Chapter 2: Proposition
As she promised, the following weekend Liz took her fashionably clueless roommate to Rue St. Hubert, one of Montreal’s major commercial arteries filled with over four hundred quality boutiques and tailors.
In the second boutique that they’ve visited, Liz took a good look at the other clients trying on long dresses of various colors.
Instantly, she knew the style that would suit Rachel best and make her stand out.
Liz spoke with a consultant, who showed the two women an entire rack of slightly shorter dresses near the fitting rooms.
The dresses were beautiful, however, red caught Liz’s attention, and she instinctively pulled it out.
A quick look-over, and she knew that this dress was the one.
Liz held it in front of Rachel. “Try it on!”
The brunette gingerly took the dress, but she stared at the dress in awe.
She nodded mutely and stepped into the fitting room.
Once on, Rachel took a deep breath before she walked back into the open area.
Liz’s jaw dropped when she saw the brunette, and even the other clients with their consultants looked at her with various expressions that ranged from curiosity to envy.
Rachel stopped in front of the full-sized mirror, and felt her breath escape her. She looked stunning.
The rose shaded dress complimented Rachel’s skin tone nicely. The material seemed to flow like water whenever the brunette twirled it from side to side. The top part, secured on by two thin straps that were tied together at the back of Rachel’s neck, was similarly shaped to clams, yet the material flowed continuously and hugged her curves. It reached her knees, which showed off her toned lower legs.
She smiled appreciatively at the madly grinning ginger who was bouncing restlessly in her seat.
Liz couldn’t help herself, and she jumped out of her seat to hug the brunette. “You look amazing. Man, I’m good!”
Rachel let out a short laugh as she returned the hug. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Liz beamed at the comment.
After she changed back into her regular clothes, Rachel and Liz purchased the dress, and the two women left the boutique in high spirits. They stopped at a small café to replenish their energy before they continued to explore the long street for the rest of the day.
In seemingly a blink of an eye, April 25th had arrived.
Rachel was a jittery mess and desperately needed to “calm the hell down”, as her brother lovingly stated the day before when the brunette picked up him and his girlfriend from the airport.
The ceremony was scheduled at 1:00pm, and the morning was spent with Liz helping Rachel get ready and calming her down.
“You’re a soon-to-be Honors graduate. You’re going to walk out there and accept that hard-earned diploma, while also looking hot as hell.”
Despite her nerves, Rachel let out a breathless laugh. “No one will see my dress until the party tonight. For the ceremony, we’ll be wearing robes.”
The red-head rolled her eyes. “Regardless of the time, you’ll definitely be turning heads.”
The doorbell rang, and Liz excused herself to go investigate.
In the short moment alone, Rachel admired herself in the mirror.
She wore the red dress, and her naturally wavy hair was curled to perfection, and rested just past her shoulders. Her plump lips were colored a similar shade of red as her dress, and her makeup was too overbearing, which suited Rachel just fine.
She complimented the look with golden leaf-shaped earrings, and a simple gold bracelet. Even her Franco Sarto heels were gold.
“Where’s the future doctor?” A loud voice called out.
Shaking her head in amusement, Rachel left the privacy of her bedroom, and went to the living room.
Her brother’s girlfriend saw her first, and her stunning blue eyes widened in shock. “Rachel?”
His attention captured, Timothy turned around, and his jaw slackened at the sight of his older sister. Liz stood to the side smirking contently.
Rachel flushed at the attention. “What is it? Is there something on my dress?” She looked down and began to pat the dress.
Liz rolled her eyes. “They’re just shocked at seeing you dressed up. Normally you do everything possible to make yourself look boring.”
Rachel shot her a glare, but her eyes looked straight once more when her brother moved in front of her.
A genuine smile replaced the shock. “You look really beautiful, Ray.”
The brunette smiled up at her taller brother. “Thank you,” she replied, and then she observed her brother.
He cleaned up very well. His hair was combed back and was pulled back into a short ponytail that rested on the nape of his neck. His face was recently shaved, and he looked dashingly handsome in his black suit.
With a heart pang, Rachel was reminded of their late father.
Timothy’s girlfriend walked over to the brunette and gave her a hug. “You do look beautiful, Rachel.”
