Sam looked at the two photos she had attached to the refrigerator with magnets. Tina's going to like these. Hearing the front door close, the blonde rushed into the living room. "Hi." She greeted her partner with a big smile and a kiss on the cheek. "I'm glad you're home."
"Hi." Tina returned the smile. Home.
"What's that?" Sam asked, noticing a red piece of paper in Tina's hand.
"It was on my windshield. It's an announcement about the tree lighting ceremony at Hyde Park Village. I thought you might want to go."
"Christmas tree lighting?" Sam took the flyer and skimmed over the information. Wednesday night. Ohhh... music and carolers...
"Yeah." Tina put her backpack down and sat on the couch. "They have it every year."
"Do you usually go?"
"No, but I've seen bits and pieces of it. You know... walking to the parking garage after work."
Cuddling next to Tina, Sam imagined how lonely the woman must have felt passing by the Christmas celebration year after year. "I'd love to go."
"Okay. Why don't you meet me at the office and we'll have dinner at The Cactus Club? And, if you want, we can stay at the condo that night."
Sam peeked up and saw that Tina had her head resting against the back of the couch with her eyes closed. One less time for you to be driving back and forth to Sarasota, too. You look exhausted. "It's a date."
"T? Let's make it an early evening. I can order a pizza..."
"Uh uh. I promised I'd cook spaghetti."
"We can have that tomorrow." Sam straddled Tina's legs and sat on her lap. "Please?"
Dark lashes fluttered open. Blue eyes regarded the concerned face of her partner. "I'm all right... just a little tired."
"We'll have pizza and then Joshua wanted to know if you'd tuck him in. After that, directly to bed for you and a good night's sleep."
"How about a compromise?"
"I'll make the spaghetti, tuck Josh in, and we can go to bed early."
WE? Very sneaky, T. "I think I can live with that compromise." Sam leaned forward and gave Tina a tender kiss.
"Mmmm. Keep that up and we won't be getting much sleep at all."
Sam chuckled at the empty threat. I do appreciate the thought, however. "Guess what?"
"I have something to show you."
"Oh?" Tina raised an eyebrow. "Is it in the bedroom?"
"Is it under here?" Tina slipped a hand beneath Sam's tee shirt.
"Noooo." Sam playfully slapped the roaming hand away. "It's in the kitchen." She quickly climbed off the woman's long legs and darted out of the room. "C'mon!"
Tina groaned as she dragged herself from the couch and followed. She's right. I need more sleep than I've been getting. Those damn nightmares...
"I saw your note and put the sauce on low about an hour ago." Sam stirred the contents of a large pot on the stove.
"Is that what..." Spotting the pictures on the refrigerator, Tina abruptly stopped speaking and stared at them for several moments. The first one was nice, showing the couple posing for the camera and smiling, but it was the second snapshot, a candid of them looking at each other, that Tina focused on. She observed the grin tugging at the corners of her mouth, the arm protectively wrapped around the smaller woman's waist, and the love in her eyes as she looked down at Samantha.
The blonde came over to hug her pensive partner. "Do you like them?"
"So do I."
"May I have this one?" Tina pointed to her favorite.
"If you want it... it's yours."
"I definitely want it... I definitely want you."
"That's good to hear." Sam smiled up at Tina. "Because I'm hopelessly in love with you."
"I... I look at that picture... and I know you see... it... in my eyes."
"Yes. I've known for a long time."
"I... umm... you've been more than patient with me."
Sam laughed. "Patience is NOT one of my stronger qualities." But pushing you into things led to near-disaster before. I won't make that mistake again. "For you... I'm making an exception."
Tina brushed her fingers along the side of Sam's face before slowly lowering her head to kiss the younger woman.
