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Completing The List

By P.J. Lowry All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

Go out more often

Life as she knew it was going relatively well. What more could one person ask for given the heightened situation in other parts of the world? She had her health, a family to lean on and a man that loved her more than he loved himself. To Elizabeth Fraser, there wasn't a single thing she thought she needed, except maybe a few trips to get some new shoes. Not a necessity, but it would definitely score you a lot of brownie points in her books. She had been married for over five years, and to her that in itself was a miracle. Elizabeth was one of those people in her circle of friends that always swore she would never get married, ever. That one person who wanted to raise cats and buy shoes for the rest of her life and not worry about a man and kids and all that jazz. At the time it seemed like something she wanted in her life and she really couldn’t explain why. It was also something she didn’t hesitate to let people know as well: married life just didn’t seem in the plans. She was a big fan of Beatrice from that great Shakespearean comedy ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. The woman that would rather hear a dog moaning than hear a man say he loved her. She wanted to be exactly like her icon, cold and unwilling to hear anyone out but deep inside there was still a romantic that hoped for something different. That something arrived when Hayden came into her life.

Elizabeth was raised in a very male dominated household. The middle child of three squeezed between two alpha males that were her brothers, and combined that with her ultra macho alpha male like Dad... the house was booming with testosterone and she had to be tough to keep up with the men in the house. Usually one’s Mother was the one person someone would turn when she wanted the company of another lady in the house, but this was an option that wasn’t available to Elizabeth. Less than two years after she was born, Elizabeth lost her mother to cancer and she was suddenly the only one in the house that had to sit in order to urinate. This meant that she had to live in a house full of alpha males for the better part of her life, which meant her name was shortened to Lizzy since men were never fond of big names and was called that for the rest of her life despite the fact that her mother always hated it when her father called her that. Now while most women who are raised in that macho environment would be tomboy tough and too much to handle, but Elizabeth managed to remain a woman while still being able to punch her brothers with authority. While most men would seem intimidated by her independence and toughness, Hayden shrugged if and relished the idea of a challenge. He was persistent, not to the point where one needed to file any restraining orders, but enough to realize that what he was doing and exactly what he wanted. Lizzy was a waitress at a place that was not high profile but nowhere near sleazy either, her happy medium. The clientele was reasonably fair with their tips and she was able to work in a somewhat gentle work space that was hardly if ever a hazard or place of harassment. Her impeccable memory along with her upbringing in an all male house made her bedside manner just the thing needed to keep people at bay and in their place and at the same time interact with clients which lead to a very loyal base that came back often to see her smile and enjoy the quality food. Lizzy was bold, ambitious but still at the same job for several years, content with what she had and not willing to upgrade out of fear that it would ruin the status quo which was all right by her. With a large bath tub, a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge and a good book half finished, was there really any more she could ask for?

Hayden on the other hand had a very different background. His family was Irish, which meant a lot of brothers, sisters and more than enough drinking and rough housing to go around. He was tough and able to take anything that came his way. Hayden was never the kind to take the easier road out, even if it was right there in front of him. He had the talent and the brains to do and become anything he wanted, but h chose not to take that path because there was no challenge, no thrill. He would find both of those when he signed up and started training to become a fireman. While many found his profession to be honourable yet risky, it was his mother was furious over his career decision, mainly because he was the youngest child of seven. The idea of ‘her baby' going out day in and day out to risk his life to save strangers in a burning building infuriated his mother a great deal. The rest of his family was more supporting and that was the benefit of having a huge family, no matter what happened at least one member would come to your side and show a little support. It's the times when everyone banded against you when it was appropriate to take a good look on your position and re-evaluate. But Hayden was strong and vigilant in his career choice and his performance on the job convinced many it was what he was meant to do, his true purpose in life. Hayden literally had no fear of anything, and was often awarded for courage, valour and his ability to rescue many lives despite the danger. Many of the guys in his firehouse started to call him 'horseshoe' cause there was convinced he had one on him somewhere because he was the luckiest bloke they had ever seen go into building after building and not come back out with a scratch. Hayden never hesitated to thank his peers for teaching him the right way to do his job and mentor him, but they all knew it was a cocktail of luck and skill that lead to his impressive record. None of this helped relieve the fears that his mother had for his profession. She worried everyday that someone would come back to her home to inform her that his luck had run out and the job had caught up with him.

