Thank you Academy for the invitation. I am always very honoured.

Disclaimer; Characters; Mine. Story; Mine.

I would just like to just say, the reason I haven’t been keeping up to speed with my work on the Academy is that on Valentines Day 2008 I suffered a very serious heart attack. Yesum, it’s official folks, cupid uses damn big arrows! I will be posting again as soon as I can.

I would like to dedicate this story to my partner of eight years, Lynne, who went through hell and back on that day. Without her care, support, understanding, friendship and most of all love, I wouldn’t have made as much of a recovery as I have done.

Thank you for being you.

This one is for you, to chase the demons away. I love you.


Okay, on with the show….



For Lynne





I took a drink of wine, wincing as I tasted it was now warm, putting it down in disgust as I looked over my shoulder for the tenth time in this passing hour towards the entrance door. Catching out of the corner of my eye the owner of the small Italian restaurant, I turned my head giving him a smile. His face answered the smile, but his eyes did not.

I shifted uncomfortably at the glare he was giving me. He had that look which was a cross between annoyance and sympathy. His eyes dipped to his watch. I think if he’d been given the chance he would have tapped his foot and drummed his fingers in annoyance too. I couldn’t really blame him for either of the reactions, or the emotions.

The annoyance? Well, here I am sitting alone at a table for two in his peak time not ordering any dinner, and I didn't show any signs of ordering either.

The sympathy? It’s Valentines day and I obviously showed every sign of just being stood up. Well, even hardened restaurant owners have a romantic side, and he was Italian after all.

Which brought my wandering thoughts into focus with a crash. I was not being stood up! That happened to newbies, wannabe romantics, kids who hadn’t decided yet whether they liked peanut butter in their jelly sandwich and who chickened out on their date. It did not, definitely, no way in hell happen to a ten-year veteran of marriage, for Christ’s sake.

I grabbed the glass angrily and took a huge mouthful, stopping in mid-drink as the warmth hit my tongue. With a forced gulp I swallowed, grimacing. I hated warm wine. I could ask for a bucket of ice or even order another bottle. But that would mean calling a waiter, which of course would get the owner’s attention again and right now he was smiling and happy dealing with the couple in the corner who were ordering food. I decided I’d let him have his happiness and stick to the water.

I know, I'm a chicken shit.

I looked down at my watch. Okay, it was official, she was now on a new record of being late. I sighed. This was one thing I didn’t think she’d be late for, not this, not here, especially here.

I looked around, the restaurant hadn’t really changed in twenty-one years. Same layout, almost the same colour on the walls too. It still looked a romantic place, candles on each table; well, false ones anyway. You know the kind, look like candles but have a bulb. I suppose health and safety had issues with suddenly combustible customers. My eyes went around the restaurant again. Even the violin player was still doing his rounds to each table. The white tablecloths were the same, along with the sparkling cutlery and napkins. The seat covers were still the plush red, although I was sure last time they’d been velvet not leather.

I inhaled deeply, yes, even the scents I remembered; good food, fresh bread, but now they weren’t tainted with the smell of cigarette or cigar smoke, they were fresher. For a moment I flashed back to the night so long ago. I grinned, I wanted to close my eyes and hold on to my memory image. It felt like it did back then, romantic. As if on cue the violinist started up with That’s Amore. It was the fifth time I’d heard it tonight. At any other time, I’d have been annoyed by it being repeated so much, but not tonight. Tonight it added to the memories.

I stole a glance at the owner, making sure not to make eye contact. I smiled, even Ginalli hadn’t changed much; he had less hair, the remaining black showed the signs of white specks of time, but he still had the same look about him, one of a man who loved life, loved food, his expanded waistline showed that fact too. I bit my lip, trying not to laugh. He obviously liked his food a lot.

My laugh sobered as my thoughts went back to the original thought. She was late and I didn’t expect it, not here, not tonight of all nights.

This is where we’d come on our first date twenty-one years ago on Valentine’s night. It was expensive for a part-time employed college student, but worth it. I’d used the money I was saving for a car. But I wanted it to be special, because the moment I saw Lara I knew she was different and I didn't want to screw it up by going on a cheap date to a burger bar. She was special, so I wanted the date to show I thought of her that way. I didn’t want her to think what she’d been told about me was true, even though she’d told me she didn’t believe it. I wanted her to see it. I needed her to see.

We didn’t even really know each other, and a so-called ‘friend’ had told her of my ‘methods with the ladies.’ I rolled my eyes. If only they’d known the truth, ladies translated into exactly two one-night stands, which in fact had little to do with sex and more to do with giggling and fumbles and foreplay and sleep. One of them, however, I’d made the mistake of saying no to when she wanted to go steady. Thus, a sleep-around legend on campus was born.

I snorted.

