Betty floated down the stairs. She had to stop and look back once to make sure he was actually there. Daniel was in London. And he'd asked her out to dinner. Was it a date? She couldn't stop thinking about what Mrs. Meade had said at her going away party: "Losing you is very hard for him Betty…I don't even think he knows quite why yet…I have a theory." Betty hadn't had to ask what the "theory" was; she could tell by the twinkle in Mrs. Meade's eye. For the first time in the three weeks she had been in London she wasn't cursing Mrs. Meade for planting the idea in her head that Daniel might have feelings for her. Instead she was wondering if it might actually be true.
After her conversation with Mrs. Meade at her going away party, Betty had alternated between the "theory" being plausible and ridiculous. For three weeks she went back and forth in her head, finally settling on ridiculous just a few days ago. If he hadn't said good-bye to her and then couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone or to text, or email her, then he couldn't possibly have feelings for her. She'd been surprisingly disappointed by this final verdict - and relieved that she was on a different continent so she didn't have to deal with these new emotions everyday.
But now, here he was, in London, asking if he could take her out for dinner. She didn't know what to make of it. And the look he gave her – wow – that was definitely new, and she couldn't ignore it.
At the end of the workday Betty rushed home to get ready for dinner. She was searching her closet for something to wear and getting increasingly frustrated as she pulled out one outfit after another. She needed to talk to someone. A part of her wanted to keep the whole thing a secret – like it would somehow jinx it if she told. But she was at a loss; she needed someone's advice.
Betty opted to call Christina. Christina did, after all, know a thing or two about fashion – and if she had to tell someone, better Christina than Hilda. Hilda would be too excitable and searching for too many details; Betty didn't have that much time to talk before he was coming to pick her up. Besides, she was already a bundle of nervous energy…she didn't need Hilda feeding that.
"Hello Betty...what's new?"
"What do people wear out to dinner when they're going out with someone but they don't know if it's a date or not?"
"What are you on about, Betty?"
"Oh sorry." She realized she hadn't given Christina any background. "I have a dinner date…or maybe not…and I'm just not sure what to wear. I was hoping for your advice."
"Oooo…with who, Love…someone from work?" Christina knew Betty had been working so hard it was unlikely she would have met someone anywhere else lately.
"No…actually it's with Daniel." Betty was a little hesitant to admit it.
"Daniel? Daniel Meade? What's he doing in London?" Christina was shocked.
"Well…I ran into him today when I was out for lunch. He said he quit Mode, that he wanted to start over…you know…try to see what he can earn on his own."
"And he asked you out on a date?" Christina was trying to clarify the whole thing in her mind.
"Well, I don't really know. I don't know if it's a date or not." Betty was starting to doubt it herself. Now that she actually spoke it out loud it seemed unlikely.
"What would make you think it was a date?" Christina wanted to know. "I mean…you and Daniel have been friends for ages and you've gone to dinner more than once before.
"I know. It was just kind of awkward, you know…and I kept getting these vibes from him." She didn't mention Mrs. Meade's theory.
"What kind of "vibes"?"
"Well…looks and stuff. He said he's going to be hanging around London for a while."
"Betty, Betty…" Christina sighed; she was concerned. "Are you having feelings for Daniel? Are you sure that's a good idea?"
Betty misinterpreted Christina's doubt. "Yeah…you're right…I'm being ridiculous. Of course it's not a date."
"Don't be daft, Betty; I didn't mean it that way. It might well be a date. I'm just wondering if that would be…wise."
"He's changed, Christina." Betty had to defend him. Christina hadn't known Daniel for years and the man Daniel had become was nothing like the one he had been when Christina worked for Mode.
"I believe you've told me that once or twice before." Christina was still a little skeptical.
"Anyway…date or not, I don't know what to wear. What should I wear?"
"Well that depends, Love. Do you want it to be a date?" Christina was being more supportive. "If you want it to be a date then something that shows off your boobs."
"Ok…" Betty cringed a little. "I'm not ready to picture Daniel thinking about my boobs."
"Oh go on Betty…if the man flew across the Atlantic to ask you on a date…believe me he's already thought about them once or twice."
The gravity of the situation started to sink in. Had Daniel flown to London because of her? He had said he wanted to start over…earn something on his own. But he could do that in the States couldn't he? Maybe not in New York…the Meade's were too well known in New York. But there were many other places Daniel could have gone to start over. There must be a reason he was in London. Maybe she was the reason.
She shook her head. She could ponder these things later. Right now she had to figure out what to wear. He would be here to pick her up in forty minutes.
"Soooo…." Betty was getting a little impatient.
"Well, if you're going to go ride the Meade Steed tonight…"
"Christina!" Betty interrupted. "Nothing's going to happen. It's just a date."
