It's that time again! Before I start, let me just say that my French is not up to par, so I've used my trusty friend Google Translate for help. Anyway, I hope you guys like this chapter! Without further ado, let's get started!
Chapter 11: Early Birds and Worms
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” - William Hazlitt
To call the establishment “nice” would have probably been considered an insult rather than a compliment because Les Yeux Ambrés was so much more than that. It was the very definition of splendour and grandeur that didn’t come off as haughty and unwelcoming, a place with top of the line service that still remained personable, original, and friendly - and that’s why Amy loved it so much. It was the only restaurant in all of Massachusetts that had history and heart, and even a semblance of home, and she could safely say that it was one of the very few things she had dearly missed while she was away.
Amy closed her eyes and breathed in the place’s rich, flowery smell. Lavender seemed like the scent of the day, but it was somehow made even more delightful by the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread coming from the kitchens, and the sound of a water fountain dripping daintily nearby. The lobby was full of other guests, all who looked just as marveled by their surroundings and excited for their meal as she was, and the delightful chatter was reaching a volume that seemed to be giving the poor young hostess at the front a massive headache.
She smiled as she remembered her first time at the French setup. Grace had taken her and Dan there for lunch when she was just eight to give them a taste of real culture for “educational purposes”. She had then proceeded to tell them how she had befriended the owner when she was traveling abroad, and had tried to persuade her to move to the ‘States and open up her own place for years because her gift was one that just had to be shared. But the owner had no money, and was devastated to turn down Grace’s offer. Yet, Grace didn’t let that sway her - eventually she convinced the woman to let her be her patroness, and fund the establishment, and even though the owner tried to turn her down again and again, she relented after much begging and pleading from the adventurer. Thus, Amy’s safe haven was born.
Though she doubted that Dan even remembered ever dining there, let alone the story behind the restaurant’s existence, Amy never forgot. As she grew older, the place became as important to her as it were to her grandmother, and she went there often, either to reminisce on the past, or to think about the future - however uncertain it was.
“Amélie?” Amy grinned widely at the nickname. She turned around slowly and met the big blue eyes of a curly-haired sixty-year-old woman who was staring at her in surprise and adoration. “Iz zat weally you?”
“Salut, Marguerite - ” She didn’t have time to finish her poor attempt at speaking French before the owner shrilly screamed and enveloped her in the tightest hug she had ever received. Amy laughed and wrapped her arms around the unusually strong elder. God, she had missed the crazy bat.
“Mon chérie! Ma belle fille, je t'ai manqué!” Marguerite yelled, clinging onto Amy as if her life depended on it. “Iz been too long! When I zaw ze name ‘Cahill’ in ze book, I thought it waz your brother I should be expecting, not you, zilly girl. Now I have to change ze whole menu!”
“Oh, Marguerite, please don’t, I’m sure what you’ve got planned already will be delicious - ”
“Don’t be stupid, iz tradition!” Marguerite exclaimed, flipping her long, gray hair over her shoulder like the teenager she was at heart.
Amy rolled her eyes, smiling slightly, and let the woman have her way. When it came to her rituals, nobody could convince Marguerite Beaufort to forego them under any circumstance. To her, traditions were what made life special, and gave one something to look forward to. To take such delicacies away was simply unacceptable in her books. Amy loved the woman even more for her reasoning, however wonky it was.
“Now,” Marguerite started, as she linked her arm through Amy’s. “Before I take you to your table, tell me all about your life in ze New York, and your better have a good explanation for not viziting me more often!”
“Marguerite, you know I hardly visited anybody,” Amy reasoned.
“If you zay zo,” said the elderly woman, rolling her eyes in the process. “Though if I believe you, I still haven’t decided. Now, enlighten me about ze New York, I’ve always wanted to go!”
Amy giggled at the woman’s over the top hand gestures, and tried to think of the best way to summarize the past five years. She was used to getting asked such questions, but it seemed like every time she had to recount her life story, it got harder and harder to tell. She opened her mouth, preparing to begin, but then heard someone clearing their throat behind her.
The women turned around and were met with the unusual sight of Ian Kabra adjusting his tie, looking every bit as uncomfortable as Amy felt. She cursed him for still looking as handsome and put together as ever, despite having a tension around him that one could only cut through with a very sharp knife.
