Charmaine was waiting at the bus stop on her way home when a sleek black Rolls Royce drew up. As she stared curiously at it, the window rolled down and Dorian Breckenridge stuck his head out. Immediately, her heart began to pound wildly. He had that effect on her. He was her best friend, Ella’s uncle. They met last year at Ella’s brother’s wedding.
For Charmaine the attraction was immediate. All evening she watched him, thinking how foolish she was to set her sights on a man who was out of her league. He was very handsome, sophisticated and much older than her. He was seen in the company of beautiful and elegant women. She was just a university student still living at home with her parents. There was no way that a man like him would be attracted to her. To him, she was just a girl, the same age as his niece.
She walked over to the car now and stared down at him, her heart melting when he smiled up at her. “Where are you heading?” he asked.
“I’m on my way home.”
“Hop in,” he said, “I’ll give you a lift.” He quickly got out of the car and held open the door for her to climb in. He slid in beside her and closed the door. As the car merged into the traffic, he tapped on the glass partition. “Henry, we’re going to be making a stop.” He turned to her, “What’s your address?” After she gave it to him, he relayed it to Henry who nodded before closing the partition.
She glanced shyly at him, wondering if her heart would fall out of her chest because it was beating so hard and fast. Her hands were clasped tightly together in her lap because she was afraid that he would notice that they were trembling. “Thank you for the lift,” she said.
He smiled. “It’s my pleasure,” he assured her. His eyes flickered over her small frame, thinking how lovely she was. Straight, long hair framed a beautiful face with the most amazing eyes he had ever seen. His fingers itched to caress her face, curious to see if the skin felt as soft and smooth as it looked. Forget it, he chided himself, she’s too young for you. He quickly turned his head and gazed out of the window, a muscle throbbing along his jaw-line. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been busy with my studies,” she said, looking at him, unable to help herself. He had thick dark auburn hair with grey at the sides, making him even more attractive.
“What are you studying?” he asked. He turned to look at her.
“Which area of journalism are you interested in?”
“Print. I’m like writing. Ella was encouraging me to do Broadcast but I’m way too shy to be in front of a camera.”
He smiled. “When do you graduate?”
“Next year June.”
“So, what do you like to do when you’re not studying?”
“I read a lot. I just finished reading a book about Rube Goldberg. One of the things that struck me about him was how badly he wanted to go to New York City because it was the perfect place for cartoonists. It took a lot of courage for him to leave the West Coast where his cartoons were growing in popularity to go to New York City although he hadn’t received an offer from a publisher there. I don’t think I could just leave my family and friends and move to another city without any job offers.”
“I personally believe that if you want something badly enough, you must be willing to take a chance for it. Are you free Saturday evening?” he heard himself ask. He had to see her again. It wasn’t enough seeing her occasionally at parties, dinners and barbecues. He wanted to see much more of her. In fact, in spite of their age difference, he was seriously considering having a relationship with her.
She nodded, her eyes questioning as they met his.
“Would you like to go with me to see Carmen?”
Pulse racing, she nodded again, unable to hide the excitement in her eyes. “Yes.”
“Good. I’ll pick you up at five.”
They had reached her house and he got out of the car to hold the door open for her. As she climbed out, their eyes met and held for several minutes. “Th-thank you for the ride,” she stammered, her heart racing.
His eyes darkened on her face. “Don’t mention it,” he said quietly. “I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Yes.” She turned and walked quickly to the front door, pausing to watch the Rolls Royce as it drove away. A big smile broke out on her face. Dorian Breckenridge had asked her to go to the opera with him. He had asked her out on a date. She couldn’t believe it. When she let herself in, she had to turn on the light beside the door. Her parents were on vacation in Miami so she had the house all to herself. As she climbed the stairs to her room, she kept replaying in her mind, the words, would you like to go with me to see Carmen? Then her thoughts turned to what she was going to wear.
As soon as she got to her room, she made a beeline for the wardrobe and looked through the clothes hanging there until she came across a burgundy lace dress with long sleeves. This would do nicely, she thought. It reached her just above the knees.
She wanted to call Ella and tell her about the date but decided that it would be best to keep it to herself. Besides, she didn’t know if anything would come of it. For all she knew he had intended to take someone else but she couldn’t make it so he asked her instead because he didn’t want the tickets to go to waste. She brushed aside the negative thoughts and after taking a quick shower, she went downstairs and fixed herself dinner. Afterwards, she relaxed on the sofa, the television on but her mind elsewhere. She willed Saturday to come quickly so that she could see Dorian again. She didn’t know how she would be able to concentrate on her studies. At eleven, she went to bed but lay awake for a while before finally falling asleep.
The following day at university, she went through the motions and was relieved when it was over and she went home. She washed her hair and set her dress out and the shoes she was going to wear with it. That night she was too excited to sleep and it was after one in the morning when she drifted off. She got up early and busied herself with cleaning the house and laundry. The day seemed to drag but soon it was time to get ready. Excited, she showered and put on her dress. It fitted her snugly and she pulled her hair back in a French twist with a few strands across her forehead. No makeup, only lip-gloss. Tiny gold earrings studs in her ears were the only pieces of jewelry she wore.
Satisfied with how she looked, she grabbed her handbag and went downstairs. She opened the coat closet and was just buttoning her coat when the doorbell rang. Heart racing, she went into the foyer and opened the door. Dorian stood there, smiling at her. “Good evening,” he said.