Well my ego liked it. I was a jock, I liked the attention and make-out sessions it provided. Alright, I admit it, I was a dog on heat. Hey, I had raging hormones telling me making out was gooodddddddddd, they liked, and they stood up and applauded. I did have some sense of value back then, I wasn’t a total dog. The one night stands in question I’d been high on weed and more than likely wouldn’t have gone as far as I did if I hadn’t been, and the girls I made out with had applauding hormones of their own to deal with.

I smirked. Boy, did they.

I was happy with my non-committal life back then. I studied, I played sports, I was having a great time, I didn’t need anything more, or so I thought. As I said, it all changed when I got to know Lara. I saw what I was missing, I wanted something for the first time, really wanted something. I’d never really had that before. I craved, I needed, I ached, I wanted her.

I reached for the wineglass, then remembered, giving it a dour look as I pushed it away and poured myself a glass of water. I sipped it, remembering.

Seeing her for the first time wasn’t exactly romantic. I was playing a lunchtime game of volleyball and had just spiked it over the net in a hell of a return. However, I was a seventeen years old and didn’t as yet have full control over my rapidly growing body. I sent it rocket fast into the spectators who were seated and watching, right towards the upturned face of the small blonde who was watching it zero in on her with widening green eyes.

I winced, remembering the sound it made clearly, a cross between a thunk and slap. I winced again, God that had to hurt.

I’d run over, babbling apologises, trying to get through her gathered friends who had closed around her in a protective net, each one of them swearing at me and giving me the look like I was the plague of god. I finally managed to get through, to find her killing herself laughing.

I stood stock still, watching her.

Her hand held a tissue against her nose, which was quickly staining with red, but she just kept on laughing, tears running down her face as she held on to her friend kneeling next to her. For a moment I thought I was responsible for giving her brain damage. My brain, the helpful fellow that it was, pulled up the whole scenario for me in newspaper headlines.

Spectator disabled for life by a spiked ball. Brain damaged.

Young life cut short by high school sleep-around jock.

I just managed to control my over-active imagination, when the girl started hiccuping just as she’d started to control her laughter, which set her laughter off yet again. Her friends looked at each other in worry and one of them yelled out.


My panic exploded in full force, my eyes widening as my brain went totally off on one.

What if when she grew up she’d have found a cure for cancer?

What if she’d brought peace to the world?

But oh nooooooo, you had to go and screw that up jock girl, cos you had to spike the god damn ball!

I needed to sit down. I swallowed hard. Somehow I managed to pull enough air into my lungs to move the final step forward, dropping to one knee so I was level with her, I reached out my hand, fingertips touching her leg to get her attention.

"Hey…. I’m…. I'm really… really sorry…. I didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry."

She turned her head, her laughter tapering off as she focused on me. It was the first time I’d really seen her face. Her head had been turned to her friends the whole time I’d been staring. But now, now I saw.

I didn’t notice anything else except her eyes, tear-filled, pain-filled, slightly unfocused, but none of that took away how beautiful they were.

I sucked in a breath, it felt like I’d just been struck by a rocket-fast ball right between the eyes. Everything else disappeared, the crowd, the noise, for one split second there was nothing but her.

My stare was broken by a hard shove, which sent me sideways.

"Get away from her you shit."

I blinked, suddenly not sure were I was, then I heard the angry voice again and another shove.

"I said get the fuck away from her."

I glared up at the girl belonging to the voice, to be met with a girl whose dad would be proud of, especially if dad was the lead quarterback for the Yankees. I kept my glare up with great difficulty as my heart stopped. I shifted however when she drew back for another shove.



My eyes jumped to the fallen girl, finding her eyes still watching me in somewhat confusion, then it changed to curiosity. All I could do was remember that lungs were for breathing as I found myself caught in her gaze again.

I did see however, out of the corner of my eye, Shan moving forward again. This time Shan was going to give me a helpful grab by the scruff of the neck to help me remember how my legs worked. I tensed.

The fallen girl’s eyes shot to Shan. "It wasffnt her fawlt. Pwease don’t."

Shan gave me a glare worthy of Medusa, I could feel parts of me fighting the need to turn to stone. Then with a not so friendly hand gesture, she turned, stooped, picked up the small blonde and proceeded to carry her through the gathered crowd, which parted for her like the Red Sea.

I jumped to my feet, trying to see over the tops of heads that were closing in rank behind the Titan that was Shan. I craned my head and just managed to get a quick glance of the battered blonde who was fighting to get a look back at me over her white knight’s shoulder. Our eyes met. She gave me a weak smile, which I returned like a grinning idiot.

Then the following crowd mowed me down.

Two days after, I was still thinking of the girl. Who was she? Where’d she come from? Those questions never went away. I found out on the third day. She was new to the area, arrived from D.C. and had been at my school for less than three weeks. The Titan was her sister, two years older which made her a senior. Wow, who knew DNA could be different? So much for Darwin’s theory.

The fallen blonde’s name was Lara Richmond, four months younger then me. With her name discovered, I started asking around, trying to find out how she was. It turned out she had a broken nose and concussion, other than that no permanent damage. I thanked god, no brain damage. My over-active imagination finally shut the hell up.