But based on the stories of Hayden’s success, his life as a fireman wasn’t showing any signs of catching up to the young man. Not only was Hayden in great shape, but he happened to have the luckiest moment of his life when one of the members of his house set him up on a blind date. Hayden really didn't actively pursue a mate because he was a strong believer in fate. When it was time for him to get hitched, something would happen and it would all fall into place. But to appease his nosy sisters, he agreed to let them set him up every now and then with something they assumed was just right. His sisters tended to be very pushy and it was a very Irish thing. He knew better to say no when he didn't have any valid excuses, so Hayden didn't fight it and went out on an occasional blind date. While he never took these dates very seriously he still wanted to look his best. Hayden took the time to get his hands a very nice suit from a bud in the fire house, clean up and even shave before going out. The last thing he wanted was this person telling off her sisters and making them look bad so he made the effort for them and to be ready in case fate walked through the door. It was one thing to mess with fate, but another to upset his sisters whom he loved enough to make an effort. He knew they loved him and that their hearts were in the right place. Hayden walked into each date hoping for the best but expecting the worst, and this time out he found himself at a rather nice diner that was small, but not too crowded. It was a cozy place and he sat himself down at the table. His date had asked to meet here as it was a place she liked so he arrived early like a good trooper, ready to be polite and courteous. “Chew with you mouth closed and avoid slurping of any kind.” He whispered to himself.

"Well isn't that a given?" someone called out to him. Hayden turned around and was surprised to see the waitress had budded in on his self lecture on good manners. Lizzy had been serving food to another table less than a few feet away and not only did she flash him a grin, the kind a school kid would when calling you out and mocking you in the playground but the other patrons she was serving couldn't help but laugh. Hayden felt a little embarrassed but at the same time was surprised and taken back by bold and brash manner in which he was called out for something he probably shouldn’t have said out loud. Lizzy came over to his table with a warm smile, and he was instantly won over. "Would you like a menu?" she softly asked, being a little more polite this time.

"Ahhh, well... not yet." Hayden replied. "I'm expecting to be joined by someone very soon. We'll order when she gets here."

"A big date?" she asked.

"A blind date." he answered playfully

"Oh my... and who set this up?" she questioned just as playfully.

 "My sister," Hayden honestly replied. "I have a hard time saying no to women, especially when they have the same Irish background as myself. They're really tough broads."

"I see." Lizzy said with fascinated grin. "Well when your date arrives, I'll come back with a few menus. Did you want anything to drink? Soda? Whiskey to ease your apparent nerves?"

Hayden laughed. "I'm not nervous. I'm all right. Thank you for offering."

"All right." Lizzy took her tray and went back to the kitchen to get back to work.

Hayden sat there at his table and spent the next half hour watching Lizzy roam around the room, providing great service and good food to other various tables. Every table in the diner except his that was. He sat there now getting a little nervous. Checking his watch every several minutes, Hayden did start to sweat a bit when he realized that his 'date' was over thirty minutes late. It wasn't like it was sitting at a booth in the corner. He was at a small table, which seemed to be zoned right in the middle of the dinner. If Hayden didn't know better, he could have sworn everyone was watching the poor single guy in the middle of the room waiting for someone. It was evident to everyone there that whoever Hayden was waiting for was likely going to be a world class no show. He sat there and tried his best to be cool with everything, but he was obviously embarrassed by the situation.

Around the forty-five minute mark, Lizzy arrived with ten ounce steak, baked potato with the works coleslaw. She put it down on the table with a smile, “Sorry it took so long to get your order out. The book overcooked the first one.”

“Oh, I see.” Hayden said as he looked down at the plate, a little shocked considering that he had yet to place his order. “Thank you.” He said as he looked up at the kind waitress. She had really gone above and beyond to limit his personal embarrassment.

As Lizzy went back to the kitchen, she watched as he started to eat his meal and at least knew that he would leave with his head high rather than the shameful walk of one who had been stood up. She never really understood why in this world of technology that someone would never show up without even calling or texting was rude and unfair to the poor bloke. It was the perfect place for a blind date: busy, full of people and very public. She literally had no idea why that lady would so such a thing. From what she had seen of him thus far, he seemed like a decent chap. When Lizzy came back out of the kitchen with a new slate of orders in her arms, she looked back to the table to notice the man was gone.  She strolled up to the table to collect his plate and discovered a sizable tip and a letter written on a napkin. It read:

You really saved my ass in there, so thanks a bunch! I was very impressed by both the food and staff. I won’t forget this soon!