“Thanks, Sophie.” Rachel replied, and pulled back to admire the woman’s turquoise dress. “You look great, as usual.”
The blonde woman grinned. “I’m a model. I always have to look my best.”
Liz grabbed her purse. “Let’s get going, guys.” She dangled the keys in front of her. “I’m not forgetting them this time.”
The group of four left the apartment and walked four blocks to reach the Lionel Groulx metro station.
They took the green line Honoré-Beaugrand and got off at the McGill metro station.
They confidently walked through the large crowd of commuters and reached the surface. They made their way to the lower field of university’s campus, and already a large crowd could be heard even before they were seen.
Rachel looked through the crowd to see a specific familiar face, yet it was difficult with the excitement in the air and the restless people.
Just as Liz predicted, several people, mostly men, stopped what they were doing to look at her appreciatively.
She blushed, and the brunette made up her mind to join the other graduates.
Rachel reached a table filled with wrapped-up robes and hats, which she quickly put on. In her case, she also wore a gold honor stole.
She greeted some of her colleagues, but mostly kept to herself. The loud chatter was getting too much for her, and she eagerly wanted to get the ceremony over with.
“You look stunning, Rachel.”
The brunette turned around and smiled when she saw the owner of the voice.
Wordlessly, the two shared a tight hug to make up for the long separation.
After several minutes, they pulled back, yet Rachel’s smile was still plastered on her face. “I’m glad that you made it.”
The man’s brown eyes were warm with affection. “I keep my promises. This is a big day for you. You’re officially a doctor!”
The brunette’s face flushed, but pride filled her spirit. “It’s been a long six years. I can’t believe I made it.”
Peter Miller’s face twitched as if holding in laughter. “Your IQ is 130, and you’ve had discipline ingrained into you since an early age. Of course, you made it!”
When the faculty’s staff appeared, Peter stepped to the side. “I’ll go join the others. Remember to smile when you get your diploma.”
Rachel shook her head in mock exasperation, yet the smile was still on.
It took another twenty minutes for everyone to get settled, and the ceremony commenced with the Dean’s speech about hard work and dedication, and that as doctors they will never stop learning.
Rachel anxiously waited in line as the students were called up in alphabetical order.
Her back straightened when her name was called.
“Rachel Katherine Moore.”
She heard a loud cheer, which she knew even without looking that it was her brother, accompanied by less obnoxious cheers and clapping.
With her head held high, Rachel walked up to the Dean and Rector of the university who both smiled at her.
The Dean addressed the crowd. “Miss Moore is an honors graduate. Her total GPA is 3.90, ranking her as a Summa Cum Laude. This year, only three students hold this great honor.” The silver-haired man looked at Rachel with pride. “It’s my privilege to present to you your diploma, stating you as general practitioner. I know that you’ll go far.”
Rachel shook his outstretched hand and that of the Rector’s and took her diploma.
She opened it up and smiled at the camera that flashed for the multiple time and made her way to the other side of the field.
After another half an hour, the ceremony ended, and Rachel walked aimlessly through the crowd looking for her brother and friends.
Speak of the devil.
Timothy eagerly lead the small group towards her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “That’s my smartass sister! You finally did it!”
Liz held onto Rachel’s opposite arm. “I’m so proud of you, Rachel! Now I can go to you instead of having to wait several hours at a clinic.”
The brunette chuckled. “Knowing you, I’ll often have to tell you to ‘suck it up’ and get over a cold the good old fashion way.”
Her roommate pouted playfully, but she stepped away to allow Sophie to hug the brunette.
Once the blonde had her turn, everyone stepped back to allow Peter to hug Rachel tightly.
“I’m so proud of you,” he said. He leaned back to look at her face. “Your parents would have been proud.”
Rachel wished that her parents were alive to share this moment, yet nonetheless she felt at peace and truly happy for the first time in several years.
Timothy wrapped his arm around her shoulders once more and gave them a light squeeze.
Brother and sister hugged each other as they both felt a tremendous weight lift off of their shoulders.
Peter coughed. “Let’s lighten up the mood, shall we? The dinner won’t be until 5:30, so we’ve got a few hours to kill. I’m afraid I don’t know Montreal that well, so you kids will have to show me around.”
