A short time after the auction had ended, Frank received a call.
“Frank!” Callie nearly shouted. “I’ve been trying to get through on the phone and through this traffic! There was a fender bender right in front of me. Someone trying to cut in where there’s construction. Please tell me the auction isn’t over!”
Frank sighed in relief to finally hear Callie and that she was all right. He suddenly felt very lighthearted in the whole scope of things. “Okay, I won’t tell you.”
“Oh no! It is?!?!”
“You asked me not to tell you.”
“I’m sorry, Frank!”
“Who won the bid?”
“I saw her, but I don’t know her name. Haven’t met her yet. I’ve been worried about you,” Frank told her. “I’ve got to go. Once you get here, you and I can go out to eat, okay? Now, I’ve got to go meet the high bidder.” The couple exchanged ‘I love you’s’ and ended the call.
Days later, on the date of the date….
Arriving at the address where he was to pick up his date, Olive Charlton, for the evening, Frank stopped his car in front of the pleasant-looking home.
Dressed again in the tux he had worn for the auction, Frank was soon standing in front of the double-paneled, glass inlaid door. He really hoped she was ready.
Olive answered a minute or two after he rang the doorbell. “Hi!” she said, opening the door. Her dress, a beautifully designed pastel silk, rustled as she moved. “I’ll just grab my purse and coat and I’ll be ready!”
“Hi,” he smiled and waited as she did so. Then he helped her with her coat. After she’d locked the door back she told him about the house while they walked to his car.
“I had been going to NYU, majoring in forensic science, but my older sister recently bought this wonderful place and she told me I could stay if I transferred to Bayport U. Instead of living in a cramped space I now have this beautiful home to stay in!” Olive stated.
“Nice place. Forensic science, huh?” Frank was surprised.
“Yeah. I don’t know why, but it has always intrigued me,” Olive explained.
“Sure helps in police and detective work, when done correctly,” Frank nodded.
“Oh, I know. It’s fascinating. I’ve gotten some great grades. With you as a detective and me as a forensic expert, we’d make a great team!” Olive smiled. “Will you be continuing as a private detective or joining the police force?”
“Private detective,” Frank answered. As he debated a moment of exactly what to say about her comment prior to her question, she had already started talking again. They had just reached his car and he was opening the door for her.
“Oh, dear! I just remembered something. I’ll be right back!” With that, she hurried back up to the house and went in.
Frank didn’t have to wait long and she was back. “I’m really sorry to make you wait! You must be starving! It’s wonderful that the date is dinner at a five-star restaurant.”
“Yeah, they had to make reservations a while before the auction took place to make sure they got them,” he said as she gracefully got into the car. He started to shut the door, but she started talking again.
“I’ve heard so much about it, but being new here, I’ve never been there. Sounds like it’s quite expensive and delicious food going by what others have said. Should be a special place for a dream date,” Olive told him. “Have you ever been there?”
“Sure have,” he responded and took the opportunity to close the door. He quickly walked around the car and got in.
“Nice car!” she complimented him.
With a smile on his handsome face, he said, “Thanks. Got a good deal on it.”
It seemed like the date was at least going to be tolerable….
The beautiful dining room, with its luxurious cut-glass chandeliers, was filled to capacity during the seven o’clock hour. Couples seated in the expansive dining area were enjoying a deliciously crafted dinner at the elegant French restaurant, Riviera. Most of the dining patrons were having a good time….but not all.
“So, I said to her, you can’t believe I would wear something that looks like that. She, of course, has no taste, which is obvious by her boyfriend,” Olive chattered on across from Frank, who tried to keep an interested, or at least not pained, expression on his handsome face. He was seriously suspecting that it was indeed possible to cry from boredom. As he sat there and listened, he imagined he felt tears forming in his eyes. For what seemed like endless hours he had listened to Olive talk on and on about…everything and…nothing. How could one person talk so much and say so little, he wondered not for the first time.
Before they had even reached the restaurant, Frank had started counting the minutes to the end of the date. What had turned into an inane, one-sided conversation on the ride there had actually given him a headache. He had gotten a short break while waiting for their table when Olive went to the restroom to check her hair and makeup.
Then as they had waited for their food to be served, Frank had again tried to join the conversation, but after a while he had given up. Not that Olive had noticed.
Now at least there was food in front of him….
“Are you going to eat that?” Olive asked, interrupting Frank’s thoughts, seconds before reaching across and spearing an herb roasted red potato slice from off his plate. He smiled slightly and answered with a quick shake of his head, although he was well aware it was pointless. Why did she even bother to ask such a thing? Like now he was going to say ‘yes’, he was going to eat that? Even if he said anything jokingly, it was too late. Olive had moved on. And on and on.
“This certainly is a sensational restaurant, isn’t it?” Olive asked. Frank just smiled politely. He now knew any questions Olive asked were all apparently rhetorical. Frank noticed she never seemed to get tired of the word sensational if there was something she liked. After she got done talking about the sensational restaurant, and making mostly snide comments about every patron there, and anyone else she thought of, it was time for dessert.
