I pulled my coat closer around me as a frosty breeze ripped through the night. Snowflakes fell from the overcast sky, kissing the ends of my hair and the tip of my nose. It was just like Murray to ask me to meet him in this weather.
I checked my phone, blinking at the bright screen. Murray had said he would meet me outside of La Coupe Rose, our favorite cafe, ten minutes ago. If he made me wait much longer, I would have to break one of the darkened windows and make myself a latte.
“Lil! Lil, I’m so sorry!” Murray rushed around the corner; his face was bright red. I could tell he had left his apartment in a rush. His coat was unbuttoned and one of his shoes was untied. I stifled a laugh. This was exactly like the first time I met him.
Brown eyes. Why do they always have to have brown eyes? It was my expert opinion that any man with brown eyes was immediately untrustworthy. After two failed relationships, I refused to take my chances, even if he did have blond hair.
The new guy looked up from counting the change. “So now I give it to the customer?”
Slow and untrustworthy. A great combo. “Yeah. And make sure to close the drawer as soon as you’re done with the money.”
Customer after customer filtered through our line. Question after question from my trainee. After he asked me the same question for the fifth time, my patience wore thin. “If you can’t remember something as simple as handing change to the next customer, I’m going to tell the manager to fire you!”
He rubbed the back of his neck. The tag was sticking up and he obviously needed a haircut. “Wow, I’m sorry. I was just making sure I did it right. That’s all.”
I could feel the heat rush to my cheeks, but I ignored the guilt I was feeling for raising my voice. “Thanks. I’m taking my break now. And, by the way, your shoe is untied.”
“So, where are you taking me?”
Murray squeezed my hand and led me across a crosswalk, looking both ways even though the street was empty. “It’s a surprise, Liliane. You’ll love it, I promise.”
I guess I should have known he wouldn’t tell me. I smiled to myself, Murray and his surprises. We walked through snow dusted streets, passing the dark windows of every store. I didn’t recognize most of the shop names. I wondered if he was taking me to a new restaurant. Or maybe we were going the long way to the old movie theater. The one that only showed the silent films Murray was so obsessed with. The gardens were always a possibility too. We spent a few hours every week visiting the flowers and trees. Wherever he was taking me, I wish he had brought me in a car. I could feel icicles forming on the tip of my nose.
“It’s not that cold!”
“It is too and you know it, Murray.”
We both stood outside the store. Even with my thick coat, I was sure my bones would snap in two with all my shivering. I couldn’t believe Murray was still in his work shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
“Well, if you need a ride, I could take you home.”
I glanced at him. Even after he had finally gotten the hang of the register, I didn’t trust that he was trustworthy. And I definitely did not trust him behind the wheel. After Spencer rear ended that car on our last date, I only drove if it was necessary. And if I had to drive anywhere, I was behind the wheel.
“Look, you’re right. It’s cold. And you aren’t walking home alone in the dark. It might start snowing!” Was that genuine concern in his eyes or a trick of the moonlight?
I shivered again and made up my mind. “Fine, but only if you let me drive.”
“What, don’t you trust me?”
I followed Murray under a frosty canopy of trees and found myself in one of our favorite spots: the Jardin des Plantes. Snow hung heavy on the branches of every tree, threatening to drop their load on an ignorant wanderer. Our footprints followed behind us as we wound through the labyrinth of gardens.
“You always know when I need a walk through the gardens.”
He smiled. “Long day at work?”
I shrugged. “It was work.”
Murray’s hair fell into his eyes. “Someday, you’ll work here. Right in these gardens. And you’ll know the names of every plant and you’ll care for them. You’ll be able to tell with just a glance when they need water. You’ll spend your afternoons over in the rose garden, pruning the flowers and pricking yourself on the thorns. And I’ll come and visit you. We’ll have a picnic every day.” He wore a wistful expression as he described my ideal job. He talked with his hands, painting a picture of the only thing I had ever dreamed of. It sounded so real I could almost taste it.
I squinted in Murray’s direction. The sun was sinking lower behind the trees, light streaking above his head. I chuckled to myself; the sun’s positioning made him look like he had a halo. Which was fitting. But my laughing stopped as soon as it started. I couldn’t get attached to him. Boys with brown eyes break hearts.
“Lil, if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Murray asked, laying back on the blanket to stare up at the drifting clouds. I hesitated before lying down next to him, hyper aware of the few inches separating us.
I pretended to think about the question, even though I knew the answer as soon as he asked it. “Well, I’ve always thought that I would move to Paris one day. They have such beautiful gardens there. And I’ve always wanted to work with plants. I’d like to have a job tending to one of the rose gardens. I’ve seen pictures of one place where they have archways with flowers and greenery intertwined in the metal. It looks magical.”
I was so lost in my description, I didn’t notice the contemplative expression that Murray wore. He glanced at me, his eyes darting to mine, before he said, “Maybe one day, I’ll take
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel afraid of him anymore. I believed him. That he would take me to Paris one day. I tried to push my feelings away but it was no use, I had fallen for brown-eyed and seemingly untrustworthy Murray. I met the worried look that crossed his face and sighed. “Ok.”
I leaned closer into Murray’s embrace, hoping that the farther I retreated into his arms, the warmer I would be. He pulled the blanket farther around our shoulders, his head resting on mine. The metal of the bench was ice, but I would endure the cold for a moment like this. I watched a couple stroll under the metal arbors. The man spun his love under every archway, their laughter ringing across the garden. For a moment, I could imagine the same scene in early spring. The metal of the arbors would be barely visible under the whites and reds of budding roses. But even in the chill of winter, the gardens would never be bleak.
“You remember when we first met?” Murray moved away from me, searching my face.
“Of course, how could I forget? I was horrible to you!” I leaned closer to him, resting my head on his shoulder.
“I thought you were the biggest jerk.” I smiled at the hint of laughter in his voice. His gaze followed the couple as they wound down the pathway, farther from our bench.
“Well, I thought you were an untrustworthy heartbreaker.” Despite my teasing tone, I knew every word was true. I still couldn’t believe that I had thought my sweet Murray would break my heart.
“I’m glad I didn’t give up on you. I almost did, multiple times. But something kept me from leaving you. I don’t know what it was, but I couldn’t imagine a life without you!”
My heart skipped a beat. Life without Murray would mean a life without laughter. A life without picnics, lattes, and garden strolls. Without him, I wouldn’t know the words to every Taylor Swift song or have someone to play the piano for me. I wouldn’t call Paris home and I would never have known the magic of the city of lights during a snowfall. Murray fixed my heart and taught me the real definition of trust. A life without him meant a life without brown eyes and untied shoes.
I took a deep breath. “Never leave my life, ok.”
Murray’s eyes crinkled as he grinned at me. He stood, brushing the snow off of his shoulders. “I’m glad you said that. Because I wasn’t planning on ditching you anytime soon.”
Fireworks exploded in my stomach as Murray knelt, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a simple silver ring, small roses intertwined on the band. “Marry me?”