Kay was on her way back to the office when she spotted Quinn sitting outside of the museum with a young woman. She stopped in her tracks, her heart thudding as she feared that the premonition which had dogged her all week had come true. It all started when Joanna kept insinuating that Quinn was having second thoughts about their relationship.
When the older woman found out that Kay and her younger brother were seeing each other, she was livid and she stopped talking to Quinn for weeks. During that time, she made life miserable for Kay and there wasn’t much she could do because Joanna was now her boss. She became manager after Rachel left the company for a more lucrative job in New York. Joanna used her position to make things tough for Kay and several times she came very close to quitting but she needed the income. Things eased up a little when Joanna and Quinn were back on speaking terms but every opportunity she got, Joanna would make remarks like, “You’ve been seeing each other for almost three years now and he still hasn’t proposed.” Or, “I see you’re still not wearing a ring.”
Yesterday when she made one of her snide remarks, Kay replied, “He loves me.”
“Apparently he doesn’t love you enough to propose.”
“He will propose when he’s ready.”
“And what if he doesn’t? What are you going to do if he never proposes? Continue to see him, hoping that he will change his mind? You’re a smart woman, Kay. Why don’t you stop fooling yourself and face facts? Quinn hasn’t proposed to you as yet because he probably doesn’t intend to marry you. It would be better for you if you ended things now before you get hurt.”
“You would like that, wouldn’t you? You would like me to end our relationship but I won’t, Joanna. I love Quinn and he loves me. And he will propose when he’s good and ready.” And she walked away, fuming and shaking at the same time. Joanna was like a thorn in her side, constantly tormenting her but she couldn’t allow her to get to her.
This morning she heard Joanna say to Jenny, her secretary, “I ran into Wendy, an old friend on Monday. She was with her younger sister, Lizette. Wendy and I hadn’t seen each other for a very long time so I invited them over for dinner just to catch up. I was hoping that Quinn would join us but he had other plans. I’m thinking of inviting him over lunch on Sunday and have him meet Lizette. They would make such a nice couple.”
“But, Quinn and Kay are dating,” Jenny objected.
“Oh, that relationship isn’t going anywhere,” Joanna replied, dismissively. “They have been dating for a while now and he hasn’t asked her to marry him as yet. I think he will get tired of her and dump her. And when he does, Lizette will take her place.”
Kay didn’t wait to hear any more. She headed for the washroom which was empty at the time and after locking herself in one of the stalls, she burst into tears. She was crying not only because the words hurt—cutting into her like a knife but they brought to the surface the fears that she herself had been harboring lately. As co-workers, friends and relatives got married after dating for a shorter period than Quinn and her, she began to wonder when it would be her turn. He had not broached the subject of marriage and she didn’t want to bring it up. It didn’t help when friends and family asked her, “When are you and Quinn getting married?” And she would always reply, “When we’re ready.” Sometimes that answer was enough but other times, the follow-up question was, “And when do you think that’s going to be?”
Joanna’s remarks and the questions only fed her own doubts and insecurities about her relationship with Quinn. He said he loved her but was it enough for him to want to marry her? The physical side of their relationship was healthy and robust but she wanted more. She wanted to be his wife, not just his lover.
She didn’t know how long she was in the bathroom stall but it was time to leave. After wiping her eyes, she unlocked the door and stepped out. Thankfully, no one was there. She washed her face and dried it. She glanced at her watch. It was noon. She would take her lunch break now.
As soon as she got back to her desk, she donned her sunglasses to hide her red, swollen eyes and grabbed her handbag. “I’ll be back in an hour,” she said to Jenny as she passed her desk. Five minutes later, she was walking down the sidewalk to the café at the corner where they served amazing cappuccinos and delicious sandwiches. She chose a table at the back in the corner. Although she wasn’t really hungry, she ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, a salad and a hot chocolate.