It was a gentle kiss, meant to convey love rather than passion, and Sam understood. Green eyes were moist with tears as she laid her head against Tina's chest and listened to the rapid pounding of the heart below her ear. She's trying so hard. Whatever it is that's holding her back... ultimately, she'll tell me. I may use up my lifetime ration of patience while I wait, though. "Hey... how about that spaghetti? You ready to cook now?"
"Yeah." The one word reply was choked with emotion.
"Great, because I'm hungry!" Sam busied herself setting the table and getting their drinks, allowing Tina a chance to gain her composure.
Having something physical to do always helped calm Tina and she gladly went about the business of preparing the meal. Sam chatted away while the other woman cooked, telling her how kind the orchestra members had been when she'd arrived at work that morning. They'd given her a big card signed by everyone and Sam went to get it from the entertainment center in the living room. She smiled at the assortment of cards there, remembering when Lisa had brought over the huge pile of mail she'd collected while her sister was recuperating at Tina's. Sam was touched at the volume of get-well wishes from friends and family.
She showed the card to Tina and then continued to do most of the talking. The cook occasionally nodded or said, "uh huh," to signify she was listening. After describing the busy orchestra schedule for December, Sam voiced her discontent at how little time they would have to spend together before Christmas. "But the good news is," she said cheerfully, "I have from Christmas Eve to New Year's off."
"So do I."
"Yeah." Tina finished filling the plates with food and put them on the table. "I asked Vivian and she okayed it."
Sam pulled the tall woman into a bear hug. "It's going to be a WONDERFUL week!"
"I think you're right."
The women sat down to eat. Sam explained the plans she'd made with Lisa for Christmas Eve and was elated when her partner liked the idea.
Seeing as they were discussing the holidays, Tina decided to bring up the trip her boss had mentioned. "What about New Year's Eve?"
"The band usually has a gig, but because of the Millennium, we all decided to take this year off and celebrate with our families." Sam reached across the table and took Tina's hand. "In my case, that would be YOU."
"Umm... well... Viv offered to send us anywhere we want to go."
"You've got to be kidding."
"Nope. Anywhere in the whole, wide world... you name the place and she'll arrange it."
"Tina, we can't accept a gift like that..."
"She's already made up her mind. Besides, she'd ENJOY doing this for us."
"I... I don't know what to say."
"Why don't you think it over for a day or two? We can't wait beyond that to give Vivian the location, because she needs to make reservations as soon as possible. And, if it's out of the country, we'll have to get you a passport..."
"YOU should pick. You're the one who's traveled and knows the best places."
"I don't care where we go." Tina lifted their still-linked hands and kissed them. "As long as I'm with you."
Sam's heart was about to burst with happiness. "I feel the same way."
They didn't talk much after that, both of them eating heartily and smiling at each other in between bites of their meal.
"You go watch TV." Sam started clearing the table. "I'll take care of this."
The blonde shook her head and gave the woman a slight push toward the doorway. "Out."
Too tired to argue and sure she wouldn't win anyway, Tina went into the living room. Settling on the couch, she used the remote control to cruise through the stations, catching a portion of the nightly news before leaving the channel set on an innocuous game show.
Sam rinsed the dishes and put them in the compact dishwasher. When she had renovated the garage apartment, she'd seen no need for the appliance, but her sister had correctly anticipated someone else might actually cook and the convenience would be worth the added expense. Sighing, Sam wondered, not for the first time, why anyone would want to cook when it involved so much work. A hamburger from the drive-through is MUCH simpler. She put the leftovers in plastic containers, washed the pots, and started the dishwasher. "All done!" she declared, joining Tina on the couch. "Umm... I should tell you... I can't guarantee I'll be quite that willing to do the dishes on a regular basis. It's part of my aversion to cooking... having to clean up afterward."
"I mean it's fine for special occasions and stuff, but I wouldn't want to do it EVERY night. Maybe we can order take-out food a couple of evenings a week..."
"It's not a problem. I'll handle the dishwashing duties."
"But if you make dinner, you shouldn't have to..."
