Picture #3


Ave Maria

Martha Gaston



Maria sighs. Everything is finally going according to plan. The tenderloin in the oven on low. The wine breathing. The spa tub filled, candles alit, and a freshly febreezed atmosphere.

Sarah had said she would call when she was leaving work. Last night, Sarah had said sure, Maria could come over and cook dinner and it was awfully sweet to think of doing that for her. Maria had accepted the kiss while her brain told Sarah ‘You're all I think about.'

Arms clasped about her, Maria stood against the kitchen counter deciding movement of any kind might cause mishap. Nerves would take over again and she'd break something, cut a off a finger, spontaneously combust.

She had been nervous when she asked Sarah to let her into her house alone and unsupervised. This was worse. This was different from alone while Sarah ran for bagels. From the moment she had retrieved the key Sarah had left under the porch mat, Maria had felt like an intruder. She couldn't adopt the casual ease she wanted to feel. That, I can lie around doing nothing, perfectly at home, kind of feeling. She had tried but psyched herself out of it. ‘Don't sit on the couch you'll smash the cushions. Don't read her books. Don't go in the closet and smell her clothes.'

Phone! So loud against the tile and stainless steel, Maria jumps, her arms flailing out, a glass breaks and her heart runs out the front door.

“Hi.” She pictures Sarah, sees her lips moving to the words in her ear. Beautiful. “Okay, see you in a few. Nope, all good. You're welcome.”

‘Just breathe‘ she tells herself as she tilts the dustpan of broken glass into the trash. She hears Sarah coming through the door and swallows her stomach back down to where it belongs.

“Hi, honey.” Sarah says, presenting flowers. Her dark eyebrows rise slightly and she tilts her head to one side as she removes her coat, shifting flowers to accomplish the task. “Everything okay?”

Maria nods, in thrall, just like always when she sees Sarah. Maria flitters as the coat removal reveals Sarah's form under her tailored double-breasted suit.

Sarah's eyes follow the features and lines of Maria's face. “You sure you're okay? “

Maria nods again and then sighs out a “Hi.”

Ecstasy kicks in as Sarah kisses her on the mouth. A hand at her back pulls her closer and she feels and hears the crackle of florist paper at her side and that is as far as her senses extend. Just as her synapses blacken to only the tender silk on her lips, cool air brushes her face and she knows to open her eyes. To Sarah, smiling and offering the flowers.

Maria reaches for them, her thanks finally prising her lips and tongue free.

The wine is poured and Maria details the night's menu to approving sounds from Sarah. “I thought you might want to relax first.”

From her seat Sarah says “And what will you be doing while I'm relaxing?”

“We. Have plans.” Maria grabs Sarah's hand and leads her towards the back of the house.

“We do?”


Maria lets Sarah pass through the bathroom door first, feels the fizzy pops run through her as Sarah gasps her surprise and pleasure.

“Maria? ....... Roses……… and candles?” The ensuing kiss is more than compensation.

Maria is close to dozing in the hot sudsy water, encapsulated in Sarah's arms, soft skin and even breathing near her ear. Exhaling the stress of the preparations, the near disasters and broken glass and……


Sarah has said it so softly Maria barely registers the sound.

“We'd better get out before we fall asleep.”

“Don't wanna.”

Sarah laughs and kisses her neck below the ear. “Come on, let's go eat your fabulous dinner.” She eases herself out of the tub allowing Maria to lean back and watch her as she towels off.

Sarah says “The candles, they're scented?”

“Don't think so. I know you don't like a lot of the scented ones. Too cloying.”

Pressing the towel to the wet ends of her hair, Sarah looks to Maria in the dark mirror “I definitely smell something ……….not musky……….more…


Maria opens her eyes. “Smokey?”

“Uh-huh.” Sarah laughs and holds out her hand. “Come on outta there.”

She wraps a towel and her arms around Maria. “Now watch your eyes. I'm turning on the lights so I can see how beautiful you are.”

Maria slowly opens her eyes to find herself and Sarah reflected in the mirror.

Sarah says “Yeah, definitely smokey.”

She runs the palm of her hand over Maria's hair near and away from her forehead. Maria's eyes follow the movement and her mouth drops like a drawbridge. Sarah squeezes her tighter and laughs loud. Black, sooty fingermarks are swiped across Maria's forehead.

Maria turns into Sarah's shoulder. A wavering, muffled voice says “The candles, I was lighting them and a towel, it just……and fire and I…”

“Oh honey, don't cry.” Sarah wraps her in closer. “It's just a towel. More than worth it for everything you're doing for me.”

After a moment Maria kisses Sarah on the jaw. “Thank you, for not being mad.”

“It was just one towel, right?”

Maria laughs and pushes away from Sarah to turn on the sink tap. As she washes her face Sarah is checking the pockets of her slacks.

“You're not getting dressed again are you?” asks Maria.

“Nope. Just getting something.” Sarah stands alongside Maria, kisses her on the cheek and holds her hand out, palm up, revealing a gold key.

Maria manages only a “What?”

”I was thinking about it at work and I felt bad. Leaving the key under the mat for you like you're my housekeeper or something. I want you here anytime you want to be here.”

Maria had to kiss her. “You were thinking about me at work?”

Sarah kissed her back. “I think about you all the time.”


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