From Here On After, Let's Stay The Way We Are Right Now, And Share All The Love And Laughter, That A Lifetime Will Allow
continued from " This Year's Fancies, Are Passing Fancies, But Sighing Sighs, Holding Hands, These My Heart Understands"...
iii. july 2007
I didn’t know what to expect when he said that he would hold the elevator for us. I was still adjusting the Thai silk dinner gown I had bought especially for the evening—formal, black, and with a halter neck style and heavy hand beading around the neckline. I sure as shinola wasn’t about to waste a perfectly good dress on Mr. mojo’s idea of a practical joke. Yet, seeing as he had bothered to get all gussied up, I took a chance that he was being earnest in telling me tonight was the night we celebrated my 27th birthday in style. I didn’t know if that meant merely dining somewhere ritzy in the heart of Chicago or that meant something private somewhere off the beaten path. About all I knew was that there I was, three years shy of being three decades on God’s green earth and little ‘ole me wasn’t exactly thrilled about it.
He took off out the door to our hotel room, a step in his gait, and I got the snarling suspicion that the night would turn out as pleasant as being poked by a hot brand.
When I arrived at the elevator doors five minutes later he was nowhere to be found. I was looking forward to a bit of elegance and class. What I was greeted with was grade school tomfoolery. It was inauspicious beginning. I had half a mind to walk back to the room and call it a night, leaving my friend to play his games all alone. If he didn’t realize how important this was to me, if he couldn’t see that, then I might as well have quit right then.
I felt my phone ring. I answered it with a tentative hello.
“If you want your evening, you’re going to have to come and find it, B,” I heard him laugh.
“Hell’s bells, I am not dressed to indulge you. Get your ass back up here now.”
“Find me,” is all he said before hanging up.
I should have expected as much. It was a game we always played in hotels. It was a game I taught to many people as well. One person goes galloping on an errant elevator, periodically reporting in on their phone, while the other person trails after them like a bloodhound. It was a simple pleasure—one that normally would have put a smile on my face quicker than a snowflake melting on a sunny day. But I was beginning to get the familiar feeling that simple childish pleasures were beneath me. I was too old to be engaging in all sorts of cavorting with somebody who obviously hadn’t grown up yet. I wasn’t the mischievous brat of my youth who both drove her daddy’s truck into a telephone pole when she was eight and almost burned most of hair and bathroom down when she was eleven. I was somebody different. I was somebody older. While I didn’t exactly turn my gaze away from misadventure, I certainly didn’t court it as I once did. I didn’t know why I couldn’t get through to him that that was the worst night to pull a stunt like hijacking my evening out.
I got on the elevator, my heart as heavy as summer heat. In my head I was picturing the face of disappointment I was going to put on display once I found Patrick.
I did a systematic check of each floor. The rule was you had to stay in front of the elevator doors and the “hiding” per se came from the fact you could pick any floor as high or as low in the hotel as you wanted. Games were relatively short, but, yeah, they had always been fun—especially when you left little ‘ole surprises in the elevator for the seeker. I myself had left a busted compass (to help guide them), a stool “borrowed” from the nearby lobby (in case they needed the rest), and even a friend’s poor kitten (in case they got to feeling lonely while looking). He had left no surprises for me. As each floor turned up empty and as the minutes dragged into almost twenty minutes wasted, I was growing angrier with each second. I was in a mind to draw and quarter him when I heard my phone ring again.
“Give up yet?”
“This isn’t funny. I’m going back upstairs. You find me when you’re ready to act like a grown-up for once, sugar.”
“No, no, no…” he playfully pleaded. “I think you’d have better luck looking way downstairs.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“Way downstairs,” he repeated and again he hung up.
I cursed him underneath my breath, mouthing not-so-Christian words with lips done up for an evening way different than the one was unfolding before me. I pressed the button to head towards the lobby, murderous intent laying fallow just beneath the surface of my skin. When I reached the bottom and the elevator doors open, again he wasn’t waiting for me. I stepped out, calling his name, which raised more than a few eyebrows of the other guests who had been recently waiting for the elevator’s arrival. I stepped out, still didn’t spy him, and began to scan around the lobby to see if he was casually lounging in the lobby waiting for me as if nothing was wrong.
When we were both younger, I’d have found this game cute, even endearing. I reckon I looked at a great many of the things I find tiresome now with far more innocent eyes. Time wasn’t as much of a precious commodity for me; it could be wasted on more frivolity back then. I hate to admit it, but the days when I could up and go pleasure-seeking were farther and farther away from one another. I had a floral landscaping business to run. I had a husband who was more willing to stay home for a quiet evening then paint the town red (or should I say orange) with me. I had far too many wrinkles than I ever bargained for. I wasn’t feeling like I was getting old.
