“What brings you to Wardlow, Mr. Johnson?” She asked with a knowing grin.
“I’ve got a fare with your name on it,” Bert explained. “Hop in.”
Never one to turn down a spontaneous adventure, she tucked her bag under her arm and immediately got in the cab.
It wasn’t until he turned into the drive of the Windsor that she began to smile.
She got out of the cab and tried to pay him, but Bert held up his hand.
“Already been taken care of, ma’am,” he assured her. “This is for you,” he handed her a key through the open window. “S’posed to tell you to go up to the suite; everything’s upstairs and waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Bert.” She smiled fondly as she kissed his cheek through the window.
“My pleasure, ma’am.” He tipped his hat to hide his uncomfortable blush.
As she made her way towards the same suite that she had occupied over 11 years ago, she realized that it felt like a lifetime ago. She’d been a woman so desperate to find the answers to the past that she hadn’t realized what she had stumbled onto in the present: a family, a career, a home. She would have never sought them out on her own, but somehow, they had wrapped themselves around her and held her still until her roots had grown all the same.
She unlocked the door and searched the suite, seeking out her luggage but found gifts waiting on the bed instead.
“Jack,” she shook her head as she reached for the card.
Tin isn’t all that imaginative, is it? I hope that this suffices.
Happy 10th anniversary,
The first box contained tins of all of her favorite cosmetics. Underneath was a Madame Fleuri box with a brand new blood red dress and shoes that she knew that he couldn’t afford, so she hoped that he’d charged them to her account.
When she was bathed, dressed, and made up, a knock came on the door. She grinned as she took one last look in the mirror. The dress took her breath away and the thought of seeing his reaction to it made her giddy. She practically ran to the door.
“Wow,” Jack shook his head in awe. “God, you’re beautiful,” he smiled as he came into the room.
“I had some help,” she acknowledged as she kissed his cheek. “Is it everything that you imagined?” She posed for his benefit.
“I didn't look. I wanted to be surprised,” he said sincerely. “I phoned the experts and they said that they knew exactly what to give you, they had your measurements, and not to worry.”
“It must have cost a small fortune,” she ran a hand over her stomach.
“Curiously, a bill was never received.” He smiled. “When I phoned to inquire about that, they told me that it must have been lost in delivery but from their secretary’s tone, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for its arrival.”
Phryne smiled knowingly.
“Well, they’re grateful," she explained. "If we hadn't solved their case, they wouldn't have the empire that they have now,” she reminded him.
“Before I give the impression that your entire gift was purchased from the local chemist, I do have one more surprise,” he said as he reached into his jacket to pull out a velvet necklace box.
She gave him a scolding look for spoiling her with jewelry when he'd already done so much.
“Go on, open it,” he instructed, ignoring her concerns.
She took it from him and cracked it open slowly.
“Oh, Jack,” she shook her head at the beautiful diamond necklace. “The setting matches my ring,” she smiled as she showed it to him.
“It should. I bought them as a set,” he confirmed.
Her eyes shot up to see if he was kidding but his eyes were sparkling with mischief.
“And you’ve just been hiding it for seven years? How? Where?”
“Do you want to try it on?” He asked, ignoring her questions.
“Yes, are you going to answer my questions?” She asked with a tilt of her head.
“Come into the bedroom,” he said as he brought her to the nearest mirror.
She took the necklace out of the box and hummed quietly in excitement as he placed it around her neck. She fingered the diamond gently as he clasped it and watched the way it fell perfectly onto her neck.
“I love it. And you.” She turned around and kissed him briefly before wiping the wax off his lips before it could stain. “You’re next,” she smiled as she opened the top drawer of the dresser and pulled out a small box. “This one first.”
He looked intrigued by the gift and he opened it quickly.
“A tin of tomatoes?” He asked curiously as he looked over the label.
“I stole one from the Camorra warehouse, do you remember?”
“Vaguely,” he confirmed.
“That was the case when I thought that I’d lost you forever,” she revealed and he looked up in surprise. “I had always assumed that our connection was unique because it was unique for me but when I saw you with Concetta and I saw you two sharing the same glances that were normally reserved for me, I realized that not only was there competition for your attention, but that she was winning.”
Jack was staring at her with an intensity that he only reserved for his toughest cases.
She looked down at her hands to continue.
“That night, I was sitting in my parlor feeling terrible,” she recalled. “I had no one to blame but myself for the loss, but all the same, I found it unbearable.” She looked up to see the recognition in his eyes at the weaponized word. “And then you walked in,” she said simply, “with a bottle of wine and a smile.” She could see it in her memory even now. “And I mournfully said that you’d have to make do with me, because I knew that I was your last choice, but you corrected me. You said that we’d have to make do with each other from then on.”
He nodded, recalling the moment.
“And while there have been many men in my life, you’re the only one that I’ve ever wanted to keep there,” she confessed. “And it took a tin of tomatoes for me to realize it.”
He brought her in for another kiss, this time not concerned in the least about her lipstick, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. When he finally broke away from her, he set his forehead against hers and sighed.
“I love you,” he praised, the magnitude of the moment stealing his words from him.
“I love you too,” she murmured. “But there’s more,” she revealed as she reluctantly stepped out of his embrace.
“More than that?” He questioned as he wiped his lips clean, unable to believe that anything else could compete with a single tin of tomatoes.
She reached into the drawer and pulled out a bottle of Italian red wine with a silver watch around its neck and held it out for him.
He smiled, touched at the continuation of the gift.
“It’s engraved,” she said with a gesture for him to take it.
He slid the watch off the bottle gently before turning it over in his hands.
“To ten more years of making do,” he read with a chuckle. “I love it,” he said as he immediately began taking off the watch on his wrist.
She reached for it and set it on the dresser as he put the new one on and held it up to test.
“Does it fit?”
“Yes,” he held it out for her inspection. “And it’s telling us that we’re late for dinner,” he added.
“Then let me fix this mess and then we can go,” she said as she fixed her lipstick quickly in the mirror. “Perhaps if we tell them it’s our anniversary, we can get the same table where I first announced my business,” she suggested.
“What makes you think that I haven’t already requested it?” He questioned smugly.
“Did you really?” She paused, wanting his confirmation before continuing.
“And no one even required the fire department this time,” he assured her as he opened the door for her.
“I’d rather hoped that as you got older, your memory might fade a little,” she frowned as he locked the door behind them and pocketed the key. “Those early days weren’t my most charming.”
“Oh, trust me, they did the job well enough,” he muttered quietly as he pressed the button to the lift.
Her pleased smile at his former frustration didn’t go unnoticed and he smiled at her smile, tugging her closer by the waist so that he could kiss her cheek lovingly.