A Turn of Events [ - ]
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A Turn of Events
What was taking Angela so long? She had been in that watch shop for 45 minutes. How long did it take to get a battery replaced, Tony thought as he paced the sidewalk outside, watching the minutes tick off the parking meter.
His mood grew more surely as he caught his reflection in the window of the jewelry store across the street. He winced, for what seemed like the hundredth time, at the pitiful excuse for a haircut that he was now stuck with, and for such a special occasion, too. He walked over, hoping a closer inspection would result in some idea of what he was going to do with the remains of his hair.
When a leggy redhead in a tennis skirt bounced by, Tony forgot all about his hair and feigned interest in the jewels displayed in the shop window. Though his budding relationship with Angela meant he was long past the stage of delivering a smooth come-on to a good-looking woman on the sidewalk, Tony couldn't suppress the disappointment when the redhead didn't even take notice of him as she passed. Oh well, he thought, no one but Bozo the Clown would want me with this haircut anyway. Resigned to a few months of being the butt of every bad hair joke the family could dish out, Tony turned back to the jewelry shop window to pass the time until Angela finished her business. His eyes were immediately drawn to a pendant with a ruby set in the middle of a diamond-framed heart. He instinctively thought, "Wow, Angela would love that!" Too bad he'd already bought her the sheepskin seat covers for their anniversary.
Seven years. Wow. Tony could name a dozen marriages that hadn't lasted as long, yet here he and Angela were, with a deep friendship, a beautiful home, even if it was only her name on the deed, two grown children, and enough shared memories to fill any family scrapbook. They really had made it work. Tony wouldn't change one thing about the whole situation ...
Well, except, maybe ... nah, who was he foolin'? If you change one thing, everything changes, and there was no way he'd risk anything that had happened in the last seven years. But, to be honest, this was a new year for them, and after Angela's game of show and tell in Washington, Tony had been doing a lot of thinking about how to take another step with her. They had been doing some tentative dating, even sharing a few tender kisses, but it still felt like something was missing.
Tony got so caught up in his thoughts that he didn't hear Angela walk up behind him. "Oh, is that beautiful!"
Tony spun around, noticing she looked particularly pleased with herself, as though she knew a secret he didn't. "Angela, you don't have to be nice. It's hideous. I can't believe I paid twenty bucks for it."
Angela said dryly, "I meant the necklace."
"Oh, yeah, yeah, I knew that. Now what took you so long? My hair was growing back just waiting on you."
"Maybe I should go back in the shop for a few more hours," Angela said more to cover her disappointment that Tony had barely noticed the necklace than to be funny.
"Hardy-har-har. Just get in the car so we can get home."
Angela gave a last wistful look at the necklace, thinking of the watch tucked inside her pocket. Yes, she thought, it was time they started thinking of each other as more than friends.
Mona caught Angela pacing in the living room, gnawing on her fingernails.
"Angela, dear, what's the matter?"
"Nothing's the matter. Everything's fine, just fine, Mother," Angela replied, but continued pacing anyway.
"Angela, you couldn't lie to me when you were sixteen, and you can't lie now. Now come over here, sit down, and tell me what's got you chewing on your manicure like a Saint Bernard."
Angela scowled at Mona, but nevertheless took a seat next to her on the couch. If nothing else, she had to tell someone. "Mother, I got Tony and anniversary gift today."
"And, it's a watch."
"Oh no, not that!" Mona mocked horror. "Anything but a watch!"
"MOTHER!" Angela shrieked. "Stop it, that's not all." Saying nothing more, Angela took the watch out of her pocket and thrust it at Mona.
Mona admired the platinum wristwatch before turning it over to see if there was an inscription. "It's time I said I love you," she read aloud. "Angela, do you mean this?"
Angela nodded quickly, seeking approval, and Mona, in a rare show of tenderness, reached over and hugged Angela. "Well, it's about time. I'm happy for you, Angela," but then she pulled back, suddenly apprehensive.
