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Authors: Mandi Rei Serra

A Toast to Starry Nights

BOOK: A Toast to Starry Nights
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A Toast to
Starry Nights

 

A Novel

by Mandi Rei
Serra

 

 

 

Once
upon a time, there was a man I loved very much.

I craved the
sound of his voice, the feel of his touch.

Fate had in
store a kismet not aligned

He and I
wandered alone through

our separate
lifetimes.

 

When Destiny
knocks, and Kismet abounds,

Truth and Reason
can be found.

Open doors to
opportunities wide

Now it is time
to let your Life inside.

 

 

 

Chapter One-

 

How does one deal with such a disastrous
scenario? Here I was, dressed to the nines, and here he was on bended knee,
ring in hand and covered in my regurgitated dinner. Dignity wasn't an option--
all tables around us were either staring, whispering, or choking back the puke
themselves. Was it the smell, sight or sound that set them off? Just one glance
around and I saw all eyes were on us, and characteristically, I ruined a
beautiful moment by doing the wrong thing. I always got queasy when anxious,
and right now, being center stage, made me extremely nervous.

Snow-white linen and crystal chandeliers
faded into the background as I looked upon my boyfriend of four years before me
as I sat at the center-most table in the restaurant. I was more than aware of every
pair of eyes focused on the tableau he and I provided as an aperitif.

Dmitri was frozen on his knee, mouth
agape. A lock of dark brown hair fell from its gelled haven onto his forehead.
His best suit jacket was covered in prime rib, creamed spinach, wine and bile.
I couldn't help but to think that I needed to pay for the dry cleaning, give
him a back massage, and my undying gratitude for not throwing up on me in
return-- I saw him hold back a heave with a shudder. By some miracle, my bomb
missed his trouser leg altogether.

“I'm sorry. Please get me out of here,”
I whispered. I hated being the center of attention and curiosity, upset that I
made a scene and completely destroyed such lovely intentions. The tears were
welling up and I had no desire to make a horrendous scene worse.

“Are you okay?” he asked, concern heavy
in his accented voice. I watched as a piece of red meat slid down his dark gray
jacket and the urge to pass out flashed through my mind as it plopped onto the
floor.

“I just threw up on you...” Perhaps he
couldn't see my Captain Obvious cape fluttering in the imaginary breeze. My
eyes closed and I gripped the edge of the table as the new bout of nausea wound
its way up from the twisting innards that couldn't be mentally tamed. My words
must have assured him I wouldn't expire on the spot.

Dmitri smiled wryly and replied, “Yeah,
I noticed.” He stood up and peeled off the offensive garment. With great care
he folded it inside out to make a neat bundle out of the purple silk-lined
jacket. “I'm going to pay the bill, why don't you head out to the car? I'll
meet you there in a few.” Dmitri winked at me, trying to elicit a smile. It
didn't work. I lacked the gumption. If only I could fade from view and slip out
unnoticed. I needed to master that particular trick and channel my inner ninja.

As an afterthought, I looked down to my
periwinkle blue dress and saw I missed decorating myself in regurgitation.
Although it seemed repugnant, at that moment I wish I had covered myself in
upchuck instead of the man who wanted me as his wife. I could easily bear
self-humiliation if it meant giving Dmitri all his dignity back. That he could
be so cool and collected after getting coated in dinner earned him more
admiration from me.

A waiter in a penguin suit stood off to
one side, signaling the bus boy to clean up. I guess he was wondering if I'd
heave chunks on him too. My wine glass was still half-full of a rather decent
Syrah, which I chugged in a most unladylike manner. Already have everyone's
attention, might as well seal the deal for lowbrow dining at a quality
establishment by guzzling my grape juice like an over-enthusiastic sorority
pledge. Didn't care anymore, I already ruined the night.

Wine helped to rid my mouth of the
astringent taste of bile. Standing up, I gathered my belongings and apologized
to the waiter. I dug briefly into my purse and pulled out two twenty dollar
bills. Were I in his shoes, an apology and good tip would be a very nice thing
indeed.

Through the crowded dining room and out
the exit, past burning stares and loud whispers, I made my escape. Caught sight
of myself in a mirror behind the maitre'd station. My hazel eyes looked like
twin pissholes in the snow. Out the etched plate-glass door and into the
parking lot I went. The summer night had a gentle rose-scented breeze, which
helped to clear my head, and the lingering nausea abate. Upon reaching the car,
I realized that Dmitri locked it and still possessed the keys. As I waited, I
rested my head atop my arms crossed on the Jetta and pondered why I would do
such a thing at an important moment in my life.

I had expected Dmitri's proposal ever
since my mother dropped broad hints a few months ago. The reality of the moment
was so much better than anything I could imagine, with the exception of my oral
eruption. My own version of Pompeii, except Dmitri was the only one smothered
by the lava flow. Sigh. The giddiness of the moment may have played into it.
The crowd of people staring didn't really help. But there was a stabbing moment
of sheer panic and abject fright that I couldn't place as he offered the ring
to me with such pride and love shining in his wonderful bright blue eyes. I
loved the idea of getting married to Dmitri yet the thought of the wedding
itself didn't sit well with me. It was the first time I ever felt true fear in
the presence of Dmitri, yet it wasn't he I feared, but the nuptial ceremony.
The thought niggled my mind in a way that let me feeling bewildered and
apprehensive.

