Disclaimer: I do not own Madison Finn and any of the characters mentioned in this fiction. They belong to Laura Dower. I am merely an avid fan who finds inspiration from her works.
BELATED HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! :)
"Drat!" Madison Finn exclaimed, pulling out her fancy cell phone from her pocket to re-read the text message sent to her by Aimee Gillespie.
The confused brown-haired stood alone somewhere along the streets of Paris. It was a very windy day in the city and her hair being swept uncontrollably over her face did not help with her getting lost in a foreign place. That was why she needed to consult the directions given to her by her long-time best friend. With her right hand holding her hair and her left hand on her phone, she dialled furiously to look for the message.
Madison and Aimee, along with their other best friends from Far Hills, Lindsay Frost, Fiona Waters and Madhur Singh had planned to escape to the largest city in France for a girls' week out that summer. At the age of 25, everything was already somehow chaotic and hectic in their lives especially that most of them were juggling between their partners and work. The only un-married one left was Madison.
Madison was able to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. After graduating from college, she was able to open her own animal clinic. Having both her mother and her friend, Lindsay working in the film industry helped her gain connections, making most of her clients to be high-profiled people and celebrities.
Because of this, Madison was too busy taking care of other people's pets that she could not afford to take the time off to meet someone or go out on a date. Not even to go out with her friends and just have a chat with them. It was also for this reason that Aimee, Lindsay, Fiona and Madhur had thought of dragging their workaholic friend to a place far away from home just so they could finally get to spend their time together away from the normal routine in their lives.
The five friends had been staying in an apartment they rented for three days now. So much had been planned for their trip and they wanted to spend their time out in the city as much as possible. All except Madison who could not seem to get away from her laptop and her phone. It appeared that the animals needed her most during the vacation. Because of her love for her job, she could not say no, much to the others' dismay.
On the morning of their fourth day in the city of romance, Aimee declared that they will be having the most important lunch of their life. Feeling guilty with her lack of participation to the trip, Madison promised that she will come this time. Since she still had some calls to make, Aimee just messaged to her the directions on where they will be meeting.
And now that she's out on the streets, Madison could not seem to find her way to wherever Aimee wanted to her to go. She could not understand why her friends cannot just tell her the name of the place. Nobody's answering her call and so she was left alone to figure out how to find the location.
Feeling frustrated, she approached an old woman whose busy fixing her grocery bags by a nearby bench.
"Bonjour! Do you speak English?" Madison asked as nice as she could for the nth time. She had been having a hard time finding a person with whom she can communicate well.
Startled, the woman almost dropped her items a she glanced up. But then, she smiled kindly. "Oui! 'Ow may I 'elp you, young girl?" she replied, her voice hinted with a deep French accent.
Being a grown woman, Madison winced at how the old lady addressed her. But she was relieved to find someone who can understand her. She then explained the direction given to her by Aimee and the woman listened to her attentively.
"Ah! La Finnster!" the old lady unexpectedly exclaimed.
"I'm sorry?" Madison asked, unsure of what she heard.
"You say you are to meet your friends for lunch, yes? La Finnster is a restaurant. It is ze place you our looking for."
Stunned, Madison just stared at the stranger with her jaw dropped.
"Is zer something wrong, dear?" the French lady asked.
"N-nothing," the younger woman stuttered, still unable to accept what she just heard. "M-merci!"
The old woman smiled and gave a nod. "You just go straight to zat street and you'll see ze place. Zey are best known for seafood of course. Well, enjoy! Au revoir!"
Madison watched as the person who just made her understand why this will be the most important lunch of her life picked up her grocery bags and walked away to the other direction until she's out of her sight.
La Finnster? Madison thought to herself. Could it be a coincidence?
She looked down at her shaking hands and it was not because of the cold humidity. Trying to calm herself, she sat down on the bench where the French woman stayed. Could she have heard it right? Was that really the name of the place? What does this mean?
Out of sudden, Madison snapped out of it. Her body started shaking more violently and anger slowly raged over her. Was this some kind of joke? What did Aimee and the others think they were playing at? Did they talk to that woman to set her up? Was this their revenge for ditching them the past days?
Quickly, Madison stood up and stormed towards the direction of the place. Her eyes scanned the area, expecting to spot Aimee, Fiona, Lindsay or Madhur hiding somewhere and laughing at her. She could not understand why she was thinking negatively and immaturely. Maybe it was stress that's making her logic irrational. It was just too impossible and she did not want to do more wishful thinking about things that were not bound to happen.
What Madison's eye saw made her stop on her tracks. She could not believe it. Her eyes must be deceiving her. Sure enough, a sophisticated restaurant stood before her. Above the entrance door reads "La Finnster" in elegant cursive. Beside the name has the form of an orange clown fish.