The group agreed, and after saying goodbye to some of Rachel’s closer colleagues, they left the university’s campus and decided to pass the time at Centre Eaton.
At 4:30pm, the group decided to get going. Despite it being a Saturday, the metro was still considerably busy, although less so than on a week day.
They got off at the Peel metro station and walked three blocks south and one block east before they arrived at their destination.
The formal dinner was reserved at Restaurant Europea, a “gastronomic rendez-vous” rich in color and flavor. Even the gourmet critics gave positive feedback to the charming Victorian mansion-restaurant in the heart of downtown Montreal.
Even though there was under forty minutes left until the dinner, quite a few of Rachel’s colleagues and their family members were already there.
Needless to say, the entire restaurant was booked.
Rachel and her group sat in the lobby’s leather chairs and chatted in between themselves.
As the clock continued to tick closer to 5:30, more and more people showed up, and increased the noise volume.
At last, the clock ticked 5:30, and the several waiters and waitresses led the large crowd to their seats.
Rachel and her group shared a table with a classmate named Ashley and her parents who greeted them kindly.
Everyone was given a menu and served a glass of fine red wine.
Rachel ordered ricotta ravioli accompanied by sautéed mushrooms and caramelized pan-seared foie gras in truffle juice.
Soft classical music played in the background as everyone dug into their meals with gusto.
For once, Rachel’s mind was not plagued with guilt or worry, and she genuinely had a great time.
Their dishes were cleared away, and shortly afterwards their divine chocolate mousse was served.
Dessert was quickly consumed, and the chatter settled to a comfortable level where no one had to yell at the person beside them just to be heard.
By the time 7:00pm rolled around, already three quarters of the crowd had left.
Ashley and her parents had already left, and Rachel and her group were also preparing to leave.
“Rachel, how about you and your brother get together with me tomorrow for lunch? We can catch up better then.” Peter suggested.
The Moore siblings nodded in agreement.
“Where do you want to go?” Rachel asked.
“How about we go somewhere close to where you live, Rachel? I’d like someplace calm, rather than the chaos of downtown.”
“Sure. We can meet at my apartment complex. It’s on 2700 Rufus Rockhead. You’ll have to get off at the Lionel Groulx metro station.”
Peter nodded. “Perfect. I’ll be there by 1:00pm. I’ll give you kids some time to sleep in since I have a feeling you won’t be resting at all tonight.” He added dryly.
Timothy grinned in acknowledgment. “Damn right! We’ll be partying at ‘Stereo After Hours’.”
“It’s one of the best nightclubs in Montreal. People prefer to go there because it stays open much later than other places.” Liz added at the older man’s blank look.
Peter rolled his eyes. “Typical.” He then gave them a serious look. “Play by the rules: don’t leave your drinks unattended, and if you do, don’t drink it. Don’t go home with strangers, and for God’s sake, call a taxi so that you’ll get home safely.”
The younger people swore their promises, though it didn’t lessen Peter’s worry.
Ever since the Moore’s died, Peter took it upon himself to look out for their children, and by God he would even if he acted like a mother hen.
The small group stood up from their chairs and walked outside.
Peter turned to face the youngsters. “Take care of yourselves, but most importantly, have fun.”
“We sure will!” Tim and Liz said together.
Rachel and Sophie opted to nod.
“Are you going back to your hotel?” Rachel asked.
The middle-aged man shook his head. “Nah, I think I’ll walk around and explore.” He scratched his moustache absentmindedly as he looked to the side. “I don’t know when I’ll next visit.”
Sadness filled Rachel at the thought of another lengthy separation.
After one last hug, and another plea of caution from Peter, the group split into two and went in opposite directions.
“Woo-hoo; party here we come!”
“Hold your horses, Tim. We’ve got to take the metro again.”
Shock was plastered on his face. “What? We’ve got to take it again? How do you guys handle going on it several times a day?”
Liz and Rachel glanced at each other and shrugged. “You get used to it.” They said in unison.
Sophie took Timothy’s hand into hers and kissed his cheek. “Let’s get going, hun. The quicker we leave, the quicker we’ll arrive.”
The young man’s frown was replaced with an adorning smile as he looked at her. He brought the blonde close to him and kissed her. “You’re right.” He looked at the other two women. “Allons-y!”