When she returned to school two weeks later, I caught sight of her in the dining hall. Her face still held the bruising and there was a white tape across her nose. Just looking at it made me feel guilty as hell. I avoided her and made myself as small as possible and got lost in the feeding frenzy of lunchtime. I was just beginning to relax and enjoy my fruit juice, when a voice whispered in my ear,

"It wasn’t your fault, you know."

It made me spit said fruit juice across my tray. "Shit." I turned fast, wiping at my mouth, discovering Lara Richmond biting her lip and trying not to laugh. I gathered the remains of my wits and managed to talk. "Oh. Hi."

Her eyes were dancing with amusement. "Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you jump."

"No. It’s okay. I was kinda engrossed in something I was reading." I wiped again at my mouth.

Her eyes left mine and went to the fruit juice carton. The amusement in her eyes went up a notch.

Mentally I shook my head at myself. I decided a change of subject was the only thing to save me from appearing any more stupid than I felt.

"How are you?"

A soft smile creased her lips. "I'm doing okay. Bruising’s nearly gone." Her fingers went to her cheek to emphasise the point. "…. The swelling’s gone down now and my nose should be as good as new." She gave a slight laugh. "Which means I don’t sound like a dork anymore."

"Good…." My eyes widened, realising what I’d just said. "…. I mean not good that you sounded like a dork…." My eyes widened further. "…. Not that you ever did sound like a dork." I exhaled in frustration.

" I didn’t mean that like it sounded." I could feel myself pale, this was not going well.

She laughed full out. "God…. Breathe, will you. I know what you meant."

I took her advice and just breathed for a while.

Her bitten lip told me she found me very amusing.

I shifted, very nervous, and no clue why I was. I talked to girls all the time for gods sake, why is this so different?

Her eyes lost some of their amusement as she took in a long breath, one I think to get her need to laugh under control. Her eyes suddenly turned serious.

I thought shot across my brain. ‘Ut oh.’

She started. "Look, I meant what I said. It wasn’t your fault. It was a freak accident. I know some of the others have been giving you a hard time about it, especially my sister, she won’t be bothering you again…." I saw anger spark in her eyes before she took another breath. Her eyes softened. "I just wanted to tell you. I don’t see it like they see it. I don’t think you did it to pick me up. The whole thing would be beyond the extreme to try and get the attention of a girl you wanted to sleep with by smashing them in the face with a spiked ball…."

My eyebrows rose.

She continued. "…. I mean how stupid is that! I’m sure you don’t need extreme things to get girls to go with you." For a moment she blushed, realising her words. She cleared her throat, continuing. "Besides I don’t believe what they told me about you anyway."

I blinked at her while my brain tried to decode the amount of words that had just came out of her mouth in the short space of time.

She waited.

My brain kicked me and told me she was waiting for some sort of reply.

"I didn’t do it to pick you up." I suddenly didn’t like the label I’d been given. What I liked less was the fact she’d already been updated on it. "Who told you?"

Her eyes turned sad. "Does it matter?"

"No. I suppose not." I turned, placing my empty packets on the tray. I could guess anyway. Well that was that. I lifted my tray, giving her my best forced smile. "I am sorry for what happened."

Her eyes were looking at me in that way again, the same way they had that day I’d hurt her, confused, yet curious. "I know."

I smiled again. "Well, enjoy your lunch." I turned to leave, she moved so fast I nearly upturned my tray, she was standing in front of me now.

"Didn’t you hear me? I don't believe them."

I frowned. Why didn’t she? Everyone else did, including people that knew me. She’d only known me for less than ten minutes.

She waited again, her eyes never leaving mine.

"Why don’t you?"

She blinked in surprise. "Oh. Well…." She shrugged. "I just don’t."

Well, that was logical, maybe I had given her brain damage.

She must have seen my not-so-sure look. "I’m a very good judge of character." She smiled.

The smile eased my suspicious side. "Yea?" I managed to twitch a smile.

Her smile broadened. "Yea."

I looked down at my tray, feeling that giddy feeling again. It kinda scared me. I didn’t say anything and the silence stretched, until she broke it.

"Can I buy you another fruit juice carton to read?"

My eyes jumped to her to see if she was making fun of me. She was of course but it wasn’t in a bad way. I laughed and gave her a genuine grin, which seemed to catch her unawares.

I answered. "Sure."

She recovered and grinned back.

We walked towards the line for drinks. Suddenly something came to me. I looked at her. "Why were you laughing…. I mean when the ball hit you?"

She blushed. "Oh…. Yea, I was laughing like a loon wasn’t I?"

I didn't answer.

She chuckled. "Well. I was sat there in that row in that particular seat because my sister told me it was the safest place to sit according to statistics…. She’s kind of a statistics freak."

I stared at her to see if she was serious. She was.

"And well, it kinda struck me as funny when the ball hit me, I’d just blown that statistic to hell and back."

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing, which just started her off.

"Remind me never to sit where your sister tells me to sit on a plane, okay?"