"Betty, don't be naïve. Do you honestly think you're going to go on a date with Daniel Meade and he's not going to try to hitch his stallion to your wagon?"
"Christina stop! First of all…enough with the horse innuendos. Second of all…he's not that guy anymore…he's changed."
"So you've said." Christina tried being more helpful. "A little black dress is good, Love. It has the ability to be very versatile."
"A little black dress...do you even know me?" Betty asked. She did have one black dress but it wasn't really appropriate.
"Oh…right. Well solid colours anyway. You do have those, don't you?" Christina couldn't be sure.
"Yeah. I have a few."
"How about something red? You look lovely in red." Christina offered.
Betty opted for a red dress she was very fond of. It didn't particularly show off her boobs, but it was very flattering.
The conversation during dinner was comfortable. They spoke of Daniel's plans now that he was in London. He was going to try something different...probably advertising. And Betty spoke of her new job. She lit up as she told him all of the stories that were going into the first issue; the struggles she had with figuring out the budget; and the ideas she had for future issues.
"So, have you met a lot of new people?" Daniel asked when the conversation lulled a little. There seemed to be an undercurrent to that question.
"Only people from work." Betty responded. "I've been so busy with the magazine I haven't really had much of a life." He seemed slightly relieved by her answer.
The waiter came and Daniel paid the bill.
"I'm not ready to take you home yet." Daniel admitted. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
Betty smiled bashfully. "Yeah, that sounds nice."
They left the restaurant and stopped to cross the busy street. Daniel gently grabbed Betty's hand and led her across – not a completely uncharacteristic thing to do. But when they got to the other side neither one let go. And when Daniel realized Betty wasn't pulling away he laced his fingers with hers in a more intimate hold. That was definitely different. Betty looked up at him. He just smiled down at her.
They arrived shortly at the edge of the Thames. The view of the parliament buildings reflecting on the water was beautiful. They stood quietly enjoying the view for a minute.
Betty broke the silence first. "I saw more of London when I came for Fashion Week than I have since I moved here." She admitted.
"We should fix that." He smiled at her. "How about Saturday? You don't have to work Saturday do you?"
"I'll make sure to take it off." She grinned.
There was a small breeze and a wisp of Betty's hair was blowing into her face. She hesitated letting go of Daniel's hand to brush it away. He let go before she did. He softly tucked her hair behind her ear and then he ran his finger down the length of her jaw pausing with his hand cupping her chin. He was looking at her in that same way again. Betty's heart was beating in her throat. She wondered if he was going to kiss her.
"Betty…" Daniel said softly. "We need to talk."
"Ya think?" She asked quietly, trying to break the spell he was casting with that look.
He grinned at her but he didn't speak right away. It was like he was trying to gather all of his thoughts together…or work up courage.
When he finally did speak it was awkward. "Sometimes…um…things happen to people that are unexpected. Changes take place in the way people feel about each other…you know?" He was very abstract. "But when it happens…they can't…uh…deny it any longer and they have to do something about it."
Betty couldn't help but smile. He was acting nervous and it surprised her.
"What? What's with the look?" Daniel was a little insecure.
"Nothing. It's nothing." Betty tried to stifle the smile so he would continue.
"It's not nothing." He was adamant. "Why are you smiling?"
"I'm sorry, Daniel. It's just…you're nervous. I've never seen you that way, with me, before."
"Yeah…well I've never felt this way with you before." He admitted. "At least not until just before you left New York. I need to be honest Betty..." He paused for a minute before continuing. "I'm not here just to start over. I mean…I do want to start over, but that's not why I came to London. I'm here because of you."
Betty paused for a moment absorbing what he'd just said before responding. "I kind of wondered why the sudden pull to London." She didn't sound shocked, just shy. "They have advertising agencies in the States…some really good ones." She smiled a little bashfully. "I figured there had to be a different reason you were here."
"You don't seem too surprised."
"I've had some time to process it…sort of. Your mom kind of gave me a heads up before I left New York." She confessed. "I didn't really believe her but then you showed up here…" She didn't finish her thought.
"My mom!" He was surprised his mom would take a risk like that…put his feelings out there before he was even ready to.
"Yeah. She saw how upset I was that you didn't come to my good-bye party…"
"I'm sorry Betty." He interrupted.
She shook her head like that wasn't important now and continued. "She said you couldn't say good-bye because it was too hard for you."
Daniel took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly. "She wasn't completely wrong. But that's not the whole story. I couldn't say good-bye because I knew you'd see it."
"See what?" Betty was confused.
"I can't get anything by you Betty. I knew you'd see that your leaving was more to me than just a great Jr. Editor leaving the company; more even, than just a good friend saying good-bye. I knew you'd see my heart was breaking." He was being completely open now. "I couldn't risk it. I knew you had to take this job…for your own sake. I didn't want you to see my heart breaking and decide to stay." He added softly, hesitantly "Or worse than that…to decide to go anyway."
