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“Angela, would you hurry up already? We’re going to be late, and my fangs are starting to melt!” Tony stood at the bottom of the staircase, visibly irritated as he waited for Angela to finish getting dressed. The party had sounded innocent enough when she invited him earlier that week - good food, great friends, and maybe a little dancing. He should have realized that a Halloween party meant they would be wearing costumes, but his sheer excitement at the prospect of spending an entire evening alone with her had clouded both his senses and his better judgment.
“Why did I let you talk me into this?” he asked himself as he continued pacing at the bottom of the stairs.
Entering from the kitchen, Mona was surprised to find Tony handsomely dressed in a tuxedo. “Forgive me for prying Tony, but aren’t you a little overdressed for dinner?” she asked with a laugh.
“Two words, Mona,” Tony said in frustration. “Costume party.”
Trying in vain to hide her laughter, Mona asked the obvious question. “What are you, anyway - the groom?!”
“Very funny,” Tony said through gritted teeth as he fastened a long black cape around his shoulders. “I’m not a groom. I’m supposed to be Dracula, see?” Holding the plastic fangs in front of him for emphasis, Tony spun dramatically in front of her.
“You know Tony, when Angela told me you were going to Paul and Isabelle’s party tonight, I had something a little more, well… dull in mind. After all, it is the two of you we’re talking about here.”
“Come on, Mona - give me a break,” he said. “I’m not exactly comfortable wearing this get-up. After all, I only agreed to go to this party as a favor to Angela.”
“A favor, huh? Whatever you say, Tony. I’m just glad you two are spending the evening alone together.” Settling herself on the couch, Mona smiled at him, her smug expression hinting that Angela was hiding something. “I hope everything works out the way Angela wanted.”
“What’s that supposed to mean, Mona? Do you know something about this party that I don’t know?” he asked accusingly.
“You mean Angela didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?” he replied, taking a seat beside her.
“Well, when Angela called Isabelle to tell her that you two were coming tonight, she was a little surprised to find out who else was going to be there.”
“Oh yeah?” Tony’s nervousness was evident in his voice.
“Yeah - Geoffrey,” Mona replied.
“Geoffrey?” he asked in surprise. “As in the Geoffrey who proposed to her? The Geoffrey that bought her diamond earrings for Christmas? That Geoffrey?”
“That would be the one.”
“No way, Mona. Angela hasn’t seen him in years – are you sure about this?”
“Positive. He’s in town this weekend on business, so Paul and Isabelle invited him. He is Isabelle’s cousin, after all.”
“You don’t think Angela still has feelings for him, do you?” Tony asked, an air of panic rising in his voice.
“Trust me Tony – she doesn’t,” Mona said reassuringly. “There’s only one man in her life right now, and I think we both know who that is.”
Quiet for a moment while he considered her statement, Tony swallowed nervously before replying. “Right – Jonathan.”
“Nice try, Tony,” Mona said with a quiet laugh. “But you and I both know it’s someone a little older, and a little more… Italian.”
“Alright, alright – I’m nervous enough as it is!” Tony explained. “After all, Angela just broke up with Andy, and I’m still not exactly sure where I stand with her ever since the whole Kathleen situation. I’m just happy to have an occasional date with her… just as friends, of course.”
“Here we go again,” Mona said in frustration. “A little less “friendship” wouldn’t hurt the two of you. Tell the blind nun to pull over and stop driving that car already!”
Thinking of himself and Angela involved in a romantic relationship never failed to turn Tony into a jumble of nerves, and this was no exception. Rising from the couch, he resumed his position at the bottom of the staircase, waiting for her to appear. “Angela! Can we please go already?” he called, his voice squeaking as he turned back toward Mona.
In his flustered state, Tony didn’t hear Angela descending the stairs behind him and was caught off guard when he felt her familiar touch on her shoulder. “I’m ready, Tony,” she said quietly.
“Angela…” he said, his voice fading away as his eyes took her in. “You look… I mean, you’re so…” At the sight of her dressed in a somewhat sheer white toga, words failed him as he struggled to tell her how beautiful she was.
“Take that as a compliment, dear,” Mona interrupted as she joined them at the base of the stairs.
Blushing, Angela smiled at Tony’s reaction. “You really like it?” she asked him. “I’m supposed to look like Athena.”
“Athena?” he replied, still struggling with his words.
