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Morning Merlot

by Gail Alston about a year ago in dating
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Love and Wine at Midnight

Ember sighed as she heard her phone ring. She struggled to release her coat pocket’s grip on it as she closed the door to her one-bedroom flat. She knew who it was on the other end. It was Friday after all. Sarah, she loved Sarah. She was her first and only friend she had made since moving to London from the States. Sarah was this long legged, athletically built blonde with sparkling blue eyes and a smile that could set a room on fire. One would think she’d be a ‘mean girl’ but she was the exact opposite. She had the kindest heart and wanted the best for everyone she bumped into. Ember loved that about her. Ember answered the phone reluctantly to Sarah screaming in her ear.

“Best of us are you home?!” She blurts out loudly. Ember can hear people laughing, music playing and the clang of drinking glasses. “I know you are home.”

“Of course, I’m at home.” Ember responded.

“Hurry up then. Get down to the pub. You promised me.” Replied Sarah.

“Did I? I don’t remember agreeing to stay out half the night after being at work slaving away all day.”

“You did! You promised because there was a man involved.” She said pointedly.

“Is that tonight?” Ember asked.

“Yes, you promised to keep my cousin company for the evening while I reeled in Matthew with my feminine wiles.” She laughed.

“I don’t think I used those words, but I did say I would join the fray tonight. Even though I don’t need a man in my life.”

“My sweet, sweet Ember. You do. But more importantly, you need to be more of a social butterfly. You are a moderately young, beautiful woman. You’ve got to get out here and let the world take a stab at grabbing your tits and giving a bit of a scream when it gets a little too rough. Now, quick shower, pretty dress and shoes, then cab it over here. Okay. Bye. Oh! And something that shows a little leg. Your legs are gorgeous. Ok. See you when you get here. Love you friend!” Sarah hangs up before Ember could respond.

“Love you more.” She said placing the phone on a table.

Ember took one final look at herself in the mirror before heading out the door. She could hear the cab honking as she descended the stairs. She was a tiny girl, a little over five feet tall and a hundred and fifteen pounds. Her light brown skin gave a strange yellow glow as she stepped on the street in front of the pub. She took a deep breath as she walked inside to see Sarah with her arm around her boyfriend Matthew’s neck. Sarah spied her as she approached, throwing her arms around her friend.

“The best of us!!! You made it!! So glad you’re here!”

“Hey lovebug.” She said with a smile.

“Where’s mine love?” Matthew whispered into Ember’s ear. She turned to see him standing there with open arms for her to fall into. He wrapped his arms tightly around her small frame.

“Go get her a drink. Something fruity remember.” Sarah said as she turned to Ember as Matthew headed to the bar. “So, he’s not here yet, but he’s on his way. He sent a text. Now, a bit about my darling cousin. We haven’t seen each other in forever, but we were always close growing up. He’s my favorite cousin. He’s a doctor, in his late thirties or early forties, who can remember. He’s a solid 90 kilograms, oh sorry, he’s about a hundred and ninety-eight pounds, six foot one, dark brown hair and a gorgeous pair of blue eyes. He’s gorgeous.”

“Well, that makes me feel very confident.”

“Why wouldn’t you?! You are gorgeous. I tell you that all the time. You look fabulous by the way.”

“Thank you and just because you say it that doesn’t make it true.”

“You are.”

“Standing next to Medusa, sure and that’s a strong maybe.”

“Ember, my love. You are a beautiful woman and trust me. He’s going to love you.”

“And you know this how?”

“Because my friend, my cousin has a type and you fit it to a tee.” She said wrapping her arm around Ember’s shoulder. “Right down to that beautiful golden-brown skin of yours, but mostly it’s your hair. He loves a curly, reddish brown-haired girl. Oh, his name is William, but everyone calls him Will. And there he is!” She said rushing over and jumping into the arms of a man that had just entered the pub. Ember couldn’t believe her eyes. Sarah didn’t lie, he was gorgeous, too gorgeous. Sarah took him by the hand and pulled him toward their little corner of the pub as Matthew handed her a drink. Ember was nervous suddenly as Will stood in front of her.

“Everyone, this is my cousin Will.” Sarah started. “Will, this is my boyfriend Matthew and this is Ember.”

Will smiled and shook her hand. “It’s a pleasure.” He said bending in towards her so she could hear him over the commotion in the room.

“The pleasure is mine.” Ember responded. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him. He’s beautiful, she thought, and he has a dimple in his chin. There’s no way I have a chance with this man. She realized suddenly that he still had hold of her hand. “Umm, did you want to keep it?” She asked. She could see that he didn’t understand the question. “My hand?” she added. He looked down and saw he still had her hand in his.

“Oh.” He chuckled. “Apologies. Got lost in a thought. But if you’re offering, I wouldn’t be opposed.”

She smiled. “I’ll make a note of your interest.”