As she sat there, hardly tasting the food, her mind went back to the day when she met Quinn at Joanna’s barbecue. It was love at first sight for her and when he told her that he loved her on the night when she went over to his place after exchanging words with Joanna, she was thrilled. Now she was beginning to wonder if his love for her was waning even if his desire wasn’t. Was it possible to fall out of love with someone but still be physically attracted? Then, she remembered watching a steamy love scene in a soap opera between two people who disliked each other intensely. So, it was possible that Quinn could fall out of love with her but still want her—until that changed too…
Agitated, she pushed the plate away. She left the café and stood outside the entrance for a moment before heading back to the office. She wished she could go home instead. It was a beautiful and mild winter day but she hardly noticed. Preoccupied with thoughts that refused to go away, she crossed the courtyard leading to the museum. And then, she spotted them…
Quinn looked very handsome in the blue turtleneck sweater which she had given him for his birthday last year. And the woman was dressed in a chunky pullover sweater. Her chestnut hair fell in thick waves about her shoulders. Quinn was looking very intently at her as she talked animatedly to him. She looked to be in her early twenties. Kay stood there, unobserved, watching them, her fingers tightening around the strap of her handbag as jealousy coursed through her. Who was the redhead and what was Quinn doing with her?
She ought to go over there and find out but she didn’t want to make a scene. Instead, she stood there, letting her imagination run wild. The ringing of her cell jolted her and she quickly fished it out of her handbag. “Hello?”
It was Jenny. “Where are you?” she asked. “We have a meeting in ten minutes.”
Darn. She had completely forgotten about the meeting. “I’m on my way.” She ended the call and dropped the phone back in her handbag. After looking over at the two figures at the table, she turned and walked away.
She barely got back to the office in time for the meeting and she sat there, finding it hard to concentrate. All she could think about was Quinn and the woman. Fortunately, she didn’t have to say anything. Joanna did most of the talking. As soon as the meeting was over, Kay went to her desk and after a slight hesitation, she picked up the phone and called Quinn. His cell rang for a long time. She hung up, crestfallen.
Quinn glanced at his watch. “Louisa, I really must be going. Do you need a lift anywhere?”
She shook her head. “No, Uncle Quinn, I drove. Thanks for meeting me and listening to me go on and on about Dave.”
“I hope things work out between you two.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell to check for messages. He flipped it open and saw that there was a missed call from Kay. He would call her when he was alone. He closed his phone and reached for his jacket.
“Thanks, Uncle Quinn. I was so busy talking about my life and my problems that I didn’t even ask you how you’re doing,” she added. “Have you met that special woman as yet?”
He nodded. “Yes, I have. We met three years ago at your Aunt Joanna’s barbecue. The moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one. Tonight, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
“I have a photo of her.” He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out his wallet. He flipped it open and took out a photo which he handed to her. She took it and stared at it. It was a nice photo of Kay sitting at a table of an outdoor restaurant, holding a glass of what looked like Cranberry juice in her right hand and her left hand propping up her face. She was laughing at something.
“What a lovely photo.”
“We were on our first date. I asked the waiter to take it and I told her to pretend that he wasn’t there. I said something which made her laugh and that was when he took it.”
“I can’t wait to meet her,” she said as she handed the photo back to him.
“You’ll meet her before the wedding.”
“Does she have any idea that you’re going to propose tonight?”
“None. We’ve never talked about marriage. She probably thinks that I don’t want to marry her.”
“Why would she think that?”
“I’m sure your Aunt Joanna has something to do with it. For some incomprehensible reason, she dislikes Kay.”
“She never liked Mom either.”
“Your aunt wanted your Dad to marry a woman she felt was more suitable for him but he was adamant about marrying your mother just as I am adamant about marrying Kay.”
“My Dad adored my mother just as you obviously adore Kay.” When they stood up, she hugged him tightly. “I wish you all the best, Uncle Quinn.”
“Thank, Louisa. Call me anytime you need to talk.” He watched her walk away before he went in the opposite direction. When he got into his car, he took out his phone and called Kay.
She answered on the third ring. “Hello, Quinn.”
“Hello, Darling. I’m sorry I missed your call.”
“I just called to say hi.”
“Are you all right? You sound a bit subdued.”
“I’m all right, just a bit tired.”
“Are we still on for tonight?
“Good, I’ll see you at seven. I love you. ”
“I love you too.”
He rang off and turned the key in the ignition. As he drove off, he thought how strange she sounded on the phone. No doubt Joanna was the cause. He was looking forward to this evening and the expression on Kay’s face when he proposed. His heart leapt at the thought. He was on his way now to pick up the ring he had custom made especially for her. It took several trips to the jewelry store, different designs before he settled on the one that he knew was perfect for her and it cost a lot but she was worth it.
