Chapter 19 - Rooftop Manifestation

Daniel didn’t attend the dinner gathering because of the appointment he had with the cable guy that evening.  After May hung up on Emily, they went to the kitchen so he could have his dinner while Bedina tended to Tessa’s bedtime routine.   He was half way thru his supper when May presented him with her personal cheque in the amount of $5000.

“What’s this for?”  He asked.

“The donation!” May reminded him.  “From the Christmas Craft Market in Kelowna, remember?”

Daniel pushed the cheque back to her.  “There’s an extra zero there.” 

Seeing he had gone back to eating his food, she placed the cheque on the table and pushed it close to his elbow.  “No, I said we would split the donation.”  She flashed her five fingers in front of him.  “Remember, 50/50!”

“Well, I took that to mean $500.”  Daniel knew for certain he never told her the amount he wrote on the cheque.  “Who told you I donated ten thousand?”

May sat back in her chair and let out a deep sigh.  “The accident was in the news again!  That’s why Emily called.”  She tapped on the cheque she wrote him.  “They linked us to the cheque you wrote.”

“That’s impossible!”  Daniel insisted.  “I used a company cheque!”

“Some kid uploaded a video of you hanging the ornament on the branch.”  May tapped his arm.  “I also saw the amount you wrote at The Fair.”   

Daniel took the last bite of the food.  After swallowing his food, he gave her a smirk.  “So you are fine with donating $5000?”

“I was surprised!”  May admitted.  “I didn’t think you were … you know.”

“So generous?”  Daniel finished her sentence with a grin. 

She paused for a moment to think how to phrase the real question, as if she was asking for him to reveal a big secret.  “Danny, did you win that big Mega Lottery in the States last month?  The one that hasn’t been claimed yet?”

“I wish!” Daniel could only chuckle. 

“Okay.”  May went on.  “Then how can you afford to donate $10,000 when you just got here?”

Daniel pretended he didn’t hear her question and reached out for his glass of water.   May went on to analyze his silence until something led her to gasp aloud.  She waited till he placed the glass down.  “Danny, does anyone know you own Extreme?”

When he sent her only a side glance, she vocalized her thought.  “Gillian, right?”  

Noticing how he let out a breath through his nostril and how his jaw tightened, May felt as if a heavy boulder was dropped unto her lap.  But when he kept quiet and didn’t look at her, she was once again convinced that he was still in love with Gillian.  After a minute of silence between them, she couldn’t take it anymore and she stood up from her chair just when Daniel decided to speak.

“May, I was going to tell you after the wedding!”  He reached to grab her hand.

The foul mood inside her crossed all the nerves in her body and she exploded like a fire-cracker.  “Why? Just so I could be your wedding date so Alice can leave you alone?”

Daniel didn’t expect such an emotional rebuttal.  He pulled her down to her seat and saw tears were beginning to form in her eyes.  “What are you talking about?”

“I knew you were too good to be true!”  May suddenly reached a tantrum state and began pounding her own head with her fists.  “So stupid of me!  Stupid, stupid.”

Grabbing hold of her two hands, he asked her.  “Why are you scolding yourself?”

Fighting her own vulnerability, she spilled her guts.  “Cos I was stupid to think you can get over Gillian in just a few months!” 

“But I am over her!”  He was dumbfounded that this was about Gillian. 

“No, you’re not!  I can tell you’re still hurting because of her!”  May’s agitation grew and she got up from the table and started towards the living room.    

Daniel followed her, hoping to calm her sudden emotional upheaval.  “I’m sure you are still hurting because of Kyle!”

May closed the set of French doors to keep the volume down.  “No, I’m not!  I didn’t sleep with Kyle!  You did!”

Daniel’s ears perked and a smirk came to him.  He could have teased her about sleeping with Kyle but he knew that would only rile up her frustration.  Instead, he decided it was time to cast away all her insecurities towards him.  Forcing her to look at him, he tried to be poetic.  He did his best though cheesy it may sound.  “I don’t think about Gillian anymore!  I only think about you!” 

He shook her to show he was being truthful.  When her pupil dilated, he took it as an indication she was listening.  “I have always thought of you!  All these years!” 

He got her full attention now.  “Even when I was with Gillian, I thought about you.  Back in high school, when I was with Erica; I never stopped thinking about you!”

May’s messed up brain left a befuddled expression on her face.  And because of a certain individual who had casted such a dark shadow over her since high school, she could only mutter this question even after his sweet confession.  “What about Pam?”

