Before further conversation, I grabbed my brown suitcase, the one Derek was still holding in his hand. “I think I’ll make the switch before we forget,” I said with a wry laugh.
Ignoring me, he tapped his finger on his forehead. “I knew I recognized you. Bob. Bob’s girlfriend.”
Derek continued, “At my parent’s Christmas party in Brookline. Bob and I were…”
“Harvard college roommates,” I interjected, again. “Yes, I know. Two degrees of separation. Your parents are great friends with mine – I guess they met up at some cruise in ….”
“Bermuda! Right, it’s all coming back to me. You’re Molly!”
I examined the luggage tag on my suitcase, “Well, look at that,” I said breezily.
But then Derek began to blush a light rose that deepened into scarlet. “You didn’t open my suitcase, did you?”
I pointed to the one I’d just removed from my bedroom. “You mean that one?” I walked over and examined it. “Look at that. Same make as mine. Maybe even same year.”
Derek chuckled nervously.
“Let’s see. I bought my Tumi two years ago. Here in Boston. And you?”
“I can’t say,” Derek replied. “It’s not actually my suitcase.” He shot me a strange look.
I feared a lie might be unfolding. What a disappointment. When I met Derek at that Christmas party, I liked him immediately. He seemed to be everything Bob was not: secure, unpretentious, funny, and dare I say, interested in me. We had both locked eyes over our champagne with a quick shock of mutual attraction.
But Derek’s parents were my parents’ new besties. A coupling between Derek and me would send them into swoons of delight. Dismayed by the idea, I had turned my back on the spark.
I now noticed that Derek sat on my couch with arms folded, slumped in defeat. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for whatever girl-mess he’d gotten himself into.
I sat next to him and gave him the benefit of my doubt. “If it’s not your suitcase, Derek, whose is it?”
He stunned me by stating, “It belongs to my boss.”
WHAT? I stood up, peeved and perplexed. “Your boss wears a see-through negligee and eats See’s Candy?”
Derek’s red face blanched white. “That’s what’s in there?”
“Of course that’s what’s in there. Don’t act so innocent. I thought it was my suitcase, opened it up and had the shock of my life.”
Derek’s chest began to shake. His eyes lit up like a firecracker, and in seconds, he roared like a happy lion. “She told me…” he began before laughter took over again. “I thought ….” He bent over to catch his breath.
“She who? Told you what?” I should have been enormously annoyed at this point, but watching Derek laugh was like seeing the sun rise over the ocean. Everything became brighter. Rosier. Happier.
After three deep breaths, Derek stood up and placed his big hands – like lion’s paws – on top of my shoulders while staring straight into my eyes. A jolt hit us both so hard we jumped back. But then he stood his ground and calmly explained. “My boss is Grace Jenkins. Our plane landed 20 minutes late, as you know. Grace was overdue to meet up with her husband – an anniversary surprise she’d planned for the evening. So she grabbed a taxi and asked me to pick up her brown Tumi and deliver it to the Liberty Hotel on my drive home.”
My mouth opened and closed. Shut up, I told myself.
“Grace begged me to not open the suitcase under any circumstances. ‘State secrets,’ she said to me.” Derek released a loud guffaw.
I marched over to the secret suitcase and unzipped the top.
“What are you doing?” Derek asked, his hilarity squashed.
I opened the box of candy, disregarding the rest of the “anniversary” contents.
“After all this, I think we deserve something sweet,” I declared.
“I think I’ve already found my treat,” he murmured.
And the switch was complete.
So many great guesses in last week’s post (Summertime Baggage). The winner is joyroses 13. She will receive a copy of my romantic suspense – The Right Wrong Man. If it wasn’t so warm here in the East Coast, I’d include a box of chocolates, too. 🙂