Betty was speechless for a moment. How would she have reacted if she'd found out before she left New York? It would have been such a shock. Would she have stayed? She didn't honestly know. She was thankful now that Daniel hadn't come to say good-bye.
Daniel continued, still a little unsure. "So…seeing as you are standing here…and not running for cover - can I assume this is not a completely unpleasant concept to you?" He said hopefully. He'd just bared his soul and he really needed to know how Betty was feeling about it.
"Since we're being honest…" She smiled at him. "when your mom suggested the idea I thought she was crazy. But the more I thought about it, the more I started hoping it was true." She blushed a little and looked at the ground. "I honestly never thought of us in that way until your mom said something." She was mortified he would think she'd been crushing on him for years.
Clearly he wasn't thinking that. "I don't know exactly when I realized these feelings were happening but when you invited me to Hilda's wedding and I wanted to be your date so much more than I wanted to spend the day with my new girlfriend…I knew I was in trouble." He laughed remembering it.
Betty laughed too, and then a realization struck her. "That thing with Henry…"
Daniel cringed, obviously embarrassed by his actions. "Yeah…let's not go there."
They both laughed again.
There was a bit of an awkward silence.
Betty spoke first. "So…what do we do…now?"
"I think that's your call." Daniel said. "I came to London, so I think you know where I stand."
Betty took a deep breath. Daniel obviously had some pretty strong feelings. And now the ball was in her court. She had to figure out what she wanted. There were definitely some sparks tonight. She couldn't deny the attraction she was feeling – which was weird in its own right…this was, after all, Daniel. She'd known him for four years and a little too intimately in some respects - there was that mole for one thing…and that sex tape for another… She cringed at the thought. She decided that sometimes it's for the best if images and memories stay buried.
Daniel was waiting.
"I'm not sure…I mean…I can't deny that there's something going on here. But we've known each other for so long…and we know each other almost a little too well - do you think we can get past all of that?"
"Betty…for me, it's because we know each other so well that I want to try. I understand that it might be a little different from your perspective," There was a little chagrin in his tone "but I can wait if you need time to figure it out." He smiled at her, locking his eyes with hers for a moment. His grin and those eyes almost melted whatever resolve she might have had to maintain the platonic relationship they had. For the first time ever she realized what women saw in Daniel Meade. He was definitely sexy and he wasn't even trying to be.
She didn't speak for a minute. She couldn't – she was trying to figure it all out in her head. What would happen if it didn't work between them? What if they hurt each other? What if they could never be friends again?
Daniel could tell she was thinking it all through. A large part of him desperately wanted to take her by the hand or to touch her in some way – to let the electricity that had been flying between them all evening persuade her a little. But he didn't. He knew Betty, and he knew that if they were going to do this – and do it right – she would have to make this decision with her head.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity for Daniel, Betty spoke.
"I really care about you" she started "but I'm scared."
"I'm scared too, Betty." He was honest.
"Yeah. But I'm in love with you and I don't want to let my fear get in the way of what might possibly be the best thing that could ever happen to us."
She paused for a minute, still thinking. If she was honest with herself she'd been thinking about a moment like this for weeks – since Claire Meade had planted the suggestion in the first place. And when she thought about what it would be like if he ever told her he was in love with her…she never once turned him down. They could be really good together, couldn't they?
She looked up at him and she said confidently. "Ok."
"Ok?...You're in?" Daniel wasn't sure if that's what she meant.
She took a deep breath and said "Yeah. Let's do it."
She smirked at him and said "What… you want me to change my mind?"
He smiled "No, definitely not…I just thought it was going to be a little more…difficult than that?"
"I could make it more difficult, if that's what you want." She teased. "I could make you work a little harder."
Daniel placed his hand side of her head, and whispered sensually "I'll work hard if that's what you want." He kissed her cheek. He pulled back to look into her eyes and said "I love you Betty." Then he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers so softly it was like he was teasing her before kissing her a little more forcefully. It was innocent enough to be sweet but sensual enough to make her want more – he really was a master.
When he pulled back and leaned his forehead against hers Betty exhaled and said, half under her breath, "Wow."
He pulled back a bit to study her face. "Did you just say "wow"?" He looked amused.
Had she really said that out loud? She felt like she was such a dork. She didn't answer him.
"You did, didn't you?" He was delighted. Then he leaned in and whispered suggestively "You know it get's a lot better than that, don't you?"
The images and sensations his whisper elicited made her lightheaded and weak in the knees; she needed to sit down. She turned and walked over to the bench. Did he really just make her swoon? She thought that only happened in the movies.
"Sore feet." She lied.