"Mother, what is it?"
"Nothing really, dear. I was just thinking of Tony's gift for you," she said, with an image of the seat covers causing a grimace to cross her face, and she almost felt sorry for Tony, the goofball that he was. But Angela was oblivious to the pained expression and heard only that Mona knew what Tony had gotten her. She latched on to that lone morsel of information with all the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.
"Oh, you have to tell me what he got me. Is it jewelry? I caught him looking at a necklace today," she said, remembering the ruby pendant.
"No, it's definitely not a necklace," and then she faltered. Should she tell Angela the devastating news of Tony's lunk-headed gift or let her find out herself? She was certain that telling Angela would mean her daughter would never give Tony his gift, which she believed was vital to both their lives at this point. They should have gotten together years ago, and she wasn't going to do anything that might make Angela back down — Tony could do that on his own. So she opted to stall in hopes of catching Tony before the night's festivities. "Well, let's just say I heard him say it's something you can slip right on that's soft against your skin."
Tony was waxing his jeep when Mona stepped onto the patio. Angela had gone to shower, leaving Mona ample opportunity to talk to Tony about his disastrous present.
"A wondrous sight: man and his machine," she said dryly.
"Oh, hey Mon. What's up?" Tony replied over his shoulder as he rubbed the last bit of wax from the jeeps' fender.
"Angela's dander if you go through with your half-witted plan to give her seat covers for your anniversary. What are you thinking, Tony?"
"What? What's wrong with the seat covers?" he whined. "They're sheepskin, and Angela's been eyeing mine for a while."
"Oh Angela's been eyeing you alright, but assuming her attention was on the sheepskin is only your first mistake."
"Ay-oh, Mona, what are you trying to say?" She finally had his full attention.
"Listen to me Tony. You and Angela have been dancing around each other for seven years, and there's no two people I know who deserve each other more. But if you keep avoiding commitment, you're only going to end up hurting each other. Now what better opportunity to tell Angela you think more of her than sheepskin than to give her something special for this anniversary? Give it some thought."
With that, she strolled up the steps to her apartment.
And Tony HAD thought long and hard about telling Angela how he felt about her. It was no secret to him anymore that he loved her; the problem was telling her. He knew she felt the same way, but somehow, with it out in the open, he was afraid of what would change. They had such a comfortable relationship now, with so much trust, companionship, humor, and yes, love, albeit unspoken.
He reached into his pocked and pulled out the ruby pendant he'd impulsively bought not an hour ago after dropping off Angela at home and leaving again with the barely plausible excuse that he had forgotten to put gas in the jeep. The gemstones sparkled against the deep blue velvet backing of the case, and he imagined placing it around Angela's neck. Yeah, she'd love it.
But was it saying too much too soon? Too soon — that's a laugh. Seven years, most of which they'd been hopelessly in love but unwilling to express it. But you know what, Mona was wrong: Life was working for them, and changing things now was more of risk than he was willing to take. Maybe another time, but he wasn't going to risk anything on their anniversary. Slipping the necklace back into his pocket, Tony picked up his rag and went back to work on the jeep.
Mona intercepted Samantha and Jonathan on their way into the house.
"Not so fast, you two. I think it's in our best interest to avoid the house for the next couple of hours."
"Why, Grandma? What's up?" Jonathan asked.
Mona told them of Tony and Angela's gifts for each other and suggested that interrupting whatever was going on in the house would be detrimental to Tony and Angela's future. "If we don't let them hash this out ... well ... let's just say I don't want to take any chances by distracting them from each other."
Sam and Jonathan stared at Mona in stunned silence, each thinking the same thing: Tony and Angela may actually get together after all these years. Neither could believe Angela had finally gotten up the courage to tell Tony how she felt, even if it wasn't spoken — yet. And nether of them intended to do anything to risk the truth coming out.
"But what are we going to do? Dad wanted us here by six to go to the carnival."
