Epilogue - Perfect Illusion
Eight months later...
“Do you have a reservation, sir?” Marianne stands there, behind the mini concierge of the restaurant, her fingers hovering over the keyboard, a humorous smirk plastered on her face.
The guy whom she’s talking to smiles. However, the smile is not directed to her, but to the girl beside him.
He slides his arm behind my back, his hand gliding down my waist, bringing me closer to him. I roll my eyes and snort.
“Honestly, Marianne. I just told you I was taking the night off so Daniel can bring me here to eat.” I say and Marianne throws her head back to laugh.
“I know, I’m just joking with you.” She says and materializes two menus. “It’s just a little bit funny how you used to make fun of Daniel’s dates when he brings them to the restaurant, and now you’re with him tonight.”
“She’s different.” Daniel presses a light kiss to my cheek and I turn as red as a tomato. His eyes skim over me as if he’s trying to drink me in. Tonight I wear the most beautiful dress ever, courtesy of my paycheck. It’s a red off the shoulder dress, beads embedded unto the sleeve all the way down to the waist. I feel pretty when I wear it.
“So, shall we, Mr and Mrs. Kerrington?” Marianne says. I don’t understand why she’s calling me a Mrs when I’m not married -or engaged- yet.
“Actually, uh, it’s not-” I want to say but my voice gets drowned when Daniel takes my hand and guides me to the table. We settle down in the booth and Marianne takes our orders. Daniel orders a lot of food (it’s about time anyway. He eats as much as a girl.) and requests for a bottle of champagne- the same champagne I had poured over his head about a year ago.
When Marianne is off, Daniel’s attention is focused on me again. He looks dashing today: with his blonde hair gelled back, his black and white suit, bringing out the colour of his eyes. He takes my hands in his and smiles.
“Thank you for taking the night off. You’ve been working so hard lately, you barely have time anymore. I don’t think I can take anymore half empty beds and cold showers without you.” He tells me and I laugh.
He’s right. I haven’t been the best girlfriend lately due to my story, Blankets, finally getting published. I had sent in my manuscript with very low expectations but two weeks later, the publishing company had contacted me and requested a meeting with me to talk about it getting published. I was pretty sure that was the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.
Okay. Scratch what I said. This entire year has been awesome as hell.
Especially with Daniel.
Ever since that night when we finally realized that it was practically
impossible not to be together, the both of us knew we needed to start again. Better this time. Our relationship was slow, and a little bit tense, but we managed to pull through. Granted, being with Daniel has always been difficult, but I don’t care. It’s worth it. It’s all worth it.
The media hasn’t been exactly rooting for us the second time around but after everyone realized that we were actually in love and not in the fake way, they accepted it. Daniel’s dad had been furious, but there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t control Daniel’s life anymore.
It’s been exactly eight months since Daniel has been freed of his father’s wrath. Now that he is, in fact, his own man, he had to learn to be independent without his father. Those were hard times; he had struggled to find a job and get rid of his own expensive habits. But eventually, he got a really good job at a bar, and that’s when he realized that he was excellent in handling drinks and dirt-beaten troublemakers. So he’s trying to save up his money to get himself his own bar.
He already has a name for it. He wants to name it Eva, after his mother’s name.
I was estatic about this when he told me his plans for Eva’s. He told me there would be open karaoke during the weekdays, and when he’s not busy running the bar, he’d perform on stage with his guitar- and as I quote “would make all the girls go crazy."
But I don’t mind. As long as he’s playing for me.
My eyes crinkle with amusement. “Well, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. The book is under the final stages of publishing and it will be on the shelves by the end of the week.”
“Good,” His fingers brushes over my knuckles. “Because for the next few months, I want to have you all to myself.”
“What if I want to start another book right away after I’m done with this one?” I tease him.
“Fuck, no. I want us to compensate for the time we lost.” He grins. “I can’t wait to come home every day to you in your sexy lingerie, waiting for me to ravish you.” “You’re crazy.” I laugh.
“Crazy for your sweet, sweet love!” He professes.
Then, Marianne appears with our food and our drinks, and we shut up.
We spend the next hour and a half talking about randoms: he tells me that Simon’s planning on asking Cara to move in with him. Apparently, he’s pretty nervous about asking her because he’s afraid that she’ll think they’re moving too fast.
