The dining room is narrow and long, in the shades of ebony-coloured woods and deep blood reds, and large windows to let the light of the world inside.
My sister Marie, her husband Georges and I sit at a table in the far corner. Privacy with a view.
"OK. Everyone figure out what they want," says Georges, hands splayed on the table at both sides of the menu. "I call the octopus... Ooo, and the bison looks good." The way Georges talks can instantly lighten the mood, even though for probably 80 per cent of the time, he doesn't mean to. His voice goes through different pitches; his eyes bulge; his smile goes corner to corner; and he does a sharp inhale of breath to indicate excitement. It's odd sometimes to think at this point, I've known Georges for half my life now.
"Tell me the real story about how you guys met," I ask them.
"What's there to tell?" says Marie in her usual brisk tone. "It's not like a movie, you know?" She gives me her Duh! look.
"I know it's not like a movie," I shoot back. "But I still want to know."
"I will tell the story," replies Georges.
It goes like this: Marie and Georges were in first-year engineering at the University of Toronto. They had class together and noticed each other, but didn't say anything until Marie "happened" to be sitting in front of Georges in a lecture, and she turned around and introduced herself.
"Tell her about the only friend you had," Marie interjects.
I die laughing: "You had one friend? So basically the story goes, Marie was cool and had lots of friends. And you had no friends till you met Marie." It's been over ten years since they met, and some things never change. I know Marie is like how her and Georges describe the story: happy, sociable, confident, smart, loud. Trademark signs of her personality. Her husband, on the other hand, is a little more shy, quiet and takes some time to get warmed up. I forget this about him often enough because once he does warm up, he is one of the best people you could ever meet in your life.
We sip on a California Merlot that is intoxicating for other reasons than just its alcohol content. There is a balance of sweet, spicy and dry--kind of like us. Nothing extraordinary occurred from that meal. No life-revealing moment. No terrific or terrificly bad news. But there was something about the night that made me pause and reflect on a relationship with a sister for over 21 years, and a person who has become a brother within 10.
There are many more years to come of ordinary dinners, naps in each other's houses, fights about the same old things, laughter over jokes only we understand, and a growing up where ties of family bond will forever bind you. The love of a sister, a brother, a family is sufficiently extraordinary enough.