“I have a reservation for four, please. McVeigh,” Kurt told the girl at the reception, who quickly checked her notes.
Diane was not surprised to see the restaurant completely packed, on a beautiful blue sky Sunday afternoon. Since it had been selected one of Chicago's best meat restaurants in some glamorous and shallow magazine, it was almost impossible to find a table on a regular day basis.
The last time she was there, she had lunch with Maia and Amy. On that day, she saw her husband at an isolated table, in the far corner, looking lonely and heartbroken. He was there to meet Monica and Eric, who had actually brought him excellent news - due to his first book success in sales, the publisher was ready to invest not only in a second, but a third book as well.
A year later, she was back at that same place with him and the young couple, ready to celebrate the success of his new book. She was glad to learn that they had become not only trustful business partners, but also Kurt’s loyal friends during one of the darkest times of his life. Gladly, he had at least found kind and honest people he could rely on.
As the maître lead them to a large round table by the window, she thought about everything that had happened in the past year. He had written yet another book, she was now a name partner at Reddick, Boseman and Lockhart and Maia was arrested as the result of Henry’s coward and dishonest accusations.
She was rather surprised when Barbara decided to leave the firm and go to Washington to open her own business. Although Barbara was certainly one of the last names on her list, eventually one of the partners was going to feel threatened by the number of new important clients she had brought to the firm. More specifically, by what those clients represented to the firm’s annual billing.
Diane was certainly the best and right choice, since she had a respected and important reputation in town and years of experience in court. Before she was confirmed as the new name partner, Julius declined the offer, as he had always hated the bureaucracy and the meetings, planning and decisions the directors had to endure regularly.
Maia, on the other hand, had probably lived through one of the worst years of her life. Apparently, being betrayed by your own father was one of those tricks life played on you. Maia had admirably dealt with the whole situation with dignity and her head held high. She couldn't have been more proud of her goddaughter.
Still, it was clear that Maia had lost a little of her innocence, only to become tougher and more realistic. She had developed a thick skin that Diane had only seen on people who had suffered in life. Those were probably the strongest people she knew.
When they arrived at the exclusively reserved table, Kurt pulled up a chair for her to sit and she smiled thankfully. Only a few seconds later, he sat down himself, placed the napkin on his lap and his hand on her knee beneath the table, as he always did when they were next to each other.
“Is everything ready for the trip, Kurt?” Monica asked, making small conversation, “This one will be longer than usual,” she completed, after her husband caught the attention of a nearby waiter.
Kurt looked at Diane, before smiling weakly, “Yeah, I guess. Two months away on the other side of the world still puts me on the very edge.”
“He hates long flights,” Diane smiled back at him, placing her hand on top of his, squeezing it briefly. He wasn't really happy about the trip and she knew why. Once again, he was going to stay away from her for too many days.
As soon as they came back together, he moved to Chicago for good and she tried to keep up with regular office times. They went to the farm regularly on the weekends and had dinner or lunch frequently during the week. They desperately wanted to stay together as much as possible.
For the first three months, she managed to arrive home early. However, the moment Barbara confirmed her exit and she was formally announced as the third named partner at R.B.L., everything came back to the usual frenetic schedule.
He spent his first days at home, working on his new book. He had decided to keep it safe and chose technology in ballistics as the theme, something that surprisingly everybody wanted to hear more about. The entire book was written in just four months and even before the launch, it was already an instant success.
Invitations for workshops and speeches were countless, including interviews on specialized magazines. Private and public local organizations were the first to show interest in his lectures and he soon started to receive national invitations. It didn't take much longer until they became international.
Before she met him, she had never really understood the fascination people had for guns. Even though she had always thought that that inconsequent madness was exclusively American, apparently Australians and Canadians shared the same obsession.
“Kurt, you know Australia is your third biggest market. People are interested to know more about how the new technologies could help solving crimes. And there is no one better to talk about the subject than you,” Monica told him, after accepting the menu from the waiter.
“Which reminds me,” Eric continued, opening the menu himself and looking at the options, “We have to plan that other trip to Canada. The local editor keeps telling me that he wants to go ahead with those workshops in Toronto and Vancouver. They are also talking about a possible television interview.”
She heard Kurt sighing deeply when he closed and placed the menu on the table, ”Let’s try to avoid those for the time being.”
“I know you hate television and radio, Kurt, but they are inevitable. Besides, they do wonders to the divulgation,” Monica told him and turned to the waiter only moments later, “Could you please bring us a bottle of this red wine? I need more time to choose the main course though.”
“Me too, if you don’t mind,” Diane added, before Eric placed his order. The young man agreed politely, taking a few notes on his electronic notepad.
“I will have the steak, rare, with mash and salad, please,” Kurt told the waiter, which made Diane chuckle. As always, it didn’t take long for him to make a decision and order his favourite dish. He never changed.
“I’m really torn between the steak and the ribs,” Monica mentioned to no one in particular, after the waiter left their presence, “Anyway, have you thought about the next book, what it will be about?”
Kurt ran a hand through his hair and sat back on the chair. Despite his love for the subject and how much he was enjoying being an author more than he could have ever imagined, he also hated everything else that came with it. Launch cocktails, interviews, workshops and speeches were overwhelmingly demanding most of the times.
“Possibly about famous crimes and how forensic and ballistic analysis helped solving them,” he told them, after laying his arm over the back of Diane’s chair.
“Sounds good to me,” Eric said, nodding, “Just avoid unsolved crimes. That can be way too controversial.”
Another waiter brought back glasses and the chosen wine and they all cheered for the success of Kurt’s new book. “Looks like our girls need more time to decide,” Eric told the young man, making Diane and Monica share a smile.