She roared with laughter again. "Okay."

So there we stood laughing like loons, with students passing us, wondering if the new rumours were true about additives and colorants in food and if they could indeed affect the brain to the point of damage.



The violin playing to the next table brought me back from my past memories, making me realise I’d been laughing out loud. I looked down, embarrassed at the surprised glances directed at me, making sure I didn’t look up till I was sure they’d all turned back to their tables.

Shaking my head at myself, I smiled as I went back to the memory.

After that day we’d been inseparable.

In the first week, we’d never stopped talking, or listening to each other. We’d meet everyday at the lockers, go to lunch and study period. She’d come and watch me play volleyball, which I thought was brave of her considering the history.

In two weeks we’d fallen into a place of friendship which makes you smile when you see each other no matter where it is. I found myself watching time constantly, counting down the minutes till lessons were over and we could meet again.

In three weeks, I knew I was attracted to her big time. She was sexy as hell, which made me panic, wondering if she even batted for my team.

I didn’t want to lose the friendship. So I told my hormones to shut the hell up, and just played a lot more volleyball that week.

By the fourth week I found out she did! She’d told me of an ex-girlfriend she had back in DC and how when she discovered she liked girls, it all made sense to her. Part of me was woohooing at the ‘yea she’s gay’, while the other part wanted to go to DC and track the girl down and check out if she was prettier than me and beat the shit out her. Jealousy was a new emotion, I didn’t handle it well, okay?

Love is a funny thing when it comes a-knocking especially if you’ve never experienced it before and especially at seventeen. Your hormones are trying to dictate exactly what love should mean; sex, attraction, wants, needs, aches, urges. But at the same time your brain is trying to kick some sense into your head and say, "Woooooooooaaaaaa there, girl. Slow down."

The brain, however, has very little say in it, and for that matter so do your hormones. Because it’s like being on a roller coaster with an added sugar high, you buzz, you tingle, and you feel so alive. You find a permanent smile on your face, to the point your jaw aches and friends think you’re on drugs. You also find yourself caring what someone else thinks, I mean really thinks about you, and for the first time you care for someone else and you want to know how they are, who they are, what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry. You want to know everything, however small.

There is no logic in love. No arguments win over a feeling of something so right. Advice doesn’t help, because you can’t listen to it, because what you feel is what no one else has ever felt before in their life, in fact in the whole of history! No one can understand, because it’s different, because it’s you. The only person who could possible understand is the person you’re in love with, if they feel the same.

I knew how I felt, what I wasn’t sure exactly of was how Lara felt about me. I knew she liked me, cared for me, loved our friendship. I’d caught her checking me out in swimming practise, and when she saw I’d seen her, she blushed redder than a lobster. So I knew on some level she found me attractive. I knew she liked hugs, and whenever possible she’d find a way to touch me while she talked.

As the term passed, it became very important to me to find out how she felt, because I now knew I wanted her. I needed to know, even if I did crash and burn. I couldn’t put it away anymore when I was around her, I craved her small touches, I craved her hugs, I craved her. I don’t mean just sexually, I mean I craved all of her, her laugh, her smile, the way she bite her lip, her scent, the way she rolled her eyes. Every damn thing I craved.

I decided I had to show her how I felt, exactly how I felt. That was the way to go. How could I expect her to show me if I didn't show her? I needed to show her she was special to me, she was important. The rumours, which were still sniggered behind our backs at school weren’t who I was, that I didn't see her as a one-night stand. I know she’d heard them, because she’d get such a sad look, it made my heart stutter.

I wanted to show her those things didn’t matter anymore, only she mattered.

So I started my plan, I picked the most romantic day of the year, I picked the best restaurant in the area, one they wouldn’t have an issue of two women together. I wanted her to feel comfortable and safe.

The only thing left was the asking. After two days of nervousness and beginnings of…. "Um, can I…." ending with, "Um, never mind."

Told you I was a chicken shit.

Finally I got the nerve to ask her. I swear to god the three seconds she took to answer were a lifetime and a half. When she said yes, I'm surprised astronauts on the new space shuttle didn’t hear my screamed, "YESSSSSSSSSSS."

She, of course, laughed like a loon.


I looked around the restaurant, smiling now at the sweet memory of that first date.

I’d been more nervous than I’d ever been. I was so sure I was going to screw it up. I’d gone the whole hog with her, no expense spared, red roses, chocolate shaped hearts.

We’d agreed to meet outside and I’d nearly dropped down dead when she stepped out of her dad’s car in the red dress and black jacket, she looked so god damn beautiful I couldn’t breathe. It took me a few minutes to realise she was staring at me with the same stunned expression I suspected I’d just been wearing.

We both said at the same time, "You’re beautiful," to which we both replied with a blush.

So in we went, into the restaurant I now sit in twenty-one years later.

