An older gentleman approaches us and reaches out his hand to Oz. “Welcome, Miles. Good to see you again.”
“You too, Eugene. This is my Mallory.” Oz shakes the man’s hand, and then looks down at me.
I look up to see Oz beaming, as if he’s showing me off with pride. It makes me warm and tingly, and I know my cheeks are probably cherry red.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, young lady. Welcome to the New York Aquarium.” He holds out his hand to indicate the room, and I finally look around. There are tanks of tropical fish at the entrance, and I want to go over and look, but I’m still unsure if I can. “If you will both follow me, we’ve got your table set upstairs.”
Oz takes my hand and leads me through the entrance and down a hallway. The walls are lined with glass, and there are colorful fish on either side. It’s as if we’re underwater, and I’m smiling from ear to ear.
At the end of the hall there’s a large spiral staircase, and Oz grips my hand a little tighter as we make our way up. Once we get to the top, I look around and see gigantic cylindrical aquariums throughout a huge room. The only light in the room is coming from them, the softly lit water making a beautiful glow. Oz lets go of my hand as I walk forward in a trance. Once I get to the first aquarium, I see that inside are little pink jellyfish swimming in the water. They float and glide gracefully through the water, delicately dancing with each movement.
I sense Oz behind me, and I turn my head slightly, smiling up at him. “This is incredible. They’re so beautiful.”
“Not nearly as beautiful as you,” he says, and leans down, giving my neck a soft kiss.
He takes my hand again and leads me over to a table that’s set up in the middle of the room. It’s rectangular in shape, but the two chairs are both on the same side instead of across from each other. I look at the table, and then look back at him quizzically.
“Just wanted you close,” he says as he holds out a chair for me to sit on.
Once I’m seated, I look around the room at all the giant tubes of jellyfish that surround us. It looks magical and it’s like we are under the sea.
Oz takes the seat to my left, and I look over at him and smile. “This is wonderful. Thank you so much.”
“Anything you want. You need only ask.” Reaching out, he takes my hand in his, and it’s then that I see the advantage of sitting on the same side of the table.
Eugene appears at our table. “Enjoy your evening, Miles. Tell Vivien we said hello, and that Louise and I look forward to seeing her next weekend.”
“I’ll be sure and pass along the message.”
Once Eugene is gone, a waiter appears and pours us each a glass of red wine. After that he’s gone, and Oz and I are alone.
“No menus?” I ask, looking around the table.
“A special favor called in. It’s a set menu.”
“I see,” I say, and he gives me a wink. “Vivien?” Reaching for my wine, I figure I’ll put that out there. I don’t want to come across as jealous, but it was brought up while I was sitting here.
Oz drapes an arm along the back of my chair as his fingers lazily stroke my exposed neck. There are definitely some advantages to wearing my hair up.
“My mother. Eugene and his wife, Louise, are my godparents.”
“What about your dad?” I take a sip of the wine. It’s warm and rich.
“I don’t care to talk about my father. The day my mother left him he died to me.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry—” I try to apologize, but he holds his hand up to stop me. I can’t imagine what his father must have done to make him so angry, but I can tell by the tic in his jaw it isn’t something he cares to talk about.
“It’s fine—it’s not something I want to ruin the evening with. Another time.”
“How old are you?” I blurt out, thinking I should probably know this. It’s also a nice change of subject.
He laughs a little, letting go of my hand and taking a sip of his wine. “I’m twenty-six, but my birthday is next month. So almost twenty-seven.”
I nod, thinking that’s not too bad.
“Are you going to tell me your real name?”
“It’s Miles.” He doesn’t look at me when he answers, and it’s like he’s avoiding it.
“What’s the rest of it?”
“Miles Henry. It sounds so posh. I think I like Oz better.”
He looks at me and gives me a wicked smile. I take another sip of my wine and look at him over the top of my glass.