Old had arrived and kidnapped me for good.
I didn’t find him in the lobby, which disappointed me. Now I was starting to worry that instead of some harmless prank before the festivities were to begin, I had been caught in a lowdown dirty trick. I started to think he had gotten me dressed up for no reason. I would find him back in the hotel room with McDonald’s from across the street, wishing me Happy Birthday with an impish grin on his face. I tensed my mouth muscles, breathing out as a bull demonstrating its rage, and yelled loud enough for him to hear me if he was in the vicinity.
“That’s just great, Patrick. Haha. You got me. You got me all dressed up and my expectations all atwitter. Good on you. Ain’t you the clever one?”
That’s when the concierge called me over to him. Somewhat surprised, I shuffled towards him in my elegant black pumps. I reached into my handbag for my phone in case I was being set up again.
“Are you Breanne? Middle name, Haley?”
“That’s little ‘ole me, darling” I answered.
“A certain gentleman requested your company in the Grand Ballroom, adjacent to the foyer.”
I raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “The Ballroom, you say?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes, right past the 72 West Lounge. You can’t miss it, Miss,” he replied, pointing me in the right direction.
I followed the general guideline of his hand, trudging off to an uncertain fate for the evening. Not only had my expectations been knocked on their lily-white asses, but I had once again underestimated the deviousness of my companion’s plans. I always joked that I was the elaborate schemer, that I was the one with a gift for gumption, a flair for foolishness, but there were times that the elaborate schemes concocted by Patrick far outshone anything I could produce. As I walked, I touched up my hair, certain that whatever it was he had planned, it would, indeed, involve me looking at my finest. He had gone to some trouble and, I admit, I was taking a shine to way things were developing. There was no sense in holding a few minutes worth of griping against him if it was all in the spirit of making me feel special.
I walked into the room with the lights dimmed low and a calm silence. I turned my head around, trying to find where he was. I still couldn’t make him out amidst the shadowplay. I started to make my way to the center of the room, hoping against hope that would draw him out.
That’s when I heard someone turn on the music:
I saw Patrick walk from the makeshift stage upfront, drawing near to me even as I was struggling to keep my now watery eyes focused. He walked up to me, dressed to the nines in a more elaborate suit on him than I remember him walking out of the hotel room with. He placed his arms around me like a big ‘ole teddy bear. Then he whispered, “fourteen years ago today I was introduced to you. It’s been the best fourteen years I’ve ever spent getting to know someone. Happy Birthday, four months late, Breanne.”
When I say he swept me off of my feet just then, I literally mean he swept me off my feet because there wasn’t a pause between words and movement. He took my hand, took my waist, and paraded me around half of the dance floor before I knew what we were doing. If it felt awkward dancing in a hall twice the size of my studio all by our lonesomes, I didn’t notice. If it felt strange to be dancing to a song that was barely audible coming as it was from the far end of the hall, I didn’t care. If it felt wicked to be dancing with someone other than Greg, if I should have felt guilty or self-conscious or even remorseful, I totally forgot about it.
It was the best opening to a birthday celebration I’ve ever been the honoree of. I daresay that I shall never see its equal in my lifetime, no matter how long I may continue to persist.
We danced to that one song as if we were continuing every single one of our dances past. We weren’t starting something new; we were finishing scratching an itch we never got settled. And by the time “I Cross My Heart” ended I knew all the machinations I had to suffer through had been worth it. It really was the beginning to my best birthday ever… four months late as it was.
He whispered into my ear right before the next song started up.
“I worked it out with the hotel manager. If anyone asks it’s your birthday today and it’s the first one we’re celebrating as a married couple.” He held up the ring on his left hand I had somehow missed. “But for the next hour this room and myself are yours to do with as you please.”
No, we didn’t dance the night away. We stayed our hour and then went to a fancy steak dinner at Harry Caray’s steakhouse. No, we didn’t exactly set the floor on fire with anything impressive or spectacular. We did the same steps I had taught Patrick over a decade ago. There was no one to notice even if we had been cutting a rug. What we did do is have a hoot-and-a-half, laughing about how absurd and great all of it was. I didn’t care what the year on my license would mean to me on the ‘morrow. I didn’t care how close I was to being three decades here on this earth.
I was an impulsive kid again having the best birthday party with my best friend.