Maggie did something completely out of character when she got home that night. She intentionally tuned her television to sports. There sat Bobby discussing baseball with a handful of other guys, the disassociation of television doing nothing to diminish the blue of his eyes or the sexy lilt of his voice. Now that she knew about the subtle Cajun accent, she couldn’t not hear it. There was no stopping the smile as it spread across her face.
Bobby was dressed in a charcoal suit with a blue shirt and a coordinating tie, and he chatted and laughed with his colleagues. Maggie watched in fascination. He really is handsome. I’ve never seen him dressed up before.
In her mind, she replayed their conversation in the hospital cafeteria and she groaned miserably. He has to think I’m an absolute idiot. If he doesn’t think I’m just a bitch.
“I’ll have to apologize when I see him, that’s all there is to it,” she said aloud.
The next morning, Maggie got up early and hit the internet, researching the best foods for people on chemotherapy and compiling a list of things to look for at the organic market. She was surprised when Michael called.
“Hey, what’s up?” she greeted him. “I’m working on a shopping list for you.”
“Thanks, Mags,” he said. “But don’t go overboard with the organic shit, okay? I don’t know if I’ll eat all that anyway.”
“You have to eat, it might as well be healthy foods,” she returned. “Just try the things I get. You might even prefer them, free of all the artificial crap.”
“We’ll see,” he said doubtfully. “Listen, I want to thank Beau for all his help yesterday. We’re having him over for dinner tonight.”
Maggie frowned. We? “Tonight?” she asked. “Michael, I don’t know what I’m making for you, yet. How am I supposed to pull together a nice dinner?”
“You’re not pulling together anything. I’ve already placed the order, it’ll be delivered by 6:00 tonight. I talked to Beau, he’s getting here at 7:00.”
Maggie couldn’t think of a response.
“Don’t you think we should thank him for everything he did yesterday?” Michael prodded.
“Well of course I do,” Maggie sputtered. “But it’s just so…short notice.”
“I know, but luckily he’s working an early show today. You don’t have to worry about anything for dinner tonight, I’m making sure everything is taken care of. Truthfully,” he added, “dinner tonight is to thank you, too. You’ve been my rock from the get-go. I appreciate you, Mags.”
Maggie felt a lump forming in her throat. “You don’t have to thank me, Michael. It’s what friends do.”
“I’m still grateful,” he said. “So don’t worry about anything. Go on about your business of hooking me up with sprouts and wheat germ. Dinner is under control.”
She sighed. “Okay, Michael. I’ll see you when I finish shopping.”
“See you then,” he said. “Oh, and Mags? Wear something pretty.”
Wear something pretty. Seriously? Maggie frowned irritably as she disconnected. It’s not enough I’m hauling my cookies all over town to get you healthy food to eat. You’re throwing a last minute dinner party at me and telling me how to dress? Some kind of nerve…
Even so, her thoughts went to her wardrobe. She began sliding her clothes back and forth on the bar in the closet. Humph…it’s supposed to be cold, might even snow. Wear something pretty. Gahhhh!
Two hours later Maggie returned to her apartment, having purchased three bags of organic food and two dozen plastic containers with lids. No way am I carrying all this uptown on the subway, she decided. Especially not while I’m wearing something ‘pretty’. She had no idea why Michael’s comment chapped her butt so much, but it did.
She spent the next couple of hours putting together single serving portions of organic kale salads with red and yellow peppers, spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, and poached salmon with carrots and broccoli. These she stacked in their sealed containers in one of the shopping bags. In another one she put her other purchases like the organic peanut butter, green tea, and lentil soup. She decided that just before she left, she’d pack the third bag with the organic Greek yogurt she’d found.
Then she headed off to shower and get dressed. Glancing out the window, she saw the sky filled with heavy grey clouds. “Great,” she said aloud. “Ten bucks says it snows before I get back home tonight.”
Dressed and ready to leave, Maggie stopped to check her image in the full-length mirror on the back of her bedroom door. She’d chosen a long heather grey sweater over a short silver sequin skirt with black opaque tights and black ankle booties with heels. The neckline of the sweater was wide, revealing her collar bone and the thin straps of her grey camisole. At the ends of the long sleeves, the cuffs rolled a little around her wrists.