"Trust me, Sam, if things go as I hope they do, those two will see enough fireworks tonight without the carnival. Why don't we give them some privacy?"
"Mona, do you really think they're going to finally get together?" Sam said, with hope, excitement and a bit of caution in her voice that came from years of false alarms. "I know Angela got him that watch, but she's never going to give it to him when she sees the seat covers. She's just going to cover up her feeling like always, and Dad'll be too scared to do anything about it."
"Yeah," Jonathan continued, "I mean, it's been seven years. What so different about now?"
Mona thought for a moment. "If Tony gives her the seat covers, I don't think Angela has it in her anymore to cover up her feelings. Whether they come out in anger or embarrassment, they're gonna come out. And if she goes first, well, let's just say I think you'll be getting a new accessory for your car, Samantha."
The trio taped a note to the backdoor, just in case, offering lame and implausible excuses for their absence and headed to the fanciest restaurant Mona knew that had a account with The Bower Agency she could charge dinner on.
Everything Tony had told himself earlier flew out the window the second Angela walked down the stairs. Her long hair fell in soft waves, brushing against her bare shoulders in a way that made Tony wish he could come back in his next life as the spaghetti straps that so delicately held up the short black cocktail dress. His mouth went dry when she pivoted on the last step, revealing a deep V that exposed her back all the way to her waist. Black nylons and toeless stiletto sandals completed the ensemble and left Tony gaping like a randy teenager.
Angela exuded sex appeal, and even more surprisingly, she felt sexy and confident. It was running through her veins like molten lava. Never had she been so sure of herself, especially after watching the string of emotions play across Tony's face when she came down the steps. It was time, of that much she was certain.
Tony, on the other hand, wasn't even certain what day of the week it was. He stared so long and hard that Angela was the first to speak.
"Tony, are you alright?" Rendering Tony speechless was the best compliment she could ask for. But eventually, he found his voice, which along with his heart, stomach and other vital organs, seemed to have relocated into his feet.
"Angela, wow. I mean, WOW. That's some dress. You look gorgeous. Wow. What's the occasion?" He couldn't get over it, especially when she walked up to him and he caught the scent of rose petals on her skin.
She leaned over and seductively whispered in his ear, "We are."
Stepping back, she glanced at his jeans and T-shirt and continued, "Unfortunately, you're woefully underdressed."
"Well, my original plan called for more casual attire," he said, thinking of the evening with the family at the carnival he had planned, "but I'm warming up to your proposal."
"Oh, did you have something else in mind?"
Tony thought of the carnival with it's crowded thoroughfares, sticky food, and noisy atmosphere, and then he looked at the vision before him. As much fun as he'd thought the carnival would be, he'd be a fool pass up a night with Angela in that dress.
"Nothing that can't be changed."
Angela glanced at the box on the coffee table and couldn't resist asking, "Tony, is that for me?" But before she could take one step toward it, Tony vaulted himself over the armchair and scooped up the box.
"Ah, no, no. This is, ah ..." Come on, Micelli, think. "Ah, this is Sam's. Yeah, Sam. I got her a little something, and thought I'd give it to her tonight."
"Then why is my name on the tag?" Angela asked simply, though a bit confused.
Tony glanced down in horror at the sticker that read, "To Angela, From Tony." "Oh, that, well, you see, I ah, accidentally wrote your name instead cause I was thinking about tonight." Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"Oh, how sweet. So you were thinking about tonight, too?"
She bought it. Thank goodness, Tony thought. "Yeah, of course I was thinking about tonight." Tony was making his way toward the stairs. "You know me, always thinking." He took a step up, "Yeah, so I THINK I'll go shower, and I THINK I'll be back down in about ten minutes. And don't you even THINK about going any where until I get back."
With that, he dashed up the stairs, leaving Angela smiling after him. Gosh, she loved him. Amazing, she thought, how easily that thought came to mind now.
