Franny checked her reflection in the mirror for a what felt like the hundredth time, she looked fine. Better than fine, the trusty Zara sales came through for her in this delightful number which she’d been saving for a special occasion. Today felt like the appropriate kind of special. The buttercup yellow midi length baby doll dress with spaghetti straps fit her to a T; ruched bustier and full skirted bottom half with the daintiest little flowers speckled all over. Blu talked her into buying it when they spent last weekend together, all five of them, after what felt like a long and distant summer apart. Her friends had taken the requisite summer holidays abroad, they tried to talk her into coming with them, even offered to pay for her air fare because they would be staying at one of their family owned estates wherever they went, but Franny sat it out. Between studying for law school and affording the tuition, her life was not cut out for the luxury of a frivolous summer. Although she knew if she let them, they would pay her tuition and rent, they already make sure she is well fed, so she never has to go without. Blu sends over two boxes of dry goods from Partridges every month, Dada makes sure the butcher delivers the finest cut meats and Maya handles the fresh seafood and baked goods every other week, not that she cooks enough to ever run out. All this makes keeping Logan a secret from them even shittier. She’ll tell them, just not yet; it has only been a couple of months anyway.
‘That should be fun.’ She dabs a cotton bud to tidy up the cat-eye flick. They’ll pepper her with questions and do the good-natured tease and even sing that stupid song of hers she normally teases them with, but, they’ll be happy for her. Because she is happy. She doesn’t mind admitting that to herself; Logan, however short a time they have known each other, makes her happy.
Back to her nerves which are shot to a thousand; Logan is coming over for dinner. At her house after three dates at some of the best restaurants in London, countless coffees between them, mostly after work, and two dinner dates at his apartment in South Kensington, Franny finally invited him over for dinner. Besides her very best friends, no one else had been in her home.
The buzz from the intercom punctuated her thoughts, the grandfather’s clock, which she inherited from her grandmother, chimed seven pm. Logan is bang on time. She buzzes him into the main door downstairs before dashing to the kitchen to check on the casserole. This is the one dish she knows how to make because it was her favourite and her mom made it only on special occasions with the best cuts from the butcher. Thankfully, the countless times she spent in the kitchen with her mother, paid off and Dada’s supply was being put to really good use. Franny’s heart panged with an incredible sense of loss in that moment; no matter how long it has been, she still misses her mother. She wonders what she’ll have made of Logan.
‘Candles? Check. Flowers? Check. Lovely mellow ambience? What the hell does that even mean?’
A gentle tap on the door signalled Logan’s arrival.
‘Here goes.’ Deep breath. Turn knob. Open. Gah! He is handsome, tall and gorgeous, and he just had a haircut which only emphasized his chiselled good looks; the strong jaw, side burns, divine eyes and everything else. He was dressed casually in jeans, a white linen shirt, sleeves rolled and top button undone and tan boat shoes. ‘Hello. Come on in.’
Logan walks in, holding a bottle of wine and a bunch of the most divine red roses. ‘Hi. How are you?’
Before she could turn away from him, Logan holds her still. ‘Why?’
‘Because besides my friends you are the only person I have invited into my home.’
‘I’m honoured. Thank you. These are for you.’
‘Thank you. Another bottle of wine?’
‘It’s our wine now.’
‘I still have the other one which we are having with dinner.’
‘Good. Next time I come I’ll bring the case.’
He plans on returning. The thought made Franny blush. ‘Would you like a tour?’
‘Bathroom.’ She pointed to the door on the left. ‘Storage, cloak room and meter reader.’ She pointed to the right. ‘This is the second bedroom which is now my office and a walk-in wardrobe. It also has a day bed in the event that my friends and I have a sleep over.’
‘Do you have a lot of those?’
‘We do.’ Franny giggled.
‘And this is my bedroom.’ She was about to walk on by, but Logan sidestepped through the door, so she followed him in.
‘Wow.’ He exclaims softly at the cool charm of the room. Typically Franny.
The room is set in neutral tones with an imposing king-size bed beneath bay windows that ushered in the light, a lush grey carpet covers the floor and, on either wall, hangs large picture frames. Both pictures are of Franny and her mother, one when she was a new born, nesting against her mother’s chest, taken by her father and the other when she was twelve, this was the last picture they took together. Her mother looked frail, but managed to pull that bright smile of hers, just the way her daughter always remembered her.
‘Your mom.’ A statement of fact rather than a question. Anyone looking at these pictures would know the women were kin. Even as a baby Franny looked exactly like her mother.
‘That’s her, Flo. Her name was Florence, but everyone called her Flo. She was an Olympian, gold medallist swimmer; in the water her flow was impossible to beat. Hence, Flo.’
‘That’s incredible. Logan looked closely at the picture. Franny looks like her mom to the beat. ‘You look just like her.’
‘It’s been said I’m her twin. She was a twin at birth, but her sister died shortly after being born, my granny was going to call her Francesca, so here we are, full circle.’
