When Martina got to the restaurant, Emma was already there. They greeted each other with a hug. “Have you been waiting long?” Martina asked.
“No. I got here about five minutes ago.”
“I guess Antonia isn’t here as yet?”
“No. Do you think we should wait for her at the table or wait out here?”
“Let’s wait out here.”
“I was surprised when she called to invite me to lunch. I’ve only met her once.”
“Laird said that she wants to be friends with us.”
“Oh. I guess it’s because I’m his friend and you’re his fiancée and her soon to be sister-in-law.”
“I guess so.”
“So, how was dinner with her and Mr. Pendlebury?”
“It was great. Mr. Pendlebury and I hit it off immediately.”
“Yes. I knew you would. He’s a wonderful man.”
“Yes, he is.”
“What about Antonia? How did you get along with her?”
“We got along fine. We didn’t speak much to each other. I was interacting more with Mr. Pendlebury who played Chopin and gave me tour of the mansion. He showed me family albums with lots of pictures of the family. I especially liked the ones of Laird and Karson.”
“Karson was Laird’s older brother who died in a car accident.”
“Yes. Did you ever meet him?”
“No. By the time Laird and I met, both Karson and his mother were dead. He doesn’t talk much about them. Although he and I have known each other for a long time, he’s still a very private person when it comes to certain things. I didn’t know about Antonia until Bradley and I met her a ballet at the Royal Albert Hall and Mr. Pendlebury introduced us. Laird had never once mentioned to Bradley or to me that he had an adopted sister.”
“Have you spoken to him about it?”
“No. I just told him that Bradley and I had run into his father and Antonia at the ballet. And that’s when he mentioned that that his parents had adopted her when Karson and he were kids. He also mentioned that she and Karson were engaged.”
“Yes, they were.”
“It must have been a horrible time for the family when instead of a wedding there was a funeral. No wonder Laird doesn’t talk about it.”
“Yes, it’s still very hard for him to talk about it. Karson and he were very close.”
Emma glanced at her watch. “Well, it’s a few minutes to one. Hopefully, Antonia will get here soon. After lunch, you and I have some errands to run before we go for your second fitting.”
“I’m so sorry to keep you waiting,” a voice suddenly said and they turned around. It was Antonia. She looked stunning in a lilac pants suit. It accentuated her olive complexion and lustrous dark hair. They both felt plain in comparison.
Martina smiled. “No need to apologize,” she said. “It’s good to see you again.”
“It’s good to see you again too.” Antonia hugged her before she turned to Emma and said, “It’s nice to see you again too.” Although Emma was married, she resented her friendship with Laird.
Emma shook her hand and smiled. “It’s nice to see you again too.”
“It’s a lovely day, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe that we’re at the end of September.”
“Soon we’ll be wearing coats and scarves and gloves.”
“Oh, Emma, let’s not think about that right now,” Martina protested, laughing.
“Shall we go inside?” Antonia suggested.
They went inside the restaurant and were shown to their table. It was a nice, restaurant. Trendy. “I’ve never been here before,” Emma said, looking around. “I love the décor.”
“It’s a Lebanese restaurant,” Antonia replied. “This is where Laird and I had lunch.”
“That’s why the name seemed so familiar,” Martina said. “I love Lebanese food.”
“So does Laird,” Antonia said. “You see that woman over there, the one talking to that man in the red shirt? She was the one who showed us to the table. I believe she thought that Laird and I were a couple. Isn’t that funny?”
Martina and Emma exchanged glances. “Hilarious,” Emma muttered under her breath.
Martina smiled. “I guess it’s because she didn’t know that you were his sister.”
“Adopted sister,” Antonia quickly corrected her.
“Yes, adopted sister. Well, thank you for bringing us here for lunch. I can’t wait to try the Mosaka. Laird couldn’t stop raving about it.”
Emma opened her menu. “Let’s order now then.” She raised it high in front of her face so that she could smirk. Martina had ruined Antonia’s pathetic little attempt to stir things up.
“Yes,” Antonia replied, her face flushed. “Let’s order now.” Her little ploy hadn’t worked. Martina hadn’t even batted an eye and to boot, she had remained gracious.
“Laird was right. The Mosaka is delicious,” Martina exclaimed. “How is your pastry, Emma?”
“Amazing! It’s filled with Feta cheese. What about yours, Antonia?”
“I had this the last time.”
For the main course, Martina had the Kibbeh Saniyeh, Emma, the Shish Taouk and Antonia, the Kastaleta.
“So, how was dinner with your parents last night?” Emma asked. “I bet Laird was nervous.”
“It was great! Yes, Laird was nervous but when he met them, they made him feel so much at home that in no time he was completely relaxed and himself.”
“I’m so happy that they finally got to meet him.”
“Oh, by the way, last week Sunday, Bradley and I stopped by the art gallery which Laird has been telling us about. The exhibitions are amazing, especially the work of premiered artists.”
“Laird told me about the gallery on our first date and I was supposed to check it out but didn’t get around to it. Laird and I ended up going in June and he introduced me to Embeth.”
“Who’s Embeth?” Antonia asked.
“She’s the owner of the gallery.”
“And an artist too,” Emma said. “Bradley and I met her. She was very friendly and so knowledgeable about Art. Bradley was surprised that she owned the gallery. He thought she was a model.”
“He’s right. She is stunning. She’s going to be at the wedding.”
“Is she married?” Antonia wondered.
“No, she’s single,” Martina replied.
“How long have she and Laird been friends?” Antonia asked. Just how many female friends did Laird have?
“For a long time,” Emma answered. “Much longer than he and I have been friends.”
“They’ve been friends for fifteen years,” Martina told them.
“Wow, that’s a long time,” Emma exclaimed. “How did they meet?”
“They met three years after he graduated from Oxford.”
“And there wasn’t anything between them?” Antonia asked.
Martina shook her head. “No. They were just friends. I don’t have any room for dessert so I’ll pass. I’ll have a cup of their spiced tea instead.”
“Which of these two desserts did you have?” Emma asked Antonia.
“I skipped dessert.”
“What about Laird?” Emma wondered.
“Laird didn’t have any dessert,” Martina said.
Emma gaped at her. “Are you serious? Laird always has dessert.”
Martina smiled. “Yes, he does. You should have seen how he went down on my mothers’ sponge cake. And whenever he and I have dinner together, he never skips dessert.”
“Maybe he didn’t like the choices,” Emma concluded, her eyes shifted to Antonia who hadn’t been saying much. “I think I’ll have a cup of their spiced tea. What about you, Antonia?”
“I’ll have a cup of black coffee.” It bothered her that Laird had skipped dessert when he had lunch with her. She hoped that it was because he was full or that he wasn’t keen about the choices.
“So will I,” Emma said. “I don’t want to be the only one having dessert.”
Antonia sipped her coffee while the two friends chatted about the wedding and other things. She was relieved when it was time to go. After she paid the bill and they were standing outside of the restaurant, she forced a smile. “I hope you enjoyed lunch.”
“We did,” Martina said. “Thank you, Antonia.” She hugged her.
“Yes, thank you, Antonia.” Emma hugged her too but it was more out of courtesy.
They bade her goodbye and then, Martina and Emma walked away. Antonia watched them go. That last thing she wanted was to be friends with those two.