“Good evening.” She turned and locked the front door before she preceded him down the steps. As she got closer to the parked car, she realized that it wasn’t the Rolls Royce. It was a different car.
“It’s just the two of us this time,” he remarked as he held the door open for her. “And I thought it would be nice to drive my own car for a change.”
She smiled as she climbed into the car, delighted that they were going to be alone. As she settled in the seat and fastened her seat-belt, she was tempted to pinch herself. She still couldn’t believe that she was going out with him.
“Carmen is over three hours long so I made reservations for dinner first at a nearby restaurant,” he said when he got in the car. “I hope you don’t mind.”
She shook her head at once. “No, I don’t mind at all.” It thrilled her to no end that she was going to have dinner with him. He took her to a classic French brasserie in the heart of Covent Garden’s opera quarter. Its true Parisian style décor and warm welcoming atmosphere made the restaurant an instant favorite for her.
She smiled when she saw his eyes travel over her after he helped her off with her coat. As they followed the waiter to a table near the window, she felt his hand on her elbow and when he held her chair out for her, he murmured quietly, “You look very lovely.”
“Thank you.” His compliment stirred all sorts of feelings in her and she fit a curious sensation at the pit of her stomach and she was thankful to sit down because her knees felt weak. When he sat down, she couldn’t help admiring how he looked in the charcoal grey suit and a black turtleneck sweater. He oozed class and sophistication.
“I’m afraid we have only an hour to have our dinner,” he said apologetically after the waitress brought the menus. “Fortunately, it’s less than a five minute walk to the theatre.”
They had only the main course from the theater menu and skipped dessert. It was a quarter to seven when they reached the theater. Charmaine had never been to the theater before so she was very excited when she walked into the auditorium and saw the red curtains of the stage, the stunning ceiling, the glittering gold of the proscenium arch and the red and gold lights. Dorian smiled when he saw her gazing around her in wonderment. “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a theater,” she told him as she saw down.
He settled his tall frame beside her. It pleased him that her first experience at the theatre was with him. There were so many wonderful things he wanted her to experience with him but for the present, he wanted her to enjoy this moment. The lights began to dim and he settled back in his seat. The curtains rose and the show began.
During the intermission, he leaned over and inquired, “So, are you enjoying it?”
She turned to him, her eyes shining. “Yes,” she said. “I love the singing, the story, the costumes—everything.”
He smiled. “Good.”
They talked a little about the show and then it was time for it resume. At the end, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Charmaine blinked back the tears as she clapped. As Dorian helped her with her coat, she remarked, “Although it ended in tragedy, next to Romeo and Juliet, Carmen has become one of my favorite love stories. I felt sorry for Micaëla who loved Don Joséand I felt sorry for him because of how Carmen treated him.”
“Yes, it would have been best for the three of them if Don José and Carmen had never met.”
They walked to the car which, thankfully, was not parked far from the theater. The temperature seemed to have dropped and she was grateful for the warmth of the car. When they were standing outside of her parents’ home, she turned to face him after unlocking the door and turning on the porch light so that they could see each other clearly. “Thank you for a lovely evening,” she said huskily.
He looked her, “It was my pleasure,” he told her quietly. “Charmaine, how do you feel about being in a relationship with a man who is much older than you?”
She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. “On top of the world,” she informed him.
He reached for her hands and drew her closer to him, his eyes gazing into hers. “I’ve wanted to be in a relationship with you ever since we met but our age difference prevented me but this evening I made up my mind that I was going to follow my heart.”
“I’m happy you did,” she confessed. “For the longest time, I’ve wanted you to notice me but didn’t think I stood a chance—not when you were used to be around older and more glamorous women.”
“The first time I saw you, my heart skipped a beat and whispered to me, ‘she’s the one’. When I was with those other women, my mind was filled with thoughts about you and my heart ached to see you again. And every time we saw each other, we never had a chance to be alone. It was quite by chance that I saw you on Tuesday. Usually, I would have my face buried in a newspaper or papers but I didn’t feel like doing anything except to relax and enjoy the ride. When I spotted you at the bus-stop, I couldn’t believe my luck and seized the opportunity to be with you. And as for the tickets to Carmen, I ordered those after we dropped you home. Fortunately, the seats hadn’t filled up as yet. Carmen was my excuse to see you again.”
“It was by pure chance that I was waiting at the bus-stop. Usually, I would take the tube because it was faster but I decided to take the bus instead because it was a nice, mild day. When I saw you, I was so thrilled because I didn’t know how long I would have to wait before I saw you again.”
“Well, we don’t have to wait to see each other,” he said huskily. “If you’re free tomorrow, I would like to take you to the British Museum and then for lunch afterwards.”
“I’m free tomorrow and every afternoon during the week,” she told him. “I’ve never been to the British Museum.”
“Then, it’s settled. I’ll pick you up at eight. Goodnight, Charmaine.”
“Goodnight, Dorian.” He was holding her hands and staring into her eyes. Was he going to kiss her? With all her heart, she hoped so. It would be the perfect end to a perfect evening.
As if he had read her mind, he lowered his head and kissed her. It was tentative at first but when he felt her eager response, it deepened. He released her hands to cup her face as his lips moved passionately on hers. She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him, her senses spinning. How true the words, “No one ever fell in love without being a little bit brave.” She concluded that she must be very brave because when she fell in love with Dorian she had no clue that he felt the same way.
Sources: Rube Goldberg: Inventions; Royal Opera House