Valentine’s Day. Dan Murphy knocked on Molly Walsh’s dorm room door with a dozen roses in his hands and his heart in his throat. “No way that she will turn me down again, not on Valentine’s Day. It’s not like she has another date.” Dan and his Alpha frat brothers had put the word out on campus that Molly was off-limits. “She’d be pissed if she knew that, I’m sure, and she might think I was a stalker.” Dan thought.
Molly answered the door with a pint of ice-cream in her hand.
Her eyes lit up.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Thank you, Dan, these are beautiful.” Molly smiled as she accepted the roses and smelled them.
“I made our reservations at Constantini’s. If you say no this time, I’m going to be out a hundred bucks.”
Molly narrowed her eyes, looking puzzled. “Why?”
“It’s Valentine’s Day. The restaurant has been fully booked for months; they go all out for Valentine’s Day, a special menu, live classical music, dancing. Pete’s sister is the hostess there, so she got me a table, but I had to slip her a benjamin, and I don’t get it back.”
“Well, I’d hate for you to be out a hundred,” Molly said as she held the door open. “Come in. What time is the reservation for?”
“We have an hour.”
“I’ll go get ready. There are some snacks in the cupboard next to the fridge if you want anything. Middle shelf, my roomie Nicole keeps her snacks on the bottom shelf.” Molly put the roses in a vase with water, then went to her room to get dressed.
Dan lounged on the couch and flipped through channels while he waited for Molly to get ready.
“I wonder what she will wear. Her outfit will give me a clue to where I stand with her, I hope.”
Dan spotted a mirror by the door, so he went over to check his outfit. He wore a black leather trench coat, black jeans, and a blue turtleneck, which brought out his blue eyes. Dan had gelled his black hair and swirled his bangs slickly to the side. Deciding his hair looked good, he smoothed down his sideburns and sat back on the couch again.
He whistled when Molly returned to the room about a half-hour later. She was wearing a red sequined mini dress with spaghetti straps and matching high heels.
This was the first time Dan had seen Molly with her hair down, and he admired the long, red curls that floated around her shoulders.
“You should wear your hair down more often,” Dan said as Molly pulled a long red winter coat out of the closet near the front door. As he helped her put her jacket on, he rubbed a lock of her hair between his fingers. “Soft as a kitten’s fur,” he thought.
At the restaurant, the hostess winked and showed them to a private table in the back.
The round table was covered with a plush white tablecloth and so small that Dan and Molly’s knees touched under the table. There was a pewter centerpiece containing two red roses with a tapered candle in a holder between them.
“This is lovely,” Molly said, looking around, her eyes shining.
“So are you,” Dan replied. “I adore that dress on you.”
“Thank you. You look good too, and I like your leather jacket.”
The waiter came and took their order, and the orchestra started playing, and a woman in a glittering gold dress glided to the center of the stage.
“I recognize the song they’re playing; it’s called the Ecstasy of Gold by Ennio Morricone,” Molly said.
“Oh. I don’t know much about classical music. I’m impressed by the high notes that singer can hit, though.”
Molly laughed and turned back to look at him. “Most people aren’t. My mother is a music teacher, and Morricone is one of her favorite composers. She adores this song.”
“Do you play any instruments?” Dan asked.
“No. My mother’s talent seems to have passed me by; she tried for years to teach me piano, but I was never interested, and I don’t have the affinity for it. What type of music do you listen to, Dan?”
“Rock. Mostly modern, but I like some classic rock too.”
“Me too,” Molly replied.
The glittering singer left the stage, and the orchestra changed tempo. Dan squinted and listened carefully. “Is that...the song they’re playing sounds the opening theme to the movie ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”
Molly tilted her wine glass towards him. “Good catch. Yes, Morricone wrote the score for that movie. It’s jarring that it is part of this composition, isn’t it?”
“It sure is. It reminds me of Bohemian Rhapsody,” Dan said.
“Oh, because of the unexpected changes, I get that,” Molly said.
Having found surprising common ground in their musical tastes, they chatted happily about both Rock and classical music until their food arrived. They were surprised by how fast the time went, as they were so deep in conversation.
Molly had ordered Gnocchi alla Sorrentina with melted mozzarella, house tomato sauce, and basil. Dan had Pappardelle Bolognese, consisting of ribbon pasta, slowly braised pork, and beef in a classic bolognese sauce. They each had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dan dug into his food. The pappardelle was wide ribbon-like noodles. The beef and pork added a meaty flavor to the traditional sauce and made it a hearty meal.
“That looks delicious,” Molly commented, eyeing his plate. “Are those tomatoes and onions?”
“Yes, try some,” Dan said, pushing his plate over to Molly’s side of the table.
“Ooh, thank you. Try mine!”
They swapped plates.
“I never share my food,” Dan said, his eyes sparkling, “This makes you special, so I hope you appreciate it,” he laughed so his words wouldn’t sound mean.
Molly laughed too, “I do, feel special. Not only because you shared your food, but all of this. I’m surprised; you didn’t seem like the fancy restaurant type.”
“I know because I have the reputation of being a partyer. Rumors aren’t always true.”
“Yeah. You said you wouldn’t date me because you believed the rumors that I slept with half the co-eds at NYU.”
“And you’re saying it’s not true?”
“Not entirely. There have been chicks, and I won’t deny that. But no more than the other guys on the soccer team. There’s no shortage of soccer groupies.”
“And what about your party-boy reputation? I’m not trying to be mean,” Molly said. “I just want to get to know you.”
Dan poked at the food in front of him for a moment before he answered.
“That was earned. I started drinking a lot towards the end of my freshman year. That was the year my parents died.” He looked down at the table. “A tractor-trailer was going too fast in the lane next to them. It hit a patch of black ice...and that was it. My mom and dad died on impact.”
“Why am I telling her this? I never open up to people like this. It’s easier just to hide behind the party-boy persona she despises so much...I should just...:”
Molly interrupted Dan’s gloomy thoughts by laying her warm and soft hand over his on the table.
“I had it all wrong. I’m sorry. I’m surprised… I didn’t know you at all. I’m glad I went on this date with you. It’s perfect.”
“And you have surprised me with your extensive musical knowledge, Kitten.”
“Excuse me, Kitten?” Molly asked.
“It’s your hair, soft as a kitten’s. I thought it was a suitable nickname.”