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 The Night of Lily
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SS novice field agent

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Posted - 12/09/2013 :  03:49:47  Show Profile
Lily Fortune leaned a little to the left in the green overstuffed chair and rested her cheek on her left hand. She stared out the window in the lobby of the San Francisco hotel where she was staying, watching the slight drizzle coming down outside. She was chilled although she wore a warm, heavy woolen heather gray cape, the one Artie had given her last year for her birthday. “To keep you warm, my love, when I’m not around,” he had said chuckling. It was her birthday again, and he was supposed to pick her up for a special dinner that night.

I’m sure he’ll be here, she said to herself. Artie wouldn’t stand her up – he never had.

Jim had stopped in yesterday to see her, to let her know Artie was on assignment and had not reported back in as planned two days before. He had tried to make light of it, saying Artie had been late many times before but always managed to pop up later with some wild story, none the worse for wear.

He’ll be along anytime soon, he had said. Besides, half the Secret Service in San Francisco was looking for him and it was just a matter of time, but she had seen the glimmer of doubt in his eyes. She knew both these men well. She knew it was serious.

Still, Artie had never missed her birthday – he always made a point of being in the same city with her for her birthday. She knew he would be there for her – if he could. He had to – she couldn’t think about what it would mean if he didn’t show up. She just couldn’t.

She remembered the proposal from him that she had turned down. She’d been afraid of his job, of losing him if they had become ever closer. She thought keeping further away from him would be easier, but she was always drawn back in. Beloved man who had stolen her heart and refused to let go – time without him was so much harder than time worrying about him. She’d wanted to ask him to give up that dangerous life she knew he couldn’t give up – so she would never ask him.

So she lived with the fear that she hid away, ignoring it, but never fully forgetting it. That just came with loving a man like Artemus Gordon. She couldn’t escape it, any more than she could escape having him in her life.

She remembered the feel of her arms around him underneath that corduroy jacket he was so fond of, his arms around her, her cheek against his shoulder, his scent, the warmth, his strength that made her feel so safe.

He’d never stand her up. Not this man.

She remembered other meals, delicious food and laughter and soft murmurings, meals where they didn’t need to speak, and the tantalizing touch of her hand in his across the table, memories of long, wonderful nights that followed.

He would be back. She just felt it.

She remembered parties they’d attended together - Artie cornered by a long winded politician, she monopolized by a theater fan - both gazing across the room to find each other, the knowing smiles, the laughter in their eyes. They felt so natural, so comfortable together, even when they were apart, like an old married couple.

She should have said yes to his proposal. She knew she could finally say yes, but she didn’t feel they had to. Lily knew he would never ask her to give up her career, any more than she could ask him to give up his if they married.

She thought of all the times she had seen him standing in the wings while she was on stage, and his brown eyes so distracting. She once missed a cue because she was so caught up in his smile.

She had thought of banning him from the wings, but what was the point. She’d just look for him in the audience – she’d always have to find him. It couldn’t be helped.

He would always be there for her. She knew it in her bones.

Lily shivered and pulled the cape closer around her. The chair faced the door and she thought it must be the draft that left her chilled. Artie would be there. She knew it.

The door opened and she leaned forward with a start. It was Jim. He’d barely stepped in when she saw Artie right behind him, that disarming smile on his bruised and slightly bloodied face. His clothes were a little torn and in disarray, his full, rich hair a total mess.

She stood up and walked slowly towards him.

“Mr. Gordon – you’re late.”

“I am so sorry, Miss Fortune. Traffic, you know.” He took her hand, bowing to kiss her fingers. “I do humbly apologize. “

“I hope this never happens again.” She fell into his arms. “Please, Artie, never again.”

She gently wrapped her arms around him underneath his coat, her cheek on his shoulder, his face in her hair, his arms around her. They both relaxed.

My best birthday ever, she thought. I knew he wouldn’t stand me up.

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