Quench Me by Amy – Chapter 32

Republisher’s Note: Danny introduces Michelle to Ray and then celebrates when things go well.

Quench Me by Amy – Chapter 32

As I steer my “big Mitsubishi”, as Danny calls it, along the rolling highway that leads to his house, I can’t help but reminisce about the past week. It seems as though a lifetime has come and gone since that awful night in the parking lot of the gym, when Danny rescued me from God knows what, took me back to his house, and finally let me in to his heart. I don’t know if it was the argument we’d had earlier that day at the courthouse that continued at my house, Tanner’s attempted attack, or a combination of the two that caused him to open up to me. It really doesn’t matter now, I remind myself, because we finally know where we stand with each other.

A slight smile spreads across my face as I think back to Monday, when he declared to Marti that he was mine, making me feel like the most special, extraordinary woman in the entire world. That, combined with the fact that the only “B” I made was in Pharmacology, which I fully expected, made Monday a red-letter day. In fact, every day had been a red-letter day since Danny told me that he loved me. I wake up in the morning with an anticipation of what’s to come, even it’s simply hearing his voice over the telephone line. My part-time, summer work at the hospital is more meaningful, and every smile that I give to a patient is more genuine. Having lunch with Danny, every day in the hospital cafeteria, makes hospital food taste like a delicacy. My senses are alive, like they’ve never been before, and I take nothing for granted. All this, in just one week.

And tonight, I’ll meet the person in Danny’s family who means the most to him – his cousin Ray. Given the circumstances of both our families, there aren’t a lot of people for either of us to meet. Danny and Rick have already met, more than once, and they’ve actually started to get along, and even bond. With Danny’s father gone, and his mother and sister I Europe, the only person left in Springfield is Ray. I know that this suits Danny just fine – he’s told me time and again that Ray is the only family member, save for his father, who’s ever truly understood and known him. Ray’s decision to become a priest changed their relationship considerably, but they still remain very close, and Danny is very excited for the two of us to meet. He says that Ray will love me, and I hope he’s right. I know how important it was to me that Rick like Danny, and since Ray is pretty much Danny’s only family, I know it’s important to him that the two of us hit it off.

When I pull into Danny’s drive way, I see an unfamiliar car that I assume is Ray’s. I’m glad that he’s already here – maybe he and Danny have spent some quality time together. As I step out onto the pavement, I smooth my long, straight khaki skirt over my legs, and button the top button of my blue cardigan over the matching shell underneath. For this occasion, I straightened my long, honey-colored locks, and pulled the sides back, fastening them with a sliver barrette. Realizing, all at once, how nervous I am, I say to myself, “He’s a priest, Michelle. He likes everybody.”

Approaching the door, I can smell traces of garlic and herbs coming from inside. Danny had to work later than usual for a Friday, so he called and asked the former cook if she could prepare dinner, just the way he did more me the first time we had dinner here. She happily agreed, and Danny was more than pleased that the three of us would enjoy dinner at home, rather than at a restaurant.

Gingerly, I knock on the door, nervous about meeting Ray, but anxious to see Danny’s face. Within seconds, the door flies open, and Danny steps out onto the front step, taking me in his arms in a sweeping motion, as if he hasn’t seen me in weeks.

“I’ve missed you,” he says, kissing my neck.

“You saw me at lunch,” I answer laughingly.

“But that’s been almost seven hours,” he replies, this time kissing the tip of my nose.

“That long?” I say jokingly. “Well, in that case, I must’ve missed you too.”

He laughs at my silliness, taking my hand and leading me into the foyer. “Ray is already here,” he says. “He’s really anxious to meet you. I’m afraid I’ve been going on and on about you since the moment he got here.”

“Saying nice things, I hope?” I say.

“Very nice,” he replies.

“So now I have to live up to your descriptions of me?” I joke again.

“You already do, Michelle, you know that,” he says, as we make our way into the living room.