“Pam?”  He gave a deadpan look.  “What about Pam?”

She gave him an agitated glare.  “Did you also think about Pam when you were with Gillian?”

“No, why would I?”  Seeing how shaking her up had done her no good, he sighed and gave her an incredulous look.  Feeling his effort was leading him nowhere, Daniel pulled her into his embrace and held her tight out of desperateness.  “What more do I have to do to convince you?” 

Finally, May was convinced and her heart melted at his words.  “Maybe let me breathe?”

“It had always been you!  No one else!”  Daniel released her and sat them down on the sofa.  “Seeing you again was beyond my dreams and wishes!”

Leaning into him, May allowed herself to cuddle in his embrace until all her doubts faded.  They sat in each other’s arms with wordless communication.  For the first time, Daniel understood the language of love he had seen in those in love.  He lowered his head and kissed her gently on her lips.  The kiss grew passionate within seconds, but May had to pull herself away.  When he was about to draw her back, she staved him off with a grin.  “I prefer my evening dessert to be sweet, definitely not the remnant of your dinner.”

Daniel caught her meaning with a grin.   “Don’t you like the taste of onion for dessert?” 

“Not if I can have chocolate mint pie and strawberry short-cake!”  May threw a cushion at him as she got up from the sofa and headed to the kitchen.  Daniel quickly followed behind. 
When they sat down at the dining table for dessert, May handed him the cheque again.  “Danny, take it!”

“Fine!”  He took it with a pout and pocketed it because he was eager to dig into his chocolate mint pie.  “I’m only taking your cheque because I now know you can afford it now.”

Satisfied, she gave him a smile.  “Ethan and Emily didn’t believe you have so much money to donate.  But I told them half of the donation was from me.”

“Good! That’s what I wanted to tell you after their wedding!”  Daniel took another bite of the pie and shot her a stern look.  “Before you went all jumpy over Gillian!”

May knew it was wrong for her to jump to conclusions about him earlier, but old habits were truly hard to break.  “So it’s true you own Extreme!  And only Gillian knows?  You didn’t tell your family?  Not even Ethan?”

“No!”  Daniel finished his dessert and pinched her reddish nose.  “You have to break this habit of yours!  Stop jumping to conclusions!”

She gave a guilty as charged look.  “Sorry!”

Daniel started to gather the dessert dishes just in case she went into another fit and started throwing them at him.  “I wanted to wait until after the wedding to tell everyone about TESSA.”

“Tessa?”  May was confused as she followed him to the kitchen. 

Daniel placed the dishes into the sink and turned around to face her.  “Yes, you have your baby sister, Tessa.”  He put his hands on her shoulders. “I also have a TESSA.  My very own TESSA.”

“You have a baby named Tessa?”  May gave out a somewhat surprised, yet confused expression.

Daniel chuckled.  “Yes, but she’s still going thru birthing stage.”  After spotting the confusion in her eyes, he quickly explained before she jumped to the wrong conclusion again.  “TESSA Incorporated, short for Tracking Essential Security System Applications.”  He could tell she only caught the acronym.  “My major was System Security.”

“When they mentioned the cheque was from Tessa, Emily and I thought you set up a fund for her or something.”  The news finally made sense to her now.  “You named your company TESSA!  No wonder my sister adores you so much!”

“Well, she’s a bit too young for me, it’s her sister I’m after!”  Daniel shook her shoulders and smiled.

“Hmm.”  May’s knees weakened and she blushed again.  Then she tilted her head to study him from under his chin.  “Wait a minute!  Security as in virus attack or security as in hacking?”

Daniel mused over her rosy cheeks.  He led them back to the living room as he answered her questions.  “Both.  I hack and I also clean. Both are within my job scope.”

May studied him some more, still trying to figure out exactly what his job entailed.  “So you hack into people’s computer?” 

“Only if they allow me to!  They have to sign a contract.”  Daniel tapped her head after she sat down on the sofa.  “After that I write a security application for them!”

“So all these years, you’ve been running your own sole-proprietorship with Extreme?”

Daniel cleared his throat and sat down next to her.  “No, my ex-boss used to own Extreme Security.”  He clarified.  “The one who fathered Gillian’s child.”

May gasped and sat up straight.  “Are you serious?!  I thought these things only happen in the movies.”

“Uh – no!  They were written for the movies because it happened to real people; people with bleeding ulcers!”  Daniel laid back against the big comfy cushion and caressed his abdominal as if there was pain there.  “I was the one working my butt off trying to keep his company afloat when he was …!”  He paused to control his tongue from making crude remarks.