True to his word, he was back downstairs a few minutes later, dressed in a charcoal gray suit and the vibrant scarlet tie Angela bought him for Father's Day the year before. The seat covers were tucked safely under his bed, where they would remain until a more appropriate occasion — like Flag Day. Or until he could give them to Sam.
Angela was sitting on the couch, the watch discreetly placed in her purse, which was barely big enough to hold it and a tube of lipstick.
"You sure clean up nice." She walked up to him and brushed a lint speck from his shoulder, then smoothed her hands over his arms. The clean scent of his cologne caused her stomach to flip-flop, and they stared at each other just long enough for both to catch a glimpse of something simmering beneath the surface of their control.
They stepped back, no sign of the awkwardness that usually accompanied such intimate exchanges, and appraised each other once again.
"We sure make one good-looking couple, don't we Angela?"
"We sure do. By the way, I found this taped to the back door. Looks like we've been ditched."
Tony read the note from Mona, Sam, and Jonathan. "Well, all for the better. They'd cramp our style anyway." With that, he took Angela's hand, spun her around and ended the impromptu dance step in a deep dip. Angela held on for dear life until Tony set her back on her feet. Their faces were a breath apart and moving closer, when Tony panicked. He backed away and asked quickly, "So, ah, where do you want to go for dinner?"
It wasn't until she exhaled that Angela realized she'd been holding her breath. It came out as a sigh, tinged with disappointment. But not for long; after all, they had all night. "Why don't we call and see if we can get a last minute reservation somewhere?"
But thirty minutes and ten restaurants later, they were left all dressed up with no place to go.
"I can't believe there's not a table to be found in the whole town," Angela said. "Why didn't we plan this better? Oh Tony, I wanted this night to be so perfect."
"Angela, we're together, we're dressed to kill, and I have two choice steaks and a bottle of Dom in the refrigerator. What more could we ask for?"
"Then why have we spent the last half hour calling restaurants when we have our own private table right here?" she asked seductively.
"What can I say, my mind's still not functioning after seeing you in that dress."
"You really like it. I bought it especially for tonight." She twirled around and the dress flared up a bit, showing off more of her shapely legs. Tony almost groaned.
"Like it? Honey, you look like you walked off the pages of one of your ads.
They walked into the kitchen, where Tony got the steaks from the fridge, seasoned them, and took them outside. While the steaks were grilling, Angela managed to chop vegetables for a salad, and Tony thought to himself that he'd never seen a sexier sight than Angela, in that wisp of a dress, chopping vegetables with a "Kiss me, I'm Italian" apron on. His attraction was powerful enough to have him forgetting his earlier panic attack and walking over to her, turning her around and gently pressing his lips to hers.
"What was that for," she asked when she was able to catch her breath.
"Just following the directions on your apron," he said, still grinning, with the taste of her lingering on his lips.
"What? Oh," she said, looking down to read the apron for the first time. Recovering, she came back with, "Well, I just might have to wear this more often."
"As long as you stick to cutting carrots," he quipped. And for the next several minutes, until the steaks, sauteed mushrooms, baked potatoes, and salad were done, they engaged in playful banter that only came easily to couples with years of comfort and confidence behind them.
"So," Angela began, as she moved the last bits of steak around her plate, "You obviously didn't have dinner reservations for us tonight. Sam showed up and somehow conspired with Jonathan and Mother to leave that ridiculous note, and there wasn't anything in the fridge that would feed all five of us. So what gives, Tony? What did you have planned tonight that my brilliant initiative interrupted?"
Tony face grew warm and red with the full realization of the disaster he'd nearly made of the evening. If Angela hadn't come down the stairs in that dress ... the thought made him shudder. But maybe he could confess. After all, it was Angela.
"To be honest, I was going to take us all to a carnival in Brooklyn."
"WHAT!" Angela was appalled and amused at the same time. He was so darn sweet, but sometimes, just so clueless. "A carnival, why?"
