After a very successful day, Elaine Vogel invites them all to dinner. Instead of a restaurant, Dex and Naomi invite them to their home outside the city—on an island they own. Austin is delighted with being in the country. For a city boy like him, it’s a real treat.
“Drink?” Dwight flopped down on the couch next to Liat and Austin. He held out tall, cold glasses of something with lime slices and a sprig of mint on top.
Liat sniffed it. “Best not. I’m driving. You can drink,” she told Austin.
“One,” he replied. “Not much of one for alcohol.”
“No head for it?” Liat asked.
“No money for it.”
“You can afford it now, mate,” Dwight nudged him, taking a sip of his beverage. “I started as a bartender in a strip club,” he said. “Do you like it?”
“It’s delicious. Tastes like minty lime juice and bubbly stuff.”
“It’s a mojito.”
“It’s officially my favorite drink.”
“Better than tea?” Liat asked.
“Nothing is better than tea.”
“Go easy on it,” Dwight cautioned. “If you don’t drink, it will sneak up on you.”
Austin saluted him, taking another sip. He enjoyed his beverage while he chatted with Liat, Sandy and Elaine. Dwight sat with him for awhile, then went off to talk to Robert.
Less than an hour later, Naomi announced dinner. They walked into the dining room to find long, split log tables with rustic wooden chairs. It was laden with platters of ribs, bowls of salad, mashed potatoes, vegetables and other delights Austin had no name for. He was ushered to the head of the table, with Liat to his right. Elaine was given the end opposite him. They all took their places, standing with their heads bowed.
“I know we aren’t all of the same religion or the same nationality, but we share a commonality of purpose,” Elaine said. “For a brief time each week, or viewers are able to step out of reality into another place—we all do that for them. This meal is a blessing. This show is a blessing and you are all blessings for me and one another. Delight in life and in this food.”
With a scraping of chairs, they sat and passed bowls and platters. Everyone ate until they were too full to move. After dinner, Naomi served coffee and the wait staff scurried around with fresh berry cobbler. Austin wasn’t sure he could eat dessert, but one bite convinced him it was delicious.
“We made it from the blackberry bushes out back,” Naomi said with pride. “We’ve tried hard to make our business self-sustaining. We grow our own vegetables and fruits. We don’t have our own animals, but we have friends who do. Everything is organically grown. What do you think, Austin?”
“I think if you weren’t married to a massively huge man, I might have to marry you.” He stood, taking her hands. “Instead, I’ll thank you.” He kissed both her hands. “Thank you for being my friend, thank you for feeding me and thank you for this delightful party. I think I speak for everyone here when I say that it was the best meal ever.”
“Not just the food,” Liat said. “Which was delicious. But all the people. I’m really proud to be part of this crowd, even if it’s temporary.”
“Does it have to be?” Austin asked Elaine. “Can she stay longer? Because she’s the best companion The Magician’s ever had.”
His eyes held so much, Liat could hardly interpret it all. He wanted her to stay, that much was clear. Not just because she was a good actress, because he genuinely liked her. But it pleased her that he admired her talent too.
Elaine stood, putting her hands on Liat’s shoulders. “Well, perhaps I’m biased, but I think she’s good too. The job is yours, darling, for as long as you like.”
“Really?” Liat hugged her mother. “And you aren’t mad?”
“I was furious until I saw you two together. You truly have made The Magician magic.”
Everyone cheered, congratulating one another. Soon after, the party broke up. Everyone pitched in to help clean up, thanking the catering staff profusely. It was late when they finally headed down the path to their cars, but it was Friday night. No one had to be up early the next day.
Liat offered Austin a ride home. He agreed happily.
“Can we pop by the river a moment before we go?”
They walked down the path, cleverly lit with hidden lights so that the foliage seemed to glow. The dock was lined with silvery Christmas lights which reflected off the water and the shiny bodies of the boats. Austin led Liat to the dock. Standing in the middle of it, he turned to face her. His long fingers wound in her hair and he kissed her lightly on the lips.
Liat opened her mouth, pulling him close. Her arms went around his waist as she deepened their kiss. Austin sighed contentedly, his tongue dancing in her mouth. Liat smiled, happier than she could remember. A warm, tantalizing glow traveled from her chest to her belly, lodging deep inside. A longing filled her, making her ache.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes