GIRLS WANT MAGICAL

CHAPTER 2

He almost swallowed his tongue.

She was coming through the door of the garage in a short, lacy, red dress and hazardously high heels. The small area of neurons in his head that were still firing sent this message: "She's with you? In what universe is that possible?"

When some of Walter's blood began to circulate properly oxygenating the speech center of his brain again, he said, "Y-you look, uh…nice."

Taking in his stunned expression, Paige smiled knowingly and replied, "Thank you. You're not so bad yourself."

Suddenly nervous, Walter scratched the side of his face and tugged at his tie.

"I have something for you in here if you'll follow me," he said indicating the kitchen.

He put a hand on the small of Paige's back and guided her to the refrigerator. She glanced over her shoulder at him with a perplexed look on her face.

When Walter opened up the door, among the hazelnut creamer and condiments, the refrigerator was crammed with a riot of the oddest combination of flowers Paige had ever seen. She blinked at him for a minute then asked, "What's all this?"

Doing his best eager little boy imitation, he said, "When I was doing some research, I read that 78% of women consider receiving flowers romantic, so I read a few articles relating to the language of flowers. There were some discrepancies between sites, but most of them seemed to agree on what these specimens represent."

Amusement clear in Paige's eyes, she asked, "And what are these flowers telling me?"

Handing her a huge bunch of large, bright pink blossoms, Walter answered, "This flower is a zinnia peruviana. This variety originated in India and incidentally is the first plant to bloom in zero gravity and outside the Earth's biosphere on the International Space Station. This hue is called Magenta and they mean, uh…l-lasting affection." He paused and grinned in anticipation of her response.

"Um, thank you, Walter," she said from behind the wall of zinnias.

"Oh. There's more."

"I see that."

He passed her the next big bouquet. "As you know these are roses. The word Rose comes from the French word 'Rosa' and that's from the original Latin. This particular yellow variety is known as rosa glandiflora and they mean 'joy and friendship.'

Not pausing for her comments this time, he reached in again and gave her a cluster of small white blossoms. "And last but not least, these are viola ordorata better known as violets. The white colored ones mean 'Let's take a chance on happiness,'" he finished and looked at Paige expectantly.

With her arms loaded down with the unusual assortment of blooms, she said, "Well, this was thoughtful. Thank you. Now I wish I'd thought to bring you some flowers that mean something."

"Oh, I don't care much for flowers. Botany isn't really an interest of mine. Besides people are just attracted to them for the same reason insects are, specifically the bright color or the sweet smell. However, I can't help but remember they are actually just a plant's sexual, uh…organs," Walter's voice trailed off and he cleared his throat.

Paige was surprised into a burst of laughter. "I usually don't talk about sex organs on a first date," she said, her lips still twitching with suppressed giggles, "Well, as nice as these are, I can't take them to dinner with me. What should we do with them?"

Although he hadn't considered that eventuality, they soon found a couple of pitchers and filled them with water. Paige arranged the stems the best she could and set the containers stuffed with flowers on her desk. He caught a glimpse of her secret smile as she was setting them down and concluded the evening was off to a positive start.

The next thing Walter knew the car service texted to say the limo he requested had arrived. Hoping Paige would appreciate this next portion of the evening as much as the flowers, he said, "Our ride is here. We have a reservation for 8:00. Ready to go?"

They walked outside and a long, sleek, white limousine sat waiting for them. "I'm a little afraid to ask," she said looking puzzled, "I figured we were taking your new car."

"I thought you might enjoy this experience instead," he said, trying to gauge her mood.

As they stepped up to the car, the chauffer popped out of the driver's side and came around to greet them. "Hey, I'm Sam," he said shaking Walter's hand enthusiastically, "I appreciate your business. Heywood said to take good care of you and your lady friend," he winked at Paige and went on, "So, do you just want to ride around the city for an hour or two? What did you have in mind?"

Walter frowned and replied, "We have reservations for dinner in 38 minutes. If we leave now we will just make it."

The driver shrugged and said, "Well, okay. I don't usually do that, but I guess I can this once. How do you find this place?"

Walter looked incredulous. "What is a vehicle for if not to transfer people from place to place and don't you have a GPS in this car?"

"We usually just take our clients cruising around. They normally aren't concerned with the destination."

Exasperated and getting impatient, Walter took out his phone and found the directions himself. He showed the driver and said, "Can we go now?"

"Sure thing, boss." Sam gave a mock salute and opened the back door for them. "Help yourself to anything you want."

Paige and Walter climbed in, the door shut with a snap behind them and they were soon underway.

Walter knew instantly this was a big mistake as he and Paige looked around the interior of the car. Instead of elegant, it was garish and gaudy. The seats were dark purple and the floor and walls were carpeted in fuzzy black and lavender zebra stripes. The ceiling was mirrored and rimmed with purple neon lights. A small, multicolored disco ball hung down from the center and it spun dizzily. Bump and grind music was blaring out of the speakers and there was a heavy, musky, cloying fragrance like incense in the air.

"Well, this is certainly different!" Paige yelled over the music.

"I'm going to kill Heywood!" Walter shouted back. "Help me look for the volume control!"

"What?!"

"The volume control!"

They both began to open and shut drawers and cabinets. The first cabinet contained a full bar. He opened a drawer next and she simultaneously opened another cabinet. This cabinet held a TV and entertainment center…and a full collection of erotic DVDs. Walter stared in astonishment before glancing at what was in the drawer he'd just opened. Inside both of them saw flavored jellies, creams and lubes, adult toys and an impressive array of condoms in a rainbow of colors, also flavored.