May took his hand away and started soothing his chest with her own hand.  “You don’t have to talk about it!”

“It’s okay!  At least now, my years of hard work paid off.”  Daniel kissed her hand.  “When Extreme’s biggest client found out I resigned, they decided not to renew their contract.  The company went belly up within a month and the jerk claimed bankruptcy.  The client sent their lawyer and offered me a position in their company.   But she ended up persuading me to set up my own instead.”

Daniel saw a darken gleam in her eyes when he used the female pronoun.  “Todd, her husband, was my dorm buddy in Berkeley!”  

When he saw a smile escaped as she realized what he said was solely for her benefit, he continued.  “So that was how Anita became my personal lawyer.  She’s helping me put TESSA together.  I also needed her expertise to make sure there’s no chance of running into legal matters with Gillian and the jerk!” 

At the mention of his ex-girlfriend and ex-boss, May was in her busy-body fickle-minded woman mood again.  “Did your ex-boss and Gillian get married?” 

Daniel was in his just-a-man who-the-heck-care kind of mood, so he shrugged.  “I don’t know!  He would have to get a divorce from his wife first.”

May told herself to step out of it and dig deeper. So she relaxed back unto his chest and turned the conversation back to his company.  “So how big is TESSA?  How many staff do you have?”

“All the remaining staff from Extreme accepted the offer to join TESSA officially on January 1.”  Daniel caressed her arm.  “Most of them have no clue Extreme Security was foreclosed four months ago.  They think the company is being merged.”

“What about Ethan and Emily?”  May placed her palm against his, comparing the difference in sizes. 

“They still think Extreme sent me here!”  He folded his fingers between hers and squeezed her hand tight with emphasis.  “And please don’t tell them about TESSA.  I’m giving them a share of the company as their wedding gift!”

“I promise!”  May hooked her pinky with his.  “So how big is your company?  Do you have lots of clients?”

“Average big, I guess!”  Daniel gave nothing away from his tone of voice, though he knew she might have a better understanding if he used names like McAfee, AVG or Norton. 

“Does that mean you know Bill Gates?”  May asked with excitement. 

“I don’t know why everyone ask this question?”  Daniel chuckled and tickled her.  “Why do I need to know Bill Gates?”

“I don’t know!”  Fighting off his tickles.  “Because you’re so high-tech and I saw so many computers and laptops in your apartment!”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t mean I have to know the guy!”  Daniel finally stopped tickling her.  “Anyways, I have seen him once at a conference in Seattle.  He sat three seats away from me.”

“Wow, did you say ‘Hi’ to him?”  May continued to awe over the founder of Microsoft Corporation and got more tickles and then a squeeze on her nose from Daniel.  “Was Extreme a big company?”

“No, Extreme is nothing compared to TESSA!”  Daniel went on.  “Before Gillian persuaded me to join Extreme, I’ve always had my own private clients.”  Daniel paused as May pushed herself up and turned to meet his eyes.  There was a quiet understanding there and nothing more was needed to be said regarding his days at Extreme.  “Anyways, my clients only trusted me to maintain their system, so most of them are very happy I’m finally setting up my own company.  I also have several big projects lined up for TESSA at the beginning of the New Year.  We have a few hundred staff right now.”

“A-few-hundred-staff!”  May practically choked out each word.  “Like more than 300?  Sounds like you have one of those million-dollar-companies Forbes Magazine writes about!”  She meant to tease him but his silence made her think twice and again.  When she felt a rumbling of laughter from his chest, she turned around and looked him in the eyes for the moment of truth.  “Daniel?  Are you trying to say TESSA is a multi-million-dollar company? Or bigger?”

Still lying comfortably on the cushion, Daniel chuckled and squeezed her cheeks.  “There’s another reason why I named my company TESSA.”

May waited for him to give the reason but all he did was grin and smile at her.  So when she couldn’t take it anymore, she sat herself up and turned her eyes on him.  “Why?”

“Because it also rhymes with one of the world’s biggest Space Administration!”
Following a quick session of smooching after dessert, they finally started watching a movie at quarter to eleven.  When the movie ended at 12:30 in the morning, May had fallen asleep in his arms.  Daniel woke her up when he reached for the remote to turn off the media player and television. He then headed to the lobby to put on his jacket.  When he turned around, May was still slouching on the sofa looking to have fallen asleep again.  He approached her and asked softly.   “Do you need help getting to bed before I leave?”