"Well, it's one of the first places we went together, as a family, when Sam and I moved here, and I thought it would be fun to take the whole gang out." He paused, deciding whether to go further, and he finally determined that it was time for some honesty. "And I was scared."
"Scared? Of what?"
"Being alone with you."
"Tony, why would you be scared of us being alone?" She paused, considering her own question, and continued before he could respond, "Nevermind, I think I know. And maybe, a few months ago, I would have done the same thing. But Tony, I think we both know that things are ... changing between us. You haven't been just my housekeeper in years, if you ever were, and lately, well ..." she paused, and looked deep into his eyes, knowing there was nothing to fear, but terrified just the same. "... I think we're more than best friends, or ... at least, I want us to be." There, it was out.
"Do you mean that, Angela? You want us to be more than ... friends?"
"Yes, Tony, I think I do."
When she go up and walked to the couch, Tony followed. She paused, knowing there was no turning back once she gave him the watch. With the slow, steady movements of a surgeon, she picked up her purse, slid the zipper open, and carefully withdrew the long, narrow box. Holding it close to her chest, she wanted so badly to say something before giving it to him, to make him understand how much this meant to her and how long she had debated with herself before deciding to follow her heart. She wanted him to know everything she was thinking and feeling, but knew there were no words to describe the emotions rocketing through her system. So, silently, she held the box out to him and whispered, "Happy anniversary, Tony."
Their fingers brushed as the box changed hands, and Tony could have swore he felt an electric shock ripple through him. The air was thick with anticipation as he took the top off and looked at the watch inside.
"Wow, Angela, this is nice. Really nice." He examined the numbers and hands, looked at the clasp, fingered the dial on the side, and just when Angela thought she'd burst from waiting, he finally turned it over — and stopped.
His eyes scanned the words over and over, absorbing them, not believing what he was reading. There it was, in delicate script: It's time I said I love you.
Finally, he looked up, and the impact of their eyes meeting nearly caused each to look away, but a stronger forced locked their gaze and neither could move.
Drawing on seven years of pent up love and friendship, Tony nodded, and said simply, "Yes, it is," before drawing her into his arms and covering her mouth with his. They stayed that way, arms wound around each other, lips drinking in all the other had to offer. Gone was the tenderness from the kiss in the kitchen; this was all passion, desire and seven years of waiting poured into a few precious moments. The kiss wasn't a mindless reflex, it wasn't obligatory or friendly. This kiss was deliberate, determined, and said everything that had gone unsaid for so long.
When it was over, they were breathless. Both took a moment to sit down and compose themselves. Angela was the first to speak.
"So, I guess you like the watch," she said with a playful smile.
"Yes, I like the watch," he said rhetorically, then added, "And I like what the watch says."
"And?" The word moved from her brain to her mouth of their own accord, sending blood rushing back into her face.
"And, you're right." Tony paused, serious again. "It is time I said I love you, Angela. I should have said it a long time ago."
"Me too. But it's not enough for you to read the words. I want to tell you. I've kept it in for so long, but here goes. Tony, I love you."
"And I love you, Angela." Now that it was out, they both felt relief and hope mingling inside them. The fear they had carried around for so long that the Earth would open up and swallow them if they ever revealed their feelings dissapated so fast once the truth was out that the both felt foolish for their insecurity. Tony was the first to vocalize this realization, "Why was it so hard for us to say that?"
"I don't know. I was always so scared that something would change, and we'd lose our friendship."
"Yeah, me too. But you know what, I think things were changing anyway and sooner or later we had to catch up. So, ah, what now?"
They both took some time to ponder that question, each absorbing their new status realizing they were more comfortable with it than either could imagine.
"Well," Angela began, "We've been best friends for years, and I think we realize now that's not likely to change. So let's try being best friends who are honest about our feelings, and," she added with a devilish smile, "as an added benefit, best friends who get to kiss." With that, she leaded over, a bit tentatively, and experimented with a casual kiss that she hoped would become part of their daily routine.