They slammed them shut at the exact same time.

Embarrassed, deafened by the music and choking on the air freshener, Walter stared at his lap. He was just wishing he could lower the volume on the music so he could explain, when it appeared to get softer on its own. He chanced a look and saw Paige had a remote in her hand. When he cautiously peeked at her face he saw her eyes were tearing and he was momentarily concerned she was upset enough to cry.

"If it was anybody else," she said, shaking her head, "I would think this was a set up and I would be seriously offended. But I know you probably had no idea about any of this."

"You are correct. I assure you, this was completely unexpected. I'm sorry. Where did you find the remote?"

"Cupholder. Gah! The smell! Let's see if we can open some windows."

They buzzed down the back two windows and even found the control for the sunroof.

Paige said, "It's still awful. My eyes are watering. C'mon let's stand up through the sunroof."

"What?"

"Just trust me." She pulled him up by the elbow, they stood on the seat and poked their heads out the top of the car.

"I feel like a gopher," he said glumly.

They looked at each other and started laughing hysterically. Her mascara had run a bit where her eyes had been watering from the smell and her hair was whipping around her head wildly in the wind. Walter had the illogical thought that she was the most gorgeous woman he'd ever seen and he laced his fingers with hers.

When they reached the restaurant, he paid the chauffer and sent him on his way. "We'll find another way home," he said.

The small boutique eatery was lovely and Walter began to relax a little after the limo fiasco. That was until the maitre d' looked them up and down taking in their windblown appearance and informed them of the 45 minute wait for their table.

Walter was annoyed and starving and opened his mouth to protest when Paige placed a hand on his arm. "We'll just seat ourselves at the bar until our table is ready."

They found a couple of stools at a high table in a corner of the bar and Paige excused herself to freshen up. Walter scanned the environment and hoped she found the place aesthetically pleasing at least. There were silk hangings and marionettes lining the walls and the tables were hammered copper. The music was much more subtle and soothing than the limo's.

When she returned, it was obvious she had done some repairs to her hair and makeup. He certainly found her aesthetically pleasing.

They talked for awhile about things in their world, and in what felt like no time, they were called to their table by his count a full 16 minutes sooner than the 45 minute estimation. He was pleased things were getting back on track.

Walter was so hungry he felt a little light headed. It occurred to him in making preparations for the evening out, he had forgotten to eat for most of the day. He was relieved it wouldn't be much longer until he could fuel up.

He was glad when the entrees arrived promptly…until he actually saw them. They were delivered on a white plate in the shape of an artist's palette. Around the outside of the plate were various sauces impressively arranged by the order of the color spectrum. However, the dollops of sauce could probably be measured in quarter teaspoons. In the center of the palette was a small ice cream scoop-sized pile of fish. He tentatively took a small bite. It was raw.

The waitress returned to the table with a large copper bowl in her hand. "Would you like some bread?" She asked.

Thinking he could at least fill up on something that would help him produce glucose, Walter nodded. The waitress placed one small roll about the size of a chicken's egg on each of their plates. He nibbled at his trying to make it last, but he consumed it all too quickly.

Smirking, Paige said, "What else did you have planned for us tonight?"

Worried about where the conversation was heading, he answered, "Well, there is a music club a few doors down. You like music, right? I thought we could maybe, uh, dance. My research said it's generally considered romantic and our first experience was more pleasant than I anticipated."

"Listen, I don't want to ruin your plans. It's obvious you went to a lot of trouble. But what do you say we grab a cab and a couple of burgers on the way back to the garage instead. We can sit on the roof and eat them al fresco. These shoes are already killing me. I don't think my feet could survive dancing."

Walter's smile could have lit up downtown LA. "That sounds perfect."

They ate their burgers under the strands of lights Happy had installed and laughed about the previous events of their date. Her shoes and his jacket and tie were carelessly tossed in a nearby chair.

"Just out of curiosity," Paige asked, "What made you do all this? None of this is you. You don't have to go through this kind of trouble for me."

"But that's precisely why I went through the trouble. Paige, you said that girls want magical, not interesting. I was trying to be magical, but I guess it's something I just can't achieve."

She gave him a soft 'Walter Smile', "You don't have to try that hard to impress me. I'm already impressed. And do you want to know what I find 'magical'?"

With an adorably earnest look on his face, Walter nodded.

"Every time I see you and my son with your heads together working on some project or other, that's magical. And the times when you learn something human and grow as a person, that is too. Or when you help somebody just because you care even if you won't always admit it. Or when you stand up for me or Ralph or anyone else you consider family. And especially those times you are vulnerable and show you have feelings after all, in spite of what you say. That, Walter is what I consider magical."

He frowned and blinked trying to process her words. "The articles I read on romance said nothing about any of those things. Maybe you're the one who's weird."

"Maybe so," she said beaming. Her smile made him feel slightly dizzy.

She extended her hand to him. "How about that dance like you planned?"

"That would be acceptable."

Paige fiddled with the docking station and her phone until she selected a song she liked. She took Walter's hands and guided them to her waist. She placed her arms on his shoulders and her fingers played with the short hair at the nape of his neck giving him chills. She pressed her cheek to his and they swayed to the soft, slow song.

With his lips moving against her ear, he murmured, "I understand magical now."

After a low chuckle that made his heart rate spike, she kissed him senseless again.