After reading her options again, Diane looked through the window for a minute, lost in thought. As her husband and his friends engaged in conversation, she watched a valet greet and welcome an older couple who had just arrived at the restaurant, helping them getting out of the car.
She was still afraid to admit the truth. They were slowly falling into the same past mistakes, spending less and less time with each other. Dinners and lunches were a rare happy occasion and those farm weekend retreats were now only happening once a month.
He was concerned too and she knew it. When they got back together, everything semed irrelevant next to the desire of making it work. Slowly, however, they understood that they had to deal with the little surprises life threw at them. So many things had happened that hadn’t been planned and had already tried to interfere with their marriage, now that they were leaving together again.
She saw another couple talking to the valet at the entrance of the restaurant. He waved to a nearby Mercedes, nodded and smiled when the friendly customer told him something. It was then that she realized who the elegantly dressed man was.
She hadn't seen him in months. True to his words, he had sent Dan on his place rather than attending all those weekly Friday meetings himself. She also suspected that he was doing everything possible to avoid seeing her.
Now with a few more Republican clients on their list, Diane, Boseman and Reddick were constant guests at events and parties. On a few of those indeclinable invitations, she met his old friends, talked amicably with his partners, but he was nowhere to be found. Every time she went to T.A. & Fisher headquarters, he was never around.
The excuses were always the same: he was either travelling, busy with meetings or out having lunch with an important client. Natalie’s sympathetic smiles when she told her his whereabouts never failed to tell her the truth.
In that cold afternoon, he was wearing a tailored camel coat over a blue navy suit, as his fine blonde hair shone under the sun's light. Charming and incredibly handsome, exactly as she remembered. By his side, an elegant and pretty brunette held his arm intimately close to her body.
Diane frowned, trying to remember where she knew that woman from, but soon it all came back to her. Although she had never met her personally, she had heard about her once. On that occasion, when he told her about the doctor, he mentioned that she was a charming cardiologist from LA, who was in her late fifties.
The woman was prettier than she had imagined and she looked great for her age. Diane’s stomach turned when she saw him kissing his date's cheek, after he leaned slightly to hear something she had whispered to him. Perhaps unexpectedly seeing him with another woman was too much to handle.
But why was that image so disconcerting?
Deep down she knew she had felt something special for him and during all those months that they had been apart, she tried very hard to not think about what she might still feel for him.
She really had no right to feel anything at all. Especially now, considering that she had started over with her husband.
The woman said something else to him again when she opened her bag, taking out her phone. She answered it laughing and soon began to chat enthusiastically with the person on the other side of the line.
Before Diane knew it, he was looking inside the restaurant and staring at her. He opened his mouth slightly, looking surprised in the beginning. Her mind told her to avoid any eye contact, but she simply failed to do it.
The corners of his lips slowly turned into a beautiful smile. She smiled back at him and, for what seemed like minutes, time stood still when they just couldn’t take their eyes away from each other. Those lovely moments they shared, those short special days they had spent together, they all came back to her. She was always going to be grateful to him for making her happy during a very complicated period of her life.
His smile faded when he looked at her side. As far as she knew it, they had never been officially introduced, but she could tell that he had recognized her husband almost immediately.
“Is that him?” From a distance, he mouthed the words slowly at her, making a quick movement with his head. She nodded discreetly, confirming his suspicions. He slowly nodded back at her and narrowed his eyes at Kurt, taking a good look at him.
When he looked at her again, it was her turn to mouth those same words, “Is that her?” He chuckled and nodded, his smile coming back to his lips at full force. She nodded slowly and smiled wickedly at him, exactly as he had done just a minute before.
“You look beautiful,” he said, mouthing a few more words. Her cheeks felt warm as she watched his smile growing bigger. She lowered her head for a second, shaking it slightly, trying to hide her blush and smile. It was still so easy to flirt openly and shamelessly with him.
The car arrived and the woman by his side finished the call. She told him something else and thanked the valet when he politely opened the car’s door for her. Richard placed a hand on her back, answering with a quick smile, and allowed her to go first.
Before he could go inside as well, he looked in her direction again. Her heart started to beat faster when she realized that, for a brief moment, he seemed to hesitate.
No, you fool. Don't do it! She thought to herself, shaking her head slightly, eyes opened wide as she stared back at his. Whatever he was thinking of doing, he just couldn't. He definitely shouldn't.
He held the door opened and looked inside the car again, then back at her. He was probably thinking about the choices he had made and how he had let her go in the end. Perhaps he was wondering what would have happened if he hadn't given up on them so easily. And maybe, just maybe, she may had wanted him to fight just a little harder for her.
Sometimes, however, you simply have to accept the facts and learn to live with the painful consequences.
He gave her one last gentle smile and entered the car. She took a deep and long breath when it drove slowly away from the restaurant’s porte-cochere.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Monica waving at the nearest person. Diane looked down at the table and saw green and black olives, two baskets of various types of bread and pâtés. She had obviously missed when they brought over the covert.
A waitress approached their table this time and, as Monica instructed her order, she made a few notes on her electronic device.
“Diane,” she heard Kurt’s voice and felt his hand gently touching her arm. Everything had happened so fast that she was feeling a little lost, “Have you made a decision?”
She immediately looked at Kurt and stared at him for a few seconds. He had chosen those words unaware of what had just happened, but somehow they made perfect sense. Even after what they had been through and the mistakes they both had made, she still didn’t have any regrets.
“Yes,” she smiled at him and placed her hand over his, squeezing it tightly, “Yes, I have.”
Kurt smiled back, took her hand to his lips and kissed it gently. She turned her attention to the patient waitress and finally told her what she wanted.
It had taken a long time, but she made the best decision after all.