Surprised at the ease with which such familiarity came, Tony was emboldened by her actions, and when she leaned back, he tugged her toward him again, murmuring, "Not so fast, we have a lot of time to make up for."
Like two teenagers, they spent a long time kissing and talking on the couch, getting acquainted with their newly-expressed love for one another, when all of a sudden, Tony pulled back and said, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I forgot." He reached into the inside pocket on his jacket and took out a long, narrow box, not unlike the one in which his watch was placed. Angela eyed it for a moment, then gently opened it, revealing the diamond and ruby pendant.
"Oh, Tony! Oh, Tony! It's - it's stunning. I can't believe it. I didn't even think you'd noticed it."
"Just shows how well I know you," he replied, then nearly grimaced remembering the seat covers tucked under his bed, but Angela was too busy admiring the necklace to take notice.
Would you do the honors?" she asked, turning away from him and lifting her hair. His fingers brushed against her bare neck sending shivers through her. Their new awareness of each other heightened the sexual tension, fanned further by the simple task of clasping a necklace.
When she turned around, both of their faces were flushed, and Tony's eyes were immediately draw to the pendant resting against her skin. "Happy anniversary, Angela."
"Happy anniversary, Tony."
It was one they would never forget.
The next day, Tony and Angela were cuddled on the couch, still unsure of how to act and what to say. Their parting the night before in the upstairs hall was long and awkward, but they eventually retired to their room, only to sneak back into the hall to kiss and giggle like teenagers. In the morning, Angela tried her hand at a casual good morning kiss, which turned into a long good-morning kiss that nearly caused a fire when Tony forgot about the eggs frying on the stove.
By noon, the house was quite, and Tony and Angela were on the couch talking when Sam walked in. Telling the family had gone remarkable well, especially considering they were anything but surprised. Happy, elated even, but not surprised. And neither Mona, Samantha, nor Jonathan would confess to masterminding events the night before, though naturally Mona was the primary suspect.
Catching them mid-kiss, Sam giggled and cleared her throat with a loud "Excuse me."
Blushing, Tony and Angela bolted apart and tried to appear relaxed and unembarrassed.
"Samantha, how nice to see you — again," Tony said through gritted teeth. "What do you want."
Ignoring the question, she said, "I just can't get over how cute you two are. Seven years. We thought you'd never admit it." Then she proceeded to stare at them, smiling and shaking her head. "How cute."
"Alright, alright. I just came by to say I love the seat covers."
"Seat covers?" Angela asked, "Is that what was in the box last night?" she asked Tony.
"Ah, yeah. I, ah, got her seat covers cause she like mine so much."
"Yeah," Sam chimed in, "I just loved his, and that was so sweet Dad. And you were right, they slipped right on and are so soft ..."
Sam stopped short when she saw Angela's eyes widen and her gaze turn to Tony, who was completely oblivious.
Sensing something was up, she stammered, "Well, I'd, ah, better be going. Gotta try out those seat covers some more. Bye," she said, and bolted out the door.
"Sam, Sam," Tony called after her. "Gee, wonder why she left so fast," he asked, and finally turned to look at Angela, who met his gaze with equal parts amusement and disbelief.
"What?" he asked, confused by her look, but suddenly worried.
He wouldn't. He didn't. No way. Did he really get her seat covers for their anniversary? No. He got her the necklace. But Mona said ...
"Tony," she said in a saccharine voice, "Mother said something yesterday about your gift for me being easy to slip on and soft against my skin. Funny Sam should use the same words to describe seat covers you gave her in a box with my name on it."
Tony stuttered and tripped over his voice, making unintelligible sounds until finally deciding only decisive action would get him out of this.
"Well, Angela, the truth is—" And he reached over, grabbed her to him and planted his mouth on hers until she couldn't string a two coherent thoughts together.
"You were saying ..." he said, when they came up for air.
"Oh shut up and kiss me," she replied, pulling him back into her arms.