“Amy,” he said, running a hand through his jet-black hair. “There you are. I was beginning to think that I had the wrong establishment.”
“Forget about ze New York,” Marguerite stage whispered. “Who iz dat?”
Amy felt a heat creep up her neck and she willed herself to calm down. “Marguerite, may I introduce you to Ian, he’s my . . . friend.”
Marguerite narrowed her eyes as if to say, okay, I don’t believe you, but okay.
“Charmed,” Ian said, shaking the older woman’s hand politely. He kept glancing back at Amy, making her wonder if there was something on her face. The way her luck was going, it was a definite possibility.
“Marguerite is an old friend of the family’s, she actually owns the restaurant, which has such a rich history and - ”
“Amélie, stop boring ‘im to death, nobody cares!” the woman exclaimed loudly, causing Ian to stifle a laugh. Amy just wish that some God out there would smite her, so she could stop feeling as if she were about to come to a boil. “We’re in ze company of an incredibly gorgeous man, and all you can talk about iz my restaurant? ‘ave I taught you nothing? Make a move, ma fille!”
“Marguerite!” Amy hissed. She didn’t dare look over at Ian, not unless she wished to give a whole new meaning to the word “blush”.
“Alright, alright,” the insolent woman relented. “I’m only teasing. Now, I’m betting you two ‘ave a lot to discuss - ”
Nope, not really.
“So, I think iz time to take you to your table, no?”
Ian flashed a blinding smile at the owner that would make any woman swoon. Well, almost any woman. “Merci Marguerite, cela serait très apprécié. Et puis-je simplement dire que votre place est extraordinaire, je suis tellement honoré d'avoir été invité à dîner ici.”
Both women raised a brow at his musical phrasing. Marguerite laughed slightly. “Charming, ‘andsome, and speaks French? Amy, keep him.”
That’s it. “Our table, Marguerite?”
“Right, follow me,” she giggled, and led them away.
Aside from thinking of the many colorful ways she could strangle the grandma-like figure currently chatting with the source of all her problems, Amy was panicking. Nobody was here yet, and she was about to be stuck attempting to make small talk with Ian freaking Kabra. This was what her nightmares were made of.
She wasn’t prepared for this! What was she going to say, how was she going to behave? Does she pretend that Nellie’s wedding just never happened? Or maybe that the Lucian just never became her friend? Maybe she should just run away again, and pray that he just wouldn’t care enough to follow her.
God, why couldn’t the past just stay in the past?
Marguerite led them to a big table all the way in the terrace, which had a beautiful garden view. Amy took in an awed breath when she spotted the many flowers decorating her surroundings - it was almost enough to distract her from her troubles. “Your table, mes chéris. What would you like to drink?”
“Just some water, s'il vous plaît," Ian answered.
Amy grimaced. “Same for me.”
“Alright, I’ll be right back!” And then Marguerite was gone, and Amy and Ian were alone at last.
A horrible awkward silence engulfed the two, and Amy prayed to the heavens above that she could find something semi-intelligent to say. Alas, it seemed like the Gods rather liked seeing her so frazzled - it must have been some sort of new form of entertainment for them.
Amy pouted and tried to look at anything but the amber-eyed man before her. This was so ridiculous, she could sue.
Where is everybody?
“So, um . . . ” Amy looked up at the sound of Ian’s voice. He was fiddling with his napkin, twisting it around like a pretzel, and Amy frowned a little. Could the great Cahill leader actually be . . . nervous? Around her? “I-I’ve heard that you’ve done well for yourself in the last couple of years. Not that you’ve never done well for yourself before! I mean, you’re Amy Cahill, of course you’ve done well for yourself, but what I meant was that you’ve done really well, which is a whole different level of wellness - lord, where am I going with this - ”
Amy’s lips twitched upwards a little. Definitely nervous. Maybe she wasn’t as alone in this as she had originally thought.
“What I meant to say was that I heard that you were doing well, and that is just wonderful,” Ian finally let out, slumping back in his chair and covering his face with his hands. He looked like he didn’t know whether he wanted to laugh, cry, die of embarrassment, or all of the above. She could relate.