I’m meet with the sight of an attractive man, wearing a pair of black slacks, a white tee shirt, and a black sport jacket. He’s tall and dark, like Danny, but slightly older, and less mysterious looking. I realize that unconsciously I was expecting to see Ray in his collar, and the look of surprise must be evident on my face.

“I don’t always wear my collar,” he says, getting up from the sofa to walk toward us. “Especially when I’m relaxing with family. You must be Michelle. Danny’s told me so much about you.”

He extends his hand to me, and I reach out to shake it, saying, “It’s so nice to finally meet you, Ray. Danny’s told me a lot about you, as well.”

Danny’s smiling, obviously pleased at how Ray and I have begun getting acquainted. “Well, since you two don’t need me to introduce you, I’m going to go and check on dinner.”

“No problem, Danny,” Ray says. “Michelle and I will be just fine.”

Danny heads to the kitchen, and Ray and I take our seats in the living room and continue our conversation. Ray is obviously an extremely kind man, and the compassion shows genuinely on his face. I’m immediately comfortable with him, and I can tell right off the bat why Danny is so fond of him.

Danny returns from the kitchen and announces that dinner is ready. I’ve yet to see the dining room in this house, and I find myself looking very forward to it, as Danny takes me by the hand, and the three of us trek past the kitchen toward the dining room.

The room is more beautiful than I imagined. One end of the large oak dining table is set intimately for three, with lovely china and delicate crystal. The curtains in the large bay window are drawn back, and though sunlight has started to disappear, I can tell that the window overlooks the back of Danny’s property – a wide, expansive field, bounded on both sides by a line of evergreens. It’s a beautiful view, and it strikes me that with the three of us together in this room, the house doesn’t feel like a mausoleum anymore.

Olga, the former cook, wheels the dinner cart out of the kitchen and into the dining room, and instantly, the room is filled with the delicious aroma. She carefully places a large bowl of salad on the table, and just by looking, I think that there must be at least four kinds of salad greens in it, not to mention olives, tomatoes, and sliced radishes. An enormous dish of pasta comes next – filled to the brim with linguini tossed with a white wine clam sauce. A basket of bread finds its way to the table, and the scent of garlic and butter brings smiles to all our faces.

When she’s done, Danny stands up and kisses her cheek. “You go ahead, Olga,” he says. “I’ll take care of cleaning up. Thank you so much for doing this.”

“It was my pleasure, Daniel,” she replies. “I’ve missed seeing you. And you too, Ray,” she says, gesturing toward him.

With that, she sneaks back into the kitchen, leaving the three of us to the magnificent dinner she placed before us.

Our conversation is light and easy, as if we’ve all known each other for years. We laugh and joke, and Danny and Ray talk about their boyhood antics. It’s a refreshing sight to see Danny talk about his childhood as something other than depressing. I say a silent “thank you” to God, for giving Danny and Ray a special relationship – one that I suspect saw them both through some pretty troubled times.

“So, Michelle,” Ray says to me, “Danny tells me you’re in medical school.”

I nod my head affirmatively, as I take a sip of wine. “I just finished my second year.”

“One more year of classes, and then she’ll be doing her internship,” Danny says proudly, reaching over to touch my knee under the table.

“Medicine is such a wonderful profession,” Ray says. “It takes so much compassion and endurance.”

“Much like the work you do,” I add.

“In a way, it is,” he agrees. “I am very involved in helping people, but I’ve seen the work that doctors and nurses do, and the hands-on aspect of it is simply amazing.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” I say. “I’ll be glad when I can really get down to the business of caring for people.”

Ray smiles at me, as if what I’ve said really made an impact on him. He looks to Danny and says, “She’s one of a kind, Danny. You better hold onto her.”

“I intend to,” Danny answers. He turns to me and smiles, repeating, “I intend to.”

————————————————————————–

As we stand in front of the house, watching Ray drive away, Danny slips his arm around my waist and says, “I knew the two of you would love each other.”