We both had been as nervous as the other. But we relaxed, our friendship holding us together through starting conversation. She loved the roses, the chocolates, the restaurant, and we finally fell into an easy conversation. I also discovered that wonderful night she knew how to flirt and tease. Our friendship was changed forever, we moved from friends into something deeper, into girlfriends, freeing the chained door that kept our hidden thoughts secret. I knew now she wanted me. I could hear it in her teasing, in her tone of voice, the new way her eyes looked at me. Her touches to the back of my hand now weren’t fleeting, they held longer, fingertips slipping across my skin as she drew her hand away. She made me burn.

I touched her when I wanted to, let my eyes do what they’d always wanted to do, and looked at her, really looked at her, instead of stealing glances. I began to see the effect I had on her was just as much as the effect she had on me.

We ate our spaghetti like the scene in Lady and the Tramp, laughing so much at the beginning at the absurdity of what we were doing. Then all laughter stopped when our lips were just touching as the spaghetti between us ended, our eyes locking, so close to each other I could see each and every speck of colour in her eyes, both suddenly breathing deeply. Then a nervous laugh echoed between us as I broke away to wipe my mouth of sauce, needing to compose myself and resist the urge to kiss her.

Even through strawberry and cream dessert we both knew something had changed between us, but we were okay with it, more than okay.

On a hormone note, I’d never wanted to be a strawberry so much in my entire life.


I finally got to kiss her when I walked her to the front door, not wanting the evening to end. She turned to me, pulling me into a bear hug which expelled the air from my lungs.

"Thank you for everything. It was wonderful. You’re wonderful."

I hugged her back just as tightly, not really knowing what to say. "No. Thank you."

She finally drew away from me, grinning, her eyes still shining. Then she stood on tiptoes and kissed me quickly. Such a brief touch of lips wasn’t enough, I pulled her back to me and kissed her, letting her know it was okay, letting her know how I felt, letting her know exactly what thank you really meant, what I couldn’t say.

She didn’t hesitate in answering my kiss, letting me know too how she felt.

The kiss deepened. I'm not sure which one of us moaned or who first opened their mouth. All I remember is the taste of strawberries and the feeling running through me like quicksilver, I felt her tremble, her hand going into my hair. When the kiss came to an end, both of us were flushed and breathing hard. Her eyes sparkled like fireflies.

She grinned and I grinned.

She stepped back. Our right hands still joined, she stepped away further to the doorway, our eyes still locked. Our hands didn't break contact until the last possible moment, until only fingertips were touching. Finally she turned, ending our touch. I missed it already. She opened the door, glancing back at me.

"See you tomorrow."

I simply nodded. Tomorrow was too far away. I didn’t like it, I wanted to pout.

She grinned at me. "Call me when you get home."

My pout stopped in its tracks, now I wanted to get home fast. I watched her turn with a deep breath as if steeling for the ending of our wonderful evening. With one last grin to me, she stepped inside and closed the door. I turned and ran like hell to get home, only realising halfway down the road I’d left a cab on the corner.

There were many calls at nights, always to say goodnight and always longer than they should have been. We became an item as they say, she was my girl and I was so hers. We moved from friends to lovers within the first month, the need in us too much to fight. Sex became lovemaking to me. It was amazing, and those words just don’t do it justice. In fact no words do, it isn’t about words, it’s about feelings, touch, scent, movement, vibrations, breathing, taste. See, words are old, words are words. Words are used. Nothing can even come close to the feelings of being with someone for the first time in love.


We’ve been together now twenty-one years as I said. I’m not saying it was all plain sailing, it wasn’t. Our parents at first accepted we were gay mainly because it was a growing fad of the time to them. We’d grow out of it. But when they realised we were serious it was a different matter. It wasn’t a phase we were going through. My parents seemed to think keeping me home and away from Lara would get her out of my system, all it really did was make me want her more. In the end they just seemed to stop caring what I did. Lara’s parents tried the same thing but quickly saw that was the wrong way to go, they gave her the freedom to choose. But they never really did accept it back then. I guess they did just hope I’d either go away or Lara would find some nice boy to go with.

Lara’s sister was the biggest pain, making sure to bring up as often as possible my jock sleep-around status. But even she quietened down when Lara completely went ballistic at her in school. When she found out Shan was responsible for some graffiti aimed at me appearing on the gym wall, Lara got so mad I was sure I saw smoke coming out the top of her head, but all the time she was yelling at her sister, I was grinning. She was protecting me, standing up for me and no one had ever really done that before. Shan quickly realised her mistake, and saw she could lose her sister over this, so Shan backed off. It wasn’t perfect, but Shan was at least civil to me afterwards.

Even with our parents’ problems, we had another one. Lara wanted to be a doctor, which meant medical school. Her parents were very well off and they were paying for it. They didn’t make the mistake of threatening to take it away if she didn’t come to her senses about me, but it still left the issue of the fact I wanted to be teacher. My parents weren’t very well off and I knew I’d have to get a scholarship which meant I couldn’t pick and choose where I could go.

We finally decided we both had to do what our dreams needed, we would part if we had to, and deal with the distance. How naive that was. Lara ended up getting into a very good teaching hospital in New York State. While my teaching scholarship was in Boston.