“From mythology - she’s the Goddess of Wisdom,” Angela offered.
“Oh, I see,” Tony replied, his eyes never leaving hers.
“Well, you’ve certainly got the goddess part down just fine.”
“I, um, didn’t want to look like everyone else,” Angela stammered, flattered by his response. “I wanted to be… noticed.”
“You definitely have my attention,” Tony whispered softly as he automatically reached for her hand and laced their fingers together.
“Thank you Tony. You look very handsome yourself,” Angela told him shyly. “I thought the next time I saw you in a tuxedo would be at our…” Though her statement remained unfinished, the implication was clear to all of them.
After a moment of awkward silence had passed, Angela was the first to speak. “Since tonight is our first date in awhile, I just wanted it to be special.”
“Right.” It was the only word that came to him - he was completely absorbed in Angela.
“Looks like that nun is starting to pull over,” Mona offered, her words snapping Tony back into reality.
“What in the world…” Angela asked them, bewildered, as Tony gently took her arm and led her toward the door.
“Never mind, Angela,” Tony said. “You know Mona – always kidding!”
“Suddenly three is becoming quite the crowd,” Mona said as she handed Angela her wrap. “You two better get going - you don’t want to be late for your date tonight.”
“It’s not a date,” they both said in unison.
“Funny… you both called it a date a few minutes ago. Are you sure it’s not a date?”
“Mother, Tony and I are friends - close friends,” Angela explained. “And, if close friends decide to spend an evening together out on the town, well than that’s none of your concern.”
“That’s right Mona - close friends. Very close,” Tony continued, meeting Angela’s gaze once again as his hand rested protectively on her back.” The pull between them was magnetic, and neither wanted break the spell.
“Whatever you two say,” Mona said, shaking her head as she smiled at them and ushered them through the door. “Have a very friendly time tonight!”
_________________________________________________________________________________

The short drive across town to Paul and Isabelle’s house was spent mostly in silence, with only a little bit of small talk passing between them. By the time they reached the party, tension between the two was running high, as they both began to feel like teenagers out for their first date.
“You never told me how you managed to get Billy to sleep so early,” Angela said as they began walking toward the door. “It’s not even 9:30 yet - normally it takes a miracle to get that little boy into bed at night.”
“Simple, Angela,” Tony explained as he gently took her arm. “Cash - it worked like a charm.”
“Cash?” she asked with a laugh. “You bribed him?” Her laugh became contagious as she pictured Tony negotiating a bedtime treaty with the little boy.
“Well I made it pretty clear that it was a one-time only deal,” he began. “I just wasn’t sure Mona would handle things all that well if Billy was tearing through the house all night - I didn’t want her calling us every ten minutes to get us to come home early.”
“Really?” she asked, enjoying the feel of his arm around her and the sincerity of their conversation.
“Really,” he replied. “I wanted this to be a fun evening, for both of us.”
“Thank you,” she said as their eyes locked once again. After a short moment, Angela was the first to look away. “Maybe you better put these on,” she said, breaking the tension as she retrieved Tony’s plastic fangs from her purse.
“I was hoping you’d forget about those,” he replied with a sigh. Reaching for the doorbell, Tony’s nervousness returned as the familiar silence hung between them once again.
“You know what?” she asked softly as she reached for his hand once again. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a handsome Dracula.”
“It’s so great to see you two again!” Isabelle greeted them as she and Paul opened the door and invited them inside. “It’s been too long.”
“It certainly has,” Angela replied as she offered her friend a hug. “It looks like your party is a big success.”
“Everything looks great, guys,” Tony said in agreement. “The music, the decorations, the food - everything is perfect.”
“We really ought to get together more often, you know,” Paul replied. “But maybe next time we’ll try it without the costumes.” Noticing that Tony had yet to remove his arm from around Angela’s waist, Paul smiled at them, nudged his wife, and asked the obvious question. “So you two finally decided to take the next step, huh?”
“Angela!” Isabelle said, looking at her friend in mock disdain. “I can’t believe you guys finally got together, and you didn’t even tell me! Come on now, I want all the details…when did you finally tell him?”
Angela blushed instantly at the sound of Isabelle’s comment, silently wishing that the floor would open up and swallow her. She glanced at Tony for support and was surprised to find him smiling. “Tell me what?” he asked her smugly.
