapped on the driver’s division panel. He lowered it and she said, hoping Rock wouldn’t get upset.
“We’ll get down here. We’ll walk the rest of the way.”
“Walk? Are you sure?” Rick asked hesitantly. She beamed at him and said.
“Yes. We’ll get there faster if we walk. Besides, it’s magical out there, why should we miss it?”
Without waiting for him to agree with her assessment, she opened the door and stepped out, hugging her coat tighter to her body and putting her hands inside its pockets. Rick, a look of indecision still on his face, said something to his driver and followed Miley into the packed sidewalk, skirting around a couple of teenagers walking hand in hand and joined Miley as she too moved out of people’s way.
She didn’t wait for an invitation, and hooked her arm around his and started walking toward the hotel.
At some point they crossed the street and when they did they were on the corner of fifty third and Fifth, where Miley could see the MoMa. And right there, a man with a hot dog stand stood blowing heat into his cupped hands, while he invited people to stop by and have a dog.
“I don’t suppose they’ll have something similar at the Ritz, right?” Miley asked as they were waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street.
“Not if it isn’t made out of foie grass.” He leaned down to study her, and he let out a chuckle as he inclined his head in the direction of the cart. “You want one?”
Mortified she was spoiling the evening by craving a hot dog of all things, Miley shook her head vehemently and replied.
“No, no. Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just, it’s been while since I had one. Look, we can cross now.” She tugged at his arm but he pulled her back and skimmed her cold cheek with his fingers.
“Then let’s have one. I have never eaten one before.”
“But…” Her eyes darted in the direction they were supposed to be heading.
“The reservation, I don’t want to ruin it. Maybe we can get one on our way back.”
“Miley, it’s just a dinner reservation. And I doubt this poor man will last much longer in this cold.”
As if to prove his point, a breeze blew around them causing people walking around them to quicken their step.
“Okay, but I’m buying.” Miley took his hand, the gesture so new yet so right, she reveled in it while she approached the hot dog stand and ordered two hot dogs with ketchup and mustard.
When she bit into her dog, she let out a pleased moan and waited for Rick’s reaction with apprehension. What if he thought it tasted badly?
His own moan of delight had her nerves relaxing and biting a second, then a third time into her hot dog until they were both licking their fingers and Miley was asking for two more.
“So, what’s the verdict?”
“Can’t understand why I haven’t had them before. And now I am sure we wouldn’t have found such excellent dinner choices at the Ritz.”
It gave her a surge of confidence that Rick had acted so carefree to her change of plans. It gave her the confidence to suggest their next destination. His next words confirmed it.
“Okay, Miley, it looks like you have taken control of this date. I’m in your hands. Lead the way.”
“Really? Okay. Trust me, it’ll be fun.”
“I have no doubt in my mind.” Only before they headed down to the place Miley had in mind, Rick pulled her back and asked.
“What’s a kebab? I mean, have you ever had one?”
“Uhm, sure once or twice. Why?”
“Well, since it looks like I am experiencing a lot of New York I had no idea of, might was well try one.”
Miley saw the cart a few paces away from the hot dog stand and pressed her lips together, as if giving it a lot of thought. Eventually she said.
“I don’t know Rick, you just had your first taste of true Manhattan cuisine, you might not be ready yet for a kebab.”
“Try me.” He dared, those green eyes boring into her skin, and melting her bones. Because she was having a hard time breathing as he continued to stare at her intensely, Miley agreed and ordered two kebabs for them.
After a couple of bites, Rick muttered. “Interesting. Tasty.”
“They’re good, right? Okay, so now, are you ready for our next stop?” She hoped there wasn’t any more food Rick wanted to try, Not that she would mind. It felt great to have him by her side, to be in a date that was getting better and better. But she would explode if she ate anymore street food.
Her reaction was always the same whenever coming face to face with Rockefeller Center and its main character, the gigantic tree that was a must-see sight during this time of year not only for locals but for tourists from around the world.
The gasp was lost in the sea of conversations going on around them and in the flashes of cameras like twinkle lights in the sky. When her eyes found his, they were filled with the lights coming from the tree at the end of the hallway guarded by the golden angels which people used as props for their souvenir photos.
“Come, let’s see it up close.”
Rick, still holding her hand, followed behind her. They managed to squeeze in between more tourists who leaned against the railing and took pictures of the tree and the ice rink below.
They watched them silently until Miley sighed. Rick turned halfway to her and asked.
“What is it?”
“I have always wanted to skate in that rink.”
“Really? And why haven’t you?”
“I don’t know. Ever year I come and say, next time I come I’ll do it. But somehow, I end up saying the same the next time I come.”
“Not anymore.” Rick extracted her from the crowd that had gathered behind them and took her around to the stairs that descended to the ice rink.
“Wait. We can’t just…..you know, go down there.”
“Why not?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Because……We’re not dressed for it. And we can always skate another day.”
“Isn’t that what you always say?”
“But…..are you sure? I promise I don’t mind coming back some other time.” Miley searched his face, only to be met with a mischievous grin that did nothing to quell her rioting hormones.
“Why do you keep asking me that? Miley, all I want tonight is to spend it with you. If that entails skating, I’m up for it.”
It was an impulse, but it felt so easy to wrap her arms around his neck and whisper against his ear. “Thanks.”