The Perfect Moment
To Lisa and Inga for their help in editing this work.
The tall woman stood in the centre of the room as her grey eyes thoughtfully looked around, checking that everything was ready. Her face, with its strong, classical bone structure, was set in determined lines. It was February 14th - V Day. She had prepared and trained long and hard and she was ready.
There is a moment in your life when you have to do things properly. For Alexandria Hanson that time had come. Okay, so she had never managed to write a love poem, was no good at the sensitive talks, and couldn't remember what day they had met, but just this once she was going to do it right.
She had gone into training three weeks ago. Emily's favourite meal was lasagne. Alex had polled her staff and got five recipes that had been passed down from reliable and revered Italian grandmothers and had made them all. She had picked out the one she thought the best and then had practised making it over and over until she had perfected the art and couldn't stand the sight of lasagne. She had bought a bread maker for the garlic bread and had braved city traffic at rush hour to go to the rare wine store for their last bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1981. The salad dressing had been made from fresh chopped herbs and mixed with the finest balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil and she had even taken the morning off to go to the market for the salad greens.
She had bought a small, round, intimate table for her balcony overlooking Sydney Harbour and had set it with a linen table cloth and her mother's silver and Wedgewood china. Martha Stewart's book on floral arrangements had suggested a single rose in a crystal vase. Alex had bought the matching crystal bowl too and floated candles and greenery in it. With an eye dropper from the drug store at the corner, she had carefully placed three drops of baby oil on the opening petals of the single rose to look like dew drops.
Alex wore new, black tailored slacks and a grey silk shirt that had set her back almost as much as the wine. The sound system played softly in the background. Everything was ready. Her intercom phone chimed. Emily was here. Alex squared her shoulders, and fought back her nervousness and headed over to release the security door in the lobby.
She was in the hall to greet her girlfriend as the cute, petite redhead came out of the elevator with an uneven gait caused by the heavy gym bag on her shoulder. Emily Marcotte wore shorts and a sweaty t-shirt streaked with dust. She stopped dead when she saw Alex, her green eyes big with surprise. "This was the afternoon when I played soccer," she stammered.
Alex rallied quickly and cautiously leaned forward to kiss Emily on a relatively clean part of her cheek. "Hey, no problem. I just dressed because it was Valentine's Day. Why don't you have a quick shower here and you can wear one of my shirts. How was the game?"
"We won one to nil but it was a hard battle, and Alex, I kicked the goal in the last two minutes of play!" Emily hugged Alex in her excitement. Alex inwardly cringed as dust and sweat transferred to her two hundred dollar shirt.
"That's great! Way to go, Sweetheart!" she managed to grin.
Emily dropped her gym bag inside the door and headed for Alex's washroom. "Kelly videoed it and she said I could bring it home for the night. Why don't you slip it in the VCR while I have a quick shower and then we'll have a look at it. It's in my gym bag. Wow! I have always wanted to make the big goal! What a rush!"
"But..." The protest came too late. The bathroom door had closed. Alex turned off the sound system and went to find the video in Emily's gym bag as she tried to regroup. Okay, round one to bad karma but all was not lost. Emily was going to be naked under that shirt and hey, she was delighted and proud that her girlfriend had kicked the winning goal. They would watch the video and have dinner a little later.
"Wine?" Alex asked, when Emily emerged wearing a pair of Alex's cut offs and a sweat shirt that was way too long in the arms. She looked kinda cute. Like a mini-rapper.
"Actually, I am dying of thirst. Do you have a beer?" Emily asked, coming up to stand on tip toes and kissing Alex. "I can't believe that you remembered it was Valentine's Day. It was so sweet of you to dress so nice. Sorry I'm a mess."
It is hard to kiss when you are grinding your teeth but Alex managed it. She was going to do this right no matter what. "You look cute. You get the video going and I'll get you a beer."
On the way, Alex did one final check of the balcony. A pigeon had gone on the table cloth. "Shit!" she hissed. Okay, stay calm, she told herself. Emily was excited about her game. They could eat casually in the livingroom instead. She'd bring in the candle later and turn on the music. Maybe they could dance.
"Is that dinner I smell?"
"Sure is," Alex smiled smugly in the kitchen as she twisted the top off a bottle of beer.
"It smells great but just a little bit for me. I was so hungry after the game I ate some french fries on the way over."
Alex thumped her forehead against the wall. What else could go wrong? She had barely managed to paste a weak smile on her face and head for the livingroom when the apartment building's fire alarm went off.
"I'm not evacuating without that beer," stated Emily, taking the beer from her shocked lover's hand. "Come on. We'll go sit in the park until they give the all clear. The last time this happened it was some one's grandchild who pulled the alarm. Remember?" In a state of total defeat, Alex followed Emily out and down the seven flights of emergency stairs with all the other grumbling tenants. Maybe next year, Alex thought.
As they got lower complaints turned to concerns. They could smell smoke. People moved faster now and the talk died down. Some covered their nose and mouths with whatever they had. Alex took Emily's arm. It was getting smoky and she didn't want to lose her in the crush. On the second floor, the heat was intense and the sprinkler system had come on. When they finally emerged on the first floor they could see flames down the hall to the right. Quickly, they made their way up the left hall towards an emergency exit, emerging on the street coughing, dirty and wet.
"Electrical fire down in the sauna," they heard someone say. Firefighters and police moved about them. Lights flashed and puddles formed under a tangle of hoses.
The two women stood quietly to one side watching as emergency personnel worked to get the fire out.
Emily watched in shock. "I can't believe this has happened."
"Neither can I," stated Alex with a sigh, but the women were not thinking of the same thing. Alex had planned everything so carefully. This was going to be the most romantic moment of her life. Now here she stood in a puddle of cold water, sooty and bedraggled and starting to shiver as the evening turned to night.
Sometimes a woman has to do what a woman has to do. Alex dropped to one knee in the water. "Emily, I love you. I would be honoured if you would consent to be my partner and I would be very relieved if you would take me home with you tonight."
Emily blinked, opened her mouth, closed it, then tried again. "Do you mean that?"
Alex fished into her pocket and brought out a beautiful if slightly dirty diamond ring. She took Emily's hand and slipped it in place. "Please be mine. I love you."
Emily pulled Alex to her feet and hugged her close. "Alexandria Hanson, I think that was just about the most romantic thing anyone could have ever done. I love you too and yes, I want to be your partner and yes, I am taking you home with me forever.
Alex grinned in relief. She wrapped her arm around Emily's shoulder and they headed for her car. "You don't think the fire was too over the top?" she joked.
Emily's eyes danced with merriment. "Nah, it was a nice warm touch. I'd share my beer but you have to drive."
Alex smiled. Sometimes the perfect moment just happens.