Turning this way and that, she decided she liked the way the sweater clung to her curves. Her red hair she’d left down, sort of tousled and free, and it brushed past her shoulders. “Humph! You wanted pretty. This is about as good as it gets.” Shrugging into her coat, she scooped up her shopping bags and headed out front to meet the cab she’d ordered.
When she arrived at Michael’s he greeted her at the door wearing a black t-shirt with grey sweat pants. He gave a low whistle. “Very nice, Mags,” he commented.
She rolled her eyes. “Pretty enough for you?” she snipped, looking him up and down. “Is that what you’re wearing?”
He grinned. “Company isn’t coming for a couple of hours. I’ll change later.”
Company, Maggie thought. You mean Bobby. In all her irritation with Michael, she’d almost forgotten that they’d be having dinner with Bobby. Her mind flashed to her image in the mirror. Maybe dressing pretty wasn’t such a bad idea.
Not that I’m trying to impress him, she considered. She flushed slightly. Michael watched her carefully.
“Come let me show you everything I brought you,” Maggie told him.
The delivery from Ithaka, a Greek place down the block, arrived promptly at 6:00. Maggie put the Kota Stakarvouna, sealed with foil, in the warming oven to keep the chicken at the correct temperature. The house salad and Garides Psites she placed in the fridge, planning to reheat the shrimp for them to enjoy as an appetizer.
Finished in the kitchen, she headed into the living room to relax for a few minutes and was surprised to find that Michael had been busy, arranging a table in the solarium on the terrace with crisp black table linens and three white place settings. Smooth jazz quietly filtered through an unobtrusive sound system. He’d put candles on the table and strung tiny white lights among the greenery out on the terrace.
“Michael, this looks beautiful,” she said.
He smiled proudly. “Like I said, this dinner is to thank you, too.”
Maggie hugged him gently. “How are you feeling?”
“Truthfully, I’m a little tired,” he answered. “I think I’ll go lie down for a while.”
Alarmed, she checked her watch. “Bobby will be here in half an hour.”
“Just give me a few minutes,” he said over his shoulder as he headed down the hall toward his room.
Maggie set the alarm on her phone for 6:55 and when it sounded she went to wake Michael. “Come on, you’ve got to get up. He’ll be here any minute.”
Michael groaned. “I’m really tired,” he mumbled. “Let me have a little longer.”
She heard a knock at the front door. “He’s here! Get up now!” she said, going to answer the door.
Maggie swung open the door to find Bobby standing there, the boyish grin firmly in place. “Hi, Maggie,” he greeted her. “You look beautiful tonight.”
She blushed furiously. “Wow, that’s nice of you to say,” she murmured. “Come on in. You look nice yourself.” And he did. He wore nicely fitting jeans with a white dress shirt and a navy jacket. Her eyes drifted to his ass as he walked past her into the apartment and she breathed in the masculine scent of his cologne. She shook her head, attempting to refocus.
“Thanks,” he said. He lifted a small shopping bag. “I brought some wine to contribute to the cause.”
“Great! Michael ordered from Ithaka. I have to admit, it smells heavenly,” she said. “Let me just…” she began. “Michael went to lie down. I’ll just go get him up and moving.”
“No problem. Can I pour you a glass of wine?” he asked.
“Yes, please, that would be great,” she answered. “There are glasses in the bar.” She pointed in that direction. “We’ll be right out.”
Maggie hurried down the hall. Michael was lying on his side facing away from the door. “Sean Michael Rannigan!” she hissed. “You get your ass out of bed this instant!”
He rolled onto his back and faced her. “I’m staying put,” he yawned sleepily. “Go and enjoy. Bobby’s a good guy. You could use a nice dinner with a nice man.”
She gasped as realization dawned on her. “No way! You’re doing this on purpose?! Don’t you do this to me! Don’t you embarrass me like this!”
“What embarrass? Two adults having dinner. What’s so hard about that?” he asked reasonably. “I overextended myself today. I’ll stay here and rest. You’ll go and have a great evening with a great guy, who likes you by the way.”
Maggie stood staring at him wide-eyed. “You’re leaving your guest unattended. That’s kind of rude, Mags.”
She nodded angrily. “This is so not the end of this conversation,” she said firmly and she turned to leave.
“And Mags?” he called. “You’re welcome.”