Wednesday, June 16, 2010

40. From Castles to Cookies

I felt a warm arm draped across my unclothed waist. I didn't have to open my eyes to know it was Cayden's, last night's activities were still fresh on my mind. I scooted back toward him under the covers, feeling that he too, was naked. His arm tightened around me and I snuggled into the warmth of him. He always warned me he gave off heat like a furnace, but I didn't fully understand it until right then. I pulled the sheets off because the heat was overwhelming, but I didn't want to move an inch away from him. I imagined how welcoming his warmth would be in the dead of winter, when I can't get warm under my down comforter. Or when I have a fever and my chills get so bad I can't make my body stop shaking.
He pulled me around to face him and I snuggled into my favorite position with my cheek on his chest and my hand resting on his flat stomach. I traced my finger around the edge his belly button. He had the cutest belly button. I know that sounds weird, but if there was Most Desirable Belly Button award, he'd win it, hands down.
He kissed the top of my head.
"Good morning, Whitney."
I could tell he was smiling without looking up at him.
"Good morning, Cayden," I said, smiling against his chest. My morning voice sounded more manly than his. Beautiful.
I cleared my throat and tried to think of an escape plan to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Morning breath is one of my biggest fears, coming in close behind clogging someone else's toilet.
I heard a weird rattling so I looked up to see what it was.
Cayden popped open a box of white Tic Tacs with his free hand and dropped a few into his mouth before offering me some.
Smart man. Very smart man.
I cupped my hand and he dropped three inside.
I rolled them around on my tongue and clicked them against the back of my teeth until they turned coarse and shrunk to half their original size. Then I chewed them, swallowed, and looked up at Cayden. He was smiling down at me. I propped myself up on his chest.
"Ready to get the day started, punk?" He loved to use the word punk. He'd stolen it from me over the year. Sometimes he used punkette, or punk ass. It sounded funny with his accent.
"Show me London," I said, and then bent down to kiss his chest.
He pulled me closer and pressed his lips against mine. I braced myself for a hint of morning breath, but was surprised to smell and taste nothing but the after effects of the white Tic Tacs.


We walked hand in hand along the same path we'd walked the night before, back to the castle (the Tower of London) so I could see it during the day. I laughed at how different the cars looked there. They seemed smashed, compact, like something Cayden's bulky frame would struggle to get in and out of. When we crossed the street I had to look both ways at least twice because I couldn't figure out which way the cars were coming from. Eventually I gave up and just trusted that Cayden wouldn't lead me into oncoming traffic. The buildings we passed were old and beautiful.
"And that's Saint Katherine's Dock," he said as he pointed to the sprawling, aged, stunning apartment complex across the street. "The apartments overlook the water on the other side, so it's really expensive to live there. But I'd love to live in a building like that."
Cayden could talk about buildings all day and all night. And I could listen to him talk about buildings all day and all night. He was passionate it about it, so he smiled and his eyes lit up. That, and the accent made his stories addicting.
We crossed under a bridge and onto a cobblestone street that lead to the Tower of London. I secretly hoped I'd see at least one girl in heels roll her ankle and eat it on the cobblestone. I laughed under my breath at the thought of it.
On one side of the road was the water, on the other side, a never ending castle.
Cayden pointed out different parts of the castle.
"And that's where they'd keep the prisoners. Then they'd cut off their heads and put them on poles in display on top of the castle walls."
I looked inside and saw groups of tourists being led around the castle by an Englishman dressed in medieval garb. I snickered and thought, "Damn tourists. My tour guide is much hotter."
We sat on the patio of the Starbucks across from the castle and sipped our coffee while we people watched and talked about life. The forecast predicted rain three out of the four days I'd be there. It was cloudy, but the clouds didn't threaten rain. I was wearing short sleeves and would have been slightly chilly if not for Cayden's warmth always at my side. I prayed it wouldn't rain because my hair is a disaster in the rain. It was still straight from the day before, but three drops of rain and I'd look like a matted poodle.
"OK, the first thing you have to do when you come to London is try fish and chips. Are you ready for your first fish and chips experience?"
"Let's do it."
We walked to his favorite fish and chips location situated in the City of London. He pointed out the various buildings along the way and explained how the City of London was the area's financial district, as if the men in suits with briefcases surrounding us weren't a dead giveaway. But I loved hearing him talk about London.
"So I've tried fish and chips at a ton of different places in London, but this place is by far the best," he said as he led me into a warm restaurant that smelled like deep-fried fish. I prayed my clothes wouldn't absorb the smell. I'm new to seafood, and sometimes just the smell of it will turn me away. He helped me pick out the perfect platter, Fish and Chips (Cod) with a side of curry sauce and a side of mashed peas.
"Mashed peas? Really? That's good?"
"Oh just wait, Whitney. It's delicious."
He was right. The whole meal was delicious, and the mashed peas reminded me of Campbell's Split Pea with Ham soup. Only minus the ham, and not as soupy. I only finished one third of my heaping serving, but I felt full and satisfied.
"OK, now show me something else British!"
From there he took me to Leicester Square in the West End, the center of London's cinema land. I'd compare it to New York's Time Square, only with less freaks and less seizure-inducing flashing lights. Then we walked around Leicester Square, one of the most famous squares in the UK. It was beautiful, surrounded by statues and fountains and the National Gallery. I felt like I was back in Union Square. Then we walked to Big Bend and the Houses of Parliament, Picadilly Circus, and Spitalfields Market. He took me to Covent Garden, an Italian-style piazza full of markets, restaurants, and street performers.
"Oh, someone I met on my Florida press trip said I have to go to Ben's Cookies. It's around here, right?"
"I've never heard of it, but let's find it."
"She said it's seriously the best cookie she's ever had in her life."
He pulled out his iPhone and searched for it. It was just around the corner.
He ordered a triple chocolate and I ordered a milk chocolate chunk.
The cookies were big and puffy, and still warm in the package. At the first bite, we thought, "This is good, but nothing special." By the second bite we looked at each other curiously, trying to gauge our reactions. By the third bite we'd hit the sweet spot: The middle layer of the cookie was a creamy milk chocolate ribbon that literally melted in my mouth.
"Oh my god, you have to try this!" I said as I thrust my cookie in his face.
"No, try this."
We exchanged bites and then raved about the cookies the entire walk back to the tube. "This really is the best thing I've ever had!" "We have to come back tomorrow." "I can't believe I didn't know about this place!" "You'll have to thank your friend!" "I think I just had an orgasm."
Forget the castle, the historic buildings, the expansive bridges. This cookie was my favorite thing about London. Well, besides Cayden.
When I lived in NYC I could walk around all day without getting tired, but now my feet throbbed, my lower back ached, and I realized I'd traded in my NYC feet for Texas feet, now accustomed to the convenience of a gas pedal and four wheels.
So we went back to his place to "relax."

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