When Jack had come up with that invitation out of nowhere, Cynthia had immediately been filled with raw, wild excitement, which resulted in her spending five whole minutes rolling on the bed in ecstasy, before picking up the phone the hare had written on with a skittish movement, “When?” Cynthia had hurriedly typed, her mind already picturing the possible ways in which they would have spent the evening – even the night, maybe – at his house, giggling like a little fool as she fell prey to the headiest euphoria.
And so, when he had told her the name of a renowned restaurant downtown, Cynthia took a good while to figure out why Jack had brought it up. “Let’s meet there, this Monday night at 22:00 P.M.,” the message continued, without giving any further explanation. “Don’t be late.”
‘He wants to take me out to dinner?’ The vixen had wondered, confused. Suddenly, the tenderness that had overwhelmed her was in danger of dispelling in a dreary puff of smoke. However, it still was an invitation from Jack, and there was no way Cynthia would’ve not accepted it. Although, she was at least allowed to express a bit of disappointment, wasn’t she? “I’ll be deadly punctual, Mr. Turner. But I do admit I wasn’t expecting this kind of proposal from you.”
A whole minute had passed before Jack finally replied: “Is it so unusual that I ask you out the eve of your birthday?” Cynthia remembered very well the heartache she had felt in reading those words; that’s why the vixen had hereby swore she wouldn’t have pulled any further rank because the evening Jack was offering her was a bit different from her wildest expectations. Perhaps, she had told herself, they would’ve gone to his house after dinner. And then, at the stroke of midnight, in the innermost solitude… yes, Cynthia would have finally claimed her birthday present.
She just had to be patient.
“Oh, there you are.” It was with a certain reserve that Jack greeted her when she joined him on the other side of the road, where he had arranged their meeting. His eyes only briefly met hers, before diving into the city’s nightlife as the hare appended, with a slightly uncertain voice: “You look… stunning tonight. I believe it’s the first time I’ve seen you wearing this dress.”
‘He could tell,’ Cynthia thought, pleasurably satisfied. She wondered how Jack would have reacted if she had told him the truth ‒ that she had chosen it for the color, a glamorously eye-catching pink, and for the way the slit made her thighs stand out and the cups gently embraced the shape of her breasts. But she had no doubt that Jack had already noticed those details on his own, and that was precisely why he was insisting on admiring the imaginary features of the sidewalk, rather than the dress he had just complimented, ‘Gentlemammal to a fault, huh?’
But he was no less attractive. On that body, finely shaped by years of hard training, the tuxedo triumphed in all its elegance, giving Jack a refined and dignified appearance. After two days of not seeing him – as they had both been quite busy with work – the ensemble was a sight for her sore eyes. “Thank you,” the vixen replied, hoping her tone would convey the same warmth of the smile he was missing, “I’m glad you noticed, Jack.”
The hare cleared his throat. “It’s hard not to notice you.” Then, just as Cynthia hoped since the very moment she had left home to meet him that night, he offered her his paw with one graceful flick of his wrist. “Shall we start our evening?” He proposed, at last lifting his blue eyes towards her. They were so clear that Cynthia felt like she could drown in them.
“Oh, it’s about time. I’m starving!” She joked, gladly accepting his manners with a lovely curtsey. The physical contact with Jack delighted her to no end, but it also made her feel a little impatient; who knows how long she would have to wait to get more… Cynthia tried to get rid of that sudden languor by asking the question that had been on her mind since Jack had invited her. “You know,” she began as they walked toward the ingress, “it’s kind of weird to eat out together. I mean… I would’ve expected some sort of culinary pride from you, like: ‘My cooking is the best in the world, why would I even try someone else’s unknown and almost certainly disappointing cuisine?’, or stuff like that, so, why?”
Jack didn’t answer right away. In fact, a couple of seconds passed before Cynthia could hear some sound in response… and, of all things, she was totally not expecting a chuckle to come out of his mouth. “Why, you ask?”
“What?” Cynthia frowned at him, unprepared for that reaction. “How is this a laughing matter?”
“I see,” Jack simply said, his words mingled with affectionate chortles, “I gather you recognized the address.”
“Well, yes… I’ve already been here once. It is a nice place, the portions are large…”
“Oh, so that is why it’s a nice place.”
“Don’t make fun of my judgment,” Cynthia pouted, “large portions are not the only reason why I like this place. And even if I like it…”
“…Even if you do?” The hare repeated after her, head tilting to one side as a cunning smile spread on his face. The shyness with which he had welcomed her at first now seemed to have vanished, making room for the self-confident attitude Cynthia secretly adored. Jack knew what the vixen was trying to imply, but he wanted her to say it loud and clear. Ah, he was such a little rascal.
“Even if I like it,” Cynthia continued, resigning herself to the inevitable praise she was going to grant him, “I love your cooking much more.” She paused for an instant, only to enjoy the view of Jack’s expression blooming with content, “And, by the way, I’m sure you love your own cooking more than anyone else’s, too.”
The mirth took on a shade of tenderness. “Is that so?” Jack replied, grabbing her paw more firmly. “Well, I’m glad to hear that. Your comments indicate that I made the right choice.”
“Um?” It somehow occurred to her that they were not talking about the same thing anymore; however, Cynthia had no idea as to at which point the conversation had split apart. “I’m not sure I’m following you…” It felt like Jack knew something that she didn’t, and no matter how much the vixen would keep her eyes on him, she didn’t find any clues as to what secret he was keeping hidden from her.
