THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
don't know what to say," Leticia stammered awkwardly as she began to feel
her heart race inside her chest. "I...never expected to hear you say
that. Well, at least not yet."
"I didn't expect it
either," Fred smiled warmly. "It's just that...well...you have
such a profound effect on me. Knowing you has completely changed my
life. I go to bed at night with thoughts of you and they're still inside
my head when I wake up in the morning."
"Fred, darling, I...often think
the same things, myself," she confessed softly as she hung her head.
"But...we haven't really being seeing one another long enough to..."
know that it's sudden. I know that it must come as a shock to you,"
he began to explain as he held onto her hand. "It's been quite a
shock for me, as well. I thought that I was too old and too jaded by life
to feel this way, but you---just being you---have made me realize that there's
more to life than my work at the hospital. You've brought a ray of
sunshine into my life that seems to make every one of my days just a little
brighter and...well...the birds chirp a little sweeter."
"You're going to make me
blush," she laughed.
"Oh, please do!" he ginned
impishly. "You're so beautiful when you blush."
Leticia paused for a moment and
considered what he'd said before taking a deep breath and speaking again.
"I'm flattered by all of this. Really I am," she said as she
tried to choose her words carefully. "And...I don't think words can
even begin to express the warm feeling inside me that hearing that causes,
"There's always a
'but'," Fred sighed, obviously crestfallen.
"Darling, I just can't
say it back," she tried to explain carefully. "It's just...too
soon. I hope that you weren't expecting me to..."
"No, not at all," he
replied softly. "I wasn't expecting anything from you at all. I
didn't tell you I love you because I wanted to hear it back. Now, don't
get me wrong, it would thrill my soul to no end to hear those same words from
you, but I only told you because it's true. I just...didn't think that
I could go another day without proclaiming what I feel in my heart."
"Oh, Fred, I truly wish that I
could tell you that I love you, but...well...it's just too soon." She
lowered her head and took another deep breath. "But I...do have my
own confession to make."
"Yes," she nodded.
"These last few months that we've spent getting to know one another have
been...one of the most joyous times of my life. You make me feel things
that I...well...thought that I was incapable of feeling ever again. I gave
up hope a long time ago of ever feeling this way again."
please let me finish." She looked deeply into his eyes and
continued. "Right now, I can't say that I love you, but I also can't
say that I'm never going to say it. If I were to tell you that I have no
feelings for you, it would be a bold faced lie. I do have feelings
for you, but...I'm not sure that I can call it love. It...might be,
but...I'm not sure. I'm sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry
for," he grinned. "In fact, you've given me one of the greatest
gifts that I could ever imagine."
"Yes," he nodded.
"You've given me the gift of hope. Even though you can't openly
return my love now, I have hope that, one day, you will be able to.
And I can assure you, that day will be the happiest day of my entire
life." He paused and looked down at the ring that he'd placed on her
hand. "I hope that you'll keep the ring even though...you don't
exactly share my feelings right now. Keep it and wear it as a symbol of
hope---hope for the future."
"I...will," she smiled as
she glanced down at the ring and saw it sparkle in the light. "I'll
wear it as a symbol of hope...for our future."
As Fred again took Leticia's hand
into his, he smiled. However, his smile was not brought upon by Leticia's
emotional confession. This smile was more of a smile of victory. He
almost had her right where he wanted her, but there was still something holding
her back. He could tell that she wanted to profess her love for him, but
something was clearly stopping her and he was convinced that it was more than
the excuse that she'd given.
Looking deeply into her eyes, he
knew exactly what the real reason was---Nelson. No matter how her husband
had treated her or what growing feelings for Fred that Leticia might have, there
was still a part of her that refused to let go of her husband whether she wanted
to admit it or not. Of course, if Nelson were completely out of the way,
there would be nothing for her to hold onto but a ghost; and Fred was certain
that Leticia was much too level headed and practical for that.