Those were hard years being that far apart, only coming together when money and vacation allowed. We grew up a lot. We learnt a lot. We even came close to breaking once. The worst time in both our lives. For six years we lived in our own worlds but always together. In the end we did it, all the hard work, the studying. The sacrifice of not being together paid off. I passed my finals with flying colours and so did she.

We decided on San Francisco as our home, our parents were happy to have us back. They’d accepted we were a couple about three years before our finals. So, we started looking for teaching and doctor positions in the San Francisco area. It seemed right to go back to the first place we’d met and loved.

Lara found a position as junior doctor in the St Matthews hospital right away. I had a harder time at first, but in the end found a position in Carter school for girls. Which made Lara laugh no end for weeks.

Lara quickly moved from junior doctor to emergency room doctor with a full team, everyone says the same thing, she has a calling for it. It’s hard for her sometimes when she loses a patient, she hasn’t even after all this time accepted that some people are beyond help and it isn't her fault. She hasn’t gotten hardened to death like some around her. The staff there respect and love her and they accepted me into their strange medical family.

I’m still at Carter school for girls too. I love teaching. I love the fact my words and my knowledge can help shape a child’s life. I love the good students, the bad students, the new and the old.

We both think we’ve been lucky in fulfilling our dreams.

At the ripe old ages of twenty-six we exchanged vows. We’d been together over nine years. We’ve grown up and learnt lessons of life by each others’ side.

Finally, on our first anniversary we put a down payment on a house,

our house. It was a fixer upper and we both loved fixing it. It’s the house we still now own. I don’t think either of us could ever part with it. It’s too much a part of each of us. We’ve lived there twelve years now.

I sipped my water. How time flies and how things have changed.

That thought made me frown.

We have adjusted to the differences in our lives, and yes, things did have to change, compromises were made. Lara has shift work, sometimes I don’t get to see her if she is on call and for the past couple of years that seems to have gotten worse. I was now giving lecturers at the teaching college I trained at in Boston once a month, which takes me away from home for a least two days.

With a deep pang of sadness, I suddenly saw what we had become, no more than "Hello, love you" "Goodbye, love you" at doors or on phones. When exactly had that started to become our normal routine?

My brow creased. How different we were now.

We’d always made time for each other before, juggling schedules were never easy, but we’d managed it. Had we simply stopped trying to? Or worse, forgotten? Where had the simple things gone? Like cooking a meal together? Sitting on the back porch and watching the sunset or sunrise? Staying in bed and not keeping our hands off each other and acting like horny kids all day.

With a sad surprise, I couldn’t remember the last time we’d done any of those things. I racked my brain trying to find at least one. It got worse as I thought. The last meal out together had been my birthday last year. Her birthday was cancelled as she was called in on an emergency. Thanksgiving was at her parents, Christmas at mine. Cooking together never seemed to happen now. I either cooked or she did, depending on who was home first. I couldn’t even find a recent memory of the last sunrise or sunset we’d watched. With shock I realised it was well over three years ago we’d stayed a whole day in bed. Even now I knew if I was truthful our lovemaking was down to time available. When had we lost that need?

I took a long drink of water, needing to pause my thoughts for a moment.

I could see now exactly how much had changed between us. Where did we go? What had happened to us? Was that why I’d done this? This whole surprise thing? Picked the restaurant of our first date? Arranged things so romantically? Had I somehow sensed all these changes without really knowing? Was I missing what we had? Could I sense I was losing her?

My mouth froze on the glasses edge, the water I’d just sipped stuck in my mouth as my throat closed over at the pain of just that thought. I forced myself to swallow, placing the glass down, well aware my hand was shaking. I drew in a sharp breath. Was I? Was I losing her? Had I lost her already? Was that why she was late? That she couldn’t do this, couldn’t pretend anymore?

It wasn’t like I’d given her a choice in the matter, no way for her to say no in advance. I’d arranged everything secretly, even her shift manager Steph was in on it. I’d already told Lara I had to stay late after school and wouldn’t be home till seven. She would have gone to work at six, to find there had been a mistake in shifts and she could take the evening off. She would have gone home and found an envelope with a card from me, asking if she’d join me in a date, giving her the time and place. Two dozen red roses sat in the living room along with heart shaped chocolates, waiting for her.

I suddenly needed something stronger than water and I didn't care if it was warm wine. I drank my glass dry, quickly filling it again. I looked down at my watch, now she was one hour and thirty minutes late. I started to get the itching on the back of neck of worry.

It couldn’t be that, surely. I’d have noticed if I’d lost her. Wouldn’t I?


I looked up surprised to find Ginalli there, concern on his face.

"You are okay? Yes?" His strong Italian laced voice told me he didn't believe I was for a minute.

I hadn’t realised I was crying until I felt the tear hit the back of my hand. He quickly offered me a tissue.

"Oh." I took it, wiping at my eyes. "Sorry." I sniffed.