After a short moment, Angela regained her composure and finally replied. “Now Isabelle, if something like that were to happen, you’d be one of the first people to know about it.”
“Sorry Angela, I just assumed,” Isabelle offered. “I mean, look at you two – it’s completely obvious, even in the way you look at each other. Anyone can see it.”
Swallowing nervously, Tony asked the question that hung heavily between them. “What exactly can they see?”
Just as Isabelle was about to answer, she and Paul were called away by another guest. “Have a great time, guys. We’ll catch up with you later on,” she said before they disappeared into the crowd.
______________________________________________________________________________

“Nice party, isn’t it?” Angela asked as she removed her wrap and tried to break the proverbial ice that had formed between them since Isabelle’s last comment. She looked around the room nervously as she and Tony began to join the rest of the guests.
“It’s very nice,” he agreed, taken in once more by the sight of Angela dressed in such a revealing costume.
Automatically joining hands, they walked together through the festivities, greeting the other guests with casual pleasantries. After a few minutes of mingling, they made their way to a quiet corner of the room where Tony took a seat on the couch and gestured for Angela to join him. “Is everything okay, Angela?” he asked after a few moments. “You’ve been pretty quiet.”
“Oh I’m fine Tony,” she quickly answered. “I’m just watching for - I mean looking at - all the wonderful decorations. Paul and Isabelle have really outdone themselves this year, don’t you think?”
“It’s okay, Angela,” Tony said with a knowing smile. “Mona told me that Geoffrey is going to be here tonight.”
“I guess I should have known better than to tell mother something in confidence,” Angela replied, the irritation clearly evident in her tone.
“I have to admit, I was pretty surprised to find out he was in town,” Tony explained. “Is that the reason you wanted to come tonight?”
“No, no – that’s not it at all,” she said. “I thought it would be fun for us to have an evening to ourselves, and I didn’t even find out about Geoffrey until a few days ago. It’s just that…” her voice faded away as she tried to clarify her thoughts.
“You can tell me, Angela,” Tony said softly, silently bracing himself for an explanation he didn’t want to hear.
“I just want to show Geoffrey how great everything is going in my life,” she explained. “And I wanted to make a good impression, that’s why I’m wearing this… this… outfit,” Angela stammered, her head falling as she suddenly felt very embarrassed.
“A good impression,” Tony repeated softly, shaking his head in surprise. Leaning closer to her, Tony took Angela’s hand in his own and lifted her chin so that their eyes met once again. “You’re beautiful, Angela,” he whispered. “You could show up at this party wearing your pink bathrobe and your bunny slippers and you’d still be the most beautiful woman in the room.”
It was everything she needed to hear, and more. “You said beautiful twice,” she replied shyly, her eyes still locked with his.
“I meant it twice,” was his quiet reply. Leaning closer toward her, Tony steeled himself and waited for the wonderful feel of her soft lips against his. Just as they were about to touch, a familiar voice interrupted their moment.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
“Angela, is that really you?” Geoffrey said loudly as he approached them. “Isabelle told me I could find you over here, but I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“Hello Geoffrey,” Angela replied politely as he took the available seat next to her. “I’ll have to remember to thank Isabelle for being so… honest this evening.”
“Great timing, as always Geoff,” Tony said through gritted teeth as the two shook hands.
“Wonderful party, isn’t it?” Geoffrey continued, oblivious to Tony’s irritation. “Everything looks great tonight… especially you, Angela,” he said, mesmerized by her appearance.
“Thank you, Geoffrey,” Angela replied nervously as she glanced at Tony for reassurance. “I’ve gotten several compliments tonight.”
Anxious to derail their conversation before it could begin, Tony relied on humor to lighten the awkward moment. “What about you Geoff,” he offered. “Decide not to dress up this year?”
“No, no - I’m in costume,” he said proudly. “As a matter of fact, I bought a brand new suit just for this occasion. It’s an Armani - top of the line, you know.”
“Geoffrey, you’re a defense attorney,” Angela said dryly. “You wear suits every day - I’d hardly call that a costume.”
“On the contrary,” Geoffrey replied. “Any other day of the year I may be a defense attorney, but tonight I’m a prosecutor.”
Try as he might, Tony simply could not control his laughter. “Way to live life on the edge, Geoff.”
