Dominic promises me the best meal of my life for our second date. Actually, we should probably consider this our third date. When we went out for drinks last Saturday, we spent the rest of the afternoon into the evening together. Our first date was almost a full 24 hours. I let myself get a little too tipsy and I remember falling off the barstool and Dominic catching me, “Let me take you home, my queen,” he said. When we got to my porch, I leaned in for a kiss, but he stopped me and said he doesn’t kiss on the first date, especially when his date is inebriated. Instead, he gave me a hug and wished me a goodnight with sweet dreams.
When my map app on my phone indicates that I have reached my destination, I park in the driveway as Dominic had instructed. I step out of my car and am immediately awestruck. Shoot, did I punch in the wrong address? I scramble through my text thread between me and Dominic to confirm, his address is 511 Port St. This is it, a freshly manicured lawn, a wraparound porch, two story plantation-style house that is reminiscent of the old south. The house is set to the back of the property, which makes the front yard seem like it goes on for miles.
When I reach the front door, I hear Ludo barking excitedly. I don’t have time to knock before Dominic opens the door and greets me.
“Hey Lucy- Lu,” he says as he opens the door.
“Wow, no one has called me Lucy-Lu since my grandpa passed away,” I can see his shock at my comment and he apologizes profusely. “It’s okay, I just don’t think I can be called that by anyone else. It feels like a forbidden nickname now.” I feel terrible for making him feel worse, I don’t know why I can’t just let the poor fellow off the hook. His attempt at giving me a nickname was shattered by my old memories, but it’s probably best to be honest about it now than let it fester.
He offers me his hand as I step in the house. He takes my coat and purse and hangs them on the rack near the door. “Welcome to my humble abode,” he stretches his arm out as though he is presenting the room.
“It’s so beautiful. I didn’t expect this when I pulled up. Honestly, I thought I was at the wrong house,” I laugh.
“Ah, yes. I can see that. Why would an Army vet who teaches self-defense have such a big house, huh?” he said.
Did I sense an annoyed tone in that voice? Maybe I’m imagining it, but I fear I rubbed him the wrong way. Trying to salvage our night from my unintended rudeness, I offer a fast compliment, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by my comment. Your house is so beautiful. It looks like you care a lot about the yard. How long have you owned this place?”
I wait for his response.
After a moment he smiles, “No need to apologize. I was only joking. I do care a lot about this place, though. It was my grandparents’ house. They left it to my mom when they passed away, but my mom had other plans. It was always her dream to live in London. After my dad left, she made the big move to London and left the house to my sister and me, but my sister had her own place already. I was not about to become another homeless veteran living on the streets begging for food, so I swooped at the chance to live here,” he pauses and looks around “This house is full of some of my happiest memories.” He looks at me and smiles, “And I feel like tonight will add another to my collection.” With those words, I should be smiling for real, but something in my intuition is betraying me. I don’t know why I felt a red flag in this moment. I push the initial feeling to the back of my mind and I force a smile. He walks me to the living room where I settle onto the giant, comfy couch and Ludo curls up next me, resting his head in my lap.
“How are you with spice?” Dominic calls to me while I’m cuddling Ludo. The house is an open concept. It seems like the first floor is one giant room with different pieces of furniture to distinguish when one room ends and the next one begins.
“Spicy lobster mac and cheese? I’m intrigued!” I respond, “It already smells delicious, I can’t wait to eat.” I pick up my glass of blended red wine that Dominic poured for me to enjoy while he cooks. The first sip is heavenly. I think it is an expensive bottle of wine, but when I ask, he apologizes for the fact that it is a $20 bottle from the local grocery store. I don’t know why I asked, I feel like my manners flew out the window at some point. It’s not like me to point out anything to do with money and whether a person has it or not. Cora must be rubbing off on me.
Dominic serves me a dish of the lobster mac and cheese with a side of sautéed garlic asparagus. I’ve never had anything more scrumptious in my life. I can’t help but wonder where he got his culinary skills. My specialty is a grilled cheese sandwich. I’ll need to take a class before I return the favor of a home cooked meal.
“What do you think?” Dominic asks. I can see he is eager for words of affirmation.
“I love it! I want to marry it, it’s so freaking good,” marry it? Who says that? Sometimes I wonder about myself.
“Well, good! I’m glad, although, I more expected you to want to marry me and not the food,” he nudges me. “I’ll make this for you any time. I love to cook. A buddy and I were this close to opening a restaurant, but he backed out last minute. It was disappointing, but I didn’t think too much of it, until I saw that he started a food truck. I was mad for a second, but got over it when he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He said that I get to eat for free for life. Fair trade if you ask me. He cooks killer burgers,” he said. Wow, men move on from their drama instantaneously. The last fight I had with a friend was because we couldn’t agree on which movie to watch. I don’t know why that night got so heated, but we haven’t spoken in over a year.
Oh to be a guy.
“You love to cook, I love to eat. We can make this a weekly thing,” I say, hoping he doesn’t try to flip the script and ask me to cook for him. “Truth is, I cook the meanest grilled cheese, but that’s about it,” I confess.
“What makes it mean? I prefer my food to be kind,” he lets out a small chortle.
“You have the dad humor down, that quip was spot on,” I encourage his humor. It’s adorable when he chuckles at his own jokes.
We move to the couch to watch a movie. I requested a comedy, because scary movies give me nightmares. We laugh at the movie, but then a few minutes in we are immersed in conversation. My eyes are drawn to his eyes, they’re so beautiful. We polish off the bottle of wine and decide to open another. I don’t know if he had this planned or if it’s normal for him to have so many bottles of wine on hand, but I don’t care. In this moment, all I want to do is prolong the time we spend together.
A bit tipsy, I stumble my way to the restroom. Dominic gave me a tour of the house when I arrived, so I have a handle on where I am going. Down the hall, to the right. Ludo in tow. I shut the bathroom door and peer at my reflection. I don’t recognize the sleepy eyes staring back at me, but I lecture her to behave. In a failed attempt to stable myself, I walk briskly back to the couch and plop myself down. Dominic is waiting, smiling, and pulling me into his arms.
Conversation continues to flow over the audio of the movie. The movie is a distraction and we pay it no attention. We’re enjoying each other’s company too much to worry about anything else in the world. Dominic offers me coffee to help me sober up so I can drive home. I take a few sips of it, afraid that it will keep me awake all night, and set it down on the coffee table instead. I reason with myself that my next question to Dominic is purely for the benefit of getting enough rest before work in the morning and when I fully agree with myself that this is the best choice, I ask him, “Can I stay here with you tonight?” He looks happy and agrees to let me stay over for the night.