Summary: Mr. Gold leaves a pretty generous tip for one of Granny’s waitresses.
Writer’s note: Sorry it took so long! This chapter gave me so many fits, and it still didn’t come out the way I had hoped.
The bell clattered promptly as Ruby rushed into the floral shop, only giving a bewildered Maurice a hasty hello as she high-tailed it to the staircase in the back of the shop. Isabel waited in the cramped living room pounding a nervous path in front of their plaid couch. Her head snapped up as clattering heels sounded at the stairs. Ruby appeared, face flushed and breathing ragged, a long white plastic bag cradled in her arms.
“I found three dresses in your size.”
“Thank you, Ruby” Isabel said, gesturing for Ruby to follow her to her bedroom. When the door was secure, Belle sighed heavily. “I told my father we were going out tonight.” She took two steps and flopped onto her stomach on the bed, face in hands. “Why am I afraid to tell him I’m going on a date? I’m a consenting adult, right?”
Ruby rubbed her back soothingly. “Because you’re not going out with a regular guy. You’re going out with Mr. Gold. If you’re dad knew, he’d lock you in this room and board the windows.”
“You’re right. He should never find out.” Belle sat up, reaching for the plastic dress bag. “Thank you for picking these up for me on your break. Was that enough money?”
Ruby smiled, encouragingly. “Enough for three. You’re gonna love them!”
Isabel untied the knot at the end of the bag, pulling the hangers through the slit at the top and finally seeing the dresses. The first one caught her eye, though not in a good way. “Gold? Really, Ruby?”
“I thought it would be appropriated.” Ruby shrugged. “Who knows, maybe Mr. Gold will be turned on by it.”
Isabel’s cheek burned at the thought. “I don’t want to turn him on! At least not yet, not until we’ve gone out a few times and gotten to know each other.”
“Awe. That’s no fun.”
Isabel threw a look of indignation at her friend, but couldn’t hide her growing smile. She laid the golden satin dress aside, finding a deep blue dress underneath. She raised the hanger, examining the knee-length flared skirt and lovely fitted top. Delicate antique white lace weaved around the collar and bellow sleeves. She caressed the soft material. “I believe this is the one I’ll wear. I hope he likes it.”
After much fussing over Isabel’s hair, Ruby smiled proudly and gave her friend an encouraging hug before she left. Isabel snuck a quick overlook in the mirror, satisfied with her reflection. She hurried to place the chocolate chip cookies she baked earlier in a Tupperware container. She waved goodbye to her father, letting him know her and Ruby would possibly be out late and not to wait up for her. She hated lying to him, but it was best to not tell him the truth. Mr. Gold’s house was not too far away, so she walked in her white flats down the sidewalk.
The butterflies in her stomach started to wake as she drew closer to her destination. The sun was setting, pinks and blues mingling across the sky. She climbed the steps to the porch, taking a deep breath, calming her nerves. Before she could knock, the door opened making her jump in surprise.
“Miss French” greeted Mr. Gold, cool and collect, but wearing a most becoming smile. He eyed her for a moment. “You look quite lovely tonight.”
Isabel felt the heat rise in her cheeks. She hoped it wouldn’t happen the rest of the night. “Thank you.”
“Come in, please.” Mr. Gold stepped aside, and Isabel took in her first glimpse of his home. It resembled his shop, though a bit more decorative. She’d never seen so many belongings in one place in her life! She followed Mr. Gold to the kitchen, which was quite spacious. A Dutch oven sat on a trivet on the stove, and whatever it contained made Isabel’s mouth water.
“You cook?” she asked, surprised.
“Somewhat” Mr. Gold replied, removing the heavy ceramic lid. He flicked a wicked grin over his shoulder. “You assumed I’d order take out?”
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this is very nice. Oh!” Isabel held up the container she forgot she was holder, too distracted by taking in the surroundings of what most everyone in town called a mysterious house. “I brought homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’m not much of a baker, but I promise they’re edible.”
“Oh, I believe you, Miss French.”
“Isabel.” Mr. Gold stilled his hand as he reached for the ladle sitting in the spoon rest. Isabel stepped up beside him, placing the cookie container on the counter. “We’re on a date, right? You can call me by my first name, and it’d be kind of nice to know yours, if that’s all right.”
Mr. Gold finally wrapped his fingers around the handle of the ladle, busying himself with the lamb stew. “I do believe this is a date.”
At those words, a smile blossomed on Isabel’s lips. She grabbed one of the stoneware bowls and handed it to him after his approval nod that the stew was satisfactory. “Then we should call each other by our first names. We are living in the 21st century.”
“I’m a bit vintage, dearie. Forgive an old monster for forgetting what century we’re in” Mr. Gold remarked. Isabel blushed once more, but this time giggled. She was very aware of their age gap, though she wasn’t sure how big of a gap it really was yet, but it hadn’t bothered her really. She wondered if it itched Mr. Gold any. “You win,” He glanced at her as he took the bowl from her. “Anthony.”