Rachel was the only one awake at 11:00am the next morning.
True to Timothy’s word, the group partied until 3:30am, until Sophie and Rachel begged their two party-maniacs to go home.
They called a taxi and decided to head back to Rachel and Liz’s place for safety.
Usually Rachel wasn’t crazy about clubs due to the loud music and drunk people trying to cope a feel, but last night she was in a very good mood and had a great time.
She danced with two charming young men who complimented her dress and how she looked. Rachel enjoyed the attention.
Timothy egged her to try her first ever shot of tequila, and she coughed violently as it trickled down her throat. She refused to drink another one after that, and even abstained from alcohol for the rest of the night.
Rachel hummed quietly as she prepared a nice brunch for Liz and Sophie.
She pitied the poor blonde as she practically collapsed in exhaustion onto Rachel’s bed. Timothy kept on urging her to dance, even when Sophie was out of breath.
Seemingly at the smell of coffee, Sophie walked sleepily to the kitchen. “Morning, Rachel.”
“Good morning, Sophie. Would you like some food?”
The blonde perked up. “Yes, please.”
As Sophie sat down at the table, Rachel served her a healthy portion of scrambled eggs accompanied by a croissant, a fruit salad and a cup of coffee.
Immediately, the blonde woman dug into her meal.
Rachel informed her that she wanted to take a shower, and she quietly snuck into her room to pick up the necessary things.
Timothy was sprawled out over her bed in just his boxers. His mouth was wide open, and a hint of a smile curved his pink lips.
Rachel shook her head and smiled at him fondly.
The brunette quietly tiptoed out of her bedroom and made her way to the bathroom.
She immediately felt more awake as the warm water soothed her semi-aching muscles.
Rachel stepped out of the shower fully clothed and in high spirits. She was still giddy about the fact that she was officially a general practitioner. She could finally work at a clinic.
It was noon when Liz finally stepped into the kitchen. She looked worse than Sophie did, yet it was no wonder given the amount of alcohol she had consumed the night before.
The brunette put a plate full of food and some coffee on a free space, and Liz stumbled onto the chair.
Her bloodshot eyes examined the content in front of her. “No bacon?”
“Sorry Liz. We’re out.” Rachel replied while she washed Sophie’s plate.
The red-head mumbled something that sounded like “merde”, before she dug in.
Sophie felt pity, and handed Liz a large bottle of Tylenol, which was taken with appreciation.
After brunch, Liz looked at Rachel as she washed her plate.
“Is your brother still sleeping?”
“Yep. After all, he very nearly consumed his own bodyweight in alcohol.”
“Tim tried to be intimate with me, but before he even began to take off my dress, he passed out.” Sophie commented.
Rachel scrunched her nose in disgust. “Eww. I don’t need to know details about my brother’s sex life.”
The blonde shrugged. “Nothing happened.”
Once Rachel was done, she dried her hands, and looked at the clock. “It’s getting closer and closer to 1:00. I better wake up my brother.”
Sophie stood up. “Actually, it’s best if I do it. Tim has the tendency to pull me on top of him whenever I wake him up. If you go there, he might think you’re me.”
Rachel’s face blanched at the horrifying thought, and quickly nodded in agreement.
Sophie smiled in amusement and left the kitchen.
Liz cocked an eyebrow. “Your brother’s horny as hell.” She commented, before she took another sip of coffee.
Rachel shuddered. “Ugh, too much information for one day.”
After another twenty minutes, Timothy stepped into the kitchen in the same clothes as last night, but his hair was damp from the recent shower.
His eyes were worse than Liz’s, though he appeared more coordinated as he sat on a table.
He accepted the mug of coffee along with Tylenol and a banana. “Yo.” He then took the pill.
Rachel huffed in annoyance. “Don’t ‘yo’ me. If you don’t hurry up, we’ll be late!”
Her brother glanced at the clock. “We’ve got ten minutes. Just chill.”
Rachel gave him a look similar to their late mother’s. “Mr. Miller is a former air force pilot. He values punctuality a lot. You know that, Tim.”
Timothy rolled his eyes but quickly ate the banana and downed the coffee in one go.
He stood up confidently, albeit slightly wobbly. “Let’s get going.”