For this reason, when the two mammals missed the restaurant’s entrance and entered a little lane to the left of the building instead, she realized only later the curious direction Jack was leading her in. Cynthia was just about to ask for explanations, when lightning struck her with a fantasy so intense it almost made her dizzy. ‘Wait; he’s taking me to a dark alley. What if he wants to…?’ Cynthia clutched the purse she held in her other paw, unconsciously trying to release the electricity running through her, from head to toe, at the remote possibility that Jack would desire a rendezvous with her in the dimness of some lonely stretch. ‘It wouldn’t be like him to be so hasty… or maybe it is?’ Suddenly, the dress she was wearing felt unbearably tight, uncomfortable and, above all, unnecessary… as well as the pearly linen of Chantilly lace under it.
They stopped in front of an old-looking door. With their paws still connected, Jack rummaged inside one of the inside pockets of his tuxedo, and pulled a key out of it, which he then inserted into the lock. It was the jangling sound produced by iron against iron that awoke Cynthia from her flushed trance. “Where is it exactly that we’re going?”
“It’s a surprise.” Jack crossed the threshold and pressed the light switch, then gently pulled Cynthia’s arm to invite her inside the building. “Come.”
She obeyed and followed behind him without a word, her thoughts pleasantly muddled by Jack’s unpredictability. When Cynthia looked around, she noticed that the walls and stairs, too, looked pretty outworn; she wouldn’t go as far as to say the place was abandoned, but was sure mammals didn’t go there all the time. Which, of course, fueled Cynthia’s idea that Jack wanted to interact with her away from prying eyes. “Hey, what kind of place are you taking me to, Jack?” She questioned with poorly disguised eagerness, “A morgue, perhaps?” Sarcasm was the only way to distract herself from the deafening thudding inside her ears. They were used to being alone in Jack’s house, but this time felt like something more…
“It’s more ventilated than a morgue,” Jack retorted, flashing a grin as he let go of her paw and used both of his to point at the stairs and elevator at the same time. “Which way do you prefer, Madame?”
‘He called me Madame!’ Cynthia squealed internally, but still managed to keep her tone controlled. “It depends on how high we’re gonna get. I don’t mind doing a bunch of floors on foot paw, even if I’m not a rabbit.”
“Jack-rabbit,” the hare reworked for her.
“Yes, that’s because your name is Jack. Well, in my case, I guess it would be Cynthia-rabbit.”
“Wha―!” His exclamation died in a wholehearted laugh. “I, I can’t believe you seriously cracked that joke, Cynthia.”
“Oh, c’mon, you basically sold it on a silver platter.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not provided with such an unsophisticated sense of humor.” And yet, his smile was broad, and the front tooth through parted lips absolutely adorable. “To be perfectly candid, that quip never crossed my mind.”
Cynthia nodded earnestly, “Must’ve overestimated you, then.”
“It does seem the case,” he agreed, “but don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.”
It was his final statement which enshrined once and for all Cynthia’s craving for the sometimes-timid-sometimes-overly-confident hare standing in front of her with arms opened as thought he wanted to lure her into a hug ‒ or, into a kiss? Ah, how lovely it would’ve been if it was the latter… “By the way,” Jack’s words derailed her train of thoughts, “we’d need to do a little more than just a bunch of floors by foot paw, I’m afraid.” The hare lowered the arm which was suggesting the stairs. “We should take the elevator; after all, this is a very high building.”
“But that’s a very old-looking tin box,” objected Cynthia. “Are you sure we won’t end up stuck inside for the rest of the night?” ‘Not like I would complain…’
Jack glanced at her ambiguously, before hopping towards the lift. “Mh, I wonder.”
“The prospect doesn’t seem to trouble you.”
“Of course it doesn’t.” He opened the elevator door and walked inside. Once again, Cynthia silently tagged along, keeping the wriggling of her tail to the best minimum she could afford. The cabin wasn’t large, a sign that it was meant to be used only by small and medium size animals. “Our destination…” Jack announced, a touch of pride in his voice as he pressed the button, “is the roof.”
“The roof?” asked Cynthia, who was honestly perplexed. A roof wasn’t an intimate place, was it? She wanted to express her doubts, but refrained in the face of Jack’s clear excitement; he looked as happy as a kit in the playground would be, which could only mean that…
“Yup.” His face glowing as he confirmed his intentions, and the vixen saw anything but his blithe smile until the lift reached the top of the building. Even if the hare had opened up more and more in the past year, he rarely showed such bright and positive emotions in an ordinary context. Being able to witness them was way more than Cynthia had ever hoped for. “Did you figure out?” Jack asked her. “What gift I got you for your birthday, that is.”
If she said that her present ‒ at least, one of them ‒ had just been delivered to her in that very elevator, how cheesy would that have sounded? Even Cynthia wasn’t sure she could fully handle the sweetness. Although, she was now certain that an even greater one was meant to follow on that roof. “Mh, I wonder…” Cynthia murmured, rubbing her muzzle against him as she embraced him softly, “why don’t you show me, Jack?”
The door of the lift opened, revealing a sea of black sprinkled with kaleidoscopic lights born from the city itself. Jack surrounded her hips with one arm, planted a kiss on her cheek as words made of syrup poured slowly into her ears:
“Your wish is my command.”