She didn’t take the note seriously, but was proven wrong. It wasn’t until the next week, but Hayden had returned for another helping of her unique charm. This time he had come in for lunch and she just happened to be doing a double shift to help out a co-worker who worked the lunch rush. She noticed he was there and stopped in her tracks. “What’s he doing here again?” she asked to herself.

“He’s been eating lunch here every day since Monday.” The cook replied as he couldn’t help but overhear her question. “Same thing too: scrambled eggs with bacon and whole wheat toast.” He tossed the finished breakfast over the serving counter to her waiting hands. “There you go, mingle.”

She smiled at the thought and proceeded to bring the breakfast out to Hayden who was actually reading the menu. The cook never made a mistake, Lizzy confirmed to herself as she slid the plate in front of him and smiled when he looked up. “Would you like a refill?” she said as she raised a nearby pot of coffee.

“Another plate I didn’t order. Am I really that predictable?”

“Don’t feel bad. Cooks love regulars who don’t change. Makes it easier for them to get meals made and out to the floor.”

“I don’t mind nor feel bad. It’s not every day someone finds a place to eat like this where the staff is great and dependable, not to mention outgoing.” He paused for a moment. “How did you know how I liked my streak?”

Lizzy smiled back at him. “You seemed like the kind of man who wouldn’t be afraid of a little blood.” She could tell by his posture and his attitude based on living with her brothers for so long that it didn’t seem like something he would mind. She was right.

“Good call.” He said as he held up the cup, “I’ll take a refill to go with breakfast.”

Lizzy only saw Hayden when she covered for her best friend Anna because Hayden also worked nights at his firehouse downtown. He was in one of the most active houses in the city and they sometimes saw as many as four to ten calls a night, at least. They both worked the same hours, so it was hard for him to catch a glimpse of her unless he came in on his day off. It was two weeks before he finally mustered the courage to ask her out. It didn’t go very well. He asked too shyly and she gunned him down quickly, just to watch him squirm like a mouse being played around with by a cat. She was interested, but wasn’t ready to make it easy for him. I week later he had tried again, this time just leaving a hand written message with the cooks. She dismissed that as quickly believing that no request would ever be accepted unless face to face. That meant no phone messages, no texting and especially zero invites through facebook. 

It wasn’t until a few weeks later when she saw Hayden in a different light that convinced her he was a bloke worth taking a chance on. While she was working, the building across the street had caught fire. She thought nothing of it and assumed it would be taken care of in good time but even when the fire trucks showed up the blaze someone got out of control and scared the patrons inside. With a full blown inferno outside, the diner’s business slowed down a great deal since the road was closed off for a while. Since she was ahead of her work and had a moment, Lizzy went outside to catch a view of the blaze for herself. She had never seen such a spectacle before, and was excited to catch a glimpse. Above the third floor of the five floor apartment complex, bright red flames shot out of every window. The fire looked strong and seemed to have plenty of fuel to go on for hours. Firemen on the scene were in buckets rising up to the widows to put out the fire from the windows while others had gone inside to bring people out the old fashioned way. She watched in amazement as each member of the team fought as a unit to take the beast that was consuming the building before them and trying to take as many lives as it could. It was a battle the firefighters refused to give up and under two hours the blaze was contained and then eventually extinguished. Just as the fire was starting to die down, three firemen had emerged from the building with a family that had been stuck inside. They were all alive, wearing the masks the firemen had taken in with them and quickly passed to onsite medics to make sure they were fine. She hadn’t noticed paid attention to any of the fighters in the group until one of them waved to her. She paused for a moment and then realized it was Hayden that had been waving at her. He still had a small child in his arms, and the kid even took the time to wave with him. They both had black char on their faces from the smoke, but it only made their teeth stand out more as their smiles were a vibrant testimony to how happy they were to be alive. At that exact moment, Lizzy had finally seen the real Hayden. He suddenly was no longer the same guy as it was clear that he had went out of his way to downplay what he did for a living. Some men wouldn’t hesitate to brag about dragging people out of burning buildings to impress the ladies, but he didn’t. He did talk about his job, but he never seemed to go out of his way to dramatize it, maybe out of fear that it might scare more than impress. Looking back at her with a blackened face from the smoke, she realized there was more to this man than he was leading on. She was more interested in learning more about the man than she had been before. Fate was telling her to give him a chance.