“Moving too fast?” I almost choke out. “They’ve been together for a year now. If anything, they’re moving waaay too slow.”
After arguing when’s the right time for a couple to move in together - an argument in which I win-, Daniel gives up and changes the subject, talking about other stuff like his recent experience with some gang members in the bar that he worked in. We continue to talk and laugh and smile until Marianne tells us that the restaurant is closing soon and asks if we want to place any last orders.
“No thanks.” Daniel says, then looks at his watch. “Fuck. We should really go. I want to take you somewhere.”
“Ooooh. Roadtrip.” I say excitedly. “Where to?”
He winks at me. “You’ll see.”
“Come on,” I whine. “Where are you taking me?”
“Hush now, dear Alex.” He says, starting the engine, “It’s a surprise.”
“You fucking know I hate surprises.”
“And you fucking know I love to infuriate you.” “I hate you, you know that?”
“It’s a mutual feeling.” He jokes and drives off.
The radio is blaring some sort of rock music, so I lean forward and switch stations.
Hey Jude starts playing, and I let out a tiny laugh.
As if on cue, Daniel glances over at me and smiles. Then, he takes one of his hands and interlock our fingers together.
After being on the road for fifteen minutes, he finally cuts the engine and helps me out of the car.
“What is this?” I say, but I feel like an idiot because I already know. We’re standing in front of Stony Brook Commons apartment. I’m not exactly sure why we’re here- maybe we’re visiting Cara and Simon or something.
Daniel produces a small key from his pocket and takes my hand in his again. “Come on.”
And then we’re flying through the stairs, laughing and tripping as we go. I nearly stumble over the last flight of stairs and Daniel catches me narrowly.
He always catches me when I fall.
We’re standing in front of a door on the fourth floor, a floor higher than Cara and Simon’s apartments. He inserts the key into the keyhole and turns the doorknob. I gasp when I enter.
It’s a barren apartment, the walls painted a light beige, only visible as the moonlight pours through the huge windows. There’s nothing in here except for a long piece of cloth that looks like a blanket and a random coffee table smack middle in the living room. I step in, the sound of my heels echoing throughout the entire place.
“Daniel...” I murmur, “What is this place?”
He stands beside me, hands in his pocket. I can tell he’s nervous about something, perhaps nervous about showing me this place. But his eyes keep darting from me to his pocket so maybe that’s not it.
“Um well,” He scratches his head. “I sort of bought this place. Like last week.”
“Because... we’re still living in the same apartment that my dad had bought us?” He tells me, “And I don’t want to live there anymore. It’s doesn’t feel like the place belongs to us. I know we have created many memories there, good or bad, but I thought that if we started again someplace new... we’d be able to make new memories.”
A small smile appears on my face. “How are you able to afford this? I thought you were saving up for Eva’s.”
“I was,” He says. “I mean, I am. But I took some money out and spent it on this. It was important. I had to do it.”
“No, you didn’t have to.” I shake my head.
He sighs and a shaky breath escapes his throat. “Yes. I do. Because if I didn’t, then I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
And then, one of his hands slips into his pocket and he takes something out.
I think I stop breathing.
It’s a small velvety box, and I can already tell what’s inside it. I cover my mouth with my hands as Daniel pries the cover open, revealing to me a beautiful diamond ring tucked inside. He lifts his face high enough for me to see the adoration and glow in his blue eyes.
My heart almost flies out of my throat when he opens his mouth to speak.
“The last time I proposed to you, it wasn’t exactly a proposal,” He says, his voice shaky. “The ring I had once given to you had been picked out by my father and I didn’t think that was fair to you. I treated you like shit, and I will regret it forever. But I don’t regret falling for you. Our love is complicated and messy. It’s raw and it’s beautiful and it consumes every inch of me and hopefully you.” Tears start to swim in my eyes.
“Ever since the first night I met you, I knew I was going to fall for you.” He says with a slight chuckle. “I didn’t know how I knew it, but I knew. I felt it in every single bone in my body. Maybe... maybe that’s why I hated you. Because without even realizing it, I had already loved you.” His voice trembles slightly, “Alex, you have barrelled your way into my life like a fucking tornado. You broke all my walls and you destroyed everything that I ever thought was true. I had a perfect illusion and you managed to shatter it completely.”
