Madison could not believe her eyes as she walked into the restaurant. The Maitre d' greeted her. "May I help you Mademoiselle?" he said with a heavy French accent.
"Yes, I have an appointment with the manager, regarding the ad in the paper."
He smiled and nodded, "Follow me please."
The restaurant had a family feel to it but yet there was a sensual atmosphere to it. She looked around and imagined being there on a date at the table in the corner having an intimate conversation. Lost in her daydream, she did not notice the Maitre d' had stopped in front of her. "Mademoiselle, Greg Mandine, the restaurants manager and owner."
Greg looked exhausted and had a worried look on his face. But as he looked up his genuine smile melted her heart, she glanced away and noticed a wedding ring. His dark black hair was combed back and she noticed his strong tan hand reaching out to her to shake her hand as he offered her a seat. "Wow, I can't believe the ad was answered so quickly, I just placed it yesterday."
"Yes, I needed a part time job and thought why not. Oh, I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself -- my name is Madison Rowan. When I saw the ad in the paper, I had to come and find out more about it."
"Thank you for coming down, Madison. I want to write a grant to start a program for youth with various disabilities to help out preparing food, serving, and various other duties. My wife and I always wanted to get the program underway but since she has been sick she asked that I start."
Holding back the tears Madison knew this was going to be a special project and she was perfect for the job. "At my regular day job I work at an Independent Living Center, so I understand the concept of the project."
They talked for what seemed like hours about the project and why it meant so much to him and his wife. He hired Madison on the spot and insisted on being part of the process. He was adamant about the program and its particulars.
"Well, let me go home and put a few thoughts together that we discussed and look for the right funding source. I will contact you in a couple of days and let you know the progress but in the mean time I will start writing the proposal."
Smiling, he wrote down a number for her to contact him at. As she was getting up to leave, he shook her hand. She felt his warm touch, so soft; their eyes locked for a brief moment, but it was enough for her to wish he was not married.
The next couple of days she worked diligently on the grant proposal and finding the right funding source. She made phone calls and finally found the right funder for the grant. She was so excited about the project and the idea that some of the youth she had worked with in the past might benefit from the project. Excitement and nervousness raked through her body as she dialed his number. When he finally answered he sounded weary.
"Greg, this is Madison. I wanted to give you an update on the proposal. Is this a good time?"
"Well, not really. I am watching my daughter right now, but can you meet me at the restaurant at five and I'll fix you dinner."
"Um, sure. See you there. Okay."
"Yeah, bye." Click.
"What am I going to wear? Oh, what does he care, he's married remember? Yeah, but he is my employer and I have to look nice to meet him. And we are meeting at that romantic restaurant of his. Yeah, but HELLO, he's married."
After the in depth conversation with herself, she decided to wear a summer dress that was casual yet professional. After getting ready she realized that there was at least another two hours to go before the meeting. Trying to keep herself busy she sat at her computer and decided to write some more on the proposal. Thinking she was only there for a few minutes, she looked at the clock and noticed she only had two minutes to get to the appointment. She clicked print but it seemed to take hours. She grabbed the copies and rushed out the door. Traffic was a nightmare; by the time she arrived she noticed that the dinner rush had begun.
The Maitre d' noticed her right away. "Right this way Mademoiselle."
He waited for her in a booth off to the side, which seemed out of the way from the other guests. "I hope you don't mind but I thought we might need some privacy," he stated as she reached the table.
"Oh, not at all I brought the proposal and I found the perfect funder. When I spoke with them they were very excited," she could not contain her excitement.
"Well that's wonderful, but let's order first, if you don't mind. We will have time to go over the proposal and then dinner should arrive." He began placing the order and looked up. "Oh, I'm sorry is that fine or would you like something else?"
"Um, no that sounds good but I would like a glass of tea." The Maitre d' left with their order and they began looking at the proposal. Not being able to judge his response, she asked "So, what do you think so far? Was I able to capture everything you wanted?"
She noticed a lone tear as he looked up to reply, "You captured it perfectly."
She had the distinct feeling he wanted to say more but he couldn't. "The funding will be for a year and the funder would like to know what is the plan to keep the program going after a year."
He looked up and smiled as if to say thank you for changing the subject, "Once the program gets going the youth will be paid and part of the wages they earn will go back into the program for more participants. They will learn different aspects of the business and at the end of the year we will have a graduation, at which some will be offered a job at my restaurant or the catering business."
She quickly wrote some notes down and asked, "Are you planning on doing any fundraising for the program?"
"We may do a couple events, but I have not worked out all the details, yet. Ah, the food is here."
She jotted down a few more notes and moved her papers for the food. She felt the meeting had gone well and could not wait to taste the intoxicating dish in front of her.
Over dinner they talked about life and how her day job was going. Then the subject turned to his wife and his daughter, Amy. She didn't know what to say and just let him talk. He said his wife had fallen ill after she had Amy and it just gotten worse. "The doctors don't think she has that long to live, so these days she spends time with Amy and stays at home mostly. Amy is two years old and she adds so much to our lives. When Amy is around my wife she just lights up and I know she is cherishing each moment she can."
Her heart went out to him, he was trying to hold his family together but knew one day there would only be two of them. Also the thought of loving someone so much to finish a dream for them was so romantic. One day you will have that kind of love, she told herself. "Dinner was delicious, thank you. I will add the finishing touches to the proposal and send you a final draft copy. If there is anything I need to add or change, we will do that before I send it into the funder."
"Great, I didn't mean to go on and on about my life. But thank you for listening," he said sincerely.
"Oh, not a problem, I understand why this proposal is so important to you." Well that sounded cheesy, she told herself.
He smiled and escorted her to the front door. "Well, I have to get to work but look forward to reading the final proposal. I will call you later," he said, smiling as he opened the door for her and gently touched her arm.
Electricity ran through her body, as she scolded herself, "It was an innocent touch. Besides he is married -- how many times do we need to go over this?" Knowing she would never win, she finally admitted that she did have feelings for him. "It's just a crush."
The next few days were hectic with work and the proposal. She needed a break but there were deadlines to meet. Images of the dinner they shared and his touch haunted her as she tried to work.
True to his word he called. "I just received the final draft, it's perfect. When you send it in, what is the process when will we hear about the funding?"
"Hi. Well, if I Fedex it in today, it should reach the office by Thursday. It will take about three weeks, but I will call my contact to see if they received it and where the proposal goes from there." She could not contain the excitement. His voice was... so... there were no words to describe it.
"Wonderful! I will wait for your call in about three weeks with the news. In the mean time would you like to go to dinner next week? Monday evening?" He suddenly sounded unsure of himself.
"Sure, where would you like to meet?" He said he would pick her up at work and they would go from there. After he hung up she felt this nagging feeling and could not describe it but it almost seemed like he asked her out on a date. "Nah, he's married," she kept telling herself. Monday seemed like and eternity to wait, and those five days seemed a lifetime away.
Next week: the conclusion of Proposal of a Lifetime.
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