Nonnie Jules is the founder and President of RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB, as well as interviewer of RRBC authors in the famed, “Who’s On The Shelf With Nonnie?” interviews. Her interviewing skills are legendary and she decided to accompany Author, John Fioravanti, through space and time to another galaxy 700 years into the future. Nonnie’s goal is to meet the key personalities on planet Genesis featured in Fioravanti’s series, The Genesis Saga, and utilize her formidable skills to find out something more about these characters. This scene is the thirteenth of many, which will follow.
In the last episode, Nonnie and John disappeared from the Campus Café after Annie and Marie left to track down Marco. They reappear in the formal living room of Marco’s campus home, several weeks later, Genesis time.
Nonnie: (Nonnie looks around at the familiar room and is visibly calmer.) “This is Marco’s house, John. Where is Marco? Is he alright?”
John: “Yes, you are correct on both counts, Nonnie. I know you love a good romance, so I thought you might like to have a peek at Marco and Marie’s first date.”
Nonnie: (Indignantly) “I’m no peeping Thomasina! I suppose we’re invisible again…”
(Her statement is cut off as a tall black man arrives in the front foyer from the rear of the house. Nonnie’s jaw drops and she looks at me raising an eyebrow in question. The man doesn’t see us and proceeds to open the door, graciously welcoming Marco and Marie.)
“John, who is that guy, the butler?”
John: (Chuckling) “No, that’s the third member of Marco’s security team… shhh, let’s just watch and listen…”
As Marco and Marie exited the car and approached the front door, Drury parked the vehicle in the small garage. Gallo followed them as far as the door. Agent Ben Grafton ushered Marco and Marie inside, and then Gallo did a thorough inspection of the grounds with Drury. Since the Inauguration, they were extra careful. Marco led Marie into the living room and offered to get her a drink while he finished the dinner preparations.
“May I keep you company in the kitchen, Marco?”
“You want to make sure I don’t have any hired help doing the cooking,” he chuckled, good-naturedly. “Maybe I’ll put you to work. Can you pour us both a glass of wine?”
“Sounds good to me,” she chirped, as she followed him through the dining room and into a spacious kitchen. “You haven’t moved yet. Will this be the official residence for the Vice President? It’s… cute.”
“Thank you, Marie, but it’s just temporary. The President of the University offered to let me stay here until Genesis House is completed.”
“So both you and the President will live at Genesis House? How will that work?” Marie asked, as she opened the bottle of red wine and poured two glasses. Visions of Rossini and Hastings – both single – living under the same roof filled her mind’s eye. That didn’t sound appropriate, and she judged the Church was not going to approve.
Marco bent over to check the roast in the oven, and then added a few potatoes wrapped in foil. “Off the record – the building is designed with three separate wings. One wing will house the President, and his or her family, on the second floor, with business offices for the President and staff on the first floor. A second wing houses the Vice President and family – a similar setup on each floor. The third wing will have kitchen facilities, a large ballroom for state affairs, etc. The basement areas will feature the Command and Control room, recreational facilities, a gymnasium, and staff quarters. Now let’s see, do you mind preparing ingredients for the salad while I prepare the dressing?”
Marie smiled, “I might manage that.”
“Wait. Let me get you an apron to protect your clothes.” He snatched an apron hanging on a hook by the kitchen door, and chuckled as he strode towards her. The black material sported white lettering which read, ‘I COOK BECAUSE MEN DO IT BETTER!’ Grinning, he held it out to her. Marie feigned insult as she read the apron, then giggled as she wrapped it around her. “It was a gift from Pat… honest!” Marco protested.
They both relaxed and worked companionably getting the dinner ready to serve. Marco had set the dining room table beforehand, creating an intimate setting complete with a centerpiece of brightly colored flowers, and candles for romantic lighting. As Marie lit the candles, she felt very special. Marco had gone to a lot of trouble for her. She shook her head remembering the other Neanderthals she had dated – she gave and they took. She wasn’t used to this, but she loved it. Marco interrupted her thoughts as he carried in the salad and the wine bottle.
“Sit, Marie, I’ll serve.”
He refilled their wine glasses and served the salad. With a flourish, he snapped her cloth napkin open and laid it on her lap. Once sitting, he raised his glass and proposed a toast.