May was rather sleepy so she stretched her arms out and he pulled her to her feet.  Seeing she could hardly stand on her own, he decided to scoop her up into his arms.  His action caused her to make a sudden yelp to which she quickly covered her mouth.  When she realized Daniel was heading towards her room, she told him.  “You just woke me up!  I can’t sleep now!”

Daniel stopped midstride and gave her a sheepish grin.  “Then what do you want to do now?  Take you back to the sofa?”

She made a giggle.  “Are you sleepy right now?”

He thought she was being coy.  “No, but we’re not doing that again!  I can’t guarantee to hold back if we do!”

“Do what?”  She was of a pure mind for something else.  Daniel’s dimple appeared and revealed a pinkish shadow over his cheeks.  May realized what he was talking about and pulled on his earlobe as a reprimand.  “I wanted to check out the Christmas lights!”

“Yeah, right!  Christmas lights!” Daniel looked mischievously at her and then let her down to stand on her feet and. 

May headed back to the living room, grabbed her thick sweater and turned towards the direction of the roof-top garden.  “Yes, I haven’t had a chance to see them this year!”

“Are you telling me you would rather see the Christmas lights and my body?”  Daniel challenged her.

May couldn’t stifle her funny bones but she did manage to nod at him. 

“Maybe you’re still in dreamland.”  Daniel gave her another chance.  “Your nod means you want to see my body, right?” 

They were both standing by the tall glass door that would open to the rooftop garden.  May turned to him and shook her head with bouts of giggles.  Daniel swept her up into his arms again.  “You better be sure now!  Me or the lights?”

Startled by his action, May looped her arms around his neck.  “The lights please!”  Then she gave him a kiss on his forehead.  “I can only consider the other option after your proposal!”

Daniel was about to press the open button on the sliding door, but he stopped.  “Wait a minute!  What proposal?  We’re already engaged, remember?  You’re going to be my wife!”

“Says who?!  You don’t get a wife unless you propose!”  May bantered. 

“With most people, that is true!”  Daniel gave her a smirk.  “But with you, a marriage proposal isn’t my guarantee that you will be my wife!”

Then he pressed the button to open the door and they were hit by a gust of freezing cold air.  May hugged him tighter and lowered her head against the nape of Daniel’s neck to hide from the cold wind.  He liked that because it told him she would not like what he was about to do to her if he didn’t get his way.  “But maybe this will!”  He gave her a cheeky grin as he carried her towards the garden. 

May turned her head and saw he was heading straight towards the water pond where her late father’s koi were most likely sleeping at this time of night.  And she knew how cold the water was because half the pond was frozen.  “Oh, don’t you dare!”

“Oh, I dare!”  He stopped in front of the pond.  “I won’t end up like Adam!  Can’t afford to let you say no to me.”

May held on tighter to him and laughed.  “You are bluffing!  You won’t drop me in the pond!”

“Then say ‘Yes, I’ll be your wife!’”  Daniel threatened with a jerk of his arms.

“You can’t force me to say that when you haven’t propose to me!”  May held on tighter and hid her head under his nape again.

“Fair enough!  Then say ‘Yes, I will be your wife whenever you propose’.”  Daniel beamed.  “See, I’m not forcing you.”

At this moment, she was very ready to say ‘yes’ to becoming his wife.  But the problem was he still hadn’t proposed.  At least not the way she had envisioned a marriage proposal was supposed to be; on one bended knee with a ring.  She looked into his eyes and was adamant there was no way he would drop her into the freezing pond.  He had to be bluffing.  “If you drop me, I’m going to drop you and hook myself up with another fish!”  To show she was still calling his bluff, she let go of her arms around his neck.  “And he is going to be a bigger fish as well!”

“I won’t let that happen.”  He warned.  “Besides, there won’t be a bigger fish for you out there…than me!”

Shocked by his grin of confidence, her jaw dropped and she couldn’t close her mouth. 

“So Shall-May-Ren?  Say it!”  Daniel softened his voice.  “Say yes, you’ll be my wife.”

“No!”  She finally unlocked her jaw and even started to relax in his arms to show she didn’t believe he would follow through with his threat. 

“No?”  Daniel repeated with another warning.  When she shook her head and shifted to a more comfortable position in his arms, he tossed her upwards and she shrieked above her lungs.  Good thing they were on the roof-top!

Let's make a memory - Rex Smith