“They? I-I don’t understand. Who are you talking about? What danger?”
Leila looked over at Nikoli and grabbed his hand, not wanting to let go of something that she had once just thought a fantasy. He was real and he was hers, she just couldn’t stop touching him or looking at him, half-expecting him to disappear. Nikoli ran his hand through his hair with shaky fingers, refusing to look up, his eyes shifting away from Leila and the fortune teller to be riveted on the table before he shoved his trembling hand into his front pocket. The old woman stopped puffing on her pipe to narrow her eyes at Nikoli, giving him the evil eye.
“No, I’ve already said too much. Things must play out as they are meant to. If I continue to interfere, I could alter destiny and piss off the Fates.” Her tone was forceful, fearful as she exhaled smoke from her nose, making herself look like a fierce dragon quelching a damning fire inside.
Nikoli blanched, putting both hands over his face as he paced the room.
“Leila, the lady said we should go.” Nikoli shook his head and put his hands on his hips, a determined look on his face.
“But, you can’t just say something like that to us and tell us to leave. Please, explain what you mean.” Leila’s voice faltered, her words coming out like a whisper as her hand fluttered to her neck, her eyes wide as she pleaded with the store owner.
Nikoli looked desperately from the psychic to Leila and back again, his features showing how torn he was.
“No. You must go. Now. I need to close shop. I’m sorry.” The old woman shooed them towards the door, cutting Leila off every time she tried to speak. As she shoved them out the door, Leila turned towards Nikoli, her tone bewildered.
“What was that? I don’t understand what she was trying to say.” Leila muttered to herself, shaking her head slowly, trying to wrap her mind around it all.
“I’m not sure. That woman is...is obviously crazy.”
“Yeah, yeah you’re probably right…It’s been a weird night so far though...” Leila said, looking up at him with a twisted grin.
Nikoli blew out a deep breath, pulling his hands out of his pockets and offering her an arm, “For me too. Do you still want to go eat? I’d understand if you didn’t.”
Leila smiled at him and nodded her consent as she took his arm, noticing how Nikoli indescribably dapper he looked this evening. The black suit paired with the emerald green button up shirt did wonders to bring out the flecks of green in his golden eyes. She hadn’t noticed that before that moment how beautiful they truly were. As they were walking through the entrance, he held open the door for her with his other hand on the small of her back, as if he couldn’t resist touching her. The thought made her blush inexplicably, as she bit her lip to conceal her grin.
Leila didn’t know what to do with her feelings, so she simply said, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He nodded at her, a smile curving up one corner of his mouth.
The hostess seated them right away, telling them the waitress would be right with them.
Tony, the owner of the restaurant himself, came out to greet her, “Hello my lovely. How are you this evening?” As he kissed her hand, he spotted Nikoli and smiled warmly, “And who is this young man with you? Could it be a date?” He waggled his eyebrows at Leila and grinned, extending his hand towards Nikoli in a friendly greeting. “I am Tony, the owner. Wonderful to meet you.”
“This is Nikoli,” Leila spoke his name softly, like his name was sacred.
Nikoli shook Tony’s hand firmly, smiling back at him, “Nice to meet you as well.”
Tony nodded at both of them and wished them a great meal. Soon after, a bottle of expensive red wine arrived, “on the house” waitress said. Her name tag said she was Karen and after taking their food order, she scurried away as if she were the white rabbit, late for something rather important. Their food order came quickly and soon they were swept up in conversation aided by the unexpected icebreaker, the wine. Leila opened up like she never before had. There was something about his demeanor that made her want to confess every hairy little detail of her life.
“So, what about your parents, Leila? Tell me more about them. They have to be wonderful people to have produced such an amazing daughter, hmm?” Leila’s eyes filled with tears and his face fell with confusion.
Instead of answering she reached for more wine to steady her nerves and to calm her emotions. The wine was warm and refreshing, the taste of aged grapes was tart but not to the point of being overstimulating. She made a mental note to ask Tony more details on the wine, it was sensational. Blowing out a long, deep breath, she opened her mouth to tell him more, but changed her mind instead.
“They were terrible people. They abandoned me after abusing me and that’s all I want to say on the subject for now, please.” Nikoli nodded mutely, frowning.
“I’m sorry, Leila. I didn’t mean to bring up anything painful,” he said, setting down his wine to clasp her hands in his. His thumb moved rhythmically, setting her at ease.
“I know, it’s ok,” she offered a slight smile, hoping he wouldn’t worry.
“Wow...this is extremely awkward. I mean...I’ve dreamt of meeting you, don’t get me wrong. I just…I just don’t understand how this is happening. How are you real? Why did we dream of one another?” Nikoli stumbled over his words, out of sorts as he touched her hand. Leila jumped slightly at the unexpected touch that had the same familiar electric edge to it, leaving her skin tingling where he was touching her.
“I don’t either. This is all really weird for me too. Like, I thought I had made you up or something, but here you are, holding my hand. It’s unreal. I feel like this is all still a dream…” Leila pulled back her hand and cleared her throat to stop the words from gushing out of her mouth.
Nikoli pulled his hands away to take a sip of his water, his eyes scanning her face as if sizing her up. As he set his cup down a pained look flashed in his eyes before he spoke, seeming to be at war internally.
“For me as well.” He opened his mouth and then quickly shut it, looking like he wanted to say more, but deciding not to.
“My turn,” she pulled her hands away to pick at her food, not wanting to look directly at him. Licking her lips, she decided to dive in, unable to stop herself from blurting out, “What do you do? I mean, for you occupation.”
He chuckled in amusement and she cracked a grin at her boldness.
“I uh...I’m an investor in various pursuits throughout the country.” Was his simple answer, as he wiped his mouth with his napkin.
“Care to elaborate any?” Leila prodded, curious about him.
“I can’t really divulge that information. Not that I don’t want to, that’s not it, I just can’t. I’m a silent investor and I signed a contract to not discuss my business investments with anyone other than the business owners themselves. I’m sorry.” His eyebrows knitted together as he watched her face, waiting for her reaction. His intense staring rattled her and she took a sip of her wine.
“Oh, okay. No problem. So…., what’s your deepest, darkest secret?” Leila teased, a playful smile playing on her lips. The painful look in his eyes made her wish that she hadn’t asked that question. Her curiosity was always getting the better of her and she mentally kicked herself.
“Wow...I really wasn’t expecting that question,” Nikoli brushed stray strands of hair off of his face and rubbed the back of his neck, looking hesitant, “I don’t really know how to answer that.”
“That bad huh? Geez, you know, I’m sorry. Sometimes I say really dumb stuff when I’m nervous. ” Leila chuckled, wanting to crawl into a hole.
“Will you excuse me for a moment, please?” Nikoli rose slowly, pushing his chair back in and scurried off to the bathroom, leaving Leila baffled in his wake.
“What did I say?” Leila mumbled to herself as she watched him run for the hills, wanting to strangle herself for not biting her tongue.