“Let’s drink to new beginnings.”
As they ate their salads, Marie suddenly noticed that they had been alone since the agent had ushered them in the door, “Marco, where did the security people go? Aren’t they eating dinner?”
He looked up and gave her a wide smile, “Let’s not tempt the fates. The boys said they were not going to hover, and they’ve kept their word. After only two weeks, I’m surprised at how well we get along. Are you comfortable being alone with me?”
Marie blushed slightly, thinking his question implied that perhaps she didn’t trust him. “I’m fine, and I’m enjoying this salad.”
“Good. Let me get the main course served while you finish that salad.”
It took Marco two trips to the kitchen to bring in the main course meat platter and bowls of vegetables. He’d checked outside the kitchen window, but hadn’t seen his three agents. Rossini shrugged and gave thanks that they could enjoy their food in privacy. He reclaimed his place at the table, hoping somewhat nervously, that the meal had turned out well.
As he sampled the portions on his own plate, Marco was reassured that the meal was delicious – one less worry. Marie was quick to compliment the dinner, and she ate with obvious relish.
“Marco, do you think that people will object to the cost of Genesis House? It sounds as if it’ll be a palace.”
“Liz and I were concerned too. But the Congressional building committee and the High Chancellor thought that both Congressional Hall and Genesis House should be impressive – symbols that the planet is moving into a new era. Do you think the buildings should be scaled back?”
Marie thought for a moment as she savored a mouthful of tender beef, “I can see the symbolic importance, but I question the cost. We just finished an expensive war, and the ongoing social reforms aren’t cheap.”
Marco sighed, “I suppose there will be grumbling. But I imagine that most people will reserve judgment until the building is done. Liz and I figure it will be a year before we can move in.”
The conversation continued, revolving around Marco’s expectations, politically, in the months ahead, and the social reforms being, slowly and painfully, put in place. After enjoying a light dessert of fresh fruits and coffee, they cleared the table, put the food away, disposed of the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. Marco poured them each a small glass of liqueur and led the way into the living room where they settled together on the couch.
Marie perched on the edge of the couch and turned so she could face Marco. “Here we are, finished dinner, and we haven’t swapped any of our stories yet. I meant what I said at the party. I want to get to know you, and I don’t want to play games.”
Marco nodded, and she continued. She described her career and the hurtful relationships she had endured, noting Marco’s reactions. He listened intently and reached for her hand as she shared the painful moments.
“So I decided that if I was going to see you socially, I‘d talk about myself honestly,” she concluded. “I hope you’ll do the same.”
Rossini closed his eyes for a moment and squeezed her hand lightly to reassure her. Not sure why, he believed that he could share his feelings honestly with Marie. They were kindred spirits, in a way – lonely, wary from difficult relationships in the past, both longing for honesty and understanding. Pat Conroy was the only human being Marco had ever trusted with his personal failures and longings… but he admired Marie’s candor and was encouraged by it.
“I’ve had bad experiences too, Marie. At the risk of scaring you away, I’ll be honest with you. Except for my friendship with Pat, and now Sarah, my personal life has been disappointing. So I’ve given up my dream of having a loving wife and family. I don’t know what I expected last week, but it certainly wasn’t you… a woman in whom I could confide.”
Marco paused a moment before continuing. “Marie, five years ago, I deliberately closed myself against the possibility of a serious relationship with a woman. I understood that meant giving up my dream, but I also believed that I could never survive another Melanie.”
Marie looked into his eyes and gave his hand a squeeze. “I’m still here, Marco, and I’m not scared. Tell me the story.”
Rossini lowered his head for a few moments, took a deep breath, and recounted his tale. Marie listened, without interrupting, and her heart reached out to his tortured soul. She didn’t understand how she could instinctively trust a man she barely knew, but she realized that it was right to do so.
Marco searched her face as he fell silent. In the dimming light, unshed tears glistened in her soft, brown eyes. Her quivering lips beckoned his own. The last remaining stones, of the wall he had erected around his heart, fell away. He felt an overwhelming desire to crush her against his chest and never release her. The thought frightened him. He couldn’t risk rejection. Agitated, he got up and paced over to the window.
Nonnie: “Oh John, they are such a cute couple!”
John: “Yes they are. Time to go…”