Isabel considered the name for a moment. It didn’t exactly fit the man standing beside her, but it was wonderful to just know his first name. She instantly felt more comfortable and relaxed with him. “I like it.” She handed him the other bowl, happy to see the smile on his face at her words. She knew from seeing him around town before their random corresponding a few days prior that he was not one to smile. If anything, he’d bare his teeth as if he were a wolf defending his territory when speaking to a person. But to her and only her, he’d flashed a genuine smile several times.
Their meal was strangely silent. Isabel commented on the stew or an object that caught her eye around the house. Mr. Gold would reply, but didn’t seem to make an attempt at conversation. Isabel’s spirits were a bit dashed by the end of the meal. So many questions were racing through her mind. Maybe Mr. Gold wanted to focus on enjoying the stew? Maybe he couldn’t think of anything to say as her problem was. It made it even harder with the fact that Isabel had only dated one man, so there was not enough experience there to let her know if this was normal date behavior.
“I’ll clean up” Isabel offered, but Mr. Gold held up a dismissive hand.
“No need, dearie” he replied, placing their empty bowls in the sink. “I can handle it later. You’re my guest, not my caretaker.”
The way his voice suddenly prickled made Isabel draw her brows together, befuddled.
“Would you like to have tea with me?” He gestured to the cookie container. “Maybe enjoy your delectable looking treats.”
Isabel nodded. “Sounds lovely, but I would have gathered you to drink coffee instead.”
Mr. Gold busied himself with filling red kettle. “I prefer tea honestly.”
“Why do you only order coffee when you come in the diner?”
“No one makes a better cup of tea than I.” His wicked grin made another appearance.
After the tea was done, he guided her to the back deck that overlooked the woods. The sun had set a couple hours before. All Isabel could see was black columns in the darkness surrounding them. A candle flickered on a glass table sitting between the wicker furniture. Isabel however preferred to stand by the railing staring out into the darkness as she sipped her warm tea. Mr. Gold stood beside her with his own cup, other hand planted on the tip of his cane.
“Please excuse my boldness” Isabel started, turning to Mr. Gold, “but how long has it been since you’ve dated?”
Mr. Gold set down his cup on the wooden rail, contemplating for a moment. “Too long. Have you done this much?”
Isabel sighed to herself at his vague answer, but didn’t want to press the subject if he didn’t wish to share. “I’ve only dated one man in my life, and that was back in high school.” She chuckled softly at the sheer fact that more years had passed than she realized. “I was such a silly girl having a crush on the football captain, Geoffrey March. I seemed to have an eye for me as well. We went out several times, him always trying to impress me with his black convertible and broad shoulders. I truly fell for it until his hand made its way to my breasts one night while we were hanging out by the creek bed.” She glanced at Mr. Gold’s reaction. He seemed to be highly intrigued with her tale. “I gave him another chance, but a few weeks later he became frisky again. I was only 16 years old. I wanted more than just a romp in his cramped backseat. I told him it wasn’t working for me and sent him packing. I started focusing more on my academia thinking it’d get me somewhere.” She shrugged halfheartedly, a sad smile crossing her lips. “Alas, I’m still in Storybrooke.”
“Maybe one day you’ll achieve what you wanted to.” Isabel swore she saw his hand rise to touch her arm, but no, he was already lowering it to his side. “For now, make the best of your time here.”
“I never took you as an inspiration speaker, Mr.-” Isabel paused, thankful the darkness shielded the redness that had crept up again, “-Anthony.”
Mr. Gold smirked. “Oh, I’m a man of many talents.”
Isabel gulped down the last sip of her tea then sighed disappointedly, “I should head home. Probably not safe to wander the streets too late. No telling if there’s a wolf sneaking around at midnight.”
“I can drive you home” he suggested, smoothly. “No need for you to walk.”
Isabel smiled and accepted the offer. She proposed to help clean up again, but Mr. Gold firmly told her it was no matter. The ride to her house was fairly quick and not much was said, though Isabel felt more at ease with the silence this time. They stopped in front of the floral shop, Mr. Gold shifting the gears to park.
“Thank you for a lovely evening” Isabel said, gathering her purse and Tupperware container. “I’ll see you in the morning?”
“As usual, dearie.” He was staring at her intensely, making Isabel suddenly freeze in the seat. Her breath caught in her throat as she watched Mr. Gold lean toward her. Isabel cracked a nervous smile, her hand finding the door handle and yanking it open.
“Good night, Anthony” she squeaked as she vaulted out the car. She glanced over her shoulder, raising a hand in a halfhearted wave as he drove off.
Isabel rushed to her bedroom, splaying the container and purse haphazardly on the round kitchen table as she passed. She threw herself on the bed, pounding her tightly balled fist in the covers. He was about to kiss her and she totally chickened out! She rolled onto her back, rubbing her eyes with the heeled of her hands, miserable. How in the world would she ever face him tomorrow?