After a quick farewell, the Moore siblings left the apartment and went down to the lobby.
Rachel discreetly held onto her brother’s elbow to prevent him from stumbling down.
As they expected, Peter was already waiting for them.
His brown eyes brightened at the sight of them. “You guys don’t look as bad as I’ve expected.” He joked as he hugged them.
Rachel chuckled. “Tim here was in quite a rough state earlier.”
Her brother huffed in annoyance, but then winced at the slight movement of his head.
Peter chuckled at his expense, before he addressed Rachel. “Where to?”
“I was thinking of “Toi, Moi & Café”. It’s a nice bistro only four blocks from here.”
“We have to walk that far? Ugh, I’m gonna die.” Tim groaned.
Rachel rolled her eyes at his dramatics, while Peter took out a pair of sunglasses.
“Wear them. That way, the sun won’t hurt your eyes as much.”
The younger Moore sibling grumbled as he took the offered pair and put them on.
The trio left the lobby and went out into the pleasant spring breeze.
Other citizens took advantage of the nice weather to jog, bicycle or even start to garden.
Rachel and Peter casually talked about the man’s peaceful evening as he walked around for thirty minutes after they left the restaurant, before he decided to call it a day.
The trio arrived at the bistro and asked to be seated outside to enjoy the pleasant temperature.
Rachel ordered the Salmon Benedict: a toasted bagel topped with smoked salmon, asparagus, marinated onions and caper with hollandaise sauce.
Rachel hummed quietly in pleasure as she sipped her French vanilla latte.
The trio had good quality time catching up about how they’ve been over the past three years.
Shortly afterwards, their food was served, they ate with gusto, and a comfortable silence settled over them.
Once they finished eating and their plates were taken, Peter regarded Rachel with a contemplative look.
“Do you recall that I have some news to tell you?”
The brunette nodded, her burning curiosity ignited once more.
“What do you know about my work?”
Rachel blinked in surprise. “You work for a private branch of the US government, right?”
“True. Officially, we have no name, but within the government we’re known as PHANTOM.”
Tim cocked an eyebrow. “PHANTOM? What kind of government branch name is that?”
“It’s not a name. It’s an acronym: Popular Host Against National Terrorism & Oppressive Mobocracy.”
The Moore siblings looked at him with varying levels of disbelief.
Tim shook his head. “‘Oppressive Mobocracy’? I wasn’t aware that the people could become oppressed when they rule themselves.”
“They do when society falls into anarchy. Laws are put in place to keep the people safe.” Peter swiped his hand in the air. “I didn’t bring up my job to have a political debate, although we can do that later.” He eyed Timothy.
The younger man shrugged and took a drink of water.
Satisfied, Peter faced a still confused recent graduate. “I’m offering you a position within our Elite Medical Team. Your brilliant scores and passion for medicine have drawn the attention of my superiors.”
Rachel was surprised. “How do they already know my results? I just graduated yesterday.”
A sheepish grin wrinkled Peter’s face. “I may have asked your faculty’s Dean to forward me your final results after your exams. Trust me, you’re definitely wanted back in the Big Apple.”
Tim’s eyes narrowed in realization. “Wait, you want Rachel to move to New York?”
“I’m just asking her. The decision is entirely up to Rachel.”
“I’m not even in a Residential program.” Rachel added.
“You will be if you decide to join. You’re interested in Internal Medicine, correct?” At Rachel’s nod, Peter continued. “Perfect. The Medical Team has a spot open for you.”
Rachel was silent as she contemplated the offer, while her brother shook his head.
“You’re seriously asking Rachel to move hundreds of miles away from home? Sophie, Liz and I are the only family she’s got. Rachel will be all alone over there.”
Peter looked at him in understanding. “I know that it’s a sacrifice that I’m asking of the both of you, but I believe that Rachel will thrive at PHANTOM. She’ll still be able to stay in contact with you and the others. Besides, you two already live in different cities.”
Timothy crossed his arms as a dark look took over his face. “It’s not the same thing. At least we’re in the same country.”
Peter rubbed his temple, but both men looked at Rachel expectantly.
The brunette looked at her brother who pleaded at her with his hazel eyes, before she turned to face Peter.
The man's expression was warm.