Sarah was right. He was very interested and she had to admit, so was she. Oddly enough he had the same down to earth personality as his cousin and apparently that smile ran in the family as well. She sipped on her drink as they talked. She wanted to hear about his travels. He wanted to know why she left the States. He told her about his dream trip to Japan that he would take one day. She told him about growing up in New Jersey. Will saw she had finished her drink.

“Would you like another?” He asked pointing at her glass.

“What I’d really like is a glass of wine and a bit of quiet.” She said plainly.

“Really? I think I may be able to supply you with both. If you’re willing to take a chance on a man you just met?” Will asked. Ember watched as he held out his hand to her. “Join me?”

Ember placed her hand softly in his. “I’d love to.” She answered with a smile. After saying their good nights Sarah watched the door to the pub close behind them.

“So, what do you think? Sex?” Matthew asked. Sarah pushed him playfully.

“Something better.” She replied.

Ember glanced out of the car window with a little awe. Will had taken her to his home in Enfield on the River Lea. He took her hand and led her down the walk pass a row of rose bushes to an access to the river from his garden.

“This is beautiful, much nicer than my one-bedroom flat.” Said Ember. Will chuckled.

“It belonged to my parents. I grew up here.” He explained. “Have a seat here and I will be back in a moment.” Ember sat down as he headed off into the house. Will had been gone a while. She started to wonder if he’d forgotten her. She looked down at her watch. It was nearly midnight. She turned suddenly at the sound of footsteps behind her. She saw Will making his way back to her carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses.

“I was starting to think you forgot about me.” She said softly.

“I don’t believe I could ever.” He said with a smile. “You are quite unforgettable.”

“That’s very kind of you to say.” She lowered her eyes to her hands, slightly embarrassed by the compliment. Will poured wine into the glasses and handed one to Ember.

“It took me a little while to find this bottle. I thought you might like it.” He said taking the seat beside her. “You strike me as someone who likes sweet things.”

“You would be right.” She chuckled. “I have a really big sweet tooth.” Will smiled.

“You’ll taste the strawberry, cherry, raspberry, violets. It has a full body, a bright acidity. Have a taste.” Will watched as Ember took a sip of the wine. He could see by the look on her face that she liked it. “Now you should ask me what it is. Go ahead, ask.”

“Ok. What is this?” She asked playfully.

“This is Jetbird. A 2019 Merlot from the North Coast of California. You love it?”

“It’s delicious. Why’d you choose this one?”

“Honest answer?”

“Yes, please.”

“It reminded me of you. Beautifully balanced.” He noticed his last comment made her withdraw a little.

“You don’t hold back, do you?” She asked.

“Not usually. But I am gentle.” He chuckled. “Why did your parents name you Ember? It’s a rather unusual name.”

“My mother thought she saw fire in my eyes when I was born. So, she named me Ember like embers from a fire.”

“Beautiful sentiment.” He added.

The hours drifted on. Will couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She was smart, funny and articulate. He didn’t want the night to end and he couldn’t thank Sarah enough for talking him into meeting them for a drink after his shift at the hospital. He enjoyed every moment he spent with Ember. He could only hope she enjoyed it as much as he did. Ember glanced down at her watch. Three am.

“It’s late, isn’t it?” He blurted out. “We’ve finished the bottle of Merlot. I would drive you home but I think I’ve had a bit too much to drink. I will make up the guest room for you.” He held out his hand as he stood from his chair. “Unless you feel uncomfortable about staying the night? I can call a car.”

“No, don’t be silly. I’m fine with staying. It’s not very often I get to stay in a beautiful home along side a river. I’ll stay.”

Ember woke to the sun bathing the room. She grabbed her phone as she sat up. There were sixteen text messages from Sarah. Where are you? What happened? Are you staying with Will? Did you have sex with my cousin? He’s fabulous, isn’t he? Will was fabulous. Obviously intelligent, thoughtful and extremely handsome. She liked him a lot. She enjoyed her time with him the night before and would do it again in a heartbeat. The knock at the door brought her back from her thoughts. As the door crept open, she saw Will carefully enter holding a tray.

“I took the liberty of making your breakfast.” He said sitting the tray over her lap in bed.

“Breakfast in bed. You cook? There’s something you didn’t mention last night.” She said in sweet surprise.

“If I had let on last night, I wouldn’t be such a great catch this morning.” He said jokingly.

“It looks delicious. Thank you.” Ember said placing her hand on his forearm. They both felt the energy in the room change.

“I think a little reward is in order for the chef this beautiful morning.” He whispered. She could feel her heart pounding as he leaned in to kiss her. He pressed his lips softly to hers. They both felt a relief that it was finally done. They connected. Will smiled softly. “I want to see you again. Can I see you again?”

Ember smiled. “I’ll bring the Merlot.”


About the author

Gail Alston

Single mother of one, doting aunt and sister. I have been writing since the age of thirteen. I consider myself more of a poet of which my favorite is Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I am in complete love with English prose...

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