‘She was. Stunning.’ A timer went off giving Franny a break from the bittersweet memories. Her mother was her everything, they were thick as thieves and it seems wholly unfair that she should have been taken from her so early in life. ‘That’ll be dinner.’
‘I’ll help you set the table.’ Logan followed behind her.
‘I don’t have a dining table.’ Franny almost cringed when she said that. This is the thing about the disparity in their realities, Logan with his wealth would not even think that not everyone has the luxury of having a dining table, especially in a two-bedroom council flat. She made do with what she has; a high table and two highchairs in the kitchen by the window; the table and chairs were bought at a car boot sale.
‘Okay, what can I help you with?’
‘Protecting my ego and my mother’s legacy; I’ve made the only thing I know how to besides microwaving food.’
‘Beef casserole. You haven’t suddenly become vegetarian over the past two days have you?’
‘Nope. Still a proud carnivore. And I’m sure it’ll taste great.’
‘Why do I have a feeling that you won’t tell me if it’s terrible.’
‘Because it won’t be.’
That tickled her some, Logan was so incredibly kind. ‘Make yourself at home.’ She motioned him to the high table where she’d set plates, wine glasses and a jug of water cold water.
Logan opened the bottle of wine she’d set on the table to let it breathe and he watched Franny fuss over the meal. She is flustered, and he gets it, their worlds are different, his home is three times the size of hers and they’d dined in there a couple times, this is her sanctuary the home she is so protective of, having him in here, in her space, was a big deal to her. And to him. It was among the first things she let him know when they met. Being here with her, in this moment, is something he would never take for granted.
Franny placed the dishes of food on the table, rice, vegetables and casserole and took her seat next to him. She typically spends her nights dining alone when it was just her. Whenever her friends come over, they’d sit in the living room. ‘Bon Appetit.’
Logan served her food first, before his. Franny watched him take a spoon full of food and then another, waiting.
‘It’s delicious. I thank you and I thank your mom.’
Franny kissed her index finger and pointed it to the sky in thanks to her mother; a thing they did from when she was a child. ‘I’m sorry about the view.’ The window looked out to other council high rises and a foot bridge. At the left was Maida Vale, the place she always dreamt of buying a house, a dream she has harboured a long time.
‘The view is perfect.’ Logan smiled at her. She is.
‘How was your day?’ Her nerves were abating some.
‘Busy, I had to work for a bit in the morning, Sterling is launching a new line and it always gets busier close to launch so I had to jump on a conference call this morning as shareholders my siblings and I get to have a say.’
‘You must be so proud of what your family does.’
Logan shrugged. ‘I don’t work there, but I am proud of it. I don’t want to talk about me, we have spent way too long doing that.’
‘Okay.’ Franny rolled her eyes; she knew this would happen. ‘Ask away.’
‘How old were you when your mom died?’
‘Right at the deep end huh?’ She expected this question too, Logan is curious and interested in her, not just the surface but her life story.
‘You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.’
‘Fifteen. And then my granny moved here and lived with me until she died. That was after my A-levels, two weeks after results. She’d been very sick for a while, every weekend my friends would come over, help out, and spend time with her.’
‘You have incredible friends.’
‘I do.’ Franny shrugged, she has been through so much, lost so much, it is why her friendships mean the world to her because they were with her for much of the loss and it helped ease the pain. ‘After A-Levels I gained admission to Oxford.’
‘How did you keep a hold of the house?’
‘My mom bought it from the council and left it to me in her will and granny made sure the paperwork and financials were in order so I would not lose it. When I moved to Oxford, I rented it out, and when I graduated, I moved back in.’
‘I love the intricacies and complexities of it, applying common sense with legalese and making nonsense of old and outdated rules that should not apply. I also like to know how I can use it to my advantage.’
Logan nods. ‘Have you told your friends about us?’
‘You are so predictable.’ She laughed and Logan shrugged. ‘Have you told your friends about us?’
‘You have?’ She didn’t think he would have told his friends about her.
‘Why are you surprised?’
‘I just didn’t… I didn’t expect you would.’
‘Because I would imagine they are used to seeing you with someone more…’
‘You know someone more…more…’ she didn’t want to use the word, posh, but that was where her head was, but she also knew what Logan would say to that, and she knows, he knows exactly what she is thinking. ‘I don’t know.’
‘You are more Francesca, you are way much more.’
It’s the way he said her name that made her entire body blush.
Dinner was lovely and afterwards, he washed up, she did not have a dishwasher, so he did it old school and was a natural at it.
‘Now, time for my piece de resistance, chocolate cake.’
‘You baked a cake?’ Logan is shocked.
‘I did. It’ll be nothing like the one we had at your place-
‘Stop. Don’t do that.’
‘Don’t try to belittle it. It doesn’t have to be like the one we had at my house. Dinner was incredible and I know the chocolate cake will be just as, sweetheart. I know you are nervous about tonight, but you don’t have to be, everything about it is perfect.’
‘Council flat and all.’
‘Especially that part.’ Logan pulled her to him and sealed them with a kiss. ‘but more important is especially because I am here with you.’
He is here with her.
‘Stay the night.’