"An orange fish?" Madison muttered to herself, almost close to tears. She stood there in awe, marvelling at what's in front of her.
Suddenly, the door opened and Madison's heart almost stopped. But it was only Lindsay and Fiona whose faces lit up when they saw her.
"Maddie!" they cried in unison and ran towards their friend.
The two were about to pull her inside but Madison did not budge. "Wait!" she protested, her pulse raising.
Fiona and Lindsay gave her a minute to compose herself.
"Omigod! Omigod! Omigod!" Madison gushed, her breath quickening. "A freaking orange fish! With that name! Omigod!"
Lindsay giggled. "What a coincidence, right?"
"Or is it?" Fiona asked slyly.
Back when they were younger, Madison was known to be a superstitious girl. Even Aimee often teased her about that. But she had already considered that as a part of her old self which she had finally outgrown. So why was she impulsively starting to go down that road again? Did she actually think this was some kind of a sign of her destiny?
Slowly, Madison let her friends drag her towards the entrance. She felt herself catching her breath when the door was opened by someone inside. As she entered the building, her sight first apprehended the outline of a beaming Aimee.
"Why hello there Miss Workaholic! We've been waiting for you!" Aimee joked at the speechless new arrival.
"Bonjour mademoiselle! Let me take your coat for you," a boy in white said with a bow who abruptly appeared by their side.
Madison gave her coat, still trying to grasp the reality. When she looked straight again, she was astounded to see the way into the restaurant filled with waiters in the same white uniform as if they had been waiting for her. With smiles and bows, they all welcomed her in French and in English.
The three friends urged Madison to walk forward. As they did so, the waiters made way as they continuously bowed and greeted her. The massive attention was overwhelming Madison and all she could do was let herself be led by her friends and observe the scene unfold before her.
Along the way stood Madhur with a sheepish grin. On her arms was a bouquet of beautiful red tulips and blue iris. She handed it over to Madison, who took it with trembling hands.
Now, Madison moved forward with her four friends by her side as the servers departed like the Red Sea. With all that's been happening, she had the craziest idea that maybe she's just dreaming. Everything was in slow motion and she was feeling lightheaded.
From the group of white, something dark emerged. Madison halted as her consciousness embraced the familiarity of the lone figure. She could not believe what she was seeing - who she was seeing. It was too good to be true and that instance, she was sure that she was just dreaming.
"You're not dreaming, Finnster," he said lovingly as if reading her mind.
Madison caught her breath upon hearing his deep voice again for the first time after so many years. A tear trickled down her eye, still not wanting to give in to what may possibly be just an illusion. But she knew that if she really was just imagining things that she should make the most out of it.
"H-h-hart?" she croaked, gulping back the sob. And when she finally uttered his name, she knew that this was realer than real. Maybe the realest thing at that moment.
"Oh god! Oh god!" Madison sobbed. Unable to control herself anymore, she dropped the flowers, ran towards the man in front of her and wrapped her arms around him. She held on tight, afraid that the figure will suddenly disappear.
"Hey! You just threw away my gift for you," Hart quipped with a laugh, kissing the top of Madison's head.
"I'd really rather hold you than the flowers," she admitted, relishing the moment.
The united couple just cuddled for some time. The very last time they saw each other was 12 years ago at the end of their 7th grade. Madison was distraught when Hart said they will be moving to Europe and the possibility of the Jones family going back to USA, more so in Far Hills, was very slim. They knew their relationship would never work with such great distance and so much uncertainties.
Despite the obvious massive changes in Hart's physical appearance and voice, Madison did not feel any reluctance that perhaps, this man was so much different now from the boy she had once knew. And in spite of the very long years of separation, she knew that her feelings for him had never dispersed. She thought it did but the emotions just came rushing back when she had set her eyes on him.
Letting go of each other, Madison gave herself a chance to study Hart's face. Of course he's beautiful.
"I cannot believe what a coincidence to meet you here," she sighed happily.
Hart chuckled. "Really Finnster? You're still that superstitious?"
Puzzled, Madison frowned. Bit by bit, it dawned to her. The trip to Paris was planned to get her closer to where Hart was. But why?
"Wow! This is actually better than my destiny thoughts!" she blurted out.
Hart gave her a confused smile. "What do you mean?"
Madison shook her head feeling silly. "Never mind."
Hart took her hands and Madison felt something cold touch her skin. She noticed something glistening on her finger and she wanted to cry again.
"Marry me, Finnster," he murmured only to her ears.
Somehow, the statement did not astonish Madison. It was as if she knew this will be coming. She knew she should not be hasty and their careers were in question to this arrangement. But she did not find herself troubled. There was only his question which she has an answer.
"Of course," she answered. She never felt more sure in her life.