Gale Force Ch. 08byvelvetpie©
Season One, cont.
The production closed down for Christmas and New Years and since I didn't have any family, I spent my holidays serving people at the homeless shelter and preparing menus for the remainder of the season. There were only a few more episodes left, then I'd be out of a job unless it was a hit. Shooting resumed just after New Years and I was happy to see the cast and crew members back again. Breakfast was hectic; the first day back from the holiday had created a heightened sense of urgency and everyone felt it.
Jhonna was wrapping a few muffins when she gestured to a brightly-wrapped box left on the table. "That's for you."
"Jhonna, you didn't have to."
I just stared at her for a few moments before I reached for it. "Then who did?"
Jhonna just shrugged her shoulders and turned away with a slight smile. I lifted the box, surprised at the weight and took it to the side, carefully opening the beautiful wrapping paper and lifting the lid, spreading the tissue paper aside. Inside was the most beautiful book I'd ever seen. The scent of aged leather filled my nostrils as I gently touched the rough cover, running my fingertips over the embossed designs.
"Oh, my God! It's beautiful!"
I was so stunned that I couldn't offer words to agree with her. It was an illustrated history of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, fashioned of decorated parchment and hand-painted with gold leaf and water color tempera. All I could do was sit there and stare at it for a long moment before Jhonna nudged me to open the card that was discreetly tucked in the front.
Merry Christmas. G.
Everything went silent. I didn't hear the calls of the director. I didn't hear the creaking sounds of the cameras moving into their assigned positions. I didn't hear anything. All I could hear was the beating of my heart and my brain was filled with amazement. I breached time as I traveled back to maybe our third visit when I'd mentioned my love of all things Arthurian and had shown Gale my collection of memorabilia. We'd even watched Excalibur and listened to the Wagner opus afterward. It touched me deeply to know that he'd remembered.
"Who's it from?"
"Gale." I covered it back with tissue and replaced the lid. "I can't accept it."
"Jhonna, this isn't something that you just pick up from Barnes & Noble. This is an expensive gift!"
"Then what's the problem?"
"It's too expensive!"
"What did you get him?"
She knew what I'd gotten him. A year's worth of cooking classes with a local chef. Not only had our Sunday visits been about companionship but he had started reading my cookbooks and asking questions about things. I thought that the best thing that I could do for him was to get him lessons with someone who had been professionally trained. The cost was high, $10,000, but I was a Fat Girl, wasn't I? I was allowed to spend my hard-earned money frivolously, wasn't I?
"That's not the same, Jhonna."
"Why not? Seems to me that you read each other's minds and got each other presents that were meaningful. Why would you deny him the same joy?"
Yes. Why would I deny him the same joy? When I'd sent the package to his home address in New York, I had nearly burst with joy, knowing how much he would enjoy my gift, especially because the chef I'd chosen had fashioned a course that was based on his literary preferences. Chaucer's lunches, Michelangelo's breakfasts and Dali's dinners were just a few of the items to be covered and I knew that he'd be delighted.
"I ... "
"Just shut your mouth and say thank you."
When he came over on Sunday, I made sure that the book was front and center on the coffee table. "Nice book." He quipped, pouring drinks for us and I interrupted him to give him a long hug. "What was that for?"
"You know exactly what that was for."
We settled into our routine for the remainder of the season and all too soon, production was wrapping and I received my final payment for my services. Ron and Dan were overjoyed with my performance and wanted me to keep myself open for next year's production, presenting me with a contract that contained a substantial raise. I was flabbergasted but quickly signed it. I knew a fantastic opportunity when I saw it.
I held a wrap party at my house, inviting the cast who had welcomed me into their circle and we partied into the wee hours of the morning, dining on chicken roulades and lamb kebabs with jasmine-onion rice, cherry crumble and pumpkin-pecan pies. I noticed that Gale was uncharacteristically quiet and I stood beside him, giving him a gentle nudge.
"A penny for your thoughts."
He sighed, tossing half of his drink back as he looked over the assembly. "Just thinking about people I'll miss."
"Yeah, they are a wonderful group of actors, aren't they?"
"I was talking about you, too."
I took a moment to take a few gulps of my drink. "You won't miss me."
"No, but your stomach will."
He laughed and turned to me, touching my cheek with his fingers, his expression suddenly serious. "You're wrong. All of me will miss you."
When his lips touched mine, I froze, my brain unable to process the fact that Gale Harold was kissing me. It was a soft kiss, warm, tender and gentle and when it ended, I found myself shaking almost uncontrollably. He noticed and gave me a small smile, caressing my cheek gently.
"I hope you'll miss me, too."
"I will. Sundays will be terribly boring."
We just stared at each other for a few long moments, memorizing each other's features before Hal came over and dragged us back into the party. Two days later, Gale boarded a plane to New York and the season officially was at an end.