Footsteps sounded his approach. I raised
my head, not caring that my elaborate hairstyle came undone and dark red curls
hung in clumps to my shoulders. Every time I closed my eyes to blink, that one
moment replayed itself in my mind. How could I look at him now?

There was no need for me to fret. Dmitri
gathered me into his arms and rested his chin upon the crown of my head. Surely
stray hairpins were sticking into him, but he seemed not to care.

“Honestly now, Kaylis, are you okay?”

“I...I don't know. I mean, yes, I want
to marry you, but I don't know why I threw up. I'm so sorry, Dmitri. I didn't
mean to ruin your proposal.”
In front of all of Chico
, I silently
amended.

“Kay, the only way you'd ruin it is if
you said no.” Somewhere in my rib cage, my heart began to thaw from its frozen
state of fear. He took a step away from me, and I felt bereft of his presence.
He reached into his pant pocket and drew out the box he had already offered me
once. Now with my stomach devoid of any content, I suppose he felt safe in
offering it to me again.

With slow grace, he unhinged the tiny
rosewood cube, carved with ivy and flowers by his own hands. “Kaylis Woods,
would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Even in the dark, the blue of
his eyes shone bright. With a smile, Dmitri proffered the ring nestled inside
the wooden sculpture to me.

“Yes.” I didn't know what else to say,
although wrapping my arms around him and squeezing with all my might did cross
my mind as a more dignified version of an intense
girly-moment-squeal-of-delight.

He slid the ring onto my finger and I
studied it for a brief moment. A large cobalt-blue square-cut sapphire had a
marquise diamond set on each side, at the mid point. Filling in the spaces
between the diamonds were tiny round iolites in a watery lavender-blue color.
The band was filigreed platinum, pierced so that light could shine through to
the stones and make them sparkle with an inner fire.

Dmitri now held my fingertips prisoner
in his gentle grasp. As I marveled at the magnitude of his gift, his voice
caressed my ear. “The jeweler thought that the diamonds should have been
mounted at each point of the sapphire. But I wanted them right where they are,
at the compass points. I lived a life without you before, Kaylis. I felt lost.
When I am with you, I know exactly where I am, and where I want to be. You are
my compass and so I am lost no more. You are very special to me.”

My heart puddled at his poetry, and as
fast as an Oklahoma twister, I whipped around and wrapped my arms about his
neck and kissed the side of his mouth-- he wasn't going to get a full-on kiss
until I had brushed my teeth. “You are mine, as I am yours,” I whispered.

At my passionate decree, I felt the
terror re-emerge in the pit of my stomach, and I closed my eyes as it unfurled.
I hugged Dmitri again, using the strength and warmth of his embrace as my
shield against the unexplained and unreasonable icy-cold terror. His breath
tickled my neck to sweep the fear away. No more than a moment had passed, and
Dmitri was unaware of my silent mini panic attack.

I basked in the love of this man and
whispered, “You are ten kinds of awesome.”

Dmitri returned my hug and swung me
around underneath the glowing halo of parking lot lights. We laughed and my
personal Pompeii lay forgotten in our shared happiness.

 

Chapter Two-

 

“Really, Kaylis, be more like your
namesake. Do you think the Klingon God of War would have heaved upon his
intended?”

My mother, Willow, named me after a Star
Trek character.

Not an actor, but a fictional character
in that particular universe. Was I supposed to be war-like? Complete with
ridged forehead and knife strapped to my side? The perpetual chip on my
shoulder, a preference for Romulan Ale and penchant for squiggling live food
that would make both a Korean and bushman blanch in disgust? I suppose I should
be grateful that I won the gender lottery lest my name would be James T. Kirk,
Scotty, Spock or even the revered Cochrane. I never understood her fascination
with sci-fi, which was only dimmed by her fascination with all things hippie
and new age.

“Willow, please. Do you honestly think
that I would intentionally puke on Dmitri? It was an accident. Hell, it could
have been something I ate that didn't agree with my stomach.” I told her of the
proposal, but not of my initial reaction faux pas from last night. Dmitri told
her of the vomit volcano with a measure of humor. And now I get to deal with
the fall out of this awkward conversation. This was not how I wanted to spend
my Saturday morning.

Dmitri and I were at Willow's house.
Cottage, really. The house, straight out of the English countryside, seemed
dwarfed by the size of the back yard. She and I sat at the glass and wrought
iron table out on the deck, sharing a pot of green tea while Dmitri worked on
tilling a patch of ground for her medicinal herb garden. Patches of veggies
grew among herbs. Purple foxglove mingled with lavender and calendula as an
improvised fence around the railroad-tie lined garden beds. There were trees
laden with immature fruit that would end up either as wine, preserves or
baskets of fresh-picked goodies for the neighbors. Hops strung from the eaves
of the house's backside acted as a curtain shading the deck.

A profusion of blooms scented the air
and helped to attract all manner of insects that seemed to find me
irresistible. I don't care if ladybugs do eat aphids, I just don't want the
damn things crawling on me. Beneficial bugs are still bugs, and her back yard
jungle was teeming with six-legged critters.

Her turquoise caftan sleeve caught the
breeze like a kite and she raised her voice above the rototiller's din. “You
know, it must stem from some incident in one of your past lives. Dr.
Neilsinhaur can help you get to the bottom of it, I just know he can... Some
past life regression is just what you need!” Willow's enthusiasm for past life
regression was legendary. Give her enough time on the subject and she'd mention
her “favorite” past life.

BOOK: A Toast to Starry Nights
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