“Ray really is wonderful,” I answer. “I can see why he’s so special to you.”

“And he can see why you’re so special to me,” he replies.

“Tonight was fantastic, Danny,” I say. “Meeting Ray… dinner… you… everything. It was all just perfect.”

“I know,” he says. “Perfect.”

“Now, there’s a kitchen full of dishes that need to be washed, so let’s hop to it.”

“You’re kidding right?” he says. “You don’t have to do dishes.”

“I know, but I’m here, so I might as well help you. Besides, I’d really like to see you loading dishes into the dishwasher.”

“Don’t underestimate me, Michelle,” he jokes, as we walk back through the front door. “I’m pretty good in the kitchen.”

“You’re good wherever you are,” I say, gently slapping him on his backside.

————————————————————————–

The utensils and cookware have all been loaded into the dishwasher, and it’s quietly buzzing away. The china and crystal are stacked beside the giant double sinks, and I run one side full of hot, soapy water.

“We can’t run these through the dishwasher, so I’ll wash if you’ll dry,” I say to Danny, who is looking extremely sexy with the sleeves of his blue shirt rolled up to his elbows.

“Deal,” he answers, grabbing a dish towel off the marble counter top.

I gently wash the china and crystal pieces, rinsing them under a soft stream of cool water. I hand each piece to Danny and marvel at how careful he is to dry them completely and put them back in their proper places. Again, another “regular” moment that would seem so insignificant otherwise, but to Danny and me, brings us closer than ever.

“Did you decide about the apartment?” he asks as he puts the last piece of china away.

“Yes,” I reply. “I called Mr. Mattingly this morning and told him that I wanted it.”

“Are you excited?” he asks.

“I guess so,” I say, as I unstop the sink and begin to let the water drain. “I’ll miss Rick, but I liked living on my own.”

“When do you get to move in?”

“Well, Stephanie and Jack will be moving into their house at the end of June, so I can move in the first week in July.”

Danny takes the dishtowel and dries the counter top where water dripped as we were washing the dishes. “I’ll help you,” he says. “I wouldn’t want you lifting any of those heavy boxes by yourself.”

“Heavy boxes?” I question. “It’s not like I have that much stuff.”

“I’ve seen your closet, Michelle, and I know how many pairs of shoes you have.”

I grab the dishtowel away from him and slap him across his right shoulder with it. “You are so bad,” I say, as he pretends to fight me off.

He grabs me by my arms and pulls my body to his. His face is only centimeters from mine, as he says, “Mmmmmm, I can be bad all right. And it sounds pretty tempting right now.”

“What on earth are you suggesting,” I say, feigning shock, as Danny slides my cardigan off my shoulders, leaving only the spaghetti-strapped shell underneath.

His lips find their way to my shoulder, as he says, “I told you I was pretty good in the kitchen.”

“I don’t have any doubts,” I say, forcing his face to mine, pressing my lips hard against his.

“Same rules as before?” he says between soft kisses.

I back away from him slightly, looking into his eyes, and ask, “Is that what you want?”

“What I want? No. What I think is best? Yes,” he answers. “And before you say anything, let me just say that I can’t believe that those words are coming out of my mouth, but I really do want to make sure that we don’t make any mistakes. I love you and I want everything to be perfect between us, especially when we get to that point.”

“Ray was wrong, you know?” I reply. “YOU are one of a kind.”

“Does that mean you’re OK with keeping things the way they are?” he asks, reaching out to hold my hands.

I nod, saying, “You promised me that waiting would make it that much better for both of us, and I’m going to hold you to that. I don’t remember what it’s like to not want you, Danny. As long as I’m breathing I’ll want you. But as much as I want you ‘that way’, I want you even more in my heart and in my soul. So, if waiting is going to make us stronger and more connected, then yes, I’m OK with it.”

“I love you so much,” he says, pulling me to him once again, burying his face in my hair.

“I love you,” I answer as we slide down the side of the cabinets to the floor. “More than anything.”

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