He gave me an understanding smile. "Maybe your bella is caught in traffic? You know it is crazy world out there in cars."

I swallowed, forcing my emotions back under control. "My bella?"

He smiled. "Yes. Your bella, I remember you both from long time."

Did he? I just stared at him. We hadn’t been in the restaurant in ten years. "I don’t think so. I’m afraid we haven’t been here in a very long time."

He frowned. "Yes, long time. Twenty years the first, you were but children. So beautiful to watch." He paused, thinking. "Yes. Again you came ten years ago on Valentines day. An anniversary, a special one? Yes?"

I blinked, stunned.

His frowned deepened. "I make mistake?"

"No…." I blurted. "No, you didn’t make a mistake. I'm just surprised you remembered."

He chuckled. "Ah, my sweet lady. I would never forget. I am Italian." He brought his thumb and forefinger up to his lips, kissing them in a dramatic way, with a ‘mwah’ sound, drawing his hand away with a grin. "I would never forget amore. Not the kind you two share. It is rare to find and I hold it as a privilege that I have seen." He placed his hand upon his chest, bowing his head slight in homage.

I swallowed the emotion in my throat.

He patted my shoulder. "So, dry your eyes. Not worry, she will be here. Okay? Yes."

I nodded, unable to speak, praying with everything he was right.

He drew back from me, his eyes going off behind me, then a full smile filled his face. "See?"

I twisted my head around to look over my shoulder. I had never felt such relief in my life as my eyes fell on Lara pushing open the door to enter, her eyes searching the restaurant for me. Our eyes met and her face broke into a huge grin, she ran over and I only just got up in time as she barrelled into me.

Her words came fast.

"I'm so sorrrrrrrrrrry. I was at the hospital. As soon as I got there a huge ETA came in. I didn't even have time to sign in. Steph didn't know I was there till she spotted me two hours into shift. She pulled me kicking and screaming from the room. I didn't know what the hell was going on. She told me to get my ass home, there’d been a shift mix up. I was so pissed at her. I didn’t get home till well after eight and…." Her voice stuttered emotion and she buried her face against mine. "Oh god. I found your flowers, they’re beautiful and your card, all of it. I got here as quickly as I could. I love you." She finally took a breath. "I love you," was whispered against my cheek.

I grabbed hold of her harder. Seeing Ginalli back away grinning, I smiled back at him, well aware I was crying this time. It didn’t matter, I knew Lara was too. "I love you too baby." My voice breaking gave me away.

She pulled away, her eyes searching mine. "What’s wrong?"

I smiled, shaking my head. "Nothing. I was just worried because you were late."

Her gaze held mine. Her deep green eyes searching. Then she shook her head. "No. There’s something else?"

I looked around, seeing everyone was starting to stare. "Let’s sit, the natives are getting restless." I added a laugh.

She held on to me, her eyes showing she wasn’t buying the laugh for a minute. Finally, with a caress to my face, she moved to the other side of the table, the chair being held out for her. She sat, smiling her thanks to the waiter, who took her folded coat. Her eyes came back around to me. As I sat, she reached over, taking my hand. "Kelly? Tell me please? Were you worried I’d been in an accident?"

I was saved from answering by the wine waiter arriving with a new bottle of wine. He placed the clean glasses down and filled each one before leaving. Lara lifted hers and drank, her eyes watching me over the rim.

I resisted the urge to down mine in one. How the hell could I tell her what I was thinking?


I sighed. This wasn’t how this night was supposed to go. Damn it. I knew she was watching me without looking up. I always did know. It always sent tingles on my skin. I knew she’d wait, she wouldn’t press. She’d sit there silently until I coughed it up. I closed my eyes. I didn't want to tell her, but neither did I want to go back to feeling like I did when I saw how so much had changed between us, and I never wanted to ever think I was losing her. Just like all those years ago, I had to be the one to show first, to be the one to crash and burn. But I had faith then and I had faith now, even if it was a little dented.

I looked up, meeting her eyes. " No…. I, Well, I didn’t think you’d been in an accident. I was…. I was just worried you wouldn’t come."

Her eyebrows went up and then her green eyes darkened as she drew in a sharp breath. I knew what that meant, I just hurt her. Shit. I took a long drink of wine.

Her eyes lowered, "Because of work? That I wouldn’t leave? Like…. Like I always do, you mean? Cancel."

"It wasn’t just you cancelling, Lara. I’ve done my fair share." I took a breath. "Mainly because I thought you didn’t want to come. I didn't exactly give you a choice."

This time her eyes sparked with confusion. She shook her head, not understanding. "Why wouldn’t I want to come? And I didn’t need a choice, it was a surprise."

My brain was telling me to shut the hell up and order the food and to get over the midlife crisis already.

I leant closer to her, taking her hand, kissing it, which made her smile.

"Have you noticed how different our life is? How we never have time for each other?"

Into her eyes threaded a veil of fear. It almost stopped me from saying what I needed, almost. I took a steadying breath.

