"Ok, so I was--- Ay,oh...why am I feelin' guilty here?" "I was watching you while 'you' were watching 'me.'"
Angela laughed; "We're quite the pair, aren't we?" Expecting his laughter to carry over her own, Angela was surprised to find him eying her with a somber warmth. In all seriousness, Angela, I'm glad I overheard what you said about our family... His voice broke; cracking with emotion. ...About Billy bein' 'our' responsibility. "You always slip into that maternal role so comfortably. I fell in love with that Angela, that along with so many other things about you." "I've always thought of you as---"
"Thought of me as what?" She asked. Her brown eyes begged him to continue.
"The mother of my children."
Angela swallowed; digesting what was probably the best compliment she'd ever received in her life. Not even Michael, her ex husband, had thought of her like that. Yes, she had been his wife and Jonathan's mother, but he had abandoned them before a familial bond had ever been cemented. As she looked at the man who stood by her side from the moment he set foot in her door; and who sat by her still, the tears started to fall.
"Tony, that was..." Angela was so overcome by the weight his simple statement held for her that wordlessly she fell into his open arms.
"Shh, Ang, what I said wasn't meant to make you cry." Her head was now buried in his chest; his shirt stained with her tears.
"Tony, these tears are tears that are telling me I've made the right decision."
His eyes clouded with momentary confusion.
What are you talkin' about, Ang? I don't understand...
She rushed on, hoping their embrace would serve to suffocate her words.
"Tony, the night Andy took me to see 'Phantom' he proposed to me..."
More harshly than he meant to, he cupped his hands under her chin and brought her face to his. His eyes were soft, his tone pleading, "You didn't say yes, did ya?"
"No, I didn't."
He let out a breath and looked around; his eyes coming back to rest on her, curled against him as always.
"You're here with me and he's not, if that tells you anything."
Her eyes met his; their familiar look passing between them.
"It says everything, Angela...It's all we are."
"How did I get so lucky, huh?" He asked. Even as they sat side by side, her reply seemed to come from far away; as if she were recalling that very day.
"You knocked on my door..."
"...And you let me in; not only to your home, but into your heart."
"How did you manage to..."
"Forgive you?" The interrogative statement hung in the air as he looked not at her, for if he met her eyes in this moment, he feared buried betrayal would burn anew. This time it was her hands that framed his face; guiding his gaze to her once again. Her characteristic thoughtfulness came forth as she continued, "I guess I didn't want to throw away seven wonderful years for a few tumultuous months."
Although he was overjoyed to hear these words come freely from her lips, her utterance of 'tumult' stung him; in fact, associating any sort of tumult with Angela seemed antithetical to him.
"Baby, I won't even attempt to say I'm sorry 'cause saying that can't simply erase the words you just said, or absolve the pain that my...uh, indiscretion has put us both through..." He had more to say; but as her finger pressed gently to his lips, rehashing the past seemed picayune.
"I don't want an apology, Tony."
"But Angela, you deserve..."
She again stopped him.
"There were so many shades of gray and uncertainty that stymied our relationship over the years..."
"Shades of gray?"
She was defending him again; defending his right to... He couldn't think about it; what he had done, to her...to them. The more she rationalized, the more defensive he became. "Let me tell ya somethin' Angela, there were no 'shades of gray' when we sat side by side on that small bed in that hole in the wall motel across from Jonathan's camp. The chemistry was explosive as we both erupted in laughter. In those moments when everything intrinsically came down to you and me, we both knew what we wanted, Angela..."
He stood in front of her now, knowing he held her complete attention.
"I need you to do somethin' for me, Angela."
"Anything." She whispered.
Frustrated by his own adamancy, a slight gruffness threaded his usually passionate voice.
"Don't defend me; I don't deserve it!"
Flinching slightly, she silently waited for his self-inflicted tirade to continue.
Running his hands through his hair, he paced the length of the couch.
"Ah, Angela, I haven't been the man that I, and you, needed me to be the last several months. And I haven't been that man because...you see, Angela, I lingered in a liaison that almost threatened all we are, all the while knowing that I was... I am... in love with you. I'm ashamed, Angela---I've shamed you, and in shaming you, I've shamed my name; I can't even say I'm Italian."
A slow smile spread across her lips. Then came the tears he knew again would fall.
Pressing a soft kiss against them, he said, "I'll be right back; I'm gonna get you some tissues."
As Tony strode back through the swinging door, he felt as though he were Atlas himself; the weight of the world now lifted from his shoulders.
His friend, confidante, and partner---his Angela was coming around again, slipping back into the roles that had always been second nature to her.
He felt light, buoyant even, and was surprised when no sniffling could be heard as he entered the living room.
The room seemed vacuous, save for her thick mass of blonde hair peeking over the back of the couch.
"Do you want me?" She stammered.
Somewhat glad her back was to him she continued uneasily, "You know, desire me; like you did that night all those years ago at Jonathan's camp?"
He placed his hands on her shoulders; his chin resting on the crown of her head. With movements deliberate and slow, his hands made their way down her back, his fingers clumsily catching ahold of the zipper of her dress. She shivered slightly as he slid the zipper down; the material parting to reveal her ivory skin. He sucked in his breath as the dress slipped from her shoulders.
"Before my intentions become completely dishonorable, I believe you have to give me the honor of accepting my proposal," he said, whispering against her ear; his hands pressing further into her back.
"Yes!" Her answer was quick, and came from deep within her throat.
"No, Angela, not like this." "I want our engagement to be traditional, classic..."
"If not now, when?" she asked.
"Definitely soon," he assured her. "Maybe at the Opera."