Given what she does for a living, Lizzy was still surprised by how casual and low key the place Hayden had selected for their first date. It wasn’t a dump, not even close but nowhere to what you call a five star establishment either. The place’s décor was written on the wall and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what kind of food was served there. Still she was a member of the industry herself so she refused to judge the place before experiencing what she knew was the only two things any restaurant should be decided by: the staff and the food. They were greeted very nicely when shown to their table, and while the décor screamed that they were about to eat something Mexican, the menu was varied in taste and had something for everyone such as burgers, chicken fingers and what not. There were some entries that stood out more than others and even one that offered an award and a place on the wall if you managed to consume the entire platter.

Hayden had a smile on his face, that playful boyish grin that he always flashed whenever he was going to do something risky, off the charts crazy or romantic. “I was thinking of doing something really big tonight.”

“Are you sure you want to do something like that on our first date?” Lizzy said with a hint of sarcasm. Part of her really didn’t believe him or his intentions.

“I think for all the glory, you have to be willing to give anything a try.” He answered as that playful grin just refused to go away.

“What you’re purposing is a really big commitment.” Lizzy said trying to go out of her way to point out exactly what he was doing.

“I know.” He concurred, “But I think it’s worth the risk.”

It was after that first date where everything changed. Lizzy slowly transformed from the woman in her group that was never going to get married, to a love struck teenager who could envision the rest of her life with that special someone. Everyone she knew, from family to friends were all stunned by her change in attitude, going from the skeptic to the romantic was something no one very predicted, but the right person brought that out in her and she never hesitated to let everyone know who that was. Hayden was feeling pretty good as well, and his sisters had noticed it as well. He was never sensitive to their pestering and was always relaxed around his nieces and nephews than his other brothers. He was also going out more often with Lizzy, mainly in the morning since they both worked evenings at their respective places of employment. It was when Hayden even asked his chief to change his days off so they would match with the time that Lizzy had off each week when men at the station started to take this seriously. It was several months later when Hayden would pop the question that would change their lives forever.

A few months after their first date, Lizzy was invited to a family barbeque that Hayden's Dad was hosting.  By the way that Hayden described it, it was just going to be burgers and hotdogs for immediate family but Lizzy had really underestimated how intimidating a big family could be when they were all in one place. The backyard filled to capacity with his kids, their spouses and a few in-laws as well as their kids too. Mr. Sheppard's pool was full of screaming youngsters and the grill was full of red meat, charred to protection and given a splash of beer every few minutes on the fire, just for a little unique taste from the old man. Lizzy liked Hayden's father, mostly because he reminded her lot of her own Dad, the alpha male who everyone stopped to listen to and had the final say, only with a different accent. She got a long with a lot of his family, especially with his sisters which were the in family relationship she never had. Hayden's mother with a bit of a stiff ass when it came to the women who dated 'her baby', but she seemed to enjoy Lizzy's company and get along better than she had with the other 'suitors', much to the surprise of the rest of the family. Hayden's Dad loved having Lizzy over for his annual Barbecue’s because Lizzy's talent to serve food out at super fast speeds meant that no one lined up and crowded the cook. She didn't mind waiting on the tables for just that reason, and it was second nature to her. She whizzed over to each table and made sure everyone got the right foods and it made the meal easier for everyone and more enjoyable.

"Hayden." his father called out to him as he was grilling a few more burgs, "This one is a keeper. She's the best assistant I've ever had!"