He gets down on one knee and looks up at me, “I love you, sweetheart. I fucking love you. I loved you when you poured that champagne over me. I loved you when you told me go fuck myself. And I loved you when you kissed me that night when the lights went out.” Daniel says, “I love you more than forever, more than eternity, more than all the infinites put together. And I want to spend the rest of my life convincing you that you’re the one for me. Because you are.”
“Fuck,” I say through my tears. “Aren’t you being all poetic and stuff.”
Daniel stands up and pulls me to him. “Alex... just shut up and tell me you’ll marry me.”
“Okay.” I laugh. ”Okay. Yes. I’ll marry you. Yes yes yes!”
Daniel lets out a long breath and takes the ring out of the box to place it on my finger. “Damn. It looks so perfect on you. I knew it would.”
I hold up the ring to the light and pretend to be unsatisfied. “Hmmmmm. Cutting’s a bit off. It may be a little bit too tight on me but I guess it’ll do.”
Daniel shakes his head and chuckles. “I can’t believe you.”
“I’m joking.” I say, smiling like a maniac. “It’s perfect. I love it. I love you.”
And then, I lean forward to kiss him. My head slants to the side as he parts my lips with his. My fingers grip his hair tightly, hard enough that it probably hurt, and my teeth graze his bottom lip. Groaning, he slides his arms around my waist and electricity courses through my skin when his fingers touch the back of my body. Our mouths open, and his tongue invades my mouth, his kiss possessing a desperate needy edge.
Seeing him like this, undone by me, is beautiful. He releases my hands and curls his fingers around into my hair, holding me gently in place. Desire courses through my blood, awakening every muscle and fibre of my being.
He breaks the kiss long enough for me to see the hunger in his eyes. “Do you think it’s a good idea if we christen the apartment by making love in the living room?”
“I think that’s the most brilliant idea you’ve ever had.” I nod and our bodies collide again.
We’re desperate this time, our kisses telling each other that we want this. Clothes fly everywhere, my dress, his shirt, his shoes, my heels, his pants, my bra, his boxers and my underwear. We tangle ourselves on the blanket on the floor and our bodies glisten with sweat as we take our time with each other, slower this time, wanting to savour every minute of this.
I have been intimate with Daniel a lot of times before, but this, damn, this feels like we’re making love for the first time. He’s gentle with me again, making sure that I feel comfortable and safe in his arms. He cries my name as we move together, my nails digging into his back, his name escaping my mouth through whispers.
Soon after, we lay together, our bodies wrapped around each other with the blanket wrapped around us. I press a soft kiss on his chest as his fingers roam down my spine, sending a wave of sparking igniting through my whole body.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this,” I murmur quietly as I stare at the huge engagement ring on my finger.
“You’ve worn one before,” He notes.
“I know, but this time it’s different.” I say, “Because it’s real.”
“I like real.” He says, admiring the ring too. “Real is perfect.”
I pause for a while thinking. Then, I break the silence again. “So, now that we’re actually engaged, what the hell are we going to do?”
“We plan the wedding.” He smiles down at me. “It will be tough. I mean, you’ll do most of the planning and stuff but I kind of want a June wedding. Even though that’s like eight months away-”
“It’s a blink of an eye in wedding time.” I tell him. “But we’ll make do. It will be awesome.”
He grins. “I’m sure your mom would want to help too. When I told her I had intentions on proposing to you, she was so damn happy. Then she admitted that she’d been planning the wedding ever since she found out we got back together.”
“That’s my mom.” I laugh against his chest. “Gosh, I wish my dad was here. He’d see how happy I am with you.”
“I’m sure he’d be proud of the person you’ve become, Alex.” He whispers.
“He’d be so happy that I’m marrying you. I know it.”
Daniel’s fingers reach up to trace the outline of my lips. “I can’t wait to marry you, Alexandria Woods.”
“Same here.” I look up at him, cheeks flushed, “Even though we’ll have lots of fights and we’ll always find a way to piss each other off...”
“That’s what makes our relationship much more fun,” He drawls. “But I’m willing to endure all of that as long as I’m with you.” His words make my heart melt.
Who knew I’d be so lucky to find someone like him? Granted, Daniel has never been my favourite person before, but so many things have happened and we find ourselves needing each other more than we ever knew. Now, I highly doubt I can truly live without him by my side.
We may have our ups and downs, highs and lows, but I know that we can battle our way through every obstacle because his heart is mine and my heart is his and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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