It was six-thirty. After taking a long and unenthusiastic look at herself in the mirror, she grabbed her coat and left her flat. Half-hour later, she was standing in front of Quinn’s door. She rang the bell and her heart leapt in her throat when the door opened and he stood there, looking gorgeous in the ribbed grey sweater and dark blue jeans. His hair was slightly damp. He smiled and stepped aside to let her in. As soon as he closed and locked the door behind her, he pulled her into his arms and began to kiss her. Groaning and unable to help herself, she pressed against him and eagerly kissed him back.
Quinn unbuttoned her coat and dragged it off as he continued to plunder her lips. It was tossed on the floor and his arms went around her waist, holding her close as they exchanged feverish kisses. This continued for several minutes and then, he drew back to gaze down at her, his face flushed, breathing heavily. “I wish we could continue this in the bedroom,” he muttered thickly, his eyes dark with desire, “but I think we should have dinner now before it gets cold.” He released her to pick up her coat and hang it in the closet.
She stood there, trembling, trying to catch her breath and her legs felt like jelly. If he hadn’t pulled back, she would have let him make love to her right there in the foyer or wherever he wanted. He made her lose her head when she wanted to keep it clear as she confronted him about that afternoon. “Quinn, we need to talk.”
He closed the closet door and went over to her, his expression serious. “What’s on your mind?” he asked.
“Who’s the young woman I saw you with this afternoon?”
He frowned. “You saw us?”
“Yes. I was on my way back to work after having lunch and—”
“Did you have lunch alone?”
“I wish I had known that you were going to be in the area.”
She looked at his warily. “Why?”
“Then, I would have taken you to lunch myself or asked you to join Louisa and me.”
“Yes, Louisa, my niece.”
“Your niece?” She repeated. “The young woman I saw you with was your niece?”
“Yes, she’s Arthur’s daughter. I’ve mentioned him to you before. He’s my half-brother from a previous marriage.”
“When I saw you with her, I thought…” her voice trailed off and she lowered her head, feeling awful.
He hooked his finger under her chin and raised her face until their eyes met. “Kay, I love you,” he told her quietly. “I would never do anything to hurt you. Since I met you, I haven’t looked at another woman. The first time I saw you, I knew that you were the woman for me. I loved you from that moment and haven’t stopped loving you since. Soon after we started seeing each other, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be with you, marry you, have kids with you and grow old with you. I know that Joanna has been feeding you a lot of lies but she can’t hurt you if you don’t let her. Promise me, Kay, that from now on, you won’t let her or anyone else come between us.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. “I promise.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. He said he wanted to marry me.
He lowered his head and kissed her tenderly on the lips before he led her over to the dining-room. After he pulled out the chair for her to sit, he went into the kitchen and got dinner ready. The table was beautifully set with two burning candles, glasses, a bottle of wine, napkins and dinnerware. It reminded her of the elegant and romantic French restaurant they went to a couple of times. He served dinner and after they lifted their glasses in a toast, they enjoyed a scrumptious meal, followed by a light, airy, and refreshing dessert. While he stacked the dishwasher, she relaxed on the sofa.
A few minutes, he put on a CD before joining her on the sofa. The mellow sounds of smooth jazz filled the room and he leaned back, putting his arm around her shoulder. She rested her head against him. They sat like that for a while, the only sound was the music and then he got up, excusing himself. He left the room for a moment and returned a few minutes later.
Instead of resuming his seat next to her, he got down on one knee instead, making her gasp. Her hand flew up to her mouth when she saw the small red box which he opened to reveal the most exquisite ring she had ever seen in her life. He took it out and then he looked up at her, his expression very serious. “Kay, I searched high and low for a ring for you but nothing I saw captured your beauty and your spirit. So, I had a ring made especially for you. This ring is one of a kind, just like you and it symbolizes my love, devotion, passion and fidelity to you. My life began the day I met you and it won’t be complete without you there to share it. Will you marry me, Kay?”
She nodded, the tears rolling down her cheeks. “Yes,” she gulped. He took her hand and slipped the ring onto her finger. It was a perfect fit. He rose to his feet and pulling her to hers, he took her in his arms and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and responded, her heart almost bursting with joy. And the thought that went through her mind was…he was always ready to propose to me but, first he had to find the perfect ring to give me.