He decided he’d earned a bathroom break. And it was more about needing a break from Olive rather than use of the facilities. “If you’ll excuse me a moment?” he said, almost surprised at the sound of his own voice since he hadn’t heard it much since the date had started. He coughed a little and took a swallow of coffee before standing up. Throat was dry.
“Hurry back. Dessert should be sensational!”
He gave a slight smile before turning and walking away as casually as he could manage, thinking it wouldn’t look cool if he ran. Besides, if he did run, he would be tempted not to come back, and he had to take her home.
As Frank stepped into the large, richly carpeted corridor off of the main dining room that led to the restrooms, he noticed the door to the office open right then. He didn’t recognize the man leaving, but there was something odd about him that made the Hardy brother take a mental note about what he looked like.
In his peripheral, he could see the door closing back, yet not before Frank caught a glimpse of the somber-looking face of one of the owners, Craig Hampton. The Hardys had met the owners, Craig and Monica, his wife, shortly after the restaurant had first opened.
After a quick bathroom visit, Frank made his way past the other tables and saw Olive heading toward him.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” she said, smiling at him.
“Take your time,” he said and hoped he didn’t sound overly hopeful that she would maybe forget to come back.
No such luck, for in a very short time Olive returned and Frank was ready with her chair.
“I love your manners,” she said, smiling at him. Before he could even say ‘thank you’, she began telling him about every single date she’d ever had. Then she started in on Callie.
“I know you already mentioned when we first met that you have a girl,” Olive began. “But I heard Callie isn’t well-liked.”
Frank gave a short, incredulous laugh. “She’s very well-liked by me and by her many friends!”
“Well, some of the girls I heard talking said you could do better,” Olive told him.
With a roll of his dark eyes, Frank shook his head. “True love is good enough for me.”
Olive’s pretty face held the visage of a slight sneer and her tone was laced with cynicism. “Is there such a thing?”
“Absolutely,” Frank responded with confidence. “My parents. My brother and his girl. And my girl and me. And many more.”
“You shouldn’t be so definite, Frank.”
“That’s the kind of person I happen to be. One who puts a lot of stock in clear truths.”
Even with the sounds filling the dining room, Frank didn’t miss the quiet ‘tsk’ sound she made. But she realized the subject wasn’t going the way she wanted, so she changed it yet again. This time to the menu she picked up from the table.
Frank arched an eyebrow as he looked at his dessert menu, while glancing surreptitiously at his watch. He mentally groaned. The date still had way too much time left to it.
“Are you okay?” Olive asked.
Frank looked over at her in surprise. Had he groaned out loud? Was he supposed to answer? He wasn’t sure. She continued to stare at him so Frank decided maybe she actually wanted to know.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Why?”
“You’re frowning. You know, like something is wrong. Are you having trouble with the French on the menu? Because I’m fluent.” She then proceeded to demonstrate her language skills, or lack of them as Frank found out, as she read the menu. “Do you have a headache from trying to translate it?”
Oh, I have a headache, alright, but not from the menu.… Frank looked at her while she read about the Crepe Suzettes – what she did to that he had never heard before. Olive was pretty except for her personality. She would be prettier if she didn’t wear so much makeup, he noted. Callie just used a little mascara and lip gloss. In his opinion, she didn’t even need that. Frank’s mind drifted to a time when they were helping after a hurricane had hit a nearby town, and she hadn’t bothered to put any mascara on. He remembered telling her how beautiful she was while in the middle of picking up trash and debris that had been blown everywhere. She had smiled at him, the joy and spark he saw there on her face, as he vividly recalled, had sent a thrill through him. Still did.
When Olive glanced over in the middle of her mangled pronunciations of the dessert menu, she was sure she had impressed the handsome man near her. After all, that was a very nice, happy smile on his lips. She was totally clueless that the smile had nothing to do with her and everything to do with what happened next in his memory of him and Callie.
Frank thought back to how Callie and he had stood there, amongst all the wreckage of the hurricane, and looked lovingly at each other. Beauty in the midst of the rubble. Frank had looked deep into Callie’s eyes, leaned forward, and pressed his lips to hers. The kiss had been beautiful, loving, tender, and passionate. When they had finally separated they had continued to look at one another. A rather loud voice suddenly broke in.
“So what do you want?” Olive looked inquiringly at Frank, who hadn’t completely snapped out of his reverie.
“Ca…hmm…. uh, what?” he asked, trying to remember what Olive was talking about. His mind raced to what she was meaning.
“Oh, the Crepe Suzettes,” he answered.
Olive smiled at him. Isn’t that cute, I’ve got him all flustered. I’m such a better match for him than Callie, she thought. Settling back in her chair, from where she’d been leaning over ‘helping’ Frank choose dessert, she continued to smile.
Frank was busy wondering how much longer the date was going to be while he worked not to cough. The perfume she was wearing was pungent and he had a feeling she had applied another bottle, maybe even a different one, while in the restroom. Callie always smells sweet, like flowers.
As he continued trying to keep from choking, he thought with chagrin that he shouldn’t have ordered something that was going to be flambéed. Ah well, live and learn.