Lizzy cracked a big grin and waved to him from the barbeque and seemed to be enjoying herself. Many family members attending could also tell that Hayden had found a real catch, and began to take bets when he was going to make the next move. That being marriage of course. This subject came up a few times, with them only considering the idea of being one couple, not two people living at completely different locations. It wasn't until a very amazing apartment close to Lizzy's home did they really truly consider shacking up. Hayden wasn't too fond of the idea of 'living in sin' but Lizzy wasn't very spiritual at all and couldn't care less what others thought of their living arrangements. She made him special pasta for dinner to help her ease into the conversation, Alfredo with extra garlic and spices to give it a little kick. When Hayden came over with a bottle of wine, at first he assumed there was something wrong. The apartment was spotless on a molecular level and usually when his Mom did that someone was in deep shit. But he couldn’t be further from the truth as she was happy and eager to spring something on him. As they were eating, Lizzy finally broke the silence. “Remember we had a talk about living together a few weeks ago.”

“I remember we were leagues apart on that issue.” Hayden replied as he didn’t look back and kept his eyes on his food.

“Well, a really nice place has come up that I want but I can’t afford it alone.” She paused for a moment and put down her fork. “I have many options if I wanted to get another roommate, but I don’t want to live with a friend. I’d rather move in with you... and the place is a two minute walk from where I work. I wouldn’t need to commute anymore.”

Hayden paused for a moment himself to ponder to the statement. “Where you work isn’t that far from the firehouse.” He conceded, “I would save a lot of travel and gas myself.”

“So are we shacking up?” Lizzy asked, sensing a shift in momentum.

That comment seemed to offend Hayden a bit. “You realize my family is very religious. They might take this badly. Wouldn’t your family?”

“No, they wouldn’t.” Lizzy honestly replied, “Mom was the God fearing one in my family and the day she left us, so did religion. Our household is pretty much a non-prophet household.”

“In other words I’m shacking up with a heathen?”

“Is that what they are calling non-believers these days?”

“Hey, according to my Mom all non-believers shall perish.”

Lizzy looked back at him and smiled. “So will food if you leave it on the counter.”

“And your point is?” Hayden quickly asked.

“Chill.” Lizzy said just before she burst out laughing.

Hayden seemed a little shocked at first, but then laughed out loud to the point where some of his soda came out of his nose. While religion was a definite split between them, Hayden wasn’t hardcore enough to let Lizzy’s lack of faith bother him, not to the point where he felt it was necessary to defend. He was the kind of guy who was content with his own salvation to care what or little anyone else thought of it. He strongly believed people shouldn’t be forced to accept God or religion unless it was a choice of free will. So even though Lizzy was critical and often poked fun of his faith, it was all right because he was secure with his God enough to not let the thoughts of others stand in the way. Regardless of their differences, he loved her. If you asked him to explain why, he couldn’t tell you a specific thing that made him feel the way he did. He just did and felt it was best to go with the flow and shack up, even though it might upset his parents. “I think we can do this, but on one condition.”

Lizzy could see the crack in the foundation and went for it. “Okay, anything.”

“Marry me.” Hayden said with a smile, seeing his own crack to expose. “I think the while shacking up thing will be easier to handle if we are waiting to wed. That and the whole I love you thing doesn’t hurt either.”

“Well, golly. This is very romantic. We went from shacking up to getting married.” Lizzy said as she joked around which was her way of dancing around the shock of how far this conversation had gone. “You’re not even on one knee.”

“Okay.” Hayden stepped out of his chair and got down on knee.

Lizzy laughed and decided to tease him further. “Where’s the ring?”

Hayden look defeated for a moment, but then cracked a smile. The kind where you would see on a cat that had just snapped up the canary was all over his face as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box that usually carries a specific piece of jewellery. Lizzy put her hands to her mouth and hushed as she couldn’t believe he actually went ring hunting on his own. “Where did you get that?”

“It was given to me.” Hayden said as he opened the box. The ring wasn’t enormous, but it was nice, elegant and looked very old. “My grandmother gave it to me. It’s a family heirloom.”

“Oh my goodness...” Lizzy gushed as she looked down on it, it was spectacular.

“She could tell we were hooked on each other and offered to let me have it. So now that we have our ring, you going say yes already?” Hayden held up the ring for her and used the chair beside him to keep his balance.

Her answer was obvious as she nodded with a tear in her eyes, and Lizzy watched with bated breath as he took the ring out of the box and slipped it on her finger. She had kidded with him about marriage and when presented with an offer that was no joke, her eyes began to swell with joy just at the thought of being husband and wife. She took a moment to catch her breath. “Does this mean we get the apartment too?”

Hayden laughed, “Of course it does.”


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