"We don’t see each other half the time. We’re either too busy or one of us is asleep. I can’t remember the last time we did anything together. We don’t do things for just us anymore. We never make love anymore…." I stopped, feeling her hand stiffen, realising I was sounding angrier than I was. I calmed it, ignoring my brain, which was yelling, "Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day, not midlife crisis day.".

I swallowed, seeing the sadness in her eyes, seeing the realisation of what I was trying to say. My voice was soft now, almost pleading. The anger gone, I needed to know. " Lara. Do you miss us? Miss how we used to be?"

Her smile froze, her hand tightening around mine, tears started glistening in the corner of her eyes.

I waited, trying to figure out what she was feeling. "Lara? Do you?"

A sob broke. "God yes."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. "Me too." I kissed her hand again, loving the feeling of her palm on my face as her thumb caught my tears.

She swallowed a lump of emotion. "You’re right, what you’ve said, all of it. But I don’t know how it all changed. How we got so busy. How twenty years passed without me noticing." Her palm still lay on my cheek.

I laughed. "Me either."

She laughed too, but I could hear something else in the laugh, relief. Relief that she wasn’t the only one to sense what had been happening - the gap, the huge gap that had grown between us.

Her voice was suddenly scared. "How do we get it back? I…. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want…. I don’t want to lose us." Her face crumpled.

The table between us was too much. I rose, pulling my chair with me, sitting next to her pulling her into my arms. "You won’t, I swear it. We can do this. We can do anything remember. We can move mountains. We can weather anything life throws at us. Because together nothing can come between us." I echoed her vow to me at our joining.

She hugged me, half laughing and crying. "God I hope so."

I kissed the top of her head, knowing she needed the safety of my arms, my heartbeat. She always buried herself in me when she was scared and her doing it now mended so much inside me. Because I couldn’t remember the last time she did it or needed me like this. I held her tighter. "You keep hoping baby. Because I always have faith in us."

She cried harder, hearing my vows repeated. "I love you."

"I love you too. So much."

We kissed. This one I was gonna remember in twenty years time, it was a message of love, of need, of repairing, but most of all of a new promise between us. Of whatever was wrong, of all the things we’d forgotten or pushed aside or couldn’t be bothered with or took for granted. We would survive it, because she was right, together we were stronger than anything.

I heard a discrete cough. Turning, I found Ginalli with a plate of spaghetti. He placed it down on the table. He clicked his fingers, calling over the violinist. Ginalli grinned as the violinist started playing ’That’s Amore.’

Ginalli walked away singing in gusto.

"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. That’s amore."

I took in a long breath. We’d deal with all this later, we’d talk and work it out, but tonight was about us, tonight was Valentine’s.

I looked over at Lara, then down at the plate of spaghetti, wiggling my eyebrows. A sexy grin slowly spread over her face, something again I hadn’t seen in a very long time. She understood too, this night was for us.

She took up her end of the spaghetti, placing it in her mouth. I took mine and did the same, both of us laughing at the memory and the absurdity that we were doing this all over again. We ate along to meet in the middle, but this time we didn't stop, this time we kissed.

Maybe this was what Valentines Day was really for, not just for the new loves, or the old loves, or an obligation to buy a card and bunch of flowers on the way home in the gas station. That it didn’t have anything to do with cards or gifts. But to be simply this, a day of remembrance, an anniversary, one that can’t be forgotten like all the rest. A day picked out by the goddess of love to make you sit down and think and look back, over the good times, the bad times. Remembering how you were loved and how you loved and seeing the differences of now and maybe just maybe to see mistakes you missed and repair them before it’s too late.

We broke the kiss, breathless, both wanting more, much more. She still made my skin burn. I could feel the need again, the craving for her. I hadn’t really lost those feelings, they’d simply been forgotten in the rush of living. I knew by the look in her eyes, she felt it too. Her eyes glowed.

I swallowed hard to clear my dry throat, grinning. "Cheque?"

She nodded fast, her own voice dry. "Cheque."

We rose, hands holding, not wanting to lose the touch of each other, the fear below the surface shattering this reunion if we did.

Yes, we’d make it, because above all else, we still had Amore and nothing was ever going to be stronger than that.






The End


All together now…





In Napoli where love is king

When boy meets girl here's what they say

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie

That's amore

When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine

That's amore

Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling

And you'll sing "Vita bella"

Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay

Like a gay tarantella

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool

That's amore

When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet

You're in love

When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not

Dreaming signore

Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli

That's amore

(When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie

That's amore

When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine

That's amore

Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling

And you'll sing "Vita bella"

Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay

Like a gay tarantella

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool)

That's amore

(When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet

You're in love

When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not

Dreaming signore

Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli)

That's amore

Lucky fella

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool)

That's amore

(When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet

You're in love

When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not

Dreaming signore

Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli)

That's amore, (amore)

That's amoreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

All lyrics are property and copyright of their owners. No infringement is meant and no profit is made in using them.


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