Gray was amused when Marcy told him about Brittanny Paige’s shock and outrage. It was their last night together before he left for New York and they were having dinner.
It was in the same restaurant as their very first date. Gray had managed to book the exact same table, and have flowers on the table for when they arrived.
It was perfect. He was perfect.
Marcy could hardly believe how lucky she was to be with him. Just the prospect of spending the next few months apart from him made her nervous.
"You’d better not forget me by July," he told her. "I know it’s half a year away, but I will visit and I will fly you up. If you want to to come and stay with me."
"What do you think?" Her smile was answer enough. "Besides, I’ll have Aunt Esme to deal with if I try and forget you."
Gray had visited Marcy’s Great Aunt Esme, who was now completely enamoured of him. Marcy had been terribly embarrassed when they visited her, because she had treated Gray as though he and Marcy were practically engaged. Esme had also warned Marcy with disinheritance if she "ever managed to lose such a lovely young man".
"I’m glad I won her approval," Gray said.
"She practically wanted to adopt you," Marcy told him.
"Well, maybe I’ll be her great nephew for real one day." Gray cast a glance at Marcy who blushed. She was sure he couldn’t really mean what it sounded like, but it made her insides all warm to think of it.
She had better change the subject before she melted into a puddle of pink hearts and flowers. Fortunately at that moment the waiter came to take their orders which was a useful distraction.
After they had chosen, the conversation turned to New York and Gray’s accommodation there. He was being put up temporarily in a serviced apartment before finding his own place.
"So you’re starting rehearsals straight away?" she asked.
"Pretty much. I guess it’s better to be thrown in the deep end and get it over with."
Marcy realised that Gray was actually a little apprehensive about the move. He always seemed so in command of everything.
"You’ll be brilliant. I mean Revel thinks so anyway, and she knows this stuff."
Gray laughed. "Well if it doesn’t work out, I think I may have burned my bridges with teaching at Springdale High. Now everyone knows about you and me. It doesn’t exactly look great for a teacher, dating a student. Even an ex-student."
"Do you mind?" Marcy felt bad about causing problems for him.
"No, not at all. I love teaching, but students like Brittanny are a headache. Students like you, on the other hand…"
"…I’m not sure how far your teaching career would progress if you made dating your students a habit," Marcy said.
"Trust me, you are a one off. I did everything I could to try and stop feeling what I felt for you. That first day when I saw you in class and realised you weren’t a college student, it was the worst day of my life," Gray told her.
"I’m sorry," Marcy said. "I know how mad you must have been."
"Mad? Well, maybe a little. No, the main thing was disappointment. Because I’d just met this girl who made me feel on top of the world, and suddenly she was out of reach."
Marcy never got tired of hearing how Gray felt about her. "On top of the world?"
"I think I probably fell in love with you on the lake, if you want a confession," Gray said. "Though I didn’t realise it until later on."
On the lake. Summer ending, and Marcy’s final year of school just beginning. She had so many hopes and expectations, and it had all turned out so differently than she had imagined. But so much better.
Their food finally arrived. It was a pepperoni pizza to share, the exact same thing they’d ordered the first time here.
"At least my parents are finally cool with everything," Marcy said. "I was worried at first, but they’ve totally come around. I think they’re secretly pleased that we’ll be long distance so it doesn’t distract me from graduation."
"Once you graduate, I will be doing everything I can to distract you," Gray said.
Marcy shivered at the heat in his eyes. She could tell exactly what he had in mind.
"And I want you to meet my family. Easter, if that works for you?"
It definitely worked for Marcy. It was just too long away.
"I’d love to meet them," she told him. She would probably be really nervous when she did so, but she figured if Gray’s relatives were even just a bit like him, they’d be alright.
"Also I have something for you," he said. "It’s kind of a going away present."
Marcy was really surprised as she hadn’t expected Gray to give her anything.
Let alone the really elegant jewellery box that he passed to her.
She opened it, pressing the little clasp and gasped. It was a ring, on a delicate gold chain. A sapphire blue heart set in rose gold.
Gray was looking at her, his expression intense. "I want you to know how serious I am about you, Marcy. But I also didn’t want to pressure you. So it’s a necklace, and if you ever want to wear it as a ring, then you can do that."
It was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever given her. Marcy put it around her neck, and while the ring was on the chain, she slipped her finger through it. "It fits perfectly. It’s so beautiful, I love it. Thank you."
"I took a guess. I picked the sapphire for your eyes."
Marcy met his gaze. For a moment she sensed the years between them: how much older he was. How he was clearly ready for something that she wasn’t quite ready for herself. But he was happy to wait. He loved her, and he would be patient.
And one day, just months away now, she would hopefully be permanently with him in the same city once again.
Marcy was certain her feelings for Gray would only grow. Looking at him, hearing him say how he loved her, she knew it would be the same for him.