"I WANT to cook for you. I... it gives me the feeling I'm contributing something to... us. How about you be in charge of setting the table and keeping me company while I cook? I'll do the dishes. Does that sound reasonable?"
"Is this another one of your compromises?"
"I guess it is."
"It seems I'm getting the better end of these deals."
"No." Tina looked at her partner in total seriousness. "I am."
There were a few seconds of silence as Sam absorbed the words. "You know what?"
"You're getting very good at this relationship thing."
"You think so?"
"Yeah." Absolutely... positively... yeah.
They nestled together, watching TV until the phone rang.
"I bet I know who that is." Sam went to answer it. "Hello?"
"Hi, Auntie Sam!"
"I have to go to bed now. Is Tina gonna tuck me in?"
"She'll be right over."
Tina stood, stretched, and ran a hand through her hair. "I'll be back soon."
"I hope so." Sam gave the woman a lingering kiss good-bye.
Sam grinned as Tina strode out the door. I need to hurry, too. She got the portable stereo from the closet and set it up on the desk in the bedroom. Looking over her extensive selection of CD's, she chose an instrumental, putting it on just loud enough to be heard. Humming to the music, she turned down the bed and lit the candles that were situated around the room.
Getting out a clean towel, Sam laid it on the counter in the bathroom. A quick check of the shower confirmed that there was a sufficient supply of soap and shampoo. Rummaging under the sink, she found the bottle of liquid she was searching for and put it on the bedside table. She brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and sat at the end of the bed.
Tina trudged up the stairs. Damn, I'm tired. Entering the apartment, she was momentarily perplexed to find the living area dark. "Samantha?" She locked the door before heading for the flickering light shining from the bedroom.
"Hi." Sam smiled when her partner appeared in the doorway. "What do you think?" She waved an arm at their candlelit surroundings.
Blue eyes never strayed from the blonde woman. "Beautiful."
I love when she looks at me like that. "I thought this would be the perfect night for a relaxing massage." Sam went over, took Tina by the hand, and led her to the bathroom. "First, I want you to take a nice, hot shower."
"No. Just you."
Tina put on her best pouting face.
"That's not going to work, Ms. Mellekas. We're getting you to sleep early and that's all there is to it." Sam said, as much to convince herself as the other woman.
Sam knew that Tina agreeing so easily was a telltale sign of how fatigued she really was. "See you in a little bit." She closed the door behind her and sat on the bed again to wait.
It wasn't long before Tina came out. Her wet hair was combed straight back, accentuating the classic bone structure of her face. She was also completely naked. "Do you want me to lay down now?"
Sam was having difficulty articulating any kind of response as she gazed at the statuesque woman standing in the candlelight.
I love when she looks at me like that. "Samantha?"
"Oh... yes." Sam patted the side of the bed where Tina normally slept. "Right here."
The dark-haired woman lay on her stomach and Sam positioned herself above her. Reaching for the bottle of liquid, she unscrewed the cap, and let a few drops fall onto Tina's back.
"Body oil... by the same company that makes my soap. Do you like it?"
Alternately kneading tight muscles and trailing her fingertips lightly over soft skin, Sam tried to concentrate on something... anything... other than attacking the tantalizing woman below her. And Tina's periodic moans of contentment were NOT helping in the least. Let's see. New Year's. That's something to think about. It's like a Fairy Godmother granted us a wish to go anywhere. Paris... London... where did T say she liked? New Zealand... maybe we could go to Australia for their big celebration and then visit New Zealand.
The combination of the massage, soothing music, and mildly scented oil soon had Tina on the edge of sleep.
Sam moved next to her partner and pulled the sheet over her. "How was that?"
"I'll take that as a vote of approval."
The blonde propped herself up on an elbow and watched as Tina fell asleep. She stayed for a time, assuring herself that the woman was slumbering soundly before she rose to turn off the music and blow out the candles.
I know where I want to go for New Year's.