"That dress really does look great on you," he said to me as I picked at my dinner.
I couldn't help the smile that spread across my face. I was so full of joy that I thought I might burst. "Well thank you," I bowed my head and hoped I wasn't blushing. "I want you to think I look good in it."
"Well, I do," he smiled, leaned over and kissed me.
The dress to which he was referring was hanging in my car. Light blue, strapless, knee-length and trimmed in black, it was encased in the store's bag, waiting to be worn. I cut another piece of chicken and thought about the shoes I'd wear. It was all too much.
He had asked me weeks ago to a wedding taking place this weekend. "The dress code is formal," he'd said as we were standing in line at the Turkey Hill, waiting to buy our coffee. "Sultry and formal. Like, wedding formal."
I thought for a moment. "I have two dresses. Both are black, but one is long, one is short..."
"Or," he shrugged his shoulders, "we could go buy you one."
I laughed. "Or I'll just show you the two I have, and you can tell me if they're appropriate."
"Or we can just go shopping."
"Okay," I said, unsure of whether or not to take him seriously. I don't remember the last time a man suggested shopping.
I figured it was just something to say, or that he meant he would accompany me to the mall to assist me in picking out the frock for the evening. But a week later, I got a message on my phone. "I just checked that wedding invitation," his deep voice informed my voicemail, "and, as it turns out, the wedding isn't two weeks away. It's ONE week away. So we have to get you a dress. Soon." I smiled as I listened, but didn't put much faith in him trekking through the mall with me.
But then, there we were two nights ago, standing in a department store, looking through dresses. He pointed to dresses that he thought would suit me. He was dead on. Long lines, classically simple, flattering, clingy. We both tried to stay away from black, scouring the racks for something dressy but not too formal. I saw the light blue dress on the far wall when we walked into the last department store. It was exactly what I was looking for. I grabbed my size and we headed to the fitting room. He sat outside, positioned in the same chairs where most men surrender to shopping fatigue, grateful for the chance to sit while ladies wriggle in and out of clothing inside. I slid out of my clothes and into the smooth satin dress. I pranced out of the room and submitted the dress for his approval.
"You look beautiful," he leaned forward when I emerged. "You really do. That's the dress."
"Are you just saying that because you want to go home?" I grinned.
"Not at all. Here, ask her." He pointed to the saleslady meandering through our section. "Doesn't that dress look amazing on her?" He addressed her and nudged his chin in my direction.
"It looks beautiful," she agreed, nodding her head in approval. "Blue is your color."
"See?" He looked at me, eyes wide. "That's the one." I smiled, checked myself in the mirror. "Nice legs." He winked at me.
So I carried the dress up to the cashier, set it on the counter. She announced the total, and I reached into my purse.
"What are you doing?" he sauntered over to my side, pulled his money clip out of his pocket.
"I'm paying for my dress."
"No, I told you I was buying you a dress."
"But it's too much. I'm buying it," I began to pry my credit card from its tight pocket in my wallet.
"Oh, come on," he said, and shoved my wallet back into my purse. "You're my date to this wedding, and you needed a dress. I'm buying it." He slid his plastic across the counter.
I was stunned into silence. No one had ever done that for me before. "Thank you." It came out quiet and almost sheepish. I leaned into him and rested my head on his shoulder.
"You're welcome." He punctuated his sentence with a kiss on my head.
We walked toward the exit, the hanger hooked on my finger, the dress draped over my shoulder.
"Thank you," I said again.
"It's no big deal," he told me, fingering an orange tie in the men's department.
But it was a big deal. To me.
And it wasn't about buying the dress, the cost of it. It was about the thought behind it, his involvement in my wardrobe choice. It was how he wanted to do that for me. It was the way he told me I looked sexy. It was completely unexpected. It was unbelievably wonderful and I didn't know how to thank him enough. I was still in awe as we sat at dinner.
I didn't want to make a spectacle of how thankful I was, for fear that it may make him uncomfortable. But I wanted him to know how splendid it was of him, that I wasn't expecting him to buy me the dress, that I was truly grateful.
So I grabbed the bill for dinner when the waitress set it before us.
"Really," he said, extending his hand, palm up, fingers open, "c'mon, give that to me. You don't have to pay."
I slid my credit card into the black folder holding the check without looking at the total. "I know. But I want to." I closed the folder, card inside, and set it back on the table. "Consider it a thank you for that dress in the car." I felt the gesture fell painfully short of expressing my gratitude, but at least it was a start.
After protesting, his hand fell into his lap as he smiled. "Well, thank you." He kissed my forehead. "You look gorgeous in it. But then, I guess I'm the wrong person to ask. I think you look good in anything you put on."
"You'd better stop being so nice to me," I warned. "I could get used to it." He laughed. "Really, you make me feel like a million bucks."
"But you are like a million bucks."
My cheeks hurt from smiling so much lately.