“This is weird,” she admitted after a long pause, scratching the nape of her neck.
Ian scoffed. “Tell me about it. I mean, I haven’t seen or heard from you in five years, and then suddenly, you become the bloody ghost of Christmas past, and reappear back into my life out of the blue - I don’t know how to react to something like that!”
“Yeah, I get that.” Amy swore she heard crickets chirping. This was definitely going on her list of Top Ten Uncomfortable Situations That I’ve Been In.
Actually, no. This was more of a Top Five thing.
“I mean, our last form of communication was through your lawyer to finalize your resignation,” Ian said quietly. Amy squirmed, not liking this somber turn of their conversation. She could hear the unspoken questions hidden underneath his statement, and it drew a pained expression to her face.
Why did you leave me to do that job alone?
Why didn’t you return any of my attempts to talk to you?
What did I do to make you hate me so much?
Amy cringed in shame. None of this was his fault, but he had probably blamed himself for her leaving for a long time. Guilt gnawed at her stomach - she was not a good person. What was she going to do now? She couldn’t tell him the truth, god no, that would do more harm than good, but she had to do something.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” That came out worse out loud than it did in her head. Great, now she sounded like a spoiled brat.
“I’m sorry,” she tried again. “There were problems at home, and I needed to go back immediately.” So far, so good. “The job just . . . got in the way, and I felt that it was best to exit the family business as soon as possible, so I’m sorry for not giving you a warning. I just needed time away, so I wasn’t really in contact much over the years. Life kind of happened, and then it seemed like I just didn’t have any time for any inconveniences.”
There were so many holes in her story, but if he knew that she was lying, he didn’t show it.
Finally, Ian took a deep breath. “I am so sorry to have been such an inconvenience to you, Amy,” he spit out with so much venom, she actually flinched. Ouch.
Amy looked back down at her lap, willing her eyes not to water. That stung, but if she were truly honest with herself, she deserved that.
“I’m sorry,” he sighed, running his hand through his hair again. “That was a bit harsh.”
She looked up slowly, but found him sporting a famous and familiar expression she had hoped she’d never see again - the signature I’m-a-screw-up-who-can’t-do-anything-right-by-anyone look. It appeared like their brief but heavy conversation had aged him twenty years, and her remorse doubled. Ian had every right to be mad at her, she was the one who left. He didn’t purposely mean to hurt her all those years ago - she was unavailable, how was he supposed to know she felt that way? But honestly, she had meant to hurt him, and it worked.
Amy stifled a groan. She should have known that her actions would come back to bite her in the butt later on in life. Now she had to fix this - and fast - if she had any hope of getting through the next couple of months unscathed.
She glanced back at the distressed man, who looked like he wanted to poke his eyes out with the salad fork in front of him.
Well, there was no time like the present.
“It’s alright,” Amy said reassuringly with a small smile. “I understand.”
Ian looked at her with a dubious expression, and hesitantly returned her simper.
“Look, I know this mess happened a long time ago, but obviously it’s still not resolved,” she started. “So, I have a proposition for you - why don’t we start over?”
“Start over?” he asked, looking puzzled.
“Yeah,” Amy said. “Forget the past, and wipe our slate clean?”
Ian didn’t look convinced, but she just grinned shyly at him. “I mean, we’ve done it plenty of times before, how hard could it be, right?”
Finally, he chuckled, and it encouraged her to go on. She cleared her throat, and stuck out her hand. “Hi, I’m Amy Cahill. I am a dedicated workaholic living the good life in New York, I watch reruns of Kim Possible almost every Friday night, and once upon a time, I had the pleasure of running a crazy family alongside a most extraordinary guy.”
Ian cracked a small smile, and shook her hand tentatively. “It’s very nice to meet you, Amy. My name is Ian, Ian Kabra, and I think that this should work out just fine.”
And with that, our lovers vowed to forget their shared past, but if we're being honest . . . how long could that last? XD Well, I hope you liked this chapter! Ian and Amy's first talk to each other! I wonder what path that's gonna send those two on. Thoughts on Marguerite? I LOVED writing her, btw. Anyway, until next time, my friends! Tune in on Friday!