“So Geoffrey,” Angela began as she attempted to steer the conversation toward business. “Isabelle tells me you’ve been doing pretty well for yourself these days.”
“I can’t complain,” he replied. “Did she tell you that my firm just made me a partner last month?”
“Partner, huh?” Tony interrupted. “Sounds impressive, Geoff.”
“What can I say, Tony?” Geoffrey replied. “It’s always been my dream. The work is great, the money is great, the clients are… well, they pay on time,” he continued, unaware of the fact that neither Tony nor Angela found his sense of humor amusing. “Now all I need is that one perfect woman to share it all with.”
Uncomfortable with the way Geoffrey continued to appraise Angela, Tony instinctively shifted closer to her and squeezed her hand, which still remained laced with his own.
Completely aware of Tony’s intentions, Angela smiled and squeezed his hand in return. “Perfect relationships are hard to come by, Geoffrey,” she said.
Though Tony instantly became aware of the hidden meaning in her statement, Geoffrey was not as enlightened. “They may be hard to come by, but they aren’t impossible to find. I couldn’t help but notice there is no ring on your finger, Angela. Does that mean you’re available?”
Though Tony began to answer for her, Angela’s voice rang out above his own as she interrupted. “I’m not married if that’s what you’re asking. But I’m definitely not available.”
“Oh I understand,” Geoffrey replied in defeat. “A new relationship, huh?”
“Sometimes it feels like that, doesn’t it Tony?” Angela said.
“You mean you and Angela?” Geoffrey offered, gesturing between the two as he finally understood the meaning behind their conversation. “I didn’t realize - I thought you two were just friends. At least, that’s how it was before.”
“Things do have a way of changing, Geoffrey,” Tony replied, his eyes never leaving Angela. “Sometimes when you least expect it.”
“And sometimes a little change is a very good thing,” she continued with a smile.
“Well as long as you’re happy, Angela, then I’m happy for you. “What do you say, Tony?” Geoffrey asked as he rose from the couch and held out his hand in invitation to Angela. “For old time’s sake, can I borrow her for a quick dance?”
“I don’t think so, Geoff,” Tony replied as he in turn held out his hand as an invitation to Angela. “I made that mistake once - I’m not about to do it again.”
Accepting Tony’s hand, Angela rose to meet them and turned toward Geoffrey one final time. “It was nice to see you again,” she said sincerely.
“I wish you the best of luck, Angela,” he replied as he turned to leave. “But by the looks of things, you two don’t need luck - you’ve got love.”
_____________________________________________________________________________________

“Love, huh?” Tony asked as he led Angela toward the dance floor.
“That’s what he said, alright,” she replied. Quiet for a few moments, Angela considered her options before deciding to press the conversation forward. Though she was afraid of his reply, the prospect of not posing the question at all was more frightening. “Do you think…” she began as Tony’s voice gently interrupted her own.
“Angela,” he said softly, “Geoffrey was right. We don’t need luck.” Those few simple words held between them in unspoken commitment as the spark between the two began to ignite once again.
Settling herself more tightly into his embrace, Angela became lost in the familiar feel of Tony’s strong arms around her. “Thank you for bringing me here tonight,” she said, her eyes never leaving his. “I had a wonderful time.”
“So did I,” he replied. After a brief moment had passed, Tony’s insecurity got the better of him and he decided to ask the one question that still plagued him. “I was just wondering,” he began. “Guys like Geoffrey can give you everything you want, Angela. Are you sure…” The thought remained unfinished as Angela’s voice carried over his.
“They can’t give me what I want, Tony,” Angela said. “I want someone who makes me laugh, and also lets me cry,” she explained. “Someone who listens without judging me… someone who loves my son as much as I do. But most of all,” she continued, her mouth now a mere fraction away from his, “I want to find the perfect combination of love and friendship.”
Swallowing nervously as the heat between them continued to grow, Tony once again struggled to find the words he wanted her to hear. “That sounds pretty hard to find, Angela.”
“I don’t know about that, Tony,” she replied. “Something tells me it might be easier than you think.”
As their lips finally connected, Tony drew Angela tighter against him, enjoying the momentary feel of her soft form against his. Smiling as they parted and began making their way toward the exit, Angela couldn’t resist making one final statement. “You know Tony,” she said playfully, “I think I’ll keep this outfit around for a while. I mean, who knows when I might find the occasion to wear it again?”

 

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